The Soul’s Journey – How I learned to stop worrying and love the Donald.

August 9, 2017

L-CRAIG-STRANGETRUMP

Recently I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. In layman’s language, an irregular heartbeat. My doctor observed it in my routine check up. I had first noticed it last November, but as I had no other symptoms I had given it no thought. My MD, however was definitively alarmed, threatening to put me on Warfarin – rat poison for goodness sake! However, she ultimately settled for 81mg of aspirin and a referral to the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital.

So what does this have to do with my new relationship with our orange-topped Leader of the Free World? Be patient. All will be revealed.

My belief in the relationship between mind, body, and Soul caused me to immediately begin an enquiry both inside and outside conventional medical treatment.

The physical reasons behind this rhythmic shift, according to the Mayo Clinic, can include: high blood pressure, heart attacks, coronary disease, valve problems, congenital defects, stimulants such as caffeine, stress, sleep apnoea and a host of others. I resigned myself to a journey through the conventional medical system – blood work, an echocardiogram and a heart monitor for twenty-four hours. I also pursued healing on a series of other fronts. I began to have bodywork, started acupuncture along with a series of back exercises. (I had not considered that the spine plays a fundamental role in conducting the signals that cause the heart to beat)

But on the emotional and spiritual side, what could have happened to cause this disharmony?

Clearly my heart had lost its rhythm. That seemed a curious and meaningful metaphor.

I knew that I had first noticed my heart beating irregularly in November of last year. I wondered what could have happened then to trigger such a change, so I sought out my journal and found two entries. Both were on the same subject: My despair at the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

I began to see the trap I had fallen into. I had become active at seeking out all news that disparaged the new President. I wanted him to fail, to be impeached or resign.

Every day I would look for the most negative articles I could find. I loaded the New York Times app on my phone as well as the New Yorker, who seem to hate him more than anyone else.

I would YouTube all the anti trump comedy shows – John Oliver, Bill Mahr, Saturday Night Live, Seth Grogan – my life became dominated by my anti Trump philosophy.

Ironically I was learning a poem by Hafiz at the same time interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky and titled “We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners”. It includes the phrases: “Run my dear at anything that does not strengthen your precious budding wings. Run like hell my dear from anyone who may stick a sharp knife into the sacred tender vision of your beautiful heart.” I had been doing the opposite. I had been running towards the very thing that had compromised my heart and my desire to live my life through the lens of love and compassion. It was time to change.

So I disengaged. I dropped the obsession and introduced balance.

I no longer sought out the bad. I tried to acknowledge the good and even began a daily practice based on an adaptation of Psalm 15:

Lord, may President Trump be trusted with power.

May he find a passion for justice,

May he speak the truth from his heart.

May he let go of his selfish interests and grow beyond his own limitations.

May he see the wretched as his family and the poor as his flesh and blood.

May he learn to be impartial and worthy of the people’s trust.

May his compassion prove boundless and his kindness astound all the people.

(Thanks to Stephen Mitchel for his exquisite adaptation)

This is a daily prayer I have introduced into my spiritual practice. It took quite a wake up call for me to change, but I have decided it is time to shift from my obsessive negative perspective on the new president to send positive messaging.

I still have doubts this will change Donald Trump, but perhaps it will change me and support me in creating a deeper rhythm of harmony with my heart.

If you would care to join me, who knows? Maybe we can help his heart, too.

NB Special thanks to my friend Lorne Craig who both provided the hilarious cartoon and edited my original to make it so much more coherent.

 

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The Soul’s Journey – What Station Are You At?

January 12, 2017

I think that a train journey is a wonderful metaphor for the journey of the Soul. We move from station to station over our life and of course there are two stations that we will all experience – Birth at the beginning where I sense we are unrealized Spirit and the final terminus where hopefully we have fulfilled the Soul’s desires and become realized Spirit.
Of course the stops in between are unique to each one of us. There are many terrains in which we may find stations – desert, ocean, valleys, dark, light, the roller coaster and the stop named Resistance is all too common.
I believe the journey of the Soul embraces every aspect of who we are: the emotional, psychological, spiritual, mental and Soulful. A client asked me recently how to discern what was Spirit and what wasn’t. My reply: “It’s all Spirit to me.”
This is what makes this epic adventure so challenging, so complex and so rewarding. It is important to differentiate between the station we inhabit and the current state. The station is our personal climate while our state is the current weather within that climate.
For example an early station in my life was Fundamentalism. It was a demanding station with a very masculine, authoritarian God, severe punishment for wrong-doing and only one way out by being saved by the blood of Jesus. While stopped at that station there was good weather and bad weather. Times of great happiness combined with equal confusion.
The train eventually pulled out. For a while it travelled through no-mans land then arrived at Atheism where it remained on a siding for twenty years. There was lot of varied states at this stop from enormous joy and success to absolute shock and despair.
Discerning our current station can help us identify the foundation that helps us manage the variety of states that may occur. For example my current station has evolved from the belief that I am a Spiritual being having a human experience. My specific stop at this point in my life is a station called Flow. It represents the worldview that if I stay conscious and aware, attend to my spiritual and psychological needs, set intention and pay attention then what is mine will come to me – both the good and the less so. During a recent Spiritual Guidance evening with the small group that I work with we did a practice to reveal the current station of the members of the group. I started with a guided meditation to encourage a process of practice of active imagination to access the guiding wisdom that each of us can access.

“Close your eyes, perhaps sigh and feel yourself coming fully present to this time, this place, this moment. Then bring your intention to a single breath. In, Out, Deep, Slow, Calm, Ease, Grace, Peace, Smile, Release, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.
Now imagine an empty canvas, it is blank, it is waiting for you. It will reveal to you the station your Soul train sitting at. “Held in the embrace of silence, resting in the deep heart, allowing my Soul to be, I come home. Allow an image to begin forming in your mind. Where are you? Don’t engage with it or shape it, allow it to take its own form. When you feel ready begin to draw the image or write the words that are emerging.”

What was most revealing was how unique each image was to the individual journey and in every case there was a deep sense of wonder at the positive aspects of the station despite current conditions that may be challenging. One participant was reluctant to draw because she feared the image would represent her current difficulties. Instead it offered her an oasis for respite when things seemed too intense.
Some times we get stuck at a station too long. We have to be aware that if energy departs from this place, it is time to move on. Resistance can result in being stuck. One client of mine who clearly realized she had stayed too long at stop named Constructive Discontent exclaimed, “I jammed the emergency brake on and can’t recall how to release.”
Unfortunately there is no map of all the stations. We muddle our way through as best as we can – hoping we fulfill our personal itinerary and doing our best to remember the wonderful words of the poet Em Claire.

It’s a beautiful time to be alive.
And the long walk home is peopled—
We, are everywhere.
Yet the struggle to surrender is where we walk alone.
So the next time you fall
look
to either side where you lie
and take the hand
of your dear Sister or Brother
whose own face is muddied.
We can rise together,
even if we fall alone—
for it’s a beautiful time to be alive
even
on this long walk home.


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.


My New Strategy for Chronic Impatience

February 19, 2016

It is a beautiful sunny February day in Vancouver. There is an inversion and I have discovered that the temperature at the top of my local mountain is 16c (60F) twice that in my neighbourhood. I am setting out with my snow boots and YakTraks for a snow hike. I feel a sense of joyful anticipation for a day outdoors, getting sunshine, exercise and balmy temperatures.The euphoria lasts only a few moments as my trip confronts a series of obstacles from red lights to construction to traffic. I observe I get impatient and try as I might to talk myself out of the state, it lingers and actually deteriorates at each light that changes red just as I approach.

I am no in a hurry, I have no deadline or appointments and logically have no reason to feel any angst yet it each red light is like a red flag to a bull.

I am puzzled and work hard at managing it. I come across a diversion and rather than give in to the impatience that would have me turn off blindly into the side streets to find my way, I decide to obediently follow the “detour” signs. 

This strategy makes it worse than ever as there is more construction, new lights and stop/go traffic and the detour is taking me miles out of my way. Finally I can stand it no more, I revert to strategy one and wind my way blindly through neighbourhood streets until ….. I find myself back where I began the diversion.

Then something unexpected happened. I began to laugh. It was as though the spell was broken. The irony tickled my sense of humour. The impatience I was feeling lost its hold over me. I actually found my way to the mountain with ease and in what seemed like no time I was at the Gondola base. Even seeing the car leave without me due to a school bus load of kids did not disrupt my good humour. I enjoyed a wonderful couple of hours hiking the Snow Grouse Grind. 

What happened? I felt somewhat bemused but sensed there was a life lesson here. I have experienced a sense of disappointment at my lack of progress to manage impatience in my life. I recall over twenty years ago while in Nepal I suspected that learning patience was part of the meaning in my life. 

I was catching a flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi, had arrived two hours early as required and was lining up with fifty other Westerners patiently waiting for the gate to open. When the it finally opened the line collapsed into chaos and one hundred Nepalese converged on the attendant. I noticed my sense of outrage and frustration that finally led me to accept perhaps this was my lesson in patience.

Now precisely twenty-three yeas later, after twenty years of meditating, spiritual contemplation and practice, I seem no further ahead. My impatience has felt like a weakness, somehow it seems unspiritual and not soulful. 

Then a breakthrough, I realize I don’t choose to get impatient. It is autonomous and begins with a felt sense in my body. There is no mechanism that I know of to stop it happening. I come by it legitimately – my father had little patience, and at least four of my six siblings share the same trait. From the standpoint of evolution it does not seem much of an advantage. Impatient hunters would not have much success. 

Yet somehow this genetic predisposition has survived. Are impatient people high achievers? It’s a mystery but I have always judged my tendency for impatience but now I see that is a waste of energy. Surely some growth can emerge by how I deal with it. The key is how to cope with it. I see two strategies – one is to find humour in the situation, the other is to listen to some beautiful music.

I had a chance to put a theory to the test when I arrived in Mexico on Wednesday. The immigration hall was its usual chaotic self. I can easily begin to fume at being in the wrong line, or someone else finding a shortcut. As no comedian seemed available I pulled my iPhone out of my pockets and began to listen to Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. This exquisite piece did its work. In fact the Mexican authorities cooperated by adding an ultra efficient agent to my line. My body calmed and my mind relaxed, The words of Julian of Norwich came to mind “all manner of things shall be well”.


The Soul Journey 2 – The Guiding Voice

January 22, 2016

“This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of furniture. Still treat each guest honourably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whomever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Rumi – (Coleman Barks)

This was the second evening in the series on the Soul Journey I have been sharing with a small group of friends. I had not planned to open with this particular poem but it seemed to have a life of its own and immediately I saw its particular relevance to the topic we were exploring concerning the guiding voice of the Soul. How does it show up? What are its languages it uses and how can we ensure we listen?

The Soul does not use the normal logic and rationale of the left side of our brains. It speaks to us in metaphor, through deep feelings, dreams, through symbol and synchronicity, our intuition, in beauty and passion, through the still small voice and in symptomatology which Rumi’s poem so exquisitely describes.

Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis describes it like this, “The good news is that we do have symptomatology. In the Western world we tend to want to rid ourselves of symptomatology as quickly as possible. We go to a doctor and ask for a pill or we solicit some form of theological solution or some form of positive thinking. But many times these things don’t really touch the issue. The presence of symptomatology paradoxically is a reminder of the dynamism of the psyche it represents the autonomy of the psyche we can’t wish it away or will it away it shows up it speaks. One of the things I’ve learned as a therapist as well as a human being is that the psyche is never silent, the psyche is forever soliciting our will and our intentionality to help us make choices that will align themselves more completely with the intention of our nature.”

Most of us live, whether we realize it or not, in a state of dynamic coexistence between the ego and the Soul. The ego performs the executive role managing our consciousness and how we get through a day. It gets us up in the morning and runs our lives we would be adrift without it and most of the first half of life is devoted to its healthy and positive ego development.

Yet it is only one aspect of a greater whole. The Soul (or psyche referred to by Hollis) is autonomous of the needs of the ego. In my opinion my ego is not that smart. It is too concerned about protecting its own security and therefore is prone to conservatism. The Soul has the capacity to tap into our own deeper levels of wisdom and present our guiding voice. Anyone who has worked faithfully with dreams will have seen the capacity for guidance that seems far wiser than we had thought was possible.

A couple of years ago I attended a conference in Petaluma, California where three teachers presented their stories. Each one of them observed on the power of this guiding force to positively effect their unfolding lives. So how do we facilitate and engage this deep wisdom? It is not about suppressing the ego; the ego is a great servant but the Soul needs to assume mastery in our lives and establish the agenda.

There is a lovely poem by Rumi that includes the description, “Too often we put saddlebags on Jesus, and let the donkey run loose in the pasture.” The donkey needs to be harnessed and directed in order to be put to good use.

Two important words to remember are Intention and Attention. I was unable to see the power of the Soul until I could admit there was such a possibility. Then I began to spend some time each morning affirming my desire that the Soul should lead the way and everything changed. At this point it is essential to begin paying close attention to the unfolding circumstances of our lives and how the Soul speaks to you. Each of us is unique and we have to find our own way.

It begins with noticing the circumstances of our lives, paying attention to symptomatology, signs and coincidences, dreams, and feelings. When life is flowing smoothly it is a good sign Soul and ego are in alignment however when you feel blocked it can indicate the Soul suggesting change is on the horizon.

There is a beautiful poem by St Francis that includes the words: “for beauty and passion and laughter and joy they are our hearts truth, all else is labour and foreign to the Soul.” This reminds me to engage in Soulful pursuits. The same way we feed the body with food, we can feed the Soul.

Recently I had a “fall from grace”: I tripped on my way home and flew through air to crash on a hard concrete surface. Not only my dignity was bruised but my thigh, hand and knee too. However I knew it could have been a lot worse and wondered immediately if this was my Soul trying to get my attention? The next morning I found my copy of the I Ching (an ancient Chinese divining system) and did a reading. The results confirmed my suspicion. “Work on what has been spoiled” so I began to ask myself what was tripping me up? The I Ching suggested a seven-day process to explore and remedy. I committed to the task and one of my key insights was that since early December I had lost touch with an evening contemplation I would do before bed; I would listen to sacred music, learn and recite poetry as well as a daily reflection. I reinstated it into my life and sense my Soul alignment is restored.

We did a practice that is designed to elucidate a sense of clarity about our current Soul state. It begins by taking some paper and crayons. Some seed words were scattered around the page: feelings, thoughts, signs and synchronicities, intuition, body. Then I led a brief guided meditation from Thic Nhat Hanh:

Listening to the bell I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve

My mind calm, my body relaxed

A smile is born on my lips

Following the sound of the bell

My breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness

In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.

Then it was a case of relaxing and capturing whatever emerged. Gradually a picture emerged, unique for each individual. After sharing the insights each person drew a rune. (Using Ralph Blum’s insightful oracle) As always it was astonishing how relevant and individual each message was for each person. The ego struggles with the idea that drawing a random stone could possibly be significant but the Soul finds a way. As the great Bard himself said in Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


Identifying Our Self-Care Plan

November 25, 2014

It was a chance encounter but one that began an amazing journey of meaning. I was returning from a walk when I met into my neighbor. I asked him how he was and he mentioned that it was somewhat gloomy in his household, as his son had unexpectedly suffered the death of his small, cute dog. The conversation moved on to grief, stress and its impact on different people when he unexpectedly shared a story from his own life. “I was dealing with a lot of stress helping people I work with deal with major life challenges when I found myself sitting in my office weeping uncontrollably. I decided I had to leave my job.”

In itself this was a beautiful sharing particularly between men who are not generally noted for emotional availability. What made it even more remarkable was that at the age of thirty-four, the same thing had happened to me. So I shared my experience too. I had been under intense pressure trying to save the company I was managing from going into receivership (chapter eleven).

By a bizarre stroke of fate I had become the “last man standing” in a fragile organization that I had occasionally referred to as a “ship of fools” due to some of the crazy decisions I had observed. The bank had lost confidence in the organization and the President had asked me to find a way out. I had worked for fifteen days straight starting at 6.00 am and often not finishing until long into the night. My days were filled with meetings with lawyers, accountants and the like. Finally on a Saturday morning at about 7:00 am I became convinced that I could not succeed.

Suddenly uncontrollable weeping convulsed my body and I could do nothing about it. I thought I must have been having a nervous breakdown. Fortunately my MD was also a friend so I telephoned him at home. His wife told me that he was on call at the hospital. I did not leave a message but she was sufficiently concerned to contact him. He tracked me down to the office and between sobs I shared my concerns. He was amazingly reassuring and told me that this was the best thing that could happen. The tears were the releasing of the immense amount of stress I had internalized and I would eventually feel much better.

Following this discussion with my neighbor, I was catching up with a dear female friend who told me she was under an immense amount of stress and recently broken down into floods of uncontrollable tears. While empathizing with her, it seemed natural to share my earlier conversation with my neighbor. As I concluded she exclaimed, “do you see the amazing synchronicity this is?” In the moment it had not fully sunk in but as she wanted to go and journal her thoughts and feelings, I let it go.

The next day I took a long walk by the Fraser River and the full immensity of the coincidence sank in. I found it significant that both men immediately took steps to leave the situation that had caused the stress. My friend however had no plans to exit. I wondered if this was perhaps because men are so much more uncomfortable about tears than women however, I felt convinced that regardless both of us had taken care of ourselves in a healthy way.

I knew my friend could not just walk away from her life but it encouraged me to ask her the question, “what is your self-care plan?” She clearly had given this much thought and understood “that running from one thing to the other stresses me out and overwhelms me.” She realized that finding more space in her life was essential.

This exchange led me to begin an exploration of what a Self Care plan could look like. I try to remember to ask myself a simple question, “did I live a balanced life today?” I then examine the aspects of the body, the mind, the emotions and my Spirit or Soul. I do not beat myself up if I have not but I do attempt to stay fully conscious of what is going on in my life. I graphic way to envision this kind of approach could look like this:

Slide1

For my body I like to either stretch, go to the gym and to take a walk every day. I test my mind through writing, Sudoku, and brain games. Emotionally I will try and make intimate contact with at least one friend as well as engage in something that may move me. As far as feeding the Soul, I listen to sacred music, read and learn poetry (also good for the brain), and meditate. Spirit I see as more collective than personal – my current understanding of what I call “The Mystery. ‘Play’ is a recent addition to my enquiry; I think it is important and can be overlooked. Recently a friend of mine had an amazing dream where her blonde self was prominent. Her exploration of the meaning of this symbol became clear, it was the reminder to play.

I think the most critical thing is to bring consciousness to how we are living our lives. I do not think there is any one self-care plan that can be adopted. As Carl Jung once said, “ the shoe that fits one person pinches another, there is no recipe for living that fits all cases.” However it’s always worth asking ourselves the question, “does mama need a new pair of shoes?”

Post Script: Sharing with a friend this morning she mused whether woman generally find it more difficult making major moves in their lives. She likened changing her life to shifting the course of the Titanic, a degree at a time.  She wondered of the sense of responsibility many woman feel and perhaps a tendency to enable others makes self care more challenging. One just has to hope the course correction is sufficient to avoid the oncoming iceberg.


Holding The Centre Workshop Vancouver March 16th

January 28, 2014

A client of mine recently said, ‘It’s hard to keep your zen when all about you are losing theirs” He was finding it challenging to keep his center when others were feeling upset or frustrated. One of the gifts that emerged from organizing a retreat for 95 members of my Spiritual Community was the opportunity to prepare a workshop on how I stayed centered and balanced during what turned out to be a challenging eighteen months.

The title was Holding the Center – Exploring the Inner World of Soul and How It Helps Us Stay In Balance. This Session explored the role of dreams, symbols, poetry, oracles and spiritual practices to support us in sustaining our Center when “all about us are losing theirs”. We examined what pulls us off Centre and to experience the gifts that Soulful reflection can bring.

This workshop will include:

  • Exploring what stimuli pull us out of centre.
  • Understanding how we respond to being out of balance.
  • How to find the “gap” that can help us restore balance.
  • The role of meditation and breath work to become fully present.
  • How Don Ruiz Miguel’s Four Agreements help to create balance.
  • The use of dreams, symbols, poetry, oracles and journaling to produce peace of mind

Date: Sunday March 16th 9:30 am to 1:00 pm

Fee $100.00

Details and reservations contact Trevor Simpson 604 739 6977 or trevor@soulclarity.com