Archive for the ‘rebirth’ tag
I do love spring, especially as I wander with my camera and spot new life emerging from the ground following the warming of the earth which had been frozen in winter. There is something uplifting in spotting these first wildflowers of a new season. They are so fragile yet somehow they survive winters of temperatures that drop to -30 and even -40 Celsius, temperatures that are made even worse by winter winds and the lack of sunshine which mark Canadian prairie winters.
I have specific associations with the colours of the crocus, the mauve and the golden centre, associations that go back to youth and the colours I would see in church services; the purple of lent and the gold of Easter Sunday. I know that there are other colours associated with Easter, but this intellectual knowledge takes second place in contrast to my childhood associations. Spring was about the delicate colours of new birth that arrived each year, colours that often found their way into the colours of clothing worn by the women that seemed to mimic the season. Though Easter has long passed, it is the colours and the appearance of these colours in nature that herald new beginnings and new birth – a rebirth of spirit – that have more significance. Nature tells me the real story, the story of time and place rather than the story of a fixed calendar.
It has been almost three months since I have returned to analysis, to the work of diving deep into the darkness of an inner world in order to reconnect and remember. Now, there seems to be a sense that light is beginning to rekindle external life with a new sense of energy and urgency, an up-welling of libido which demands that I live fully in my body as well as in my head. Yes, there is an urgency in this as the years of my life are racing towards a return to the source of all being. I am being told, “don’t sit back and wait for a better time for this is the time, now.”
And, I have learned to listen to the guiding voice within, to trust that guiding voice. And so, I begin to move back into the land of external life with more purpose and with dreams that will finally be honoured, dreams that have lain dormant for too many years. This was the inspiration given to me as I wandered the Canadian prairies and found crocuses there to encourage me to be reborn, to be reinvigorated with life.
Another magnolia flower that I caught with my camera on April 1st shows a more feminine aspect. In a recent post I featured a magnolia blossom before it had opened or “flowered,” an image that evoked a sense of the masculine. As one of my readers noted in response to that post, the magnolia has both a masculine and feminine aspect. It is amazing to me how quickly the shift from a faint bud on a tree to petals fading, aging and falling off the same tree, occurs. In a way, it is a strong statement about how transitory we are in the big picture. Each of us, in turn, flowers only to fade. This isn’t something that should give rise to despair, but rather give us reason to jump fully into life with the opportunity and time given to us.
So, what is the fullness of life for any of us, for all of us? Well, that is not so easily defined as each of us has a unique journey. What makes the definition harder is the possibility that who we are, the unique self is not fully contained in a biological body. There appears to be too much evidence that we are more than the sum of our physical aspects. The word soul adds a dimension that suggests that the body is a host, an opportunity for “SELF” to be made manifest. Soul appears to be something that is not bound in the constraints of time, but timeless in the sense that there is no beginning or end to its being.
In looking at the magnolia tree and the rest of nature, watching the birth and rebirth repeated endlessly on one tree, and then seeing a new tree replacing an old tree as a statement that only the container has changed and not the essence, I get a powerful affirmation of my own being. In watching the magnolia blossom, I get a message that I too can risk putting my full self out there chasing dreams. Fear of aging and death recede as the essence of who I am does not die. To refuse the chasing of dreams leads me into dark holes that swallow me up, nightmares of darkness.
Though I am passed the mid-point of my life, I am vitalized and reveling in the sunshine and more tolerant of the gloomy cloudy days that in turn give me food for the next sunny day. I have dared to follow my bliss and feel fully alive as a result. Dare to follow your dreams rather than let them fester so that they become your nightmares.
Plum blossoms from Hong Mei Park in ChangZhou formed a beautiful reminder that spring is on the verge of coming bringing with it, a new season of regeneration, a new season of hope. In a strange kind of way, the promise of rebirth is both saddening as well as it is uplifting.
I think of my childhood and the short time I believed in the literal dogma of the Catholic church. Spring, the season of Easter is a celebration of rebirth. But, that rebirth is founded upon death, upon the shedding of blood. The images that come to mind are of a Christ with thorns around his bleeding heart – the colour that is found in these plum blossoms.
Something has to die in order for rebirth to be possible. This is something that happens everyday, in ways that one never thinks about. Hidden within our bodies, cells die in order for new cells to take their place. In our communities, businesses die so that newer versions better adapted to newer conditions can take their place.
Some changes are slow such as the process of changing one’s mind, allowing a new idea to blossom. We cling to an old idea long after it has ceased being useful. As humans stuck in patterns we bring out the big guns in order to resist letting go of the old. It matters little if the old ideas have ceased to work. Like old warriors, we mount a crusade to restore the primacy of an idea that has long since been rendered lifeless by the cosmos.
I remember working with teachers in professional development workshops where resistance often got in the way of real improvements to what was happening in the classroom. All agreed that there were problems, but the act of letting go of old ideas to allow new ones to be tried was resisted as if the new ideas were an enemy. Rather than change, the belief was that everyone else was doing it wrong and that all had to do the same old things harder and more often. Blame was placed on the parents, the children, colleagues, administrators for the problems encountered in the classroom. The common denominator in all of this resistance was a belief in the past as the only truth. Current reality was denied and as a result, the future was sacrificed.
When I see the issues that trouble the world today in places such as the U.S.A., Canada, Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan and numerous other places, I see the same fundamentalism at work, those in power refuse to allow something different to be born. New ideas are purged as well as those who espouse the new ideas. Yet, change does come, eventually, even if it means waiting until the holders of the old ideas have died. It comes back to the idea that rebirth only occurs because of a death.
I just had to choose this picture taken in the early morning while boating down the Mekong River. Today’s post is going to be very short as I have only a few moments until I begin wandering through the ancient part of Hoi An, in central Vietnam. I hope to post again later today in the evening when things slow down.
This image has women plying the oars on the river. I imagine them as anima leading me from light to a darker place, a journey to touch the edges of the unconscious, to touch the fabric of the soul – my soul and the collective soul – anima mundi. This is a journey of life, a journey that constantly provides for rebirth and renewal of the spirit. Xin Chao!
This is an older photo which I found in my photo archives. I took the photo at dawn in November, 2004 just outside of my house looking southeast. For the next while, I will be posting other older photos here. I want to share them before I forget that they even exist. That is a problem when one is a photographer, too many photographs now that I shoot digital rather than film. That said, I do have a large number of film images to be digitized. This particular photo of dawn stood the test of time and didn’t get culled. I have likely culled about four of every five images taken when I first started using digital technology because of storage issues. Now, I delay culling because I don’t have to worry about storage issues. Now, looking back through the photo files as I move all of them onto the new external hard drive, I catch myself looking for photos I knew I took only to find that the photo in question was missing – culled. This realisation that even though culled, the photo remains in my mind and has done its work with my psyche.
Photos such as this one survive because they are always current, because the are more than a journalistic record. This scene of a Canadian prairie dawn talks to me of birth and rebirth, the eternal circle of all that is.
“Just as the sun, by its own motion and in accordance with its own inner law, climbs from morn till noon, crosses the meridian and goes its downward way towards evening, leaving its radiance behind it, and finally plunges into all-enveloping night, so man sets his course by immutable laws and, his journey over, sinks into the darkness, to rise again in his children and begin the cycle anew.” (Jung, CW Vol. 5, Symbols of Transformation, par. 251)
This is something to think about as I continue the search for understanding, especially understanding my “self.” Again I take this quote from the book, C.G. Jung: Aspects of the Masculine. I don’t pretend to speak for the feminine or even understand the psyche of a woman. I don’t know if a man could ever reach that kind of understanding, especially as task of self-understanding seems to be a life’s work. So, I focus on the masculine in order to see my own part, to take full ownership of myself in order to become more aware of self in relation to other, to my wife, to my children, and to my grandchildren. I exist as a solitary man. I exist in relationship to others. And it is in relationship to the feminine that I find completion, the drawing of the circle in which dawn will again come in my children and in my grandchildren.
This morning was different from most mornings here in Costa Rica. For one thing, I slept in until 6:00 AM. Ie got a solid eight hours of sleep and had no intention of going out for a morning run along the beach. Yesterday, I was too tired and had planned on a day off for today. As a result, I was sitting on the small patio having my morning coffee when this fellow and two mates came to sit for a brief moment on the wires just a short distance away. I only got to take this one photo before they were gone. Somehow, I think it might be a Red-Throated Ant Tanager. If I am wrong, I hope someone can help me out in identifying him.
I find this little bird of special interest, specifically because of his colour. The orange-red chest makes me think of heat and change – alchemy. Alchemy makes me think of how things transform through assimilation. Alchemy speaks of death and rebirth, thoughts of the Phoenix rising out of its own ashes come to mind.
I want to return to my work in progress, getting to know anima and in the process, becoming more animated.
The assimilation of a particular anima-image results in its death, so to speak. That is to say, as one personification to another. anima development in a man is thus a continuous process of death and rebirth. An overview of this process is very important in surviving the transition stage between one anima-image and the next. Just as no real woman relishes being discarded for another, so no anima figure willingly takes second place to her upstart rival. In this regard, as in so much else involved in a person’s psychological development, the good is the enemy of the better. To have contact with your inner woman at all is a blessing; to be tied to one that holds you back can be fatal. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, p. 15)
I don’t know how this really all makes sense, but the words jumped out at me when I read them. In a way they give me permission to change, to not get stuck in some place in time where I became a better person, but not yet the best person I could be. As I change, I sense that things are shifting beyond my field of vision, deep within and in the world without.
Remembering that the face and voice of anima that aren’t made conscious are often projected onto an “other,” becoming aware of these previously hidden faces of anima and assimilation of this into the psyche results in a withdrawal of those projections. There is no doubt in my mind that in withdrawing projections, one stands in a different relationship with the other, one that may or may not be viewed positively. The self changes, consciously. The other readjusts position in relation to this re-animated self; and in the process enters uncertain terrain, especially as the terrain begins to show signs of constant shifting. The thoughts that one knows the other is thrown into doubt, a doubt that forces one to begin considering self. And the relationship changes from two enmeshed into a pairing of separate selves.
All of this, perhaps, is nothing more than words. However for me, there is a symbolism that is being affirmed by the images that appear before me, images such as this bird. In the time spent here, I have been sunbathing and losing tan lines, becoming fully cooked with the heat piercing deep – purposefully mixing the alchemical pieces to purposefully spur on the transformations as though there was no time to waste. And like this bird, I have turned a deep brown and red colour on the outside, a changed outer shell that proclaims that the faces and masks of the past are now gone. What is next? Where next? Well, the work is unfinished so I will not worry overmuch about these questions. Rather, I will live the processes.
It’s amazing how I never get tired of taking photographs of sunsets. Being fortunate enough to own a camera and being able to take sunset photos over the Canadian prairies, over lakes, in India, China, Cuba, Mexico and now Costa Rica, has been one of the greatest gifts that life has bestowed upon me. I have been to other places but always in too much of a hurry or engaged with too many people in order to take the time needed for sitting quietly with a camera waiting for that special photo – special for me and to me.
Perhaps it is because I was born almost old, with what some would call an old soul. But, I don’t really think so. For me it has to do with being able to get outside of my own ego, being able to see beyond myself as the centre of the universe while at the same time knowing that I am a full part of that universe.
Sunsets are about change for me, alchemical change that goes deep into the soul, deep into the roots of being. The red sun symbolizes the furnace that heats the elements of self, both conscious and unconscious, a furnace that cooks the elements in order to be ready for rebirth with the next rising sun.
As I went jogging this morning, something that I have returned to as long as my body and mind let me continue, I got to see the sunrise over the low mountains on my return to my starting point. At that moment, I knew that the idea of rebirth was not just a fiction, but a daily reality.
But saying all of that, I do resist change, even fight it out of fear for not knowing what that change will bring to me, what that change will cost me.
It is true that the unknown is always more or less frightening because it threatens the stability of the ego, Hence we are prone to imagine that the influence of the unconscious (from the shadow and other complexes) is deleterious and ought to be resisted. This is often so, but not necessarily, for ego-consciousness can get off-track in terms of individuation – who and what a person is meant to be. It follows, then, thanks to the self-regulating nature of the psyche, that the ego is well advised to attend to the possibilities “voiced” by the unconscious via, for instance, dreams, fantasies and synchronistic events. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book One, 2008, pp 90-91)
That is it, “possibilities.” That is what all the work in trying to become more aware of one’s own shadow, one’s unconscious contents is about. Focusing on dreams, fantasies, active imagination simply to wallow in the shadow hoping that somehow one emerges a guru is fool’s game. the risk of getting lost is too great. The work of individuation isn’t supposed to be a threat to the ego, it is supposed to be a gift to the ego in which “self” becomes, bit by bit, better understood and know. In doing the work, there is just a bit less darkness.
Darkness will always be there just as night must separate the sunset and the dawn. Daring to meet the darkness allows us to grow, to transform, to re-emerge in each new day, more complete.
Yesterday I took my camera with me when I went for my first round of golf for this new season. There was no evidence of green yet in the semi-desert hills at the golf course. The only signs of spring were a few clumps of crocus plants and open water on the river-lake. In spite of the browns and the golds and the grays, the prairie crocus speaks of hope, of promise that life does arise out of the darkness of winter. All of this is a gift of the sun, the warmth of the sun, the regenerative power of the sun. As Jung states:
Sol in alchemy is much less a definite chemical substance than a “virtus,” a mysterious power believed to have a generative and transformative effect. Just as the physical sun lightens and warms the universe, so, in the human body, there is in the heart a sunlike arcanum from which life and warmth stream forth. (CW vol. 7, “The Personification of Opposites”, paragraph 113)
Symbols. The crocus is a symbol of rebirth, of spring, of hope, of a coming warmth. As well, spring is about change and transformation – nothing will be the same. Transformation is about moving forward, becoming more conscious, more aware as we move out of the darkness and the cold.
I went on a long walk this morning, walking to the fishing village then beyond into the salt marshes that seem to cover most of the northern and western coastal areas of the Yucatan. I managed to get a number of different photos featuring birds, the safe harbour sheltering a variety of fishing boats, and hurricane damage that destroyed the bridge which once gave access to a distant town called Sisal. As I walked back, this turkey vulture presented herself and allowed me to photograph her. And now, you are probably wondering how a photo of a turkey vulture has made it into this Jungian blog. I will let Jung tell you something about vultures. The following is taken from a lecture to the Abernethian Society at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London in a speech called: THE CONCEPT OF THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS.
The vulture symbol (which Freud also discusses in the work mentioned) makes this view all the more plausible. With some justification he quotes as the source of the symbol the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo, a book much in use in Leonardo’s time. There you read that vultures are female only and symbolize the mother. They conceive through the wind (pneuma). This word took on the meaning of “spirit” chiefly under the influence of Christianity. Even in the account of the miracle at Pentecost the pneuma still has the double meaning of wind and spirit. This fact, in my opinion, points without doubt to Mary, who, a virgin by nature, conceived through the pneuma, like a vulture. Furthermore, according to Horapollo, the vulture also symbolizes Athene, who sprang, unbegotten, directly from the head of Zeus, was a virgin, and knew only spiritual motherhood.
In looking for more information to understand more about this visitor to my life today, I came across information about Nekhebet, the creator of life and the goddess responsible for death and rebirth. For those who follow the comments posted by others here, there have been a few regarding death and rebirth and past lives, past experiences of death and rebirth. It appears as though I am being pointed to being more open about possibilities that are foreign to my conscious repetoire of knowledge. I do know that I only hold a minute part of all that is within my field of awareness and that the collective unconscious is a repository that reduces my meagre knowledge base to less that a pinpoint of light. And so, I move on, perhaps a bit wiser for allowing a symbol from the collective unconscious to speak to me.