We were made for these times…

I recently came across the following words from Dr Clarissa Pinkola Este, an American poet, Jungian psychoanalyst and author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, and felt heartened by her words. I wish to share those same words here, as a reminder we are each and all born with a purpose to uncover, through this Great Unravelling we find ourselves in the midst of:

“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”

Loving what we Love

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

~ Mary Oliver, Wild Geese.

Sacrificing old stories…

…to grow, emotionally. Consciously. To mature, grow into one’s own skin.

So I’m starting with a premise. Old stories and the messages they contain. So what am I talking about here?

Old stories are the internal scripts we’ve all learned, from childhood onwards. They are barely conscious patterns of emotions, accompanied by in-the-body sensations (take note where those sensations rest…there’s a clue in there), strings of words (some legible and ‘sensible’, other less so) and maybe, just maybe, impulses to act.Ancient Stories

Being aware of those old stories, and where they have led to in the past, is an early — and cyclical — stage in breaking free from old patterns of acting out. Conditioned, unconscious ways of acting in the world that we inherit and internalise from family and surrounding culture. We all do it. I know I have.

So the first step, more often than not a humbling experience, is to recognise the earliest messages we received from our nearest and dearest (our ‘primary care givers’) weren’t necessarily empowering for adult application. The image of the forgotten child within, who’s image is ourselves, is relatively un-evolved and without the inner resources and self-esteem we take for granted as adults. Accepting that these autonomous parts of ourselves actually exist is deeply, and highly, significant for crafting new stories to live by. We want different results out there in the public realm, right? Well we have to change the inner script to change the outcome of the life’s movie.

A new story begins to be written as those old images grow up, catch up and evolve. Or merge. Or die. We discover new capabilities, self-respect and, through exploring these fresh attitudes towards ourselves and others, self-esteem. Self-care. Self-value. I’m going to digress a little, into myth, as those old stories can flag to us our deeper nature. Something has to the sacrificed, that was valued by our former selves. Old values have to die so that what we find important, matures, emotionally. More grey hairs means more experience of life, and how expectations of ourselves changes as we grow older (and deeper) through the years.

What we valued as important, that guided our actions and words, has to mature. Old emotional attachments and ways of viewing ourselves and our place in the world. With maturity comes acceptance of our personal limits: not what we’re made of — what we’re here to be and do. We can only really apply our potentials as fully as we can by knowing ourselves as deeply as we can. That includes all the un-evolved, distorted, darker parts of our personality, what Jungian therapists call “The Shadow”. All those disowned parts of ourselves get locked away in the basement of our personal unconscious. As Dr Jordan Peterson makes a point of saying, we need to get to know the gremlins/monsters in our own closet, or else they make themselves to others of their own accord. They become autonomous if we don’t let them out, express them consciously. They “have” us when we least expect it, and often at great cost to ourselves.

With that said, Old Father Time, the Wise Old Man image of the old myths and legends from across every culture on the planet, holds the keys to discovering renewed, evolved values. Saturn to the Romans, Cronos to the Greeks.

When we explore and come to know these ‘inner powers’ of caution and discernment, these ancient templates that form the core of our inner stories, we begin to recognise the distinction between Fate and Destiny. The great Carl Jung summed this observation well with, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it Fate.

Fate implies attachment to those old inner stories, a compulsive need to relive them, and yet be repulsed by them as we come to greater awareness of their rut-in-the-road nature. Fate is an well-worn set of clothes we’re comfortable with, yet might not be the best choice for present (and future) company. Destiny introduces new ways of being and doing: thinking, emotions, awareness of being in our greatest resource — our body, our impulses and desires, capacity to image and intuit what works, and what does not. Those new ways of being in the world, those innate potentials in the footnotes of our story, are nothing more than a ‘good idea’, until we come to awareness of old patterns of emotions, thoughts, impulses and choices. Something else wants to emerge from underneath the layers of past, unconscious conditioning, and that takes conscious effort and time.

We need to be present with ourselves to know these old patterns, in order to stand a chance of turning right, rather than the old left. Destiny as choice, free will.

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.

Small and hidden is the door…

“Small and hidden is the door that leads inward, and the entrance is barred by countless prejudices, mistaken assumptions and fears.”

Sage words from Carl Jung, words founded on the hard-earned experience of exploring his own inner Forest-Plains-Hills-Water-Mountainlandscape.

The door that leads inwards is that cultivating of self-knowledge through awareness, awareness of those unconscious patterns of being and doing that are, perhaps, a little too easy to default to. The past after all is generally a familiar place, and so are those old tendencies of character that can, at the most inopportune – and unguarded – of moments cause chaos and misery, for ourselves and for others we share our lives with. An invitation to recognise and walk through that door often comes during such times, when the common beliefs we have about ourselves, of our motivations and agendas are rocked by what seem disharmonious, incongruent acting out.

We might be shocked by how unconsciously dead set against we actually are towards something, an echo of an old self not integrated in the present. It is usually other people calling us out, speaking truth to those unconscious parts of ourselves that really needed airing. Uncomfortable, though necessary for our personal evolution.

The sooner we become acquainted with those inner images, their motives and desires, the less likely we’ll act out, as Fate. Instead we begin to play out a different story. We deliberate, consider what choices and consequences those choices may lead to. We take responsibility for our own path, deviating from conditioned patters towards new possibilities.

We move from the known to the unknown, through that small, hidden door.

Awareness and the Inner Pantheon

When I started writing this post, I wasn’t clear on the title, though when I listened to Russell Brand’sForest-Plains-Hills-Water-Mountain struggle with addiction and compulsion (perhaps one and the same?), I had one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments. The old tendencies and easy, knee-jerk reactions we automatically default to is what I’m talking about here, those unconscious ticks and qwerks we all develop to varying degrees. It’s part of being human, after all.

Part of Brand’s talk was about what he described as the ‘inner pantheon’, and what this means. Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis and friend of Carl Jung, had something to say about this, and referred to these inner personalised tendencies as sub-personalities. He was talking about these inner figures in the way the Greeks and Romans referred to their gods and goddesses of myth. He went as far to say that we ignore ‘their’ influence at our personal and transpersonal (ie. collective) peril.

These are ancient patterns of being and doing that are pretty much hard-wired into us all, though conscious awareness, coupled with self-restraint, can change the path we take. A useful example to illustrate is the universal experience of anger, assertiveness, will-to-act and ‘fighting your own corner’ are all part of that universal pattern we might refer to as ‘Mars’, the god of war. These psychological patterns can play out on an individual level, and can be distorted in their expression. Clear thinking and objectivity go out the window if we are not present with our experience, and so we unconsciously ‘act out’. We might call that collection of martial, yang, masculine qualities ‘the Tough One’.

Each of the parts of us has a ‘story’, an inner narrative we might hear on occasion, when we’re angry, sad, excited – any emotion we care to mention can be associated in some way with a sub-personality. So the more awareness in the moment we have of how these unconscious patterns of habit influence our thoughts, what we feel and how we behave, the more opportunity for choice we can have to make different choices. It’s worth remembering that we inherit those patterns through our biological inheritance, our family, through our family the culture we are members of, and our individual experiences, based on this conditioning. There are no short cuts to awareness, no ‘quick fix’, as a teacher of mine once said.

That same conditioning may act as psychological shackles that bind us to compulsively experiencing reality in distorted unrealistic ways, and we unlock through an expanding awareness of our true situation. Challenging habitual ways of how we experience ourselves internally – our thoughts, emotions, impulses and so on – changes what we experience of external reality, ‘out there’.

We might begin to witness ourselves in a new light, a light that could be both humbling yet enriching, where our deeper motives become clearer through the light of conscious awareness. The light of our own inner Sun shines into the darker areas of our inner landscape, from the peaks to valleys, and so to the caves beneath.


Autumnal Callings

With the Harvest Full Moon having just shined brightly recently, what a glorious sight Mother Moon was, low in the sky, hugging the morning horizon. I am feeling the beginnings of that yearly “drawing in”. The drawing in of harvest, for sure, though this time of year applies equally to the inward arc of personal experience.

By personal experience, I mean the heightening awareness of the ending of Summer’s warmth and long daylight hours. Our ancestors collected the harvest’s abundance, and stored what remained from the markets for the coming  winter. We might go so far as to call this awareness of the closing in of the nights as Harvest Moon 2017

instructive of the stages of life: the seasons of the year as cyclical stories of each human life.

Whether we are at the cusp of joining society as young adults in the early twenties, pressing ahead with more mature adult identities in the late twenties, or crossing that in-between liminal space of the ‘Mid-Life Crisis/Awakening’ starting in the late thirties, the difference that makes the difference in how we each move forward, into deeper emotional maturity and self-acceptance, lies in awareness. We might assume that, as we age, the refining of awareness from the unconscious conditioning through family and society at-large, towards being an independent adult free from those old stories develops in a linear fashion.

Yet we may all be visited by our ‘unlived lives’, those unconscious facets of our nature that were denied conscious expression. The ‘Mid-Life Crisis/Awakening’ is a classic example in Western industrialised cultures, where the unrecognised aspects of ourselves struggle to be acknowledged by people experiencing this life transition. As our personalities grow, evolve, and our bodies age, the opportunities afforded in our youth narrow, our potentials restricted and focused through the consequences of prior choices and blind ol’ chance.

Mid-life – which I think really extends into the late fifties – ensures we (hopefully) accept the harvest we have sown in our younger years. That does not mean we may not embark on new endevours that enliven the soul. Rather, the scope of mid-life presents an  opportunity for each of us to consider how we may take on the archetypal mantle of ‘the elder’.