Through a Jungian Lens

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Rituals: Prayers In Sacred Places

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Say a little prayer for me - Saigon, Vietnam

For a while, I sat in front of my computer, blank. I had no ideas, no energy and almost no intention left for writing today’s post. As I say the computer went into screen saver mode and photos began flashing across my screen – my preferred screen saver mode. I wasn’t even really looking at the screen as I felt detached and listless. Then, this image appeared and I woke up. I was taken back to the moment in time when I took this photo last winter when in Vietnam. I had spent a considerable part of the day visiting places crowded with people, filled with noise. Here in a temple, though busy with people, a quietness was in place. The busyness had to do with blessings and prayers. I remembered the incense and the active silence and felt drawn to the prayers made visible. And I felt the lack of prayer in my own life.

Prayer is a ritual. When I was a youth, I prayed to a real God, I was in touch with that God and I believed in Him. Life, the church and the priests and the parishioners took all of this away from me as I watched and felt the prayers turn into mechanical routines, meaningless routines in terms of spiritual communion. It was as if the prayers were offered as bribes or said out of fear or even as a bargaining tool as though creating a private hedge fund in case there really was a heaven and hell. I don’t do well with meaninglessness, with going through the motions. I need to be invested with what I do or I drift away.

My prayers shifted and became unspoken, unvoiced. The prayers became a dialogue, an non-repetitive conversation that looked for God within the deepest hidden places within myself. Somehow I took the words I learned early, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke) quite seriously for what I found outside of me sorely missing the presence of God. With the meeting of Nietzsche and Jung and a host of others, I saw that I truly did need to look within if I was to ever find God again, if I was ever to honour God and be recognized in return.

I began the re-approach to God with sacred moments in a sacred place, in meditation. Sometimes this meditation took place in a quiet cathedral, sometimes in the quiet spaces of a darkened room, sometime in nature with the trees and the sky serving as a cathedral. Meditation became my ritual.

I found that when I would run, I would lose sense of the world around me and in the silence that would surround me in spite of life flowing by, I found myself talking again with God, but not always. Often I would be too intensely focused on time, on pace, on the training for a race. But when I would find myself, usually on empty country roads, lose track of my stopwatch, I would enter into a trance-like state. I knew the difference.  And, knowing the difference, I began to leave the stopwatch at home and just run. Running became my ritual.

And know, I turn to the quiet moments when I sit here by my keyboard, sit with a photo that has taken on a sense of the numinous and again find words to speak, words that become prayers. And in the process, writing became my ritual.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

September 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Dear Robert,
    Thank you for today’s Post, full of honest personal experience.
    It is good to read the experience/awareness of your mood, to be blank, to have no ideas and energy and with no other intention then just sit and do nothing.

    When I am in such a mood I feel sort of Soulless so to say.

    And then you saw the picture of the temple and you where engaged with your Soul again and you received the energy to write, to perform your Ritual.

    Petra, (my wife), and me are sort of occupied/confronted these last days with issues referring to Soul and Soulless – no big stuff, just house and kitchen thoughts as we call it.

    Once on a market Petra fell in love with a very nice handbag – as het present handbag nearly fell to pieces she decided to buy the handbag.
    All the way home she kept on admiring the handbag and caressing it and looked at all the small details that made the bag so precious for her – ritual.
    To us, Petra gave soul to the handbag, due to the fact that she was touched by her Soul – and even now, 10 years after she bought the handbag she still enjoys to admire the handbag.
    Last week we saw a magazine with all Prada handbags and Gucci stuff (with extraordinary high prices) – to us none of these articles appealed to us, because we were not touched by beauty.
    For some people it seems to be a “must” to appear with the latest Prada handbag.
    Petra and I wondered if most of these bought Prada handbags were given a soul by their owners or remained soulless.
    Of course we will not damage ourselves by judging – we just watch and learn.

    Opa Bear

    September 22, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    • I try to be honest and to speak as I am and as I understand. Sometimes I am more successful than other times. I trust myself to leave words unsaid if they don’t come on their own. I don’t want to force words as then they would be hollow, meaningless and just letters disrupting the balance of my universe. Thanks as always. 🙂


      September 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm

  2. Really wonderful x

    Did I let you know that Arjunas Octopus has been relieved of duties and now resurrected as Words That Change. I’ll still be blogging about the same old things, but it’ll be connected to business things.

    Simon Hodges

    September 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    • I will look to the new version, Simon. I did enjoy your work at Arjunas Octopus. I am sure that Words That Change will also be meaningful for me. Thanks for bringing this here for all of us.


      September 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm

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