Archive for the ‘China’ tag
For the past three days I have been out of the Internet loop, away from my computer. I will be returning to regular posting tomorrow, again turning to the theme of Dreams. It was strange not having access to my e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, and especially my blog site. I realise that at this point, this blog site is as much about my reading audience as it is about me. Thank you for being patient in waiting for the next post. ~ Robert
I got my first copy of the I-Ching about 40 years ago and I have had some opportunity to delve into it over the years, more out of curiosity than out of need. I found this image at the “jungquotes” site and decided to compare it to my text from 1969 and found two other versions. The version isn’t that important in my opinion, for finding value in the I-Ching. Since I have had a particular interest in the I-Ching (Book of Changes) and the yin-yang symbol at the centre of the this image which is a pa kua (a circle containing the eight trigrams), I was intrigued when this image showed up in my e-mail inbox this morning. Of course it sent me to get my copy of the book off the shelf (1), as well as to check out what Wikipedia had to say (reference here).
Before going further, I want to comment about the solid and broken lines. Solid lines represent the male (yang) principle, and the broken lines represent the female (yin) principle. There are eight trigrams which can be paired so as to create sixty-four hexagrams. A person can use three coins which are cast (thrown) six times in order to create a “response” to a question. The first throw provides the bottom line and each succeeding throw builds the hexagram upwards. If one gives a value of 2 to “heads” and a value of 3 to “tails” and then adds up the value of the three coins, one is able to determine whether the line is solid or broken, masculine or feminine. The even numbers s 6 and 8 yield a broken line, a feminine line. The odd numbers 7 and 9 yield a solid line, a masculine line.
I decided to try using an online I-Ching divination service (Hexagram 19 – lin) as well as to cast my own hexagram using coins (Hexagram 41 - sun) in order to answer a particular question with regards to further education and training. The basic result was that this was indeed an auspicious time, but also that downsizing or “focusing” on less would be needed if the project is to be successful.
This is where synchronicity comes into play. I have not fully decided to again return to studies for yet another degree and certificate, but I have begun to cut back on those things that would draw too much of my attention, downsizing my life so-to-speak. There are more things to be considered without relying on a “divination” tool such as the I-Ching. Yet what is striking to me was how this casting of coins has provided an “echo” of what is already being said, done, understood.
I am interested in what my readers have to say about the I-Ching and any “synchronistic” readings they may have experienced. Please add your voices here.
(1. Legge, James (1964). I Ching: Book of Changes, With introduction and study guide by Ch’u Chai and Winberg Chai. New York: Citadel Press. 19th century translation.)
Often in the work of psychotherapy and in the work of individuation, one tends to become too serious. There is so much of life to celebrate even when life is far from being perfect. It never fails to astound me in my travels in the world that the happiest people are often the poorest, those who cherish the simple things likely because the simple things are all they have access to in their lives. But is also the simple things that cause us so much angst.
As I mentioned in my last post, my students are pondering what they can do to improve (change) themselves in order to do their part in making the world a better place. I will present a few of their thoughts here as illustration of thoughts:
Tom: “I think I have so many shortcomings. But the most important thing I should change is to learn how to make decisions. I often make decisions with difficultly and unwisely.”
Wendy: “I hope I will be more out-going. I am too shy when I see strangers and have no words to say. Someone may not know what I am thinking and they may be mistaken about me.”
Shirley: “Sometimes I’m impatient, I want to be more patient. And I am always careless, I want to be careful.”
Yuki: “I want to become optimistic. I have a negative attitude towards my life sometimes. Some days I am sad without reasons, just sad. So, I will try chatting with my friends and learn to have a positive attitude. And, I will plant some flowers so that they can let me be happy.”
And finally, the words of one more student:
Lily: “Only I change myself, I can have a better and different life. May be before long, I can change my family, even my country. Only change myself first, everything could be possible.”
My students are enjoying their lives as university students and know that they are the privileged in Chinese society because of the fact they are university students. They know how to play and sing and laugh and work. They know that there are problems in the world and in China and they know that they have a role to play in their families and in their society to make their world a better place. Hopefully they are wise enough to remember it is about changing themselves, consciously and not about forcing others to change.
I had an interesting day with my students at the Chinese university in which I work, today. The topic was about “changing the world.” It’s a lesson I have used once before a few years ago. This time around I tried a few different things, not because the lesson didn’t work before, but because I find it difficult to repeat the same lesson as each class is different and I am different with each class in response.
One of the things I do repeat with this lesson is the use of a song by Johnny Reid called, Today I’m Gonna Try And Change The World. As far a song goes for my Chinese students, the voice and the music would not inspire much of a positive response. That said, it all comes down to context. In response to a number of questions the consensus was that one can change oneself and that change will result in changes to the world (they do know about the butterfly effect). In my next post I will want to share some of their ideas about what they think is important to change about themselves in order to make a positive change to the world.
As I taught, I ending up thinking about my own beliefs about how I change the world. It became obvious to me that I can’t help but change the world regardless of what I do or don’t do. I effect change simply by being in the world. Should I choose to cease being in the world, that effects even more change. Should I decide to not make a decision and just let others or life make a decision for me, that also changes the world. That is a powerful realisation to make. I find myself forced to claim my own power and drop the notion that I am often the victim of the power of others.
Is this flower (another hibiscus) behind bars so sot speak, imprisoned? Well, I guess it depends on how one looks at it. One could see the flower on the opposite side, a symbol of freedom to someone on this side. Or, it could be simply a flower and a fence that marks property, a fence that is a boundary, not a barricade. Changing the world is about changing how one sees the world and takes ownership for all the things one does and doesn’t do.
This was taken along the shores of one of the river-canals that wend their way through the city of Changzhou. As I understand it (and understanding reality in China is not all that easy or certain), there are three rivers that wind their way through the city. A river doesn’t look any different from a canal from an observation point of view. Asking others who are Chinese gets mixed responses as few actually know the city other than their particular neighborhoods, even those who have spent their whole life in this city. This makes me think of how we only know parts of our own self, parts that are the easiest to access down familiar well-worn trails of thought and feeling.
I have been feeling both full and empty of late, a feeling that has resulted in me standing still and doing very little other than teaching my courses at the university. I have been doubling up on a number of classes pushing my teaching load so that I can take a week off in mid-November in order to take a sunshine and snorkeling holiday in the Philippines. I am looking forward to the warmth and the sunshine and the long beaches. I will have Internet connectivity so I imagine that time will be found in the evenings for posting here. As well as extra teaching, I have been listening to a number of Shrink Rap Radio podcasts that have a Jungian focus. The result has been a whirlwind of stuff floating within my head with nothing settling long enough so that I could find a calm period for writing here, writing with more depth.
Meditation remains an important part of my day that I try not missing. Sitting still, like this empty shell in the photo, brings me back to my core self, puts life back into place as things sort themselves out and settle.
Yesterday’s walk to me to a new part of the city, the northeastern outskirts of the city proper. It was a surprise to find such a quiet and undeveloped space only two kilometres from the apartment. Needless to say, that meant a lot of new photo scenes were captured. As most of my walks go, I didn’t walk alone but with my wife who is seen walking down an unfamiliar path. Off to the right is a canal and off to the left is swampland that has a series of small vegetable gardens, evidence that there is no such thing as wasted land, useless land. There is little doubt that this area will be visited a few more times this fall and winter.
This Chinese city is similar to the typical human psyche. I will explain that it a moment but first, a bit more about this city. The core of the city has a population of just under two million with the population of the governance area of just over four and a half million. Though it is given one name, Changzhou is really a series of old cities, towns and villages. Today, the city is divided into five districts (each with its own administrative centres, towns and villages) and two sub-city administrative departments. Changzhou has a mayor as one would expect as well as five vice-mayors, one for each of the administrative districts, and two sub-city mayors. Within this administrative nightmare are the small towns and villages with each having their own administrative structures which are under the umbrella of the district government which is under the umbrella of the Changzhou prefecture-level government. That is a lot of government for what could say is a single entity.
As I said above, the city makes me think of the human psyche where ego serves as the “mayor” thinking that ego is actually the boss. But under the conscious governance of the ego, there are a a host of competing power structures. Some of these structures come out of the experiences of ego with the world, structures called complexes. Some of these structures come out of the collective human unconscious, structures called archetypes. Underlying complexes and archetypes there appears to be a undefinable presence that permeates everything, unifies everything.
I see quite a few men fishing in almost all of the canals that thread their way through the city. The size of fish isn’t an issue for these fisherman. What I would gently return to the water are kept in anticipation of good eating. Looking at the water, I have doubts that any fish caught in these waters would be worth eating. In spite of my opinion, the fish caught in these murky and often stagnant waters somehow feed people.
I really shouldn’t be surprised as most of the “rich” rivers that feed people around the world are murky. I have a prejudice that comes with living in a northern country with few people where river waters are often crystal clear. The prejudice that only fish from these cold, cold rivers are healthy is not based on fact. Fact has little or no place in one’s biases.
I should know better as it is in the dark and murky waters of the unconscious that I find nourishment for my soul. Being human requires an immersion into a messy life where there are no clear pathways to follow. Most times following paths carved by others with bright signposts to lead the way are paths that lead to sterile existences.
What feeds me, what animates me is not found in clear, clod waters. And it appears, what I find in the murky waters that are found in the swamplands of my soul to nourish my self is what I truly need.
Yesterday I went for a walk in the sunshine down a path I frequently take, at least once a week if weather permits. These flowers come in a variety of colours and their season is almost at an end and I haven’t taken many photos of this variety this autumn so I was glad to finally take the time to take a series of photos while playing with focus and depth of field.
It was my intent to shorten the depth of field in order to create a blur while still keeping a sharp focus on the highlight. I am pleased with the result in this photo. I was particular with this photo project as I had an intention for this blog post.
I meditate in order to create a space of clarity within myself. While meditating the images in my head begin to disappear as though my attention to my breathing reduces the focal length of my inner vision, honing that inner vision to a sharp point, stilling the surrounding background and foreground. Sometimes I use a mantra a ‘focus ring’ to help me arrive at the same place, the same point of clarity. Sometimes I use an image or a smell to achieve the same result.
With the chatter in my mind stilled, I seem to step outside of my ‘normal’ self and look deeply into a space that was hidden by the chatter, both visual and mental chatter. It is as though there are complete landscapes hidden in plain view, hidden realities.
The stilling . . . (curious, just as I write this the world around me explodes with sounds as another set of fireworks is set off and my mobile phone demands an answer and I am called back to the messy and busy outer world. And as a result, I have had to take a moment and slip into a momentary stillness) . . . sets aside my subjective and judgmental ego, allowing what otherwise would be unthinkable, unrealistic, unexpected to make itself present. Refusing to objectify or analyse what appears allows what makes itself present to enter into the edges of my consciousness where it can eventually become a part of my conscious knowing of myself and the world.
A photographer learns how to make the world sit still in order to capture more of the essence of the scene or object or person. An image emerges that points beyond, beneath and deep within that which is on the surface of the image. Attention to dreams, writing a journal and guided analysis are other ways to make this same journey. And meditation serves as a training ground to assist all the paths one might take in order to help answer the question, “Who am I?”
This set of doors are private doors that lead into the residential area of the Tianning Buddhist Temple. The public entrance is along a different wall and people pay to enter this temple which is an active temple and a tourist attraction. However, no tourists enter into this section of the temple grounds. When I stopped for the photo I was interested in the door handles which are actually quite common. I liked the look of these and the peeling paint on the doors. What I didn’t see at first was that the doors didn’t fully shut out the inner courtyard from scrutiny. I knew that the crack was there, but thought that it wouldn’t wreck the photo too much. And, if it did there was always a lot more similar photos already in the archives.
Yesterday, when looking through the latest set of photos, I noticed that the opening drew my attention and held it. It was as if the rest of the door was inconsequential. In spite of the lack of focus behind the door, it became the centre of my attention. It was then that I realised that the door was a visual metaphor for persona, the barrier that keeps the outer world, outside and thus allowing the ego to protect its fragile sense of self. The ego controls the doors, has several sets of doors which present purposeful masks and identities to the world. However, unknown to the ego is how time and the energy it takes to maintain the fiction of the doors, the various personae. I know that I was oblivious to the effect that life was having on my identities of teacher, coach, parent, counsellor and athlete. Like these doors, the masks for these identities were beginning to fray on the edges, showing cracks that hinted of something else behind those cracks.
And then I saw this image again and saw a different story, one that talked to my sense of a personal journey into the unknown, the journey of individuation. With my ego fracturing and the realisation that I needed to do some serious work to rescue my self in terms of core identity, purpose and meaning, I caught a glimpse of a new journey, a new destination. There was just enough light showing through my own cracks that served to act as a beacon, asking me to enter. The light behind the cracks became a compelling voice and I knew that it was a call to me to begin my own Odyssey like some modern day Odysseus in search of my real home, my real being.
It amazes me what I sometimes see in a photograph – I seem to slip out of an objective space and enter an alternate reality. And for this, I am thankful.
Taking photos is just the first part of my passion for photography. Once the photo is taken and it has survived the culling process, it waits its turn for further consideration. For example, this photo of a rose that I took last week. It has patiently waited for the week as though knowing I would come back to it as I had full intentions at the moment I took the photo of bringing it here to the blog site for a reflective commentary. And, as I wondered what I talk of today, I thought of my subject of yesterday, meditation. I realised that I meditate in a variety of ways including being mindful of the world as I walk through life.
I saw this rose and felt pulled to take yet another photo of a rose. Before taking the photo, I stood silently for a moment in thoughtless appreciation of the rose, its colours, the light that embraced the rose, and I noted my state of relaxation. When my centre felt calmness I took the photo knowing that life had entered into the picture in the form of the bee. I was certain I had captured the vibrancy of the bee’s presence when I took the photo. I took only the one photo and then moved on. The sense of all being right was strong within me.
Before writing here, I approach a photo and sit silently with it; it becomes a moment of presence, the photo’s presence, and my presence. I allow my ego to be silent and learn to listen to the silence. Being mindful of the image, I begin to be filled with silent words which then find their way here to the web page.
When all is done, I leave the work with the same level of peace that I attain when I leave a session of meditation. When this happens, I know I have truly practiced another meditation that leaves its gifts.