Archive for the ‘Canadian Prairie’ tag
I often get up in the pre-dawn darkness when the world is silent, and sit with a cup of coffee in my hand and watch the sky begin to lighten, listening to the silence without a thought in my head. After a while I notice that my coffee has remained untouched and has cooled because the house is kept at a cool 16 Celsius (60 F.) overnight. In the silence and the waning light of dawn, especially on cloudy days such as today, ego awareness is as slow to waken. It is as though I have remained in the land of dreams even though my body has left my bed and shows signs of having begun a new day.
As I sit there, words began to call out seeking to be freed from the depths of darkness. A rush of images, of possibilities, of impossibilities cascade into almost recognisable scenes. I am aware that I have been gifted with dreamscapes and stories. I have been gifted with these knowing that it is now my duty to find some way to bring them to the outer world where others may hear and see these stories. Will I be able to find the will to make this happen? Only time will tell. For now, I can only offer you this image taken this morning.
Yesterday, I woke up to snow falling while in Lloydminster, Alberta visiting at my son’s home. After packing up after a week of visiting, it was time to drive home through what ended up to be a small blizzard.While in my son’s house, the snow pulled a sense of well being from within me. I saw the snow flakes as soft, clean and beautiful. Yet, it was only an hour later those same snowflakes became a threat to my safety, perhaps even to my survival. I saw one car with passengers end up in a highway ditch in front of me. My response was one of increased caution. I finally got home after a few extra hours on the highway. The last part of the drive was snow-free. It was as if I had dropped out of one universe only to land in a different universe.
I am reminded of the different universes that I meet in the inner spaces of my own psyche and how these universes evoke different responses within me. Sometimes the same inner universe presents me with a different “feel” and “awareness” than is usual. This shift of feel is a reminder that I am not yet ready to claim full awareness, not yet ready to claim that I have discovered a truth.
”Theories in psychology are the very devil. It is true that we need certain points of view for their orienting and heuristic value; but they always should be regarded as mere auxiliary concepts that can be laid aside at any time. We still know so very little about the psyche that it is positively grotesque to think we are far enough advanced to frame general theories. We have not yet established the empirical extent of the psyche’s phenomenology: how then can we dream of general theories? No doubt theory is the best cloak for lack of experience and ignorance, but the consequences are depressing: bigotedness, superficiality, and scientific sectarianism.” (Jung, CW Vol. 17, p. 7)
In my last post, I talked about how I lost my sense of being Jungian, Buddhist, Christian and whatever else I may have latched onto in an attempt to define myself, to hold as a theory of the nature of my individual psyche. That all fell apart and in the process, I began to get glimmers of self that defied any attempt I could make either with or without words. It ends up a very messy thing, but in some strange way, that messiness is freeing and I don’t have to try and force myself to fit into limited, self-created containers. I am free to wonder with a bit of awe and mystery about myself. And in the process, I find myself also free to experience the presence of others as beings of mystery.
It seems all the small and larger local lakes are busy places as geese prepare for their annual trip to warmer climes in the southern parts of North America. The sheer number of geese gathering on the lakes and feeding on the nearby fields staggers the imagination. If one could say that there exists too much of a good thing, the geese become a vivid visual example. As busy as hunters are, they have no hope of reducing the numbers to a point where there could be said to be a good ecological balance. But, nature has its own way of dealing with the problem when the balance becomes too skewed. Of course, when this happens, nature has a tendency to go a bit overboard resulting in severely diminished numbers. It all becomes a pattern of feast and famine, an eternally repeating cycle.
When I consider the human psyche, I am reminded that there is a continual circling of the psyche within each human. I am continually reminded of my own cycle of approach and withdrawal to the feminine within and the feminine without. I am reminded of the cycle of the day and how I respond to both the moon and to the sun, the two celestial bodies that hold fascination in spite of their constant familiarity. And I am reminded of how I live my life in cycles of conscious living with intention, and unconscious living where the intention seems to come from somewhere other than my ego self.
At times I try hard to resist the natural cycles, wanting to hold tight to one particular way of being. I attempt to build a container that would hold out the changes that the cycles demand. I want to be in charge, in control. After all, I am a man and like most men, I need to sense that I am in control, at least to appear to others to be in control. Yet, that control is elusive. What I am left holding when convincing myself that I have it all under control, is no more than a mirage.
As a result, I end up doing as other men do – building external structures that serve as symbols of my control, my power – symbols that are more about wishful thinking than they are about the reality of who I am behind the symbols.
On the way home from visiting grandchildren in America, these two very large moose decided to cross the highway about a half-hour south of my home. The bull’s rack of antlers was just beginning to form. There are still a good variety and very good population numbers of wild animals on the Canadian prairies. The two moose passed in front of me, ignoring my presence though I was less than fifty metres away, two powerful and potentially dangerous beings.
Wild and free, or wild and contained. After having spent a good amount of time wandering up and down trails through the very old mountains of France, I had thought I had done the work necessary to set myself free of ghosts and shadows that had haunted me for much of my life. But, did I really set myself free or did I simply let down broken fences that kept the shadows and ghosts too close? As I walked the stone strewn trails, stumbling along clumsily, I thought at first I was outrunning the shadows, turning often to see if they were visible behind me on the trails. It was only when I was too exhausted, almost broken by the hills with my head bent down, thinking exhausted, that I gave up the great escape, the desperate flight from my ghosts and shadows. I had no energy left for holding the barriers in place.
A curious thing happened at that point. Rather than being overwhelmed and consumed by those shadows and ghosts that haunted me, nothing happened. At least that is what I experienced. I was still exhausted, too exhausted to fight back against shadows. I was ripe for takeover. But, nothing happened. There was nothing that would happen. With my self-imposed barbed wire and electrified fences disabled, I had set myself free of the prison that constrained me. The shadows and ghosts that pursued were not external villains and evil spectres, they were denied aspects of me.
I continued to walk, differently, over the trails that crossed small mountains and farmers’ fields and through villages and towns. The walking became easier as I had only physical pains reminding me to stay present on my own journey, a journey that had taken me home psychologically and geographically.
It’s a Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and I am in the USA enjoying time with my daughter and her family. Part of our weekend together is being spent watching three of my grandsons playing football, discovering all sorts of bits of nature in nature areas, and having a turkey supper – Canadian Thanksgiving in America. There are rare quiet moment to be found in spite of the intensity of being actively present, moments such as the present when homework is being done. Both parents and children are busy with tasks of the first half of life. I have the luxury of being able to step aside for moments and reflect on what is going on; that is one of the benefits of being in the second half of life.
The second half of life can provide a man or a woman with time and motivation to stand aside, outside of the knee-jerk responses to life that seems to dominate most of the first half of life. I am one of the fortunate ones as I don’t have to focus on safety, food, shelter or any of the other things that demand attention. Retirement and economic security takes care of most of my needs. The “right” circumstances don’t necessarily mean that adults in the second half of life take advantage of this opportunity to become reflective and moderate their responses to life.
Some continue to maintain a knee-jerk response to life, usually in response to the lives of their children and grandchildren. They find it hard to live their one lives, thinking that they need to, even “must” cling even closer to their adult children and “control” their adult children and through them, their grandchildren. They intend the best as they micro-manage the lives of their children and grandchildren. There is no “reflective” distance which would allow their adult children to navigate their own lives as parents. There is no “reflective” distance which would allow themselves to discover a deeper, wider purpose to their own lives.
Refusing to enter into the second half of life and its “golden” opportunities is a psychological tragedy. Such a refusal is all about fear. Rather than face the second half of life, there is a determined effort to insert oneself into the lives of others so as to avoid having to face the fact of one’s own mortality.
Life as a grandparent can be a liberating phase if one is willing to give up being frustrated, bitter and resentful of their adult children and their mates who don’t see and respond to life in the same manner. I have given up the idea of trying to control my children and grandchildren; I have given up beating my head against a wall, frustrated that in spite of my efforts that I can’t avoid those moments when I must return to my own life and my own fears. As a result I am better able to enjoy these strange beings; and hopefully, they are better able to enjoy my presence.
Yesterday I spoke about an inner and an outer journey and how one’s journey becomes an event that has an effect on all those who surround us, either directly or indirectly. Today, I want to focus on self. The outer journey begins as my plane takes off at 1:05 pm Central Standard Time, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Some hours later I transfer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada en route to Paris, France. Just thinking of taking leave of my wife at the airport already brings tears to my eyes. A song is going through my head, Leaving on a Jet Plane, as sung by John Denver, a song that I have played on my guitar countless times. Each time I have sung this song, it has moistened my eyes and built up pressure within my chest, each time somehow intuitively aware that this was also my song to my wife in some future time. Today is that time. Today, I am leaving on a jet plane.
My journey is taking me deep into my own unconscious, deep into an unknown country of silences, shadows and ruins, a place where I will be battling ghosts and dragons that are unique to my psyche. Yet, because they are found in my unconscious, they are not so unique in the collective sense. I will be bumping into the ghosts and dragons of my father and mother and others. Slaying these ghosts and dragons is probably not the right way to explain what will happen, perhaps it would be better to say that I will be embracing these ghosts and monsters with forgiveness and compassion so that they can achieve peace in order for me to also achieve peace.
I fly into the sky in order to plant my feet on the path of pilgrimage. I fly into the inner world as if to the moon underwater in order to plant my spirit and soul on their pilgrimage. Bon Chemin, Buen Camino.
It is our anniversary today. My partner in life, a woman who inspired me to propose the evening we met (yes, she accepted at that time) is close by my side as I prepare this post, looking at photos we have taken over the past week. I am in awe of this woman who somehow has found the strength to be strong as I prepare to make a very long journey, a pilgrimage in France and Spain. It would have been easy to give up the pilgrimage if she had not insisted that I follow my spirit. I know that over the next several months we will both have melt-downs simply because we are apart from each other. We have not done well being apart. Yet, this time apart has become important for both of us. Coming back together is the prize for being strong in terms of relationship. But an even greater prize is how both of us will have become “fuller” people in the process; stronger as individuals who choose to continue being life mates, heart mates.
Where will this dual journey take us? The answer is unknown; it is all about discovery as we both navigate each day separated from the other, forced to be fully connected to self. We will meet each day on an outer level as we pass the hours in a multitude of ways. But it is the inner journey that will likely prove to be the most difficult as we wrestle with loneliness and separation. I have no doubt that each day will see us both wondering what the hell we are doing apart from each other, especially at those times when we are most doubtful about ourselves. But then again, the fact that these journeys are about to begin is a testament in their own ways that we are both ready for these journeys.
When I began thinking about the pilgrimage and then planning it, I had thought that I was the only one going on a pilgrimage. Now, after the long preparation for the pilgrimage, I have learned that we are both going on journeys. That is one thing that is vital to understand. When you are in a relationship with another person, everything you do creates ripples for that other person. As I began to learn more about how this affected both of us, I became more aware of how it affected others around both of us – our children, our grandchildren, extended family, community friends . . . and the list will grow to include others that neither of us are as yet aware. And curiously, as we both see the affect on others, we find ourselves changing yet again due to the ripples of their changes.
And so I thank all who fill my life as I prepare to board a jet plane tomorrow to begin the physical pilgrimage where the journey is about placing one foot on the path and then taking another step and another step until I have reached Santiago de Compostela. I include you, my readers here in this thank you for your presence here is real and you are within the web of reciprocal change.
With just over a week remaining until my departure for Europe, I find myself doing a lot of thinking about too many things. In an effort to still the thinking I have resorted to finding all sorts of things to do such as digging out old berry bush roots, trimming hedges, and sorting through things that have been sorted too many times already; all without achieving much success at keeping the thinking at bay. Even my meditation sessions have been getting noisy. I guess it is to be expected as a journey into the unknown (spiritually and psychologically) will become an active, day-to-day process.
I have packed my travel items into the backpack and weighed it a number of times. I have about 15 pounds (7 kilograms) including the backpack as my target weight. So far, I have remained under that weight. I take out each piece to reconsider its necessity for the journey. Likely I am still packing too much even though I have room and weight to spare. And this focus on my backpack still doesn’t silence those voices beneath the layer of consciousness. Something else is stirring that wants to be heard.
Pretending I don’t hear, I turn to blog sites about the Camino or to the discussion forum for experience pilgrims and pilgrim wannabes. Then this morning, I picked up a book started long ago which has been lying on my shelves ignored. Why? I don’t ask why when I am drawn to a book. Rather, I just listen to what emerges.
”Death and hopelessness provide proper motivation – proper motivation for living an insightful, compassionate life.
When we talk about hopelessness and death, we’re talking about facing the facts. No escapism.
Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself, to make friends with yourself, to not run away from yourself, to return to the bare bones, no matter what is going on. Fear of death is the background of the whole thing. It’s why we feel restless, why we panic, why there’s anxiety. But if we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship, one that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death.” (Chodron, When Things Fall Apart, pp 44-45)
This is why I am embarking on a pilgrimage. I am giving up on expecting others, things, and activities to rescue me from myself. I am daring myself to face my ghosts, my dark holes, my shadows and perhaps learn to accept them and accept myself as I really am. No more chasing phantoms, no more quest for some sort of fame that would define me in acceptable ways. And to do this, I need to put myself in a place where I am alone and dependent upon my body, my spirit, my psyche and all of my warts.
In twelve days I will be sitting on a plane heading towards France and the thousand mile long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I will be doing the first leg, a short leg, in the city of Paris before taking the train to Le Puy en Velay where the process will begin in earnest. At this time, with less than two weeks to go, I find that all of my “stuff” is ready for the most part. But that is just “stuff,” the easy part to get ready. There really isn’t too much to ponder when it comes to socks, pants and tops and other long-hike essentials. The hard part is being ready psychologically and spiritually.
How does one leave a home and one’s soulmate for such an extended period of time? I find myself treasuring each moment with my wife, my house, my garden and the small things that make a life at home. For the most part, I have given up thinking of past and future and have been living in the moment. I guess I am learning how to see the world from a more Buddhist perspective.
But that said, I find myself returning to the computer at times, usually with the excuse of unsubscribing from those groups and businesses that somehow find a way to fill one’s e-mail mailbox. And while on the computer I find myself reading other blog sites of people who have gone before me taking the Le Puy route. And in those moments I am lost in some future following their words and my imagination. I could call it informational preparation, but it is more than that. And in those moments, I am anything but being present in the moment. Rather, I am like this tree stuck out on a point of land surrounded by water wondering where the path of my life has gone, as though I am in some dream searching for some directional marker to lead me back home.
I will be back again before I fly off into another time, place, space and existential moment.
Note: Here is a good look at the GR65 route from Le Puy en Velay to Saint Jacques Pied de Port. And here is the first of many maps that chart the journey. Just a reminder that the GR65 will take me to the start of the Camino Francés at Saint Jacques Pied de Port.
Sometimes words fail me. Sometimes words create an expectation that I fail to measure up to for one reason or other. For example, the intention to blog about the pilgrimage at a different blog site. I began to follow the intention and then it blew up within me. And so, I retreated into silence
As I mentioned a number of days ago, I will be posting here very little for the next while. I have built a second blog site which will be my “main” focus for this “time out” from Through a Jungian Lens. The new site is called It’s All About The Journey.
The blog site is no more. I lost the enthusiasm to continue even before I had walked my first step of the pilgrimage. And, I retreated into silence. My children and grandchildren have helped me fill the silence over the past two weeks, a good thing as I have this tendency to slip into dark holes when things fall apart on me, within me. Today, the last of my children and grandchildren begin their journey home. I was blessed with all being home at the same time and being able to celebrate that fact together.
It was a good time but it did have an edge of sadness as all knew that in a few weeks I would be gone, basically out of communication through regular channels while on my pilgrimage.