The Magical Mystery Tour To Inner Guidance

January 22, 2013

“What I found were “coincidences” which were connected so meaningfully that their “chance” concurrence would represent a degree of improbability that would have to be expressed by an astronomical figure.” Carl Jung

I think I must be challenging to have as a friend. At times my desire to live a soul directed life must appear confusing and self focused; it can get in the way of commitments that I make and perhaps hurt people’s feelings. Recently I found myself trapped in a paradox where my needs seemed in conflict with another’s. I was looking forward to a trip to the BC interior; my first stop was Lac La Hache for the Caribou experience of sunshine, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing; the second stop was Kamloops to visit friends and perhaps ski downhill then finally on to Revelstoke. Until a week ago everything seemed promising and then a cloud appeared on the horizon. Actually that is a really bad metaphor because the real problem was that there were no clouds on the horizon. The jet stream shifted and the flow of Pacific moisture creating snow dried up. I decided to cancel the downhill portion of my trip because there would have been no new snow for over ten days and just go cross-country. Then a series of events unfolded that in hindsight created a perfect storm that I did not see until I was swept up into it.

But first some background to the strange and wonderful life I lead. Over the past few years I have evolved a belief system based around the concept of the soul and the soul journey. To me my soul is an aspect of my being that represents a place of deep wisdom. It bonds my humanity to my spirituality; my soul journey takes place as I attempt to follow the guidance that arises from within and support my soul in manifesting its expression in the world. The ego becomes the servant of the soul as opposed to the master. Needless to say there is an uneasy relationship that develops as I attempt to discern the difference. I sense the ego and the soul speak two different languages. The soul speaks through metaphor, symbol, dreams and synchronicity while my ego likes good old fashioned English. About two years ago I made a commitment that I affirm every morning, “to live a soul directed life guided by synchronicity, serendipity, intuition and dreams.” Setting that intention has had great power in affecting my life’s outcomes.

Back to the unfolding of the week’s events: it all started with a reminder that I had not got a transponder to cross a new bridge I would need to take on Thursday; I was strangely disconcerted and wondered what had caused me to forget. Later in the day I noticed a minor case of plantar fasciitis, not a huge problem but I wondered how it would impact cross-country skiing. Then when I got home that afternoon from Whistler, I observed that the free delivery of the Globe and Mail, which I had cancelled because of my trip, was still being dropped on the step. I found this curious but took it in isolation as opposed to part an unfolding pattern of connected events. That night I checked the weather forecast and to my dismay realized that clear, crisp cold sunny weather to which I was looking forward, was now predicted to be cloudy with above freezing temperatures. I was not impressed and thought I would e-mail my friend to see what she thought.

I have noticed that frequently my guidance comes as a series of clues or signs; it is a bit like getting a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle without even knowing there is a puzzle. I suspect it stems from the love I have of mysteries and the satisfaction from finally seeing the whole picture eventually emerge  but on this occasion I was not able to put it all together. Julia Cameron wrote in her lovely little book Blessings “Synchronicity, coincidence, reinforcement, and serendipity – these are friendly companions that speak to me clearly of higher realms.” It’s good to have company in my bizarro world.

The next morning I woke up with a sense of uncertainty and discomfort; for the first time I wondered whether the sequence of events were suggesting that I should not go. I decided to draw a rune to arbitrate on the decision. Whenever I find myself confused or caught in the battleground of thoughts and feelings, I will consult the runes.  Sometimes I smile at myself, yet this particular oracle has an uncanny ability to help me discern what is the soul’s intention for me. If you are not familiar with runes, they are based on the runic alphabet, used by early Norse peoples including the Vikings; the runes have no clear origin as an oracle although the word “rune” derives from the Gothic word “runa,” meaning “mystery.”  Their popularity today stems significantly from the work done by Ralph Blum, who dedicated himself to the re-introduction of this “sacred oracle.”   He suggests that runes assist “training of sacred Intuition – a new way of listening to the inner voice.”

After my morning meditation I went downstairs, made tea then checked my e-mail. There was a response from my friend in Lac la Hache. She did not pull any punches, “my initial reaction to your note was ” major bummer” if you’re not coming! I’ve been doing lots of prep in anticipation, cleaning, shopping etc. and am so very excited!” My immediate response was to write to say I was coming. How could I break my commitment at such short notice? It seemed thoughtless, selfish and unfair. I decided I would go but then recalled my commitment to draw a rune. I hesitated then realized that I had no choice. There was no point in committing to live a certain way then ignoring it. I sat and posed my question, “should I go on my trip to to Lac la Hache?” Tentatively I place my hand in the bag and extract the rune that came to hand. When I am asking a yes or no question, I accept an upright symbol as a yes and reversed symbol as a no. I stare in dismay, Reversed Self – the rune was definitely not in favour.

I sat for a while and began to reflect on any reason why I should stay at home. One thing came to mind so I wrote to my friend: “how lovely to feel wanted. My first reaction was to come regardless however you likely appreciate that decision-making is never that easy for me. I woke this morning feeling uncertain; I also noticed some plantar fasciitis, not good for foot exercise. I decided that I would accept whatever guidance my soul imparted to me. I truly attempt to follow the affirmation, “I will to will thy will” and the rune I drew Reverse Self suggested to me I was not supposed to go. There are a couple of possible explanations. I have two friends from my spiritual community coming to Vancouver this weekend and one is staying here. Both expressed dismay that I had decided to go out of town. I felt comfortable about my decision at the time but this week a dear friend of all of ours died unexpectedly. It is possible that I am supposed to be here to do some grieving with them. However I am not going to decide yet, tomorrow I will draw a second rune then call you with the final outcome.”

I did my best to surrender the ultimate decision to my higher self. My equanimity got further challenged when I began to develop distinct signs of a head cold. I found myself bargaining with my higher self, “look I won’t go if you don’t want me too; I don’t need a cold to discourage me.” Perhaps the decision was already clear and I was in resistance. The next morning I woke with a very clear dream fragment. I had gone onto a restaurant and asked for a table to myself. They seated me in a good location but just after I sat down someone I knew came up and asked me to join their group. I was a little reluctant but thought it would be impolite to refuse. The moment I reached the new group I knew I had made a mistake: it was huge; they were noisy, and playing silly games. I felt myself shuddering then woke up.

It seemed clear to me that the dream was related to my current dilemma; if I get pulled from my centre, I will regret it. The final rune was  Reverse Separation. I picked up the phone and called my friend and to my delight she totally understood. It would have been one thing not to come because of weather, another altogether to be following my deepest wisdom. I realized that the weather had just been a signpost along the way and when I checked the forecast after our call, it had resumed to being perfect. So synchronicity, serendipity, intuition and dreams cooperated to point the way. My plantar fasciitis diminished, my cold symptoms dissipated, I had a chance to grieve with my friends and because I was in town I connected with a new client. What a strange wonderful cosmos we live in.


The Soul Will Find A Way (Or Unexpected Consequences)

January 8, 2013

During a recent trip to Sayulita in Mexico, I spent a lot of time reflecting and contemplating; I find the lull of the waves and the warmth of the sun most conducive for that kind of thing. There was a moment when my mind flitted back to a life-changing incident that occurred to me in 1988. I was an atheist; concepts like Soul and Spirit were completely alien to me; I worked in the advertising business, a life not unlike Don Draper’s in Mad Men. And then something unimaginable occurred that I realize was the catalyst for all the changes that ensued in my life and led me eventually to becoming a spiritual coach. It reminded me of the moment Bilbo is seduced to accompany Gandalf and the Dwarfs on an adventure that forever altered his destiny.

There was no wizard marking my door but there was a very important Executive Vice-President of my agency that triggered a series of events that irrevocably set me on a path I could never have imagined. I was an Account Group Director, a somewhat laborious title to describe someone who managed a wide variety of the Agency’s accounts. In fact I managed all but one however that one, Canadian Airlines, was larger than all mine put together. My colleague, also an Account Group Director, seemed to have been unofficially designated as our boss’s successor. At the time I became aware of that, I quietly without announcing my intentions determined to leave.

Then the knock came on my door. The very important personage, who had flown from Toronto, then center of the known universe, wanted to speak with me. I was busy and found the call easy to resist until about 4.00 pm this particular afternoon I received the summons I could not refuse. “NOW” I made my way to the corner office apologizing while at the same time declaring that I only had half an hour as I had a dentist appointment. This was not particularly well received but in fact proved a major blessing.

Then I am informed of a bizarre sequence of events that would seem improbable even in the TV series. Our position as the incumbent on the Canadian Airlines business was being challenged due to the PWA takeover of CP, our original client. Although we had the critical mass and connections to handle the account, there is always doubt at times like this. As part of the review process, we had been told that my colleague was not the right person to run this business. As a consequence the agency had hired a new, senior account manager to take over who had been scheduled to arrive that day. Except he hadn’t; he had called to say he had changed his mind. The result was that the agency was between a rock and a hard place and the only warm body around was me. I listened aghast as I am told they wanted to switch us around. He would take over all my accounts and I would take on his one very large account. I sat for a moment stunned and then the words that came out of my mouth were, “No thank-you”.

This went over like a lead balloon and I was subject to a monologue that has stayed with me to this day. It went like this, “what you have to understand is that your cushy little life is over. If you refuse this we lose half our business and your life will change; if you take it your life will change so make up your mind.” At this point the reality of the dentist gave me a genuine opportunity to escape so promising to be back in one hour I left feeling a bit like a condemned man offered a choice between the rope or guillotine. For once it was a relief to go to the dentist. I lay back in the chair, mouth wide open with absolutely no idea what I was going to do when an outrageous idea popped into my mind. “Tell them you want it all – they make you Director of Client Services in charge of all the agency’s accounts and you commit to managing it” It was brilliant. It resolved the issue of succession management; I became the heir apparent when my boss retired. I get it all. Ironically the one thing that never crossed my mind was the potential nightmare I was creating for myself. Perhaps I was overconfident, who knows but they agreed and I was a success. Even the eminence-gris from Toronto told me a couple of years later that he had huge doubts I could pull it off but he had no real choice at the time.

In Mexico it was the unintended consequences of this decision that struck me. During the next few years a series of outcomes irrevocably flowed from this event. First Canadian moved their head office to Calgary. As a consequence of this I agreed to work half of every week in Calgary; this created an opportunity for a romance with a much younger colleague and within a year a full fledged mid-life crisis resulted in me leaving my wife, home and friends and eventually my job for a year traveling around the world.  An eventual second marriage followed within four years a second divorce when she left me and precipitated the great dark night of the soul.

Most of the great teachers that I have studied with agree that that it is from the darker moments of life that eventual growth can emerge. Little did I know that the unexpected inspiration in the dentist’s chair was perhaps the first call from the Soul that would set me on a path to find true meaning in my life. Poet David Whyte wrote these exquisite words that seem in hindsight to be so prescient.

“Just on the other side of the door someone is about to knock and our life is just about to change and finally after all these years of rehearsing, behind the curtain, we might just be ready to go on.”


The Return of Billy The Magic Dog

January 5, 2013

In way of introduction, I created the character Billy the Magic Dog thirteen years ago for my twin great-nieces Hayley and Amanda. Every New Years Eve I would recount the adventures of Billy that would always feature two royal princesses named appropriately Hayley and Amanda. This tradition terminated eight years ago when the twins were eight years old.  I tired of Billy and wrote his final adventure where he transforms back into his original form of an eleven-year old boy. It was somewhat poignant when the two girls began to cry at the realization that this was the end of a tradition and they accused me of getting rid of Billy. Little did I know that one day Billy would emerge from the recesses of my unconscious and demand to appear in one more adventure. This is his story. I read it to the twins on New Years morning (sixteen-year old are partying on New Years Eve) and I am glad to say they seemed to still enjoy it. Here is that story. Happy New Year.

Billy The Magic Dog

Billy The Magic Dog

Billy woke feeling restless; it had been a strange night full of crazy dreams – dreams of rainbows, magic dogs, and a beautiful wise woman. He struggled with the memory that wanted to fade into the dawn. What had she said to him? For a moment he glimpsed her solemn, wise look and recalled she had asked him to complete one more quest that would involve three tests and was very important. Funny he couldn’t recall his response. He yawned, stretched; his body felt funny, shorter than he remembered. He opened his eyes and looked down onto grey fur. “GREY FUR!” What had happened to him? Then he remembered, he’d agreed to become a magic dog again until the quest was completed.

Suddenly he felt a chill of anxiety flood his body. He had no idea what the task was, could he be stuck as a dog for the rest of his life? What would happen at school? Would he be missed? Of course being a sixteen wasn’t always that great, at times he thought it would be more fun being Billy The Magic Dog again. Then he felt something around his neck; he touched it; it was the beautiful pendant she had given him. It contained magic powers and would connect him with her. “You will never be alone” she had said, “you need only to ask for help.” He put his paw up to the pendant and sent out a message, “show me the way” then waited. For a while he sensed nothing but then a strange word entered his mind. “Oakville”. It seemed foreign yet familiar. He got out a map guide and found it; it was a long way away and he had best get started; the quest had begun.

Billy set off into the night; it was dark and he felt a little anxious but the country was relatively easy and slowly his confidence picked up. He walked until he was tired then rested. It was early the next morning when his progress was disrupted by a huge angry river in his path. In the early dawn light it looked impossible to cross. Was his journey to end so soon? Then his heart sank as he noticed a disheveled, unsafe, vine and string constructed bridge dangling over the river. This was not going to be easy, he tentatively climbed on to the bridge and began cautiously to work his way across. He was terrified, the bridge swayed like a live snake, the river ferociously swirled beneath him. His heart pounded and his legs shook, he would never make it. Step by step he followed his nose cautiously never looking down, then he slipped, for a moment he dangled over the cauldron boiling beneath him then he clawed his way up. He stopped; it was too far to go back, yet he was still only half way. Then he looked upstream and could not believe his eyes. There not far above him was a band new concrete suspension bridge that he could have crossed with his eyes closed. Fury at the inconsideration of his guide who had promised to always be there, gripped him. He finally staggered across, drenched and angry and feeling abandoned sat in huff. He sent a silent protest to his guide, “how come you didn’t help?” he grumbled. The response was immediate, “Billy you didn’t ask, you just barged ahead. Sometimes we need to look a little further to find the best way and if we think there is danger then it is time to pause and ask for help.”

Billy was somewhat placated and could see the point. He continued his journey and made good time; things

The Pendant(Billy gave one to each of the twins)

The Pendant
(Billy gave one to each of the twins)

went smoothly and the sun emerged and made everything look brighter. He could glimpse a thin line across the horizon and wondered what this may be. The further he walked the line just seemed to stay in the distance however after a number of hours he began to notice it began to look like a range of hills, then he realized they were big hills and finally it became clear that these were a range of huge impassible mountains. His heart sank but he had learned from his experience and so he took a break and stopped under a small tree in the shade and placed his paw on the pendant and asked for help. “Do I go up or around?” he asked. He sat quietly then heard the words, “sometimes you have to reach for the stars.” By now dusk was falling, he glanced up and saw the first stars of the evening and there it was – a narrow path through the range climbing to a high pass. He knew it was too late to start that day so he found a warm, dry spot and curled up to rest. He would leave at first light. He felt apprehensive, it would be steep, very high and he may run into snow. He knew he needed help. As he went to sleep he sent out a request to his guide. “This looks really difficult and I want help in reaching the top.” He created an affirmation that he repeated over and over as he was falling asleep. “I am powerful and strong and reach the top with ease.” And so he slept.

The next day started well, although the trail was a little rugged, he made good time, he noticed how strong he felt, he was breathing easily, the miles slipped away. It was beautiful, he was surrounded by snow capped peaks yet the trail was dry. He had to cross a little creek, the sun emerged, the trees began to dissipate as he climbed and before too long he emerged into an area that must be the pass. He had made it to the top. There was a large cairn of rocks assembled by other travellers and Billy added his contribution then sat and thanked his guide for the strength he had been given. He felt confident and assured of an easy day…. Five hours later he was exhausted, grumpy and his paws were incredibly sore. He also felt betrayed, what had happened to all that extra energy he’d asked for? It seemed to disappear the moment he began to travel down. “I AM NOT HAPPY” he howled to the surprise of some passing hikers who had never met a talking dog before. They promptly assumed they had altitude sickness and checked into the nearest clinic. Finally he reached the next town where he could have a long awaited drink of water and could calm himself long enough to remonstrate with his inner guide. “How could you let me down like that”, he whimpered. “Billy, what did you ask for?” As he continued his complaining Billy realized he had only considered the climb up not the trip down. “It is important to ask for what you really want” the voice continued softly. Billy sighed, there was a lot to learn on this journey.

As he started out the next day, he wondered just how long it was going to take and what awaited him at his destination. He was not sure how much he liked all the uncertainty yet there was also something exciting about living with a mystery and trusting events to unfold without having to control everything. He enjoyed the positives of connecting with this inner guide who seemed so wise and caring yet determined to let him learn through his mistakes. He walked for hours musing over his insights and really did not notice that he had entered a wood. However as the trees thickened and became more dense, the light dimmed as though it was getting dark and the trail became more difficult to follow. He had a sense of unease, he began to hear sounds behind him, in front of him, then all around him. Finally the trees became so dense that the trail completely petered out. He stopped and began to feel terrified. He stood with his back to a tree and all around him the voices seemed to be baying for his blood. “I have done nothing wrong, why do they want to get me?” he wondered. Life sometimes seems so unfair. “Would he ever get out of here?” He put his paw on the pendant and tried to let go of the anxiety that gripped him, then he felt a sense of reassurance from the calming voice, “Billy, this too shall pass. Everything you ever experience both good and bad is subject to this rule. All must pass.” At this point he fell asleep and when he woke the sun was out and he could see the trail ahead. He walked out of the dark wood and somehow realized he was nearing the end of his journey. He had completed the three tests: the river, the mountain and the dark wood. He had learned important lessons about seeking the superior way, on asking for what he really wanted and that even the bad things that happened would pass. All he needed to do was find out why he had come to Oakville. He found himself walking under some power lines, ahead he saw two figures and a small white dog that came rushing toward him. She was cute and friendly. Behind her were two beautiful women and as they became closer he realized to his delight that it was the lovely princesses of his earlier adventuress – Princess Hayley and Princess Amanda. Suddenly he knew why he was here. Would they recognize him? They laughed and ran closer “Billy we thought you were gone for ever” “Well”, he smiled mysteriously, “I have been sent to bring you a gift.”