Archive for the ‘awareness’ tag
The past few days have been quiet for me, weekends are like that when one is alone with no planned structure to fill the time. Like anyone else in the same situation, I am left to search for something to fill the hours, to fill the emptiness. Having turned to Buddhism, I find meditation creeping into my day when it is least expected filling those unexpected moments with deep peace. Having renewed a commitment to my body as a temple with prolonged walks as the approach to the care of my body, I find peace in those moments when “thinking” disappears and I become mindful of my steps, of the flowers, of the breezes, of the passing faces and the sounds – no thinking about them, just being aware of their presence. Meditation and walking have become my spiritual practice.
“We have become so spiritually dehydrated that we are now desperate to drink directly from the Divine Well itself and our thirst will no longer be slaked by drinking from a substitute or tainted source. We are awakening to a new spiritual age p one less dependent on an outer authority and more attuned to the God within. Conjecture is rife, but we cannot deny the statistics that point, on the one hand, to collapse, and on the other hand, to renewal. While the death of the old can be alarming, the birth of the new is always exciting. Something is undoubtedly ‘astir in the land’ and what we are witnessing is, perhaps, a collective emergence to a new spiritual reality directing our lives.” (Brierley, Camino de Santiago, p. 35)
Yesterday I went for a walk in the Canmore area. I began the walk with a short half kilometre from the parking lot down a wide and easy trail to reach a cutline that I then took for a distance of about two kilometres where I then found myself on a road as I crossed a bridge. I was looking for the entrance to the Grassi Lakes trail which I found seven hundred metres further down the trail. I then began the climb of almost two kilometres with an elevation gain of 250 metres while stopping to take photos along the way. I took the more difficult route to the top of the trail and stopped for a bit before going back to the start of the trail on the graveled path, the easy route. Once at the bottom I made the return trip retracing my steps while stopping at times for another photo opportunity of wildflowers as well as an osprey nest with mother and chicks. For this whole journey, I forgot to think about my life, about “issues” or past history or what I will be doing in the days, weeks and years to come. I somehow managed to find a spiritual centre in the act of being mindfully present, feeling the path under my shoes, feeling my body, hearing the insects and birds, feeling the light breezes and the heat rays of the sun, tasting the water from my bottles carried for the walk.
This is what I have been craving.
Another day, another post, and another rose as I continue rummaging around in my head and heart in search of trying to understand relationships. So far, all I seem to have grasped is that in spite of the word, relationship, we are all alone within ourselves and likely become more so as we become more conscious. I don’t want this to sound and mean that we become more physically alone as that isn’t anywhere near the truth. I have to resort to a Jungian word to better express what I mean - individuation. The more conscious one becomes, the more separate from the collective unconscious one becomes.
I want to travel back in time to provide some scenes that illustrate what I mean about individuation; about love, about relationship and about becoming more aware of self, of my self.
In many ways the real work of self discovery comes with adolescence, that moment in time when one consciously begins to ask the unanswerable questions; ”Who am I? Why am I? Does anyone really see me?” It is as if one has just noticed that the self exists and that this being is a complete mystery. And like an infant, one begins to find an identity in terms of a relationship to others and the things and events of the world. It is as if one begins to emerge out of a darkness and begins to unfold.
As I understand it, this happens to all of us to some degree. Perhaps life’s circumstances create more of an environment for the depth and degree that one finds oneself. Life and circumstances aside, I also intuit that there are some who enter into this individuation process because of other more intangible factors, perhaps even in spite of the life circumstances that serve as the container of one’s being.
As the oldest child in a family that grew to have nine children, it wasn’t long before childhood gave way to caretaking duties that are the natural due to the eldest child. If anything, this relationship with siblings and parents should enable connectedness and relationship. But this was not the case in my life. Life circumstances added a few twists along the way. As a young child and as a youth, my family relocated frequently with a residence rarely lasting for one year. Before finding myself in junior high school I had been enrolled and had attended classes in about a dozen different schools in three different provinces. By the time I got through high school I had added another eight schools spread out over five provinces. Circumstances such as this make it difficult to develop deep friendships which in turn makes it more difficult to differentiate through relationship building. In my opinion this is not something negative or positive, but simply a life condition. One is and one becomes in whatever environment in which one finds oneself.
Because of the decided lack of peer relationships, I found myself often alone with myself. And in being alone, the questions became louder, became more insistent. And likely, the answers were pushed back further because of the intensity of the questions. I needed to interact with others to catch glimpses of my self. I knew that as those rare relationships I did establish were always charged often leaving me filled with wonder. I imagine that my intensity was received with a bit of overwhelming shock. I was an outsider but somehow not alone. I was a curiosity, someone seen as so much older and wiser in spite of my being very short and slight, often the smallest in the various class groupings in which I found myself. I often found myself puzzled over the reaction of others to my presence and examined what they said and did in relation to what I thought I said and did. The briefness of these friendships and classroom relationships meant I didn’t have much time to have the projections of others be withdrawn allowing me a peak at myself through differentiated lenses in those relationships. I guess one could say that I remained an adolescent for a long time, stuck in the essential questions about self.
Unknowingly, I did bloom and find myself a young adult. But that is another story for another day.
This photo taken in XiTang was meant to capture a sense of magic, a sense of the Garden of Eden, of romance and the mystery of an ancient culture. I didn’t know at the time that it would find its way here, but most of my posted photos are taken for other reasons even if most of those reasons are unconscious.
With this photo and this post, I am returning to a theme I often visit, that of relationship. I am not an expert in relationships though I am engaged in being in relationship to my wife, a relationship that is approaching its fortieth year. I am approaching this theme through the work of James Hollis as explored in his book, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other. I make no promises on how long I will stick with this theme. All I can tell you is that the “magical other” that I am in search of is one that is found within myself. I hope that in wandering again through this book I find a few more trails within that will allow me to build a stronger relationship with my “Self” in order to be a better participant in my outer world relationships with others.
But of course, in searching within, I find that I must look at my “self” as expressed in the outer world, in the relationships with others – parents, friends, siblings, children, enemies, colleagues, students, and with my life partner. It all starts with “me.”
When I am honest with myself, I am alone, separate, distanced from everyone and everything. I am even separate from most of what I could consider to be myself. Awareness came slowly, awareness that I actually existed as a separate being. And when the awareness of my own being arrived, I found myself immediately alone in my head. At that moment, I began working to somehow reconnect, to go back to where I had come from before finding myself alone. But of course, before this moment of realisation, “I” didn’t really consciously. In a manner, I was born “separated” from all others.
With time and effort I learned to connect tenuously with others, with a mother and father who were confused in their own roles as parents, as lovers. I knew early that these two individuals struggled with themselves and couldn’t be there for me – I was locked in my head and they were out of reach. The dawn of consciousness within me caused a separation between parent and child. And so a new relationship was born because of that separation. The awareness of “self” and the existence of “other” and the separateness of both was the source of my first experience of relationship.
Another recent photo taken in HongMei Park finds its way into the blog. The image of the Tianning Pagoda in the background is one of two distinctive skyline symbols for the city with the second being the China Dinosaur Park structure in the northern part of the city. Both presences reach up and have an attitude of authority, a patriarchal presence.
It seems that no matter what one looks at, there is a large presence in the background, sometimes not always overtly visible, but there non-the-less. I have been spending a good amount of time focused on the election debates and controversies happening in Canada. What is not often stated are the visions and foundational beliefs – the towering principles – behind the chatter. It is hard to sift through the chatter in order to make informed decisions. It is much easier to focus on the noise and accept the chatter as truth and as the vision. It’s hard work to dig where major efforts and money is focused on avoiding exposure. Shadow doesn’t like being exposed, doesn’t like transparency.
In many ways, this is what happens at the individual level. One is often so wrapped up in the little things, one has no time or energy for doing the real work of becoming more conscious. One begins to believe that an accumulation of facts and trivia becomes consciousness. And as a result, one often finds oneself to be a victim as there are too many facts, too much trivia to be held, acknowledged. One is left chasing data in the outer world at the expense of getting to know one’s self better.
I continue with bringing a photo from Angkor Wat with this post. Walking out of the back of the main temple area of Angkor Wat there is this smaller temple, or more likely one of the smaller palaces that were part of Angkor Wat. I was entranced by the solidity and ancientness of this building which has been somewhat rescued from the jungle that is native to the area. Looking through the doorway and windows, one expects to encounter shadows of an inner space. Yet, that expectation was denied as the doorway and the windows opened up to show the outer world framed by the door and windows.
Inner and outer landscapes, light and shadow. It is the contrast between dark spaces and light that indicates the presence of life. If all is dark, that is all there is. If all is white, that is all there is. I need contrast to have feeling, to be able to discriminate. Without contrast, there is nothing but a state of suspended animation – no awareness – as if one is asleep with no dreaming, no physical sensation to have one shift on the bed, no biological clock to have one wake up. One needs both darkness and light in order to be alive.
I think of many who are bored with their lives. Why the boredom? There is not a lack of material stuff in their lives, not a lack of opportunity, not a lack of time; yet, there is little satisfaction. To go to the same work, to see the same people, to hear the same stories, to take the same routes, to watch the same television programs; to do any of these things day after day without change is not much different that living in a cocoon, in suspended animation. It is only when someone or something enters the scene, disrupting the pattern that one becomes animated. Typically, that animation is a negative response, a complaint about how one’s routines have been turned upside down. The greatest curse one could give was to wish them and interesting life. An interesting life, one in which pain and pleasure are present, one in which there is mystery and a anxiety. We now treat anxiety with pills in an attempt to surround the anxiety with a narcotic numbing agent so that one can avoid pain.
I wonder at my need for an interesting life. If things go too smoothly, I become agitated and find myself resisting the invisible bonds that would have me sit quietly, not making waves, as I wait for my biological death. I want to feel alive and that means I need to feel, to think, to dream, to act, to go, to be denied, to be loved and hated. I need to speak out even if what I say is nonsense. Would it be better if I could sit still in a small town at the edges of the world, smiling and not making any waves, listening to words repeated endlessly so that the words have no meaning other than as a constant drone that persuades the brain it doesn’t need to listen anymore?
Sitting and waiting while life happens around me but not within me – that is what this photo tells me – when one sits still waiting, one has become an empty shell in spite of the fact that the body is still performing biological functions that says the body is alive. The owner, the spirit has abandoned the body; the soul has shriveled up. The gods have gone to find a new home. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Clint Black has his way of telling us the same thing.
The lights are on, but nobody’s home – Clint Black
Move slowly to my dresser drawers
Put my blue jeans on
Find my cowboy boots, my button down
Strap my timepiece on my arm
Grab my billfold, my pocket change
Just a mindless old routine
Then it’s out the door and down the street
But it’s not really me
I still comb my hair the same
Still like the same cologne
And I still drive that pickup truck
That the same old bank still owns
But since you left, everybody says
I’m not the guy they’ve known
The lights are on, but nobody’s home
Cup of coffee in the morning
Just food for the brain
But I’ve been numb since our last goodbye
I haven’t felt a thing
But now there’s pains in my head
And pains in my chest
And I think I’m losing my hair
I’m a half a man with half a mind
To think you didn’t care
I still comb my hair the same
Still like the same cologne
And I still drive that pickup truck
That the same old bank still owns
But since you left, everybody says
I’m not the guy they’ve known
The lights are on, but nobody’s home
This lady works in the housing compound in which I live, Sunshine Garden. Unlike the gentleman I featured yesterday, she is not of the same economic class. What else do I know about her? Well, honestly, nothing. I do hope that over time I can find an opportunity to talk with her, even if only through the assistance of an interpreter. For now, it is enough that she is aware of my presence and that I am aware of her presence. I find that she is deferential to me and I wonder if it is because I am a laowai, a foreigner, or because I am a man.
It is difficult enough to engage with others in one’s own culture where language and a shared community are in place. To shift to another culture where there is no shared history, no shared language or any recognisable silent language. As Sergio Missana notes in his essay The Grip of Culture: Edward T. Hall :
“. . . people’s view of the world and behavior are largely determined by a complex grid of unconscious cultural patterns.”
So what is hidden there behind her face? In thinking about what kind of personality lay behind her visage, I thought that even she would be at a loss to know the answer. As Daryl Sharp explains:
“Typologically, most people are a bowl of soup. They function in an introverted or extraverted way depending on their mood, the weather or their state of mind; they think, feel, sense, intuit more or less at random, being no worse at one function than any other, and having little inkling of the consequences.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 13)
To know oneself is a challenge that seems insurmountable at times. To know another is almost a miracle. The process of self-discovery and discovery-of-other is work that perhaps goes hand in hand.
This is another photo that surprised me when I looked more closely at it. If you look to the left-hand edge of the crane’s arm, you will see a man. When I took the photo I was more interested in the crane and the composition of the sky. I would have to say it is a “happy accident” to have the man in the image. How was it that I was able to take the photo at the precise moment that “he” would be at the edge of the arm as if “out on a limb?” Now, I know that I could never find myself in such a situation; well, not in the physical dimension.
“One can never give a description of a type, no matter how complete, that would apply to more than one individual, despite the fact that in some ways it aptly characterizes thousands of others. Conformity is one side of a man, uniqueness is the other. Classification does not explain the individual psyche. Nevertheless, an understanding of psychological types opens the way to a better understanding of human psychology in general” (Jung, CW 6, par 895)
I am impressed by those that can go out on a limb such as this man. I lack the courage and the temperament to stick out, to risk in full view of others. I prefer to keep low and stick to the shadows and not be noticed all that much, at least most of the time. Personally, I prefer to take risks and go out on a limb within my inner landscapes. There I know I have my privacy and there I have the courage to do what I would never consider in the outer world. So, what does that say about me? What does the image say about the man at the edge of the crane’s boom? Are these kinds of questions even worth considering when one knows that each individual is exactly that, an individual?
I think that these are relevant questions that one needs to ask as one tries to understand oneself and at least a bit about others. For the next while, I will be using Daryl Sharp’s book, Jungian Psychology Unplugged as a take off point for my posts. That said, I will at times write just as the spirit moves me when a particular image evokes something that doesn’t fit with my reading of Sharp’s book. The first chapter of the book talks about psychological types. So, for the next while, I will likely find the faces of China as my photographic subject material. I invite questions and supplementary commentary in hopes that it will allow me a better chance to communicate with you in a fuller dialogue.
“. . . the deity which humanity experiences immediately in its soul is one whose life is made up of those unreconciled opposites which must be reconciled in human consciousness. The reconciliation of these opposites in human consciousness is the only meaning of true human suffering and all that gives it dignity. To deny the soul its natural access to God is thus for Jung to debase it, and to deny the soul the suffering of the divine self-contradiction is to trivialize the reality of those who suffer it consciously.” (Dourley, Strategy For a Loss of Faith, p. 55)
Finding dignity – that is a good way to describe what I am trying to do in writing this blog and how I am trying to live in the second half of my life. Finding dignity is not simply choosing to see one’s self with dignity; finding dignity is a process – a journey. No one can give dignity as a gift to another person. Dignity can only come from deep within the self. And this is where religions fail to meet the spiritual needs of anyone who has “awakened” to the fact of “God within.”
The moon waxing gibbous as seen through my camera lens. I had hoped to get an earlier phase of the moon, perhaps the waxing crescent as well as the first quarter, but the sky conditions didn’t allow that to happen. I take what is given to me and will make do with that in terms of my SoFoBoMo project. If weather permits, I will be able to get the full moon and the waining phases as well as the new moon. For my information in preparing for the book as well as these blogs, I went to Moon Connection where a useful chart is available explaining the phases of the moon as well as a host of other interesting information regarding the moon.
With this image, the idea of “whiteness” must be discarded. The pits and discolorations and shadows can’t all be written off to defects in the cameras lens. Rather, the moon must be seen as it truly is, a rock that is sterile and which, unlike our planet, can’t support life. The moon is a cold, hard, lifeless orb mindlessly circling our planet. That should be the end of all talk of the moon. But, science and the real facts be damned. We want more from “our” moon.
I know that the facts we have today about the moon and the sun provide us with no room for some romance, or alchemy. However, it has never been the sun or the moon. It has always been about our looking out of eyes onto a world trying hard to find meaning while being trapped behind the lenses of our eyes. As each of us moves through the days of living, we learn that there “is” more than what our senses tell us exists. Our senses deceive us, even in terms of parents and siblings.
This is especially true in terms of relationships. How can we ever truly know an “other” when we are so desperately forever in search of “self?” Yet, it is only in relationship to “other” than one begins to see otherwise hidden aspects of “self.” It is as if one requires submersion into the unknown as a means of discovering more about who we are. And so, as humans we have encoded this hard won awareness of how we come to be conscious beings into myths, into rituals and onto images (archetypes) – a process that has been ongoing since the dawn of human awareness.
The whole process begins with us instinctively seeking out an other person in order to fill a mandate for the survival of the species, something that is unconsciously driven. Men reach for women and women reach for men. There is nothing conscious about any of this. And because of that, we must create stories so that we feel less of a victim, more in control. And so begin the clumsy gropings for understanding.
More from Martin Buber:
You speak of love as if it were the only relationship between men; but are you even justified in choosing it as an example, seeing that there is also hatred?
- As long as love is “blind” – that is, as long as it does not see a whole being – it does not yet truly stand under the basic word of relation. Hatred remains blind by its very nature; one can only hate part of a being. Whoever sees a whole being and must reject it, is no longer in the dominion of hatred but in the human limitation of the capacity to say You. …
Yet, whoever hates directly is closer to a relation than those who are without love or hate. (Buber, I and Thou, 1970, pp 67-68)
These are powerful words, words that resonate with ideas from Jungian psychology as well. Awareness of other, where it be a person one loves or hates, is increased as one removes projects which allow a “real” person to emerge from behind our projections. Then, one can engage in real relationship with real people. Then love shifts and hate dissipates.