Monday, June 21, 2010

Be the Mountain Goat...

Her great merit is finding out mine…
~Lord Byron
Mountain Mystic.  © 2010 by Melissa Johnson.

I met John while living in San Francisco.  Quickly, he became my friend-spiritual guide-and-massage therapist all rolled into one.  Such magic in those hands, such wisdom in his understanding—after one session I was hooked. 

Trained in the healing arts of Chinese medicine, John began each session with a simple question:  “What’s going on?”  This meant that he wanted a brief State of the Union on my physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health because, to him, it was all connected. 

During the time I lived in the city, I met with John every week.  Through our conversations and his amazing body work I began to experience shifts in consciousness on many levels, but none more compelling than my understanding of what it means to be discerning.  We spent hours talking about life paths—his, mine and those of our friends.  We dissected, analyzed, and waxed poetic about love.

Then one day, while discussing my relationship with a man whom I loved deeply but who lacked certain core qualities that I wanted in a partner, John suggested that the key to my dilemma could be found by taking on the persona of the female mountain goat.  

You see, female mountain goats—or nannies, as they’re called—will climb to the top of a mountain peak and sit there.  She’s holding out for the billy with certain qualities—like horn symmetry; and short sturdy legs with a heavy body; top-of-the-line hooves to help him move about the rocky ledges; and, of course, social rank because this will determine his access to resources.  

© 2010 by Melissa Johnson.

Below her, all the billies are doing their male mountain goat thing—snorting, bleating, locking horns, fighting, pushing each other around in an effort to win her.  Some of the billies are killed or give up and move along in search of greener pastures.  But the strong contenders continue their ascent to claim the prize at the top of the mountain. 

They battle all the way, trying to edge each other off the rocky cliffs as they charge ahead.  But no matter what, no matter which billy she may fancy from afar, no matter what’s happening to him below, she does not reach down and help him up in his journey to win her.  Instead, she waits on her mountain perch and allows her suitors to exercise their determination and strength, for only those who make it to the top win a chance of partnership with her.  Then she gets to choose.

It all made perfect sense.

Now I’m not suggesting that men are the same as male mountain goats, although I must admit that I have witnessed some behavioral similarities.  Nor am I advocating that women (or men) just accept whoever shows up in their lives as “the one” by virtue of the fact that he (or she) beat a path to their door—that could get pretty creepy. 

And certainly in this day and age the need to select partners based on purely physical or biological characteristics has diminished; though let’s face it, the dictates of “survival of the fittest” lie innate within us.  So in a sense, I guess we all prefer a little horn symmetry.

But John’s mountain goat metaphor brought great clarity and the shift in intention I needed.  For months I had been riding the fence of indecision, torturing myself with what could have been fairly simple… if I was honest about my needs and desires.  And like the flick of a switch, suddenly all that was once dark and seemingly unknowable became illuminated by the light of my heartfelt truth. 

So I started applying this wisdom to every part of my life—personal and professional—and soon found myself initiating some major life changes, beginning with the end of my relationship and ending with a brand new career path. 

It hasn’t been easy.  At times I have second-guessed my decisions and the overall direction of my life.  Some of that’s natural, I suppose.  Just so, before I made any real progress, I had to revisit my ideas about what I thought it meant to be “successful” and make peace with the notion that I was my own greatest block when it came to creating the life I desired. 

And I learned to recognize that while people and situations show up in our lives often when we need them most, that doesn’t mean that every relationship, job or experience is meant to last forever.  Some things fall away because we’ve outgrown them or we need to be available for something else.  But we’ll never find that “something else” if we’re clinging desperately to that “not-quite-right-what is” because we’re afraid of change. 

Ultimately, discernment is the lens through which we make choices.  It does not mean that we're judging people and opportunities from a position of superiority.  Rather, it is to tune into the soul’s wisdom as we discriminate between this option and that, truthfully evaluating what’s before us while engaging our intuition about what’s best for our lives.  No easy task, to be sure.

Perhaps Steve Jobs said it best:

“You’ve got to find what you love.  And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.  Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.  And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.  So keep looking until you find it.  Don’t settle.”



JJ said...

Oh yes. I'm familiar with the mountain goat. It shows up in my life quite a bit. I'll have to tell you about my experience with the mountain goat in the Grand Canyon sometime.

AND, my husband Joey is an Aries - a RAM, much the same. He's got the surest footing and sheerest determination. You and he have that in common. When I applied to law schools & didn't get accepted my first year out of undergrad, he said, "apply to some other schools." No. I got me "a job." I simply returned to my job at the ER and thought I'd start looking for a better one now that I had a degree. I refused to seek out more rejection from law school. Never mind that I worked very hard to be elected President of the Pre-Law Club @ UTC, that I obtained funding for our club to go visit a number of law schools in the SE part of the country - Joey drove our van! We were psyched! Then I graduated with honors in Psychology (not hard, really) but that took 4 years to accomplish, took the LSAT, had some beautiful references from professors and other professionals in the community... but I was ready to quit. NOT JOEY. He went to the library and looked for other law schools and he came to my house with a list of about 20 schools for me to apply to. I mean he had the complete addresses, telephone numbers, statistical data to support his findings... this was before the web. So I did it. I applied to about 10 of the schools and got accepted to 5. MC was the closest one to home so I went there. And the rest is history.

Your massage therapist was right. Be like the mountain goat & do not settle. You might have to scramble by yourself while you're waiting for the right thing to happen, but when the right thing/person/goal arrives, Hey - Hey! Yes! Blessings.

Bye for now. Love the musing. Jenna

Melissa Johnson said...


Thanks so much for sharing your insight. It's a good reminder for me to keep moving forward even when it seems to be taking forever to reach my goal and rejection is at my door.

You should post another comment and share your story about the mountain goat in the Grand Canyon. What a story!

Thanks for reading and providing a thoughtful response. Cheers!


Sarah said...

That's great! I love the pictures. Very interesting about mountain goat mating... Who knew?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I love your article! So much wise information about not settling, allowing good things to come to us, listening to our own intuition!

Just yesterday I was sharing that before I met my husband, Dale, I finally committed to no longer chasing after a man. No more trying to convince anyone that we were perfect for each other. No more drama and heartbreak.

I surrendered the choice to the Universe and said, "I will wait for you to bring my beloved to me." Little did I know I was following goat wisdom! That was almost 9 years ago and I couldn't be happier.

Love to you,

TR Hughes said...

Thanks for sharing such insightful information. Your grasp of life lessons always makes me smile. :)

That first instinct, or gut reaction, to situations and paths we choose is usually dead on. I, too, believe in following our intuitive nature - if we can get our logical minds to quiet for a bit.

I just received "Secrets of the Land" and am completely blown away by your surreal photography and the way you relate the depth of each photo in beautiful prose that not only teaches us about nature, animal speak, and the land...but touches the heart in a truly fascinating way.

Thank You for sharing your talent with the world.

Best Always ~