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Surrender November

by Michael Finkelstein, MD


Skillful Surrender

In Dakota Sioux tradition, the moon in November is called “The Moon When Horns Fall Off.” While this phrase may seem strange to our culture at first glance, it makes some very interesting points about nature’s cycles and this time of the year.

One of the most regal images in the animal kingdom is that of a deer adorned proudly with the powerful branches of antlers crowning his head. However, nature has cycles and even the majesty of the buck with his beautiful antlers falls under its reign. This time of year, after the fighting for mates has finished, deer’s antlers fall off. A buck grows the big, strong antlers to fight with other bucks for the right to reproduce, but once that season has passed, the antlers drop and all the buck retreats from the battle and blends back in with the herd.

This de-crowning is not a death or an illness, it is a part of nature’s cycle that is just as important and powerful as any other. Indeed, it is a rebirth of sorts; before the deer can grow new horns, he must lose the old ones.

This process reminds us that everything has its own time. Often we see something as ending when it’s actually a beginning. Many people see winter as a time of darkness and death-like dormancy. However, winter can be viewed as the season of early rebirth. And some people may see a buck losing his antlers as a surrender of sorts, when it’s truly an act of transcendence.

With the aggression of the elections behind us and the holiday season just beginning, you might do well to reflect for a moment on the battles you have been fighting. Much like the bucks dropping their antlers, this is a good time to put down your own weapons.

When you are caught up in an argument, you can either put tons of energy into battling it out, or you can transcend it by simply letting it drop. Taking the latter course is not giving in, it’s about letting go. Habitually, we protect our fragile egos by pointing a finger at others. Instead, we should look at ourselves when we have a challenging relationship. Why does it take so little to push our buttons? As we search for the answer to this question, we will discover additional opportunities for maturation and growth.

After all, our relationships, like all of our life experiences, reflect our inner world. Most importantly, our outlook and interpretation of the actions of others depends on our relationship with our self. It is not unreasonable to say that enjoying a full meaningful relationship with another being hinges on our ability to come to terms with the relationship we are having with ourselves. It follows that you cannot have sound, healthy relationships if you are not in good shape.

Whether it’s a coworker, a stranger, a friend or family member, we’ve all had someone get under our skin. Although it isn’t right, these instances help us remain aware of what sets us off, or what “our buttons” are. If your sister says something to hurt or bother you at the next family gathering, instead of reacting defensively, try to see it as an opportunity to reflect on your own issues. Each time someone gets a rise out of you, be thankful that it created that awareness. It’s not always easy to admit, but when someone, anyone, is pushing your buttons, you have to remember that they’re YOUR buttons. The work you can do once you’ve recognized these buttons is to learn about them and develop ways to cope with them.

Ask, “Why am I so affected by this person’s comments?” Why does she so easily push my buttons?” “What do I know and how can I move forward to create a better state of balance?” This last affirmation can help you rise above your condition (even when that condition takes the form of another person) to achieve a state of peace, harmony and tranquility.

This is the time when the bucks stop fighting over does and the herd reunites as a unified tribe; all of the deer are one family again. As the holidays approach, what plans will you make to unite in peace with your family, friends and community?

MICHAEL FINKELSTEIN, M.D., is the former Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief of the Departments of Medicine and Integrative Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. After 20 years in the allopathic medical community, he left these positions to pursue a more intuitive and holistic approach to his work, as the founder and director of SunRaven, a wellness center in Bedford, NY. He is also a nationally recognized radio show host, inspirational speaker and blogger whose concept of “Skillful Living” applies his holistic approach to overall health and well-being: the business of living must be developed, like a skill, with mindful, dedicated attention. Please visit www.SunRaven.org for more information or to sign up for Dr. Finkelstein’s bi-monthly “Moon News” newsletter.


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