The Soul’s Journey – Coping with Trauma and Overwhelment.

November 23, 2016

There were two major events in my life recently. First Donald Trump was elected to the presidency and secondly Leonard Cohen died. Both affected me deeply but only today did I begin to see an evident connection.

Leonard Cohen’s passing was not announced until Thursday evening after the election. One of my first reactions was to buy his last recording “If you want it darker”.

It was later announced that he had died on the Monday preceding the election. It seemed an interesting coincidence that the man who wrote these words, “And now the wheels of heaven stop, you feel the devil’s riding crop, get ready for the future: it is murder” over twenty-years ago, should never breathe a single breath on the same planet as President elect Trump.

Listening to his latest work the words, “But it’s written in the scriptures
and it’s not some idle claim,
 you want it darker 
we kill the flame” resonated in a new way. Perhaps he was the flame. Is it beyond belief that either consciously or unconsciously he made the decision to leave us because of the bleakness of the future he saw ahead?

There are other words that seem overt reminders of Trump’s pre-election statements on the second amendment: “They were middle-class and tame 
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim.”

So perhaps Leonard Cohen’s coping mechanism with this trauma was to “shuffle off this mortal coil”.

I began to review the many different coping mechanisms that friends of mine had manifested to the news of the election result.

Some became motivated to become more active – to join like-minded groups and support change in positive arenas such as the environment, poverty and racial tensions.

Others became obsessed to understand how such a regressive step could occur. They focused on how this could possible happen, questioning all the data particularly “how could 53% of while women vote for a man who admitted to sexual assault.

There were those who just wanted to make it all part of a divine plan. They kept texting Cohen’s words “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” A CRACK!!! I felt like screaming, “This isn’t a crack it’s a f***ing canyon!”

There are also those who preach forgiveness and understanding for those who have inflicted Trump on us. We need to understand how they had been ignored and left behind and this was just a reaction. Although I believe in forgiveness, I struggle with understanding. These were ignorant ill-informed people, who believed the lies and who have created the most powerful man in the world out of someone who has the emotional and psychological development of a six year old. Don’t take my word for it, listen to this amazing, scary podcast by Jeff Salzman https://www.integrallife.com/daily-evolver/trump-terrible-integral-look-boy-who-would-be-king

My response had been avoidance. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I won’t listen to news about the transition. I behave like an ostrich, I want to bury my head in the sand for four plus years. (An even more classic case of avoidance is someone I know who has created a fantasy that it did not happen and Obama is staying for eight more years.)

I began to be curious about how our initial coping with this trauma would reflect on our personal psychology. Frequently our initial and most powerful responses to major trauma are a function of old coping mechanisms developed in childhood.

I could see my own reaction clearly as an old pattern. When I finally gave up on combat with my authoritarian father, I would hide myself away. In face of the overwhelming other I just would not show up. Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis does a remarkable job of summarizing our responses as a child to the powerful other:

1) Stay out of harm’s way – avoidance. We can do this by distancing, suppression, repression (unconscious), projection on to others, distraction, numbing and drugging, and disassociation.

2) The birth of the power complex – we move in and attempt to take control. Education is a benign form.

3) Compliance – give them what they want. Produces dependency on state, religion, and results in giving away authority.

How interesting. Perhaps it is another victory for Donald Trump that he has overwhelmed us into child states.

It is a great reminder to always reconsider the first reaction and allow the adult self a say. Sometimes gifts come in strange packages!

And on the subject of gifts, here are the words of Leonard Cohen’s last gift to us all

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker
Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord
There’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame
They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim
You want

 

Advertisements

The Soul’s Journey – Finding your “Go to Support Chest”

November 15, 2016

I woke up at 4:40 a.m. the day after the election full of dread. Racing around my mind were confusion from trying to hold two opposites. That consciousness was positively evolving when the Americans had just elected a bombastic, misogynist, racist, ignorant narcissist who had no concept of truth and likely the emotional and psychological maturity of a six year-old.

I knew I would not sleep again that night so I got up and followed my intuition. First I forced myself to engage in my morning meditation practice. Difficult as it was to still my mind, I prayed for equanimity. Then I put on some Gregorian Chants and began to read my Soul Book.

In times of stress, anxiety and uncertainty I try to avoid my tendency of engaging my normal anxiety management systems (distraction, diversion, and varying mild addictions like mindless TV viewing). Instead I open my “Go to Support Chest” to search out practices that feed my deeper self. Sacred music, meditation and reviewing my Soul Book are prime examples of what can sustain me during existential crises.

In the inner cover of my Soul Book are the words, “Reflections, Contemplations, Meditations, and Inspiration.” It is a miscellany of poems, quotes, and stories where I have experienced moments of awe and wonder within this mystery that we live. I write in bright, cheerful, coloured inks that register easily on the eye. In moments like this when the future seems so bleak and incomprehensible, I find things to uplift me.

On this particular day my eye caught a beautiful extract from a poem by St Francis that I encountered in “Love Poems from God” by Daniel Ladinsky. ‘For laughing and passion, beauty and joy they are our hearts truth. All else is labour and foreign to the Soul.” It seemed a perfect focus for the day. I shared the quote on Facebook and found out later that sharing poetry was one of the primary ways people were supporting each other on social networking.

Another entry reminded me of all the different ways to feed the Soul: Love, Peace, Joy, Compassion, Gratitude, Wonder. Awe, Mindfulness and Meditation, Music, Poetry, Dance, Laughter, Passion and Play.” It was time to let go of disappointment, sadness , grief and anger. Time to let go of needing to know what it all means. We live in a mystery. It was time to reflect on the wonderful words of Gautama Buddha, “Never in the world does hatred cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love.” . It worked. I felt a deep inner piece that supported me through the day.

I subscribe to a beautiful service that sends me glorious Soul Poems with beautiful pictures every day. Unfortunely the Panahala site has closed I suspect in disappointment after the election results but Joe Riley’s poem on November 8th was perfect. It was by Rumi:

This is now. Now is

All there is. Don’t wait for Then.

Strike the spark, light the fire.

Sit at the Beloved’s table

Feast with gusto, drink your fill

Then dance

The way branches

dance in a spring wind.

The green earth is your cloth:

Tailor your robe with dignity and grace.


The Soul Journey – Understanding the Stories That Run Our Lives

November 5, 2016

This was the theme I developed for my small Spiritual Guidance Group that met last Wednesday. The idea was unexpected and had indirectly arisen as a function of the dream I wrote about in a recent dream blog. (http://wp.me/p7aFpI-4z)

This dream encouraged me to explore something that was missing in my perspective as a spiritual teacher. The clue to its resolution was in the yellow T-shirt I had put on during the dream. Yellow is a colour associated with the mind and the sun.

The “ah hah” moment came when I remembered I refer to James Hollis, eminent Jungian analyst, as the teacher of my mind. The dream prompted me to return to a task I had neglected – to record notes from his lecture series from his book, “Hauntings”.

Once more his wisdom inspired me. In his second lecture he suggests that much of our lives are run though unconscious stories that we are continually in service to and asks, “what are the implicit stories that your life history seems to be manifesting or dramatizing or externalizing in your life.”

He gives a remarkable example from a friend of his who also happens to me my favourite poet – Stephen Dunn. As a child he lived together with his parents and grandparents on his mother’s side of the family.

Unbeknownst to anyone the grandfather had a mistress, who got sick. He ran out of money for her hospital bills and asked his son in law for money but made him promise not to tell his wife. A secret was born.

It was never repaid – his wife found out the money was gone and asked where. He told her he had lost it at the track. It created a permanent rift between them; he fell into alcoholism and Steven grew up in a fractured family where the coping mechanism was silence. He confided in Stephen when he was in his late teens but promised him to secrecy.

This story and secrecy was an undercurrent to his life and when asked by Hollis how it had effected him he responded, “I thought that arguments were played out in silence and silence was what I armed myself with”

I was profoundly touched by this account and began to wonder what stories had unconsciously shaped my life. I realized that as a fifteen-year old I had concluded that there was no God; life was therefore meaningless and so I had better take care of myself as best I could.

This story was the undercurrent of my life for the next thirty years. It resulted in a very self-serving, controlling and manipulative persona. Only when it was replaced by a new story that I was “a spiritual being having a human experience” could I begin the true journey of the Soul. From this perspective life had to have meaning.

I reviewed my insights with a dear long-term friend and he was intrigued. He began to share his own confusion about why his parents had moved the family from relative comfort in the UK to comparative poverty in Toronto. “I was always trying to find out”, he confided. “I even questioned my mother if she had followed a neighbor who moved here.” I asked him if he sensed there was a secret behind it. It was as though the scales fell from his eyes. “All my life I have been trying to find the answer to a secret I did not know existed.”

I asked how this may have impacted him. He was exquisitely honest, “Sometimes I wonder if there is something I am not aware of – some hidden agenda.”

It was an amazing moment. It confirmed the power inherent in Hollis’s teachings.

Later that evening I reviewed this material with my group. The impact was so much more than expected. People begin to see stories that had shaped and were shaping them:

  • A child who thought she had to always take care of people.
  • A family where silence and conflict avoidance were prevalent.
  • A child constantly in search of a father’s approval.

The final question we delved into was also from Hollis. Exploring our current unconscious stories is but part of the Soul journey. The question still to be answered is what story wants to enter the world through each one of us? Hollis suggests, “We all have these stories lying within us. We need to find the story we are meant by the Gods to live in this world and to understand what interferes with that story emerging.”

To quote teacher and mystic Atum O’Kane, “Before my life is over may I sing my song.”