Shadow Country

Returning to Canada - things aren't as expected.

Returning to Canada – expected the unexpected.

I took this photo, yesterday morning, the day after this rocker, my summer rocking chair on our deck where I often enjoy a morning coffee in sunshine, was brought out of storage. Two days ago, I was sitting outside in the sunshine without a need for a jacket. Yesterday, the unexpected paid a visit and now I find myself waiting – waiting for something else to emerge, something unexpected.

Last night, I picked up a book that I bought two years ago but have never opened. I don’t know why it took so long as I am not known for setting new books aside. Regardless, this book caught my attention and I opened it and began reading. The book, Why Good People Do Bad Things, by James Hollis, immediately gripped me and I knew that I was going to take the things that began stirring within me, here where I could reflect with the resonances and perhaps understand myself and the Shadow, more.

The general consensus among most of those who know me is that I am a good person, a nice guy in spite of my quietness. I am aware of the existence of shadows and ghosts within me, and usually I am quite successful at keeping them quiet so that I can live among others as a nice guy. I am well aware that there are depths that contain not only secrets that I want kept that way, but also a Robert that is not such a nice guy. I sense the dark Robert’s presence and tread carefully. If I simply ignore this aspect, there is usually hell to pay and I am left picking up the mess he leaves behind.

However, it isn’t about my Shadow that I want to bring here. I have done that many times already in the past. There is something more important that must be dealt with at this time. I want to bring words here as much for you as for myself. The current situation in our world is not good. I won’t go into a long list of bad things happening to us as individuals, or the environment, or to us in our communities and cultures. So, I want to begin these reflections with this opening statement from Hollis in his book:

“Those who do not consider the implications of the divided human soul remain unconscious and are therefore dangerous to self and others. Those who do bother to stop and look and ask why, become more and more attuned to the complexity of their own psychological processes; their lives grow more interesting to them; and they become less dangerous to themselves and others.” [p. xiii]

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Roads Taken and Not Taken

The Journey is the Reward

The Journey is the Reward

Sometimes I find it hard to stay present, especially when I am doing some planning for a future activity or adventure. I know that when it comes to myself, while doing the work of charting times, dates, routes, rest stops and planned highlights – I find myself slipping out of the task. I begin to create improbable scenario after impossible scenario, visions that emerge from the details charted.

It was only later that I realised that there was more of a problem than my simple daydreaming and castle building with sand at issue. It was the idea that the planning itself was flawed. Even if I avoided going off track and I managed to stay present on the task of identifying as many details of the “trip” as I could, I still was missing the most important part, being open to the journey – the journey from this moment to the first step on what may or may see this journey find itself continuing in a new place.

The only real task is to see possibilities and to decide at some point to engage. Should the first steps be taken on this road, the reward will be the journey itself which like each day we live our life journey. Every step through life changes us, affirms and defines us. Every step we don’t take also changes us and defines us. Every choice we make is a step on the journey – roads taken and roads not taken.

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Not The Average Modern Man

Self portrait - George Bernard Shaw

Self portrait – George Bernard Shaw

“We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins.” —George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, 1903

Freedom from shame, a state of being that can best be thought of as a free spirit, a person who rises above the collective, or as Friedrich Nietzsche called this type of person, an overman, a superman. Today we all credit the beginnings of modern social nudism to the FKK movement. In reality, nudity was a normal part of life in Europe until the 18th century. Driven underground and declared an act of deviancy, it took a rebellion of youth encouraged by Nietzsche to live in harmony with nature, to embrace nudism, meditation and natural healing to bring nudism to the modern world, in spite of modern man who was and remains, ashamed of his naked body.

George Bernard Shaw embodied this rejection of shame, rejecting sublimation to the collective unconscious which brings out the worst in humans in communities across the world. It doesn’t take much for neuroses to become embedded into a culture. We gather together in communities, primarily out of fear of being alone. We view the others outside of our communities as inferior or even enemies. Within our communities, those who don’t accept the collective neuroses as moral truths are shamed with the intention of having conformity, unity. In the end, no one naturally fits into the collective paradigm and as a result we end up with individuals who suffer in shame, in self-doubt and expend a lot of money and energy to hide their natural differences from the average modern man.

Shaw wrote the words above more than a hundred years ago. As I read them, I realised that nothing has changed, unless we have moved even deeper into a collective culture of shame and being offended by differences.

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A Child Hidden In Darkness

A light penetrates the darkness.

A light penetrates the darkness.

The major reason for returning to Canada is that this is where family is. I could talk about my beautiful home, large garden, clean air and everything else that would make for excellent reasons to live here on the Canadian prairies, but the truth is, most places on this earth would make for excellent places to build and keep a home.  What ensures that I return to these mid-western plains is the fact that I have children and grandchildren living here. There is nothing on earth that is more important than relationship with those who love you and those whom you love. Well, that isn’t quite the truth. The primary relationship that must be nourished is the relationship with oneself.

The people we love deserve more from us than we usually can give them, for most of us have barricaded a significant part of our heart behind protective walls. With what is left of our hearts to share with others is given without condition to those we love. It might appear to others that we don’t give enough and thus be judged as not really caring, rather we become judged as cold and selfish. We look at the damage we have done with our relationships and join the others in condemning ourselves and we sink deeper into the need to protect ourselves as a matter of psychic survival. Some fail and terminate their lives or get lost in permanent darkness of self-abuse. I know, I lived this darkness for too long, the darkness of believing I was too defective to be worthy of love and so punished myself, locked my heart away from myself so that the compassion I so easily gave away to others could not be given to myself, to the child within me that life experiences had led to the child building mental barriers to protect himself from the outer world that seemed determined to destroy.

One of the practices I adopted to breech these protective walls around my heart was naturism. I had to find a small crack in the armour around my heart, that crack was my physical body. When sunshine fills my body with warmth as it bathes my skin, I found that I was able to breathe deeper and loosen a little bit, the ties that bound my heart. Over time, it has been the courage to give myself time and space for this communion between the universe and the breathing pulse of my heart, which has eroded enough of the barriers that I can now begin to care for the inner, frightened child. I can now show compassion for him, and in turn for the adult behind whom he had been hidden.

And this, becomes the foundation of today’s poem.

~ ~ ~

Hidden In Depths And Darkness

Hidden in depths and darkness, a child cowers
eyes looking out at the world, a world filtered by
the child’s fears, always seeing ghosts and demons
who must not be allowed to know the child is there
hidden behind so many masks, so many layers of
half-truths that in order to reach the child, one
would need to make a journey that was a labyrinth
with distractions and false trails.

The child is a night child hidden in the darkness
a child tentatively responsive to the faint light
of a moon reflected in the beneath which he hides.
The child knows that on the other side of the
pool of water is another world that others live in
a world where there are smiles and light – a light
which would give warmth, but also expose him
leaving him once again vulnerable to the darkness
that would devour him if he stopped hiding.

Tired with too many years of denial, the weight
of too many masks and disguises, the barrier
between that inner child and the sunshine of
the world from which he has been hiding, begins
to crack allowing a strange ray of warmth to
begin thawing the ice, bringing light into darkness
inviting this frightened child to re-emerge
into that outer world and heal.

2014 04 14 – Elrose, House of White

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Identification With A Persona

In search of self

In search of self

Again, the eternal question about identity surfaces. The more I meditate, spend time in nature, and study the human psyche, the more I am coming to realise that I am more than I think I am. I know that there isn’t a single living being that can answer this question about my beingness. As time goes by I am continually surprised at what I uncover about myself. It is as though I am wandering through a treasure chest filled with an infinite number of faces which I can put on knowing that each of these faces belong to me and that I am all of them, and more. Each of these faces are the faces of persona – teacher, father, husband, lover, etc. – faces that show just one tiny aspect of the whole.

Time has taught me that there is more to my identity, the wholeness of who I am, than any of the personae that I have worn in the roles I have lived and continue to live in relationship to other people. Stepping out of the treasure chest of faces, I meet something that has no face but is as real as any of my personae. The inner spaces behind my mind show me portals into something undefinable, something that strangely appears to have no boundaries. It is almost as if the separation of self from other ceases to exist. And it is with all of this that I come to realise that I am not only what you see and know of me.

“One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is. In any case the temptation to be what one seems to be is great, because the persona is usually rewarded in cash.” [Jung, CW 9i, par. 220]

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He’s the Bad Guy – I’m the Victim

fateThis image was found on Twitter and I knew that I was going to appropriate it for use here. Whoever was the artist who put it together, has captured well, the idea of projections and how we deny our own shadows as we dump them onto others and onto the cruel world.

I have written numerous times about projections and about shadow. So why am I returning to the topic again? I want to look at “fate.” that idea that what happens to us is somehow scripted, at least in a generalized way, in advance. It is hard to understand this idea when we see so many things happening around us that make no sense. For example, a young child gets seriously hurt or even killed? We are forced to confront these types of events and often come to the conclusion that there is nothing about life that has purpose and that everything that happens, does so by random chance.

Yet, at the same time, we reject that idea as we see proofs around us of “cause and effect,” a process that teaches us that life is anything but random. The first act, that of sperm meeting ovum and creating new life is a good example of cause and effect. The act of walking, the response of humans, animals and plants to sunlight and the absence of sunlight is another universal example that tells us that life on earth is intentional and not meaningless, random activity.

The only meaninglessness that exists, is what we create as a believable lie in our own heads. We project the lie and find a good excuse to excuse ourselves from being responsible for what we do with our lives, taking on the role of victim. We look at good things happening to bad people, bad things happening to good people and then arrive at a judgement that it doesn’t matter, nothing matters.

Yet, deep within us, we reach out for anything that will give us meaning. Consciousness or awareness, tells us that life isn’t all about happy or sad accidents. So, how can we begin to understand good things happening to bad people and bad things happening to good people? The only answer I can offer, is karma, another word for fate. Energy is never destroyed. Consciousness, enlightenment, the soul, the essence of beingness is essentially energy, eternal. We learn about energy in school, about the transformation of energy and cycles of energy. Nothing disappears, ever.

If the soul is energy, psychic energy, then it too must be eternal. Our religions tell us this as a truth – heaven, hell, purgatory – and about how our presence in our bodies will influence what happens next – cause and effect. Karmic debt is an expression that helps us to understand this – fate on a bigger scale. Buddhists aren’t alone in the belief that we all come back to continue our journeys. What we do in past lifetimes has a bearing on how our present life unfolds in terms of fate. An example: if one is very good in one lifetime, especially in terms of generosity, then rebirth will be rewarded with a situation where one is wealthy (or becomes wealthy). What one does with this new life and that wealth will then change the karma for the life that follows. It is important to understand that it doesn’t all end with this lifetime. Being in a situation of wealth and privilege is a test for the soul to verify that generosity is genuine. Failing that test has a karmic result of being reborn into a situation of relative poverty – the less generous this lifetime, the more poverty the next lifetime.

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A Truth Can Walk Naked

walk nakedThe picture tells it like it is. Think about it. I found this image on Facebook and “borrowed” it for use here for both the saying and the image. Why the image? Well, the little boy or girl is walking on a road, and this post will focus on the “road” that we all walk. In addition, the image challenges us to walk the road vulnerable knowing that we are going to suffer, to walk it honestly, especially being honest with oneself. The image also suggests walking into the future, going forward. As I mentioned, the choice was purposeful. Before I found this image I had already chosen words from Osho which I found in his book, The Journey of Being Human, words which speak to the road of life we all walk.

“The road is the world. where everybody is going somewhere, trying to find something, and in fact basically trying to forget himself because it hurts. To remember oneself hurts, and the only thing that everybody is doing is to get engaged, concentrated – after money, after power, after this, after that. Become a painter, become a poet, become a musician, become someone and go on becoming. Don’t stop, because if you stop you become aware of your hurt; the wound starts opening. Son don’t give it a chance. This is the road.” [p. 47]

The road we all take, the road where we hide ourselves through assuming an identity that will redefine who we are to others and to ourselves, does have some value, perhaps even more than some value. But, we need to be honest with ourselves that there is a unique self hidden behind the roles and relationships and activities we engage in, a self that turns into shadow when we lose consciousness of who we are beneath all the clothing, the costumes, the disguises with which we navigate our way through the world.

I call myself a writer, a poet, a musician, a philosopher, a Buddhist, and a naturist among other things. I define myself as well through my relationships of husband, father, grandfather, friend, neighbour, counsellor, brother, and the list goes on. Yet, this is just the surface stuff of who I am. The truth of who I am is only found when I strip away everything and dare to look squarely at who or what remains. The bandages have to be peeled off and the wounds of life exposed in order for healing, for peace to emerge. And yes, it hurts.

~ ~ ~

Barefoot Reality

Walking in the house with barefoot
feeling the coolness of morning
in the wood.
Put on slippers?

Walking barefoot along the shore
feeling the sand and shells
and the weeds.
Put on sandals?

Walking barefoot on the grass in the yard
feeling the caress of nature’s hand
and the freedom.
Put on shoes?

Being buffered from reality
denying the truth of the earth
and of the authentic human body
leaves the body and psyche in
a cocoon of self-imposed agony.

2014 04 11 – Elrose, House of White

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On the Road to Individuality

It’s been a while since I have turned to one of my Jungian psychology books. Now that I am back in my home, sitting here in my office in the house surrounded by my collection of books which are predominantly focused on psychology, I felt the pull to pick one of them up this morning. I found these words by Carl Gustav Jung: “Every man is, in a certain sense, unconsciously a worse man when he is in society than when acting alone.” [CW 7, par. 240] It’s an idea that equates with that of when in a group, everything sifts itself out until the group has reached its lowest common denominator, an idea that explains why so many good people working together on a project, or in a large corporation, or in government; seem to lose their individual high standards and end up doing immoral and even stupid things.

I’ve seen this happen and have been part of it while working as a school administrator. I have seen it happen in staff rooms where it takes time to work new teachers into the group and how the result ends up with the idealistic new teachers unconsciously taking on the collective attitudes and ways of being in the group. I’ve seen it in myself where I teach and work differently with different classrooms, an unconscious response that isn’t really about responding to the needs of different students, but more about being caught up in the collective psyche of the class, the collective shadow to be more precise. Once outside of the group, typically one returns to his or her natural way of being in the world.

The descent to the lowest common denominator helps explain the realities of our government that is chosen though elections, one person at a time – good people that for the most part are individually principled with a vision.  Yet one elected, it doesn’t take too long before individuals find themselves controlled to the extent that they vote contrary to their own beliefs and the beliefs of those who voted for her or him. In time, the central authority of the group issues. When and if the individual comes to realise the conflict between his or her unconscious behaviour in the collective and his or her values and beliefs, the individual typically resigns. Sadly, the collective shadow (lowest common denominator) consumes and controls most.

Enough of this. It’s time for a poem.

Following the road in search of self

Following the road in search of self

~ ~ ~

On the Road to Individuality

He walked alone down a dirt road little used
walked barefoot in the soft, dry dirt
away from his home in the village.

As the sun warmed the air and the quiet
began to come alive with nature
which whispered in the leaves and grass
he removed his shirt and bared his breast
walking toward the light of the sun.

His steps became lighter as though
a weight had been lifted from his heart.
His eyes reached up, as he lifted his head
and straightening his back, and a smile
began to move from his lips to his eyes.

Cresting a hill, he stood for a moment
looking back toward the village where
he was a stranger though he knew each
person who lived with him in the village
where he was even a stranger to himself,
hidden behind his clothes and his
carefully crafted public person.

Looking away from the village, down the trail
he sensed that soon he would be able to
find the self he had worked so hard to
hide and disguise, a self he had lost.

Removing the last of his clothing
he followed the path ahead
in search of freedom.

2014 04 10 – Elrose, House of White

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Shadows Co-Existing With Light

Our home on the prairies, April 2014

Our home on the prairies, April 2014

I am back in my house in Canada, the wind is gusting to over 70 kph (45 mph) making walking outside unpleasant. We walked anyway, to the store where we bought some groceries including fruit and vegetables as the fridge was quite bare. It rained in the morning but is now sunny. However, this is not a good time to even think of naturist activity as it is far from warm. Meditation was an indoor activity with a little electric heater needed for my Buddhist corner. In saying all of this, I have nothing to complain about as it is great to be in our home.

~ ~ ~

A Cocoon Of Air

Sitting on the cushion
within a world that is cold and gray
a new space emerges as breathing
becomes focused and mindful.

Breathing in and allowing the senses
to be present and accepting of
the clouds that bar the sun from
bringing its warmth and light,
breathing in and then breathing out.

The cold and dullness of the day
enclosed within walls
are soon set aside
not denied or pushed away
as shadows are given their
place in the present moment
shadows co-existing with light
both becoming one.

2014 04 09 – Elrose, House of White

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Always At Home Beneath Sun-Darkened Skin

Sun-darkened skin at Casa Sorpresas

Sun-darkened skin at Casa Sorpresas

Our bags are packed and sitting waiting for our departure time. In three hours we will be en route to the airport in Cancun where we will sit for about three hours until our plane takes off to take us back home to Canada. I thought that perhaps I would be having more regrets about leaving out little casa and garden where we have had enough privacy for me to live more in my own skin. Yet, the call of home – my children and grandchildren – is strong. In less that ten days we will have most, if not all of them, at our house for Easter.

Yet, there are strong connections that have developed here in Puerto Morelos as well. The connections have become stronger because they include people. It is all about people, connection to people who are vital to prove to ourselves that we are not just all in our heads, some all-encompassing thought. Dreams tell us about people and our connections to them. They allow us to see ourselves mirrored in their eyes. They teach us of our goodness and about our darkness. They challenge us to be better with their love, indifference, or even hate. Of course there is so much more to say, but now is not the time. For now, it is enough to be aware that I am learning to be at home, to be settled within myself because of connections with others, with communion with others.

~ ~ ~

Sun-Darkened Skin

A breeze from the fan makes its way
across the room, touching the skin’s surface
as if pulsing with its own life
gifting with each breath, more life
perhaps even inspiration
to the naked writer
wrestling with thoughts and feelings
locked beneath the sun-darkened skin.

Meditation, agitated encounters with
presences beneath the skin
presences that know no boundaries of time or space
presences tied to others
inner others
outer others
that live beneath the sun-darkened skin.

Waiting in the silence
for the silence to be broken
by a chime pronouncing the end
and a return to life
outside this layer of sun-darkened skin.

2014 04 08 – Puerto Morelos, Casa Sorpresas

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