Archive for October 2012
The Way of the Cross – Via Dolorosa. I have a different way of understanding this Catholic idea. For me it begins with one being condemned to life rather than death as is depicted in the first of the stations. And, it ends in death and reintegration with whatever one wants to call the One from which all arises, wanders and returns. I see it as a circle. This image of a cross which stands in front of the cathedral in Estaing, France, fits with my understanding how all is contained within. all is part of a whole.
The work of the second half of life is a work of uncovering and honouring the whole self. This is a work of making the unconscious, conscious – well as much as possible for there is always some things about one’s psyche that will remain a mystery, partly because the boundaries between the personal unconscious and he collective unconscious are porous. What do I mean by this? Well, to begin with, we are all connected in spite of our feelings and beliefs that tell us we are isolated from each other. Nature is a good teacher if one would listen. Our environment teaches us that all parts are interconnected; and when one part is suffering, all the parts suffer. We also see this in our families; when one member of the family suffers, all members resonate and feel that suffering and in the process, share that suffering.
The rise of eco-psychology is tied into this. We are all contained within the circle, all at home on this spherical planet. When we suffer, the planet suffers; when the planet suffers, we suffer. The latest severe storm to hit the north-eastern U.S.A. and eastern Canada is a good example of the earth hurting and humans then hurting in response. I have to add that when our environment suffers, we humans also suffer – polluted air, water and soil in turn pollute our bodies and depress our psyche.
The symbol for the Earth is also found in our spirituality – the circle and the cross as found above in the photo from Estaing. This same circle and cross is found in Celtic symbolism. All contained in one – the four seasons of the earth, the four seasons of humankind; the four directions, the four noble truths, the four virtues.
Halloween, All Hallow’s eve, Samhain – a deliberate remembrance of the cycle of birth and death of nature and of whatever it is that is our human spirit. I have different responses to this ancient remembrance. In its current form as Halloween, I am ambivalent. I detest the idea of it being trivialized through the media to the point where it loses meaning.
Yet, in spite of what it appears is happening, there is something else going on beneath the surface, something not so trivial. Life requires balance. What is lost in one place is found in another place. Birth leads to death and death feeds new life. The gods and goddesses seem to have disappeared only to change shapes and re-emerge in other forms. In spite of the commercialization, children sense the magic that is truly present, see what we can no longer see. And for a time, the dead gods and goddesses are reborn and live.
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?
Personal demons, we all have them. Almost a full year ago, there was a jail break in which many of my personal demons somehow found a way to erupt into my daily life. I brooded, I withdrew into silence, I had little patience for my students, my colleagues and my friends. My life partner was left wondering “who is this stranger?” With the barriers between inner and outer world disintegrating, I had to choose between engaging these demons or retreating even more from life. For those who have been following here, you know that I chose to engage these demons. My latest effort, the walk along the Grande Randonnée 65, has been the most intense of these efforts. I say “most intense” as it was an attempt to engage these demons without the guidance of an analyst, without the support of the significant people in my life, without the safety net of community and home. I went to France to be alone with myself, to force myself to be present fully on both inner and outer dimensions without the distractions of others and places which had enabled me to “avoid” this needed confrontation.
“Our personal demons come in many guises. We experience them as shame, as jealousy, as abandonment, as rage. They are anything that makes us so uncomfortable that we continually run away.” (Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart, p.29)
Ouch! Double ouch! That is likely the best description of how I have been dealing with my personal demons for a long time, continually running away; running, running, running.
“We do the big escape: we act out, say something, slam a door, hit someone, or throw a pot as a way of not facing what’s happening in our hearts. Or we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.
All over the world, people are so caught up in running that they forget to take advantage of the beauty around them. We become so accustomed to speeding ahead that we rob ourselves of joy.” (pp 29-30)
Guilty! Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines, China, Canada! And this is just the running during the last eight years. It was only in France that I came, somehow, to “wake up” and stop running. And even then, it took about a hundred miles before I became aware of the fact that I had been running. Yes, I had literally been running at times on the GR 65. It took a lot to have me wake up. It took intense body pain and a literal confrontation with one of my ghosts to accomplish what meditation and psychoanalysis hadn’t been able to accomplish.
I am not fully there yet, but I am on the right path, my path. And, I am taking it slowly (doucement, aller doucement), one day at a time.
For some reason, I am finding it harder to write here at Through a Jungian Lens. It isn’t because I am bored with the process or that I find it meaningless; it is about something deeper than that. I don’t want to just keep posting because of habit. I want to post because there is something that I need to say. So, I am following and honouring that feeling. I hope my readers here will be patient with the small lapses into silence.
I continue to be drawn to the photos I took in France, especially the “GR 65 trail photos.” I wondered about this rather than my “trail-less” nature photos of places I wander. Perhaps it is because my path in life, a unique path of one, is contained in family, community, culture and friendships. I don’t exist in isolation. My life touches others and my life is touched by others. This is a vital lesson I learned while walking the GR 65. My footsteps are mine, the silence and aloneness experienced on the trail were real giving me plenty of time to feel, think and meditate. Yet, I was aware that others had walked the trail before me and that others would follow the trail behind me, a constant stream of humanity.
Listening to and reading the stories that have formed our mythologies, I am learning that the trails I walk in my mind, in my imagination and fantasies, in my hesitant wandering through the darker inner landscapes are not trails that have never been travelled before. Myths and tales tell me that others have been here before and that others are yet to come to walk these trails.
It’s a blow to my ego which would like to believe that I walk where no one has ever walked before, both in my life and in my mind. But these blows to the ego are just what is necessary if I am to find a balance in life, if I am to realise that I am more than what my ego would like to believe. Buddhism has helped in coming to a better understanding of ego and its limited version of reality. Jungian psychology has also added so much to my understanding. But more than either of these, I am gaining a better understanding simply through walking through my own life and hearing echoes in the stories of those who have gone before me.
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.
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.
I am getting a “pepère” [grandpa] time out as Grandma watches some “Treehouse” children’s programs with our youngest grandson. It’s time for his nap [which I don’t think is going to happen] as he has had a busy morning playing. He begins his day saying “play Père?” which of course guarantees that I drop everything and begin playing whatever is on his mind at that moment. Grandma is relegated to the background for much of the day, but not ignored. When it is time for a nap, or for lunch or for cuddles, he’s off like a bullet in search of grandma. We have been blessed with having our grandson with us for four days while the parents get to enjoy some “away” time so that they can be with each other, fully.