Descansos

Journal Date: Thursday, November 5, 2020

I just finished an exercise Estés suggested we do in this chapter on rage in Women who Run with the Wolves. It’s called “Descansos,” and here we are to mark all the little (and large) deaths of our lives.

Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone’s journey in life halted unexpectedly. To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las muertes chiquitas, and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas, have taken place.”

Estés encourages us to make our own descansos, to sit down and examine our lives, our losses, all the places which must be remembered and at the same time, put to rest.


I had a lot of crosses to mark.

My life has been filled with losses. One right after another, with little chance to recover in between.

At this point, I have between 25-30 crosses marked down to represent what I have lost.

Descansos

It’s a lot, but somehow it still doesn’t feel like enough.

I don’t even think my greatest losses are even on here.

My deepest pain comes from having missed something more intangible than a job or a boyfriend or anything I listed here before.

Maybe my greatest loss is actually me. My own self.

To have grown up never knowing (not to mention never liking) myself.

To never have felt at home. Not even in my own body. 

Especially not in my own body. This was a source of shame, and where I could locate all of my pain. Better just to not be here. To escape, by whatever means necessary.

And not just my body. I was estranged from all of me.

Always looking outside of myself for the “right” answer. 

The “right” way to look, think, feel, act, be.

I didn’t even know what I was looking for.

I just knew that I was doing it wrong.

I was just wrong, period.

I never belonged to myself. 

That’s the worst part.

I was in such a rush to give myself away. I would sell myself off to the lowest bidder. I was constantly in a rush to find the quickest way to betray myself next.

It’s very sad.

Looking back on all of this, I feel so tired. 

Exhausted. 

What was the meaning behind all of this?

It’s hard to understand.

But I’m starting to feel ready to grieve my losses. To grieve, and to let go.


“Remember in ‘The Crescent Moon Bear’ the woman said a prayer and laid the wandering orphaned dead to rest. That is what one does in descansos. Descansos is a conscious practice that takes pity on and gives honor to the orphaned dead of your psyche, laying them to rest at last.

“Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos, the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived. Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.”

The Wisdom of the Crescent Moon Bear

Journal Date: 10:15am – Thursday, November 5, 2020

I’ve been reading a chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves today. This one is on rage, something I do need guidance on at this moment in my life.

Here, she tells the story of the “Crescent Moon Bear” as a way to show us how we can deal with our anger.

The story starts with a woman preparing for her husband to come back from the war. She goes shopping and cooks meals for him and does everything she can to please him and make him happy.

But when she goes to him and offers him what she has made, he gets angry and flips over the trays, sending everything she has worked so hard to prepare onto the floor.

The pattern repeats itself over many nights. The man is still in a state of shock, and will not be consoled. His mind is still preoccupied with the images of violence and fear he has seen and experienced in the war he’s only just returned from.

So the woman, in a state of distress, goes to seek out the healer on the outskirts of the village.

The healer tells her to go climb to mountain and bring her back one hair from the throat of the Crescent Moon Bear.

So the woman ascends the mountain by herself to meet the bear.

As she walks the trail up the mountain among the rocks and under the trees, she says, “Arigato zaisho,” a way of thanking the mountain for allowing her to walk on her body and to pass safely.

Getting to even higher ground, she surprised by the birds which fly out at and then past her, these birds representing the spirits of the dead with no family, the muen-botoke.

She tells them, “I will be your relative. I will lay you to rest.”

The muen-botoke symbolize the parts of ourselves which we may have abandoned during times of distress.

These can be thought of as the difficult emotions and experiences which we may have repressed or dissociated from during any incident which was traumatic or otherwise overwhelmed our body’s capacity to cope.

The woman promises them that she will be their family, she will bury them. With this, it is as if she is saying, “I will recognize you as my own, I will honor you and put you to rest.”

Finally, after continued struggling up the mountain, the woman finds the tracks of the crescent moon bear. She hides near the entrance of her cave, and every morning, she leaves food out for the bear to discover upon waking in the morning.

Slowly, with patience, she gets closer and closer to the Crescent Moon Bear, until one day she finds herself directly underneath it.

She tells the bear of her situation, about her angry husband who has come back from the war traumatized and upset, and asks the bear for a single hair from its throat which she needs to heal her husband.

The bear, taking pity on her, consents to let the woman take one hair from the shining silvery crescent on her throat.

Having received the white hair from the crescent moon on the throat of the bear she rushes down the mountain through the Village to the house of the healer.

She rushes up to present the single white hair to her. The healer then smiles and throws the hair into the fire.

The woman cries out in despair, having lost the one ingredient she had struggled so much to obtain in order to heal her husband.

The healer reassured her, telling her the hair itself was not necessary. In learning how to approach the Crescent Moon Bear, win its trust and receive its message, she had learned what she must do to heal her husband as well.

“Now you know what you need to do. Go home, and repeat everything you have just done here with your husband. That is how you can heal this rage and find love again.”


In this story, we can take each character be a part of the woman’s own psyche.

The husband represents animus, the masculine inside of us, in this case the part which has been wounded. Normally, it is responsible for outer directed activity, for creating structure and boundaries and pursuing ambition and achievements in the world.

However, when wounded, it may have a tendency to respond by being either shut down, pushing others away, or with senseless rage and aggression. These responses are typical of the “fight-flight-freeze” trauma responses that are activated after periods of great stress or danger.

The woman here stands for the anima, or the emotional, feminine part of our psyches. This is the part which loves, which strives for union and ultimately seeks healing by going to find the healer outside of the village.

The bear can be thought to represent the wisdom of rage itself. The Crescent Moon Bear, and the primal power of sacred rage which she represents, are something which many of us fear and reject, but which, when approached with the proper care and respect, can ultimately serve as one of our greatest teachers.

The woman’s interactions with the bear and the environment around her along with her journey up the mountain show us a way in which we can start to come to terms with these difficult and troubling feelings.

With caution, with respect, with care, understanding and a little bit of fierceness, we can find the wisdom we need to release our pain while preserving our natural instinct to protect.

The bear teaches “that one can be fierce and generous at the same time. One can be reticent and valuable. One can protect one’s territory, make one’s boundaries clear, shake the sky if need be, yet be available, accessible, engendering all at the same time.”

In fact, I believe that in many ways it is the “NO” which makes the “YES” possible. If we are unable to communicate the points which are our limits, we will never be able to feel truly comfortable expressing the fullness of our power and can never express the fullness of our generosity, as well.


When we have discovered how to approach the tender, hurting parts of ourselves which we have previously sought to disown, we can begin the journey of healing and learning from our rage.

Our anger and our pain are worthy of being treated with respect. To push them away, or to ask that they simply “be nice” and act as if nothing has happened, is to do ourselves a disservice.

It is understandable to be wary of such a powerful and potentially explosive current of raw energy within ourselves. But there is a message waiting for us if we can sit quietly and let it speak to us.R

Repression or denial is hardly effective. In fact, it only makes the denied energy louder and more destructive, as it struggles to get us to pay attention to pain which needs tending to.

There is inestimable hope and healing available to those who turn towards the powerful sacred rage of the Crescent Moon Bear.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “Women who are tortured often develop a dazzling kind of perception that has uncanny depth and breadth. Although I would never wish anyone tortured in order to learn the secret ins and outs of the unconscious, the fact is, having lived through a gross repression causes gifts to arise that compensate and protect.

In that respect a woman who has lived a torturous life and delved deeply into it definitely has inestimable depth. Though she came to it through pain, if she has done the hard work of clinging to consciousness, she will have a deep and thriving soul-life and a fierce belief in herself regardless of the occasional ego-waverings.”

I know that this is true about me. This has been my path. What was once my shame is becoming my strength, and of that I am proud.