A Small Company of Pilgrims – Published!

My first fiction novel that was written in the fall of 2014 is now published.

My first fiction novel that was written in the fall of 2014 is now published.

What a great feeling it is to finally have the book available in print form. It is available from CreateSpace and will soon be available from Amazon as well. The Kindle version should be out in a few days at the latest. I last wrote about the book in November. Since then it has been read by a few trusted people who let me know about errors along the way. Then, it simply sat on my computer while I invested my time in preparing for Jungian presentations and writing the Naked Poetry book.

I will be migrating all of my writing, published as well as finished but never published, to Amazon and Kindle. I am doing this because of better editorial control and costs to me. With that decision made, I will be doing a clean up of my two-part (third part yet to be written) autobiography later this year following a current rewrite of a book I wrote thirty years ago when I wrote with a youthful flowery style that was typical for the generation of the “Flower Child,” the precursor to hippies.

Here is where you can order your copy of the book A Small Company of Pilgrims. – https://www.createspace.com/5242701

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Relationships

Trying to understand our relationships to others and to ourselves.

Trying to understand our relationships to others and to ourselves.

What a heavily charged word, relationships. In the world of depth psychology, any word or idea or image that evokes a significant heated response, a gut-level response, indicates the presence of personal shadow, where one unconsciously projects stuff about oneself onto others – good stuff and not so good stuff. Relationships will be my topic this week here in Puerto Morelos.

This week I will be giving the second of three presentations on Jungian themes here in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. I am fortunate to have found a place and a supportive group that is willing to host these presentations – Robin and Steve at Layla’s Guest House provide their learning centre to me, with needed audio-visual equipment, at no cost. Layla’s also serves as a Buddhist meditation centre one evening each week as well as a venue for Mayan/Mexican history and culture. Since first seeing Robin and Steve, a relationship has been gradually building resulting in this opportunity for me to give Jungian talks in this fishing village that has become home to a significant number of expats from Canada and the U.S.A.

On a side note, the final photos and poems have been completed for the third Naked Poetry book. Now, it’s time for careful editing and prepping for publishing. I will keep you updated with the progress I am making.

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A Work In Progress

Proposed cover for book three in the Naked Poetry series.

Proposed cover for book three in the Naked Poetry series.

I am currently at work on volume three of the Naked Poetry series, one that is a major departure from the previous two volumes. To begin with, no poems were written before the existence of a photo. Three sets of photos were taken over a period of two months – a set depicting masculine psychology, a set portraying feminine psychology, and a final set that illustrates couple psychology. The book contains three sections labelled She which has 15 poems/photos, He with another 15 poems/photos, and finally We with a final set of 15 poems.

I had originally planned on using Robert A. Johnson’s books by the same names HeShe, and We, as the guide for bringing masculine and feminine psychology as explained by him, to future readers of the poetry book. However, it soon became obvious that the idea caused more grief than success – I had to consider the reality of the woman and the man in the context of a modern world. Poetry needs to be authentic if it is to be worth reading, otherwise all one gets is lines of words filled with canned expressions that have no hope of connecting with a reader.

So, the process had to be revisited. I decided to give up sole control of the project and make it a cooperative affair, something that surprised. Unconsciously, I was working with my partner (couple psychology) to build a foundation for the book, one that was as authentic as could be constructed. Together we planned quite a number of the photos, taking turns at giving ideas and taking the photos so that both voices could be seen and heard in the book as it developed.

There are only a handful of poems left to write and two photos for the He section left to be taken.

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My Latest Book Is Now Published

Cover of my latest book.

Cover of my latest book.

Well, after months of waiting and a ton of work, the second volume of Naked Poetry is out and available for purchase. There is a print version available through Blurb, as well as an e-book version available through Smashwords.

The book  is filled with 45 poems that look at the human body, the human psyche, and the human soul with as much honesty as can be found within my limited field of awareness. The book is a mixture of Buddhist thought and meditation; a Jungian field of reference; and, a vulnerability that comes with refuses to hide behind fear.

I am already planning the third volume which will have three sections: He which will focus on poems and photos about the masculine; She which will focus on poems and photos about the feminine; and, We which will focus on poems and photos that are centered upon the idea of the union of masculine and feminine – psychological and spiritual union.

As with this second volume, the third book will draw from photos submitted by others (upon request) which meet the objective of illustrating a poem, or at least part of a poem. If any of you, my readers, would consider becoming part of the project, please let me know via the comment section. I will contact you in the future, one way or the other.

Happy Solstice season to each of you.

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Coming Clean On The Road To Santiago

Coming Clean on the Camino

Coming Clean on the Camino

I am nearing the end of my novel, a story of spiritual rebirth that is the gift of pilgrimage, the treasure found by the hero who risks all. I began the novel as part of the NoNaWriMo 2014 challenge. But somehow, that challenge became a subscript as the story emerged to tell itself to me. I have a few more chapters to write before going back to bring unity to the pieces. I am as surprised as you might be at what has arisen from the depths. This is a story of light and hope and honesty. The following is a part of Chapter 23.

~

The next morning, the sun was about to make its presence as René walked behind the rest of his small company of pilgrims. Already the path was busy with others making the final surge towards Santiago. Ed walked just ahead of him with Frieda and Maria just in front of Ed. René took a photo of the group then checked his viewfinder in playback mode. Strangely, he had a recognizable Ed, but in front of him were others that weren’t part of his little company of pilgrims. Shaking his head, he faced backwards to get a sunrise photo with the long line of pilgrims walking towards him, almost as silhouettes against the merging light of day.

“Ed, hold up a bit!” called René to the American pastor.

Over the next two and a half kilometres which took almost three-quarters of an hour, René struggled in silence with the thoughts that raced through his head. What was real, what was illusion? As they passed through a Eucalyptus forest, René saw a likely location for meditation. Pointing out the opening just off to the left to Ed, he veered off to engage in the last meditation before Santiago. It was as if he didn’t even have to tell the others as they were already moving to the spot. Obviously there was a level of communication that was intuitive and non-verbal that connected him to the others. In the privacy of the trees, clothes were neatly placed beside each pilgrim before all took their seat facing Sid.

Once they had rejoined the throng of pilgrims heading west, René began to tell Ed his situation, how these others who were in the group were manifestations of his unconscious, that they weren’t real people. When they reached San Payo, seven and a half kilometres closer to Santiago, they stopped for coffee and toast.

“René tells me that you guys aren’t real,” Ed told the others in their group. “I think that he is getting quite stressed about the Camino coming to an end.”

“Well,” began Moe, “it’s not as simple as that. We are real, but in a different kind of way. You can see us and touch us and talk to us and we can do the same thing back to you and René. Reality as you define it, is the problem, well the definition part is the problem.”

“I don’t get it,” frowned Ed in confusion.

“I think I have to tell you who I am and then we can go from there. My name is Moses, Moe for short. Yes, the Moses you have studied about and preached about for so many years. I exist in you, Ed as I exist in René. That’s the thing about what René calls archetypes. I am the eternal pilgrim in each of us, always walking to the holy land but never quite getting there. I guess you could call me a guide through the wilderness.”

“Mary here, is Mary of Magdalene. You may have noticed that when we pass chapels, churches and markers that bear her name, she seems to glow. You may have also noticed that she is good at taking care of us like a good wife and mother. The wife of Jesus and the mother of his children. You know of her story as a harlot, a shameless woman who had little use for clothing in her trade. She knew men before Jesus, and after him as well. That’s the thing about her that is eternal in each human, the inner harlot and saint.”

“Sid? He is Siddharta Gautama, sometimes called Buddha. He would be the last person to accept that title as Buddha isn’t a person, it is a nature or state of mind-being. He is the source of all enlightenment that is wrapped up in generosity and compassion within all humans.”

“Akka is a saint, a saint that praises the purest of the pure without shame, the Eve from the Garden of Eden who resides within the deepest depths of soul. You likely never heard of her presence as the Naked Saint who praised the Lord in poetry and song. You might want to look up her name, Akka Mahdevi.”

“Joe is a story teller, a presence within us that shows us the map of our journey if you would trust him. His story is both old and new. He is known by other names such as Homer and more recently as Joseph Campbell. Ah, I see that rings a bell for you, Ed.”

“Karl? Well he has been around a long time as well, a man who dances with darkness like Faust. He is the link, a portal of sorts through darkness into light. You might know him as Carl Jung.”

“There was another man that René met for a few days when we weren’t with him, David. Yes, the biblical David. Who put in an appearance to both explain and to redirect René onto the path before he could be swallowed by the path.”

René then interrupted Moe, “Thank you, Moe. These eternal presences are something I can understand, have understood intellectually. But now, I am coming to see much clearer as not being dependent upon me. I was struggling with a conceit that I somehow created you, that you were illusions not the universal presences with every one of us humans. But what about James? I don’t see his archetypal role.”

Moses smiled and then answered, “James was as you are, a man. Of course archetypes don’t generally run around in control of human bodies, at least not in sane humans, but that’s another story that you might explain to Ed at some point. James is James, the man you have met a few times before. Call it serendipity that he was here walking with you, especially at a time when you needed his counsel.”

“So, Ed,” asked Moe. “Is that any clearer?”

“A bit. But why the nudity?”

“Ed, what have you been blogging about for these past number of years? These experiences are in accordance to your need which parallel René’s needs – another neat coincidence don’t you think? – part of the agenda for your validation as a minister and as a man in God’s image. Remember that man and woman were conceived as naked beings in the Garden of Eden. The only way back to the Garden is by the light of awareness that Sid and Akka represent, a light that cannot be hidden behind clothing. One has to risk everything to gain the garden.”

“Uh, one more thing, Moe, I mean Moses,” asked Ed. “You didn’t mention Frieda.”

“She is the vital force in every man, the inner queen, the créatrice, the lover. Each man must eventually unite with this inner woman to achieve the state of wholeness, holiness. If she is not acknowledged she becomes a terrible destroyer as she becomes projected on human females. This is called loss of soul, a deadening of the human spirit.”

“Anima,” whispered René to Ed. “I’ll explain it later if you want.”

~

It was only two kilometres after San Payo when they stopped again at a small river by Lavacolla. Moe led the group to the bank of the river which looked somewhat brackish and foul. He removed his clothing though in plain sight of the passing line of pilgrims, walked into the water and washed himself. Without asking why, each of the others did the same. To enter Santiago, tradition demanded that one becomes purified in the waters of this river.

Putting their clothing on, not paying attention to the stares and odd photo being taken by voyeurs on the path, the rejoined the line walking into Santiago.

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A Broken Boy On The Broken Road

The cover of my latest book,an autobiography of my first 20 years.

The cover of my latest book,an autobiography of my first 20 years.

I have finally wrapped up the work of many years, the telling of my story from infancy to the moment I left home at the age of 20 in search of a whole life. The people in the book are all real people though the names of everyone in the book, well almost everyone, has been changed in order to protect those that are still living, my brothers and sisters and other extended family members.

As I worked through this story, time after time, I realised that I would never find all the puzzle pieces to end the story. But then, it isn’t necessary to have all the pieces. What is important in telling one’s story is to listen to one’s own words and dig deeper into what those words evoke. In this way, emotional affect is reduced and going forward in peace is achieved. I owe thanks to so many for the unfolding of this story. My family, especially my wife, have listened patiently to the tales. My therapists and analysts have also played a huge role with keeping me safe as the images emerged and the story began to write itself.

I now gift all of you with a free copy of the e-book A Broken Boy On The Broken Road.

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Soul Care and Shadows

Soul care and shadows

Soul care and shadows

Sometimes I find images without looking for them, images that are powerful statements. This image to the left is the latest image that found a path through my thinking mind to reach deep into the core of my psyche, that place that we call “Soul.” I hope someone knows the artist who created this masterpieces as she/he deserves recognition. The image was tied to an article on a depth psychology website belonging to Paul Deblaissie. The article is brief, but it does touch on a theme I have been writing about fairly often over the past few months, that of “Shadow.”

There is no doubt in my mind that we are hurting as a human race. We know that there is something wrong, but we aren’t exactly sure what it is that needs fixing in us, in others, and in the world in general. When we look in the mirror, we flinch and protest that this can’t really be who we are, this stranger in the mirror. Somehow, the internal images we have of ourselves don’t match what our eyes see. How do we solve this problem? Most often, we cover up the outer self as well as engage in all manner of efforts to physically change what is seen in the mirror. Make up, diets, exercise in expensive gyms, sunlamps, designer label clothing, tattoos and piercings, plastic surgery: the efforts to reshape and hide the ugly truth that is staring at us in the mirror. But, the image we want to achieve seems impossible to attain in spite of all the money, time and effort we devote to erase that ugly truth. Life just isn’t fair.

It isn’t just our bodies that are betraying us, we see that so many people around us are working overtime to convince us that we need to work harder and spend more money to become worthy humans, to be lovable. In spite of those closest to us who love us as we are and tell us that, we dismiss these affirmations of our outer and inner self. After all, regardless of the truth, they are obliged to affirm us in spite of our ugliness, our imperfections which we so desperately want to banish. We look out and see the images of perfection in all of our media. We see all those smart and fashionable people who seem to have what we are desperately seeking. And we become angry, especially with ourselves. We hate being defective, imperfect. And so we hide and deny as much about ourselves as we can.

What we need is what we can’t seem to give ourselves, a compassionate acceptance of our body, mind and soul.

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Retreating From The Brink – Owning Our Own Shadow

 “the ego seldom really knows enough to know that it does not know enough.” (Hollis, Why Good People Do Bad Things, p. 12)

Obviously, I am continuing on with my reading of Hollis’ book. The book talks about shadow, ego and the unconscious. I know that I have likely explained this elsewhere in the archives of this blog site, but I feel a need to visit these terms once again. Ego is the simplest of these words to describe. Ego is the thinking aspect of ourselves, the part of us we “know” in real terms. Though we often question ourselves and our identity, we do have a sense of self that in adulthood, is fuller that the others around us can ever know. What others around us know is typically what we let them know about ourselves.

jo-hari windowLet me begin with the Jo-Hari Window, a simple diagram that looks at the self in a two-dimensional grid:

We obviously, no matter how hard we work or try can ever completely know ourselves. The ego I described above is comprised of our public or “open” self, as well as our private or “hidden” self. When people get close to us, they get to notice things about us that we are unaware of. More often than not, these aspects are usually minor in nature. However, those who are closest to us get exposed to more of our “blind” self and could tell us (and often enough do) about what they experience about us, usually to our embarrassment.

We can with a lot of effort become more aware, more conscious of ourselves. We may even be willing to acknowledge that even what we think we know, is somehow suspect because of various unidentified factors that slip under our control to affect our thoughts, moods and actions. What we know is simply that, what we know – ego knowledge. It is that area that is “unknown” that is the source of most of our problems that we typically blame on others. That unknown is called the unconscious. The diagram to the left is misleading as it suggests that the unconscious is relatively small and perhaps can be made smaller if we simply expose more of our “hidden self” to others who would in turn clue us in to those things about ourselves for which we are “blind.”

I am sure, that like everyone I know, there are things you regret saying and regret doing. More often than not, you can’t even explain why you might have said or done these things to people you profess to love. Often when confronted by those we love about what we have said or done, we deny the things they tell us about what we have done or said while honestly believing that we are truly innocent of what we have been accused of saying or doing. When we can’t escape the fact that we have indeed said or done something about which we were unaware of, we typically respond with, “What made me say that?” or if it radically contradicts what we know about ourselves, the response often becomes, “Why did you make me say that?” as we blame others for our unconscious actions and speech. I could go on and on with examples, but there is enough to give one the idea that perhaps we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.  We learn as we get older that our truths and certainties of our younger years are now fuzzy at best. It seems the more we learn, the less we “know.”

This unconscious aspect of ourselves permeates all of our lives, all of our relationships, our beliefs, our avoidances, our embracings including politics and religion. As soon as we think we “know;” as soon as we are convinced of our truths; we become trapped or locked in a limited awareness. It is as though we build a wall around ourselves wit which we find protection from antagonists. What has really happened is that we have retreated into yet another fundamentalist belief whether it is the belief that nudity is immoral, that Islamic people are terrorists, that coloured people are inferior, that only our brand of religion is valid, or that poor people are lazy and deserve to be poor. Any idea that reduces the world to black and white; us versus them; good guys and bad guys with God on our side – all of these are examples of being caught up in a blend of collective and personal unconscious – or Shadow.

So who are the bad guys and where do we find them? Well, as Pogo explained, “We have met the enemy and he is us. All that we project on others, are aspects of self we have denied or aspects we have never even known. I have often had difficulty following orders and found myself at odds with work superiors and believed that they were the problem. I unwittingly projected my authority complex on them thus robbing them of being seen and experienced as complex people who were more than their roles at work. I didn’t know that inadvertently I had become the problem.

In today’s world we are beset with more darkness than we can cope with. Beheadings, terrorism, rich plundering the poor, religion versus religion, profit versus the environment, liberal versus conservative, and racial strife that has erupted in militarization of police forces which in turn fosters a shoot first and question later response as the police see themselves in a war zone where every shadow becomes the enemy – there are too many examples of collective shadow at work. So what can we do about it? Well, the only real choice we have to do the hard and dirty work of uncovering, exposing as much of our own shadow as we can. As we become more “self” aware, we take back a little at a time, our projections and own them.  Along the way we may become more compassionate with ourselves and in turn with those around us including those who we perceive as giving us the most difficulty. It’s our only hope.

 

The Shadow is not black or white either. But that is a topic for another day.

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There Is A Fundamentalist Nazi In All Of Us

“[What] we do not know about ourselves persists and subtly infiltrates our values and choices . . . one of the sure signs of our defense against our shadow is our ready rationalizations that surface to justify our position on any subject.” pp 10-11

As I hear these words, I hear echoes of fundamentalist thinking I have heard in the voices of others, and to be honest, in myself. Though I have long ago learned that truth is relative, and by that I mean in terms of how each of us sense the world and interpret what we sense. Any police officer will tell you that given any number of witnesses, there will be as many versions of what had happened at a witnessed scene as there are witnesses. And each of those witnesses, will believe firmly their version which they would take with them to any trial where they would swear an oath. Why? Why so many versions of reality? Shouldn’t there be a simple, uncomplicated version? Well, regardless, it is what it is as we all are unique with unique histories, abilities, sensory organs and psychological filters.

I have tried more times than can be counted to have discussions on any number of topics, discussions that didn’t require depth. Typically I am confounded by the apparent inability of others to actually hear and understand what I have said. What happened while I was talking was the activation of some trigger with the listener who then begins to deliver his or her truth. It is as though there is a knee-jerk response that has as its motivation a rationalisation of an opinion that is held tightly as a truth.

I am guilty as much as anyone else of justifying my opinion as a truth. “There should be a law!” often escapes my mouth when I react to a situation involving another person who is somehow offending me. I don’t realise at the time that the other really isn’t offending me at all but simply living their own version of truth and reality. I create the sense of being offended within myself and it is expressed unconsciously as a projection of that which I deny about the shadows within myself. Do I dare, do you dare to confront all those things we do or say for which we justify as being the fault of others? If we are ever to become more conscious or ourselves, more responsible as humans, the answer is “Yes!”

“The complexity of the universe, and the complexity of our own souls, is so immense that the fantasy of truly knowing ourselves is like standing on the mountain at dusk and believing that we are encompassing all the stars that wheel in their sidereal orbits through the limitless spaces above us. . . . So, the ego seldom really knows enough to know that it does not know much.” pp 11-12

There is an old saying that many of us have learned, “the more we learn, it seems the less we know.” Applies to the word written here by James Hollis. As parents we have seen our children, as teenagers, grow to become “know-it-alls” who think parents are not all that intelligent. Yet somehow when our children become young adults they wonder how fast their parents have been learning. It seems funny for us as we see this development. It is part of our developmental cycle to be in the stage of being certain, or “know-it-alls.”

As adults, it seems that it becomes less funny when we are confronted by other adults who are self-proclaimed experts who have an answer for every question, even the questions we haven’t asked. Yet, we are not much different as we hold onto certainties of who we are thinking that what you see is all there is. When confronted by others about our moods, attitudes, biases, fundamentalism, and even our actions; we often regard these others with surprise as we are adamant that we are anything but what they claim. We know that we are in control and reasonable people. If we have an opinion, we are more than justified because of the evidence others present.

We can’t see or admit our biases, we are blissfully unaware that we have projected our stuff onto others, blaming them for what we have yet to know about what is going on within our own psyche. If we could just come to understand that anything for which we have a strong, even unmoveable opinion, is indicative of something beneath ego consciousness being activated. If we are lucky enough, maybe we will get to the point of realising that the more we learn about our “self,” the more we will realise remains to be learned.

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Shadow As A Darker Drift of Society

Low-lying clouds in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Low-lying clouds in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Now, to continue with looking at James Hollis’ book and how it has resonated with me.

“The “personal Shadow” is unique to each of us, although we may share many features with others around us. The “collective Shadow” is the darker drift of the culture, the unacknowledged, often rationalized, interactions of time, place, and our tribal practices. Each of us carries a personal Shadow, and each of us participates in varying proportion in a collective Shadow.” p. 10

It’s interesting to me how the collective Shadow is painted darker than the personal Shadow. I would have thought that light the personal Shadow, the collective Shadow would also contain the unlived potential that we would characterise as perhaps the opposite of evil. In communities it is easy to see how the collective comes together for positive outcomes such as when a community rallies around an individual or family that is in need. But then again, mob mentality is all about darkness and the display of behaviour that would otherwise rarely put in an appearance. With mob mentality we revert to brutality and action without reason, following along in the hunt energised so to speak by the smell of blood. Somehow, the collective has a particular energy to pull in anyone who doesn’t remain alert, those who question and demand answers that can be understood by their own level of consciousness.

But what about the collective unconscious of small groups? I think of staff rooms and how they can become toxic environments where otherwise good people become nasty and surly and perpetually negative within the staff room. Yet, once they are out of the work environment, they revert back to the pleasant and good people of the community.

When we turn to larger groups such as the military, the dark shadow is magnified. How else could we ever explain why good young men willingly shoot unarmed people including children, or drop bombs knowing that the results often demolish schools, homes and hospitals? Somehow, the mindset of fighting against an opposing darkness allows us to visit horror and sometimes death on other ordinary communities. For make no mistake about it, all those villages in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, any other place in the past or conflict place of the future, are filled with mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, the mentally or physically helpless, and ordinary good people. Yes, out of those villages and towns emerge forces that are bent on destruction of their enemies – on both sides of any conflict.

When the bodies are brought back home, heroes every one, our beliefs about the others are reinforced. They are the enemy, forces of darkness. And, our anger is increased. We have no thought that we have journeyed into another country carrying weapons, uninvited. We have threatened with violence, followed through those threats with death and destruction fighting the beliefs of dark evil that we have nursed within us. Month after month, year after year we follow our crusade to bring freedom from evil to those we have convinced ourselves need us to show them the way, even if we have to kill so many of them in the process. We have become the foreign devils, the dark shadow of strangers who come to destroy homes, communities and families. Our inner darkness is projected upon the other and there seems to be no way of bringing this to a good end. It does nothing to lay blame or to ask who fired the first shot, for that first shot was a stone or spear thrown by ancestors too many thousands of years ago before we thought to chronicle our collective insanity.

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