On Waking Up…

…and unwrapping Self. Through dreams.

There are dreams that communicate an earnest seriousness, with a luminous feeling from key figures in those dreams. Those kinds of dreams ask (usually, sometimes demanding) the dreamer  wake up. By this I mean waking up to parts of ourselves that we need to acknowledge exist, let alone accept. Forest-Plains-Hills-Water-Mountain

Those figures of our the inner landscapes might also be more than simply unconscious aspects of our personalities, with their own values, capabilities and agendas (ie. their highest intention for us, regardless of how dysfunctional those values play out in our lives). They act out, take over the show – we might even go so far as to say possess when emotions are heighten enough – in ways that leave us asking ourselves, “who was I? That wasn’t me, surely…”

In a previous post I’ve talked about the old psychological ‘templates’ of experience Carl Jung named archetypes. Perhaps we do not come into this world as a clean slate. Based on my experience, I’d be inclined to agree. We all come into the world with culturally pre-set inner images or ‘templates’ that our personal experiences wrap our personal selves/egos around. We might call one of these templates ‘the masculine principle’, and all that masculinity means to us as individuals in a society with its own ideas on what acceptable, and unacceptable, expressions of masculinity can be.

As we grow as human beings  into adults, we instinctively know what is right and wrong, what is socially acceptable, as a general rule. We (hopefully) come to an understanding of our ‘Mars/masculine’ nature, of how that personalised template plays out in our lives.

If the physical embodiment of the masculine principle in childhood, our Father, was generally healthy and well-rounded, then we grow into adults with a healthy inner image. For some that experience is less than healthy, for various reasons. So that inner image of the masculine (applying equally to the feminine) might be lop-sided, distorted.

Those dream images, like the Sun shining across the horizon at dawn, are messengers of illuminating our inner lives.


Radical Courage, Radical Trust, Radical Listening

“Courage – the will to risk. The acceptance of insecurity. A wise will must at times and places know how to dare, assuming responsibility, and risk. You must have the courage to err.”
~ Roberto Assagioli

Reading this quote today on the Synthesis Centre San Francisco’s feed, I felt, and followed, the impulse to hold these words in awareness, and contemplate their meaning. Their meaning for my own path through this life, and for those I share that gift of life with.

This quality we commonly call courage rises from our depths, and descends from our highest being, joining at the centre, our awareness. To truly risk in a conscious, aware sense – and I’m talking about frisk born of ill-informed impulses, we might go so far as to categorise that experience as bordering on illness if self-awareness isn’t well-developed – is to risk responsibly. Responsible for the personal, inner landscape ofForest-Plains-Hills-Water-Mountain Psyche, of Soul, and how that becomes through our words and actions in the outer, public world.

To risk responsibly means a willingness to accept the part we play in whatever follows. We discover joy and fulfilment, pain and suffering, in that stepping up to life. It’s no mean feat, this gift of Being. To be, and be aware of that psychological process, means to relate, inwardly and outwardly. The what and how of our the quality of public relations is a function of the what and how of relating to ourselves, to our root needs as unique individuals, for food, shelter, connection with like-minded others; for love. That process of relating inwardly means listening inwardly.

When we trust ourselves to listen inwardly, and that assumes we’ve been listened to as an experience, then we can perhaps hear that quiet, inner voice. To trust is to love, a function the Romans and Greeks mythically imagined as Venus-Aphrodite, the goddess of love, the goddess of relationship. Those old stories contain many millennia worth of hard-earned cultural knowledge, much of which modern civilisation casts off as irrelevant, antiquated, passe. Those old stories are steeped in wisdom, if only we have the ears to listen.

Sounds pretty grand, right? Well, we have a lifetime (at least) to explore that inner process, and how that process works ‘out there’ in the world of shared reality. Lets listen to ourselves more, so that we can listen to others more clearly.

Inner Growth: Cycles within Cycles

“There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the Self.”Tree Rings as Evoution of Self
~C.G. Jung

You might be asking what the hell ‘circumambulation’ means. It’s an obscure, word for sure, and Carl Gustav Jung had a way with words that, at times, could lose people. He lost me now and then.

According to a quick Google search, the word means, “from Latin circum around and ambulātus to walk) is the act of moving around a sacred object or idol. Circumambulation of temples or deity images is an integral part of Hindu and Buddhist devotional practice (known in Sanskrit as pradakśina or pradakshinaṇā).” That is quite a pedigree, from the Indian Vedas to the Christian tradition.

Moving in a circular fashion around a sacred object, and an object we may take for granted in particular, is the Sun. That glowing ball of super-heated gas keeps us all in the game of existence. Gravity keeps this solar system moving along like clockwork (thinking of Isaac Newton, for a moment).

In the Western Mystery Tradition there is a principle called, “As Above, So Below”. Simply put, our outer experience of reality, with all its joys and agonies, tends to be a mirror of what we experience within. If our inner Sun, our authentic being and purpose – our essential conscious awareness – shines brightly, then odds on we’ll perceive ourselves, our situation, the people we share our lives with, clearly and with precision. We’ll really “see” reality as it truly is, with minimal filtering through social conditioning and life experiences. For some this shining presence within comes naturally. For others, a whole lifetime almost passes until the peny drops. For others, years of emotionally painful therapy, until that inner light switches on reliably.

We might also believe, in our blindness to our own potential, to that light, that we cannot, will not change. That we are who we are, come what may. We all evolve and change, often in imperceptible ways.

And yet, the light of Self, that inner organising principle towards renewal through evolution – sometimes painfully, if you’re not paying attention – keeps reminding us, that we are more than.

More than our thoughts.

More than our emotions.

More than our physical, sensate feelings, so closely associated with our emotions.

More than our imaginings of who we are, and who we might become.

More than our impulses, desires to be, and to do (be-do-be-do).

I’m thinking back to an earlier post, where I talked about the ‘inner pantheon’, of how the myths of ancient Greece (and Rome, and no doubt further afield and further back in time) as stories of universal tendencies playing out in people’s lives.  Unconsciously. We do not have our Anger. Anger has us. In fact, we can refer to pretty much any shared experience in this way. Love. Joy. Patience. Liberation. War. Peace. Take your pick.

The cycles of our lives, cycles of emotional maturity, exploring and coming into our own sense of authority and personal responsibility, follow well-rehearsed timings. I’ve noticed that these timings seem to follow a 7-year cycle. We oppose authority ‘out there’ in our mid teens.

Breaking away from family bonds and adolescent expectations, while finding our role in society as a uniquely gifted individual, at around 21 years.

Toward our late 20s we’re presented with an opportunity. Take forward what was useful in our youth into adulthood, and leave behind old self-images, aspects of ourselves that need to grow up, or return to the psychological mulch within for recycling.

Cycles within cycles of inner, and outer, emotional growth.

Desiderata: Happiness, Meaning and Purpose

My first memorable introduction to poetry, and its potential to open minds, hearts, and spirits, came Forest-Plains-Hills-Water-Mountainthrough an old friend. The poem was Max Ehrmann’s ‘Desiderata’. After a long hiatus, I returned to reading and reflecting on poetry during challenging times…

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your Soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

I’ve highlighted the last paragraph, and for good reason. Whatever and however we each conceive of a higher power beyond ourselves, I am drawn to the very last phrase; strive to be happyWe apply ourselves in our daily work of living, and somewhere in amongst all that sense experience, we might be blessed with a state of being we call ‘happiness’. I say happiness as a state of being to mean a collection of thoughts, emotions, physical, embodied sensations, inner images and perhaps impulses that inform ‘me’ that all is good with reality. It might be fleeting, temporary, and it’s a pretty awesome experience, that gestalt/wholeness that is happiness, wouldn’t you agree?

So what is the how and where, which can lead to the why, of that embodied wholeness we might call happiness? My own personal experiences inform me that genuine happiness unfolds as a consequence of the meaning we ascribe to our purpose…assuming we a. have a purpose, b. are aware of that purpose, and c. consciously decide, each day, to align our thoughts, emotions, impulses and actions with that purpose. Recently I’ve been listening to and reading a lot of, and about, Dr Jordan Peterson. A practising clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, he has acquired quite a reputation since c.2012.

The reason why I’m bringing Dr Peterson into this post is that of purpose and meaning, two words close to my heart. He calls out a lot of the overly simplistic New Age take on life by stating, directly and without remorse, that life can be tragic and hollow. That’s life. We can make the time and effort to get to know ourselves, including those parts of us we’d rather keep locked away in the basement of  psyches, and aim to leave the world (and we shall, make no doubt about that) in a better shape than we came into it – what Dr P calls ‘Order’ – or make choices that lead to ‘Chaos’. Do what ever you want, just make sure you’re willing to take responsibility for what follows. He doesn’t pull any punches, and given the malaise Western civilisation is currently in, he may have a point.

Without a personal (and communal) meaning and purpose to our experiences, how can we experience ‘happiness’? I’m going to make a small change to that last statement in the poem, that through life’s chaos and order we arrive back at happiness…

Be cheerful. Strive to live purposefully, and happiness, however fleeting, will follow.