We Are All One

My brother David as a young man ready to own the world.

My brother David as a young man ready to own the world.

My brother, David, passed away in the wee hours of the morning. I dug through my photos and found this old photo that I felt best showed the promise and strength that was within him.  I got to spend time with him at the hospital before he died, three days together in silence yet connected.

In spite of how life had conspired to keep us apart for too long, neither of us was absent in the minds and hearts of each other. E-mails, messages and phone calls told a different story. I am sad, not that he has finally found an end to his suffering; but because he chose to self-isolate for so long.

As each of us descends into our personal darkness, we lose hope, self-respect, and time to share with those who care about us. I lost another brother, Lawrence, so many years ago to suicide. I didn’t have a chance to say good-bye to him. With David, I got that chance. For both of these brothers, I found some peace in the song by Vince Gill called “Go Rest High On That Mountain:

We are all one in the end, every single one of us, we all suffer and are connected.

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Therapy – A Question of Shared Vulnerability

Preparing to enter darkness.

Preparing to enter darkness.

In response to one of my latest posts, I received this response which I felt best answered in a post rather than in an e-mail or comment below the particular post as it is a question that was not specific to that post, but to therapy in general. With that said, here is the question:

Could you say a bit about how the therapist becomes vulnerable? I feel much more vulnerable right now than I imagine my therapist may feel, although he says that he too is vulnerable ….. but I’m the one sharing the pain of my life – the confusion and disorder … what does a therapist risk in a relationship like this?

The therapist risks more than one could possibly realise. First, to be a good therapist, one needs to have gone through the process of sitting in the opposite chair. Since we all can’t escape growing up and older without being wounded, some more so than others, the therapist is familiar with the territory of being wounded and living and suffering from those wounds. The difference is primarily the fact that the therapist has made a deliberate choice to seek help and answers. That journey then typically leads this person to give back to the world by becoming a healer.

Your therapist has been there, has survived, and has chosen to become a guide for others to make the journey to wellness. Yet, the wounds are still there, at least the scars of the wounds remain. At times, the stories the therapist hears serve to release triggers that re-awaken the therapists past trauma. Unwittingly, and unconsciously on both the therapists and clients, there is a process called transference where the therapist holds the projections of the client; and a process called counter-transference where the therapist gets caught up in that transference on the client’s part. This is the “big” and “real” risk that lays traps for the therapist.

Though both client and therapist are in a safe container for therapy sessions, typically an office, it is as if both of them find themselves naked and vulnerable making the journey through the client’s darkness using the intuitive skills and learned skills of the therapist to navigate through the dark swamplands.

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Naturism as Therapy – Transformations – Alchemy Pt 5

Rubedo - rebirth - Phoenix arising.

Rubedo – rebirth – Phoenix arising.

I want to begin by bringing a sort of synthesis of the process as spoken by Jung in Mysterium Coniunctionis:

“Grey and black [nigredocorrespond to Saturn and the evil world; they symbolize the beginning in darkness, in the melancholy, fear, wickedness, and wretchedness of ordinary human life. . . . The darkness and blackness can be interpreted psychologically as man’s confusion and lostness . . . The situation is now gradually illuminated as is a dark night by the rising moon. The illumination comes to a certain extent from the unconscious, since it is mainly dreams that put us on the track of enlightenment  This dawning light corresponds to the albedo, the moonlight which in the opinion of some alchemists heralds the rising sun. The growing redness (rubedo) which now follows denotes an increase in warmth and light coming from the sun, consciousness.” (Jung, CW vol. 14, para. 306-307)

The alchemical journey is one of moving from the depths of darkness where one is indeed lost, back into the full light of day where we are aware of our own presence in relation to the world which is illuminated by the day. Aware, conscious, alive. There is a vitality that is felt as one is able to breathe freely and deeply and participate in life rather than stand on the sidelines guarding our breath while trying to fade into the shadows so that no one sees us or hears us.

With consciousness, we become aware of our presence in relationships, we become aware of our body and its sensations, we become aware of the dance of contradictions that often find their expression in good versus evil.

This consciousness is not all encompassing, can never be all encompassing. If all the darkness (unconscious) was exposed and brought to consciousness, there would be no awareness. Awareness can only exist in contrast. Day only exists because there is night. Black only exists because there is white.

Now, to finish this first part of exploring the rubedo with a return to Jung’s words:

“This corresponds to the increasing participation of consciousness, which now begins to react emotionally to the contents produced by the unconscious. At first the process of integration is a “fiery” conflict, but gradually  it leads over to the “melting” or synthesis of the opposites. The alchemists termed this the rubedo, in which the marriage of the red man and the white woman, Sol and Luna, is consummated. Although the opposites flee from one another they nevertheless strive for balance, since a state of conflict is too inimical to life to be endured indefinitely.” (Jung, CW vol. 14, para. 307)

 

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Naturism as Therapy – Consciousness – Alchemy Pt 4

Citrinitas - the awareness of gold within our inner darkness is revealed.

Citrinitas – the awareness of gold within our inner darkness is revealed.

This third stage, citrinitas, is particularly difficult to grasp. More often that not, attempts to use an alchemical for psychotherapy limit themselves to just three stages. Jung and his student, Marie-Louise von Franz do include citrinitas in their discussions of alchemy, but noted that it was a fourth and final stage, that of becoming gold. With that said, Jung’s and Jungian focus still limited . I will stick with the idea that citrinitas is the third stage in the process as that is what makes sense to me.

The idea of turning base material into gold is an idea that seems more magical than real. And, it is the magical that emerges during this stage. One is led to think of a magician such as Merlin, or even Christ. Both somehow defied all logic and nature to accomplish magical deeds. But where does this fit in with psychological process in therapy?

I want to step back just a little to place this stage in context using symbolism. In the first stage, nigredo, light was lost as the psyche descended into the inner world of the unconscious where all the negative and fearful aspects of self have been contained as if in some personal hell. In the second stage, albedo, a light appears in the darkness, the light of an awakened soul which is symbolised as a moon (the feminine) shining in the darkness. The third stage, citrinitas, brings forth the light of the sun (the masculine), a light which magically transforms the shadowy and fearful into valuable consciousness. It is as though one has achieved the treasure grace à Dieu, through the Grace of God.

In this stage, awareness deepens. The problem yet remains how to assimilate this in order to return to the balance of being an ordinary human living an ordinary life? The objective of any therapy is to allow each of us to become at one with ourselves so that we can be fully present in our outer world as well as in our inner world. The objective of therapy is not to turn us into mystical and magical beings that don’t belong to the world. Assimilating bits of the unconscious aspects of ourselves is a huge task that sometimes has us fall off the rails, especially when we meet with the awe that comes with discovering the gold within ourselves.

“One is inclined to think that ego-consciousness is capable of assimilating the unconscious, at least one hopes that such a solution is possible. But unfortunately the unconscious really is unconscious; in other words, it is unknown. And how can you assimilate something unknown?” (Jung, CW 9i, para. 520)

The bits of gold we discover are just that bits. The depths of our psyche reach deeper beyond the boundaries of our personal self. Yet the discovery of these bits does lead to wonder and joy, even ecstasy. There is danger here for us, a danger that we will become so entranced of this ecstasy that we refuse to leave this stage.as it feels like perfection, we feel like perfect beings in a perfect bubble.

“One hopes to control the unconscious, but the past masters in the art of self-control, the yogis, attain perfection in sam?dhi, a state of ecstasy, which so far as we know is equivalent to a state of unconsciousness. It makes no difference whether they call our unconscious a “universal consciousness”; the fact remains that in their case the unconscious has swallowed up ego-consciousness.” (Jung, CW 9i, para. 520)

There is work yet to be done, to bring this gold back to the world, back in the form of a more mature and aware self.

– See more at: http://rglongpre.ca/jungianlens/2012/12/10/alchemy-stage-3-citrinitas/#sthash.H3Gcl9sa.dpuf

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Naturism as Therapy – With Light, Life – Alchemy Pt 3

Albedo - Naturism and Alchemy for transformation

Albedo – Naturism and Alchemy for transformation

“From the darkness of the unconscious comes the light of illumination, the albedo. (Jung, Mysterium Coniuntionis, paragraph 220)

Awareness. How often do we avoid it in spite of our protestations otherwise? If one dares to look outside oneself, one is able to see the reflections of oneself in the world and in others. But to have the ability to see these reflections, one has to remove the filters and the shades that cover consciousness. Needless to say, this is easier said than done.

Let me step back a bit to talk about darkness and light. In all of our stories concerning the creation of the world and all life, we are told about an all encompassing darkness in which there is no knowledgeno awareness of anything, no life. Somehow, out of the darkness light is born and with that light, life.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 1:1-4)

But of course, that is just the beginning of the story. Without light, there is nothing that is firm, nothing that is definable. There is no foundation upon which we can sense ourselves or the outer world around us. We hide, fearful in the darkness, without looking at that darkness, doing our best to deny that darkness. We are victims of that darkness. Rather than sink into the darkness and become one with it, we build walls to deny the darkness walls which do little other than delude ourselves of the reality of who and what we are. And then, someone turns on a light and all is exposed. Now, we are in deep shit.

“And the Lord commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it . . . (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 2:16-17)

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be gods, knowing good and evil.” (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 3:5)

“And the eyes of them both [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they knew that they were naked . . .” (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 3:7)

And this is the dilemma we face in turning on the light, we get to see our deficits as well as our perfections. And for some strange reason, we are drawn to our deficits, our warts and sores. But now in the light, we are confronted with ourselves and we don’t like what is exposed as we stand naked to our own consciousness.

In the psychotherapeutic context, this is a period of withdrawing a little from life, participating just enough to keep things “ticking over,” the main forces being inwards. This enables clients to experience sudden realisations about themselves and they often begin to question their life direction. It is easier to see, in a moment of insight, what is important and what is not. (Hamilton, The Alchemical Process of Transformation)

Another way of looking at this stage would be the appearance of “ah-ha” moments. Up to this point, a lot of time has been spent on the telling of dreams, the recounting of incidents from the past, the detailing of disturbances in the present, and in finding associations between each and all of them. Linkages and explanations are given, and there is a curious dance that begins to play as the information is approached and re-approached through various functions – feeling, thinking, sensate, and intuition. It is often the inferior function that breaks the logjam. There is movement, curious realignment, a change in the way one now perceives a particular piece of one’s story. A light has been turned on, so to speak.

At that moment, the psyche has shifted and one becomes different in real terms.  Over time, as various lights come on, the process of transformation seems to speed up as though the psyche is primed to peer into the dark shadows with a flashlight. With the guidance of the therapist, associations are noted. One begins to see the connections between childhood patterns in response to father and mother or other authority (who take on a father or mother symbolism in terms of power). One then learns to see present relationships in the light of what has been exposed.

But, it is not enough to just turn on the lights. Now that one has awareness one is obliged to do something with this awareness.

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Naturism as Therapy – Dark Night of the Soul – Alchemy Pt 2

Nigredo - the Dark Night of the Soul

Nigredo – the Dark Night of the Soul

One of the problems in deciding to do the work of healing oneself, with or without the help of a guide, is the necessity of laying bare those things we would rather keep locked away in some dark closet. The journey to healing demands that we confront these demons and that we defeat them. The photo lets us know, that we are only truly aware of darkness because there is light (life).

* * * * *

Now to continue on from the last post . . . From Nigel Hamilton’s study, “The Alchemical Process of Transformation:

“From a psychological standpoint, this stage is experienced as entering a dark and chaotic unconscious inner world. St John of the Cross has referred to this as the first of two dark nights, the dark night of the mind, which is an encounter with the darker aspects of our self (that which Jung called “the shadow”). At first nothing appears to make sense, indeed all the therapist can do at this stage of the process is to be fully present and empathise with the client, who in the process of articulating their experience, facilitates it further. The therapeutic setting, i.e. the therapy room, becomes the hermetically sealed vessel and the inner chaos that the client enters into is symbolised by the reactions of opposing forces struggling against each other. That is to say the client’s own psyche reveals its submerged inner conflicts to the conscious mind.

This is what I referred to in the last post, the establishing of a place of sacred safety, of temenos. During this part of the work, the “client” tells his or her story as it is known and sensed by the ego, the clothed self, This telling is vital and it is enough for the therapist to listen and support without trying to fix anything at this point.

As the client begins to experience the inner world to be more real, the process intensifies (the fire increases) and often anger, fear, frustration, and a desire to “escape from it all” is experienced. To pass through this stage requires patience, humility and acceptance not only of the client, but also of the therapist, who through experiences knows that a process of purification is in progress and that one by one the inner conflicts will gradually become resolved until a completely new inner state of clarity and freedom is achieved. Then the client will be reconciled with his or her inner earth nature – in alchemical terms they will have united with their “earth nature.”

The therapist tracks the appearance of complexes, contradictions, images and fears through the process of working with dreams, journaling, sand play, and other active imagination strategies. For the client, it almost feels that everything is getting worse as old sores are laid open, exposed to the light. It must be stated that the process doesn’t wait for all the shadows to be exposed. The shifting to the second stage, albedo begins when the therapist and client begin to tackle what has been exposed. Only so much darkness can be held at one time.

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Naturism as Therapy – Transformation of Self Through Alchemy

Dawn - and the birth of consciousness

Dawn – and the birth of consciousness

I have spent a good part of this winter involved in the real work of healing the soul and psyche – my soul and psyche. As my last two posts have indicated, naturism has played a significant part in this work. The photo to the left was taken a month ago by my wife while we were working on a poetry-photography project together. I didn’t realise it then, but this particular image taken at dawn with the intention of showing that with the return of light, there is a return to life, a rebirth of self as a more conscious being. The image and the process made me think of alchemy, the ancient art of turning something almost worthless into something perhaps more precious that gold. I will be using this same image repeatedly, editing the image to reflect the content and intent of the posts to follow as I explain this alchemical process.

In November, 2012, I began a series of posts that looked at the stages of alchemy from a psychological viewpoint. I want to return to that series of posts once again, revisiting and revising where necessary so as to fit better with my current understanding of the human psyche and healing. Why? The key lies in the content of this old post – the call to me as a therapist to take care as I return to work again as therapist, begs me to take head of these words I said in my original post:

“There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos  that one becomes safe enough to strip of their psychic layers as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.”

Below is my first post looking at the first stage, the stage called “nigredo.”

* * * * *

The dark night of the soul, this is something that is intimately known by all who suffer depression. The dark night of the soul is what we meet when we enter into midlife crisis. Each of us senses a darkness, a place of shadows from which we want to flee. This depression is not “organic,” a depression that is chemically induced. This depression and darkness appears to be something “out there,” something to which we feel we are victims. Typically, we run like hell trying to escape, trying to hide from the darkness. Drugs, sex, money, work, new places, new hobbies, redecorating our homes, a new car, a new spouse: we try anything to banish that darkness. But, the darkness refuses to be banished. This is the dark night of the soul, or at least our introduction to that darkness.

If we are like many others, we head to a doctor’s office for some pharmaceutical relief; or to a psychotherapist’s chair for some answers, some other strategies to banish the darkness. We do this only as a last resort knowing that if we don’t do something we will descend into insanity or commit suicide. It isn’t a pretty picture, but it is real.

“Alchemy announced a source of knowledge . . . which yields a “bitter” water by no means acceptable to our human judgment. It is harsh and bitter or like vinegar, for it is a bitter thing to accept the darkness and blackness of the umbra solis and to pass through this valley of the shadow. It is bitter indeed to discover behind one’s lofty ideals narrow, fanatical convictions, all the more cherished for that, and behind one’s heroic pretensions nothing but crude egotism, infantile greed, and complacency. This painful corrective is an unavoidable stage in every psychotherapeutic process . . . it begins with the nigredo . . .” (Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, paragraph346)

So, the pain serves as an impetus to finally do something about the pain when all other avenues prove fruitless. So, one enters into psychotherapy. However, before the work can even begin, there is a need to create a place for the work; a safe, even sacred place. Like a surgeon preparing for an operation, there is the need to build a sense of safety in the relationship as well as place. The therapist needs to become aware of the boundary limits (or lack thereof) of the person and to build a sense of trust in that person as well as to have the person enter into a trust relationship with the therapist.

As time goes by, the two begin to test each other, test the boundaries of safety. And when there is a sense of safety, the belief that the container of their relationship has become sacred in its own way, then the work may begin:

“In the early period of analysis, the primary work is the establishment of the boundary, the analytical temenos, in which the analysis is to take place.” (Hall, The Jungian Experience, p. 78)

There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos  that one becomes safe enough to strip of their psychic layers as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.

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Naturism as Therapy – Self-Help Part 2

Clothing-free meditation as part of your self-therapy work.

Clothing-free meditation as part of your self-therapy work.

Last post, I gave a number of steps to take in order to claim your sacred and safe place for the work of “self” healing. Today I am going to push you a bit further, perhaps stretching your comfort zone, perhaps not. I am going to approach the “naturist” aspect of self-healing in a very controlled manner and would ask that you limit your efforts to the time devoted to this practice. Going past these steps would suggest that your motive is not about healing, but about ego or exhibitionism. But before I get to the next steps, I want to bring forth a few critical bits of awareness with regards to “Why?”

The idea of shedding clothing as part of a therapy practice in a private, safe space has nothing to do with self-gratification, it has nothing to do with sex. In the setting of your sacred space, removing your clothing is a visible note to oneself to be honest, not to hide. There is a key aspect that I have discovered, that of taking the psyche to a time of innocence and trust. For self-therapy to be effective, one must risk and trust that the risks taken will heal and not harm the “self.”

  1. Remove clothing within your safe place which you have prepared earlier, making sure that you will not be interrupted by anyone. Lock the door if necessary to the room if necessary. If others are in the house, it would be a good idea to place a sign on the outside of the door letting others know not to disturb you as you are meditating, a true statement for what happens during the session.
  2. Take a seat using your preferred seat – Cushions, an armchair, a rocking chair, or anything that is about comfort. Make sure to put a towel or other covering down on the seat before sitting, with something that can easily be cleaned. It is a good idea to take a shower before beginning the session to ensure a sense of comfort with your seat as well.
  3. Simply sit still focusing on your breathing – the in-breath and the out-breath. If ideas arise, notice them and then again return to focusing on your breathing and letting the ideas go. Ten minutes is all the time needed for this exercise at this time.
  4. Take a few moments to record your thoughts to this point, thoughts about being clothing-free, thoughts about what is right or wrong about the ten minutes of naked meditation, and the thoughts that came to your attention while meditating.
  5. Write in your journal whatever comes to mind following this activity – what questions, what images, what feelings surfaced. What thoughts arrived? Write without making judgments of the worth of your words. The journal is for your eyes only and spelling and grammar is not an issue.
  6. With writing set aside, spend some time in this sacred and safe space – listening to music or simply resting without any other agenda other than “being” present in your sacred space.
  7. Take a deep breath and then get dressed to return to your normal activities.
  8. Before retiring for the night, take out your journal and read the day’s entries. Place a second journal close to your bedside with a pencil in order to record any dreams that emerge. Even if there are only a few words captured, they are valuable. Don’t censor your recording of dreams judging their worth. Don’t censor the contents of your dreams. Remember, only you will be having access to this “Dream” journal.

Repeat this daily, or as many days per week as you can carve out your time for privacy. Make the effort, for only you can heal yourself.

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Self-Help Therapy and Naturism

Beginning a journey to healing by building trust in oneself.

Beginning a journey to healing by building trust in oneself.

As I explore the use of naturism for therapy, a journey to mental-health wellness, I am talking about a private, “self-therapy”, not a process that is done in the office of a therapist. Therapy, as any therapist worth her or his title can tell you, is a “work” that is done by the person who is in search of healing. A therapist is, at best, a guide. The therapist as guide can only be an effective guide if she or he has taken the same journey through what James Hollis has called “the Swamplands of the Soul.” Having been there and done that, there is a better chance that the therapist will give you tasks and challenges that will teach the skills needed to grow into the light. For, it is the light that is the source of healing.

Light exposes the darkness, the shadows that haunt us bringing us into a state of despair. With light, we strip away the power of what is hidden in the shadows, our inner shadows. Naturism, as a healing strategy, is a deliberate action to build confidence in “self.” But, where does one start? I want to provide a small blueprint of possibilities, a template that is based on the assumption that nudity is not a comfortable state of being. It begins with taking “baby” steps with the intention of improving one’s self-concept which is challenged internally and externally. If you wrestling with the darkness and despair of brokenness, one’s physical sense of self is as challenged as one’s inner sense of self.

  1. Select a safe place where you can be alone with yourself without fear of being interrupted. You can even lock the door to this space if there is a sense that someone, even a trusted someone, might enter.
  2. Prepare this space as your sanctuary. Cushions, an armchair, a rocking chair, or anything that is about comfort while you engage in “hard mental work” is placed in the space along with other objects such as incense, candles, aromatic oils, source of peace inducing music, etc.
  3. Prepare writing materials for it is necessary for you to document the journey. Part of the journey needs you to look back and see where you have been in order to learn from all that has happened so that you don’t get trapped in a constant repetition of the same defeating behaviours and attitudes.
  4. Spend time in this sacred and safe space – listen to music, or meditate, or play an instrument, or simply rest without any other agenda other than “being” present in your sacred space. I would recommend about fifteen minutes to a half-hour of this each day. If possible, try to do this at the same time each day.
  5. Write in your journal whatever comes to mind following this activity – what questions, what images, what feelings surfaced. What thoughts arrived? Write without making judgments of the worth of your words. The journal is for your eyes only and spelling and grammar is not an issue.
  6. Take a deep breath and realise that what has happened is a vital part of the healing journey. This is enough for a beginning for the journey is not a race to a finish line. You will build strength through repetition of small steps as you build new patterns in your life.

Thus the journey of healing begins.

 

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She is a Woman

She is woman, a goddess of life and death

She is woman, a goddess of life and death

ella es una mujer / she is a woman
una maldición y una bendición, a curse and a blessing
en la mente de un hombre / in a man’s mind
porque ella es de gran alcance / for she is powerful
una imagen viva de Gaia, de Maya / a living image of Gaia, of Maya
sosteniendo el poder de la vida y la muerte / holding the power of life and death
no es consciente de su poder / unaware of her power
no es conscientes del miedo que evoca en todos los hombres / unaware of the fear she evokes in all men
hombres que la ven como madre, amante y bruja / men who see her as mother, lover and witch
ella es una mujera / she is a woman

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