It Will Be All Right in the End: If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

It Will Be All Right in the End:

If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

This was the on-going and delightful message in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – an uplifting movie about ageing, death and renewal. It made me laugh, because the young East Indian man was so relentlessly optimistic about the future prospects of his seedy and run-down hotel, which had clearly seen better days. His unfailing good cheer in the face of overwhelming odds couldn’t help but affect change in the lives of the six, despondent, geriatric clients who had shown up in response to his internet advertisement for the hotel: The-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel: a Place for the Elderly and Beautiful.

It made me think about endings and new beginnings, and all the suffering that goes on in-between. It can feel very hard to make sense of suffering when you are in the middle of it. It’s only when you have come out the other side that you get the 20/20 hindsight. After you have been on a number of those roller-coaster rides, and you are still alive, you start to realize something. When you really get the lesson that was yours for the getting, the suffering is over. Blessedly over. Maybe for a while, if you are lucky. Given the realities of life, there may be another roller-coaster ride waiting just around the corner, but that’s the journey isn’t it? When we don’t glean what it is that we need to learn from the suffering, Life will provide another learning opportunity.

I think though, that as we mature and understand the nature of this process, we begin to trust our Life more and more. If we truly seek to be guided by the deep Self, we will be. If we are not interested in that yet, there will be more bumpy rides than you can shake a stick at. Hopefully, you will eventually wake up.

So this is a very optimistic message. There is a value in suffering, because there is something of value to be gained if we can open our eyes to that potential. It’s simply good to know that it will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

From Rumi

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk  now drinks wine and honey mixed.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box, from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed. As roses, up from ground. Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish, now a cliff covered with vines, now a horse being saddled. It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open.

Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep and changes shape. You might say, “Last night I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips, a field of grapevines.” Then the phantasm goes away. You’re back in the room. I don’t want to make any one fearful. Hear what’s behind what I say.

Tatatumtum tatum tatadum. There’s the light gold of wheat in the sun and the gold of bread made from that wheat  I have neither. I’m only talking about them,as a town in the desert looks up at stars on a clear night.

Translated by Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi

To watch more of the wonderful Coleman Barks reciting Rumi:

The Inner Community: Archetype and Identity Part Two


The Inner Community: Archetype-and-Identity Part Two

A middle-aged woman was complaining about her relationship with her daughter-in-law. “Sometimes I hate who I turn into when I am dealing with her,” she said. “The problem is more with me than it is with her, I think. Nevertheless, I still can’t prevent that side of me from coming up!”

I complimented her on her level of awareness. Just the fact that she was able to take ownership of her problem was a huge step forward, beyond what most people usually do. That was, I told her, more than 50% of the battle. More commonly we tend to blame and scapegoat others when we feel badly.

As we begin to take responsibility for the part we play in our relationships and the dramas that surround us, we need to parse out the various aspects of our psyches. It’s almost like each part has a personality of its own, at the core of which is the complex. These are the archetypal energies that inform us. Sometimes they even have voices. Most of us have strong enough egos to manage or control these ‘factors’ most of the time, but most of us have had a similar experience to this middle-aged woman when something rises up in us and we totally ‘lose it’.

The complexes are at the negative polarity of these archetypal factors, and they act like the swamps of our inner landscapes. Like a vortex of energy, they will suck you down when you least expect it, unless you have done enough inner work to navigate your way through most situations. When we have suffered enough from the damage, humilation or fall-out from our emotional outbursts, we are forced to face up to what I now jokingly call the inner community. We are all informed by a number of different archetypal patterns, some of which are more dominant than others at different times of our lives.

In one of Rumi’s poems he said, “I can’t tell you who I am, only who I am not”. In order to tune into the guidance of the Self, we need to deal with the complexes that pull us away from the place of our core wisdom. In the beginning it feels like the clamouring of many different voices, opinions, points of view, usually with some negative, emotional charge of some sort. Sometimes it can feel like a monster erupting from within. As we come to know these different parts (often referred to as the Shadow) we disempower the complexes surrounding them.

There are many variations on these different archetypal patterns, all of which can carry both negative and positive attributes, so this is a very simple overview. I will focus on the more troublesome ones:

The Great Mother
This archetypal pattern can be present in either a man or woman. He/she comes across as very giving and kind. It is the way this person gets a sense of power and strength because other people come to him/her for solace, guidance etc. However the problem is that eventually this complex burns you out, leaving you exhausted, drained and resentful. Deep inside is the feeling of ‘why does no one take care of me the way I take care of others’. Eruptions of anger or depression result. Many ‘good’ therapists, or ‘good’ parents or ‘good’ friends have this one.

The Starving Orphan
This part is very needy and starving. He/she never gets enough and always experiences a lack in relationships. Unfortunately this complex when activated will actually push significant others away. People simply get tired of the constant whining and dissatisfaction, so it is a sad result for the person who has this running in a major way. They create a reality in which others avoid them.

The Martyr
This was and still is very common among an older generation of women who felt trapped and disempowered by patriarchal cultures if they were discouraged from holding powerful jobs or places of importance in society. It is still common among people who subscribe to religious values that stress ‘being good’ over being authentic. The shadow is low self-worth, sadness and depression.

The Bag Lady or Pauper
This complex is very common in our culture because of the fear around money and poverty. Money is the highest value for many in our society, and when we are not dealing with money in a conscious way this complex is probably running underground.

Mr. or Mrs. Control Freak
This complex has a desperate need to control the variables in life as well as others through money or power manipulation. It comes out of a deep-seated feeling of being totally out of control and not trusting that Life will provide. Think perfectionist or tyrant.

The Manipulator
This part does not have a deep core sense of empowerment, and feels that the only way he/she can get power or love is through manipulating others. Think Scarlett O’Hara.

The Puer/Puella
This is the young, creative part of ourselves that does not want to grow up or be burdened with responsibility. A person who has this complex as a dominant part of their everyday life will be evasive when asked to make a commitment of any kind. They revert to charm, wit and humour as a way of compensating for this lack, and they often skip or slide out of obligations. They don’t want to be pinned down and will dance away or go into avoidance mode. The problem is that while it may be charming or cute in a young person, it becomes very grating in maturity. Think Peter Pan.

The Senex or Hag
This part is bitter, old, jealous and resentful of youth, enthusiasm and joy. Think Scrooge.

Archetypes of the Self
The Wise Old Woman or the Wise Old Man often personify the Self in dreams. The Innocent Babe can also personify a new emergence/connection to the Self. When these figures show up in your dreams, pay attention!

As we come to know and understand the dominant factors of our inner landscape, we can with understanding, self-compassion and humour begin to disempower these complexes. They are who you are Not, to paraphrase Rumi. Who you most deeply are is your deep, core Self which you can only access after you have done the hard work of disempowering or loosening the grip of the complexes. Part of the problem is that we spend so much energy trying to ‘manage’ these forces. We try to shove them underground and keep them there, but sooner or later they erupt and poison our relationships. If instead we can meet and face them with compassion and learn to unblock the energy, we can move into a more harmonious relationship with the Self and with others.

This poem of Rumi’s addresses the danger of being governed by a complex:

You miss the garden
because you want a small fig
from a random tree.
You don’t meet the beautiful woman.
You’re joking with an old crone.

It makes me want to cry
how she detains you,
stinking-mouth, with a hundred
talons, putting her head
over the roof edge to call down,
tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty
as dry, rotten garlic.

She has you by the belt,
even though there’s no flower
and no milk inside her body.

Death will open your eyes
to what her face is. Leather spine
of a black lizard

No more advice
Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull
of what you really love.

This is an interesting visual of a community that works under the direction of a central governing authority!

And this is Carmen:

Loneliness

Loneliness
Many of you, I am sure, have experienced loneliness even when you are with others.

It is that something deep in you is not met, not seen, not answered by the one you are with, leading to a feeling of sorrow, emptiness or disappointment. The whole matchmaking and dating industry is founded on this deep-seated need and unfounded hope. We look to the outer world and to outer relationships to fill that inner void. There is a lot to be said about this all too human condition. The sociologist would say, well of course the human is a social animal. The psychologist would say, well of course how we are in our relationships determines our happiness. Both of these worldviews offer a partial answer only.

Energy is an interesting thing. Have you ever noticed that when you seek solace or comfort from a specific relationship, it starts to evade you? I am not talking about the heady days of the honeymoon period in any relationship. Those are the special days in the early phase of some love relationship in which you are blessedly exempt from the realities of the nuts and bolts of the daily grind. No, we are talking about the nuts and bolts part. The part when you are trying to figure out how to make this relationship work, or questioning whether it can work at all in the long haul.

The reason I am moved to write about this topic is because it is so pervasive….and not dependent on whether or not a person is in relationship – which is interesting, because it blows our whole myth of the meaning of loneliness right out of the water. There are a number of problems with trying to ‘fix’ loneliness by looking to your significant other to fill the void. The first and most important reason is that they can never measure up, because the void cannot be filled by another person. And the more dissatisfied we become by their apparent lack, the more they are pushed away by that dissatisfaction. If you have ever been on the receiving end of that energy, it has a sucking feeling, and you just want to get away from it, as if something is trying to glom on to you. So the dynamic bounces back and forth between disappointment on the one end of the equation, and evasion and recoil on the other.

The other interesting thing to observe is that when you experience loneliness – and we all do, as it seems to be part of our human condition – your energy is contracted. If you simply start to observe how you are energetically throughout your day, you will notice that you are in either a contracted or expanded state, or are in the process of moving from one to the other. If you can begin to observe how your energy shifts, including the when and the why, it will start to show you a lot about yourself. In fact everything in the universe is in a state of contraction or expansion, or is moving from one state to the other. Day into night, hot into cold, big into small, small into big, war into peace etc., whether we are talking about the climate, the economy, international relations or the health of our relationship.

However humans have the unique opportunity to become conscious. This ability to become conscious is the mysterious third that can take us out of the ping-ponging of our dualistic tendencies. When the soul turns away from its tendency to look outside to the outer world (things, possessions) and to outer relationships to meet its deep need and longing, and begins to turn inward towards the spirit, a new life begins. The influx of the spirit washes the soul clean and the bridal chamber is thus prepared. This can feel like a painful process, but ultimately it is the only one that matters. This is the sacred marriage that Jung and the Gnostics have referred to.

 As I was meditating on this condition, a red cardinal flew up to a branch just outside my window, as if to say, “I am here with you’. The call and response; I had to smile.

As the soul turns towards spirit with its longing for union, a state of fruitful, creative, pregnant expansion can begin. This is not for the young or the faint-hearted. They will have to continue to journey and seek in the outer world, in what my father used to call the school of hard knocks. I guess this blog addresses itself to the bruised warriors who have taken their knocks and seen the futility. This is not to advocate an abandoning of the world or relationships, but rather it advocates a relationship with spirit, which will in turn guide your life, if you can listen. Get ready to open into a whole new way of being in the world. You will feel it in your heart.

From Rumi:

Imagine the time the particle you are returns where it came from!

The family darling comes home. Wine without being contained in cups, is handed around.

A red glint appears in a granite outcrop, and suddenly the whole cliff turns to ruby.

At dawn, I walked with a monk on his way to the monastery.

“We do the same work,” I told him. “We suffer the same.”

He gave me a bowl.

And I saw:

The soul has this shape

Shams and actual sunlight,

help me now,

being in the middle of being partly in my self,

and partly outside.

Watch a remarkable artist and composer: Eleni Karaindrou

Laundry and Take-Out: Why Therapy?

Laundry and Take-Out

Going into therapy, finding the right therapist – it’s a risk. Why would anyone want to bare their soul to a stranger – doesn’t that make you feel hugely vulnerable, awkward? Isn’t it extremely embarrassing, uncomfortable? Yes it can be, but the more dominant feeling of clients who walk over that bridge is one of relief. There is something sacred about sitting in with another who is truly attending to you that lends a deeper resonance and meaning to your process and your life. Having worked with clients for over 25 years, I feel deeply privileged to work with others in this way.

A very important part of Jung’s way of working was to attend very seriously to the dreams – both his own and those of his clients. He felt that the dreams most often pointed to content in the unconscious that was ready to become conscious. As a Jungian psychotherapist I place great value and importance on working with dreams, often in combination with mind/body work. I feel that if we can start working with a dream, it is like starting from the inside and working out. Many therapies do just the opposite – starting with outer content and facts, and work inwards, trying to understand the core issues. If we can understand the dream, we have a much better chance of getting to the heart of the matter. I will try and show this by talking about some of my own dreams, as I do not want to use clients’ dreams here. Some years ago when I was asked why I became a  therapist, I remember  I had this dream.

In my dream a woman had a business of going to people’s houses, and doing their laundry or taking it out to do, plus she had the added service of bringing take-out food to her clients. She would drop off the food and collect the laundry. On waking, I thought this might be a great business idea, though not one I was going to do.

However, I have been trained to interpret dreams symbolically, and so I questioned what this might mean. The Self communicates to us in images and symbols – that is the language of the psyche. And interestingly, it often has a very quirky sense of humour. I had to chuckle at this dream, because I saw that in some ways, doing therapy is closely aligned with laundry and take-out. Talking to a good therapist can in the beginning feel like ‘you are airing your dirt laundry’ – this is the initial hump of awkwardness that needs to be gotten over.  However,  it is surprising how quickly that can happen, because getting the laundry done feels good There is something very satisfying about dealing with stuff that has ben shoved in the closet for years. By speaking freely and openly about some of these issues, we can do the laundry together. Dark secrets don’t have to be so daunting – they can be aired in the sunshine.

And hopefully you leave with  a little take-out….something to chew on – reflect on. Ultimately, as the process builds and you start to become free of the complexes that stand in the way of you living a happier, more fulfilled life, you will feel nourished at a cry deep level.

I will share one other dream image that occurred over 20 years ago. I still remember it because it was so powerful, and because it had to do with laundry. I was going through a very difficult time. In my case it lasted for 7 years; I now think of it as the 7 years in the desert. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong: a marriage break-up, my elbow was smashed to smithereens in a bike accident, the deaths of my mother, father and my sister, financial woes, not to mention landing in another dysfunctional relationship. In the midst of all this I was thrown headlong onto my spiritual path. I seriously started to pray, to meditate, to do my own work in analysis.

During this time, I had a dream that I was hiding under my bed. I saw these absolutely enormous feet approach the bed. They were naked, gigantic feet, and they were blue. Then this figure walked away from the bed and I peeked out. It was a gigantic Kali figure, standing at a laundry tub. She must have been at least 11 feet tall and her skin was blue. She knew I was looking, so she  turned to look back at me. She had a huge, terrifying grin on her face, as she scrubbed rhythmically on a washboard. I was absolutely terrified, and woke myself up, sweating. But the more I thought about this image, the more I realized that SHE was going to wash things clean, and that I would be alright. The more I meditated on this image, the more settled and relaxed I became.

Looking back, I think this was a real turning point in my life. Knowing that I was being helped by higher powers allowed me to relax and to simply trust the process of my life. Kali is a goddess of the East who is often associated with death and destruction. In India , she is venerated because it is understood that nothing new can come unless the old is destroyed. Happily, I met her in her more beneficent aspect – as a laundry woman who was bent on cleaning up my dysfunctional life. I will be forever grateful for all the help that I have received, but at the time it felt like life was trying to crush me. We rarely have perspective when we are in the midst of a huge transition.

Part of my reason for sharing these dream images with you is to demonstrate the power of dreams, and the extraordinary intelligence that is in them. The difference between the Jungian approach and many other therapies, is that a Jungian will place supreme importance on the dream image, and strive to uncover what it may be trying to convey. In other words, it takes its lead from the Self.

Many other therapies expect you to come with the problem, and then the two of you (the therapist and you) try to deal with the problem. The difference is that the ego presents the problem, and then tries to dissect it to its own advantage. The ego is always limited by its own worldview and perspective. It can’t see what it cannot see. You and the therapist can easily get sidetracked into dealing with a problem that is not THE problem. The Self sees you from the other side and is the Friend or the Beloved that Rumi always talked about. Coming to know this through following your own dreams is an extraordinary gift. Your life begins to take on the feeling of a revelation that gradually reveals its sacred purpose to you.

Listen to this and learn to trust your life:

Rumi: Say I Am You

http://www.youtube.com/QqVBGv2hpQ4

Waiting For Grace:

Waiting for Grace

In my last blog entry I talked about the importance of asking for help from a higher power. In Jungian parlance, this is often referred to as the Self, the divine presence within all of us. Others imagine or conceptualize God in their own way. I think the key thing is having that connection open and vibrant in your life. Like other forms of communication, the most important part is being deeply receptive.

Deep listening to another means that we have to put our own agenda aside. So often when we pretend that we are listening to the other, we are just preparing what we are going to say next. We are more interested in putting our case forward, proving our argument, showing that we are right, the best, the smartest etc. It requires a sincere interest, selflessness and compassionate attention to be a good listener. Have you ever wondered why so many ‘talk therapies’ abound, and why people pay so much for therapy? I suspect that a lot of therapists would go out of business if more people were interested in really listening to each other. The truth is, it\t seems like a great luxury to be really heard by another human being.

We have so much static in our own minds we don’t have the psychic space to let in another person with his or her concerns. Never mind listening to the Self and what it may be trying to communicate to you. We have to be able to clear the mind of its busyness and noise in order to deeply listen for guidance.

It always amazes me that when you are struggling and puzzling over something and are in a state of confusion and uncertainty, it feels like it will never end. Clarity will never come. It feels like the unsolvable Gordian knot. Then one day, you simply know what you must do, and all hesitation and angst is gone. We can often only really recognize this transition in retrospect. Think back to situations where you agonized over a decision or some action you were contemplating. Did the clouds simply lift one day and your path became clear? Most of us can remember some time when that happened and it was a good thing to have waited. That was grace.

And most of us can think of times when we didn’t wait for that clarity, but took some action out of a state of confusion or emotional drama. Those were the times when we probably created more unpleasant karma for ourselves. The proverbial snowball effect. The bad situation just got worse, and then we had THAT to unravel.

Often when we are in the middle of a dilemma, it feels unbearable to not take action. The ego wants results! It is impatient and needs to be in control. It wants to manage the outcome. But the truth is that if you can hold the tension of the opposites and not take action, and pray and ask for guidance, and deeply listen for that guidance, you might be very surprised at the outcome. If the Self is not asked for help, we are often left to bumble along and make your mistakes and experience the rough and tumble we create for ourselves in our everyday life.

It is only when we turn to face the Self, and humbly ask for guidance that you might actually get the help you need. Life can turn itself around in the most surprising and unforeseen ways – in ways that we could never have orchestrated or managed on our own. But we have to let go of what we think that outcome should look like. You can’t say to God, please solve my problem, and please get rid of that jerk for me, and get me a new car while you are at it.

But you can ask for guidance. Sometimes help comes in the most unexpected ways. That is grace. Have faith and trust your life, and trust your inner truth. There is no emotional charge or drama when that realization emerges out of your deep inner core. There is simply a quiet knowing and acceptance of what is.

Rumi, a 13th century poet/mystic, who happens to be one of the most popular poets in North America, addressed all of his poetry to the One, whom he sometimes called the Friend, and sometimes the Beloved.

Coleman Barks, who is renowned as an authority on Rumi and a poet in his own right, has an extraordinary voice and feeling for Rumi’s poetry. Listen to him here. It is a gift from the One.