At the Watershed

December 7, 2020

By Maria Mandarino, LAc, DipAc (NCCAOM), LMT, CSD, MSEd

The past year has been an intense one and a new year is around the corner. And as much as we are all eager to see 2020 depart, it’s likely we still have a road ahead. In the midst of the holiday season, we are facing another wave of a pandemic, we are bombarded by endless information that somehow still isn't enough to help us know what is right. There is so much unknown. We are overwhelmed and over-sensitized. Our nervous systems are attuned in ways they were never meant to attune. It's hard to remember the world we lived in only months ago. 


The Watershed

In literary terms, this moment is called the watershed scene, a sacred pause, a time of heightened awareness, a time of shifting reality. We stand atop the waterwheel. It takes everything we have to retain our balance. And there is so much happening within our minds. We are poised, and we understand we are powerless to the movement of the wheel. At the same time, in this instant, we have perspective.


At the top of the waterwheel we have a vantage point that can be held only for a brief moment, a place where in one breath we hold two realities. We can see some of what lies ahead, and then only water below. And we are able to also look back and recall the climb that got us to where we are standing.


A feeling of constraint wraps around us though. We want to stay where we are because we are terrified of the unknown. As we glance behind us, we wish to go back, but the waterwheel only moves forward. We tighten in fear and anger, understanding that we must let go of everything we think we know. We either leap in faith or stand at the top of the wheel screaming our dissent to the Divine, and anyone else in earshot. And even if we scream, the wheel will turn anyway. 


The watershed is the place where you learn just how much of a Buddha you really are.


That sounds harsh. But these are harsh times. And pretty stories aren’t going to serve your evolution. We can’t keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing all along and expect things to look different. If you have a new house built and fill it with all your old threadbare furniture, guess what? Your newly constructed home is going to look just like your old disheveled house. We need to level up.


Energetic hygiene and your relationships. How are you showing up? 

I believe the greatest reason we come to this planet is to do relationships. Relationship with others, relationship with ourselves, and relationship with the Divine. And they are all interrelated. When you stand at the top of the waterwheel, knowing you can’t turn back and also terrified of the unknown ahead, how are you showing up to your relationships?


Relationship is defined as “a state of being connected.” And the quality of your energy affects the quality of that connection. You want a healthy relationship, work on how you show up to it. You want a relationship that will fade away and not withstand hard times, ignore how you show up to it. It’s like a garden. You cultivate, water, and fertilize it and you yield an abundant crop. You ignore it and go on vacation, there won’t be a harvest.


Energetic hygiene is part of the inner work that allows us to bring the highest level of our energy to those we came here to connect with in relationship. Without it, a lifetime of dysfunctional patterns will leak into your relationships and erode them. This is true of any relationship: spouse, significant other, kids, parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, neighbors. And if this is happening in any one of these relationships, it’s also happening in your relationship with the Divine. Any one damaged earthly relationship reflects a disconnect in your relationship with your Creator. And vice versa. It’s just the way it works.  


Stopping the leak.

Stopping the leak involves doing some inventory. Reflect on the moments just before connecting with someone important to you. Where is your energy? How are you entering? 


How are you entering when you sit down to dinner, walk into work, when picking up the phone, or just before shooting out a text. Take inventory. Are you present? Can you feel your feet on the ground? Are you breathing? Are you hungry? Are you tired? What are you carrying? How long have you been carrying it? What might the other person be carrying? 


Is this something you can let go of for now? Is it relevant to the conversation? Could it enhance the relationship? 


Might it harm the relationship?


With so much intense information coming at us so quickly these days, half the time we don’t even know what we hold in our minds anymore, only that it is too much and that we feel stressed and uncomfortable. Too often we just want to place our emotions somewhere, throwing out what feels like too much, as if it’s an energetic Jackson Pollock painting. But we forget that the other person we are in relationship with can paint their own energetic Jackson Pollock painting. 

We are entering into a new world where living like this is just not sustainable. It will break our relationships. It will separate us from the Divine. 


Using ancient wisdom for energy containment.

If your relationship feels strained, one (or both) of you is leaking toxic energy. I’ve talked before about being grounded and the importance of having deep roots and soft branches to weather a storm. This is age old wisdom that originated in the Tao. Now is a good time to take inventory of how well you root and yield. In fact, we should do this daily, throughout each day even. How easily can you observe your energy as it moves in, around, and through you without investing in it?


Spiritual Direction and the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is the most powerful wisdom tradition I know for cultivating healthy relationships. The Enneagram is an ancient system which offers us a map of the personality. Based on nine different personality types, the Enneagram shines a light on the choices of our higher self and our lower self. It is one of the best tools I know for doing our inner work and managing our energetic hygiene. And when we work on ourselves, we enrich all our relationships. 


The Tao Te Ching teaches: 


Knowing others is intelligence;

Knowing yourself is true wisdom.

Mastering others is strength;

Mastering yourself is true power.


And so the Enneagram gives us a way to master ourselves – a way to embrace true power. As a spiritual director, do I work with couples using the Enneagram? Yes, I do. But if it’s a matter of one person wanting to repair the relationship by “fixing” the other person, that’s not something I do. Inner work isn’t about fixing anyone but you. When two people enter into the exploration of their Enneagram type, there is a depth of understanding for yourself and other that will change your lives forever. Both people have to have done some inner work, want to do more inner work, and be willing to do even more work together. 


At the least, in this time, I recommend you start this exploration yourself. I am available for Enneagram typing interviews and spiritual direction using the Enneagram, as well as other wisdom traditions, including ritual and ceremony. If you are not sure if spiritual direction is for you or if we might be a good fit, I offer a complimentary half hour call via Zoom or telephone. You may learn more about that and sign up here:

I invite you. In relationship with yourself, in relationship with another, in relationship with the Divine, I invite you to meet me at the Watershed. It would be my honor to companion you on the path.


Blessings and peace on your journey,