Procrastination, Indecisiveness and Resistance

September 23, 2011

Recently a friend of mine posed a question: “what’s worse? Procrastination or indecisiveness… or are they the same thing?” Initially my response was a quote from Hamlet, “”Nothing is right or wrong only thinking makes it so” Each one of us has to discern their own way; some seem called to find meaning in their lives and for some it is irrelevant; I have never figured out why some people seem driven to choose much more conscious lives while others seem very content with the life they are given. Frequently those who explore meaning in their lives have more complex lives and don’t always seem as happy as those who stay in their comfort zone. Then of course renowned Jungian James Hollis says, “though I am not against happiness I do consider it a poor measure of the worth and depth of one’s life.”

I think it is key that each one us undertake to discern whether we are being called to larger lives than we are living.  When we ask a question about procrastination or indecisiveness it suggests something may be trying to get our intention. Frequently both procrastination and indecisiveness are signs of resistance to the call. I have puzzled a lot over resistance. There seems to be an interesting parallel between the word resistance when applied to electricity as opposed to human nature. Electrical resistance is invisible. It is the degree to which an object opposes an electric current passed through it. Human resistance is also invisible until we learn how to spot it. If we think of the object as human nature and electric current as our highest good then resistance is the degree to which our human nature opposes our highest good. Although you can’t see electrical resistance you can derive its value from observing current and voltage. Frequently we don’t see our own resistance to change but we can derive that it is there from certain patterns of behaviour. When working with clients on decision-making I have observed that occasionally they will not follow through on commitments that they have made. For example one recent client was working through the DecisionClarity process and reached the stage of Going within for Guidance. She made the following commitments for the ensuing five day period:  Two conscious walks, to go to the gym once while trying to stay out of her head, to get immersed in a piece of music for 20 minutes without thinking about it, to journal everyday, to pay attention to clues and synchronicities, to have one bodywork session and ask for a dream before going to sleep.
She postponed the next session because her dog was sick then I found out to my amazement that she had fulfilled none of her commitments – not one. There was no reason; it had just all slipped her mind. It was interesting exploring with her and realizing that she had been totally unconscious of her resistance. In fact as we went deeper it became clear that she had encountered two very significant synchronicities that she had failed to recognize as well as a dream that gave her a very clear specific insight into sabotaging her own behaviour.
So watch for signs of resistance to your own growth. Like a strong rip tide it is an implacable, unconscious force that impedes our forward momentum. It can show up in procrastination, forgetfulness, rationalizing, missing or changing appointments, confusion, distraction and indecision. Overcoming it starts with awareness so pay attention to the flow of your life. Interrupted flow often suggests resistance is just under the surface. Only when understand it is there do we have an opportunity to do something about it.

I recall a discussion with a friend who was somewhat frustrated by the unconscious nature of resistance. “Why is it so hard to see?” she asked. This reminded me of St. Paul’s plaintive inquiry in the epistle to the Romans “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” Paul blamed sin for his problem however in the light of modern psychological theory there may be a better explanation of why resistance arises. Freud originally proposed the concept of resistance in psychotherapy. He believed clients consciously and unconsciously erected barriers to treatment. However once Freud understood that ego defenses were unconscious and outside the patient’s awareness, then resistance was seen in a favorable light. It provided a clue to the opportunity. In psychotherapy resistance is seen as ego defense. So if we can accept the hypothesis that within each one of us there is an internal struggle for control between the ego and the soul then resistance is the way the ego attempts to control the agenda. So when we transpose ego for our human nature and soul for our highest good then our electrical analogy suggests that resistance is our ego opposing change that is arising from a deeper level of consciousness.  Individuation is a term created by Carl Jung to describe the process of becoming aware of oneself, of one’s make-up, and the way to discover one’s true, inner self. It is my belief that individuation which arises from the soul’s agenda is frequently deemed a threat by the ego so resistance arises. The positive side of resistance is that once we identify it we know that change is on the horizon. Our challenge is develop tools to help identify the awareness and to work to surmount it.

Over a margarita at happy hour in beautiful Sayulita I was recounting to a friend my curiosity about someone I met on vacation. Following a relationship break-up, she had become deeply devoted to a spiritual path; which had become a major focus for life yet I sensed that many deeper personal issues had been sidetracked. “Ah the spiritual bypass” my wise friend observed and suddenly I wondered if this was yet another form of resistance. A bypass is a way around an obstruction; whether a coronary bypass or freeway around a city centre, it avoids an obstacle. However when we bypass the obstacle, it is still remains. Occasionally on the journey of the soul we encounter a problem we choose not to resolve. We bypass it however it is still awaiting our attention. It’s a bit like an unpaid parking ticket; we can ignore it but it may come back to haunt us. Sometimes spirituality becomes a way of avoiding deeper issues. We content ourselves with spiritual progress and try to bury unresolved personal concerns. This can work for a while but generally if the soul desires our attention to something it will find a way to get it. A friend of mine spent many years at Fairfield, the centre of the TCM movement where residents spent hours and hours in transcendental meditation. However, despite this tremendous spiritual development, these people often lived crazy screwed up lives marked by dramatic evidence of discord. They appear to become spiritually one-sided and failed to complete the healing of the personality that was longed for at a deeper level. Recently I made a commitment to focus on practices that would open my heart however surreptitiously I diverted myself on to a different journey connected with exploring my relationship with death and dying. It was only after I had explored this concept of the spiritual bypass that I was amused to find I had been “hoist with my own petard” (an expression used by Shakespeare in Hamlet that means to be caught in one’s own trap.) I had avoided the more challenging pursuit with one I found relatively easier. Interestingly this diversion also gave me a gift by introducing me to Stephen Levine’s wonderful book A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last. In this book he suggest a practice that helps significantly to get in touch with unresolved issues. It is a Life Review where we mindfully explore the complete as well as that which is unfinished in our lives; it will help to disclose the unhealed and the unforgiven that may require our attention.

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Impatience – A Gift Or Curse?

September 22, 2011

For years I have been working with developing patience. It was in Nepal over 20 years ago that I first began to attempt to let go of the need to vent when things did not go my way. Until that time I had a very bad reputation; one of my bosses kindly observed, “you have a low tolerance for stupidity”  while suggesting I work on being more patient. During my mid-life crisis I remember arriving at Kathmandu airport with time to spare for our flight to India. One by one as we arrived, the westerners joined an orderly single file line-up waiting for check-in to open. There seemed to be no Nepalese in sight, then the desk opened and in an instant all the disciplined foreigners were forced to the back of a scrum that formed around the one lonely attendant. In this moment I sensed one of my cosmic lessons was patience and made a commitment to practice as best as I could continuing in this vein for two decades.

I had assumed by now that the universe would let me off the hook and allow me to exhibit a permanent state of Zen without subjecting me to the numerous inconveniences of life – flying frustrations, grocery store line-ups, ferry waits, traffic chaos, annoying telephone answering systems to name but a few of the modern day afflictions that await the well intentioned. Unfortunately despite all the tools I have practiced over the years: attending to the breath, listening to restful chants on my iPod, smiling pacifically as others panic, affirming faith in the universe’s plan, guided meditations, living fully in the present moment – all seems to have come to naught. How humbling is that? I feel a bit like Sisyphus perpetually rolling my boulder to the top of the hill then having it roll back down. Then I came across a quote by someone named Guy Kawasaki, author of a book titled Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions suggesting “patience is the art of concealing your impatience.” Is that all I have been doing?

Things came to a head recently when visiting my brother in London and observing his impatience. “You are just like your father!” I somewhat smugly observed. “And I think I am just like you” he said later causing me to pause and reflect. I am just like him; we both have the same genetic predisposition to impatience; I deal with it somewhat differently. I notice it more and it likely bugs me more; he is quite happy with his impatience while I fret about mine; I think my brother would agree with Marianne Moore an American modernist poet who said, “Impatience is the mark of independence, not of bondage.” I suspect she and my brother would have been at the front of the chaos in Nepal instead of waiting patiently while best seats disappeared.

So what now? Can I change my nature? The fable of the scorpion and the frog suggests not. The scorpion asks the frog to transport him across a river. The frog worries about being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature. So should I stop trying? I think not, I will choose to work with my impatience to avoid projecting on others but give myself some license when I get it wrong. Stopping to witness the futility of my impatience may indeed not immediately bring the feelings under control but it does help to highlight how unhelpful it really is. And perhaps at times I will simply be content with concealing my impatience.


Whatever You Leave Behind Will Be Waiting When You Get Back.

September 19, 2011

Returning from an amazingly rich, full, social trip to Europe I found myself precipitated into a state of inertia and uncertainty that on the surface made no sense. It was only when I felt drawn to review some of my journal reflections that I realized I had been in the same space before left. It reminded me of hiking the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand, one moment I was confidently striking out behind my guide over the uneven, rutted, dirty ice then I stopped, paralysis set in, I was unable to take another step. I was not sure how to restart. I realize now I was struggling with my perspective on the world as a whole compared with my own individual journey. This had created dissonance that while unresolved prevented me from moving forward

We are not beings that live well with dissonance. In fact we need to find a way of dealing with it when it shows up because cognitive dissonance can damage our peace of mind and sometimes affect our bodies. My own had led to inertia and uncertainty; I realized it was time to explore and hopefully resolve. The words of Galadriel (Cate Blanchette), articulated at the beginning of Lord of the Rings, entered my head, “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost, for none now live who remember it.” I am feeling the same way about the planet that we live on. There is so much unresolved: there is a gradual destruction of the environment; financial turmoil governed by avarice with no change in sight; a growth model that cannot be sustained but everyone pretends it can; wars and riots, natural disasters; the shift of wealth from the have-nots to the haves, the refusal by governments in the US and Canada to admit that there is a relationship between crime, drugs and social inequity; the unanswered questions about nine/eleven; in so much of the world order continues to collapse into chaos; there is starvation and human misery with no solution in sight; it difficult to sustain hope. The world seems to teeter on the brink of another dark age.

Yet my own life is predicated on beliefs that are inconsistent with this situation. I live a life based on chaos emerging out of order. I am committed to the concept of the immortality of the soul, that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. In my life intention helps to form reality, consciousness is trying to evolve, guidance from the higher-self is continually supporting my journey, love will eventually overcome hate, synchronicity, dreams and serendipity play a key role in the unfolding journey of the soul and we can all make a difference by doing the work we came here to do and finding meaning in our own experience.

No wonder I am feeling dissonance; it is as though there are two separate planets. Am I living in a Pollyanna world that is totally disconnected from reality? I had temporarily escaped by traveling, but what I left behind is waiting for me. I glance through my Soul Journal and observe some words I wrote in July. I had been musing that my current sense of the Divine was being challenged and recalled a question an amazing minister in the Unity church Marvin Anderson had asked, “Is it time to review your God concept?” Then there are a series of quotes from teachers far wiser than I. Tukaram, an Indian spiritual poet from the sixteen hundreds, “Dears, there is nothing in your life that will not change especially all your ideas about God”. Tillich, a German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher, “Look for the face of God behind the God image that has just disappeared”. Kirkegard, a Danish Christian philosopher and theologian “The God which can be named is not God” and finally James Hollis, eminent Jungian analyst and psychologist, “We find our God in that which enlivens the soul.”

Inspiring as these quotes were, I was not sure about the relevance or how to apply them to my current confusion. My previous coping technique was to attribute this dissonance to ‘The Mystery” but this seemed to no longer sustain me. Coincidentally the next step lay on another quote I had recorded just before I left on my travels. It was the title of a workshop by James Hollis that I had attended in May. It is from Emily Dickenson, “The sailor cannot see the north but knows the needle can.” Hollis had reminded us to trust our own inner wisdom; it seemed like a moment of surrender; I would trust that if I asked for help it would come so I set the intention “show me the way.” and let it go.

The response when it arrived came in three pieces. The first came from an unexpected source: I was following a link on Facebook and it led indirectly to a commencement speech by Steve Jobs given in 2005 in which he simply stated that “you can only connect the dots backwards”. This simple insight helped me see that part of my confusion was because I was trying to join them forwards and it wasn’t working. (I expanded this in something I wrote earlier see http://wp.me/phAyS-fP) The second occurred while listening to an audio book Through the Dark Wood by James Hollis while driving to my place on Cortes to get it ready for the next guests. He quoted Socrates who had tried to prove the immortality of the soul and said, “I will order my life as though immortality were a fact. Should there be none… I still do not regret my choice.” I realized that I was prepared to follow this perspective. The final piece transpired when I went to a lecture at Hollyhock by Rick Hansen, a neuro-psychologist who told the story of the two wolves that descends from a native legend of a Native American elder who was asked how she had become so wise, so happy, and so respected. She answered: “In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.” The good news that Hansen went on to share with us is that our higher brain has evolved to recognize the gifts of social connections and loving, supportive behaviour. The bad news is that the wolf of hate is fed by our lower brain instincts, fear and protection of self allowed all our early ancestors to survive. The result is that hate and fear are powerful emotional triggers that we have to learn to overcome.  For more see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-hanson-phd/aggression-evolution_b_862710.html) His theme was hope; we can evolve to a higher state and love can overcome.

In a strange mystical way that I have never understood, these three insights helped establish a renewed foundation for my life. It was as though the power came back on. My choice is to support the process of conscious evolution by doing what I can and supporting others to do the same. I choose to feed the wolf of love. The definition of the word mystery is anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown however throwing some light on the mystery has helped me resolve the dissonance I was feeling. One last thought was engaging once more with the wisdom of Rumi. I come back to his poems over and over and get something knew each time.

“Out beyond the ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.


The Introvert Disadvantage

September 16, 2011

The Beautiful Villa Ephrussi

I am feeling angry, frustrated, anxious, exhausted and powerless; it is my worst nightmare; I am stranded at a wedding; it is 3.45 am; I have no transportation; we have only one key for our condo between five of us and trying to get the others to leave is like herding cats. My niece Amy comes out to see how I am doing and suggests I should be more “Zen”. My response is unprintable. I can see my anger; I feel shame and embarrassment about the way I am behaving, but despite the beauty of my surroundings there seem to be nothing I am able to do.

In hindsight it was like the perfect storm; I could see it developing but thought I had it under control. You see I am an introvert. Now when I use that term I am not suggesting I am unable to function in a social situation, I am using it in the Jungian context. An introvert derives energy from within, an extrovert generates it from outside of themselves. All the extroverts at the wedding are getting more and more charged up by the activity around them. The introverts have either gone home, got drunk or are noticing a massive depletion of their energy reserves. My internal batteries are not just depleted but are in the red zone.

I knew the wedding would prove a challenge. We had arrived at six, the ceremony was after eight, the cocktails lasted until ten when dinner started. Dinner did not finish until after midnight. Then there were speeches, dancing, live music in the courtyard and finally disco. I had prepared myself for this by drinking moderately, taking occasional breaks on my own, engaging in  conversation whenever possible and working towards a 3.00 a.m. finish. The one thing that normally saves me in this kind of situation did not happen. As an introvert if I can meet up with another introvert and engage in a meaningful dialogue, this will begin to recharge the batteries. It just did not happen – I think the other introverts had left. However, as the clock approached three, I was feeling smug. I was still intact and whole, my energy was disappearing but the end was in sight. Then disaster struck like a tsunami, the groom announced an extension to 4.00 a.m. I felt myself visibly sag. I tried soliciting my group for an earlier departure; individually they agreed in principle but then disappeared into the party. Somewhat frustrated I made an attempt to join them but the onslaught of light and sound in the ballroom felt like a painful sledgehammer and I retreated outside to stand lonely, furious and depleted, and powerless to change. Only as the bus departed at 4.20 a.m. did I begin to recover.  The good news was that everyone else was so inebriated that they hadn’t noticed my hissyfit. Regardless it seemed a sad way to complete such a joyful event.

My commitment is to find meaning in life’s experiences but I placed this on hold until I returned to Vancouver then I searched for my copy of Marti Olsen Laney’s remarkable book The Introvert Advantage. This book had helped me understand the nature of my introversion and to learn certain skills to help me cope however I wondered what I had forgotten that had caused me to succumb so pathetically in the last hour of the wedding. However after reviewing the final chapter, I realized there are a number of simple ideas that I could have tried:

1) Quick calm your inner irritations. The moment my anxiety started I should have stopped trying to solve it externally i.e. by attempting the fruitless task of persuading others to leave; I should have taken a time out, focused on my breath and appealed for support from my higher self.

2) Taken a survival kit: my iPod, ear plugs, something to raise blood sugar could have helped.

3) Doing some recharging exercises. Olsen suggests some ways to compensate for energy decline: run cold water on the wrists, misting the face with water and lemons, bend at the waist and hang relaxing and breathing, nod the head and rest in the nod, sit in the dark for a while, let your mind wander and also reflect on previous fun times.

4) Make yourself laugh, (not easy when you feel so angry) however she suggests carrying your personal laugh kit. I guess I could load a Fawlty Towers CD on my iPod!

Her book contains many other ideas for helping introverts but these now comprise my personal grab bag. My next big wedding is at the Tapely Park stately home in Devon next April – I am ready; bring it on!


Fear and Decision-making

September 13, 2011

One key aspect of the DecisionClarity process is to examine the role that fear is playing in the mix. Fear is not only a powerful emotion, it is also part of our genetic imprinting to avoid what eminent neurologist and psychologist Rick Hansen refers to as “sticks”. Recently while on Cortes Island I attended a lecture on the brain by Hansen, author of Buddha’s Brain, who was a presenter at Hollyhock. During his presentation he reflected on the importance of fear in helping our primitive ancestors survive. “The worst mistake an early primate could make was to assume there was no tiger in the woods.” The consequence of that erroneous decision was likely fatal and as a result we are generally descended from ancestors who did not make that mistake. Unfortunately this can also result in us placing too much weight on the fear factor when we are making a decision.

He suggested that when the lower reptilian brain became geared to avoidance, we would make ten wrong assumptions of a tiger being in the woods in order to avoid the one occasion that it was there. This has resulted in an evolutionary effect where our primitive instinct is to avoid “sticks” even when there may be nothing to fear. This helps explain why fear based negative advertising is so effective; we are responding at an instinctive level to a threat whether it is real or not.

So when faced with a major decision where fear is a critical factor influencing the outcome, I suggest you explore the fear from the perspective of just how real it really is and how much of your emotion is influenced by the old reptilian avoidance of danger. Historically it may have helped us all survive but it has much less relevance today where tigers are few and far between.


Four Dream Evenings

September 13, 2011

It is my intention to offer a new series of four evenings to explore dreams and active imagination in the fall, 2011.  The two groups I facilitated earlier in the year have resulted in one ongoing group for graduates but I have had interest in another introductory group. The concept of dream work emanated with Sigmund Freud and was refined by Carl Jung and more recently by James Hollis and Robert Johnson amongst others.  We all dream six or seven times a night but frequently dreams never make it into conscious awareness. However when we commit to working with our dreams we can begin to increase our recall and awareness. Not all dreams have the same value so we need to learn to differentiate types of dreams. Join me this fall in an exploration of your dreams and what they mean.

Evening One

  • Learning to differentiate types of dreams and discern which are likely to be meaningful.
  • How to facilitate remembering dreams and keeping track.
  • To explore the principles of dream analysis and how to tend a dream.
  • Exploration of the relationship between the imagination and dreams and how symbols are created in dreams

Evening Two

  • Introduction to dream partnering
  • Looking at the dream in the context of your life..
  • An exploration of energy, feelings and consciousness in dreams.
  • Learning to understand archetypes and their influence on dreams.
  • Introduction to dream partnering.

Evening Three

  • Experiential dream partnering.
  • Working with the active imagination.
  • Exploring animals in dreams.
  • The value of dream books.

Evening Four

  • The power of drawing in dreams and active imagination.
  • Exploring the dream in the context of the soul’s landscape.
  • Using oracles in dream interpretation.
  • Review

Dates to be advised

Cost $20.00 each evening

What Others Have Said

“It’s wonderful to work with Trevor who is so knowledgeable and passionate about exploring dreams. I would recommend his sessions to anyone interested in learning more about themselves through understanding their dreams.” Vaune Kolber

“I found the sessions I was able to attend to be simply excellent.  I loved the opening meditations, your flow in bringing the content into application, and your style in honouring of individual input.   Thank you for showing us a craft that you have obviously invested time and energy in mastering.” Joyce Gwilliam

“The harder I tried, the less I remembered my dreams! However, Trevor’s encouragement was unequivocal, warm and full of wonderful suggestions. Even mere dream fragments proved to be much more than my ego realized!” Ursula Beale

For more info contact: trevor@soulclarity.com

Items to bring: a pen and a journal


You Can Only Count The Dots Backwards

September 13, 2011

Recently while following an unrelated link, I came across a commencement speech given by Steve Jobs back in 2005.It is a remarkable speech and well worth watching for many reasons however the theme on counting the dots backwards was specifically meaningful. He tells the story of how being firing from Apple was the worst day of his life resulting in disillusion, depression and an abject sense of loss and failure. Yet in hindsight he can see that it was an essential step in his success because without his experience at both Next and Pixar the next generation of incredibly successful Apple products may never have happened. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NAhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA)

This resonated with me as I have been struggling to make sense of the events of my current life and where they were taking me. I realized that I was trying to count the dots forward instead of trusting in life’s unfolding journey. This insight led me back to my Soul Journal where I record the unfolding signs, synchronicities and mystery of my life.  These become a foundation for trust in the outcome because in hindsight I can always see connections: a broken ankle that led to a complete life change, a car crash that resulted in a dramatic personality adjustment, a failed marriage that caused a paradigm shift – the stories are always there to support me in times of uncertainty, I just have to remember to call upon them. I am an absolute believer in recording the magical experiences that life brings us to assist in supporting the uncertainty that can so quickly undermine our faith. However I have also learned that these require us to become more conscious of the patterns as they unfold.

This became particularly transparent in a conversation I had later the same week. A friend of mine suffers from a sleep disorder. It is not critical but totally irritating and she is constantly exploring possible solutions from medical intervention, acupuncture, sleep clinics, meditation etc, many of which provide temporary respite but the problem remains. Later in the conversation, I shared Steve Job’s perspective about counting the dots backwards and suddenly she began to connect the dots of her sleep disorder and how it had frequently been a gift. On one occasion encouraging her to leave a job she needed to exit and on another to prevent her from taking a job that could have landed her back in the same place. Only by counting the dots backwards could the pattern emerge and we begin to fully appreciate the amazing nature of the mystery and as James Hollis observed in Swamplands of the Soul, “When we stand in conscious relationship to the mystery we are more deeply alive.”

NB: This is the first blog I have written using typewriter keyboard software that makes the sounds of an old style typewriter. It’s weird but it makes it more fun to write! (http://alphaomega.software.free.fr/typewriterkeyboard/Typewriter%20Keyboard.html)