Ten years into studying metaphysics and meditation I ran head on into a troll that literally went bump in the night. It was a frightful lesson crossing contrary people. It started on a New Orleans side street in 1980.
Unicorns, dragons, and all sorts of winged beings intermingled with Mardi Gras posters that dazzled the small shop’s street-side display window. A bronzed unicorn balanced on its rear hooves with its front hooves in the air, caught my eye. It seemed ready to defend a damsel in distress. That spoke to me. I left the shop with the horned beast wrapped in tissue and tucked inside a brown bag. Directly across the street a man exited a shop with less fanciful merchandise. The shop’s sign read Madam Boudreau’s Voodoo Shop — Supplies, Spells, Books.
The man peered straight at me. His scowl chilled my bones on that warm New Orleans summer day. It was that moment when my spiritual teacher’s voice echoed, “When you run into someone and you have the same response as if you just stumbled upon a coiled rattlesnake, protect yourself and back away. Don’t strike out unless you must to save yourself.”
Feeling cocky with my new unicorn in hand and with just enough knowledge about the unseen world to be a danger to myself, I didn’t back away. Instead, I conjured up a ball of light and shot it right at the man in front of the voodoo shop. He knew exactly what I did. His face contorted and glared at me as he spat on the sidewalk. My stomach turned. I had taunted the rattlesnake. Fortunately, my flight home would leave New Orleans International Airport in a few more hours.
Safely tucked into my California desert home late that same evening, I unpacked my new unicorn and placed it on a shelf next to my collection of Arthurian legends, and forgot about the voodoo man.
Past midnight, with my partner at the time beside me, I fell into a deep, deep sleep, when I felt something hovering above me. Its intentions were evil. I felt it try to yank my spirit from me. Desperately I tried to push it away, but I was catatonic, immobile, entranced. What do I do? What do I do? I heard my teacher’s voice to call out for saints—those higher beings who do exist in the unseen world. My Catholic training came to the rescue as I called for Jesus, Joseph, Mary and all the angels. My bed shook so hard that the brass headboard slammed against the wall as the struggle to keep my spirit from this wicked creature intensified. This awoke my partner who yelled, “What the hell is going on? Charmaine! Wake up!”
A rational mind says the shaking bed was an earthquake, but nothing else swayed or moved in the room. No earthquake report followed in the morning news. No, this was the result of me foolishly inviting what we would call a troll into my personal spiritual quest, as he left the New Orleans voodoo shop. He was powerful and dangerous.
It was a lesson learned.
Fast forward to today’s social media and current state of humanity’s soul, we now have a plague of contrary people behaving as trolls and things that go bump in the night. It’s as if a thin-shelled pod opened inside that voodoo shop and millions of troll spores ejected into the air attaching to the already angry and disenfranchised soul of lost citizens.
Fortunately, most haven’t the power to slip into someone’s dream and try to grab their spirit. Harsh language, belittlement, threats, and steroid-driven machismo feeds the spore. Troll toxin works in the form of bullying, and chiding those who work to end bullying. Their toxin dwells in negativity, rumor, conspiracy, and fear.
I’d like to be like Big Billy Goat Gruff, but I am not. My nature is to nurture. There are those who do, howerver, take on trolls like Big Billy Goat Gruff, but use their words to push the troll back beneath the moldy underside of its bridge.
So boldly, Big Billy Goat Gruff put his hooves onto the bridge. Trip, trap, trip, trap. Suddenly the Troll loomed out from under the bridge.
‘Who’s that trip trapping over my bridge?’ he boomed.
‘It’s me. Big Billy Goat Gruff. Who do you think you are?’
‘I’m the Troll and I’m going to eat you for breakfast, lunch and tea!’
‘Oh no, you’re not’
‘Oh yes I am – you’ll see!’
Then the Troll rushed at Big Billy Goat Gruff who bent his head and bravely charged at the Troll, catching him up in his horns and tossing him into the stream below. The Troll disappeared under the rushing water, never to be seen again.
Like I did in 1980, I’ve foolishly taunted the new social media troll. I’ve grown to understand that it is a pointless exercise to wrestle with the terminally contrary person. I now understand that instead of challenging the contrary with a jolt of light, let that light surround me and spread like a gentle rain to nourish the air in positive well-being. At last I understand that peace does, indeed, begin with me — and that is something that we all want, even the contrary ones. We just want to be happy and safe.
This is where we have the opportunity to become fearlessly compassionate. This is where we have the opportunity to understand that “just like me, they too wish to overcome suffering … just like me they too wish to aspire to happiness …” (From “A Fearless Heart” by Thupten Jinpa, PhD.)
Oh this is not an easy way to think. From Jinpa, “If we see the world as a dangerous place and others as uncaring and self-serving, we relate to them primarily out of fear, suspicion, rivalry, and antagonism. In contrast, if we see the world as generally a joyful place and others as basically carrying people, we then experience the world around us with the sense of trust belonging and security… How diametrically different the world can be for two individuals in exactly the same neighborhood and belonging to the same socioeconomic status, simply because of their opposing perspectives.”
So, we make our choice as to how we want our world to be. For me, I will continue to nurture the seeds I’ve planted, avoid contrary folks and wish the things that go bump in the night their greater good.