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:

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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/

Healing the Mother Complex or Learning the Power of No

images-1Beware. Many therapists, social workers, ‘do-gooders’ and ‘good mothers or fathers’ have a raging mother complex lying underneath the calm, kind exterior, and it’s a killer. This complex knows no gender boundaries and can be equally present in both  men and women. In my blog on The Inner Community, I talked about complexes in general, and how they can raise their ugly heads when you are least expecting it.

Well the mother complex can be one of the most surprising and disturbing of all the complexes, because it seems so, well, out of character. And when the mother complex is raging, you don’t want to be around. If it is raging in you, walk out that door. If it is raging in a significant other, walk out that door. Wait until the waters have calmed down before you try communicating, and if you are the one grappling with it, do everything in your power to try and understand it. The ONLY way to dismantle or at least disempower a complex is to bring consciousness to it.

Here’s how you know if you have this one running in the underground of your psyche. A big part of your conditioning has taught you to ‘turn the other cheek’ and put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own. You feel that you should be good and kind to others even if that means you put your needs aside, to your own detriment. You are much better at discerning the needs of others than you are at identifying your own needs and desires at any given moment.  You do, do, do for others and then inexplicably feel burnt-out and resentful. You feel guilty when you do assert your own needs, and then are especially guilt-ridden and hurt when others get annoyed that you aren’t being the ‘good mother’ anymore.

When you are caught in the great mother complex, you become so focused on the needs of others that you are not in touch with your own needs. In other words, YOU are not taking care of YOU. On some level, you have abandoned your own inner child and feel hurt and angry that no one is taking care of you the way you are taking care of others.

So here’s the deal. Ultimately we all have to become responsible as mature adults for taking care of our own needs. It is unfair to put that responsibility onto someone else. Of course it is lovely when we have the time, energy and grace to extend to others in kindness and with a generosity of spirit,  but when it comes out of obligation and a big ‘should’ for too long, there is hell to pay.

Another problem that surrounds this complex is that if it has been a large part of your persona (the image you present to the world), the people around you come to expect you to always be there as the good mother. When you stop buying into this image of yourself and begin to become more authentic, it can feel like a rude awakening to those who want you to continue in your old role. However, the individuation process wants you to be in touch with your deeper Self and purpose, and not be trapped in any persona. You will know when you are not being authentic and true to your Self when you feel that you are going through the motions because of expectations from others. You might begin to feel a fierce rage and frustration because you feel trapped in this role.

So what to do? In the myth of Amor and Psyche Psyche (which means soul in Greek) has to journey into the underworld. She has been given many impossible tasks by the raging Aphrodite. (In this story she is not the beautiful goddess of love, but the raging mother). In this final and horrifying task, she has to journey to the heart of the underworld and meet with Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. She is given some very sage advice before she embarks on this journey. She is told that many poor souls will clamor most piteously for help, but she will have to remain focused on her task and refuse to help any of them. If she extends her hand to help them, she will be dragged down and all will be lost.

This seems like shocking advice to Psyche because it runs against the grain of everything she has been taught. But she also realizes that the transcendent help she has been receiving all along in order to accomplish the superhuman tasks that Aphrodite has set for her, is the only thing that has been getting her through. So she follows the advice and is able to get to the heart of the underworld, meet Persephone and then return to the world above. In other words, Psyche had to learn the power of her No in order to deal with the raging mother.

So this is the lesson. You must dig deep into the heart of your complex and journey into your own underworld. You must understand it in yourself. If you are feeling an inner rage, then something is afoot, and only consciousness can bring it into the light of day. You have to take responsibility for your own feelings and stop blaming others. If you are operating out of a mother complex, you have to realize it and get in touch with your needs and your feelings and then determine what action you need to take. If it means saying no to what others have traditionally expected from you, try to do so in a kind but clear and firm way.

You may have to negotiate your way out of this. It is not an easy journey for you or for those around you, but tremendous growth and new responsibilities for everyone are in the offing.  As they come to terms with you as a full person, and not just the good mother, they will begin to see you differently and to respect you in a new way. It may be a rocky road in the beginning, but it is a journey worth taking.

Pi and All of Life

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Pi and All of Life

Sometimes Life throws us into a boat with creatures that seem very foreign, strange or threatening to us in some way. Life of Pi is a beautiful, in some ways mythic story of the hero’s journey by author Yann Martel. As I contemplated the title, I thought about the meaning of Pi – which is a mathematical constant that expresses the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. I was moved to see how this story reveals the importance of embracing our wholeness as opposed to just the good, the bright and the beautiful upper half of the circle of Life.

At the end of the story, the hero reveals that there are two parallel stories – the one of his human survival, and the other a tale of animals in a boat with a boy. The great Aha is the realization that both stories are true.

Therein lies another interesting insight to my mind – which links up with something I was trying to express in The Inner Volcano. We all have a unique inner nature, which is connected with all of Nature. In Life of Pi this is beautifully portrayed as human beings who under duress reveal their animal natures. The cook is the hyena, the zebra with broken legs is the sailor who has been severely injured, the mother, the vegetarian orangutan, and the boy who discovers his tiger nature. In the end, this is what saves him. He discovers his inner ferocity, his power and his will to survive despite all odds. We might say he connected to the Dionysian side of his nature – his wild, passionate, dark, chaotic side.

In his seminar on Kundalini yoga, Jung talked about the fact that the soul hides in the symptoms of the body. Like Dionysius, an encounter with the Self can seem like a savage dismemberment in which we are forced to suffer and submit to some of the harshest realities of life. And yet if we can cling to the Self and who we most deeply are, there is the possibility of redemption, rebirth and renewal. This entails an embracing of our dark side and what is commonly referred to as the shadow.

Jung understood that our Christian mythos was too one sided in its glorification of all that is light, beautiful and true with no homage paid to the other wilder, darker side of life. In Aion he explores this problem of the Christ and the Anti-Christ in great depth. He felt that the pendulum had swung too far in one direction and that what we are seeing now in our recent history of world wars is a fierce backswing in compensation. He emphasizes that God or the Self does not want perfection but wholeness.

And so what this means for us is that the sacred work of our time is not to blindly pursue the good, the pure and the beautiful while ignoring our own shadowy attributes, pretending that they are not there. In Revisioning Psychology, James Hillman summarized Jung’s understanding of evil in this way, “ Integration of the shadow is an emigration. Not him to us; we to him. His incursion is barbarism, our descent is culture.”

When we thoughtlessly follow our animal nature, we are locked into our biological, egoic existence. We are ruled by unconscious processes and are a victim to our symptoms and a slave to our desires. The work is to bring Apollo and Dionysius into right relationship, the light and the dark, the yin and the yang. We must honour both sides within ourselves before we can even think about extending this consciousness into our communities.

When Yeats had the vision of the Beast or Anti-Christ slouching towards Bethlehem, he was horrified and deeply troubled. His poem, The Second Coming, describes this vision. Listen to it here: The Second Coming.

Trailer for Life of Pi

The Inner Volcano: Can It Be Managed ?

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The Inner Volcano Can It Be Managed?

Lately, a higher number of people than usual have been contacting me about “anger management” issues. Perhaps it has just become another buzz word. Either these inquiries are on behalf of significant others (who never call) or they are calling about themselves, but then for some reason or another, they usually fail to make it in for the appointment, or we get lost in the back and forth of phone messages that go nowhere. I think there is a good reason for this.

If people are calling about their own issues, it is often because significant others have been telling them for a long time that they have to deal with their anger, but they don’t really see it as a problem. They might make the token phone call to the therapist, but the will is not really there. It takes tremendous energy and courage to face the volcanoes and swamplands of the inner terrain. I often think of the psyche as an inner landscape. When there has been an emotional wounding of some sort, or when there is an inherent sensitivity or passionate nature, simply because of who we are at a deep soul level, the psychic landscape reflects this. I have always found it helpful to use the image of the landscape when talking about our inner soul qualities, because most people can understand it – this is just how nature is. And it is also just how people are.

The trouble with the volcanic nature, however, is that they tend to make themselves sick and often alienate others. Constant inner eruptions wear out the adrenals and the endocrine system for starters, and exhaust the immune system and damage the heart, to name the most obvious problems. But worse still, they push away loved ones who get exhausted by the constant upheavals.

If you think of a boil, which is an angry eruption on a very small scale, there is a wounding or disturbance that festers. On an emotional level, this would represent a wound of some kind that is not or cannot be dealt with at the time of occurrence. And so the psyche pushes it down because that is human nature. This is repression of the first order. And then of course, like the boil, it continues to build on itself, getting worse and more infected over time. Hopefully, at some point, the boil can be lanced, allowing the poison to seep out and the skin to heal. Therapy forces the client to go within and lance the wound, and through consciousness come into a new place of healing and resolution.

I always loved Scarlett O’Hara as a literary figure. I loved her for her courage and her tenacity and her ability to fight to protect what she loved. But she was a master of repression. “I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about it tomorrow” was the line that she was most famous for. However, anytime we continually repress that which is calling out to be addressed, you can be sure it will come back and bite you. Scarlett did not have a volcanic temperament; she was more like Niagara Falls – a relentless force to be reckoned with, but she too had to deal with the consequences of not facing up to her own shadow. She lost her only child and the only man who ever truly loved her.

Ultimately, we all only have our own nature, and our own psychic landscapes. Sometimes I use the image of animals rather than landscapes to help people come to terms with themselves. If, for example, you have the nature of a rabbit, there is no use trying to pretend you are a tiger. Or if you are a fish, why regret the fact that you are not a giraffe?

Each nature has its great gifts and its own weaknesses. And within that framework, we are all more susceptible to certain types of wounding than others. What is traumatic for one child within a family constellation, is a non-event for the other child within that same family. There is no rhyme or reason to this. It probably has more to do with karma and the deep soul lessons we need to learn in this lifetime. But for the person with the inner volcanic landscape, the psyche is pushing for an externalization and resolution of the energy. It must be dealt with, or there are devastating consequences for all who live within that person’s environment, but most particularly for the person himself.

The person with a volcanic temperament has a big energy field, which if properly channeled, can be a tremendous force for positive change and leadership. Like Kali, who can be both a destructive force and a tremendously generative one, the volcano can lay waste to the old and bring about the possibility for tremendous renewal and change. A landscape that has been strewn with volcanic ash is tremendously fertile and ready for vibrant new growth. Those with volcanic inner landscapes must learn this important lesson of leadership: a leader must learn the lesson of emotional patience, both with him or herself, and then with others. This often means keeping the lid on, walking away, taking a time out, and thinking and counting to twenty before you speak.

Watch Benjamin Zander on Passion and Leadership