The Soul’s Journey – Reflections on God

April 18, 2018

This morning I finished reading an article in Presence Magazine (The journal of Spiritual Directors International) on pilgrimage and spiritual direction by Valerie Brown. In closing she writes, “for spiritual directors there is one central question ‘where is God?’

I realized that answering that question will be influenced by the personal lens I adopt which creates my perspective of God.

I grew up in household dedicated to evangelical Baptist beliefs that offered salvation through blood or a trip to hell. I was a true believer until about 14 years old when I was given an essay to write titled, “Why God is a good God and not a comic sadist” Somewhat courageously I changed the title to “Why God is a comic sadist and not a good God.” It became my coming out paper and began a period of atheism that lasted 30 plus years.

It was after I turned forty that I realized my atheism was actually a rejection of my “father’s God” rather than an absolute state of disbelief and I began an inquiry that continues to this day into what God means to me. It has embraced many shifts in concepts and a continual letting go of old certainties. At times I have clung to old views reluctant to move into the unknown. Mystery to me encompasses the vast cosmic energies of the universe that embraces all things and that we are one insignificant aspect.

It seems an irresistible and dangerous desire of human beings to claim they know God. Somehow ignoring the fact that each vision can only be viewed from a very limited perspective – that of our humanity. This suggests a good reason that in certain Jewish teachings God is referred to as the one who can’t be named. Yet vast tracts of humanity cling to the belief that their face of God is the only one and waging war on those who may feel differently.

Frankly I like C.G Jung’s perspective – “God is the name by which I designate all things that crossed my willful path violently and recklessly, all things that upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or for worse.”

This is a reflection on some of the quotes, poems and insights that have shaped the way I see something that could be called God but I prefer to describe as Mystery.

Reflections on God 2

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The Soul’s Journey – Reflections on Soul

April 16, 2018

Half a day lost staring out of this window.

I wanted to know just one true thing about the Soul

But I left thinking for thought and two inches of snow have fallen over the meadow.

Where did I go? How long was I out looking for you who would never leave me?

My witness, my here.

 Kate Knapp-Johnson

How is it with your Soul?

This reflection originated after reading an article on the origin of the Methodist movement in the 1700. This was the greeting of original members of what was called the “Holy Club” founded by John Wesley. Methodism was a derisory term used by their critics due to very strict methodology that the Holy Club followed.  John Wesley who was leader of the club turned table on the mockers and adopted the name.

Concepts of Soul

I found a helpful web site BeliefNet that had asked teachers from different faiths their perspectives on Soul and the body. There are common elements around the spiritual nature of Soul but also many differences. Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis talks about psyche the Greek word for Soul as representing inner energies related more to the unconscious than the conscious. Hollis suggests five questions in his book What Matters Most: Do I have a Soul? What does it mean to me? What does it ask of me? What does it mean to show up? Am I willing to engage with it and serve it? I worked with a group and asked them to draw whatever emerged when I asked “How Is It with Your Soul?” No one struggled to form an image and I felt that all images represented something deeper than the ego state.

Personal Concepts of Soul

I think that each of us must answer Hollis’s five questions and determine our own relationship with the idea of Soul. I have found that once we bring conscious attention to Soul, it will meet us in many different ways. My enquiry over the years has led to my reflection below as well as my own personal “ten commandments” to help me fulfill my soul’s desire for expression through me.

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My ten commandments

 


The Soul’s Journey – Living the Examined Life

April 11, 2018

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I woke this morning feeling heavy – a combination of drowsiness, resistance to starting the day and inertia that I often associate with the grey, cloudy, damp, dreary day it appeared to be. I began my morning mindfulness meditation but felt distracted and unfocussed. I would drag the attention back to the breath but noticed it would move to my heartbeat and a heaviness around my heart. I checked for associated signs of a heart attack then brought the attention back to the breath

No Such Thing as a Bad Meditation

After I finished I noticed some judgment that it hadn’t been a “better” meditation. I reminded myself that there is no such thing as a bad meditation and began my day as usual with some tea, sacred music and reflection. I started to journal about how I was feeling. I had some judgment about how little I had accomplished the previous day. In the morning I had tried hard to focus on my list of things to do but had run into a series of obstacles that had frustrated me. It was one of those days when I tried to push through while getting nowhere.

Leaving The Stuck Place

Finally I had taken off for a coffee and a lovely walk around the ocean and Granville Island. It felt good. I recited some of the poems I have learned, sung some chants and enjoyed the beauty. By the time I got home I decided it was time to reengage but to no avail. I felt like reading so I picked up a novel I was reading Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time and in no time got totally engrossed and could not put it down until I had finished. I noticed this strange sensation of guilty pleasure. My afternoon and evening were filled with reading, listening to music, some old Twilight Zones (I love that show), a brief strata meeting and an hour of contemplation before bed. I am trying to learn a poem that begins with the words,

“Days pass when I forget the mystery. Problems insoluble and problems offering their own ignored solutions jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing their coloured clothes, caps and bells.

Denise Levertov Primary Wonder

What is Life Supposed to Look Like?

As I write I realize my angst comes from fear I am not living the life I think I should live. My mentor eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis talks about living the examined life in his recent book of the same name. I wonder if I am ignoring my responsibility to my Soul through lethargy and inertia or is this just my old protestant work ethic getting its reminder in. I sit perplexed and write, “What is life supposed to look like at the age of 74?” Yesterday I avoided lots of things I could have been doing. Each morning I affirm that I will be guided where my passion takes me but what if my passion seems to want to read a novel?

A Meaningful Coincidence

In my confusion I recall a moment of fascinating synchronicity that happened the day before. On Sunday I had facilitated a dream workshop. It is I something I truly love to do: it is engaging, rewarding, invigorating and a full day. One of the practices I offer is asking participants to draw a card from a deck I have titled Soul Cards. They are images without explanations. The exercise is to observe what feelings, energy and symbols arise from your projection on the image – it is a gentle introduction to a process that is similar to how I explore dreams. As I was putting the cards away I noticed one that seemed to speak to me; I knew my priority was to continue holding the space for the group so I ignored the impulse to explore it. At the end of the day I was ready for a walk and to relax so I packed everything away without giving the image another thought. However the universe had other plans. On Monday morning as I engaged in a frustrating search for a photo of Assisi, I encountered a photo of the same card taken on January 14th. I have no recollection of taking it but suspect I took it for someone at my dream workshop then. It seemed like a sign to explore.

Taking a Journey Into The Imaginal World

I found the card and began a journey of active imagination with it. What were the symbols – a gentle, curious deer; a solid tree holding up to stormy weather; a feminine figure resting in the security of the tree. The energy is both dynamic yet peaceful, my feelings included a sense of curiosity while feeling strangely reassured.

The Ah-Ha moment.

Of course! The deer was the reminder to bring gentle curiosity to myself when I feel blown about – not judgment. The card reminded me that after an intense day like Sunday I needed to take it easy. The woman reminded me it was about connecting more to the feminine and resting in the embrace of the earth. I had become stuck in the masculine energy of doing things and then getting frustrated by pressing on rather than letting go. After exploring this image I noticed an immediate shift: the heaviness around my heart dissipated, my energy lifted, my judgment of myself diminished and I felt a restored sense of flow. Perhaps this is what living the examined life is all about.

Denis Levertov’s poem finishes like this:

And then once more the mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamour recedes, the mystery that there is anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything rather than void: and that.O Lord, Creator Hallowed One, You still hour by hour sustain it.

Thanks so much Denise for your exquisite insight.