Archive for the ‘inner self’ tag
In looking for a new way to be masculine in our modern world, I guess one would have to first ask the question: “Is it necessary?” Men effectively rule the world, but so far that isn’t playing out well for most men, almost all women and their children. It isn’t playing out well for the planet either. Men continue to demonstrate that they have no qualms about raping the planet, women, other men, and yes, even children. Of course not all men are rapists. The fact is most men are as much a victim of the patriarchal power juggernaut. Many men have opened their eyes, that is have become conscious of the negative effects of unconscious male behaviours, the immature and instinctual behaviours that continue to blindfold many who hold the reins of power. These men are ashamed of what has been done in the name of men and the masculine.
I watch my son and my two sons-in-law acting conscientiously to be good fathers, good husbands and good caretakers of the world. I see them wrestling and trying to balance the “world of men” within which they work and the alter world of family. At times they become too guided by their female partners, seeking to be gentler in atonement for their gender.
It is as if the only way to be sensitive enough of their world and the people within it is through denying their masculinity, or at least disguising it so that it isn’t so “in your face.” There is no guide map on how to leave behind the destructive patriarchal model and move into a new relationship with the world and the feminine. David Tacey says it well in his book, Remaking Men:
“We must unpack and disassemble patriarchy, while at the same time, developing new meanings and metaphors for masculinity, which must never be constructed as the ‘enemy’ of men or women. I believe that we need to find a ‘third way,’ or a ‘middle path’ between the extremes of patriarchal nostalgia (Iron John) and matriarchal identification (Oedipus). The zeitgeist urges us to defend the feminine, but the development of masculinity forces us to differentiate ourselves from the mother. The answer to this dilemma can be found, I think, in the masculine commitment to the feminine soul, or anima.” (p. 7)
The middle way, a middle path. That sounds about right and it fits with my following a middle path in terms of spirituality. The middle way where one doesn’t fall into the mind trap of macho or effeminate, the path of Iron John or Oedipus.
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.
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.
I found this Star Fruit hanging in a tree in Thailand in January and found that I needed to take its photo because of the “light” that glowed on the fruit. In a way, it was as if the light was within the fruit rather than shining on the fruit. Of course, objectively, the sunshine was touching the fruit from the outside. But, and there is always a “but,” perhaps the light was coming from within the fruit itself – at least that what caught my eye.
It is too easy to dismiss that which comes from within, to deny its very existence, or at the least, its worth in comparison to the outer world of things and people. At least it is too easy for me to dismiss the positive inner light that shines within me. Strange how it is so easy for most of us to see the light shining out from others but so difficult for us to see our own inner light. It is there, in each of us. Sometimes it is buried so deep under layers and layers of denial and repression, under the words of others in our life who somehow felt a need to cut us down to size in order to have a momentary sense of standing taller. For whatever reason, we believe the words that denied our light than the words that speak to our light.
Why is this? For me, it has to do with the idea that to believe the best of oneself is to be egotistical, to be all about me, me, me. Childhood teaches many of us that we must defer our belief in self to the belief in others: belief in parents, in school, in authority, in community – the self comes in last place or else. We learn to sacrifice in order to please and appease and believe somehow in the process that our individual self will flourish in such an environment of self-denial. Of course, it doesn’t work, can’t work.
Denying self doesn’t work. The only result is a sense of diminishment, dis-ease, and disillusionment. We end up trying deperately to fill in the holes in our self with stuff, experiences, addictions of all kinds. And we don’t find the hoped for relief at all. No matter how many new cars, new partners, new toys, new whatever; something remains missing, a hole in the bucket of our lives that refuses to allow us to feel fulfilled. The only way to get out of this trap of placing our sense of self under the authority of others, is to finally risk becoming aware of ourselves, be willing to risk connecting with the inner light that is there waiting, patiently waiting for us to open our eyes. Yes, there is a risk of being called selfish. But, that risk is necessary if one is to rejoin the land of the living, full living.
My mind has been busy of late even though I have spent a lot of time away from my computer and those things that often feed my mind with all sorts of data. Rather than a focus on books, my mind has been occupied with sorting through sensory data that has been flooding in due to “engagement” with face-to-face life. Taking two weeks off from the “process” of analysis and leaving Calgary in order to spend the time in my home in Saskatchewan has given me an opportunity to break through the routines that somehow shift a person into a more “unconscious” way of being.
One of my latest dreams highlights the need for being “real,” whatever that proves to be. I called the dream “Haqiqia Boots” because in the dream the word “haqiqia” was both heard and seen. In the dream I found myself in a cold, wintry scene without winter boots. The dream was a positive dream in terms of tone and feel, with the main concern whether or not I should have my real winter boots sent to me or if I should buy some new ones. The dream’s location seemed to come out of my distant past where I began my career in education, but with a corresponding resemblance to the relatively recent past where I was still engaged in teaching in China even though I had officially retired, a blend of the two. Just a little side note to add; I was given a “real” traditional pair of winter boots the day before the dream.
Of course, the dream of winter boots is easily explained due to the event of being given the pair of boots. Winter boots require a winter scene. The fact that I used boots similar to these boots while living in Canada’s far north where I began my teaching and school administration career “fit” with the idea in the dream of teaching. But there, common sense came to an end. Why the reference to China? Was it because China was my most recent experience of teaching? It didn’t seem real to me at that point as the urban Chinese experience didn’t fit the location. Looking for something to make the connection, I hoped that the word “haqiqia” would fill in the gap of missing knowledge, missing information that would allow the dream to “talk” to me.
I began to wonder if the word “haqiqia” was a Cree or Dene word, or even a Chinese word given the sense of both Northern Canada and China that was being evoked. Curious, I did a “Google” search and found thatI began to wonder if the word “haqiqia” was a Cree or Dene word, or even a Chinese word given the sense of both Northern Canada and China that was being evoked. Curious, I did a “Google” search and found that the the word “haqiqia” was actually an Arabic word. Using both “Google Translate” and “Babylon Translator” I came up with the same definition – “real.” was actually an Arabic word. Using both “Google Translate” and “Babylon Translator” I came up with the same definition – “real.” Now, I was really confused. How could I know an Arabic word (this has happened on a previous occasion in a dream in 1998, the appearance of an Arabic word)? How could I explain “seeing” and “hearing” this Arabic word in relation to a pair of winter boots, real winter boots?
Now, to go further into the dream work, I had to look at the recent emotional situation of my life allowing for resonance and feeling tones to help discover the intention of the dream. But rather than go further into the dream work here, I want to return to the word “haqiqia” as this was the dominant aspect of the dream as I felt and understood it at the time of the dream and afterwords. “Real – haqiqia.” Out of curiosity I then did a wider search and found that the word “haqiqi” is an Urdu word that means “true, real.” I knew that Urdu is a language spoken in India and Pakistan so I wondered how this could match up with the Arabic word so perfectly. A bit more research and I found that Urdu was a language that came with the Muslim migration to southern Asia. Was all of this taking me further and further from the dream? I was beginning to think so until I realised that the word “real / haqiqia” was being confirmed as the “core” element of the dream, that I shouldn’t be distracted by the surreal aspects of the dream, that I needed to come to grips with “reality,” to be “true” to my “self” on my journey that bounces between Calgary and Saskatchewan.
Today’s image was borrowed from Top News. This is a relatively recent photo of Canada’s Prime Minister. My intention is using this photo is to attempt to capture the attitude of contempt. This is a Prime Minister who has no trouble lying to anyone and everyone in public while promoting a vision of taking down other political parties and destroying the social fabric of Canada in favour of vested economic interests which are not necessarily aligned with any particular nation. In my opinion, he is not much different from many other leaders, acting out of a collective shadow in the attempt to gain and keep power. And, I am sure, that inside of all of this darkness, there is a man who is as lost as the rest of us, a good man, who search for meaning in a world that has descended into meaningless chaos.
Perhaps it is because I spent a fair number of my youth in Ottawa, but I have a passion for political engagement and find myself very worried about the state of Democracy in the modern world, the U.S.A. and Canada in particular. In Ottawa, our present government appears to have obtained its majority government power through the use of dirty tricks and outright fraud - actions which had they been done by ordinary citizens, would result in jail terms. What we get instead of justice is a sneering contempt of the citizens and vitriolic attacks on anyone and everyone that dares point fingers or ask questions. As far as questioning the current government, media is limited in the number of questions they may ask, questions which are provided by the current government, and then having the government choose which journalist from Main Stream Media is permitted to ask these questions. To all appearances, democracy is being dismantled in favour of corporate power, a power that has no geopolitical boundaries. I don’t want to make this post a political rant, but I do want to set the current situation in the spotlight for the purposes of looking at the current myth.
“The crises of the world are not just “out there” in the geopolitical sphere but “in here” in the individual soul. The questions, explanations and great rhythms that once guided the soul by way of living myth are still within us, still guiding our lives. And we are obliged to render this process more conscious lest we live blindly, false to ourselves and false to nature. . . . we must more consciously create our own myth or be enslaved to the myth of another. (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, p. 29)
And important reminder – the darkness and chaos we sense in our communities and countries are a reflection of the darkness and chaos within us. As I listen to the strident voices ranting, condemning, preaching, threatening and pleading – all the energy directed outwards in an effort to refashion the world into a different world of which there is no common vision – I become more and more certain that the real work to be done is to first get one’s own house in order; take care of one’s inner world, the inner darkness and chaos. I do have hope, but that hope isn’t for a quick turn around on the collective level. I get the feeling that there is a lot of hurt to come for as Carl G. Jung once said: ”What is not brought to consciousness, comes to us as fate.” And to my mind, there is little evidence of collective consciousness governing our world. We push out the darkness, our personal and collective inner darkness, onto others and as a collective we then find that inner darkness running amok in our outer world.
Yesterday I posted a photo which was similar to this photo. The difference is that today’s photo puts yesterday’s photo in context. A day older, I find myself shifting my focus away from the darkness to the light, to the golden light. In the darkness of yesterday, there was a reflection of that golden light, a reflection that taught me to look “up” from the depths and to follow my eyes up from the depths to find a place somewhere between the light and the darkness. And so, today, I am finding that I can be here with you from this middle ground.
The voice one uses from the depths is different from the voice from the middle ground and the heights. I have to realise that I am a human that needs to live in a world in the middle. If I fly to high into the light, I will suffer like Icarius. If I fly too low I will enter into an equally dangerous place.
As I am getting older, I am getting a bit more impatient. I want to know too much, to find too many answers in too much of a hurry. My psyche tells me to slow down and allow it all to work out in its own time, to stop “forcing” the issue. But that same psyche doesn’t tell me what is slow enough. It becomes my work to monitor with a small part of my brain and body, what is happening, to make that call of “too much” and “too fast” for me. And I listen to that small part of my body and mind.
So today, I find myself sitting peacefully on my balcony after a morning of sunning and swimming and letting go of the darkness that has engulfed me. I chose the descent and I now choose this time of surfacing. I will be diving again when it is time. This is just the way it is as I take a month in Thailand for the healing work of depth psychology.
Life is a fragile thing as are the relationships one has during the incredibly short span of years allotted to each of us. We often find ourselves walking on eggshells around those we hold closest to us, hoping that somehow nothing will disturb the relationship. We understand how fragile relationships are in the modern world as we see divorce rates rise. Abandoned wives, husbands and children talk to us of relationships broken intentionally, even those who take their own lives abandon those they leave behind. Death through illness, accidents and old age – all unintentional breaking of relationship just adds to the sense that one can never take for granted the presence of another person.
But yet, we rarely think twice about abandoning ourselves, our dreams, our uniqueness. How quickly we abandon a principle or a belief about ourselves if we think it will please someone we hold in high regard. Often we abandon our principles simply in order to keep a job, ensure that our relationship with the employer isn’t challenged – we come “yes” men and women. Often we abandon our principles in order to live within a community knowing that it is better for our spouse and children in the community if we adopt the community norms as our norms. Often we abandon our sense of self in order to encourage our spouse to believe that it is worth it to stay in relation with us. But most often, we abandon the relationship with our soul, with the core of who we sense/know/intuit/feel we are. We fall into a trap in which we have a problem balancing what others expect from us in return for a relationship and what we need to keep in order to have a healthy relationship with the self.
In today’s photo, I get a “dream” sense in which the woman is anima, the soul and she is retreating into the distance, heading back to the sea, back to the anima mundi. And the self is left alone on the shore, standing tall and proud, a precarious and temporary standing.
What do we keep, what do we give up when it comes to being in relation? This often is a critical question faced by those who enter into the journey of individuation, a journey of alchemical change, a journey that highlights differences in the face to face world in the eyes of others. The loneliness tempts us with relationship if only we would abandon the journey and rejoin the collective. But at what cost?
I chose this photo because it holds the image of the lotus blossom and the shadow image of the lotus blossom. I purposely want this duality in an image so as to address something that needs to be addressed when working with active imagination – the separation of fact from fantasy. I have been talking about active imagination as something vital the transformational process of individuation without setting any guidelines. Rather than make too much a mess of trying to set guidelines, I will bring Jung’s words here on this topic:
“The way of the transcendent function is an individual destiny. But on no account should one imagine that this way is equivalent to the life of a psychic anchorite, to alienation from the world. Quite the contrary, for such a way is possible and profitable only when the specific worldly tasks which individuals set for themselves are carried out in reality. Fantasies are no substitute for living; they are fruits of the spirit which fall to him who pays tribute to life.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 7, paragraph 369)
The words are quite clear – one doesn’t engage in active imagination to escape unpleasant realities. One uses active imagination when most of the work of the outer world has been accomplished – parenting, career, care-taking, etc. – or nearing completion. With the engagement with midlife there is often a sense of “is this all that life is about?” that begins to haunt one who has succeeded in the work of the outer world. There is a sense of “there must be more than this!” that needs to be addressed. Active imagination is just one method to help find that which seems to be missing. I use the word seems with deliberate purpose for what is missing is not really missing but rather located in the unconscious which is dissociated from the conscious contents of the ego.
“Finally, the normal man will never be burdened . . . for he is everlastingly content with the little that lies within his reach.” (ibid)
There is a danger in treading the world of the unconscious when one is not ready, when one has not finished the work of the outer world, when one is not called to wander in an inner world in search of answers to questions that an outer world can’t answer. It is a matter more akin to not having much choice if one is to remain sane that it is about curiosity – hence the feeling that one is forced into an alter journey in an alter universe.
I took this photo earlier today, just before I ate my lunch. The scene was quite near the apartment, less than 50 metres away. Because it was lunch time, the people who work at hard, physical jobs such as taking care of the boulevard green spaces, often quickly eat a small lunch then use their time to rest. They have learned the art of sleeping on pavement and hard ground at a moment’s notice. I guess one could say that they have mastered the art of energy conservation.
In Jungian terms, psychic energy is often referred to as libido:
“All psychological phenomena can be considered as manifestations of energy, in the same way that all physical phenomena have been understood as energic manifestations ever since Robert Mayer discovered the law of the conservation of energy. Subjectively and psychologically, this energy is conceived as desire. I call it libido, using the word in its original sense, which is by no means only sexual.” (Jung, C.W. Volume IV, paragraph 567)
The photo talks about conservation of energy and about the absence of energy, at least in terms of conscious energy. Digging further into my texts to see where the absence of conscious energy would take me, I soon found myself looking at the word depression. Interesting. As a therapist I have often been faced with clients having serious issues with depression. In their waking life they had little energy to perform tasks, to be present in their relationships, to care about themselves or their work. Since I learned long ago in science classes that energy is neither created or destroyed, it made sense that the energy that used to be present in waking life had to have gone somewhere in the psyche. But where? If not in the conscious psyche, it must then be in the unconscious psyche.
“The unconscious has simply gained an unassailable ascendancy; it wields an attractive force that can invalidate all conscious contents – in other words, it can withdraw libido from the conscious world and thereby produce a ‘depression,’ an abaissemnet du niveau mental (Janet). But as a result of this we must, according to the law of energy, expect an accumulation of value – i.e. libido – in the unconscious.” (Jung, C.W. Volume VII, paragraph 63)
Since the energy has gone underground, so-to-speak, in order to regain energy in the conscious state we must do the work of connecting with the unconscious via dream work, or via active imagination. In a way this work is not much different from being a plumber and unplugging a drain or a toilet so that the water (energy) can again run free.
For myself, continuing to work with active imagination sort of acts as a way of preventing an accumulation of libido (energy) in the unconscious as well as having too much energy located in the outer psyche (ego). I do better when there is balance between inner and outer