Archive for the ‘guide’ tag
I took this photo this morning in downtown Calgary. It was a curious early morning. While I was taking a pause for a coffee between train and bus, five fire trucks pulled into the scene outside of the window and there emerged quite a collection of firemen in full gear with oxygen tanks and extra hoses and carrying axes. They seemed to be heading to a place that seemed to be next door to the coffee house. As the customers curiously went to the door and front windows to see what was going on, I continued to write in my journal, a practice that I have adopted before completing the journey to my guide’s home and office. It wasn’t too long before it was evident that there was no fire nearby and soon the scene returned back to normal. Leaving the coffee house to catch my bus, I stopped long enough to take this photo of a building only a block or two away. I liked how the light was glittering like gold on the building and some of the windows, a nice contrast to the areas still in shadow.
As usual, analysis picked up in a look at a dream. This morning the focus was my dream of earlier in the morning. I woke just before 5 this morning and wrote down my dream, the first half of which I will bring here in order to look at it with you:
. . . it is as if I am with a few people, not many, with them, but not really “with” them as it is more like we have been thrown together regardless of whether or not we want to be together . . . I can’t see any of these people clearly though I do see that one of them has just obtained the rights to one planet which is pocked with huge holes which seem to be old mining pits . . . he is going to be having huge boxes transported to these pits and then having the boxes covered with material (rock, etc.) so that it would be unlikely that the boxes would ever be discovered . . . the boxes contain dead people, murdered people . . . (rgl, Journal, March 2, 2012)
Now before I go any further, it is important to note that every element of the dream, people and things, are all aspects of myself. Even when a known face appears in a dream, that face is really just a pointer to some vital piece of understanding of my self. Dream work begins with looking at the “affect” that the dream brings to my consciousness – how am I responding to the scene in terms of “feeling.” Robert Bosnak, author of many books including a tiny book I own called, A Little Course In Dreams, has captured well what I felt upon first noting the dream:
My first reaction after listening to a dream is, “I haven’t the faintest idea what this dream is about. It proves that dreams are pure nonsense – or maybe my comprehension is just not up to the complexity of the dream world.” At such a moment I feel like a charlatan, an interpreter who hasn’t mastered his languages, a con man. In short, I feel terribly inferior.” (page 49)
This is where I found myself when I first wrote it and then read it to my guide. I am a therapist and I should know at least something, feel at least something rather that just see the dream as nonsense. But then when my guide asked me, “What did you feel? How are you feeling NOW?” It wasn’t really much, two tiny little questions that I was about to dismiss when I realised that I did feel something – NOW. I could feel disgust with the attempts to bury a crime, to dismiss so lightly the death of what had once been alive and thriving. I was also angry that the evidence of the crime was to be buried so far away that there would never be a chance to find the evidence and bring justice to the murdered and his victims. It was a start. Though I spoke those words, I realised that there really wasn’t a murderer getting away with murdering people and disposing of their bodies as if I were some clairvoyant hired to solve a crime.
People weren’t being murdered and hidden away so far that they would never again see the light of day. So what was my psyche, my shadow trying to tell me about me? What was being murdered, what was being boxed, what was being buried somewhere in outer space? I wasn’t able to answer this yet, perhaps I wasn’t willing to answer this.
My guide was astute to realise that I was holding back – it was there in the pauses and the body language. He asked me if I really wanted to find out what was in those boxes, find out what was murdered (or about to be murdered). What was I trying to bury so deep and so far that it could never be brought back to attention? Of course an answer wasn’t really expected at that moment. I had time to think about it as we continued on with the second half of the dream which I haven’t included here as this post only concerns this first half.
As the last minutes of our time together approached, my guide made a comment: ‘You realise that you just travelled halfway around the world, have rented a place and are paying good money for my services. Are we just going to visit and talk psychology and only look at the surface of things?” Ouch! How about that for brutal honesty!
I took a moment before responding that I made the journey with intentions to get out of the box(es) within which I had trapped myself, boxes which were suffocating me.
He then served notice, ‘You realise that if we open these boxes together, we can’t put anything back in and close it up again? Are you willing to risk, to take this risk that will forever change you and your relationship to yourself and the world?’
Taking a deep breath, and quietly letting it out, I said I was willing as I really had no choice anymore. And so, we continue this shared journey next Monday morning.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I want to add a few more words. The dream was serving notice to me, telling me that if I didn’t act, a significant part of who I am will be forever dead and buried. That message was reinforced by the appearance of the fire trucks while I was having coffee. The firemen were engaged in either a training or false alarm – a warning to them to be ready – a warning. And I do get the message. This is for real, this is for keeps.
A final note. Writing this post too a lot of time which is unusual for me. Between the start of writing the post and these final words I have meditated, gone shopping for groceries, peeled carrots and potatoes, cut my finger while chopping up the veggies in preparation for the supper meal which is still about two hours away – all delaying tactics hoping I would change my mind, or better yet forget about it, bury it and box it away, hide that box as far away in some tower or attic as possible. But rather than being a passive observer like the ego self in the dream, I resisted disengagement and made this post happen in this way. This war is going to get messy, very messy indeed.
How appropriate after writing about depression to find this image on my way to classes early this morning. If there is a picture possible about what depression might look like, then, for me, this is it. The actual sky was dark, but not this dark and the sun was weaker than it appears here. Light plays tricks on a camera as it tries to cope with images taken of the direct sun, even a sun filtered by layers of clouds. The camera paints a darker scene with a stronger sun. I then think that perhaps even this is trying to tell me something for the camera doesn’t really lie when it shows me something that I thought was different. There is more than what I see, more than I understand about what I see.
I then think of my own experience with depression when I entered mid-life. The world I saw was much different than the world those around me at the time saw though we all saw the same scene. In depression I didn’t have full access to my mental capacity nor my senses. My range of vision was more like I was wearing blinders which cut off all peripheral scenes. The world had less depth, more two-dimensional. Even sound was muted. If I payed any attention, it was only to the bits of the world that mimicked my mood. But I didn’t see and note all of this at the time. I thought that the world had changed; I didn’t see it was not the world, but my self that had muffled and filtered. Depression is called abaissement du niveau mental for a reason.
Though my dreams were talking to me, though the natural world was talking to me, I was deaf. It was time for help and help came in the guise of a guide. That’s one of the important things that come to one when life ceases to have depth and meaning, a guide. A real guide will coax images, sensations and fantasies into existence, images that point back at the blockages of energy and in doing so, point to new ways of thinking, doing and being that are necessary so that the journey can continue.
As I went walking later in the day, after writing up the first part of this post, I saw that the day had become even more bleak, grayer and darker with thick air. It made me think of how depression is not limited to individual people but can often seize a community or a country. In small communities, a tragedy involving young people often steals the energy and vitality from the community. It is only after a period of grieving and healing that the community can again find a new way to go forward. In the modern world we see a bleakness descend over whole countries. We call it recession and depression and we dig in, bury our heads and wait for the darkness to pass. But like an individual, a guide is needed for the collective psyche, a guide that will invoke active imagination which will bring new possibilities and new hope.
Who will be our guide? What fantasies will our collective imagination produce? How do we get there from here?
I have been spending time in the hills when the weather permits, not often as the weather has been quite uncooperative in terms of heavy winds, dark skies, rain or very cool temperatures. On Tuesday I finally was able to get back into the hills to enjoy moments of sunshine, warmth and an intimate relationship with the earth and life.
It is interesting that each time I visit these hills which provide a sanctuary from the noise and the crowds, I am gifted with the presence of animals. I don’t always take their photos, but I go get to see them and they get to see me; this Mule doe for example. Of course, I am alone at these times, no distracting noises from other people or dogs which would break whatever bond exists. When others are present, the animals are seen, but only in passing as they run off quickly. When I am alone, the running stops. And finally, when they do move away, it is not in a fear response. I wonder why this deer stopped long enough to engage me, eye to eye over a short distance? What was she thinking? What was she trying to tell me? Did she want me to follow?
In searching for answers, I came upon the following:
Just as the deer has an uncanny sense of where to find the green freshness earth provides, we can ask the deer within ourselves to seek out our inner treasures. In meditation or day dream, go on a spiritual hike with the deer. See yourself walking in the woods with the deer leading you into amazing depths within your soul. Each step you and the deer take will lead you deeper into your spiritual knowing, and to limitless treasure within.
The deer (particularly the doe, females) has the capacity for infinite generosity. Their heart rhythms pulse in soft waves of kindness. Match that graciousness by offering your trust to her. She will reward you by leading you to the most powerful spiritual medicine you can fathom. (Avia Venefica, Behind the Signs: Animal Symbolism)
Ah, that resonates even if it isn’t a Jungian who has written the words. One of the things that I have learned is not to question the source of the words or images that resonate, but to look at the resonance itself which is tapping into one’s own psyche giving us the opportunity to discover something long hidden, something new-to-us as conscious beings.
Is she my guide or my totem? I have to say that she is a guide for me at this moment in time, one of many guides that have made an appearance in my life, guides that have been both animal and human.
I was being driven to view vegetable farming in a village near Hoi An when I say these three boats in the river. I managed to get the guide to have the driver stop so that I could take this photo. Though it seemed to crimp on the guide’s agenda and time, I finally got me way and walked back to the scene above. It only takes a bit of courage to say no to one’s guide when the guide forgets that it isn’t about the guide.
Sometimes, perhaps even often, this is the problem with counselling and therapy, the agenda is about meeting the needs of the service provider, than it is about meeting the needs of the one who comes for help and guidance. In seeking out a guide, one shouldn’t give up one’s autonomy and one’s ability to think for oneself and make decisions. One’s counsellor, therapist, analyst or shrink is not a god.
Okay, that small rant is over. I sometimes get heated because others want control that doesn’t belong to them, such as the guide that would have not stopped for me to take this photo.
The hills to the south provide quite a few opportunities for photographs. It doesn’t seem to matter that I have probably taken similar photos in the past. Since I continue to change over the years as I get older, these scenes take on different affect. Because I change, the world around me retains a sense of vital energy, a numinous quality.
As I wrote these words above, my mind raced with thoughts of those who miss out on this renewal, those who live with the creed “seen that, done that and bought the tee-shirt!” The search for renewal is limited to the outer world and outer experience. The constant changing of even the home with new furniture, new furniture arrangements, new colours, new toys . . . The need for renewal has to be met or we feel suffocated, bored, a loss of soul.
Carl Jung had to deal with this as well. In his Red Book, a very personal story of Jung’s search for soul and soul-renewal written between 1914 to 1930, CGJ said:
“My soul leads me into the desert, into the desert of my own self. I did not think that my soul is a desert, a barren hot desert, dusty and without drink” (Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus, 2009)
I want to give credit to Heide Kolb, one of my Twitter friends, for this quote which appears in this blog post. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have a copy of this book. Now, back to the post.
In the desert … the desert of one’s self … there among the thorns, thistles and burnt grasses … in the desert one passes through suffering, a necessary passage, in order to go deeper and discover that which was hidden.
However, in taking this journey of self-discovery, unlike Jung who somehow managed to emerge sane doing the journey without a guide, I would advise that anyone trying to renew their spirit, the soul and the will to life, that the journey be taken with a guide at hand. Like Urspo commented in the last post, guides are necessary for almost all of us. Even then, the journey is painful and difficult. But, the cost is worth it. As the old expression goes: ”no pain, no gain.”
If we look all around us at all the renewal projects happening in the outer world, we see that change is a difficult process to experience whether it be changing the face of a community, changing the structure of a family, changing location, changing relationship. Even the creation of new materials only comes through destruction of old materials (petroleum into plastic is a good example). The change process is an alchemical process – baptism by fire, so to speak.
So, if you are bored with life, bored with yourself and others, then perhaps this is a signal for you to embark on the voyage of self-discovery . . . with a guide, of course.
This is another photo taken while driving from my home in Saskatchewan to my son’s home in Alberta. This is an older bridge that has quite a bit of rust showing after a long winter which requires the use of salt in order to allow driving with more safety, something that is “normal” for Canada.
I like photos of bridges but I don’t really care for crossing bridges. Well, I think I had better explain this a bit better. When I was younger, bridges brought out fear in me – I am afraid of heights. Now, I handle the fear much better and only feel a slight dis-ease when walking on bridges, especially close to the edges of the bridge. I know that it is necessary to get across this bridge if I am to get to my destination, so that helps as well. The same is said for all the other bridges, even those that seem fragile and extremely narrow.
It helps to have a guide when tackling these bridges encountered. Even now, in the time passed midlife, I do better with a guide. For example, the footbridge I had to cross on my journey to the Arenal Volcano. It didn’t “look” very safe to me, especially with the declining light of night’s quick approach. The guide gave me enough confidence, especially since I knew that he had made this journey numerous times. Still, I felt each sway of the bridge and a small tightening within as I stepped onto the bridge and began the crossing. My calm only returned when I was safely on the other side.
It isn’t much different with one’s journey of individuation, one’s journey of the psyche through life. It is good to have a guide when one meets with fear and depression. How does one “trust” the storms that are a necessary part of the transitions such as I noted in yesterday’s post? With the approach of storms and terrifying bridges, one is often paralyzed by fear. What if fear is trying to tell us to “stay away” from this place, to go a different direction? Without a guide, one gets stuck, frozen. This is the time when a guide can show us a way forward.
Too often I have seen people retreat into drugs, into alcohol or any other “aide” that allows them to sit still in their fear rather than face the times of transitions.
In my recent descent in to the underworld, I needed to use a guide. I knew that I didn’t have the tools or the skills to make this journey alone. On the right is a photo of my guide, a Mayan. With his gentle and caring lead, I was able to do what I haven’t been able to do in the past, attempt a physical descent. I have a fear of heights and shake on ladders. The first stage of my journey to the underworld was to descend a relatively flimsy ladder of sorts, one that would never be sold in a store. Yet, I took the risk and curiously felt a sense of safety where everywhere else I had always felt sensations of vertigo and nausea.
Into the depths I strode, carefully. Down further inclines where I had to hold a rope where otherwise I would have slipped over an edge to land on rocks below. Again, no vertigo, no fear. Strange.
I have followed a guide in the past through a number of other journeys through the underworld, a place of darkness of the spirit and soul. It was much the same as I was risking sanity not knowing if I would ever return to a normal outer world. Two guides became critical to my moving forward, N. who caught me as I stumbed at the age of 47, and K. who lead me through the underworld through my dreams, poetry and art when I was 49. One guide, N., was a man, the second guide, K., was a woman.
I have also been a guide for others over many decades. It is strange how one has the strength and wisdom to be a guide, yet finds an inner weakness and fear when it is time yet once again for another descent which leads yet again to another rebirth, another ascent. But of course, this is just as it should be when one is engaged in one’s personal hero myth.
In response to the call the hero undertakes a journey, usually a dangerous journey to an unknown region full of both promise and danger. Often the journey is a descent. Sometimes, as with Jonah, Aeneas, Christ, and Psyche, it is a descent into the depths — the sea, the underworld, or Hades itself. Always there is a perilous crossing. Sometimes the faintheartedness of the hero is balanced by the appearance of guardians or helpful animals that enable the hero to perform the superhuman task that cannot be accomplished unaided. These helpful forces are representatives of the psychic totality that supports the ego in its struggle. They bear witness to the fact that the essential function of the hero myth is the development of the individual’s true personality.
Ah! So that is what this journey to the underworld has been all about.
Recently I managed to visit the two largest Mayan cave structures in the Yucatan, Calcehtok and Loltun. This photo was from Loltun. I had walked through the caves (grutas) to a depth of forty-five metres. In this photo, I am not too deep, yet deep enough to appreciate a ray of sunlight coming through an opening on the surface.
In the caves of Calcehtok, I wandered through a more primitive set of caves, more authentic for the primitiveness. my guide through this underword only spoke Spanish, a language I have just begun to learn. Yet, as he talked, I sensed a deeper understanding that mere words should have given me. When we were in the depths of the caves, in a huge dome-shaped room in which an alter stood, an ancient alter that wasn’t shaped by human hands. Around the perimeter of the huge room, small niches held offerings. Then, the guide asked me for my light and told me we would experience darkness and have a chance to meditate. The darkness was total. The only sound was an occasional drip. Fear was absent. Peace was present.
The journey would not have been possible without a guide. And, this teaches me about the need for a guide in my descents into the underworld of my inner world.
At times it feels as though the heat and the winds that are part of the alchemical process of transformation, leave one feeling dessicated, a husk of what and who one used to be. One has entered into the process of “self” being stripped of its metaphysical wrappings in order to free an inner voice, the source of inner guidance which serves as a guide through the transformative process which allows the self to emerge out of the purifying flame like the Phoenix.
Spending this time in Mexico, in the land of the Mayans, I see and sense much that leads me to wonder. I see the acts of the sea and the winds which have scoured so much of man’s puny efforts. And out of what often looks like sterilized concrete, life arises defiantly in bright greens and reds. This gives me hope in my own transformative process. I won’t wither and vanish, I will re-emerge showing a different self, one that is vital and animated.
Las grutas de Tzabnah at the edges of a Mexican village called Tecoh in the Yucatan. Grutas are caves, dark places under the surface. In these places one would be well advised to travel with a guide. In the photo that I took displayed above, I used what little natural light I could find, light that filtered through one of the natural openings to the surface above. As I travelled about in this cave, I was limited in how far I could wander as I entered without a source of light or without a guide. My only light was the laser beam from the camera that would flash before I depressed the shutter button completely. Even with this light source, it was a risky business. I walked with one hand above and in front of my head as there were many outcrops of rock hidden in the darkness. Stepping forward was tentative not knowing what would be encountered. In many ways, this is the journey one takes into the under/innerworld of one’s ‘self’.
Often with the advent of midlife, one is forced to come to terms with the realisation that life must be more than what one has encountered. There must be a deeper aspect, something that gives meaning. It can’t all be about the stuff we collect or the status or sense of presence we craft in our collective encounters. One feels an emptiness, a darkness, a cavern. For those willing and able to risk the unknown, it is the time to find a guide in order to make the descent become about discovery rather than of self-destruction. It is too easy to get lost in the underworld.