All About NOT Going to New York

March 27, 2013

It wasn’t as though I actually planned to go to New York; rather it was a casual conversation with a good friend who wished she had a travel companion for a visit to that great city. Somewhat hesitantly I commented that I may be interested and in that moment a journey began. It was not the journey I had initially contemplated but it brought me in close proximity to a long held belief – “it is not about the outcomes, it’s all about the journey.” Any of you who are familiar with these reflections on SoulClarity may recall that I try to live by the philosophy of being Soul directed. This requires me to pay attention to signs, symbols, synchronicity, serendipity and dreams among others to find the direction for my life. At times it can be painful, frustrating and surprising but it is always an adventure and as James Hollis is quick to remind us what is important is finding meaning in our experience.

So this reflection is all about finding meaning in NOT going to New York. After this initial expression of interest, my enthusiasm quickened to the idea but I had no sense of clarity or soul direction. What followed was confusing as I thought she was going to book regardless of me while she believed that she would not book until I made a commitment because the selected dates were to suit me

I got e-mail from Air Canada featuring a special price to New York; it seemed a propitious sign. I checked the fare, let her know the details and then drew a rune to confirm my decision to go. (A tradition of mine that has worked well in the past before booking anything.) She called to say she hadn’t had time to look yet but would later that night and either call or email me. As we ended the conversation my apparent misunderstanding was that she would book regardless and send me her itinerary. As I retire earlier than her I was not unduly concerned when it did not arrive; I expected to get it the next morning then book my flights.

The next morning I was surprised to get an e-mail from her, not with an itinerary but with an explanation that the prices she thought she had found were one way. She said those dates work for her but needed me to confirm that I was definitely going to go, before she booked. At first it seemed like no big deal but I was curious in view of my perception that she would go ahead without me; in my peculiar world this raised my intuitive antenna and I decided to draw a rune to ensure I was meant to book first; I drew Ansuz reversed, a clear sign to pause, somewhat frustrating because it does not give a definitive response – it is about waiting for a sign.

Fortunately my friend is familiar with my process and in the past had expressed support for my commitment to it so I felt comfortable sharing with her. “I am probably going to drive you crazy – I drive myself crazy! This morning I expected to get an e-mail from you with details of your flights and then would have booked mine. However when you hadn’t booked I felt confusion and decided I needed to check in again with the runes. I asked a simple question ‘should I book my flights to New York today”?’ I got reverse Ansuz – Signals, clearly saying “No” and I am to wait for clarity. I am off this afternoon for Whistler so my next decision point is Saturday.” Little did I know that the moment I pressed the send button any aspirations I had for New York would evaporate like a snowflake in a flame.

Her response was abrupt and to the point. She told me not to worry, she had expected me to change my mind, had even predicted my behavior to a few friends and now she wanted to go on her own. I was flabbergasted because it was a classic law of unintended consequences; it felt a bit like a footballer fixing the game then predicting the result. I e-mailed her immediately to try and explain the circumstances and that it was not a decision not to go but rather a delay. She called me to talk and explained that she feared that difficulty might come up on our trip with making decisions as we have different decision-making processes, and she then said she preferred not to go to New York without me.  I told her not to worry as I don’t walk around ‘with a bag of runes in my pocket”, but this did not reassure her. It was then I understood she had rescinded the invitation and I was no longer invited. I was crushed, hurt, and sad when she made it clear that I was not welcome to accompany her. I think the hardest thing to accept was the sense of unfairness when it was her decision not to book that resulted in my change of heart. I drew a rune to seek guidance about my next step. I drew Gateway, clearly about patience and non-action, it was time to let it go.

Over the next few days I reflected on what had become a “Perfect Storm” With our mutual misunderstanding there was no way it could be avoided. I could see so clearly that this had always been about not going to New York. So where was the gift? I got to experience a rich combination of multiple complexes that I had never experienced altogether before – fairness, abandonment, feeling misunderstood, feeling judged and being assumed to behave in a certain manner. All of these complexes relate to childhood and I had worked with each individually. This seemed like the graduate exam. I wondered if I had passed or failed and drew yet another rune. Reverse Protection, “Regardless of whether your enterprise prospers or suffers, do not be overly concerned: you may not win but you need not lose, for you will always learn from what takes place. Temperance and courtesy are the sinews of this rune’s protective powers.” It seemed amazingly prescient but had I stayed temperate and courteous? I must ask my friend. I knew I had been triggered but tried own the emotions and keep the desire to make her wrong under control. So I asked her; the response was kind and considerate and likely a little too generous. “I remember calling you to chat about it and I thought the call went really well!  I remember you said you were ‘feeling hurt’  (that’s the main part I remember) but no I wouldn’t say intemperate at all.” I hope she has a wonderful trip.

NB: We met for coffee on Monday; she shared that she had booked her trip on points Vancouver to New York direct; this was a much better option than any I found. I felt very touched when as she left she commented, “You may come if you like.” It was an attractive offer but I knew it was about this journey not the outcome and I already had other plans.

A Cacophony of Crows

March 26, 2013

© Lorne Craig

A cacophony of crows followed my client down the walk as he arrived for his spiritual coaching session. “What on earth do they want,” he exclaimed but I held my peace knowing what a powerful totem the crow could be in the aboriginal tradition. I believe the soul speaks through the language of metaphor, signs and dreams to name only a few; perhaps this was a synchronicity and if so it would raise its voice again. After our opening meditation and poem, he began to share the series of soulful practices he had engaged in during the previous two weeks: meditation, music, painting, cartooning; it was impressive; I almost sensed that like a small child he was expecting accolades for his performance. A Rumi story flashed through my mind: “It is just as if a king had sent you to the country to carry out a specified task. You go and perform a hundred other tasks; but if you have not performed that particular task on account of which you had gone to the country, it is as though you have performed nothing at all.”* I took a moment of silence to sense where to go next.

“Do you recall our last session?” I enquired gently. A blank look crossed his face, a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car, “No” he confessed sheepishly so I took him through my recollection. “You arrived filled with some angst, a nagging irrational assumption that you should be doing more. You sensed you lacked the discipline to complete the meaningful projects you started and resorted to the old and familiar. We explored possibilities and you listed eight things that perhaps met your sense of the meaningful. There was a real passion for one and we agreed this would be the start of the journey. I reminded you that a journey of a thousand miles starts but with a single step. I encouraged to experience this as a journey, not striving for an outcome but fully living the experience, sensing how it felt to discipline yourself and what resistance came up.”

By now I can see it has all come back accompanied by a bemusement that he could have forgotten something so significant. “It’s called resistance” I said, “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.”

At that moment the Hero’s Journey, the foundation work by Joseph Campbell popped into my mind. I was not entirely sure where I could find the reference I needed but in the same way that a shiny button can emerge from anonymity the journal I had kept in 1997 appeared. I opened it to the reference I was seeking, in itself an amazing synchronicity and found notes I had taken at the Body and Soul conference in Seattle from a wonderful presentation by the inimitable Jean Houston. The second step in the journey after the Call is Resistance. The next step is to break through and Cross the Threshold to Adventure, which is guarded by a monster. “So what is your monster?” I enquired.

Seamlessly he answered my question. “It’s the desire to avoid a trap door, fear of growth, fear of losing control, fear of committing.” I sat in wonder as he so clearly elucidated something that he was unconscious of minutes before. I asked where he thought these fears came from and he recited his ability as a child to escape things he feared. He realized that the escape artist, the Houdini who gets out of things stemmed from the childhood fear of the powerful other that James Hollis talks about so insightfully. As a mature accomplished fifty-year old, he can take a different path.

Suddenly I glanced out of the window and saw the Crow standing sentinel on the ash tree in the neighbour’s yard. It seemed to be checking in on our progress. I asked my client if he would be interested in hearing about the negative aspects of the crow totem. I took out my copy of Jamie Sams and David Carson’s Medicine cards and turned to reverse crow. The essence of the reading was that contrary Crow speaks of broken law. In seeing what is true you need to weed out past beliefs and ideas. Honour the past as your teacher, your present as your creation, and the future as your inspiration. “It is always your creation, so call on Crow and shift that creation to your new reality. Amazing! As we closed the session I noticed the Crow had flown away, I hoped the monster had gone with it.


“I Am Taking My Ball And Going Home”

March 5, 2013

I am staring with horror at my iPad; my partner in online Scrabble has just laid down a seven letter word that covers two triple word scores for a gazillion points; I slam the cover shut, muttering that I don’t want to play the stupid game anymore. Then I pause to observe my reaction; it seems positively childish; what had triggered such a strong reaction? I sit and reflect and realize that this was not the only time in recent history that I had felt this desire to abandon a game in the face of defeat. I began a reflection on what appeared to be a recent pattern in my life.

Those who follow these ramblings may recall a previous occasion when I referred to another online game in which I had become engaged called the Hobbit. It is a harmless little strategy game based on the book and movie, balancing resources to build a village and forces to protect it. I had enjoyed watching my village grow. To defend it I built this enormous wall with such exciting weapons as trebuchets, crossbows, caltrops and buried traps. I felt invincible until one morning I came back to the game and I had been demolished by an enemy much larger than myself who had barely suffered a scratch. I was angry, mortified, and confused. I dashed of a message to the leader of the alliance I had joined to say, “this is a stupid game, and I am going to quit.”

As I reflected on the two events, I realized they remind me of playing with a small child, who once they get behind want to give up. The phrase, ‘I am taking my ball and going home” is a familiar one and is generally considered to represent poor sportsmanship.I did some research and discovered that this generally happens with kids four and five years old. Great! At sixty-eight I am developing the behaviours of a four year old. How humiliating is that? However it presented a mystery to be explored. I had not reacted like this for decades, why now? I am sufficiently familiar with complexes engaging that I could see the “charged cluster of history that emerges into a present situation but brings energy from the past that is often inappropriate to the situation.” (James Hollis). These reactions stem from the child’s perception of feeling powerless in a powerful world and that it was about feeling overwhelmed.

So I emailed James Hollis and asked his opinion. His generous reply was precise and to the point, Yes, it is one of the many tributaries arising out of the threat of overwhelment, with its attendant powerlessness.  It is a means of avoiding that powerful “other.” I could see that my reaction was a form of avoiding my opponent who in that moment became the powerful other. I continued to be curious about why now? This was an early coping mechanism that rapidly became socially unacceptable so as I grew older I learned to deal with it in other ways. I identified three: one was to revert to cheating to win. (For a brief moment I had considered consulting an online Scrabble resource to create one of those absurd words that few human beings had ever heard of.) A second response was to be “a good sport” (compliance) and the third was to get extremely aggressive and combative with desire for revenge. (control) Each of these of course are other tributaries and have been subjects of earlier exploration.

Over the past few years I have been given the gift of exploring numerous complexes and suspect that each opens the door to another. They have helped me appreciate the amazing complexity of the human journey and are frequently relevant to spiritual coaching. Recently while listening to James Hollis’s inspiring audio book “Through The Dark Wood” he observed, “Something is trying to come into being – it is about serving who we are meant to be. The cosmos has always depended on the soul’s embodiment through you the individual.” I am no longer at the mercy of these unconscious impulses and I realize how liberated it feels to free these behaviours from the shadow and give them light.