Archive for the ‘Saskatchewan’ tag
Yesterday evening I went out for the purpose of meeting with new students at the university, the Freshmen classes who were taking part in a combination “Welcome to University” and “Mid-Autumn Festival” celebration. As I walked to the university campus I saw the full moon in the sky, not an unusual site as it happens once every four weeks; but this full moon was special in terms of China as it is this particular moon which is celebrated for the Mid-Autumn Festival. I ended up taking a fair amount of photos of the moon but this one is the only one that jumped out begging for my attention when it came to writing today’s blog post after my last set of teaching classes was done for the day.
The moon is framed by a fair-sized high-voltage power pole structure. The moon seems to be trapped within the steel bars, imprisoned and contained. But of course, this is all illusion as one knows that the moon is not really contained within the crossbars, it just looks that way. It is all about perspective.
Perspective – what does the inner voices tell us about an image? What does the ego tell us about an image? What fantasies are evoked? By listening with active imagination in which we safely participate in the fantasies that come out of the engagement with the images, we can come to begin to hear our own inner self speaking to us. Perhaps it is the soul, anima talking to us through the image of the moon. Does the soul, like the moon feel trapped and unable to find release? We do this to our soul when we deny the soul, when we put boundaries to bind the soul to darkness and silence.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, in order to grow we need to engage in active imagination activity with those images that pull at us, those that catch the attention of some part of us. Listen to what Jung tells us:
“Continual conscious realization of unconscious fantasies, together with active participation in the fantastic events, has, as I have witnessed in a very large number of cases, the effect firstly of extending the conscious horizon by the inclusion of numerous unconscious contents; secondly of gradually diminishing the dominant influence of the unconscious; and thirdly of bringing about a change in personality.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 7, paragraph 358)
When we continue to ignore the faint voices of the unconscious that seek our attention so as to be included in the larger sense of self, of identity, we risk acting out unconsciously. We all know of those who do and say things that they appear to be unaware they have said or done to the point of thinking that we are telling lies about them. We have heard of those who somehow slip into and out of alter personalities like some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, situations where the ego is banished for some time while the unconscious takes over and runs wild. The process of engaging in active imagination allows us to carefully unmask the shadow removing the necessity for the unconscious to burst out of its prison running rampant over the ego.
Remember, it is all about perspective. Once we change our perspective, we change everything.
Fences on the prairies are most often not too substantial – an occasional post and three widely spaced wires. yet for their flimsiness, they are effective in keeping one in or out according to the intention of the fence builder. Well, sort of effective. The truth is if I want to get to the other side of the fence all I have to do is to hold the top wire down and step over; or, I could separate two wired and slip through the larger opening. The fence does work for the most part as a rancher can keep his cattle from wandering off a certain piece of land into valuable crop land. In certain circumstances an electric wire is also strung along the posts in order to better contain the cattle and even horses. However, small animals ignore the fence as do deer. It’s as if the fence doesn’t even exist. The fence is more of a psychological barrier than it is a physical barrier.
We build fences in our heads as well trying to keep our secrets safe from others. We even build fences within to hide stuff from ourselves. We bury the dark things we want to deny under layer upon layer of barbed wire, behind high solid walls that are layers deep. But for all of our efforts, the hidden finds ways to slip out unknown to our conscious ego. Often we don’t even realise that something has slipped out. It is only when others around us question our statements or actions that we find ourselves first denying doing these things and then wondering “Where did that come from?”
For the most part, the walls are thick enough, high enough that we can spend almost a lifetime believing the hidden, contained stuff doesn’t even exist. But, the shadow can only be contained so much. The pressure builds and things begin to leak out. The first place these aspects of the shadow show up is in our dreams. Jungian analysts and other therapy models use dream work as a way to have us discover not only the nasty dark stuff but also the hidden treasures that we pushed away because they got in the way of our being in the world in a way we thought was safest and best. But dreams aren’t the only escape route taken by the shadow.
If one looks at one’s relationships, one sees shadow projected onto others. Our responses to others are often triggered by what the self sees as its shadow. Imagine the confusion that others face when they are held in too high or too low esteem given the circumstances of engagement. A man treats a woman as a goddess and places her on a pedestal. It is a position that no mortal woman can hold for too long before getting angry as the pedestal doesn’t give her needed freedom to be herself. A man treats another woman as an evil witch though having no basis in the objective world for so treating her. In both situations, the man is projecting his repressed anima, his soul both dark side and light side onto others, others who are just as human, just as flawed and perfect as the man unconsciously projecting his inner, hidden and contained complexes.
The higher and thicker the walls of containment, the bigger the explosion and disruption of our outer life. The work of therapy is to begin discovering the fences and carefully taking them down so that the stuff contained can make its appearance in a safer environment. Making its appearance, aspects of the shadow, the unconscious can be integrated into a healthier version of self.
A simple image for today. I am now in North Dakota visiting my daughter and her family, my last visit with them before I head back to China and my work there. Even though we will be at a significant distance we are still connected at a great depth. We are like this little prairie flower, separate blossoms on the surface, but linked below the surface because of roots.
This idea of connectivity is one that can be applied to all of us and to the world that holds us. We are individuals with individual consciousness, of that there is no question. As we life and journey through life becoming more and more aware of ourselves, we take it as a central truth that we are completely separate beings. There is a certain sense of dissociation, especially with those who appear different whether the difference is based on colour, culture, language, religion or geography. It is easy for us to designate these separate beings, these others as enemies or as inferior beings. It is difficult to see that deep below the surface we are intimately linked.
We work hard, many of us, in trying to become more self aware, more conscious as humans once we come to accept that a personal unconsciousness exists beneath the surface. We even begin to sense that there is a collective unconsciousness that has some connection via our dream world found in sleep and in our mythologies. We sense a shared story with others, especially those who share our lives and our culture. It is rare that one manages to extend this sense of connectivity to distant and different others. In spite of best intentions, those distant others typically remain holder of our projection of both our personal shadow and the collective shadow of our community and culture.
Do we want to erase the boundaries between self and other? I would suggest that this is our greatest fear as it would mean the end of our sense of self. To reach into the depths to find the intimate connectivity of all humans and all that surrounds humans would likely overwhelm the individual psyche. And this, in my opinion, is not the task of the human psyche in this world. That said, it is vital for us to come to realise that when we hurt part of our world or relationships with others who are different, we hurt ourselves. And in acting upon this realization we heal unknown aspects of our individual psyche,
Well, I have finally finished the book challenge organised by SoFoBoMo. Of course, I continued using a Jungian theme for the project, the same as I had done in previous years. Now that I am done, I am looking forward to next year’s event which should cover the August-September period.
With only two weeks left in my home before I begin a longer than usual return to China, I am finding myself in a bit of a lull. It has been hard to find inspiration for writing lately and I am hoping it will soon change. But then again, this is all part of living as well. As one blogging friend put it recently, one waits for the Muses to point out the next direction. What is different this year as the “lull” is in full bloom is a sense of peacefulness that has come with it. Likely this is due to the fact that I have been here before many times – déjà vu.
At times I wonder if I have said it all and that it is time for silence. But that passes as I know I have barely begun. I have begun to think in larger terms about the idea of taking a theme and writing without photos and without quote references. The day will come at some time in the distant future when the urge to wander the world is stilled and I feel calm sitting in one place. No matter how I look at it, I will be writing likely until I can no longer put words together intentionally to say something.
I am changing but some parts are staying the same – there is a core self that continues to define who I am and what I must do.
This is an American Avocet, a bird I have never noticed on the prairies before. I came across two pairs of Avocets nesting at the edge of the village’s water-treatment dugouts. Usually they are found a bit further south, closer to the American border. These birds winter in the warm climes of the southern States and further south all the way to Guatemala. As I walked along my usual trail outside of the village the two pairs flew in front of me then landed. They began calling and running as though trying to catch my attention. I know that their motive was to lead me away from the nests not too far from the side of the trail. It’s an effective strategy for the most part.
Their behaviour reminds me of that of a fair number of humans I know who often resort to using distraction tactics to have others not notice their weaknesses. Of course this is all sensible and impractical behaviour in our world. The only problem comes when we use the strategies on ourselves, creating a false way of being because we refuse to take responsibility for our errors. I spent the past day at an extended family event, a marriage, where there was a concerted effort to create a different reality with regards to the care of a family member. A great deal of energy was spent creating an alternate reality so as to distract those concerned. Without this effort, it was probable that other family members would appreciate less this particular person’s half-hearted efforts on behalf of the family member needing care. As a strategy it did what it was supposed to do and several rallied around the less-than-able caregiver.
This is repeated in workplaces where people shift the responsibility and the blame onto others in order to protect careers and paychecks. But at what costs? Though humans use the same tactics of diversion as a number of birds do such as the Avocet, their is a difference in terms of intent. It’s one thing to protect the nest and another thing to shift blame from where it rightfully belongs onto others.
Another photo taken from a walk in the hills yesterday. Today is my birthday and I am now 62 years old. As I key this onto the computer I am sitting in an airport preparing to make the journey to visit my mother. I have become a more frequent visitor to her place as I now make the journey once a year. It is about duty, not about being a good, loving son. She is my mother and that is a good enough reason for now. The bond between mother and son is fragile in terms of our relationship. There is history obviously, but that is not a story for this post.
Each of us has a Mother Complex whether or not we realise it or will admit it. It doesn’t matter what kind of person one has had or has as a mother or what the relationship is or was like. All mothers are charged with power that is archetypal and all mothers somehow wound their offspring whether they so so consciously or unconsciously. The wounds are sometimes hard to define, hard to trace to their roots, especially for those loving, kind and nurturing mothers who are careful with their words and with their emotions. All mothers have a shadow that enters into the relationship with their children. And it is this shadow that wounds the psyche of their child.
It is often in the heroic journey of midlife that one dares to confront the mother complex, one of the monsters that one encounters on the journey. But like all the monsters and demons found on the journey, the complex only wants to be honoured for its presence, not denied. With acceptance of the mother complex, life becomes a bit easier.
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.
The walk in the Mondou Hills yesterday gave me a few more nature photos that spoke of life in positive terms such as this mother duck with her ducklings swimming on a smallish valley lake. I took the photo in the early afternoon while the sunlight was fairly intense and the temperatures were high, just the way I like it. I had gone into the hills hoping to get a photo of a hawk or eagle in search of food. In spite of my intentions, nature had other ideas in terms of which gifts I needed at the moment.
I now have all of my photos taken for my latest book project and have begun getting words and photos merged together in a PDF for the SoFoBoMo project. I have decided to create a new page for this blog site where I can store the PDF photo books and other documents for ease of access for you, my reader. Please feel free to download the books for your own pleasure. They are free e-books.
This little fellow was kind enough to sit for a number of different photos while I was out with the camera on one of my “railroad” photo excursions. I like how it shows an almost human attitude, almost one of humility and deference. Of course, to say that it acts or thinks human is a stretch. To believe it would just be projecting something of one’s self onto the little bird.
I sort of feel a bit more humble and connected after spending five days with all of my grandchildren and their parents in our home. As of this afternoon, all have headed off to their various homes in different parts of North America. I will get to see all of them again in their individual family units before I head back to China. But for now, the house is again quiet and I will return to a more active and deeper presence here knowing that in doing so I am actually giving them something special, a digital record for them about who their father and grandfather is. My children read this blog site and occasionally post comments and I am thankful for that. It helps keep me honest, helps keep me humble.
It is too easy to get “full of oneself” to become inflated with one’s importance. It is even worse to become convinced that what one taps into in the work of individuation, association with the gods and goddesses (or archetypes) can lead one to identify with one of these figures and in the process lose the self. This is the route of gurus, of self-proclaimed prophets or shamans. Jung wrote about the dangers of a mana complex or a messiah complex and leaves little room for these gurus as authentic figures. Unlike this little bird, I won’t bow to any authority that demands obeisance. I can only offer a smile and look that acknowledges others as being a “thou” to my “I.”
I am taking time out from my regular patterns and habits of reading and writing here for some dedicated grandparenting time. This is one of my six grandsons, all of whom are now visiting at my home with their parents. Grandchildren put life in perspective making sure that one doesn’t get too serious and that there is time for play and silliness.
It’s our annual family gathering so that cousins get to know each other and keep the bonds of family relatedness alive. It brings out the best in all of us to spend four or five days together. Since the return from China, it has been a constant round of travelling and visiting of family. Once the grandchildren have returned to their various homes, the round of visiting will continue so that grandparent time will again happen in their own homes before I again fly off for another year of teaching in China at C.I.T. where I am entering my fourth year as instructor. It will be another ten months before I again return to take on the role of grandparenting face-to-face.
Life is good.