Archive for the ‘symbol’ tag
I have always been fascinated by doors and windows. Doors are portals into spaces and places. Though this door leads to open space, there is a sense of magic about where this door would lead if one could only allow imagination free rein. One would have to allow time to shift to a distant past if one were to enter into what might have been behind this particular door. Yet, that isn’t the only possibility. One could also use the door as a way to enter a fractal universe, one that would lay ready for discovery in the present if one could only navigate the boundaries between possibilities.
Another universe does lie behind the door. If one would dare see the door as a portal to an inner world, and if only one would dare to enter through the door into that inner world in order to begin a journey that has its own magic, its own heroes, its own pilgrims and wizards and witches and monsters and riches, one could take on the role of hero in search of the treasures hidden there, treasures that would enrich psychologically and spiritually.
Will you enter through the portal in search of the you that has been hidden?
Yesterday, I woke up to snow falling while in Lloydminster, Alberta visiting at my son’s home. After packing up after a week of visiting, it was time to drive home through what ended up to be a small blizzard.While in my son’s house, the snow pulled a sense of well being from within me. I saw the snow flakes as soft, clean and beautiful. Yet, it was only an hour later those same snowflakes became a threat to my safety, perhaps even to my survival. I saw one car with passengers end up in a highway ditch in front of me. My response was one of increased caution. I finally got home after a few extra hours on the highway. The last part of the drive was snow-free. It was as if I had dropped out of one universe only to land in a different universe.
I am reminded of the different universes that I meet in the inner spaces of my own psyche and how these universes evoke different responses within me. Sometimes the same inner universe presents me with a different “feel” and “awareness” than is usual. This shift of feel is a reminder that I am not yet ready to claim full awareness, not yet ready to claim that I have discovered a truth.
”Theories in psychology are the very devil. It is true that we need certain points of view for their orienting and heuristic value; but they always should be regarded as mere auxiliary concepts that can be laid aside at any time. We still know so very little about the psyche that it is positively grotesque to think we are far enough advanced to frame general theories. We have not yet established the empirical extent of the psyche’s phenomenology: how then can we dream of general theories? No doubt theory is the best cloak for lack of experience and ignorance, but the consequences are depressing: bigotedness, superficiality, and scientific sectarianism.” (Jung, CW Vol. 17, p. 7)
In my last post, I talked about how I lost my sense of being Jungian, Buddhist, Christian and whatever else I may have latched onto in an attempt to define myself, to hold as a theory of the nature of my individual psyche. That all fell apart and in the process, I began to get glimmers of self that defied any attempt I could make either with or without words. It ends up a very messy thing, but in some strange way, that messiness is freeing and I don’t have to try and force myself to fit into limited, self-created containers. I am free to wonder with a bit of awe and mystery about myself. And in the process, I find myself also free to experience the presence of others as beings of mystery.
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.
It seems all the small and larger local lakes are busy places as geese prepare for their annual trip to warmer climes in the southern parts of North America. The sheer number of geese gathering on the lakes and feeding on the nearby fields staggers the imagination. If one could say that there exists too much of a good thing, the geese become a vivid visual example. As busy as hunters are, they have no hope of reducing the numbers to a point where there could be said to be a good ecological balance. But, nature has its own way of dealing with the problem when the balance becomes too skewed. Of course, when this happens, nature has a tendency to go a bit overboard resulting in severely diminished numbers. It all becomes a pattern of feast and famine, an eternally repeating cycle.
When I consider the human psyche, I am reminded that there is a continual circling of the psyche within each human. I am continually reminded of my own cycle of approach and withdrawal to the feminine within and the feminine without. I am reminded of the cycle of the day and how I respond to both the moon and to the sun, the two celestial bodies that hold fascination in spite of their constant familiarity. And I am reminded of how I live my life in cycles of conscious living with intention, and unconscious living where the intention seems to come from somewhere other than my ego self.
At times I try hard to resist the natural cycles, wanting to hold tight to one particular way of being. I attempt to build a container that would hold out the changes that the cycles demand. I want to be in charge, in control. After all, I am a man and like most men, I need to sense that I am in control, at least to appear to others to be in control. Yet, that control is elusive. What I am left holding when convincing myself that I have it all under control, is no more than a mirage.
As a result, I end up doing as other men do – building external structures that serve as symbols of my control, my power – symbols that are more about wishful thinking than they are about the reality of who I am behind the symbols.
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.
I realise that this is an atypical image when it comes to talking about dreams and reality, but then again dreams and reality are more atypical than not. Lately I have been having a bit of difficulty with recording dreams. If I do get any sense of the dream after waking, it often becomes too difficult to put into words as the fragments that do rise to the surface are too scattered and too far between each other for any hope of finding meaning in the dream. At times like this, I simply accept that the dream doesn’t need my attention, that it is doing what it needs to do at a sub-conscious level. All that is left to me are just disjointed pieces of words or images, such as this image.
Of course images are powerful in their own right. Taking an image such as this one, I can, and often enough do, allow my imagination to build a story, a fantasy around the image – the process of active imagination. This process allows us to bring meaning to images, to tell stories. But, are these stories and interpretations valid? Do they hold any value psychologically, any value in terms of orienting or understanding ourselves? Obviously, simply in allowing these questions to be asked indicates my response in the affirmative. One wouldn’t even entertain these questions if one didn’t consider that there was value. If one was clearly of the opinion that there was nothing to be gained or learned, then the question itself would not arise, rather any hint of the questions would simply be dismissed as nonsense. I guess, for many, the whole idea that there is something of value to doing dream work is in itself a waste of time and shear nonsense.
” The first question we must discuss is: what is our justification for attributing to dreams any other significance that the unsatisfying fragmentary meaning . . . If we start from the fact that a dream is a psychic product, we have not the least reason to suppose that its constitution and function obey laws and purposes other than those applicable to any other psychic product. . . . we have to treat the dream, analytically, just like any other psychic product . . .” (Jung, CW 8, par. 449-450)
As a society, we have somehow accepted that dreams, at least some dreams have meaning thanks to the work of Freud and Jung. Perhaps even more importantly in the western world, we have the stories of the Bible which shows us the power and validity of dreams. And often, these messages are given to us as singular images. The images appear and we are told to look beyond, beneath, within the images to discover truth. We are also told not to worship the images themselves and miss the gold within the depths of these images. Children seem to intuitively know this as they create stories from images, from sculptures and from the artifacts of nature and man. And these stories are not important in literal terms, rather their importance is psychological – the moral of the story being told, the kernel of truth contained.
So, back to this image, to the fragment(s) of a dream, of a thought that somehow sticks – what story can we allow to be told? What do we need to hear? What is message from within that we project exists that needs to be heard? Therein, lies the value of fantasy, active imagination and dream work.
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 was looking for a photo for my wall as part of my sacred space and found this image which caught my attention. It isn’t the image I want for the wall but it was waiting for my attention here on the blog site. As I wandered through various countries in Asia over the past six years I am surprised at the number of photos taken of Buddha. The first image of Buddha that I can recall was one that was Chinese in appearance as compared to the Tibetan or Southeast Asian versions of Buddha. Wandering through Southeast Asia I got to see various representations of Buddha and began to realise that Buddha has been culturally personalized. It didn’t take me long to also realise that the practice of Buddhism is as varied as the physical presentations of Buddha.
The images point to something beyond the image. Buddha is not a god. Rather, Buddha images beg us to look beyond the image into something that is impossible to capture in an image, something numinous, something god-like. As I dig carefully into this numinous idea called Buddhism I am beginning to see that same “kingdom within” that is spoken of in Christianity. The digging quietly leads me deeper into my Self, not the small self of ego, but a larger version that tells me that I am more than my ego, that ego is a flawed, conflicted and complexed self that is haunted by shadows and darkness.
As I find light in the darkness I get to banish the shadows and learn that I am more than I know. And so I take heart and continue the work of individuation, the work of enlightenment, the work of becoming more and more aware of Self. I embrace the journey learning to love myself and others simply because there is no more choice. Once begun, the journey can’t be stopped, one cannot go backward while the mind is still alive and functioning.
This is a Cedar Waxwing, one of a small flock of about a dozen birds who flew in to visit my apple tree this morning while I was enjoying a cup of coffee on the back deck. I waited for the birds to settle in before reaching for my camera and getting a good number of shots hoping that at least one would turn out for use in today’s post.
I have watched these birds in various seasons and have always been well entertained in the process, especially when they eat over ripe mountain ash berries and become very obviously drunk and then behave like a group of college students at a frat house bash. As I watched these birds over the years, I noticed that the males and females looked the same, unlike most other species in which the male sports a colorful plumage. I went searching for some symbolic information with regards to the Waxwing and found this:
“Waxwings are beautiful birds of mystery — masked bandits raiding fruit from forests and orchards or snatching unsuspecting insects — with unpredictable patterns of movement and migration and fascinating rituals of social interaction, gluttonous “drunken” revelry and tender, gentle food sharing. They are also creatures that need to be wild and free.”
I thought about these words and realised that the words fit my experiences with these birds. But I keep coming back to the idea of shared male and female roles, appearance and behaviours. I began to wonder if perhaps they aren’t telling me something about society as a whole, perhaps a society in which gender is irrelevant in the way one lives, loves, works and plays. Perhaps there would be a lot more play and less war, conflict, competition – just a wild abandon celebrating the fact that one is alive.
Of course, the birds are just birds. But, in my mind and in the mind of others from centuries and millenia passed, birds take on a symbolic quality that speaks to something deep within us humans, something primal, wild and free.
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.