An Old Script

January 31, 2016

the old script

Recently I met up with a dear friend over the Christmas season discussing the year ahead. She mentioned her renewed focus on a book she was writing and that she felt convinced she was now ready to move forward.

In that moment, in the midst of what had been a lovely, positive visit, something happened to me. I became negative; I was less than encouraging; in fact she thought I was being judgmental. My response was to suggest she was a Pollyanna assuming that just because she was bringing attention to the book it would automatically happen.

I could tell something had shifted in me; there was a change in the energy in my body. It felt heavy, restrictive and uncomfortable; I was no longer at ease. What had happened? My friend is extremely good at not just letting things slide so wouldn’t not allow me to drop the matter. (Another sign of my stuff coming up is that when the going gets tough, I want to get going!”)

I did my best to look at my feelings. I wondered out loud if it reflected my own frustration on having worked so hard on my book only to feel a sense of failure. I felt some judgment of my self that I didn’t try hard enough. However under the cloud of uncomfortable feelings and negative energy, I could arrive at no sense of resolution. I seemed as stuck as a fly in wet paint.

After my return to Vancouver, she emailed me to say she felt “funny/bad” about the conversation and could we talk about it. I noticed a tinge of anxiety and the familiar desire to avoid what could be a conflict. Then immediately responded in the affirmative and asked when. This conversation turned out to be very positive. Without the energy and feelings clouding our discussion, both of us were conciliatory and able to listen to the other’s point of view. I felt again that my own lack of success with my own book had contributed to my angst.

I also realized that it is almost impossible to unravel one’s “stuckness” when the occasion is muddied by powerful energy and feelings. It’s wise to disengage for a while with a commitment to follow up.

I was sharing this story with a mutual friend who immediately countered my perception that my book was a failure. “First you wrote one, most people never get that far. Then you published it and finally sold over eight hundred copies that likely helped many more to cope with tough decisions.” (My book is titled Life’s Little Book for Big Decisions.)

Although this gave me pause, the script of not trying hard enough continued to influence me. I insisted that I had never really tried very hard at anything in my life – work, relationship, sport. I explained that at the age of thirteen I had learned the price of trying was failure and so I stopped.

At the age of almost twelve I had been sent away to boarding school. I had no choice in the matter, I left a school where I was a top student both in terms of academics and sports, I was active in drama performing in school plays, respected by teachers, given a position of authority over other students and a fairly confident although somewhat shy, but independent child.

I moved into an environment where I was mediocre to say the least; I was surrounded by smart, mostly older, and more confident fellow students, many had been to preparatory schools designed to prepare them for this experience. I went from being at the top to the bottom of the heap.

At first I tried to engage fully in this new environment: I tried to join things – the band, the theatre group but seemed to meet rejection at every point. I played football (soccer) they played rugby. I can still feel the humiliation of my first rugby game when I unwittingly threw the ball forward like a quarterback in American football to the derision of everyone else on the field. Everything seemed alien and I began to sink into the background. I chose invisibility as a way to deal with rejection. I stopped trying.

Back in the current time something happened that got my attention. I tripped and suffered a painful fall on the way home. As a result I did a reading of the I Ching to check in and got a result that I hated. “Work on what has been spoiled” however it caused me to ask myself what was tripping me up? The I Ching suggested a seven-day process to explore and remedy.

A couple of days later I was sitting reflecting when I had an insight. Although I had stopped trying at the age of thirteen, I had reinvented myself at the age of 25. It’s a long story but at that age I began to impose my will on the world. I became extremely successful in business becoming Executive Vice President of Canada’s largest advertising agency, I realized that it was completely untrue for me to say I had not tried.

This made me wonder about my book and the energy and effort I had put into it. I had sent copies off to agents and publishers, made multiple public presentations on decision-making, and sold 800 copies personally. How could I say I had not tried?

It seemed so implausible that I should have such a negative self-image. Then it struck me. I was still impacted by an old script. It was as though some unconscious figure pressed “play” on an old tape and the script played out.

I still have trouble in believing that this old, redundant message could still impact my energy, feelings and responses and such was its power that I would buy in. No wonder life is so complex. How many other old scripts could be lurking in my unconscious?

My experience sure helps with maintaining humility. So the next time you want to react, check out the script that may be causing the response. Perhaps you can keep your counsel in check or perhaps like me you will react then learn to see the old refrain playing itself out. At the moment I am too much like the Pavlovian dog reacting to the sound of the bell. My hope is that bringing this old script into the light will diminish the autonomous power it seems to exert over my reactions.



The Soul Journey 2 – The Guiding Voice

January 22, 2016

“This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of furniture. Still treat each guest honourably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whomever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Rumi – (Coleman Barks)

This was the second evening in the series on the Soul Journey I have been sharing with a small group of friends. I had not planned to open with this particular poem but it seemed to have a life of its own and immediately I saw its particular relevance to the topic we were exploring concerning the guiding voice of the Soul. How does it show up? What are its languages it uses and how can we ensure we listen?

The Soul does not use the normal logic and rationale of the left side of our brains. It speaks to us in metaphor, through deep feelings, dreams, through symbol and synchronicity, our intuition, in beauty and passion, through the still small voice and in symptomatology which Rumi’s poem so exquisitely describes.

Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis describes it like this, “The good news is that we do have symptomatology. In the Western world we tend to want to rid ourselves of symptomatology as quickly as possible. We go to a doctor and ask for a pill or we solicit some form of theological solution or some form of positive thinking. But many times these things don’t really touch the issue. The presence of symptomatology paradoxically is a reminder of the dynamism of the psyche it represents the autonomy of the psyche we can’t wish it away or will it away it shows up it speaks. One of the things I’ve learned as a therapist as well as a human being is that the psyche is never silent, the psyche is forever soliciting our will and our intentionality to help us make choices that will align themselves more completely with the intention of our nature.”

Most of us live, whether we realize it or not, in a state of dynamic coexistence between the ego and the Soul. The ego performs the executive role managing our consciousness and how we get through a day. It gets us up in the morning and runs our lives we would be adrift without it and most of the first half of life is devoted to its healthy and positive ego development.

Yet it is only one aspect of a greater whole. The Soul (or psyche referred to by Hollis) is autonomous of the needs of the ego. In my opinion my ego is not that smart. It is too concerned about protecting its own security and therefore is prone to conservatism. The Soul has the capacity to tap into our own deeper levels of wisdom and present our guiding voice. Anyone who has worked faithfully with dreams will have seen the capacity for guidance that seems far wiser than we had thought was possible.

A couple of years ago I attended a conference in Petaluma, California where three teachers presented their stories. Each one of them observed on the power of this guiding force to positively effect their unfolding lives. So how do we facilitate and engage this deep wisdom? It is not about suppressing the ego; the ego is a great servant but the Soul needs to assume mastery in our lives and establish the agenda.

There is a lovely poem by Rumi that includes the description, “Too often we put saddlebags on Jesus, and let the donkey run loose in the pasture.” The donkey needs to be harnessed and directed in order to be put to good use.

Two important words to remember are Intention and Attention. I was unable to see the power of the Soul until I could admit there was such a possibility. Then I began to spend some time each morning affirming my desire that the Soul should lead the way and everything changed. At this point it is essential to begin paying close attention to the unfolding circumstances of our lives and how the Soul speaks to you. Each of us is unique and we have to find our own way.

It begins with noticing the circumstances of our lives, paying attention to symptomatology, signs and coincidences, dreams, and feelings. When life is flowing smoothly it is a good sign Soul and ego are in alignment however when you feel blocked it can indicate the Soul suggesting change is on the horizon.

There is a beautiful poem by St Francis that includes the words: “for beauty and passion and laughter and joy they are our hearts truth, all else is labour and foreign to the Soul.” This reminds me to engage in Soulful pursuits. The same way we feed the body with food, we can feed the Soul.

Recently I had a “fall from grace”: I tripped on my way home and flew through air to crash on a hard concrete surface. Not only my dignity was bruised but my thigh, hand and knee too. However I knew it could have been a lot worse and wondered immediately if this was my Soul trying to get my attention? The next morning I found my copy of the I Ching (an ancient Chinese divining system) and did a reading. The results confirmed my suspicion. “Work on what has been spoiled” so I began to ask myself what was tripping me up? The I Ching suggested a seven-day process to explore and remedy. I committed to the task and one of my key insights was that since early December I had lost touch with an evening contemplation I would do before bed; I would listen to sacred music, learn and recite poetry as well as a daily reflection. I reinstated it into my life and sense my Soul alignment is restored.

We did a practice that is designed to elucidate a sense of clarity about our current Soul state. It begins by taking some paper and crayons. Some seed words were scattered around the page: feelings, thoughts, signs and synchronicities, intuition, body. Then I led a brief guided meditation from Thic Nhat Hanh:

Listening to the bell I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve

My mind calm, my body relaxed

A smile is born on my lips

Following the sound of the bell

My breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness

In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.

Then it was a case of relaxing and capturing whatever emerged. Gradually a picture emerged, unique for each individual. After sharing the insights each person drew a rune. (Using Ralph Blum’s insightful oracle) As always it was astonishing how relevant and individual each message was for each person. The ego struggles with the idea that drawing a random stone could possibly be significant but the Soul finds a way. As the great Bard himself said in Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

A New Year Reflection – Do you sabotage your natural flow?

January 6, 2016
Diverting the River


Recently while on vacation in Sayulita in Mexico I observed a fascinating battle between man and nature. Every day I stroll along the beach and encounter a creek that I have to wade across. In Summer this creek is a mere rivulet but in December it can be quite a gushing torrent that some days intersects the breakers and becomes a real challenge. One day it caused me to take a six block detour to cross the bridge.

The river has a natural flow that elegantly sweeps to the north however for some reason this normal progression offends “someone” because each day there would be two or three Mexican workers attempting to straighten it out. It was laborious as they had to dig a channel then dam the main tributary to try and divert it. By sunset they would finally achieve their goal and the creek would obediently flow through the new course they had set.

Each night the high tide obliterated almost every sign of the man-made diversion. The next day they would begin all over again. Every night the same result: the river just wasn’t interested. It reminded me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus forced incessantly to push a huge rock up hill only to have it roll back down.

It was not long before I began to muse on the metaphor this may represent in life. It seemed reminiscent of the ongoing drama between the Self and the self or perhaps the Soul and the Ego depending on your own worldview.

How often have I attempted to force my life into a channel of the Ego’s choice and by doing so lost the natural flow and rhythm that wanted to naturally evolve? The power of the ocean to force me back seems akin to the Soul’s power to throw obstacles in my way and force change in my direction. How frequently do I think I know best and attempt to remove the obstacles so I can stubbornly and relentlessly fulfill my will.

I recall when I was convinced my focus should be on decision-making. I wrote a book, organized presentations, created a web site, started doing workshops and a consulting practice. For a time I believe this was a passion shared by both the Self and the self.

Then things began to shift. Opportunities dried up, book sales slowed, the phone stopped ringing. For a time I resisted; I tried to break down doors; to identify new opportunities but to no avail. Only when I let go of my attachment could the natural flow of my life resume its course. The path of Spiritual Guidance and working with dreams began to unfold.

So how do we best surrender to the natural flow of our lives. How do we allow the river of our lives to find its natural course. How can we tell when our ego has taken hold and that the Soul is blocked?

Eminent Jungian psychologist James Hollis suggests we pay attention to the energy we feel for something – does it feel alive or has it become a dry husk? I have observed that paying attention to our lives is important. Notice when doors begin to close; observe what is capturing your attention and interest and pay attention to your dreams. Is there some passion that is unexplored? Check in and ask yourself if you feel as though you are in flow.

The New Year is a great time to take stock and assess your life’s flow.

Flow Resumed

Flow Resumed

Remember the power of the ocean to sweep away the obstacles we place in its way. Is there anything you keep doing over and over again and expecting a different result. What do you need to surrender in 2016 in order to open up to a greater sense of flow?