The Soul’s Journey – Living the Examined Life

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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.

 

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