Complexity in Seattle

September 16, 2013

I had just completed the final workshop in the series Archetypes of Spiritual Guidance; I decided to stay an extra day so I could visit a dear friend of mine in the Seattle area; little did I know it would present one more reason to dive into the murky world of unconscious complexes. It all started so innocently, we were discussing some angst she was feeling in her life and I found myself curious to explore what may be contributing to it. Her answers would lead to another question and before long I found myself in familiar territory; I was slipping into my role as a spiritual coach. I paused and observed that it was beginning to feel as though I was coaching her and asked if that was OK. Her response was immediate and clear, “No, it was not OK” and then she went on to say that she had been about to tell me she felt uncomfortable with my questions.

It was a bit like running into a brick wall. I noticed a flush of energy in my body, and a desire to leave immediately rather than wait for my six o’clock train. I took a deep breath, obviously a complex had engaged. In his amazing audio book Through The Dark Wood, James Hollis attributes the theory behind complexes to Carl Jung and describes them like this, “an energy laden core idea that when it is evoked can only repeat the world view, the value system and repetitive actions that are tied to its origin. They were generated in our history and bind us to it.” My friend could tell something had engaged and asked if I was all right. I responded honestly, “No I am not but this is not about you”. I took another deep breath and realized I needed some personal space. “I need some time on my own” I responded, “I’m going for a walk.”

Any one who has stayed in touch with my blogs knows that this is not the first complex I have explored. Since I began this process of unraveling my own psychology I have written extensively about my journey with different complexes. At times it seems endless; they seem like the interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that continually create a bigger picture. The same complex repeats but I go a little deeper. It always begins with an energetic reaction that once I have awareness of it requires me to pause and take space. This is accompanied by a sense of my feelings being hurt. The danger if I don’t take care of myself, I will engage in one of two main reactions. I will find a way to blame the person who activated my complex, or I will suppress it, which will cause it to emerge later often as a passive-aggressive reaction.

Once outside I began to recreate the experience. First there was the energy in my body followed by a variety of feelings. These included: feeling hurt that I had been shut down, losing my voice, feeling unappreciated, feeling disrespected, wanting to run away. Frequently we (especially men) discount the feelings with a response like, “Get a grip, get over it, she didn’t mean to hurt you.” However I have learned this simply leads to suppression. If a complex is not given room to breathe and be explored it will simply submerge like magma in a volcano, waiting for a future eruption. One of the compelling things about exploring a complex is how quickly we appreciate the child like nature of the reaction. It is not difficult to appreciate Jung’s belief that these reactions are of historic origin.

As I walked and began to appreciate the beauty of the ocean to my right and the gardens to my left, I contemplated when I might have felt like this before. Could I trace when the energy behind the complex developed its power? Suddenly an incident that occurred when I was fifteen flashed into my mind. It is one that I have previously worked with because I knew I had unconsciously replicated my rebellious relationship with my father with a teacher at school but this felt different

It concerned the sport of rugby. Despite having been brought up in a soccer world I had learned to enjoy the game and had become pretty good. I was engaged in trials for one of the school teams. I played centre and thought it suited my agility and skill set. I did not think I had the pure speed to be on the wing. So it was a crashing shock when the coach called me to his office and said he was switching me to wing. It felt like he was diminishing my chances of being chosen. I responded negatively (the father complex) and he reacted and said you can play wing or not at all. I chose not to play and in that moment permanently eliminated any chance I had to play for the school or even to play competitive rugby again. As I left his office I felt these same feelings, “hurt that I had been shut down, losing my voice, feeling unappreciated, feeling disrespected, wanting to run away.” When I had explored this previously I realized that I felt bad about not being heard or understood and that my actions had only hurt myself. Now I saw something else. This was yet another example of how badly I was served at this school. I suspect the master had slipped into his own complex around having his authority questioned without a thought for the fact that I was fifteen. Surely he should have felt some responsibility for offering me a second chance instead of condemning me to a purgatory of playing rugby in a competition when the moment I had the ball my opponents parted like the Red Sea in front of Moses.

One of the joys of doing this work is the clarity and freedom one feels, a sense that some of the energy binding me to the complex has been released.  It always reminds me of William Yeats lovely words, “I am content to follow to its source every event and action and in thought. For when such as I cast out remorse so great a sweetness flows into the breast that we must laugh and we must sing for we are blessed by everything. Everything we look upon is blest.

Archetypes of Spiritual Guidance – The Beloved

September 13, 2013

This is a reflection on my recent workshop in Seattle. I had wondered if we may spend the whole workshop creating ecstatic states through chanting, dancing, and Zikrs however my apprehension was allayed almost immediately when Atum began what I found to be a brilliant teaching around the nature and meaning of the Beloved.

We began Saturday morning with our last drawing practice of the series. We were directed to write the word Love in the centre then as Atum intoned the word love over and over again, we captured what our unconscious brought forward. Ironically, during the previous week I had been reflecting on, “What do I actually know about Love?” and concluded that I knew very little so it seemed a positive omen that we began with this practice. My drawing was comprised mostly of words and poetry that I recalled. One of my favourites surrounded the word Love, “what is this precious love and laughter budding in our hearts? It is the glorious sound of a Soul waking up.” Then we were asked to look at the images and allow them to elicit answers to the question Love is?…..


Love is…..

I was amazed at what presented itself to me: love is – compassion, non- judgment, consideration, a mystery, romance, a question, the answer, human and divine, forgiveness, tears, laughter and joy, the soul waking up, passion, patience, friendship, caring, at the centre of our being. It just poured forth. Then we engaged in exploring what we had learned by loving and by being loved. The flow continued and perhaps gained depth: love exists at many levels of our being – soul, physical, spiritual, emotional. The romance of love is transient. Love can be a hook that opens one to the opportunity of learning. A true heart connection is much deeper than an emotional connection. Love can open the heart. A heart connection is very precious, priceless. Love needs practice and consciousness. Love is both predictable and unpredictable. Love can be a state of mind. I don’t think of love as just one thing.

I found myself recalling specific relationships. My first wife, my second wife, my psychic love affair ( and M who I met at a Unity retreat in 1996, a complicated affair that began with mutual romance then a deep friendship that for her became platonic while I fell back in love with her every time we met. I realized that there is guilt from my first marriage but perhaps what James Hollis refers to as healthy guilt that helps one take responsibility for our actions. There is pain when love is not reciprocated. My psychic connection created a greater sense of a blissful connection with the Beloved than any other experience. (A further synchronicity was that I had been in contact with her the week before). There is a mystery and confusion that has often accompanied having been loved. The languages of love: service, gifts, words and touch. I realized that I knew far more about love than I had realized the previous week. I shared my experience with a partner and it came to me so clearly there was something I had missed. Love is transformational.

Atum then shared a book titled Loves Exquisite Freedom then asked us to choose a phrase and an image that we resonated with. I did not relate much to the images; I could not see them too clearly but there were three phrases that resonated for me. The book’s title “love’s exquisite freedom” then “in the flush of love’s light we dare be brave” and “yet it is only love that sets us free.”

After lunch Atum introduced us to the quaternity that made up the archetype: Love, Lover, Longing and Beloved. It appears to me that longing is the active force that propels the Lover. The Lover is the active principle that engages Love; Love is the object while the Beloved is the Cosmic, Universal principle of Love that is overriding in its breadth.

We did an exercise unconsciously placing each of the words in a cross. Each position was significant: the left position was the receptive, the right the active, the bottom to be healed and top represented the way ahead. I had Love in the left position – to be open, receptive, to respond and to create space for. In the right I had the Beloved: to live, embody, and actively engage. At the bottom in the healing position was Longing. At the top in the position of the guiding star was the Lover. This represents the way forward. Atum suggested, “Approach your journey as the lover, woo and see the Beloved, be engaged and active.”

We then did a remarkable sculpting exercise. This involved positioning four partners as the four aspects – Love, Lover, Beloved and Longing. This is done in silence, they do not know what they represent but are asked how they feel in the posture. The wisdom of the body is remarkable. Almost everyone knew which part of the archetype they represented without being told. In each case the practice revealed some aspect of the psychology relating to Love that the sculptor was not consciously aware. It is an amazing way to access the underlying psychology of the issue. In my case it demonstrated that although the Lover is strongly connected to the Beloved, there is a weak connection between Longing and Love. Of course when I relate this to the previous exercise it explains the position of Longing and Love.  (Receptive and Healing).

The following morning we did our one and only zikr. It was a beautiful composition of three lines:

         Lovers keep circling the heart
         Their sweetest memories of the Beloved.
         Hoping to kiss the Beloved again.

The final exercise was a teaching about eleven ways to enhance the Lover archetype.

1) Everyday do one thing you completely enjoy, something you don’t have to do. The Lover is open to pleasure.

2) Appreciate the sights, tastes, sounds, and sensuality around you.

3) Listen to music of different kinds and move to different melodies.

4) Rather than resisting intrusions into your world, welcome them to as an opportunity to feel the richness and diversity of life, approaching and opening to little things will prevent us from being bored and self-absorbed.

5) Experience the sensuality of art. – The paint’s texture, colour, lines, brush stroke etc.

6) Engage in creative play, a process without a goal.

7) Dance on your own, discover the lover in your body.

8) Do not be afraid to let the lover and the lover’s energy fill up the space.

9) Do not be scared to bring the sensuality of the lover into your clothing.

10) Seek to develop your appetite for mystical experience – nature, imagination, and ritual. Let the ego relax so the Spirit can soar.

11) Engage with human nature. Find some work that connects you to the world. Life itself becomes the Beloved. The journey becomes the Beloved.

This is the final workshop in the series of eight Archetypes of Spiritual Guidance. Atum saved the best for last. I found this a remarkable weekend and feel such gratitude for being part of it.