Archive for the ‘darkness’ tag
A sunny morning brings hints of green and gold, hints of a world that is alive. But, unless you live in this land, you don’t realise that this bright winter sunshine usually means that the temperature has dropped considerably. If anything, the weak sunlight leaches out what little life is left leaving plants freeze-dried and burnt. The scene makes me think of how sometimes we allow our thinking self to draw life from our feeling self so that we become lopsided in life, cold and hard embracing facts and a world that is seen only in terms of black and white. Not allowing messy shades of grey creates a deep-rooted anger and bitterness in what is left of the soul.
The moon is beginning to wane to begin its journey into darkness where it will be lost in the earth’s shadow before beginning another cycle of re-appearance. As the moon appears in the sky, whether in daytime hours or at night, both my wife and I are drawn to its appearance. For both of us, for perhaps different reasons, the moon has a numinous quality that says it is more than what meets the eye, more than a spherical hunk of rock in the orbit of the earth.
A descent isn’t always something that needs to be viewed with trepidation. If one is able to watch with a sense of mystery, one begins to understand that there is something to be gained in a descent into the unconscious realms. Wandering in the shadows allows us to find what would otherwise remain hidden treasures.
In a way, meditation is not much different. Each time I sit and enter into a meditative state I enter into a place where my ego is released from control. I enter into a state of unconsciousness, a journey that takes me to spaces of existence that somehow affirm who I am in a larger context, a being beyond the small controlling ego sense of self. As I return to my body self and my ego consciousness kicks back into awareness, I bring back some of what I have experienced, experiences which have slightly changed me.
Like the passing of days, of moon cycles, of seasons and years, I change with acquired experience and hard-won awareness of both myself and the world. I have learned that the darkness is a part of the light; and that the light is a part of the darkness. And so I treasure the magic and mystery of that white orb in the darkened skies for what she teaches me about my soul which is hidden in the darkness of my inner being.
The work on our home has just been completed and our home is returning to something that might be called normal. I use the word “normal” loosely as each day is somewhat different than the day before, or the days before. My writing has been productive in spite of my not knowing when I would have time to write. My practice of meditation has been shifted almost on a daily basis from what I might call my “usual” time to a different time in order to accommodate questions of those doing the renovation work, or other needs that make an appearance
If it could be said that we approach our days here with set routines, the month of December turns all of those routines on their heads. As in likely all small communities, December brings those gatherings of various groups for celebration of Christmas as a community. As well as these “community” gatherings, there are the smaller “get together” meals with friends and neighbours, with return meals as we take turns being hosts and hosted.
Our habit of taking a daily walk is also tossed around during December. We must pay close attention to weather, especially wind, and the forecast so as to somehow chose the best time to walk and even where to walk. If wind persists, we find ourselves walking in various patterns around the small town rather than following our favoured country roads. We walk keeping shelter from the wind in mind, or at least limiting the amount of time walking against the wind which plunges the actual temperatures to even colder “wind chill” temperatures.
All of this makes for the carving each day as a unique experience regardless of the fact that most would see very little of this uniqueness. One can only appreciate the uniqueness of each present moment if one is fully present in the present.
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.
With a shift in temperatures from above freezing to slightly below freezing and with the right amount of moisture or humidity in the air, I woke up to a fairy tale world, one in which fingers of frost had draped trees, bushes and weeds. I am always entranced by hoar frost and almost always stop to take photos of this phenomenon when it occurs.
It is as if old man winter has come out with his white beard to tell me that winter has truly arrived and that it is time for a deep sleep with deep dreams. I am then taken to another image, that of Father Christmas with his beard of white. This fairy tale world invites gods and goddesses to make their appearance. And with their appearance, we find ourselves beholding them with both awe and fear. Father Christmas is older than Christianity’s Saint Nicholas. He finds his roots in the pagan god Woden/Odin.
The frost also brings to my mind a trickster image, that of Jack Frost. As a trickster, he promises the graceful, fragile and delicate world while in truth he is using his arts to cover his darker intent of plunging the earth into a deep freeze of winter darkness. It is as though the hoar frost serves to invite us to enter into a form of death, to descend into the underworld.
The associations continue to build for me as I think of the invitation of an apple that lured Snow White into a deep sleep that could only be awakened by the promise of love, the promise of life. The story of being frozen in time and place again finds its way into our mythology with the story of the Snow Queen. In all of the associations, one thing emerges, that of rebirth, re-emerging into the world of sun, warmth and life.
With all of these stories in mind, I remain fascinated with hoar frost and wonder what winter has in store for me and the rest of the world.
Sunrise, the start of a new day. I took this photo following a night spent in Golinhac, France while walking on the GR 65. Most of the days of my walk along the GR 65 began just before sunrise which allowed me to be on the path when (and if) there was a sunrise to be seen and appreciated. These moments were treasured. Like humans from more primitive eras, I rejoice in the re-appearance of the sun. I am a sun worshipper.
In saying I am a sun worshipper, I don’t mean it in the sense of seeing and knowing the sun as a deity, a religion. Rather I would characterise it in alchemical terms, or even more simply, in terms of naturism. The sun gives warmth, heat, and light which feeds the animate world of plants and animals. That same sun works on water and land to force change, constant change through weather patterns. In human society, including the small town in which I live, the sun influences mental wellness.
The sun has been hiding these past few days and it seems as though life has slowed down. People I meet have less energy, are sleepier and a number of them are under the weather, so to speak with flu and/or cold symptoms. I can even sense that the lack of sunlight has lowered people’s spirits. With winter on its relentless journey to claim the northern hemisphere, there is a definite increase in incidents of depression in workplaces, schools, homes and even among the homeless. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a reality that counellors and therapists and medical doctors have to deal with on a regular basis during the darker months.
As soon as the sun breaks through the cloud cover, smiles emerge and there is a sense of the psyche waking up. The sun sets the blood to rising and the spirits lifting. It is as though someone has turned on the heat to thaw what has been put into a deep freeze. I know how my own spirit ebbs and flows with the appearance and disappearance of the sun during daylight hours. Knowing that, I am more conscious of my unconscious responses to daytime shadows and darkness. Rather than get overwhelmed by the lack of light, I counsel myself with the knowledge that the sun will come again, that it is a natural process and that it is okay to slow down and rest.
Everything and everyone has a story to tell, a unique story. Though we tend to think in collective terms for most things, there really isn’t a collective story, just an uncountable number of individual stories that link and network and circle around each other. We assume so much in our desperate attempts to understand ourselves and the world around us.
Take this shoe for example. If shoes have stories to tell, One would assume that a person wearing a pair of shoes would result in both shoes having the same story to tell. But, they don’t. Each shoe follows an individual foot, a foot that is almost always anatomically different from its mate. Each shoe is placed on the path in a different spot, feeling the effects of different obstacles. If a shoe could talk, it would have a different version of reality to share with its mate and wonder why that mate doesn’t see or know the world in the same way.
One person commented to me today using a generalisation about people who shave off moustaches at the end of October as a symbol of support for the awareness of men’s health, particularly Prostate Cancer. It’s called “Movember.” There was a bit of heat involved in the comment. Of course, I am not immune to the ripples that flow from generalisations even if the generalisation would exclude me. The comment:
“I believe in supporting cancer, but supporting it by growing a moustache doesn’t help anyone, it does bring up awareness they say, but in my experience not one of the people who grow moustaches donate time or money to cancer. I found that its kind of a slap in the face, your simply making everyone think you support cancer when in reality you won’t do anything to help, even visit them in the hospital.”
I don’t know if this would actually describe even one person if we were to track each person through their lives. It is impossible for any of us to know another so completely as to “know” all they do, think and believe. Yet we do act in collectives that shift and change over time.
Movember is a collective of men and boys with a lot of support from the girls and women in our lives. I have taken part in this collective on occasion in the past and have decided to again be part of that collective thanks to my two eldest grandsons who will also attempt to grow a moustache. They issued the challenge though the challenge isn’t really about growing the biggest or best moustache. Being 14 and 16 years of age, they are just beginning to show signs of facial hair. The challenge is to be involved and to make a difference. So, like so many other men, I shaved off my moustache and became part of the collective.
I do understand how each of us often find ourselves resorting to trying to understand individual others through their collective associations and thus paint these individuals with that collective rather than seeing yet another puzzle piece that would help understand the individual. We do this in politics as we brand each other liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, capitalist or socialist. We do this in lifestyle and gender orientation. And in the process, we adopt a collective as our base identity. We see those groups who proclaim that only their group is the right group and that all others are damned, are the enemy. We blame these others for the woes of our society and our own individual lives. We resist owning our own lives, our own identity, our own shadows. It is incredibly hard being an individual when we are social animals that thrive in families, communities, churches, ideologies and special interest groups.
The Way of the Cross – Via Dolorosa. I have a different way of understanding this Catholic idea. For me it begins with one being condemned to life rather than death as is depicted in the first of the stations. And, it ends in death and reintegration with whatever one wants to call the One from which all arises, wanders and returns. I see it as a circle. This image of a cross which stands in front of the cathedral in Estaing, France, fits with my understanding how all is contained within. all is part of a whole.
The work of the second half of life is a work of uncovering and honouring the whole self. This is a work of making the unconscious, conscious – well as much as possible for there is always some things about one’s psyche that will remain a mystery, partly because the boundaries between the personal unconscious and he collective unconscious are porous. What do I mean by this? Well, to begin with, we are all connected in spite of our feelings and beliefs that tell us we are isolated from each other. Nature is a good teacher if one would listen. Our environment teaches us that all parts are interconnected; and when one part is suffering, all the parts suffer. We also see this in our families; when one member of the family suffers, all members resonate and feel that suffering and in the process, share that suffering.
The rise of eco-psychology is tied into this. We are all contained within the circle, all at home on this spherical planet. When we suffer, the planet suffers; when the planet suffers, we suffer. The latest severe storm to hit the north-eastern U.S.A. and eastern Canada is a good example of the earth hurting and humans then hurting in response. I have to add that when our environment suffers, we humans also suffer – polluted air, water and soil in turn pollute our bodies and depress our psyche.
The symbol for the Earth is also found in our spirituality – the circle and the cross as found above in the photo from Estaing. This same circle and cross is found in Celtic symbolism. All contained in one – the four seasons of the earth, the four seasons of humankind; the four directions, the four noble truths, the four virtues.
Halloween, All Hallow’s eve, Samhain – a deliberate remembrance of the cycle of birth and death of nature and of whatever it is that is our human spirit. I have different responses to this ancient remembrance. In its current form as Halloween, I am ambivalent. I detest the idea of it being trivialized through the media to the point where it loses meaning.
Yet, in spite of what it appears is happening, there is something else going on beneath the surface, something not so trivial. Life requires balance. What is lost in one place is found in another place. Birth leads to death and death feeds new life. The gods and goddesses seem to have disappeared only to change shapes and re-emerge in other forms. In spite of the commercialization, children sense the magic that is truly present, see what we can no longer see. And for a time, the dead gods and goddesses are reborn and live.
I took a walk in the late yesterday afternoon once I had arrived in Canmore. I am in Canmore because one of my sister’s sons is getting married. On my walk, I came across this elk who was interested, but not afraid of my presence. In spite of my best efforts I made a lot of noise walking through the trees trying to get closer to him in hopes of getting a better photo. In spite of all that noise, he continued to munch on the leaves of the bushes and occasionally look up at me. Obviously, my noise was not considered a threat. Wildlife living on the edges of towns get used to the presence of people who for the most part get used to them and in turn ignore them as well.
It’s amazing what we get used to when one thinks about it. We get used to lies, we get used to being abused, we get used to being ignored are just a few of the negative things that when seen rarely and in isolation, shock us. Since my return to Canada, I have noticed that the leaders of both Canada and the U.S.A., as well as their rivals for political power, have no qualms about lying and don’t seem to mind even being caught in their lies as long as they get the intended results. Because of the frequency of their lies, we stop listening and soon begin to accept lies as the new “truths.”
We cease to recognise lies as deep breaches of trust and learn to accept that lying has value, positive value. Learning these lessons, we lie to our children, our parents, our employers, our employees, even to strangers who know nothing about us during those chance meetings while travelling. We “know” that we are lying at some level, but deny that knowing so that we come to believe our own lies.
What lies do I tell myself? Most of them are lies of self-depreciation. I don’t know if anyone, including myself, can truly tell the truth of our own histories as we have created those histories through lenses of infancy, of childhood and youth. Time has altered and coloured those created histories to make the early versions disappear. It seems all of us have this built-in “golden years” lens that turns the past into something so much better than it was, giving it an aura rather than letting real colours show through.
I look in the mirror as if I am staring at a stranger and wonder: “I can see you. Can you see me?” I am left wondering about the stranger in the mirror and if I will ever know him, know the truth of his past and his present. What lies of my own creation will continue to serve as a mask in the mirror?
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.