Through a Jungian Lens

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A Commitment and a Choice For Presence

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I have just spend two full days with one of my brothers here in Calgary. It was a day of shared memories, catching up on each other’s lives, and telling stories that were more fiction than fact as part of the way to fill the hours. It wasn’t what was said that was important and it has never been about the words. It was more about just being  together for these hours. Knowing that the hours were limited, there was no desire to do much else that would take a few of these hours away. E-mail, social media. blogging, reading and even sleeping were limited so that we could have the fullness of the hours for “presence.”

Presence. We know that presence is vital and powerful in nourishing all of our relationships regardless of the depth of those relationships. But we rarely think about our relationship to ourselves and to our activities. Robert Heyward mentioned in a comment some time ago about the advice that it doesn’t matter what we choose to do; it matters only that when we have chosen, we need to invest ourselves fully in those choices “if you choose to be x, then be the best x possible. What is vital is first to choose then become fully present in that choice.

Buridan's Ass - a fable

Two days ago I was reminded of the tale of Buridan’s Ass, a fable that looks at choice (you can read a great version of the fable here). In the fable, the donkey must choose  between two appealing stacks of hay. Unable to make a choice, the donkey starves to death. Of course there is more to the fable, but for my purposes, it is instructive as a reminder to invest in making a choice and in doing so, fully invest in that choice. This is all about depths – depths of commitment, depths of relationship, and depths of self.

It wasn’t a surprise to me to hear this from a Jungian analyst and then to hear this echoed in the words of Chogyam Trungpa and the Dali Lama and other Buddhist writers and thinkers. Because I am in Calgary for an intensive immersion in Jungian psychology and Buddhism, I guard my time carefully so that I don’t get distracted and thus loose either time or energy or presence in the processes. Inviting my brother to come to Calgary meant that I would have to share some of that time. Would I do my “work” of the individuation process? Would I take the full time for presence in my Buddhist practice? Would I be present “enough” with my brother in the process?

When he walked in the door, the decision was instantaneous and decisive. For the next two days, presence with my brother was not distracted by other valuable options. I knew that if I was only partially present, I would hurt both myself and my brother, and in the process cause us both to suffer an unnecessary wounding. And, in making that choice, I discovered when the hours had passed and he began his journey back to his home that nothing had been lost in either terms of Jungian process or Buddhist practice being put on hold. Rather, both had been enhanced because of choosing and committing to that choice with the fullness of presence.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

June 3, 2012 at 3:41 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Interestingly, the realisation of conscious choice in our lives ultimately leads us to the conundrum at its centre, ie, that regardless of our awareness and commitment to the “choice as full presence” we discover the cross within that we do not choose, and cannot choose, to live beyond. We are stuck with the reality of ourselves as a total being and recognise that reality is not merely us. Like Midas, everything we choose will be touched and tainted by the truth of our being – our evil or darkness cannot be washed away by choice, it must be suffered within all things. If we turn our heads and say: “that was not intended” we merely beg the question of who intended it. At bottom, the choice of all choices becomes: will I live humbly aware of my cross, my dark/light God within, or will I absolve myself of evil and rather let it fester in the world beyond my self created circle of awareness?


    June 3, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    • Everything we touch, touches us in return. The choices not made have as large an impact on our journey as do the choices made. We are in the wheel of life, a wheel that is more than our objective reality experience of life, a wheel that contains everyone else and everything else. We intend everything for rejecting a choice is an intention as well. The unconscious has its intentions which are beyond our awareness, and that unconscious is “self” as well. My awareness is a small pod within the whole and surrounding that pod of awareness is my layer of unconsciousness which contains all of my denied darkness, and for being denied, it festers as you so wisely mention. Thank you Robert for once again bringing your voice here, more than your voice actually.


      June 5, 2012 at 9:09 am

  2. Dear Robert,
    Thank you for this Post.
    We can read a lot about the saying that we have to make choices in our life’s, but that’s it.

    In your Post however you were able to just pinpoint the essence of the dilemma one is confronted with – the choice – the experience – and the result.
    Exactly the right words, clever and wise.

    Opa Bear

    June 4, 2012 at 2:36 am

    • This is my journey at this point, taking the time to “feel” as well as “think” while trusting intuition to guide me rather than being ruled by logic. Thank you, Opa.


      June 5, 2012 at 9:02 am

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