Archive for the ‘water’ tag
Life is a hornet’s nest if one truly lives rather than simply existing waiting for someone to come to the rescue.
As I read what I have just written, I realise that I have said something that is rather dogmatic as if it was a universal truth rather than my understanding of my own truth. That is the problem with words. Once they are put on paper [or on the screen], they become solid as a rock. However, the words, like rocks, are transitory things. I have to remind myself that the authors of all words, including C.G. Jung, are simply painting self-portraits, maps of their own journeys.
I have often fell under the power of their stories, their journeys through their inner landscapes and came to adopt their landscapes as my landscapes. I was entranced with their words that resonated with things inside of myself, so entranced that I failed to notice the words that didn’t resonate, words that didn’t reveal the stirrings within myself. For a time I was deeply Catholic ignoring the realities of the Church and its priests that took on ghostly and shadowy shapes; I was entranced by the life of Jesus. For a time I was an ardent environmentalist in love with the earth not seeing the contradictions and the power-plays and sometimes even the nihilism of those who were entrusted with my faith and that of others. For a time I was Jungian hanging on every word that I found in the Collected Works, even those words which seemed to skip passed me leading to confusion. For a time I was a Buddhist embracing the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path in spite of monks, rinpoches and darhma that seemed the stuff of fairy tales, tales that had no connection to my own tales.
It is only with the crisis that came with midlife that I began to understand that I could never be any of these. I began to understand that rather than embracing a church, a faith, a psychology, a philosophy or a science; I had to build my own story, my own ship within which I could navigate the last of my numbered years as a living human. Yet, I knew that I had to hold near all those words that touched me and told me about myself. Yes, I am unique, an individual living my own story. I captain my own ship, walk my own trails. However, I do so in a sea of trails and in the company of others ships sailing the same ocean of unconsciousness.
Jung is reported to have said, sometime in the 1930’s, when he was beginning to be famous, something like this: “The trouble is that I have built myself a boat with which to ride the flood, and now people are trying to climb into my boat rather than build their own”. (quoted from David Holt here)
Now, I can rephrase the opening statement with a hope that it can be better understood:
Life is like a hornet’s nest if I truly live rather than simply existing waiting for someone to come to my rescue. There are stings that let me know that I am alive. There is a container called my life that is fragile, a container that finishes off blowing in the wind only to disappear back into the dust of beginnings and endings. Life is precious moment in an infinite universe of time and space.
Yesterday I spoke about an inner and an outer journey and how one’s journey becomes an event that has an effect on all those who surround us, either directly or indirectly. Today, I want to focus on self. The outer journey begins as my plane takes off at 1:05 pm Central Standard Time, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Some hours later I transfer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada en route to Paris, France. Just thinking of taking leave of my wife at the airport already brings tears to my eyes. A song is going through my head, Leaving on a Jet Plane, as sung by John Denver, a song that I have played on my guitar countless times. Each time I have sung this song, it has moistened my eyes and built up pressure within my chest, each time somehow intuitively aware that this was also my song to my wife in some future time. Today is that time. Today, I am leaving on a jet plane.
My journey is taking me deep into my own unconscious, deep into an unknown country of silences, shadows and ruins, a place where I will be battling ghosts and dragons that are unique to my psyche. Yet, because they are found in my unconscious, they are not so unique in the collective sense. I will be bumping into the ghosts and dragons of my father and mother and others. Slaying these ghosts and dragons is probably not the right way to explain what will happen, perhaps it would be better to say that I will be embracing these ghosts and monsters with forgiveness and compassion so that they can achieve peace in order for me to also achieve peace.
I fly into the sky in order to plant my feet on the path of pilgrimage. I fly into the inner world as if to the moon underwater in order to plant my spirit and soul on their pilgrimage. Bon Chemin, Buen Camino.
In twelve days I will be sitting on a plane heading towards France and the thousand mile long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I will be doing the first leg, a short leg, in the city of Paris before taking the train to Le Puy en Velay where the process will begin in earnest. At this time, with less than two weeks to go, I find that all of my “stuff” is ready for the most part. But that is just “stuff,” the easy part to get ready. There really isn’t too much to ponder when it comes to socks, pants and tops and other long-hike essentials. The hard part is being ready psychologically and spiritually.
How does one leave a home and one’s soulmate for such an extended period of time? I find myself treasuring each moment with my wife, my house, my garden and the small things that make a life at home. For the most part, I have given up thinking of past and future and have been living in the moment. I guess I am learning how to see the world from a more Buddhist perspective.
But that said, I find myself returning to the computer at times, usually with the excuse of unsubscribing from those groups and businesses that somehow find a way to fill one’s e-mail mailbox. And while on the computer I find myself reading other blog sites of people who have gone before me taking the Le Puy route. And in those moments I am lost in some future following their words and my imagination. I could call it informational preparation, but it is more than that. And in those moments, I am anything but being present in the moment. Rather, I am like this tree stuck out on a point of land surrounded by water wondering where the path of my life has gone, as though I am in some dream searching for some directional marker to lead me back home.
I will be back again before I fly off into another time, place, space and existential moment.
Note: Here is a good look at the GR65 route from Le Puy en Velay to Saint Jacques Pied de Port. And here is the first of many maps that chart the journey. Just a reminder that the GR65 will take me to the start of the Camino Francés at Saint Jacques Pied de Port.
This is a spring that emerges from underground on my eldest daughter’s land in Alberta. Sometimes it is hard to understand that what appears on the surface is but a fraction of the full reality of one’s life and the life of our planet. Flowing beneath the surface of the land are streams and rivers as well as lakes. Sometimes the water finds its way to the surface as in this photo, to then carve its way through the external world. Also found on the land are sinkholes which appear as normal bits of ground, an illusion as to inadvertently step on one of these spots is to risk disappearing very rapidly into a vicious soup of mud, being swallowed into the belly of the earth with no chance of escape.
Underground water is of course symbolic for me, symbolizing the unconscious making its entrance into my life. Most times I am not aware of the outbreak of unconscious as I unconsciously project this outbreak onto others. I get angry with government and organisations, or I get frustrated with a person with whom there was no previous frustration even though that person hasn’t changed behaviours or attitudes. Sometimes I become aware because I am learning to look at how I am in relation to the world. When I sense (after the fact) that I have been caught in some field of energy that brought out frustration, anger or fantasy, I begin to dig deeper and try to own the feelings as being more about my own stuff.
Dreams are another way that the unconscious bubbles to the surface of my awareness. And as in working at taking back projections, the work of digging through the dreams becomes important to the process of becoming more conscious. Like everyone else, I only become more conscious when I turn the light onto what was hidden beneath the surface in darkness. And like other people, I want to ignore the existence of that darkness, the shadow side of who I am. As I wrote these words, a song came to my mind – “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” by Three Dog Night, especially these words: “Don’t turn on the lights, ’cause I don’t want to see.“
I found that the title of the song “fit” as the Great Mother is about earth, water and the depths. The Mother doesn’t demand anything from us in terms of becoming conscious, she demands only that we return to her womb. It is the Father, who calls us to the light of the sun, to consciousness. The ideal is to marry the two rather than to be swallowed in the unconscious or to be burnt like some Icarus flying too close to the sun, a holy marriage. Of course, that means I have a lot of work to do in turning on the lights as I find the various light switches hidden in the darkness of the inner, unconscious world.
The song I used in one of my first lessons with each new set of students while teaching at the university in ChangZhou, was by Garth Brooks, The River. Using the song as a major part of a motivational set, the students were then able to open up more easily and speak of their own dreams and how they changed over their brief lives of childhood and youth. Dreams constantly change as life somehow twists and turns and sometimes doubles back on itself. But that said, there are some dreams that shape-shift to fit the constantly changing terrain of one’s life. The core of the dream remains, only the outer world expression of the dream changes.
But this post is looking at a different simile, the one in which life is compared with the river. Of course, as is the usual manner in which I approach almost anything I write here, this is not intended to be some sort of universal truth, but simply how I see it at this point and time in my life. And, just because I understand it this way at this moment, I can only speak from that position. Life is like a river. The image I chose for today’s post inspired that thought. This is a section of the Battle River which flows through two quarter sections that my eldest daughter and her husband own in east-central Alberta. I have seen this river at different levels depending on the season and the environmental conditions that exist between the source of the river and this particular point along the rivers journey.
At times, the river’s flow is restricted and slow as though there was not enough energy to free up water for the flow. Something at the source has remained frozen for two long, or there was not enough winter snow to feed the river’s flow. I see that same thing happening in my life at times where my energy levels are lower and I move and think more slowly as a result. Other times, the river overflows its banks and floods the land making wholesale changes which often seem to appear to be more about damaging and destroying. But, when the river recedes back to its place between banks that have changed somewhat because of the flooding, new life appears on the flooded land. The flooding has enriched the land. And like the physical river, life has a way of overwhelming us with “too much-ness.” Psychologically the unconscious floods us through an overabundance of dreams, or through activated complexes due to our interpersonal relationships becoming heated in any number of ways. In the end, when the dreams recede and our heads have a time to rest, we find that we have changed in some ways, hopefully we have become more conscious and thus better able to be in relationship with ourselves and with others.
But that said, there are no guarantees about anything. The changes could result in improved relationships, lost relationship and perhaps new relationships. The only thing to be certain of is that everything changes. Attempting to hold on to what was is nothing but a neurotic response for what was no longer exists, what was has been transformed by the flow of life.
This is a scene from the edge of the Battle River as it traverses its way through east-central Alberta, Canada. This little river will eventually rise as the winter snow in the mountains begins to melt, but as it is right now, the shoreline shows the water still receding and leaving its mark on the mud. Nothing stays the same as the water continued to carve the shore with each season that passes. The land works on the water forcing it to change its course over time, and the water works on the land, eroding the banks and creating new land formations at a new location, perhaps as an island where the river widens and becomes shallower. The only sure thing to note is that there is constant change.
My life is not much different. I can look at this scene and see my ego, my consciousness as the land and the unconscious as the river. As I age and as I experience life, consciousness grows or should I say, emerges from the unconscious. It really isn’t about creating something that was never there, it is about bringing what was hidden under the water to the surface to be noted and incorporated into awareness.
All it takes are little things, sometimes so small one is almost not aware that something has changed. Just for example, I write down my dreams now, more than has been my habit for a few years. That change was somewhat significant as it came with the territory with re-entering analysis, but not so significant because it was an activity that had been part of my routine for a number of years. I guess it could be somewhat similar to the changing levels of the river over seasons where high water levels would be marked with increased dreaming and attention to dreams and low water with decreased perceptions of dreams.
With attention to dreams, I am more likely to make shifts in my awareness of the world around me and be more aware of my body as well. That extra awareness causes yet a few more “conscious” shifts in behaviour. The slight shifts in behaviour then results in slight shifts in terms of relationships with others. In the process, I appear as a different man though in reality I am not really that much different, I am only more aware of who I am. I might “look” or “respond” a bit differently with the loss of a few extra pounds due to a slight shift in eating habits or in exercise habits (minor changes, not focused major changes), or taking a few moments to really ask myself what I think in response to a question before answering. In spite of the cosmetic changes, the reality of who I am doesn’t change. The only thing that changes in how I present that self to the world and how the world responds to that presentation.
Of course, I will continue like almost everyone else to basically live with a lot of unknowns about my self and others and the world around me, live with the unconscious working away over time. Given enough time and enough attention, perhaps I will become even more aware of myself and be better at being in conscious relationship with others and the external world.
A photo I took a few days ago shows a scene from Fish Creek. My last series of photos taken of the creek showed the scene in ice and snow. Now the waters race with abandon as they engage in a dance of sorts that takes them from here to there.
In working with the human psyche, there are seasons where one feels too contained and restrained as though one, like this creek, has fallen under the spell of winter and has turned to ice. It is a cold, dark and constricting place which almost feels as though one struggles even to breathe. Then, as if by magic, light emerges to melt the ice, to banish the cold and dark into a corner for a while so that a new season can begin.
A different river scene for today as I continue on with river photos. This photo was taken in February, 2011 while I was in IndoChina for a month. I was entranced by the light on the water as it created a “crystal” effect. In the photo, the family of mother and her four children appear so small though they are at the centre of the image. Theirs is a life on the river which feeds them. Where is the father? One can only imagine that the father has some sort of employment that allows the family something more than a subsistence living. In this image he is absent.
Men, as fathers, are often absent in the lives of their children, and that has a powerful affect on the children. A good father in today’s world will find that he gets to be fully present for a couple of hours each day once travel to and from work as well as the hours spent at work are removed from the hours that children are awake. This presents a problem for children. Boys don’t learn enough about how to be a man in the world with the absence of the father, especially if most of the waking hours are spent in the presence of women such as mother and teachers. In the case of fathers who do not take an active presence in the lives of the children, both male and female children suffer wounds of abandonment. Boys suffer more than girls as girls still have the model of mother to show them the pathway to womanhood.
But almost more important than the absence of father is the absence of modelling of relationship, intimate relationship between husband and wife. Both male and female children suffer the same lack modelling behaviour. What they learn is that “mother” is self-sufficient and can do the role of parenting alone, that a man is not needed, perhaps even superfluous. What they learn is that “father” is untrustworthy, undependable, selfish, uncaring. Of course, there is more to a relationship between a man and a woman that the children do not see, do not experience. Children, with their ego-centric thinking and experiencing of the world with the delusion that they, believe they are responsible for all things going wrong in the world around them because of something they did, thought or failed to do = magical thinking of a child. And so they build in small strategies to keep fear at bay, to control the world (adults) around them in order to somehow stay safe. These little strategies become life scripts which influence their life and relationship patterns once they become adults. The more effort needed to feel safe as a child, the greater the dysfunction will be in adulthood.
As a parent, one must guard against overwhelming a child with “too much” or “too little” as both will result in a child being “overwhelmed” and thus feeling unsafe as though drowning in affect. I know, it is easier said and than done.
There is no doubt that each of us is not much different than this block of ice that has broken off from the shoreline, from what once was a massive ice cover hiding a river flowing beneath. But, as I look at this image I see something of myself, a part of me that has been frozen for too long. When I say frozen, I am referring to my lack of engagement with the world in an authentic manner. Rather than being fully authentic, I have invested a lot of my energy to project an image of myself that strives for perfection. I wanted to be a person that everyone liked yet I didn’t believe that anyone could actually like me if I let my hidden parts be seen by others. My approach would fit very well into Glover’s description of “Nice Guy.”
“As much as Nice Guys try to look good and get people to like them, . . . [their] . . . defenses keep people at arm’s length. Like most Nice Guy patterns, these unconscious behaviors actually accomplish the opposite of what the Nice Guy really craves. While desiring love and connection, his behaviors serve as an invisible force field that keeps people from being able to get close to him.
Nice Guys have a difficult time comprehending that in general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy.
Humans connect with humans. Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.” (Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, p.46)
Attending to the process of daring to be honest with my self, I am beginning to peel back the layers of disguise that I have used since childhood. I am not a child anymore and have nothing to fear in being honest with myself and in turn, honestly presenting the self I rediscover to all those who are in my life.
I took this photo standing on the thick ice that edged the river. Almost all of my photos taken were of ice, water, and nature. I had not thoughts of taking a “city” landscape photo. But, as I walked gently and carefully on the slick ice in the shadow under the bridge, I saw this image in my mind and knew I had to capture it. As I was taking the photo I thought of the the troll who lived under the bridge who demanded payment as people journeyed to the world of consciousness from the unconscious world. Here I was, the troll with the camera waiting for a traveller to appear and for payment to be rendered. I sometimes get caught up in an imaginal world, something that comes with trying to capture images that are more than a visual record of objective reality.
I use images as a doorway, as a portal to enter into a dialogue, a conversation with different layer of who I am, a layer that contains an aspect of my “self” that is old, very old. Children find it easy to enter into this conversation as they participate on a feeling level as we as adults read them fairy tales and folk tales. Somehow they connect, resonate and feel at home in these absurd stories. As I am getting older, I am finding that I am daring to let go of “adult” proscriptions which fit us as if they are blinders, ear plugs and straight jackets which are meant to keep the non-objective world safely contained. Even though this is true as we live with “should’s” and “should not’s” those rules which keep us civilized, what is being contained or restrained is us as individuals. It is as though we are kept within a safe zone guarded by razor-sharp barbed wire. Are we keeping the darkness outside or are we building so many layers of denial which allows that darkness free reign because we have put ourselves into straight jackets?
Such strange thoughts as I stood on the ice that was soon ready to break and allow the waters of the unconscious to rush free from their winter containment, as I stood under the bridge looking at the downtown Calgary skyline.