The Soul’s Journey- The Search for Meaning

June 12, 2019

As we progress on the spiritual journey we will inevitably begin to seek for opportunities to create a meaningful life. This is laudable yet comes inherent with its own pitfalls or handcuffs. Recently during a group I facilitated this became all to clear.

You Don’t have To Feel Guilty About Feeling Good

Recently at my small Spiritual Guidance group one member checked in with the deep concern and frustration she was feeling about the course of her life and the sense that she had not found her purpose or meaning. She has just accomplished a major transition completing a two-year program called The Art of Spiritual Guidance that had both absorbed and directed her life for almost two years. She felt anxiety that she was not able to move ahead in a direction that she found purposeful and soulful. When I checked in with the state of her current life she responded that it was wonderful; she was loving a summer of great weather, meeting friends and family, playing golf, and making brief trips in the glorious scenery of the British Columbia in late spring. However she was feeling guilty and concerned that after all her inner journeying and seriousness she was becoming a dilettante.

Summer is for Recreation

It was the perfect start to the evening because the theme I had chosen was recreation. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary I had found this exquisite definition that seemed so appropriate. Recreation is the “refreshment of strength and spirits after work”. Summer is a restorative season where we enjoy the fruits of labour and refresh ourselves for future endeavours.

Trust Your Life

I am a firm believer that we must “trust our lives”. As eminent author and Jungian analyst suggests in his book Living An Examined Life “when the path we are on is right for our Souls the energy is there…. the feeling function supports us.” So if things are going well and you feel in balance and flow then let go of the angst and enjoy it to the fullest.

The Soul will let you know when it is time to shift orientation. When the direction of our life becomes disconnected with our Soul’s desire then there is likely to be a series of indicators – ennui, frustration, loss of energy, obstacles and obstructions for example.

It is normal for the early symptoms to be minor and easy to miss but then there can be an escalation if we do not pay attention until we are confronted by the full on cosmic 2 x 4 to get our attention.

Have an Intention and Pay Attention

I recommend a daily reflection on purpose. I affirm “to serve when called” and to pay attention to the signs and synchronicities that may indicate something is trying to engage with me. I have learned that the cosmos will bring me what is mine; I need to wait on the will of heaven and practice equanimity and pay attention to what comes. I also check in each day to see if I am living a balanced life. To me this means activity for the body, the mind, the emotions, the Soul and Spirit and I always ask, “Have I played today?”

Don’t Force It

I have learned by some bitter experience that if I go out to create meaning and purpose without being called it can be met with disaster. In the late nineties in my desperation to find meaning in my life I went and became a Big Brother. It was truly a disaster; it did not feed me; nor the poor kid I adopted. To be fair he had not been entirely honest about his interests, for example sports actually consisted only of video games and even walking was not popular. I suspect I am one of the only people to get fired by their little brother. It was a huge relief.

Practice Discernment

Be cautious about taking on things that seem unduly familiar or have a “should” connected with them. When searching for meaning we are vulnerable to that which make us feel comfortable (caretaking for example) or the desire want to model our life on someone we admire and respect.

Recognizing The Call

How do we discern a call? I think there are four key things to look for:

– It approaches you rather than you seek it out.

– It evokes passion and inspiration.

– The doors open easily to bring it forward.

– There is affirmation of your choice from an external source.

I love the poem Suspended Blue Ocean by Hafiz that reminds us the journey is not always meant to be taken so seriously. It concludes

There is only one rule

On this Wild Playground,

For every sign Hafiz has ever seen

Reads the same.

They all say,

“Have fun, my dear; my dear, have fun,

In the Beloved’s Divine Game

O, in the Beloved’s

Wonderful Game.”

 

 

 

 

 


Two Roads Diverge…

February 23, 2014

Recently listening to eminent Jungian Analyst James Hollis lecture from his book, What Matters Most, he raised the issue of fate and suggested we are faced by the limiting powers of fate as well as the developmental power of destiny. The result – we may set off in one direction and end up somewhere else.

Recently while developing a story for ZenMen, (my blog on my previous life as an advertising guy) I encountered a story within a story. It concerned my promotion to manager of the agency with whom I worked. I was sitting across from the President of McGavins Foods while my boss disseminated the news of his retirement and my move up. My client was making a series of positive affirmations and congratulations; needless to say it was one of the more positive moments in my career. Little did I know how far apart destiny would take us.

My client and I shared many similarities. We had both grown up in England, had attended institutions incongruously named public school, actually a private institution where the ruling class were generally educated. Evelyn Waugh once quoted that “anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison” a sentiment that mirrors my own

We were both in our mid forties, smart, successful and at a point where the world was our oyster. The prospect of continued success and growth in the corporate world appeared certain.

Yet within two years I had given it all up, fallen impetuously in love with a younger woman: left my job, my wife and home, my friends and cashed in all my airline points for two first class tickets around the world.

He continued on the predetermined path of commercial success moving from promotion to promotion eventually running the largest brewer in the world and building a legacy to his own success – a 47,000 square foot stately home titled Chelster Hall costing $45 million in Oakville, Ontario.

This moment, a fragment in time that occurred in 1989 brought home once again the fascinating relationship between fate and choice. Hollis would argue that much of what happens to us is outside the sphere of our conscious awareness. In hindsight my course of action at that time seems to verge on the lunatic and I do not recall making a conscious choice. It was as though I was swept away and recall no hesitation or sense of doubt.

The ancient Greeks believed that there was an ultimate agency that predetermines the course of events. Was there an unconscious energy prompting me to act in such an irrational manner?

Four years later an observer could have argued that I had made a really bad decision. The love of my life left me and my life was in tattered ruins. It is as though fate ordained that I leave the comfort of the status quo for a bold new adventure.

Kahil Gibran in his masterpiece The Prophet says, “your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding,” It is clear to me today that this was when the true journey of the second half of my life began. Like a deer in the headlights I had no idea what was coming or where I was going. Little did I know that this was the first step in the journey of a cynical type A advertising executive becoming a spiritual coach.


An Engagement with Eros.

October 26, 2013

Recently I attended the last in a series of workshops on the Archetypes of Spiritual Guidance. The theme was the Beloved and as part of our exploration we did a simple practice exploring the relationship between Love, the Lover, Longing and the Beloved. Basically it involves taking four small pieces of paper and writing these words down, folding the paper so you no longer know which is which then laying them down in a cross: top, bottom, left and right. Each position carries its own meaning but the one in the lower position is about healing a wound. I had inadvertently placed Longing in that spot and immediately discounted it because as far as I was concerned there was nothing I particularly longed for so how could there be a wound. Basically I then engaged in some sleight of hand that switched its position to the place that seemed more appropriate. When will I ever learn?

A few days later I was sharing details of my weekend with a dear friend in Toronto and when I explained my confusion over “wounded longing” she began to laugh. Her response was a consequence of the fact that she had been the subject of my wounded longing about four and a half years ago. It had been an embarrassing and somewhat humiliating experience through which I felt somewhat betrayed by my Soul. I had been brought a series of incidents that I perceived as explicit guidance to pursue her. These included a profound dream, a series of synchronicities and serendipity, oracles and feelings that all seemed designed to move me down this path. When it became obvious that my feelings had nothing to do with her at all, I felt like a victim of a bizarre cosmic joke and even to this day could never make sense of the events and had to consign them to the bucket that I call “mystery”.

Her laughter helped me evaluate what longing had led to my pursuit of her. She represented what seemed unattainable in my life: someone who is young, vital, physically beautiful, smart, spiritually aware to whom I felt a strong energetic, physical and emotional attraction. The fact that she was more than twenty years younger than me was likely a significant factor in my suppression of this longing. It seemed inappropriate, and inconsistent with whom I had become. I had consciously closed off to any exploration of this possibility with her and anyone else.

Now I realized that I was being asked to visit this wounded longing, to explore something that I had thought was in the vault. Frankly I had no idea how to proceed. I suspected that the healing of this wound was not through fulfillment so where should I look? I began with a contemplation to see what emerged. I could see clearly I had been suppressing something that was unfulfilled. It was likely a function of the aging process, of what Jung described as “the life not lived”. I had suppressed it because I had some judgments about it. I had already done the relationship with the “gorgeous 26 year-old” and I had no desire to go down that road for a second time. At times I felt frustrated that I was not drawn to women my own age or even close to it.

My second step was to seek guidance from an oracle. I chose Osho Zen’s tarot; it is my power oracle that often helps me see what I am trying to deny. Osho has that gift. To my surprise I drew Going With The Flow, “You are able to float now trusting that life will support you and take you exactly where you need to go.” It seemed like a positive omen to accompany me on an eighteen day, 4000-mile road trip to the American South-West.

As many of you know who follow these musings, James Hollis, author of fourteen books including What Matters Most, is one of my most important teachers and I always take him with me when I travel. On this particular trip somewhere in the wilds of Utah I began to listen once again to a lecture series from the above book. He always manages to both inform and entertain with his droll humour and modest manner and this was no exception however driving through the exquisite scenery heading towards Moab I would find myself occasionally distracted from his words. Then something grabbed my attention away from the vista, he began to talk about Eros as the powerful life-force of desire and longing. He suggested it must be respected not disregarded. “Wounded Eros seeks to heal; but neglected Eros seeks revenge.” In a eureka moment it becomes clear to me that Eros wants my attention. My suppression of this life force had led Eros to seduce me with the earlier encounter with my friend in Toronto, not to be fulfilled but to get my attention.

I feel that sense of awe that comes with a realization of the forces in the universe that desire to engage with us and if we are open to them magical things begin to happen but of we suppress them for too long Hollis suggests they can create monsters. I made a commitment driving toward Arches National Park that I will honour Eros, that life force of longing and desire, in whatever way it shows up in my life and that I will be open to and respectful of its power.

There is a Hindu proverb to which I ascribe that suggests that when we take one step towards God, God will come running towards us. I suspected that there would be some consequence to my decision to honour Eros but I had no idea what it could be. Any way I had a campsite to find, a national park to explore and a long road to travel. (Anyone wishing to catch up with my more physical adventures can do so at http://www.hangin.wordpress.com) Several days passed and I found myself staying at my friend Robert’s delightful place half an hour south of Santa Fe. During my visit he had a dinner party for three of his friends. One of them was a poet, a retired Federal Government employee who spent part of the year in Mexico. I felt drawn to her and as the evening progressed I realized that I was actually attracted to someone in my own age range. By frantically juggling dates that she mentioned, like being at college in 1967, I realized that we could not be that far apart in age and she was beautiful, self aware, interesting, smart and seemed a perfect correlation to my wounded longing. It was a pleasant encounter; she read some of her poetry and opened up about her life. It was only after she had left that it became clear to me that Eros may have interjected itself in my life but certainly not in hers. In hindsight I realized that I had done all the work to create the engagement and she had done nothing. She had not even asked me one question about myself. Feeling crushed, I drew rune to solicit a second opinion. The response could not have been more clear: Isa – Standstill. “You may be powerless to anything but submit, surrender, even sacrifice some long cherished desire.” So my first encounter with Eros was to feel sadness, disappointment, somewhat letdown yet I also felt energized, alive and vital with a sense that these feelings were positive rather than negative. And there was a gift, it was still possible to be attracted to someone of my own age even if a rarity.

My next stop was Ghost Ranch, an exquisite retreat center eighty miles north of Santa Fe. I had no idea what to expect. I was there because of a recommendation of some friends and because it was where Georgia O’Keefe painted. I was only there two nights and my primary focus was going to be hiking, a landscape tour and spiritual reflection. Yet Eros was not to be denied. While walking back from dinner a beautiful, Hispanic looking young woman engaged in conversation with me. She had been with a group that were hiking the Kitchen Mesa trail and had noticed me on the trail. “I was so impressed that you were doing it on your own”, she observed. I shared with her the moments of terror I had experienced descending a fifteen foot chimney. Her name was Jessica she was a lawyer from DC who was doing advanced yoga teacher training. Besides her beauty, she was articulate, smart and obviously on a path of self awareness and then she said, “You have lovely eyes, they pick up the colour of your shirt.” Then she was gone to class. Normally because of the age difference I would have shut down my feelings telling myself not to be a stupid and unrealistic. This time I honoured the God Eros. I allowed myself to feel the joy of a lovely connection; to feel the desire to pursue her but not act on it. I saw the difference between the two encounters. She had engaged with me and our connection had been a shared one. It was a sweet and delicious memory of my Ghost Ranch visit.

Where do I go from here? I have no idea. I draw a rune Kano or Opening. The rune of renewed clarity, dispelling the darkness that has been shrouding some part of your life. The words of Winston Churchill spring to mind. “This is not the end, it is not the beginning of the end, it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”