I am the Universe

The first novel in a series that allows imagination to plumb the depths of self, an act of soul playing and celebrating being alive.

“Every good idea and all creative work are the offspring of the imagination, and have their source in what one is pleased to call infantile fantasy. Not the artist alone, but every creative individual whatsoever owes all that is greatest in his life to fantasy. The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as such it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.” [Jung, 1921]

I am a writer. I’ve known that I was a writer since I was a teenager. Likely the roots are even older than my first creative efforts in the form of poetry and sketches contrived with words. But to examine that past under a microscope to determine the exact moment in time I became a writer is irrelevant to the fact that I am a writer.

For many years I wrote what I believed was non-fiction, a written record of truths. Some of these were published as editorials in newspapers, some were published as social histories, and others focused on education – computer-mediated-communication and second-language learning. It wasn’t until the recent past when I turned to writing my autobiography in a three-volume series, writing that I believed was also non-fiction, when I realised that nothing I had written at any time in the past, wasn’t a product of something beyond my simple ego, my conscious intention.

I had learned quite a while ago that the use of active imagination as a counsellor and therapist, allowed me and my clients to access deeper truths, stuff hidden in the shadows of the client’s personal past. Were these deeper truths that allowed both myself and my client to work together to bring some needed healing, actually truths? Or was it all just fantasy? Could I trust memories? In time, it became obvious to me through working with clients, and on my own issues, that the truth was indeed present and even larger than what had been found.

I saw my story seeping into the stories of others, with the reverse also happening. I saw my story reflected in the stories and writings of others when I remarked within myself, “yes!” Even science fiction stories spoke to me, telling me truths that had been hidden behind a veil. The boundaries, the walls between my story and the stories of everyone else had begun to crumble despite my desperate attempts to barricade my “self” from the “others” who would absorb whatever or whoever I was, resulting in my disappearance. My head [ego] still believed that it all was “I-it.” There was myself separated from the universe.

But now, I can’t quite hold that “truth” anymore. The “it” has disappeared. I have become the “it” as well as the “I.” I am the universe.

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Coming to Terms with the Unconscious

Yucatan Woodpecker – Mayan Riviera

It has been a long time, three months in fact, since my last post here. The only reason I can give for this extended leave is simply that I was actively resisting being pulled into speaking, thinking, and observing whatever it was that was stirring within. I told myself that I was simply “being in the moment” with life. My life was blessed with sunshine and all was well – well, at least for the most part. These words are not fabrication of the reality that I have been living; rather, they are only about what was happening at the level of consciousness. Naturally, being myself, I just had to find out what was going on, I had to dig beneath the surface just like this Yucatan Woodpecker that visited our garden to poke beneath the surface of a palm tree behind our little casa near the Caribbean Sea.

Oh, it wasn’t as if I wasn’t engaged in inner worlds, as I was busy working on a novel, a creative act that is all about imagination. My story was being peopled by both Celtic and Nordic gods and goddesses who were interacting with ordinary mortals – okay, maybe not so ordinary. When I finally sat down to write this blog post, I was re-engaging with the novel in my relocated office and library in my Canadian home. The winterlude escape was over and I knew that before I could return to the story, I had to attend to the burbling below the surface as though attending to an itch that defied being reached.

When I write, it seems that the story manifests itself through my fingers touching the keypad of my laptop computer. I am a curious bystander, not really the author. I know better than to claim credit for the work – or the responsibility for what is said. The story and the words emerge from a shadowy place, the unconscious. Somehow I get the idea that it is a combination of both personal and collective unconscious that stirring the contents beneath my awareness. Naturally, I feel somewhat slighted in the process as I feel that if left to my own wits, I could tell a good story on my own.

Jung once asked what one was to do with this problem, that of the unconscious. His response written almost a hundred years ago, seems to have been directed to me dealing with the creative fantasy novel that I am currently writing:

“The meaning and value of these fantasies are revealed only through their integration into the personality as a whole – that is to say, at the moment when one is confronted not only with what they mean but also with their moral demands.”

I found this quote in a collection that cobbles together a number of writings by Jung on Active Imagination, in the section that has Jung offer preparatory notes for an excerpt for CW 8 dealing with the Transcendent Function. Of course – the story though fantasy and fiction, is providing me with information from the depths that I need to wrestle with in order to integrate, in some meaningful and moral manner, into my personality. I am being taught while I write for I am ripe for what needs to be heard. As the expression goes when a student is ready, the teacher will appear. Little did I know that the teacher can be the unconscious itself.

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Who is Responsible?

I’ve been having a discussion regarding the idea being responsibility for other people’s thoughts and feelings. Our society pays lip service to the notion that we all must own our own thoughts and feelings. Yet, when it comes to things that grate against what we hold is true for ourselves such as the freedom to wear or not wear what we want really don’t believe in freedom at all. We want to control, we need to control others. And when they don’t obey, they become our enemies. We abhor different. “Remove the hijab, the niqab, the burka. Don’t be naked. Don’t dress like white trash. You are making me angry. It’s all your fault!

For some reason, call it insecurity and self-doubt, we believe others when they tell us we are responsible for their anger, their sadness, their happiness, their very life. With the exception of being responsible as parents to care for our children until they can care for themselves, this is not even remotely true.

If I, as an adult male, smile at a child (I am a grandfather and father and not a paedophile), the child invariably smiles back. I didn’t do anything but smile. Yet somehow, if the child cries (what wound has the child suffered?) I somehow am responsible for that response. Why did the child cry when a hundred others smiled in return? If I am to believe that I am responsible for the tears and the smiles with the same action, logic gets thrown out the window.

How you respond to any stimulus is your responsibility. Of course, since most of those responses are unconscious responses based on complexes that grew out of your adaptation to life, it becomes easy to understand why you would blame others for your feeling responses. Society is nothing but a collective of this individual unconscious response, magnified. And it shows up in our laws, in our phobias, in our responses to others who appear different, behave different, think different, pray differently, and even eat different foods cooked in strange ways. These others become our scapegoats the ones we blame for our own fear and confusion. The last person we would expect to be responsible for our bad behaviours towards others would be ourselves.

She deserved to get raped. Did you see what she was wearing?” We blame the victim. If a child suffers abuse, we still have a hard time with the child turning his or her parent in to the authorities. In the end, the child gets blamed for ripping the family apart. If a man gets raped, he is to blame for not having the balls to stand up for himself. He is punished for being weak.

And finally for this post, this last image spells it out clearly. “Somebody is at fault and it sure as hell isn’t us.” [Yes, this was said with a bit of sarcasm]

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Symbols of Balance For the Psyche

April full moon on the Canadian Prairie

April full moon on the Canadian Prairie

I tried using both of my DSLR cameras to arrive at a decision as to which is the best for this type of shot. The Sony ?550 was better than the Sony ?6000. I wasn’t surprised as the lenses were quite different. The heavier camera lived up to my expectation. The lighter camera has its uses, great photos taken while backpacking and otherwise travelling. So why another image of the full moon? The best answer is simply that when I saw the moon in the sky, I was pulled to go back into the house and get my cameras. And, I am learning to honour that internal voice much better than I have in the past.

For me, it has become more about balancing the inner and outer world. The full moon is an almost exact representation of the Yin-Yang symbol that has become common in modern times. The shadows are definitely present as is the dominant “white” half – a balance of shadow and light, or consciousness and the shadow [the unconscious]. Looked at another way, it is a balance, for me between the masculine and the feminine. The moon being feminine – the shadows of the moon, with the man in the moon, the sun’s reflection highlighting the white areas, captures this idea for me. And in doing so, remind me that I too need balance between shadow and light, between the masculine and feminine aspects of my psyche.

What do you see when you look at a full moon?

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Putting the Pieces Back Together Again

Putting the pieces back together again with gold.

Putting the pieces back together again with gold.

Kintsugi is a Japanese term that talks about repair –  and treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. As the image shows, we can think of Kintsugi in terms of how a human becomes broken and finds him or herself in need of “repair” or healing.

My book, The Healing of a Broken Man, addresses this very idea. In my case, the breakage began at a very early age and continued for many years until I escaped my birth home to build a home of my own. For the years that followed, with eyes peeled forward and never seeing what lay behind me, no one in my life as an adult had any notion that I had broken apart as a child and youth like some Humpty Dumpty. Even I “forgot” about the past. However, with the onset of midlife, the past came roaring back and I again found myself cracked and falling apart.

With the work of therapy, analysis, meditation, physical exercise, being loved unconditionally; I had found a psychological paste or glue with which to weld the pieces back into place. Like the image, that glue was finished off with a coating of gold, in my case, naturism. I have turned to a life of balance, perhaps for the first time in my life. I encourage you to get a copy of my book and see that the nursery rhyme has it all wrong – Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again.

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Breaking the Silence and Making a Difference

Healing a Broken Man Along a Broken Road

Healing a Broken Man Along a Broken Road

The book is finally published and available for people to read. It is the third and final book in the Healing the Soul, Skyclad series. And as with all the other books in the series, the profits from the book will be given to the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary which works to assist youth who have been sexually abused, as well as to work to make our adult world more vigilant in protection of our youth.

Human nature being what it is, sexual abuse will not disappear. Yet, by breaking the silence, we can allow those who are abused to find a way to receive healing in various ways. Those who are abused as youth, regardless of whether that abuse was sexual, physical, or emotional [think of abandonment as an example], the child is traumatized.

Somehow, our society only recognizes the soldiers who suffer trauma. PTSD has become recognized as being a condition that cripples the psyche. Yet intense trauma is also experienced by Emergency Response teams, nurses, policemen, and firemen. But what about the women who are raped and battered? What about the children who miraculously survive abuse without committing suicide? Too often we respond with “forget about the past and get on with life” for these children who have become broken adults. We need resources to help children, and the children who have survived into adulthood if we are to ever reduce the incidences of abuse in the future.

Buy the book and support a vital cause. The print version of the book is found at: https://www.createspace.com/6166654 – the eBook version is available through Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Broken-Man-Along-Skyclad-ebook/dp/B01ECWK8AI?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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Cover Photo – Book Three

 

I am in the final phase of producing book three for publishing. I am hoping that the book will be ready for mid-April. I do have the cover ready for the book. I am including the cover and the explanation which is included in the book, for the cover photo.

BookCoverPreviewThe cover photo needs some explanation in order for it to make sense. There are five images in the photo collage. The top left image is one that I have called The Magical Other. The book begins with life lived with my Magical Other, the woman who was the place holder for my soul. The top right image shows the practice of meditation, one of the vital strategies that I have used in my journey of healing. The bottom right image illustrates the intellectual part of my journey of healing, the work of Carl Gustav Jung that finds a place for soul and spirituality in the practice of depth psychology. The bottom left image presents a scene from my journey through nature while skyclad in which nature, the sun, and the elements serve as part of the healing process, a physical dimension to match the intellectual and spiritual dimension. The central image is one that reclaims life through the willingness to embrace love.

The second part of the cover photo that needs some explanation is the use of different hues for four of the photos. The reason for these hues – black focus, white focus, yellow focus, and red focus – has to do with the four stages of psychological transformation as a healing process. The dark stage is called negredo and it is characterised with a loss of life force – depression. The second stage is called albedo, the whitening stage. In this stage, there is a gaining back of energy as one moves from darkness into awareness. The third stage is called citrinitas, the yellowing stage. It marks the removal of projections, especially those projections that place one’s positive qualities onto others. It’s taking off the rose-coloured glasses that blind one to the realities of others while keeping one blind with regards to oneself. In other words, one gains real wisdom. The last stage, rubedo, is the reddening stage. This is where the self is “reborn” as a whole person. In simple terms, one has finally got his or her “shit together.” It is only when this process has repeated over and over again that one can finally be able to see both self and others with clear eyes.

It is only at this point that a union of a man and a woman can hope to become a truly equal and holy marriage – not the original marriage of a couple blinded by the light of the other.

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Review of The Survival Papers – Daryl Sharp

survival papersI first read the Survival Papers: Anatomy of a Midlife Crisis in the 1990s when I was beginning a delayed journey through my own midlife crisis. As I read these words in the introduction to Daryl Sharp’s book, I saw an uncanny image of myself. Daryl Sharp had nailed it:

“This book is written for those in their middle years, male and female in more or less equal numbers, who have always managed quite well, have held down a job, perhaps married and had children, and then one day find that nothing works any more.”

This was me, a male who had held down a job, got married, had children and not quite all that sudden, found out that nothing worked any more. Like so many others over the years since Sharp’s book appeared, people such as myself have discovered hope in the story of Norman, a fictional character who serves a role of analysand in the story, and a second role of illustrating complexes in action, the various faces of archetypes who lay beneath the surface of the human psyche. Norman becomes all of us and we recognise ourselves in him.

Likely the greatest value one is gifted with is the guidance through the unknowns of what happens, and the value of psychoanalysis. When midlife crisis disturbs one’s life with a conflict between the life one is living, and the sense that something is gravely missing, then and only then is there a need to enter into analysis.

“That is why the process of analysis is unproductive unless there is an active conflict. As long as outer life proceeds relatively smoothly, there is no need to deal with the unconscious. When it doesn’t, there’s no way to avoid it; we are automatically confronted with the other side.”

When I found Sharp’s book, I was already seeking counselling help but felt frustrated because it just wasn’t much more than a bandage approach to trying to fix whatever it was that felt broken. Reading the book, I gradually realised that Jungian analysis was my only hope for dealing with the shadows that hid in the darkness, shadows that had declared war on my ego.

I continued reading, highlighting so many sections that spoke out to me as though I was hearing echoes of a buried voice. Bit by bit as I turned the pages of his book, I began to believe that analysis might just be what I needed. There was no promise of being fixed. If anything, the only promise seemed to be that I would end up digging deeper and deeper into the layers, peeling one layer away at a time as if I was an onion. As Sharp went on to wander through the process of analysis with Norman, I saw that I had been invited to begin a journey that would be both enlightening and threatening. I immediately thought of the journey that Odysseus had taken across seas and foreign landscapes, a journey that ended with him finding his way home. In the process, Odysseus had changed and home had changed. That was the only promise that was given as I read the book. It was enough. I was hooked.

It wasn’t long before I found myself devouring other books by Daryl Sharp and the other Jungian analysts who were featured in Sharp’s publishing venture called Inner City books. Encouraged by all that I read, I was ready to commit to working with a Jungian analyst, especially when I finally fell flat on my face and didn’t think I would ever stand upright again. Sharp’s book, The Survival Papers turned out to be exactly that for me, a route to survival.

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Part of the Story of Emergence from Darkness

I am very busy lately with the writing of volume three in the Broken Road series that tell the story of being broken and the road back to wellness, a journey that has embraced depth psychology (Jungian mostly), naturism, and Buddhist meditation. I have arrived at the point in the journey where I was approaching the Great Meltdown which signalled that the final confrontation with the darkness and then the journey back home is about to begin. I want to share with you, a post from the past [November 2011] that marks the entrance into the darkness with the first hint of light beyond that darkness.

Emerging out of darkness

I have to admit that I haven’t been doing as well as I thought since the day my mother died.  I had thought that I was prepared for her death knowing that it was coming and having had a week-long visit with her in order to say our good-byes.  It took four days for the tears to finally come and allow the pressure to ease up.

I descended into a darkness.  I felt an intense guilt about still being alive even though it seemed a part of me had died; it was almost as if the creative inner force within me, my very soul had died.  I wanted to disappear, forever, into that darkness.  I was forgetting to breathe.  A vise had seized my lower stomach and was squeezing for all it was worth and all I wanted was for it to stop, for stop to the pressure and pain.

But, I was not alone through this.  My good wife was there as well.  It is not easy being with one who is often not in this world. That we were on holidays, whose dates were of our choosing more than a month ago, when my mother died was yet another blessing though it tainted the idea of this being a holiday.  I didn’t have to bury feeling even more while I would have gone through the motions of teaching.  I had a time, space and place to go through this process.

Meditation in a small cave near the sea

Meditating at least twice a day while here in the Philippines, having adopted this routine of a morning meditation on the balcony and an afternoon meditation in a secluded beach location where the sound of the waves add to the meditative experience, has provided me no small measure of additional release.  Now, with this post, it feels as though there has been a shift and I am now emerging out of the darkness.

Today’s photos were taken by my wife.  The scene is a cliff-side cave quite a distance south from where we are staying.  The rock was hard and sharp, but for some reason, this was okay.  At least it let me know that once again, I can feel.

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Blinded By Our Personal Lens

I am re-posting this blog post from March, 2011 when I was a university instructor in China. The ideas spoken in the blog are still relevant today.

This is a scene that I love to see over and over again when I go for a walk in Hong Mei Gong Yuan in ChangZhou.  With the sun out and being in a “sunny” mood, it is easy to buy into the illusion created in the park, an illusion of a time and place that has existed only in the heart of the people, a place dreamed about and wished for as the people went about living in a world that never matched the illusion.  But still, the illusion is taken as a reality of a golden era from the past and celebrated as “heritage.”

Ever curious, I wondered how this illusion would look from the other side.  I know that there must be balance which has to lie somewhere between the two versions of reality.  I think of myself when all is right in my world and the sun is shining and all of my needs have been met.  At that point in time, there are no blemishes, no ugliness in the world.  People smile and embrace me and I smile and embrace back.  Yet, when I am in a depression, the world is dark and colour is almost non-existent.  I am alone and the world looks a forbidding place that is ready to destroy me, to swallow me up.

When somewhere in the middle, I see both beauty and ugliness.  The world is a shifting mass of conflicting colours and ideas.  It is impossible to find right or wrong, the perfect good or the perfect evil.  Yet, evil is present.  But somehow, even in the evil there is goodness.  And in the good, shadows are present.  I think here of the world today where the Arab world is viewed with many different lenses with some seeing it as a dark pit of evil while others see it as the hope for a new world.  I also think of America which is also viewed with so many different lenses which cast it in the role of demon and of angel.  The truth is, somewhere in between.

Though knowing this, I am guilty of wanting perfection, wanting to be an angel of truth, deathly afraid of being a demon in disguise.  Perhaps the greatest fear is being a nobody trapped in between, invisible to my self and others.

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