The Souls Journey – Unraveling My Psychology

November 29, 2018

I am with my friends Graham and Allison on Cortes Island. I have this large fairly sophisticated fishing boat; I set out on the calm ocean leaving them ashore, release my fishing line and cruise peacefully along. As I get further off shore I begin to question just what do I think I am doing? I know little about boats, navigation or cruising yet here I am on this huge ocean, out of sight of land and on my own? I steer toward the coast and find myself navigating a channel; there are buildings on the shore like a harbor and it gets narrower and narrower. I begin to become concerned that I may not be able to turn around. Finally I complete a complex maneuver and head back out to see. I feel concerned that I do not know where I am. Finally I see the figures of Graham and Allison on the shore. I steer the boat on to the beach where they are standing. Then realize to my horror I have left my fishing gear out. I feel completely foolish and sure enough when I pull it in, it is a tangled disaster. Then I watch with amazement as Allison slowly and patiently untangles the mess. I wake up.

My first reaction to the dream was to deep six it. (interestingly this expression has a nautical connection; originally it meant burial in water deeper than six feet.) However I have learned that the waking reaction to a dream is a most unreliable witness so I decided to write it down. I could make no head of tale of it – I have no interest in boats, I have never owned one and they have never showed up in dreams. Cars, trains and busses I can always make sense of but not boats.

It was not until I met with my small dream group and invited them to dream partner with me that the pieces of a puzzle began to take shape. It began when I was asked what was I fishing for? I had no idea but then I realized the boat was on water. Water in dreams often represents the unconscious; the fishing line was under the water then presto, the last piece of the puzzle slipped into place. The boat represents my container for exploring my unconscious.

I am fishing for information that would help me understand myself better. When I get into a tight corner and am influenced by fear and anxiety it is very hard to stay centred, all I want to do is survive the situation.I make decisions that cause a tangle. Only later can I begin to untangle the underlying threads that caused the problem. I need to return to somewhere where I am grounded and invite my divine feminine to support the inquiry.

One of the commitments that I affirm each day is to unravel my psychology. Over the years I have reflected on my behavioral patterns that have represented my inexplicable reactions to situations and people and tried to learn from them. So why do I plumb the depths of my unconscious? How does what is stored in my unconscious impact my life? In the words of eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis, “what does this make me do and what does it stop me doing?”

Some examples of what I have encountered:

– Driving pell-mell on the HOV through a Las Vegas rush hour to escape. (https://wp.me/phAyS-uM)

– Losing my cool in a ski shop when they told me mounting bindings was not included in the purchase of skis. (https://wp.me/phAyS-wM)

– Losing my temper when a friend innocently asked me to return the automatic door opener he had given me the previous Christmas.

– Marrying a woman who represented every aspect of my relationship with mother. (https://wp.me/phAyS-7Y)

– sobbing like a child in the midst of an extremely stressful conference I was organizing. (https://wp.me/phAyS-DC)

When I catch a “fish” bringing it to the surface helps me see the trigger involved, hopefully how to avoid it and perhaps feel more understanding of myself. Each experience reduces the power of the complex. The source is always rooted in some form of coping mechanism in my childhood – control, abandonment, fairness, being taken for granted to name but a few.

I choose to live an examined life and perhaps have accepted the Socratic wisdom espoused by Plato – “for the unexamined life is not worth living.” However I also like the addition by author Andrew Klaver – “but the unlived life is not worth examining.”

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The Soul’s Journey -25 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was Young.

November 15, 2018

Recently I was invited to participate on a senior’s panel for a class of students studying psychology. It was an extremely interesting and enjoyable experience sharing reflections on the gifts and the challenges of aging and being asked all kinds of interesting questions.

One question has stayed with me, “what would you like to have shared with your younger self?” At the time I quipped, “I doubted my younger self would have listened”. However the question has been haunting me since then. I realized that there are so many things that could have helped me on the journey. Two of us on the panel deeply regretted having no sage mentors to offer such counsel. So here is some of mine.

I am not sure which of these I could have heard at the time however now they all make much great sense. Here they are – in no particular order.

1) This too shall pass – the wise reminder that everything – the good, bad and indifferent will change.

2) Do not make assumptions and do not take it personally. (Two of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements.)

3) Know thyself – inscribed in the Temple to Apollo in Delphi. To understand who we are and why we react the way we do is priceless and has become a twenty-year passion of mine.

4) You are better looking and more interesting than you realize. (I was terribly challenged by lack of self-esteem and shyness.)

5) Be curious about everything that happens in your life.

6) When a door closes always look around for the door that may be opening rather than batter on the one that is closed.

7) The other two agreements – do your best and be impeccable to your word.

8) Meditate every day – I did not start until I was 50 and wished I had begun earlier.

9) Read poetry, it speaks to a deeper part of who we are.

10) Find music that touches you deeply and listen to it often,

11) Accept that in life you will win and lose – do both gracefully.

12) Learn to recognize that there is a gap between the stimulus and the reaction. (Steven Covey)

13) Don’t drink so much; you are not as funny as you think; it is an escape.

14) Learn the difference between being alone and feeling lonely – you don’t have to go out on a Saturday night.

15) Always remember the four immeasurables (from Buddha) – Compassion, Loving Kindness, Equanimity and Sympathetic Joy. (Enjoying the success of others)

16) Attachment is not necessarily bad but it will eventually end in suffering. (Buddha)

17) When someone upsets you look inside before you react outwards. A psychological truism is that “it is never about what it is about.”

18) You don’t have to be religious to acknowledge the wonderful principles of the great wisdom traditions. How can you argue with “Love One Another”?

19) Our close attractions are normally projections of some part of ourselves that is unfulfilled or unrealized. We project our inner gold on other people and need to reclaim it. (Robert Johnson)

20) Your parents did the best they could – forgive them.

21) Look for patterns in your life they come to teach you something.

22) We wake up each morning with two gremlins at the end of our bed – they are fear and lethargy. (James Hollis)

23) Pay close attention when you develop an instant dislike to someone, they normally represent something we don’t like in ourselves. (We all have shadow and light)

24) Anxiety is a nebulous free flowing child state, when you are anxious try to ascertain what the underlying fear is, it will reduce its power over you. (Sometimes anxiety is unconscious and shows up as mindless diversions and distractions.)

25) Forgiveness is about the self not the other however to forgive you do not have to condone.

I am sure more will come to me but this seems like a good starting point.

 


The Soul’s Journey – Nothing Can Be Made Without Knocking Over What is Old.

November 6, 2018

Prepare to feel surprised and disappointed at once. Disappointment is the pile of bricks stacked and never used. Surprise is when you knock them over. Nothing can be made without knocking over what’s old.” Julie Levitt

Recently while reading Living An Examined Life by eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis I came across these words. “There are only answers that make sense to you at this moment in your life and they will fail you tomorrow. What is seemingly true today will be outgrown when life or our Soul brings us a larger frame through which to view them.” It was as though he was preparing me for the seismic event I was currently undergoing.

For twenty-years I had been guided by what I considered to be a simple truth expounded by Catholic theologian and mystic Theillard de Jardin: “You are not a human being having a spiritual experience, you are a spiritual being having a human experience.”

This insight had been presented to me after I had a psychic love affair that shook the foundation of my worldview and led to me seek counselling to help me comprehend how two people could possibly connect mind to mind over time and space. (For more on that see “The Event That Rocked My World.”)

This belief that life was part of a much greater reality became the foundation initially in a quest for enlightenment but once I determined I was not an enlightenment kind of guy, it led to a twenty-year passion to search for meaning and to understand my psychology, theology and spirituality. This foundation eventually led to who I am today – a dream teacher and spiritual coach.

There had been a number of shifts on my journey but underlying it all was the conviction that I was a spiritual being having a human experience with an immortal Soul that would survive the body.

Suddenly this perspective did not fit anymore. It felt like a coat I had outgrown. In his chapter on achieving a mature spirituality Hollis suggests any belief must have personal resonance and mine no longer did.

This discomfort began during the reading of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is a deeply disturbing book about our evolution as a species from Africa 100,000 years ago. He describes the brutal, self-serving, competitive and relentless story of conquest and domination by humans over others. I found myself asking the question, “Where is the evidence of Soul on which I have based on my life? Can I really accept we are spiritual beings?”

As I write I am reminded of Carl Sagan’s words many years ago in Cosmos: “Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.”

Like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces, my worldview no longer resonated. I felt troubled. Who was I without my belief? What was left once I surrendered my faith in a worldview that had been the catalyst for my personal journey of exploration for the past twenty-two years?

I took a long solitary walk asking myself the question, “what remains if I give up the belief in being a spiritual being with an eternal Soul?” To my surprise I felt an unexpected sense of reassurance; I still had my belief in the unconscious, also in a tutelary or guiding inner spirit, and I still felt committed to seeking meaning in this Mystery of which I am part.

Yet something had changed. Suddenly the focus on the preciousness of this one life seemed so much more important. If I am not eternal and nothing of me other than perhaps some released energy remains when I die then suddenly what I do while I am here is even more critical than ever.

I have noticed that in these times of polarization, political reversals, and the rise of fundamentalism I have found it easy to slip into a place of hopelessness wondering whether we shouldn’t just let this human experiment fail and collapse into the abyss.  I am reminded of Nietzsche’s quote,“Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman–a rope over an abyss.” It may feel like we are on that rope but we need to reach the other side.

Recently I read President Obama’s inspiring speech at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual lecture. https://www.npr.org/2018/07/17/629862434/transcript-obamas-speech-at-the-2018-nelson-mandela-annual-lecture.

Despite being totally realistic about the negative forces at play in the world today he observes, “Things may go backwards for a while, but ultimately, right makes might, not the other way around”.

My commitment begins with sustaining hope and today this beautiful poem appeared in my mail; it seems a perfect affirmation.

Sometimes

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you

Sheenagh Pugh