Peering Through A Haze

A smoke haze lends colour to the early evening sky as sunset approaches on Turtle Lake.

A smoke haze colours the early evening sky as sunset approaches on Turtle Lake.

I have been relatively quiet these past weeks, perhaps it is something in the air as in the photo to the left. Usually when I find myself quiet like this, something inside is shifting. I have learned to sit with this stillness and quietness without trying to manipulate, that is control the process.

The spirit moves to its own rhythms and to its own time. It’s all about trusting that the spirit knows where, when and why about the journey that is in process. Ego is relegated to a minor role.

Ego often gets in the way of most of our life trying to micro manage everything – our relationships, our earning a living, raising a family – everything about our life outside of our head. Of course ego also works its hardest to deny that there is anything go on beneath the surface. If there is anything, any spirit or self below that surface, then ego is forced to acknowledge that it isn’t really the master of the universe, that universe of I.

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Depression, Suicide, and Robin Williams

robinYesterday, in the early afternoon, I got a Facebook update from one of my friends that falls withing what I can best describe as a Mental Health support group in which many struggle with depression that has its roots in many diverse areas such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse, isolation, drugs, alcohol – the list of “reasons” go on and on though in the end I don’t know if it matters what the reason may or may not be, it is simply enough that we managed to find each other and build bonds across the airwaves. The update was a message that Robin Williams had died – suicide. Without thinking of appropriateness, all I could write in response to this update was “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” That was it.

Lost in early morning thought. Photo by Maureen Longpré.

Lost in early morning thought. Photo by Maureen Longpré.

The response was visceral, a gut response that told me after the initial shock wore off that a “trigger” had been touched. I waited some more and finally I was able to put up my own “status” message:

Robin Williams’ suicide has shaken me more than I care to admit. Depression and denied darkness claim too many. He was two years younger than me. Perhaps it is the writing through my own denied darkness that has left me too sensitive. Thinking of My brother, Lawrence (Larry) who also lost his battle with depression.”

It was simple and direct, and it left out more than needed to be said. However, it wasn’t long before others began to post their reactions to both my status update and the news of Robin William’s suicide. There was one (well more than one, but I need to control this post or it will get to convoluted and perhaps become too much for you to read) response by Brent Alan Erwin, also known as the “Chief” whose words stuck with me even as I walked with my wife through the prairie countryside for a few hours. Along the walk we were both quiet, lost in our own moments of walking meditation with my thoughts turned towards the Chief’s words and my thoughts that grew out of them. Before I get to my response, here are the Chief’s words:

What is DEPRESSION??  I’ll tell you what it is for me. It’s like waking up in a prison, a prison with no walls, no doors, no cells, no bars, no windows, so therefore there is nothing physical to escape. It’s solitary confinement. We didn’t ask for it, it comes without warning, it turns the light into darkness, the quiet becomes deafening. Alone becomes Lonely. Your faith becomes another failure, your hope is hopeless. You feel guilt & shame because you have it. You want to be understood not stood down. Jim Morrison said it best ” Like an actor all alone, A dog without a bone, a Rider on the Storm, Crying won’t help, praying won’t do us no good. I will not bore anyone anymore with my rants,my raves, my pains, But keep in mind, when it chooses you, do not say you never knew* – CHIEF

A tunnel of light through darkness.

A tunnel of light through darkness.

Failure, hopelessness, a prison, darkness, guilt and shame – To be a father and find yourself sucked once again into the darkness, knowing that your children and spouse stand by helplessly while you spiral deeper into a dark hole, leaves you with a bitter taste that is wrapped in guilt and shame. It seems that there is no way to put on the brakes. Brakes happen only when one hits the bottom. Even then, it takes a while for the mind to register that it exists, that others exist. And with the return to awareness, begins the slow process of crawling back into the world of the living hoping that somehow in spite of the crash that bridges haven’t been burnt.

Guilt and shame. Those are two broad paintbrushes that add to the detritus that needs to be navigated in the return to some sort of mental balance and participation in the real world. Thankfully, for me, my children and my wife, as well as extended family and so many others are there for me when I make this return voyage. I cherish these moments with those who care for me, who love me in their own ways in the face-to-face world and the distant world reached through the air waves. I learn to relax and trust again and belief again and hope again. Yet, I keep an eye open, glancing just outside the peripheral edges of sight for the approach of the next dark hole.

Robin, thank you for your presence in my life from the days of Mork to last night’s viewing of the World’s Greatest Dad where you took on the challenge of bringing your voice to the issue of suicide.

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Lifting One Single Voice Out of the Silence

Call and Answer

Call and Answer

I was sifting through the Facebook feed on my family account and came across a poem written by Robert Bly in August, 2002, called “Call and Answer.” True to my usual habit, I clicked “like” and “share.” Then, I read the poem again and knew that I just had to say something more, here.

I wonder if I am “lifting” my voice in mourning about what we are losing and what we have lost because it all seems so hopeless. For me, tears are real in seeing the atrocities that are visited upon children, women, and men in the name of some “ism” that manages to convince too many of the justice in bombing and destruction. There is no right side of war when both sides fight in the name of their god. Bob Dylan’s song “With God On Our Side” was one that I sang out loudly in protest against sanctioned murder by any and all armies.

My voice was loud and clear, but who heard anything more than the sound of my voice and the guitar chords? What does it take for ears to be willing to hear the voices that risk speaking from the heart with compassion for all including those we are told are the enemy? Media tells us its lies crafted to have us distrust, to hate, and to hoard from those most in need, even those within our own communities. The volume of the medias messages drown out the individual voices of those who resist falling under the spell of the lies, parading as truths. And should a voice become too loud, a campaign of character assassination or co-opting of that voice with fame and a small fortune soon follows.

So, what is a person to do? For me, it seems relatively simple. Voice rather than silence, even if no one is listening.

I am including a link to Bly reading his poem at the bottom.

Call and Answer – by Robert Bly

Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

How come we’ve listened to the great criers—Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass—and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?

Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.

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Red Sky In the Morning

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning!

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning!

Yesterday was a strange day. I got up earlier than usual as I had a long drive to Estevan where I take accutherapy treatments for my allergies. The night was unkind to me as I got no more than three hours of sleep because of those allergies. As I drove out of town, I stopped almost immediately as I caught a clear view of the eastern horizon as dawn made an appearance. The red sky suggested that the day was going to be a challenge, at least according to old myths about morning and red skies.

Morning mist in the Mondau valley

Morning mist in the Mondau valley

As I got back into the car and continued down the road, I came upon low-lying mist in the valley, a mist that would continue on and off for the next hour. Out of the mist I got to see two large white-tail deer bucks with impressive racks of antlers. In a clear field of lentils, I got to see a solitary pronghorn antelope. And rising off the surface of the road, a murder of crows startled me, and unfortunately for one of the crows, meant death. He flew right into the passenger side of the windshield and was murdered.

Sunrise just before Sask Landing Provincial Park

Sunrise just before Sask Landing Provincial Park

About three-quarters of an hour away from home, I caught the sunrise. The day promised to be sunny and hot, with temperatures getting up to at least 29 C. The drive to Estevan was uneventful after this memorable beginning, and that was good in my opinion. It is a five hour drive to Estevan from our home.

With treatment done, I got back into the car and began the journey back home. I had anticipated that the drive would be long and slow as I am usually fatigued following a treatment. However, it wasn’t the case. I felt fine and was able to make good time not needing to take a rest stop every hour and a half.

As I drove, I heard a change in the weather forecast. All of a sudden I was headed towards potential storms. At about the halfway mark, I was forced to the side of the road where I joined big rigs and other cars and trucks who were also stopping. The very heavy rain and hail had effectively hidden the highway. I pulled into a big space between a semi and a car feeling that I would avoid being rear-ended. When the way forward becoming clear, we all resumed our way to the west. The temperature had dropped from 31 to 12 degrees in a matter of minutes. Now I understood the warning given in the morning’s dawn sky.

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On The Nature Of The Self – Part Two

Golf balls as representative of the collective consciousness, as a group of individuals.

Golf balls as representative of the collective consciousness, as a group of individuals.

Yes, golf balls as representations of people. Each golf ball equates with a person, more specifically, what each person believes he or she is. I used golf balls (after a group golf practice) with four of my grandsons for the express purpose of getting images for use in this post. At the same time, the activity filled in a few idle minutes and provided them with something to think about.

I had each of these grandsons take a golf ball and draw a face on it, a face that they could say was them. Once this was done, I had them position themselves (their golf ball avatars) in relation to the collective of others. The results were interesting.

The conscious self (ego) in relation to others.

The conscious self (ego) in relation to others.

It was especially interesting for me as a grandfather to see how each of them viewed themselves.

Here I am.

Here I am.

One placed himself far from the collective (blue top), another placed himself in a smaller group outside of the collective (white top and sunglasses), a third placed himself slightly away from the collective almost buried in the grass so that he wouldn’t be so visible (rainbow tee shirt), and the fourth placed himself with the collective.

Self-perceptions

Self-perceptions

I did give them an opportunity to explain and perhaps even change their location. However, they stood firm with where they stood in relation to others.

So, what was the point? Well, it simply is about how we perceive who we are. As conscious beings, most of those perceptions are in terms of how we compare ourselves to others. One thing that was quite certain as far as my grandsons were concerned, they were each individuals, each unique – it was all based on feelings and the evidence of their senses.

Of course, there is more to us than what our feelings and senses can tell us whether we are in relations with other people or sitting alone in a quiet space. Yet, for most, though we hunger for more answers, we don’t want to hear what those answers might tell us.

 

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On The Nature Of The Self – Part One

I have a few presentations to make while we are in Mexico this coming winter, presentations about Jungian psychology. Naturally, I have been wondering just what I could do given three opportunities to present. I finally have decided on the three topics.

  1. On the nature of the self
  2. On the nature of relationship
  3. The journey we call individuation

Obviously there are many other topics that could be brought to the attention of those interested in learning a bit more about Jungian psychology. However with the decision finally made, it is now for me to prepare, slowly, for these presentations. Part of that preparation will be done here as I sort through more than too much material and threads of thought to build the presentations. Perhaps for you, my steadfast readers, this might be an experience of “you’ve already said that a million times.” Yet, I hope that as I re-approach the idea of self you will find something worth hearing again. With that said, it’s time to begin gathering my thoughts and the thoughts of others who have much to say.

~

The best way to begin is to deal with the word itself - self. And, it would be most appropriate to start with the definition that most likely is held by most people, a definition found in the Oxford English Dictionary: “One’s particular nature or personality; the qualities that make one individual or unique“. It seems simple enough. We each see ourselves as separate from other people. We see others outside of own heads, or so we think, and in turn get a sense of who we are because of that contrast, that separation. This notion of separation seems straight-forward enough, however it doesn’t seem to answer all of our questions about who we are as individuals. And the problem only gets worse as we get older.

Jo-Hari Window depicting the "self".

Jo-Hari Window depicting the “self”.

As we get older, we discover the fact that we really don’t know ourselves all that well. It is with interaction with others that allows us to become aware, bit by bit, of aspects of our personality for which we had been blind as this diagram illustrates. people in our “orbit” get to “know” things about us of which we are unconscious. If all works well, these others clue us in to those unknown habits and traits. Yet in spite of our efforts and the efforts of those around us, there is so much of who we are that remains a mystery. In Jungian psychology, this is called the unconscious self.

At this point, I want to turn to how Jung describes the self: 

[The self] expresses the unity of the personality as a whole. But in so far as the total personality, on account of its unconscious component, can be only in part conscious, the concept of self is, in part, only potentially empirical . . .” [Jung CW 6, par 789]

In other words, we can only know just a part of the whole of who we are. Jung goes on to say:

“the self as psychic totality also has a conscious as well as an unconscious aspect. Empirically, the self appears in dreams, myths, and fairytales . . . the self appears as a play of light and shadow although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united . . . ” [ibid]

Unconscious and conscious aspects, dark and light aspects, and this elusive self shows up in our dreams and our stories. No matter how hard I look at this idea, this word, this essence of who I am, I can’t find anything solid to wrap my thoughts around. This is going to be a bigger task than I thought it was going to be.

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On Being One Day Older

The birthday is done and life continues on as if it never occurred. That is a significant reality that is worthy of a bit more thought. Time, in spite of our best efforts, seems to have no markers, no sense of following a straight line for measuring days, months and years. Now matter how we think and attempt to control time, we are always stuck in the present moment with the past a the future just holding the value of some misty idea in our heads. I can now say I am 65, but that means nothing in terms of my waking up from a sleep world into a world where I continue to experience the simple fact that I am.

I have four of my grandsons staying at my home for a change of experience from their normal experiences of daily life. I get to play, to referee, to sit in the stands encouraging, to tell stories and to be there quietly when both they and I need quietness. There is a constant ebb and flow that is amazingly similar to breathing. It doesn’t matter what I have written, what photos I have taken, or that I consider myself as a Jungian psychotherapist, a Buddhist, and a naturist. All that matters is that I am here, breathing and being, present in these moments that shift with my breath.

Sitting on my back patio with my wife in the early morning while others are still sleeping, letting my body soak in the morning sun; shifts into a state of being clothed and talking with the first of the grandchildren to wake up. As the sun creeps higher into the sky there is a constant shifting of activity and presence, like some sort of dance. My thoughts take me to times decades past before returning to the present where I engage with one of my grandsons who is trying to build a bird house out of old wood. Then my thoughts turn to the future as I check out weather forecasts for the following two days in spite of the fact that weather forecasts are not all that reliable. Then, it is back to the present and being present. We’ll make a final decision on future activities at the last minute based on the then current conditions.

I guess that I am older as I can tolerate this ambiguity of present, past and future much better than in the past. I don’t need to attempt to control the universe. Que sera, sera.

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Letting Others Get Behind Protective Barriers

Defining nakedness.

Defining nakedness.

This morning, I found this posted to my Facebook timeline by my good wife. It actually brings a deeper sense of being understood to have these words and this poster show up. Though the poster talks about a couple relationship, the idea of letting others into the depths of who you are extends way beyond the safe and private union of a couple. The role of parent and child, or even grandchild often allows the barriers between self and other to drop enough for the authentic self to appear.

Unconditional love, the kind that we hear about especially in association of Jesus, is the hardest thing for us as humans to give. As parents, we typically want to control the parent-child relationship and so we engage in manipulative behaviours that basically tell the other that we will still love them if - nothing unconditional about that version of love.

Daring to be real rather than hide.

Daring to be real rather than hide.

However, sometimes it happens the way it should. But it takes a willingness to allow our children to see what we don’t even want to see about ourselves. I am not talking simply about ditching the clothing and allowing the truth of our aged bodies to be present. There are bigger and more harmful barriers. Behind these barriers we hide in fear that no one would love us if they knew the truth about us. And of course, that shuts the door shut until something breaks within us that puts serious cracks in our defensive walls. When those cracks appear in spite of all our efforts, we often get surprised that instead of pushing our children away, the cracks make us more human, less god-like. It is at this moment that we catch the whiff of unconditional love. Do we dare follow up and risk even more honesty with ourselves and others? Or, do we retreat out of doubt and fear and work even harder to make our barriers even higher, stronger and thicker?

Will you dare becoming naked in spirit?

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Super Moon

July 2014 Super Moon as seen in Elrose, SK.

July 2014 Super Moon as seen in Elrose, SK.

We stayed up later than our usual hour for bedtime in order to get an opportunity to see the Super Moon. I had hoped that it would appear over our skies here in Elrose earlier in the evening as it provides me with the best light for photographing the moon. Regardless, our wait was worth it when the moon finally appeared.

Now, why is it that the moon grabs our attention so much? Science should have, long ago, dispelled the mystery that continues to surround this hunk of rock that circle our planet, the Earth. Yet, in spite of our scientific efforts and the data accumulated over the years, we humans still fall under the spell of something we simply can’t understand.

There is something about this moon that reaches into our psyche ignoring our thin skin of consciousness into an inner darkness, or shadow universe where it is strangely “at home.” Yet, that “at home” sensation is discomforting. We both resist for the sake of our sanity, and get pulled in, like an ocean’s tide, to the nether world of night. And in fear, we close our eyes, beg for sleep and the sanity of morning sunshine and light.

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Letting Things Bubble Beneath The Surface

Approaching a super moon.

Approaching a super moon.

I just realised that it has been almost a month since my last post here. I find myself somewhat amazed as it seems that time has been anything but so busy that I couldn’t have found time to write. I didn’t make a deliberate decision to take a break from writing as I have been writing, just not here in this space. Neither have I abandoned this place. I guess it would be enough to say that time slipped by without much fanfare.

If anything, I would say that I have begun to learn the art of being gentle with myself. Perhaps it is simply the fact that I am getting older and feel less driven. More likely, it has to do with the compulsion to write here deciding it was time for a break so that I could relax without any expectations for anything else.

Yet, I feel the need to write bubbling beneath the surface, a compulsion that has been . occupied with my prequel to my book, The Broken Road. I will let the bubbling beneath the surface continue to do its work without forcing it. With any luck, it will give birth to something worth writing and reading here at Through a Jungian Lens.

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