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/

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

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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:

How do I forgive?

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How do I forgive?

This was a question that again came into focus as I talked with an old client I hadn’t seen in many years. Deep woundings of the psyche can fester for years, and probably even lifetimes. They are like the deeply entrenched psychic tattoos that simply don’t go away. And so how can we heal these wounds – can they even be healed? Or do they just scar over as we try to move on with our lives? Sometimes we see individuals who are so scarred, and therefore so armoured, that the scarring interferes with their abilities to have and to hold close and intimate relationships.

I think these are deeply personal soul issues that shape our lives, and so of course there is no easy answer. However, as a therapist I am always interested in how we can come into a different relationship with these old wounds so as to free the individual and help them move into an easier flow with life and with significant others.

To forgive or not to forgive? How do you forgive an atrocity or horrible abuse? Somehow we have this notion that if we forgive someone who has done something very terrible to another human being, they are off the hook. This is simply wrong thinking. We are never off the hook for something terrible we have done unless we truly regret or repent with consciousness. And if we don’t do that, and do our best to make amends, we carry that with us in our souls. The laws of karma will inexorably kick in. I have seen this over and over. And it’s not pretty.

But my focus here is not so much on the perpetrator, but on the one who feels victimized and harbours the anger and the sadness, and is unable to live life fully. It is a very human trait to hold onto grudges, and to mentally and/or verbally curse someone. We curse them every time we speak and think negatively about them. We are sending the offenders negative energy, and that will affect them to a degree. While that may be a satisfying thought in the vengeful sense, the deeper problem is that it harms you more. Holding onto anger and a feeling of victimization is very damaging to the person who is holding onto these dark and destructive feelings. We stew in it, dwell on it, and turn it over and over in our minds. It affects our moods, our behaviours, our relationships, our health and worst of all, our self esteem.

We carry it in our bodies without even realizing we are doing so. This is called somatization, and it is very insidious because it becomes part of the unconscious fabric of our psyches. A very useful technique that is used in Focusing (a body-mind therapy first devised by the philosopher/psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin) is to get in touch with what is often called the ‘felt-sense’ of how we carry something in our bodies.

When I work in this way with clients we always start with some diaphragmatic breathing because it helps to bring the awareness down into the core of the body – the area between the throat and the groin – and which I sometimes refer to as the ‘processing plant’.

When you think about the whole thing, connected to x or y, you will probably become aware of some physical or energetic sensation in your body, such as a clenching in your throat, or a tightness in the chest, or a knot in your stomach – something like that. The next part is to explore the feelings connected to x or y, and allow yourself to really feel it. Then, it is always good to hold the question – ‘given that I am feeling this way, what is needed? Or what do I need to do to take care of myself?’

Sometimes, an important intermediary step is to imagine taking the whole thing connected to x or y, and see if you can imagine putting it outside of your body, just for now. Visualizing putting the whole thing all about the situation or the person in some sort of container, outside of your body can be very freeing. You can always bring it back whenever you want, but most people enjoy the experience of getting a little space or perspective on the issue! They also get to experience, often for the first time in a long time, what it feels like not to carry that issue inside them anymore, or even for a while. It allows them to glimpse what freedom from the issue might look and feel like.

One of the most important things to realize and to remember about forgiving, is that it will free you. It does not let the perpetrator off the hook, but you are not in charge of his or her karma. When you truly hand this matter over to the universe and mentally say, “Over to You. You deal with this – I can’t carry this around anymore”, Life will take care of it – sometimes in much harsher ways than you could ever imagine.

The blessing lies in the ability to let go of the old woundings and to be free of the toxic side effects that come with holding onto something negative. We need to access the inner good mother or good father and learn to take care of the inner wounded part or child. This is what you are doing when you hold the question of “what do I need to do to take care of myself right now?’

I don’t mean to over simplify this or to trivialize anyone’s pain. These are just simple guidelines that might be of help, as I am all too aware that not everyone has the means or opportunity to go into therapy. But if we can experience within ourselves how crucial forgiveness is to our own well-being, we can move more fully into the creative expression of our lives.

Women of a Certain Age


Women of a Certain Age

Les femmes d’une certaine age – I think this sounds much better in French. It suggests a certain mystery, a wisdom that is not worn on the surface, a wicked sense of humour that can delight, prick or charm – depending on the situation. Recently I was asked to talk about the needs and issues of this demographic group of women over 50. so it got me thinking. Obviously what we consider to be middle-aged now is not what was considered to be middle-aged several hundred years ago when our lifespan was much shorter. So this is not about a chronological number, but rather a mind set and an attitude towards life.

For many women, middle age forces us to confront loss – the loss of youth, of beauty, the tone and agility of our bodies, sexuality (both as perceived by others, and an inner sense) health and loved ones. We are also often confronted with the loss of relationships and partners as our children grow up or we, or our partners, move into different career paths. All of this can get very depressing if you can’t maintain perspective and a sense of humour. However, in order to find humour in any situation we have to be able to hold the tension of the opposites – to see both sides.

Middle-age is the fulcrum between youth and old age, and as such we are poised for great creative potential. You now have the potential leverage to make some big changes in your life. This holds true for both men and women. The terrifying but ultimately great thing about middle age (and remember to hold that tension of the opposites!) is that one day, in the middle of your life, you wake up to yourself and are forced to take stock. This is when you sit down and have a real, honest to goodness talk with yourself; after you have gotten over the shock of looking at yourself in the mirror, metaphorically speaking!

That galvanizing moment always come with some sort of a realization that your days are numbered. You have to face the fact that you only have so much time left on the planet. Some of us who are dealing with life-threatening diseases are more acutely aware of this than the rest of us in terms of what that time might look like, but the wake-up call always forces us to confront the limitations of time that are facing us. There is nothing like a deadline to clear the mind and get us focused on the task at hand.

And that task at hand boils down to this question. What do you want the rest of your life to look like? What are the gifts that you have not yet brought into the world? What is your unique contribution, which if you do not make it; will forever be lost to this world? What are you so busy making for? Christopher Fry asks us this question in a Sleep of Prisoners. Its takes so many thousand years to wake (he tells us) so will you wake for pity’s sake? See blog: Believe in Love Over Goodness

There are a number of common responses to the terrifying vista of looming old age, for both men and women. One of the most dominant ones in this culture is manufactured busyness. Keep yourself so busy that you don’t have to reflect on what is really going on. How many people do you know who don’t have time to make real contact – even with their so-called loved ones? They actually can’t make real contact with their loved ones, because they don’t know what it is to make contact with themselves. The busyness is what we call a defense mechanism in psychological terms. It defends them from facing what they are terrified to face. And that is the face of death – our own mortality.

Another very common response is depression. This is often accompanied by a deep sense of grief and loss. It may get kicked off by the death or loss of a loved one, a relationship, or the loss of a job, but then it just seems to go on and on. It feels like there is a big inner hole that nothing will fill. Life is passing you by, and the sadness and negative self-talk becomes a way of life. This is at the opposite end of the spectrum from compulsively busy superwoman, or superman – and in many ways is harder to deal with. At least superwoman or superman seems to be getting stroked and praised for all of his/her wonderful busyness, but the depressed person is disappearing into a black hole. They think unconsciously that it is about getting fed in some way and may fall into addictive behaviours (shopping, eating, sex, drugs or alcohol) but nothing fills the void. And nothing fills the void because that is not the way out. The energy has to be reversed, and it can only be reversed by the painful movement into consciousness.

I am reminded of Patanjali’s yoga sutras in which he talks about the three basic energies in life – Rajasic, Tamasic, and Sattvic. Patanjali was a father of yogic philosophy. The Rajasic energy is fiery and dynamic. This shows up in the compulsive doers in our life who are so busy they very rarely have time to connect with loved ones in any real way. The Tamasic energy is heavy, lethargic and dull. It is very hard for this type to get galvanized by anything. The Sattvic energy is the middle road – the road of balance between the other two, the enlightened perspective…finding the peace and creative potential between the two extremes, staying at the center point on the fulcrum.

So when we are next looking in the mirror, it might be a good idea to reflect on the energy which is manifesting in our lives. Do we need to slow down and reflect on how we are doing our lives? Where is the meaning or lack of meaning showing up? Or are we sliding into a black hole, hoping something will fill us, fill our time or give us purpose? Whether
we need to galvanize our deep purpose or slow down enough to even ask ourselves the question, the ultimate question is how can we best bring our creativity and gifts into life? How can we fine-tune the rest of our time that is allotted to us and bring our lives into fruition?

The great gift of middle age is this. We can now see that it doesn’t matter what other people think of us, or what society at large holds dear. You only have this life right now and you have to fulfill your deep soul purpose; nothing else matters. If you don’t yet know what that is, then no other journey is worth taking.

Look at what grandmothers in the third world are accomplishing!

Grand_Mothers