Archive for the ‘soul’ tag
I am back home in Canada. I have been home for almost a week and have yet to discover spring-like conditions. With snow still laying on the ground, slowly melting into what can best be described as a wet mess, it is the perfect time for sitting indoors and thinking. I realise that I have been posting very little here or on my other blog sites, but I am not very worried about that in the least. I haven’t abandoned them, but have simply taken some space and time for other things in my life. I will continue to post relevant articles on each of the blog sites that are appropriate for the theme of each site.
I have been keeping busy with a number of different activities such as snow removal, checking out resources and building extended community networks based on Buddhist and Naturist interests. But mostly, I have been writing. The writing isn’t destined for any of my blog sites. Rather, it is an attempt at a book, what could best be described as a non-fiction book. I have created an outline, written the preface and have begun to fill in the blank spaces. At some point I will call on a few of you to proofread the work in hopes of getting it ready for publication. With that said, I will leave this alone and now talk of other things. For this space, Through a Jungian Lens, I intend continuing with the subject of Mother-Complex. There is a lot more to yet be said.
On another front, I am finding a pull back into reading the works of James Hillman and of another Jungian oriented writer, Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul. His books with titles such as The Lost Sutras of Jesus and The Soul’s Religion have piqued my interest. I was led to discover the existence of these books through two separate incidents. The first was a question from my wife about Care of the Soul, a book I read a long time ago. More recently, I received notice from Huffington Post about an article written by Moore called “Catholic Without A Church“, an article that resonated with me. Somewhere along the way, I lost my connection to the church while still remaining a catholic. Other books waiting for my attention are Buddhist in orientation, with titles by Osho, Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trungpa and a few others. Of course I won’t have time this spring for all of these books. Simply thinking of taking time for them is filling me with a sense of anticipation.
With this now said, I will take my leave and return relatively soon with the next instalment in the Mother-Complex series.
Being a psychotherapist doesn’t make one immune to the descents into the dark side of one’s being. Doctors get sick and priests have crises of faith. So it is for therapists who wrestle with the demons of the psyche. Much of the issues that come from crises of faith and descents into the darkness of the psyche have to do with transference. Listening to, being attuned to, engaging with, and simply being with parishioners and clients-patients activates something in both parties.
As the professional opens doors, the contents of those they work with often serve as triggers and at times find themselves hooking into the psych of the professional. For a while, the priest becomes the father, the god-like being he stands in place of as mediator. The same is true for therapists who become either father or mother, again becoming a saviour, god-like for their patients. The professional holds the contents as if they are sacred (which they indeed are) taking some of the weight from their parishioners and patients. Taking the weight, they allow space for breathing and with that breathing, an opportunity to find some healthy release and with that release, an opportunity to heal.
But there is a cost to the therapist and to the priest – that cost must be paid. There is a need for the healers to find someone to whom they can turn to work through their personal stuff that get activated in holding and dealing with the stuff of their parishioners and patients. I have found myself bending almost too far and so needed to find the resources that I needed to recharge my batteries. But in the space in between holding too much and release from that too much, I have my own crisis of faith, of psyche, of self. The healer must take his or her turn at being healed again, and again, and again. To be a good priest in being able to handle the crises of his parishioners, the priest must have lived and survived his own crises – only then can he be in tune with and thus serve as a healer. The same is true for a therapist – in order to heal, one must have been broken and then gone through the process of being healed.
In today’s professional world of psychotherapy there is no guarantee that the therapist has been there and done that. The only guarantee (usually) is that the therapist has attended classes and achieved certification. The have learned well from books and have practised using the appropriate skills. And as consumers of therapy, there is a tendency to look at the certificates and hope for the best. Who would trust an older man or woman without the certificate?
In my career as a school principal at various schools, I found that some of my best staff, being able to work with students and help them learn, to relate, to connect – were not trained teachers. Some were parent volunteers, some were trained to assist with special needs students (or at least be willing to work with these students as an aid). Some of the worst people I have had in my schools had good education, high marks on their transcripts, and had attended very reputable colleges of education at high calibre universities. I learned as a principal that needed to look beyond the certificate and find the person standing behind the certificate.
As a therapist in need, I, like my clients, need to find someone to trust so that I may work in a safe containing relationship to heal myself. It isn’t enough just to download onto a different healer, to transfer my stuff onto a guru or analyst or bishop or . . . There is an apt expression that comes to mind – “Physician heal thyself“ -
“The phrase alludes to the readiness and ability of physicians to heal sickness in others while sometimes not being able or willing to heal themselves. This suggests something of ‘the cobbler always wears the worst shoes’, i.e. cobblers are too poor and busy to attend to their own footwear. It also suggests that physicians, while often being able to help the sick, cannot always do so and, when sick themselves, are no better placed than anyone else.” [The Phrase Finder]
This morning I found myself in a contemplative mood, a good place really, not divorced from the reality of being present in my life. As I am entering these words, I am waiting for the toast to be ready for our breakfast. And yes, I am taking care of them even as I sit here seeing the small toaster oven across the kitchen while writing. With only fort-eight hours left of our stay in Belize, and all tasks taken care of in order to be ready for the shift back to Mexico, my mind is relaxed and there is no sense of being rushed or wondering what I should be doing at the moment, other than making sure the toast doesn’t burn. [time out to eat]
Before I began my morning meditation outside in our garden, I saw the moon in the west which sent me back to get my camera and get a photo for here. After returning the camera into the villa, I took my seat and slipped into my meditation knowing that at some point the sun would rise and anoint my body with its rays. If this sounds like a spiritual ritual, it is because the ritual is about honouring my soul, about connecting with the universe and becoming at one with it. While I meditated, my wife decided to grab the camera to take a photo of the sun rising above the layer of clouds that hugged the eastern horizon. Moon setting and sun rising while I meditated. No wonder I am in a contemplative mood this morning.
Not long after my meditation was left behind, I was sitting having coffee and wondering what I would do with my time. Sitting there, the urge to write here and touch once more on Jungian psychology became strong. But, I didn’t have a clue what I would write about. However, that didn’t seem to bother me at all as I have learned that the words would come. With breakfast done, I turned to Daryl Sharp’s book, Getting To Know You, and opened it at random and found these words which were spoken / written in response to a question about Jungian psychology being soul-making:
“. . . the only way I can understand the progression of my life is in terms of soul. Soul happens when you ponder alone in the still of the night. Soul happens when you grapple with the meaning of your life. Soul is what you are, as opposed to what you seem to be. That’s not theology, it’s experiential reality. [p. 56]
With these words, I think that I have said enough here for now. More will follow in another post on another day.
Originally, these three peaks were called the Three Nuns. The name was changed to the Three Sisters in keeping with the shift to the dominant Protestant human presence in western Canada. The sisters are Faith, Charity and Hope - or Big, Middle and Little. My mind immediately seized upon a more mythological viewpoint with the first thoughts emerging being that of the Three Graces and that of the Three Muses.
There are differences in the ideas Three Sisters, Three Nuns, Three Graces and Three Muses. However, I tend to look at the bigger picture that emerges for me, three aspects of the feminine consciousness in the psyche of a man. One thing that all have in common is that they were named by men. And since they were the given these names by men, it is important to realise that they can only be truly understood by a man’s way of understanding the feminine. Men worship the feminine. In the presence of the feminine, they know that they are incomplete without the feminine.
Men have tried since the dawn of mankind, to possess the feminine that is embodied in a woman. Men literally ache in the absence of the feminine. The sense of emptiness overwhelms and with that sense of need overpowering his thinking, he engages in all sorts of addictions in an attempt to fill the void.
I am no different. I once thought that it was enough to marry a beautiful woman. And for a time, it did seem enough as we built a life, a home and a family together. But it wasn’t about possessing a woman, I still found a void, a black hole within that needed filling. Career and running and music didn’t fill the void either though I engaged more and more of my conscious activity to these pursuits in search of what was missing in me. It wasn’t until my psyche demanded my full attention via crisis, soul crisis, that I was able to begin understanding what I needed. I was compelled to look within and allow the feminine aspects of my self, my soul, to emerge from the shadows where they were imprisoned.
I am learning and discovering much though there is so much yet to be set free from the shadows within. Perhaps I will discover what those discovered thousands of years ago – my own three queens.
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.
As the photo indicates, I am back in Canada, back home in Elrose, Saskatchewan. My walking pilgrimage has come to an end.
My pilgrimage began long before I left Canada in August. My motivation and need for this pilgrimage rose to the surface during my time in analysis. I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but I trusted my instincts. I knew that I had been “running” for way too many years, moving too much and too fast for any sane gypsy. I was running in my head, hoping somehow that I would be able to escape the contents of the unconscious that stubbornly refused to stay in it’s proper place hidden in the depths where it could be properly forgotten and denied. Analysis became a dance between analyst and analysand. I knew too much about the process and so the dance became more of a stalemate with neither one of us willing to give up the lead. That said, analysis did bring me more focus as I worked through dreams with my analyst. But deep down, I knew that I needed to do something that would finally break down my resistance and allow my psyche to emerge. Yet, I was afraid of what else might emerge. I knew that what was hidden and denied was filled with shadows, darkness, the source of my anxiety and fears. What I didn’t want to admit was the fact that there were other things hidden as well, enough things of the light, things that spoke to the positive of my existence. I intellectually knew all of this, but my fear simply scoffed at this intellectual knowledge.
As the idea of a pilgrimage began to gather strength, I began to have some hope that the walking would somehow break the bonds of my self-imposed prison in an inner darkness. For too long I had been dancing on the edges of black holes, daring the descent into madness. I was tired of it all; I was tired of seeing how my depression and silence was bringing grief to those whom I loved and who loved me as husband, father and grandfather. But of course, I had to disguise all of this with a story that I was walking to Santiago, Spain. I was heading out for adventure. I knew better, but it didn’t matter, I needed to tell myself this lie in order to find the courage to actually begin the process.
And so the walking has happened and something happened along the way. I began the walk as though I was being chased by demons, ghosts and unnameable dark shadows. I walked with fierce determination, always checking behind me to see if they were catching up to me. I walked and walked until my body demanded some relief. I ignored my body for the most part, and the physical pain increased to the point where the last part of each day’s walk were more about hobbling than walking with my feet on fire and my hips and knees begging for mercy. Yet, I refused to give in. I was on a mission.
And then one evening in a cathedral in southern France, I emotionally broke down and let the barriers fall. Another two days of walking, walking with my head up and smiling, I knew it was done. It was time to return home and rejoin my family which had spent the time I was in France as if they were in mourning. I knew that to walk further would only hurt them needlessly. The pilgrimage wasn’t about Santiago, it was about healing. It was time to go home.
I will continue to write from my journal, here. I will trace the physical journey and the journey of my psyche so that you can come to understand just how it all came about. It is good to be home and to be smiling.
As I mentioned a number of days ago, I will be posting here very little for the next while. I have built a second blog site which will be my “main” focus for this “time out” from Through a Jungian Lens. The new site is called It’s All About The Journey. The time out at this site is being matched by a time out from the analytic process that I have been engaged in over the past five months in Calgary. The intensity of analysis since my arrival in Calgary has seen me do a full year of analysis, assuming one session per week. The time out has a definite purpose, that of re-entering daily life. During the time out I will find what has shifted in terms of contact with others, with relationships with others, as well as the relationship with myself. I am leaving Calgary and my little abode here to return to my home in Saskatchewan. I will be taking a good measure of myself at home while doing the necessary physical and spiritual preparations for a pilgrimage. I won’t be abandoning the psychological in the process, but I will be accenting the body and soul. The new blog site is where I will journal this time out. You can find the new blog site here.
I keep coming back to the image of the three moose I took almost two weeks ago and of the sighting of the three pronghorn antelopes less than an hour later – “What did their appearance really have for me as a message?” I have allowed this image to sit and stew within me in a deep background without “analyzing” it to death. What is emerging is the idea of body, mind and soul (heart). In this blog site, Through a Jungian Lens, I have been focused on the mind, the ego. I have been weighted in favour of the mind at the expense of my heart and of my body. That said, I am not abandoning Jungian Psychology, nor am I denying that my “Jungian filter” will somehow not influence the journey I am about to begin in life. When there is something that is particularly “Jungian” in orientation, I will post it here during my self-imposed time out – but likely that will be a rare instance. So from this point until my completion of my pilgrimage, I leave this place knowing that I will come back, come back home.
I took this photo while walking in the fields near Lake Diefenbaker, the same walk that gifted me with beautiful cactus flowers.To my eyes, this is one of the more beautiful flowers that nature provides us in an area that is more often than not, dry and drab in terms of colour. Most of the flowers are tiny and pastel in colour, matching the land which is itself sun bleached. For a brief period of time, the thistle dares to announce its presence, defying the sun and at the same time celebrating that very same sun. It shouts out: ‘I am here!’
I think about the youth in the modern, western world who do much the same as they pierce ears, eye lids, lips, tongues, noses, cheeks, foreheads and numerous other parts of their body; these young people who cover as much of their skin as possible with tattoos, often with symbols of which they have little or no knowledge. There is a lot of work, a lot of thought that goes into the crafting of a “look,” a way for each of these youth to scream out, “I am here! See me! Acknowledge me!” And those screams are framed with anxiety that even with all of this work, they will remain unseen, lost to their communities and sadly to themselves. I do not say this as a critic of piercing or tattoos or of dress and hair styles, I say this because of the pain, confusion and anger that I see in the undisguised eyes of those “thistles” who dare to be weeds in order to feel alive for a brief moment in time.
At least we see these individuals even if we are repelled or disgusted with what we see. So many of our youth that appear as clones of what we deem as acceptable, are just as wounded. They disappear into the music of their iPhones or mp3 players; they disappear into all sorts of gaming systems; they disappear into addictions of drugs, booze and sex; or they disappear within as they mimic the norm in hopes that in this way they will find acceptance and meaning.
What do we hear and see about our youth? What do we want to hear and see? What do they tell us about ourselves as adults and about our communities in which they are raised? If we listen carefully we will hear that we have not given them a sense of self-worth that is below the surface of the outer world. Collectively we have destroyed the inner worlds.
Now, anyone who approaches what is left of those inner worlds is seen as being mentally unwell. We prescribe pills, therapy, camps, programs and even shopping experiences as a panacea in hopes that any or all of these prescriptions will put them out of their depths into the bright sunny outer world. And in our desperate acts to save our children from their depths, we teach them that if it lies below the surface, it is not good.
In looking through my photo archives for a picture that I intended to put on my wall here in Calgary, I came upon this image that I took while walking down the street in the city of ChangZhou which was my home for three and a half years. I was looking for a “river” photo for China that would keep company with my river photos of the Mekong as seen in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the first months of 2011. That I found this particular photo the day after discussing the I-Ching here seemed to be auspicious – or – synchronistic.
Almost as soon as I wrote these words, I have to say that I am not a Taoist, nor do I get much involved with any of the many faces of the parapsychological and the paranormal such as tarot, astrology, or whatever. I don’t understand them and I don’t pretend a very deep interest. In saying this, I don’t discount them either. I personally just use what works for me. If I had to give it some sort of a name, I would have to say that I follow “Robertism,” a spiritual path of one. Not a large congregation to be sure; but, it is the best one that I have found. All that I can say is that what I do have for my spiritual path is something that doesn’t change much. I don’t have the energy, time or inclination to continue “sampling” the various spiritual and psychological paths looking for something quicker or better.
Interestingly enough, Jack Kornfield, in his book, A Path With Heart, has this to say – another synchronicity that I found after taking a break from writing today’s blog post (sometimes it takes a full day to write a post – waiting for the words. In the case of this post, I have worked on it for two days.):
“If we do a little of one kind of practice and a little of another, the work we have done in one often doesn’t continue to build as we change to the next. It is as if we were to dig many shallow wells instead of one deep one. In continually moving from one approach to another, we are never forced to face our own boredom, impatience, and fears. We are never brought face to face with ourselves. So we need to choose a way of practice that is deep and ancient and connected with our hearts, and then make a commitment to follow it as long as it takes to transform ourselves.” (Kornfield, p. 34)
This was a powerful set of words for me to hear, words that kept me awake for too many hours while I sought to clarify exactly what was my practice of depth, if any. In the process of wrestling with these words and their resonances, I realised that I was deeply committed to Jungian psychology, Buddhist meditation, and a curious blend of Celtic, Christian and First Nations’ spiritualism. My ancestral roots are a blend of Celtic, Christian and First Nation bloodlines. Buddhism and Jungian psychology, together, serve as the mortar holding these diverse pieces together. My task is then to honour this curious, individual path as I know that it is only via this path that I will find the depth and meaning that defines what it is to be “Robert.”
I stopped about an our short of my daughter’s home in order to take photos of an abandoned house sitting on the top of a slight rise in the land. For some reason, the scenes of decay and abandonment have always caught my eye as the scenes talk of rawness and in a sense the truth of what was. the truth of impermanence. This place was home for someone. Whether or not it was a happy home is something I will never know, but I do know that there were moments of happiness and sadness, joy and suffering, love and hate, confusion and clarity – for that is the way of life, the path of each of our lives.
Like anyone else I have ever met, I want to be happy; and like everyone else, I have had moments of happiness. As a somewhat normal human, I have learned that defining my happiness is difficult at times, sometimes only being able to recognise it after the fact in contrast to the darkness of deprssion – being inside the dark looking back at the moments of light. Life is experienced only in opposites. We know darkness because we know light; we know love only in opposition of fear when we feel abandoned by love.
Emerging into the world from the womb of a mother, we are greeted with light and pain. Birth is a painful process for both mother and infant. We emerge and feel abandoned somehow, pushed out. Like any other father, I rejoiced at hearing each of my children cry out at the moment of birth and their first breath. I was there bursting with love but for them, it was a traumatic event as they were thrust into a strange land with no bearing and no certainties. Like my own story, these children have had to learn first to become conscious of themselves and of their separateness from others. The hardest part, in my opinion, is learning that they can never become at “one” with the mother who carried them within as part of herself sharing the same air, water, nutrients of life. This realisation of complete and utter separateness will mark their lives, has marked my life and your life.
We travel through life and find ourselves again and again having to leave the places, spaces, and relation in which we built a sense of happiness and security. We leave home to attend our first school lessons; we leave our parents to begin lives of our own; we leave being on our own to join with an Other to build a home together . . . The story of leaving goes on and on as we continually find ourselves once again, over and over, pushed into a new dimension of life. And each time, for the most part, a part of us rebels as it feels like we have been once again pushed away, abandoned; we feel this even in moving to some new way of being that is positive and inspiring such as when one marries or one has a child and becomes a parent, or one gets a longed for new job or home. There is always a sense of loss attached. There is always some level of suffering.
But, there is always new life as well. In this photo, one sees new life beginning to grow as the trees outside the window have new leaf buds, and in a blur of white, a bird flies free. That bird emerged from within the abandoned house, emerged out of the dark and abandoned place that once was home. And there is a lesson for me in all of this. As I change and feel the darkness of abandonment, there is a place and a state of being waiting, a place and promise of new life.