When we learn to more consciously engage our own growth spiral, one of the phases that tends to occur rather cyclically is that of “shedding skin.” This is a period that generally precludes what I refer to as a “warp jump” (or major shift) in manifested experience and is one of the great gifts that we can glean from Snake Medicine.
The preparation phase of shedding skin for snakes is a 1-2 week period of relative inactivity during which the eyes appear to cloud over and the snake’s vision becomes impaired. According to www.animalhospitals-USA.com, this heralds a period of significant internal stress for the snake causing them to be sometimes unpredictable and/or aggressive.
Likewise, as a period of shedding “soul-skin” approaches for us, we may find our natural rhythm slowing considerably, becoming less interested in the “doing-ness” of our day-to-day lives and called more to the “being-ness” of retreat and solitary endeavors. Sometimes this slowing of our natural pacing is facilitated through illness that essentially forces us into the stillness that the system requires in order to metabolize and move all that it needs to as it loosens the ties of the old skin and prepares the new for exposure to the outside world. Just as with the eyes of the snake, we may find our vision and perception of the outer world unclear and tenuous as more of our resources are funneled to the world behind our eyes for the task at hand. This heightened state of stress coupled with the increased sense of vulnerability and impairment can be quite the recipe for reactivity and so it is well that we keep this in mind when interacting with those in the physical plane.
I often see folks reacting to this initial slowing down period with fears of this being a “relapse” or a return to previously experienced periods of “laziness,” isolation, and/or depression. And while the system certainly is “depressed” during this time, it is a slowing that is in critical service to the growth and evolution of the psyche/soul. Because we are preparing to slough off the “old skin,” we may experience emotional and felt-sense states of being that are familiar, albeit sometimes scary, parts of our past. This could include feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness, guilt, shame, etc. When we tune into the felt-sense experiences that accompany these emotional states, what is key to remember is directionality. When we choose to consciously witness our growth spiral, we are inviting old self-states and experiences to move up and out (rather than down and in as they did when we initially experienced them) so that they can become better integrated into the whole of who we are.
The Shedding Phase
For snakes, after the initial period of inactivity and visual impairment, the eyes again clear and shedding begins with the head and moves its way down the body. Snakes will use any rough surfaces in their environment to aid in trapping the old skin so that they can, quite literally, “glide” into their new form. This process is hormonally driven, instinctive, and often ends in the snake defecating and/or consuming large amounts of water. (www.animal-hospitals-USA.com)
For us, we may find that we feel cognitively free of the old “soul-skin” before that reality is made manifest in the felt-form of the body and this can create a period of significant frustration for some. We may find that the body rejects what forms of expression once held nourishment, requiring us to remain open and curious about new types of movement or physical expression (dance, yoga, martial arts, athletics, free-flowing expression, etc.) that allow a different kind of opening and/or movement pattern. We may also find ourselves drawn towards new avenues of creative expression (painting, gardening, cooking, etc.) and/or body work (massage, acupuncture, chiropractics, Feldenkrais, etc.) as a way to slough off the old and reveal that which has risen up from our depths. In all of this, allowing the body ample opportunities for release (crying, sweating, laughing, screaming, coughing, shaking, moving) and hydration provide the foundational support for the process to continue moving forward at its own pace.
In the End
In the end, the shedding of our old “soul-skin” is just as instinctive as the snake’s, happening in its own time and, largely, outside the realm of our conscious control. Translation: This process doesn’t wait to commence until it is a convenient time with regards to our busy lives in the physical plane. What we can control in the process, however, is how we choose to make space for this naturally occurring dynamic and how we choose to honor that which is moving on as we nurture and protect the new life that is being brought to the surface.