Archive for the ‘spirituality’ tag
I have visited a lot of temples in a lot of countries. There is a core within me that is seeking something that resonates at the spiritual level. Because of past sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, I began a search to replace my loss of a spiritual centre in Catholicism. I was fifteen years old and I found myself wandering through so many different churches that still held to Christianity. Months of trying out so many different faiths left me empty and I walked away from hope that there was a place that I could call my spiritual home.
Not long after I got married while going to university, I found a few books called the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the I-Ching and Herman Hesse’s book, Siddharata in a used book store. Not long after that discovery, I bought a damaged small wooden Buddha statue. This was soon followed by an introduction to meditation. For a few months until the start of my teaching career in the fall of 1974, I lived quietly, part-time, in an alternate world of spirituality. Life happened, work, raising a family, and being a member of a community filled in all of my spaces in a good way. Yet somehow, the absence of honouring my spiritual core began to push into my life. My soul began demanding my attention. A community member who was coming to me for counselling, a Lutheran pastor easily saw that spiritual centre pushing out over the course of several months of our work together. As the time for closure approached, he suggested that I become a Lutheran pastor as I had the spiritual core necessary to be a good pastor. At the time, it caused me to chuckle for I wasn’t a Lutheran and had no intention of becoming a Lutheran.
On numerous trips to Europe, I found myself in centuries old cathedrals and monasteries and in each place, I could feel something still lingering of a time long past when those places were real places of spirituality. In the Yucatan, again I found old churches, and Mayan ruins not on the tourist routes that also spoke of deep religious connections. And when I went to China.
While in China, I visited many temples and pagodas, some active in Buddhist faith and many tourist stops collecting fees at the entrance. I could never seem to get enough as each place was different. China gave me time and access to India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand where I wandered and experienced. I knew I was listening and experiencing my own spirituality in the process. It wasn’t about photo opportunities. It was deeper than that.
And now, I find myself looking deeper into Buddhism. There is an honest simplicity in the eight fold path that doesn’t focus on some paternalistic god or on highly debated theology and doctrines. I find myself participating in more than one Buddhist sangas for group meditation and for those moments both before and after group meditation with others who are approaching personal spirituality in the context of Buddhism. Will I become a Buddhist? That question doesn’t have an answer yet, but part of me has been Buddhist since the fall of 1973 when I found a used copies of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the I-Ching, Siddhartha, and a small damaged wooden statue of Buddha.
As usual while on a holiday which involves the sea, I find myself taking many, many photos of sunsets and sunrises. This photo was taken while walking toward a small village down a rough road not too far from the villa that was home for ten days while in the Philippines. Sunsets are particularly appealing because of the colours, especially the gold.
In the second half of life, there is a resonance with late afternoon and its golden light and the gold that appears in the sky with sunset. Each evening up and down the beach I was able to see people gather to honour the setting sun, to wonder at the colours.
For me, sunset and sunrise are the times when I feel the numinous presence of something that can only be described as the ultimate presence, the source of my spiritual nature
Now that I am back at work, I am already planning the next tropical adventure where again I will bask in sunshine and make my private ceremonies of sunrise and sunset.
I have been doing a lot of research into religion and meditation lately, not exactly sure what I have been looking for in the process. I suppose it began with a wonder in terms of the religious significance of meditation – and where my practice of meditation finds its roots. I first began to meditate in what is considered either Hindu or Buddhist meditation practice about forty years ago. My first experience of meditation during my first year of university was in a commune which had a Buddhist orientation. A year later I took a course in Transcendental Meditation along with other university students and university professors. I began to think that though I enjoyed meditation, the practice didn’t fill what I felt was an emptiness, a hollowness within myself. And so, I let the practice of meditation disappear out of my daily life.
I didn’t see my immersion into prayer as a youth as part of the world of meditation though I now accept that prayer can be meditative. It took a trip to Aix-en-Provence in France where I spent a few hours in a sanctuary of a cathedral and followed the footsteps of centuries of priests and monks who walked the outdoor covered walkways in prayer that I made the connection between prayer and meditation. A while later, another visit to France and an evening in a cathedral in Avignon had me recall the altered states of existence I had felt as a child and youth in cathedrals in Ottawa. Simply sitting quietly in the cathedral and being mindful I felt the similarity of the feelings of mindfulness that I was experiencing when meditating. Prayer and meditation are practices which allowed me to connect with something bigger and deeper both within and without my self. I had re-discovered meditation, a meditation with a difference, a meditation that is grounded in depth rather than in being a physical practice.
And that re-discovery was soon followed by a return to meditation in my home. With my last child graduating from high school I returned to being a school principal and life soon overwhelmed me with busyness and mediation once again fell of my radar. Then a few years ago while spending a winter in Mexico at the edge of a quiet Mayan fishing village, I once again found the stillness and that stillness soon was partnered with meditation. This time there was a difference. Meditation was taken out of doors into the sunshine, into nature. With churches becoming places to visit and be photographed, my religious needs are being met in a larger cathedral, the open sky and a curiously more open mind and heart. And this has allowed me, to return to meditation indoors where I can still connect to the spiritual centre within when life asks me to be inside of a building.
As I focus on taking photos of shadow, I must remember that there can be no shadow if there is no light. There is a differentiation between light and dark just as there is a differentiation between consciousness and the unconscious.
As I look again and again at this photo taken yesterday, I am reminded of scene told to me by my father-in-law thirty years ago, a scene that has now become well known as it has been experienced by many who have died and returned – the tunnel of light. The journey to consciousness is a spiritual journey as much as it is an objective journey of learning, experiencing and being in life. Perhaps, with the arrival of midlife, it is more spiritual; needs to be more spiritual.
Strangely, this journey of individuation is not a journey of only one person. For myself there is something happening that was unexpected: the more I learn about myself, the more I learn about others. I hope that in the process I am more tolerant of others as they stumble through their lives as I forgive myself while stumbling through my own life. It is at times like this that I see a promise in Jungian psychology that isn’t being followed by many psychotherapists and psychoanalysts. In working with the self, there must be a significant consideration of others.
I don’t really know what needs to change in psychology in order to make it less about pathology and more about nurturing the journey everyone must make through life. For, this journey is all we have as we ride the rails to a new way of being beyond this life.
On a final note for today’s post – Happy Independence Day for my American readers.
This photo was taken at Angkor Wat. I have to admit that I went trigger crazy with the camera while wandering through the Angkor Wat complex of buildings and grounds. So many images, scenes, shadows, and all of these left me in a state of wonder. For a moment, I felt a connection with something deeper, more intense. I guess one could almost call it a spiritual feeling. Okay, I can almost here the questions coming – what do I mean by a “spiritual” feeling? Thanks to one of my readers, I have a pdf document written by John Dourley, a Jungian analyst and Catholic priest who lives and works in Ottawa, Canada. I will draw on Dourley’s words to help wrestle with the term spiritual. This is not the first time I have tried to wrestle with spiritualism, nor the first time I have borrowed from Dourley’s work. I will include the document for your reading if you have the interest by placing it here: The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality, 2006.
“Spirituality is a term that is currently coming into ever more prominent use. It is also a term that is taking on a wide range of meanings. In its narrower sense it describes the spiritual discipline and practice of a given tradition. One can speak of a Hindu or a Buddist or a Christian spirituality. In contemporary usage spirituality has taken on another and wider meaning. It has come to describe a religious consciousness and discipline entirely free of a relation to any religious institution.” (Dourley, “The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality,” 2006.)
I have to admit that I originally took the narrower meaning in my youth and early adulthood, a meaning that grew out of Catholicism. I “felt” awe when entering into a cathedral, a sense that was physical as well as of the psyche. Even when the belief in the church had evaporated the spiritual sense was still present.
I remember when I was forty something years old and found myself entering into a cathedral in Avignon, France one evening while there was an Easter service in progress, how the presence of something that was bigger than the cathedral was sensed by my self. Today I don’t discount the feeling or my understanding of it. Rather, I have only expanded my understanding of that awareness of the spiritual, a spirituality that has a “wider meaning” as Dourley defines it. Spirituality has grown within me as I become more and more conscious of my own being. That consciousness of self is framed in a consciousness of other and dim edge of consciousness that embraces self and other.
I find that in my journey through life, as I walk my path that takes me through shadows and light somewhat like this corridor in the temple complex at Angkor Wat, I pass through and beside darkened doorways that reveal mysteries when I am ready for the revelations. As I wandered through Angkor Wat, I felt the pulse of what I can only understand to be the source of my spiritual self, a pulse that I know is bigger than my limited sense of self, something that includes all life, and everything else, all possibilities as well as all realities.
Success at last. After talking with the salesman, it appears as though the lens was sent separately as it wasn’t in the store at the time of the sale. Two days after receipt of the camera, the lens arrived. And this is the result of one of the first photos taken with the new lens on the new camera. This time, it is a dragonfly and not a damselfly – its wings at rest are perpendicular to the body. This little guy found its way to my pathway for a rest. Now that all of my camera and assorted equipment has arrived, my mind is also at rest and more able to focus on final tasks as I prepare to close up the house for the next ten months while I teach in Changzhou, China. Curiously, Changzhou is also known as the Dragon City.
For those interested in the new camera, a Sony Alpha A550, a picture and some information on the camera can be found here. Information on the new lens, a Sony 18-250 mm, can be found here. And for the Minolta lens that I took off my older Minolta SLR can be seen here. Enough of camera talk, it’s time to return to thoughts running around in my head.
The dragonfly is symbolic of transformation. Something inside changes. Changes on the outside are most often cosmetic or simply due to the ravages of time. But the changes within are due to either and enlarging of consciousness or a diminution of consciousness. For myself, the shift to a more spiritual life has been one that little outward evidence. I was spiritual as a child within the embrace of a church. I left the church but I didn’t leave the belief system as I accepted as a truism, “once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” Now, I have lost this certitude. So what is left for me as a person with a natural tendency to spirituality?
“Jungian psychology defies manipulation in the interests of the renewal of any religious ideology. On the contrary, it holds out to the Christian or devotee of any stripe not the possibility of the revitalization of the dead but rather a surpassing compensation which would function with the force of a new revelation or dispensation. In the final analysis, there are few if any of the ground values of Jungian psychology to be found in the Biblical “good news.” It is little wonder, then, that Jungian psychology is good news to those who have suffered so long from bad news in their own traditions.” (Dourley, A Strategy For a Loss of Faith, p. 137, 1992)
This Jungian psychology has allowed me to look within for the spiritual and the connection with whatever name we want to ascribe to a deity that embraces all that was, all that is, all that will be, and all that isn’t. I no longer need to look outward for authority over self. I must become “self” responsible. And this is not an easy place to live within. So, like the dragonfly, I need to take moments of rest and stop to smell the roses, and perhaps take their photo.
This is a Buffalo Berry Bush that is a native plant to the prairies. There is an interesting story from our First Nations People about the Buffalo Berry Bush that I want to pass on here. One thing that I thought most important was the attitude towards the deity that stands behind all things. This story can be found on the web, here.
Why Indians Whip the Buffalo Berries From the Bushes
The Indian believes that all things live again; that all were created by one and the same power; that nothing was created in vain; and that in the life beyond the grave he will know all things that he knew here. In that other world he expects to make his living easier, and not suffer from hunger or cold; therefore, all things that die must go to his heaven, in order that he may be supplied with the necessities of life.
The sun is not the Indian’s God, but a personification of the Deity; His greatest manifestation; His light.
The Indian believes that to each of His creations God gave some peculiar power, and that the possessors of these special favors are His lieutenants and keepers of the several special attributes; such as wisdom, cunning, speed, and the knowledge of healing wounds. These wonderful gifts, he knew, were bestowed as favors by a common God, and therefore he re- vered these powers, and, without jealousy, paid tribute thereto.
The bear was great in war, because before the horse came, he would sometimes charge the camps and kill or wound many people. Although many arrows were sent into his huge carcass, he seldom died. Hence the Indian was sure that the bear could heal his wounds. That the bear possessed a great knowledge of roots and berries, the Indian knew, for he often saw him digging the one and stripping the oth- ers from the bushes. The buffalo, the beaver, the wolf, and the eagle – each possessed strange powers that commanded the Indian’s admiration and respect, as did many other things in creation.
If about to go to war, the Indian did not ask his God for aid–oh, no. He realized that God made his enemy, too; and that if He desired that enemy’s destruction, it would be accomplished without man’s aid. So the Indian sang his song to the bear, prayed to the bear, and thus invoked aid from a brute, and not his God, when he sought to destroy his fellows.
Whenever the Indian addressed the Great God, his prayer was for life, and life alone. He is the most religious man I have ever known, as well as the most superstitious; and there are stories dealing with his religious faith that are startling, indeed.
“It is the wrong time of year to talk about berries,” said War Eagle, that night in the lodge, “but I shall tell you why your mothers whip the buffalo-berries from the bushes. OLD-man was the one who started it, and our people have followed his example ever since. Ho! OLD-man made a fool of himself that day.
“It was the time when buffalo-berries are red and ripe. All of the bushes along the rivers were loaded with them, and our people were about to gather what they needed, when OLD-man changed things, as far as the gathering was concerned.
“He was travelling along a river, and hungry, as he always was. Standing on the bank of that river, he saw great clusters of red, ripe buffalo-berries in the water. They were larger than any berries he had ever seen, and he said:
“‘I guess I will get those berries. They look fine, and I need them. Besides, some of the people will see them and get them, if I don’t.’
“He jumped into the water; looked for the berries; but they were not there. For a time Old-man stood in the river and looked for the berries, but they were gone.
“After a while he climbed out on the bank again, and when the water got smooth once more there were the berries – the same berries, in the same spot in the water.
“‘Ho! That is a funny thing. I wonder where they hid that time. I must have those berries!’ he said to himself.
“In he went again – splashing the water like a Grizzly Bear. He looked about him and the berries were gone again. The water was rip- pling about him, but there were no berries at all. He felt on the bottom of the river but they were not there.
“‘Well,’ he said, ‘I will climb out and watch to see where they come from; then I shall grab them when I hit the water next time.’
“He did that; but he couldn’t tell where the berries came from. As soon as the water settled and became smooth – there were the berries – the same as before. Ho! OLD-man was wild; he was angry, I tell you. And in he went flat on his stomach! He made an awful splash and mussed the water greatly; but there were no berries.
“‘I know what I shall do. I will stay right here and wait for those berries; that is what I shall do’; and he did.
“He thought maybe somebody was looking at him and would laugh, so he glanced along the bank. And there, right over the water, he saw the same bunch of berries on some tall bushes. Don’t you see? OLD-man saw the shadow of the berry-bunch; not the berries. He saw the red shadow-berries on the water; that was all, and he was such a fool he didn’t know they were not real.
“Well, now he was angry in truth. Now he was ready for war. He climbed out on the bank again and cut a club. Then he went at the buffalo-berry bushes and pounded them till all of the red berries fell upon the ground till the branches were bare of berries.
“‘There,’ he said, ‘that’s what you get for making a fool of the man who made you. You shall be beaten every year as long as you live, to pay for what you have done; you and your children, too.’
“That is how it all came about, and that is why your mothers whip the buffalo-berry bushes and then pick the berries from the ground. Ho!”
With evening rains becoming a normal occurrence in the semi-arid region, I find myself taking a larger number of “puddle” photos as the images found within those puddles become a living alter world that draw one into a participation in the fantasy of those alter worlds. How is it that in “looking down” into a watery underworld, I see the sky, clouds and trees? In looking down, I am also looking up. There is something “deep” in this awareness, something that I need to think about for a while. While I am thinking, I want to share a few words about fantasy with you, words from Kahlil Gibran’s book, A Tear And A Smile:
“Life carries us hither and thither and destiny moves us from one place to another. We see not save the obstacle set in our path; neither do we hear save a voice that makes us to fear.
Beauty appears before us seated on her thrown of glory and we draw nigh. An in the name of longing do we defile her garment’s hem and wrest from her the crown of purity.
Love passes us by clothed in a robe of gentleness, and we are afraid and hide us in dark caves, or follow her and do evil things in her name.
. . .
Wisdom stands on the street corner and calls to us above the multitude, but we deem her a thing without worth and despise them that follow her.
. . .We are near to earth, yet the gods are our kin. We pass by the bread of life, and hunger feeds off our strength.
How sweet to us is life, and how fare we are from life!” (Gibran, “Fantasy and Truth,” A Tear And A Smile, pp 61-62)
I could have written more of these words here, but it is time for my words. I bought this little book in 1971, about two years after buying and reading Gibran’s book, The Prophet. After choosing today’s photo, for some reason I reached for A Tear And A Smile which has been sitting on my bookshelf untouched for almost forty years, and almost immediately found this passage. For me, it was a pulling together of quite a few of my thoughts posted here that have been following the innate spirituality of humanity and the presence of the Divine within.
I would imagine that few passing by the puddle posted above, would be drawn into its depths and find there life, beauty, love and wisdom. Looking at the photo, one might get confused by the wall of asphalt that borders the sky, and likely deny its presence as it doesn’t “fit” preconceived notions. Or else, what this puddle offers us in fantasy is rejected and dismissed as simply being a fuzzy reflection of reality found in an ordinary puddle. When one walks through life blind to the numinous on the edges of almost all that is seen, felt, heard, touched and scented, one is barren. One is left holding onto false truths, not even half-truths about who he or she is, about the purpose and meaning of life. And in anger for not finding a purpose and meaning for life, one denies, dissembles and destroys.
I know for myself, truth about who I am is found when I enter into the realms of fantasy. And there I find so much more than truth. Thank you, Kahlil Gibran for helping me to remember.
A scene from the foothills of Monteverde just outside of the mountain town of Santa Elena that appeared to me during a brief break from non-stop rain and wind captured my attention. Luckily, I was able to capture the moment with my camera. Two solid days of rain, gray skies and very cool wind needed this moment. For me, rainbows hint at a promise of more, of figurative gold. The rainbow bends light enough to say there is something more that exceeds the boundaries of the ordinary. Behind the layers there is something bigger, something deeper. And for a moment it became real with that splash of colour. For that moment I entered into what can only be described as a moment of spirituality.
“Spirituality in a Jungian context is all-embracing. It would extend to every avenue of conscious access to the energies of the Gods and Spirits whether through an institution or on an individual basis. And what are the spirits which a Jungian spirituality would usher into consciousness? Writes Jung on the topic, “The world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me.” (CW 12, par. 857, p. 525) Jung could hardly be more succinct. However this understanding of spirituality carries with it a much wider world view, a total perspective, which draws close to a metaphysics, cosmology, or newly emerging myth. Like all myths, the myth inherent in Jung’s psychology addresses and embraces the totality in its vision. Thus it is worth while examining the full implications behind Jung’s suggestion that spirituality of every kind implicates an immediate commerce with the Spirits and Gods within.” (Dourley, The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality, 2006.)
This quote was taken from the introduction of a speech given by John P. Dourley at a conference in Zurich in 2006, a speech that can be found here. Spirituality for me is about accessing the energies of a God or of a host of gods and goddesses. It is about putting my “self” in perspective. There is little doubt that as one delves into the journey and begins to uncover some of the shadows and resolve some of the issues around complexes that one becomes full of one’s self.
The roots for my own spiritual quest go deep. When I was a child I came to believe that I would one day be a priest in the Catholic Church. I believed though the people around me gave little reason for holding a deep belief. My extended family was clear in its assessment that spirituality was simply a matter of following the forms and the rules. There was no questioning, no depth to be plumbed. For me, this wasn’t enough. I had questions that had to be asked if I was going to be able to continue down this path of becoming a priest. My Catechism teachers didn’t have the answers. My questions only inspired a response of anger. They had no answers other than do what we are taught without questions. Obey the Church. It was with a lot of angst that I finally let go of the Church and its rules. And so began a quest for God outside of churches. I didn’t know at the start of this spiritual quest that I had to look within. This was for me to discover many years later.
This photo was taken in a local church a few weeks ago. In reading the essay on spirituality and modern man, I thought it appropriate that one of the modern men of history was represented here. Jesus left the ground of the collective to open up a doorway to the future through being fully present during his time. He became the carrier of guilt for the collective. And in the process, a new myth was created, one in which humanity was given a new set of traditions that allowed people to unconscious in a more modern framework.
“An honest admission of modernity means voluntarily declaring oneself bankrupt, taking vows of poverty and chastity in a new sense, and – what is still more painful – renouncing the halo of sanctity which history bestows. Te be “unhistorical” is the Promethean sin, and in this sense the modern man is sinful. A higher level of consciousness is like a burden of guilt.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not ready to give up eating healthily, having access to you through this medium or having someplace secure to hold my bed. As for giving up the pleasures of sexual union? Not very likely. I might be getting older, but I still find the act of making love to be a taste of heaven.
As I read this chapter, I worry about how Jung’s words might be influencing my thinking about “modern man.” Before getting too far into the chapter I thought that I was perhaps somewhat along the path towards this destination. But now, how can I trust myself with what Jung says? I know that I am not a saint nor will I ever be a saint no matter how “saint-like” I have tried to be throughout most of my life. Yet, to claim to be a “sinner” and to “renounce the halo of sanctity” can be a back-handed way of asserting that I am a modern man. Sometimes I think that this journey should be made in a state of intellectual innocence.
And how does all of this influence you? Do my words and Jung’s words pull at you and tempt you to see yourself as a modern man or modern woman? I know Jung’s words tempt me, a temptation no less than that suffered by Jesus near the end of his time. Yet, in denying, do I do this out of some false humility, some sort of sneaky trick in order to have others proclaim me a modern man? It is too easy for me to become swelled with self-proclaimed importance, even if no one agrees with any such claim I would dare to make. And so I think that perhaps I should have left well enough alone and sat still here in silence leaving all of this left unsaid.