Why is the Soul So Shy?

I have tentatively started – yet once again – to write in a journal, inspired by Virginia Woolfe, Anais Nin and even Kierkegaarde. My earliest inspiration for doing do was The Diary of Anne Frank, which I read  around the same age she was when she wrote that remarkable book – at the ripe old age of 12. I was so moved by her courage in the face of the horror that surrounded her and her family.

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Every time I tried writing in a journal in the past, I would face my own inner horror which would say: ‘can I dare to be totally open and true to myself and the page?’ This existential terror would whisper…..’what if someone finds it and reads it? There is no hiding place that is good enough’. On a deep soul level this fear always slammed on the brakes.

 Now I am finally beginning  to see this for what is – the shyness of the soul – and I realize I am not alone. I came across this wonderful quote from Maya Angelou the other day and I realized that what I had been thinking about, she had articulated in another way – but that we were talking about the same thing:

 I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.

We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.

 Maya Angelou

 As a child I lived much of my life in that presence, but I had no words for it. When I was younger I couldn’t speak about my inner reality or my inner truth, because there was no “I” strong enough to do so. As in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of  The Little Mermaid, a story that I adored as a child, I had no voice. It took the long, slow process of growth into maturity to understand that like the little mermaid, I longed for a connection with The Prince. In Jungian terms this is understood as the inner connection to the animus (a woman’s inner connection to the masculine).

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 For the complete story from Hans Christian Andersen:

http://www.fairytalescollection.com/HansChristianAndersen/TheLittleMermaid.aspx

 If we look at the fairytale from the Jungian perspective, the little Mermaid suffers and sacrifices herself in order to connect with her prince in the hopes that it will bring her into a grounded relationship with him. The horrible sadness of it is that she sacrificed her voice in order to get legs, so she could walk by his side and be in the same reality in which he lived. Like the little mermaid, the woman’s connection with the animus is the bridge that brings us into the world, but then the soul has to struggle to find its voice.

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In this story, the Prince does not realize that it is the little mermaid who has saved his life when he was on the brink of drowning after a shipwreck. It is a man’s lifework to find and deepen the connection to the inner feminine and to give it voice. It is a woman’s lifework to find and embody the will, the strength and the courage to be and find her rightful work in the world, her true voice, her calling.

 This fairytale is about the longing of the soul for a grounded connection in life, and it also about its essential shyness. Until we are strong and courageous enough to speak from the soul, for the soul – we are silenced by our fear, distracted by our distractions, living a provisional life.

 This is not meant to blame – it takes a lot of time and courage, and perhaps many lifetimes to wake up. We need to be compassionate to ourselves and to others, while not allowing ourselves to be fooled into thinking this is all there is – so that we must rush and grab and step over others to gain a little inch for ourselves.

 When we do begin to wake up to this reality, we can begin to forgive ourselves for our lack of consciousness and our mistakes. Then, and only then,  can we begin to forgive others.  Perhaps they haven’t yet had the strength, courage or enough awareness to listen to their own souls and find their true voices.

 As Christopher Frye says in The Sleep of Prisoners, “It takes so many thousand years to wake, but will you wake, for pity’s sake?”

To listen to Sir George Trevelyan recite this poem go to:

SirGeorgeTrevelyanRecites_A_Sleep_of_Prisoners

A Sleep of Prisoners

by Christopher Fry

The human heart can go the lengths of God…

Dark and cold we may be, but this

Is no winter now.

The frozen misery

Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;

The thunder is the thunder of the floes,

The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong

Comes up to face us everywhere,

Never to leave us till we take

The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.

The enterprise is exploration into God.

Where are you making for

It takes

So many thousand years to wake…

But will you wake, for pity’s sake?

 

 

Daydreaming and Realization

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“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” Albert Einstein

One of my all-time favourite things to do is to go to my meditation corner of the house, light a candle, cafe latte in hand (made with vanilla soy), and hang out in my sacred space. I always start with some centering sitting yoga postures, and then I drift – into meditation,or sometimes just daydreaming as I stare out the window at the birds, the squirrels, the trees and the blue sky. I can spend a long time here – it always feels like such a nourishing opportunity to communicate with my higher self. Eventually I move on to some other yoga asanas, depending on what I feel my body needs, but my approach to yoga is very different to the North American variations which so often treat yoga as an exercise program. What much of the west seems to have lost is that yoga asanas were originally designed to prepare the body to sit in meditation.

When I first started to practice meditation, I would worry about the correct way to meditate (certainly no coffee!) and I would wonder whether I was doing it correctly. The inner critic used to have a field day as I tried to find my spiritual path. Now I just soak up the source, the same way a tree soaks up water through its roots and oxygen through its leaves. I no longer worry about whether I am meditating or daydreaming, because I have come to see the value of daydreaming.

When we free the mind to unplug from its daily worries and preoccupations, we open a receptive space inside ourselves  – we allow ourselves to be seeded by something higher. Daydreaming is different from fantasies that usually have an egoic agenda – such as sexual fantasies or fantasies of revenge or fantasies of escape from some karmic reality we are stuck in.

Daydreaming has no agenda. It is a deeply receptive state of inner listening. You might hold a question, in the same way you would hold a question when consulting the I Ching. And then you wait. If you notice that there is a suffering in your heart, or a clenching in your stomach because of some anxiety, you just notice it, allow it, and continue to receive the breath gently through diaphragmatic breathing. Just breath, watch the breath, and watch the thoughts coming in and then receding like the waves on the shore. Just watch and wait for what comes. You may be surprised by the revelations and insights that arrive, unbidden, on your doorstep.

When you allow your mind to quieten down by simply watching the thoughts, spaces start to open up between the thoughts. Don’t worry about trying to control the thoughts – they just start to naturally slow down after you watch them come and go for a while. Remember you are not your thoughts – you have a gazillion a day, most of them of little value.  It’s almost as if the mind gets embarrassed by the amount of trivia it generates when you are watching it. I often think the mind is like the internet – always on, and always able to generate endless content.

Daydreaming is the realm and seedbed of the imagination. It allows you to take a break from all that content and access something higher. Napping has a very similar restorative effect – the only difference is that napping is done under the veil of consciousness, whereas daydreaming maintains a stream of consciousness. Many great leaders and thinkers are natural daydreamers or devoted nappers. Einstein, along with many other great scientists, found that when he let go of the problem he was trying to solve, the solution would come on its own when he was daydreaming or going for a walk. Churchill would not go without his nap. I am sure he was guided throughout World War II, and taking a nap allowed him to connect with his higher self.

So give yourself permission to daydream – make space in your life to connect with that which is higher, which is trying to connect with you. Be open and receptive to listening to your heart in silence. If you listen deeply, it will always guide you.

These are some wonderful quotes of Albert Einstein on imagination, the intuitive mind,  creativity and daydreaming:

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

 “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

 “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

 “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

 “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

 “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

 “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

 “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

 And here is a link to the napping habits of some famous leaders:

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/03/14/the-napping-habits-of-8-famous-men/

Alchemical Psychology: Why does it matter?

backgrounds-world-fantastic-wallpapers-70497One of Hillman’s last gifts to us before his death, Alchemical Psychology, is perhaps one of the most important contributions to Jungian thought because it sheds light on the importance of alchemical metaphors for the soul’s journey. For many followers of Jung, myself included, the difficulty of penetrating the alchemical mysteries in order to grasp Jung’s fascination with it, has been a daunting and mysterious task. Hillman’s book brings many fresh and meaningful insights to this arcane subject matter, and allows us to glimpse behind the veil. I feel he peels away the layers, using poetic but modern language, unlike Jung, whose language and train of thought is often very dense and labyrinthian.

One of the ideas that Hillman throws into question is the whole notion of the goal of individuation, one of the sacred tenets of Jungian depth psychology.  He feels that inherent in this concept is the idea of the goal as something to be obtained – the end product of a linear process that proceeds through stages.  If one were to become fully ‘individuated’, totally at one with the Self, or fully enlightened – to use an Eastern metaphor – then one would have achieved the goal – or as it is imagined in alchemy – one would have attained the gold or the treasure of the highest value.

Hillman asks, why does the psyche invent goals? And what do goals do for the soul? Hillman quotes Jung as saying, “ The goal is important only as an idea; the essential thing is the opus which leads to the goal: that is the goal of a lifetime.” In other words, Hillman explains, the goal-idea serves primarily to impel the psyche into the opus.

“ We shall have extraordinary and marvelous goals, like gold and pearls, elixirs and healing stones of wisdom, because then we shall be motivated to stay the course, that via longissima called a lifetime. Were the goal not imagined as gold, the highest value possible, were the goal not healing, were redemption and immortality not promised in the image at the outset, who would risk the leaden despair, tortured mortifications, ageing putrefactions, the sludge, and the corrosive fires? An inflated vision of supreme beauty is a necessary fiction for the soul-making opus we call our lifetime.”

In exploring the image of the pearl as the goal, he addresses the notion of the materia prima, another fundamental precept in alchemical language. In this particular image, the sand in the oyster shell is the material prima – the ‘worthless gritty bit we call a symptom or problem, (which) when worked on constantly, slowly becomes coated. An organic process turns the bit of grit into a coagulated jewel. The work goes on in the depth of the sea, where light does not reach, inside the hermetically sealed oyster. Then it must be fished up and pried loose, extracted. It is not enough to have a pearl in the depth of the sea, not enough to be gifted with riches and blessed with talents. For they may remain there, still sealed away in the oyster when we are sealed away in the coffin. It is a ‘goal hard to attain’ – it must be worked at as does the oyster, and it must be dived for, deep into the dissolving waters.”

Hillman tells us that concealed jewels or hidden treasure are of no use to the world.  As we do our own soul work, we also must bring these gifts into the world.

“Rather than emphasis upon the closed vessel as the modus for self-knowledge, we are to ‘freely give.’ Revelation. If the goal is an idea that motivates the opus all along the way, then ideas of display and exposure must lead the mind. Extraverted display not as the last stage of a long process of introverted secrecy; instead, disclosure. Man revealed is man known; as if self-knowledge were only truly that in the act of revealing that self.”

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This is an extraordinary statement – self-knowledge is only truly that when we reveal the self, when we ‘truly give’ of ourselves to the world.  Jung tells us that alchemy has two main purposes, “the rescue of the human soul and the salvation of the cosmos” – in other words, they go hand in hand. He goes on to say “……From the alchemical perspective the human individual may be a necessary focus but cannot be a sufficient one; the rescue of the cosmos is equally important. Neither can take place without the other. Soul and world are inseparable: anima mundi.”

Watch this stunning video of earth from the astronauts’ perspective:

Holding the Tension of the Opposites

Owl5You know when you know you just KNOW something? And it doesn’t matter what other people’s opinions are. In fact, further discussion just feels like a spinning of the wheels. Have you ever looked back and wondered about this?

Sometimes you can angst over something for a very long while….waffling back and forth, weighing pros and cons ad nauseum, until you feel heartily sick of thinking about it….but it just keeps creeping back in. Like a stray cat that won’t go away. The tension of feeling undecided and ambivalent – for no good, rational reason – is crazy-making, and it just eats away at the core of you. Your mind becomes even more argumentative, and it could be that you are no longer a pleasant person to be around.

If you look back, and reflect on those times in our lives when you have done this, you realize that one day, for no apparent reason, the clouds just cleared, and you knew what we had to do. What happened? I think it is very valuable to understand that this is a common process in decision-making. Jung talked about holding the tension of the opposites – when the choices feel diametrically opposed to one another in some way. At that point we are caught in the dualistic thinking of either/or, and neither one feels quite right. Feeling pressured by others to make a choice is a suffering. We might also realize that our indecision is affecting others who are also suffering. Some want you to go one way, others think you should do something else. Who should you please?

We all must struggle over the moral and ethical issues, and the feelings of those we care about, but in the final analysis, we only have this life to live (in this body and this personality). Many people have a tendency to shove this struggle underground and deny its existence. This only causes further suffering. Rather, we need to embrace the opposites and hold the tension until our way becomes clear. Don’t move away from it, move towards it.

I sometimes joke that it might be easier if “They” all wanted the same thing of you, but of course they don’t. My old friend Alexander Blair-Ewart used to say, “A third of the people are going to love you no matter what. A third of the people are going to hate you no matter what. And the other third simply don’t care. So you might as well just be yourself.” We always used to laugh about this – it is actually very freeing to think in this way. So, if we are not to base our decision making on what others want of us, then we have to find the felt-sense of ‘rightness’ within.

This process of struggle does deepen you. Kahlil Gibran writes beautifully about this:

The Prophet

And a woman spoke, saying Tell us of Pain.
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over the fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen,
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseeen’
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

By becoming more conscious of the fact that you are in the middle of a very natural life process that requires time and profound patience, perhaps you can learn to become more patient with yourself – knowing that one day you will just KNOW, and the struggle will be over. Jung refers to this arrival as the transcendent third. It is not the either/or of the original dilemma. A third perspective or understanding has come in.

We all come into this life with particular soul-work to do, and our life circumstances provide us with those opportunities, if we take them. In the final analysis, the soul work you have to do is right in front of you, and it is the only work in this life that really matters. When you die, you will know if you have met that challenge or not.

All of your life should be in preparation for that – what else are you going to do with your life? Should you live pretending that you will not have to ultimately deal with this question? I believe that when we cease struggling over an issue, and just relax into our own knowing, we are on the right path, doing the soul work we need to do. But there won’t be a heavy feeling of “should” around it – it will just feel right.

Here is another beautiful poem on knowing; The Journey, by one of my favourite poets, Mary Oliver:

Notes from Sophia – the Divine Face of Inner Wisdom

SOPHIA-Goddess
Notes from Sophia – the Divine Face of Inner Wisdom

That still, small voice within…..can you hear it? Are you listening? When we first begin to attune to our own inner wisdom, it can feel difficult to discern. There is such a cacophony of voices from our inner community of conflicting interests, desires and repulsions, that the pure, clear note of Sophia, the wisdom principle, can barely be heard.(See earlier blog on Inner Community).

As I think or meditate on what my next blog should be about, I wait for some inner guidance. If I don’t feel it, I can’t get motivated to write. When I get very quiet and just wait, something usually comes. It is often in response to some conversation or some reflection on a problem that has come up. This time it was in response to the question of how do I decide what to write about next? As I thought about it, I realized it was connected to this process of inner listening, and waiting for guidance. The idea of “Notes from Sophia” kept coming up, and I kept dismissing it! Who was I to talk about Sophia, the feminine face of divine wisdom? It felt like hubris to me, and greater thinkers and writers than I have done this subject much greater justice. And I wasn’t interested in launching a political discourse on why God contained a feminine principle. And yet, and yet, this idea just kept nibbling away at the edges of my consciousness. Two of my great loves in life have long been theosophy and philosophy, so there She was again.

Theosophy (Theo meaning God in Greek, and sophy referring to Sofia or wisdom) and Philosophy, (meaning love of wisdom) both honour the recognition of Sophia as the feminine wisdom principle. In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky, who was the founder of the Theosophical movement , explains: “Cosmogonies show that the Archaic Universal Soul was held by every nation as the “Mind” of the Demiurgic Creator; and that it was called the “Mother,” Sophia with the Gnostics (or the female Wisdom), the Sephira with the Jews, Saraswati or Vach, with the Hindus, The Holy Ghost being a female principle.” (Blavatsky, H.B., The Secret Doctrine, Vol.1, p. 353) The Buddhists refer to her as Kwan Yin. The Christians refer to her as Mary, the Mother of God.

The difficulty of listening to the wisdom of the heart is that one must learn to become very quiet in order to hear Her. In my experience, that still quiet voice of wisdom just comes as a knowing or a quiet realization after we have parsed out and separated out all those other raging and troubling feelings and emotions. In my last blog on forgiveness I referred to the Focusing work of clearing a space. When you can put all the various issues troubling you outside of your inner space, even if only for a while, you will have a chance to receive that insight from your deepest Self. You will begin to recognize that ‘wisdom note’ because there is a clarity and a lack of emotional charge to it. There is the feeling of ‘Ah yes’ or an ‘aha’ moment. It is when you know that you know, and something in you can just settle. There is a feeling of blessedness and peace in the knowing, even if there is sorrow in the heart.

The feminine wisdom principle is within all of us. It has nothing to do with whether you are male or female, and women certainly do not have any particular ownership or advantage. And yet the getting of wisdom certainly does seem to come with a gentleness, a compassion and kindness – qualities which in bygone days were more associated with the feminine. There was a recent article in The New York Times about how men were kinder and more generous and in the presence of women (see link below). A world in which Sophia was honoured again as the feminine face of God would I think be a gentler and kinder world.

Free lecture on Blavatsky and the Theosophical movement by Dr. Stefan Hoelller
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New York Times article: