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.

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A New Year Reflection – Do you sabotage your natural flow?

January 6, 2016
Diverting the River

Diversion

Recently while on vacation in Sayulita in Mexico I observed a fascinating battle between man and nature. Every day I stroll along the beach and encounter a creek that I have to wade across. In Summer this creek is a mere rivulet but in December it can be quite a gushing torrent that some days intersects the breakers and becomes a real challenge. One day it caused me to take a six block detour to cross the bridge.

The river has a natural flow that elegantly sweeps to the north however for some reason this normal progression offends “someone” because each day there would be two or three Mexican workers attempting to straighten it out. It was laborious as they had to dig a channel then dam the main tributary to try and divert it. By sunset they would finally achieve their goal and the creek would obediently flow through the new course they had set.

Each night the high tide obliterated almost every sign of the man-made diversion. The next day they would begin all over again. Every night the same result: the river just wasn’t interested. It reminded me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus forced incessantly to push a huge rock up hill only to have it roll back down.

It was not long before I began to muse on the metaphor this may represent in life. It seemed reminiscent of the ongoing drama between the Self and the self or perhaps the Soul and the Ego depending on your own worldview.

How often have I attempted to force my life into a channel of the Ego’s choice and by doing so lost the natural flow and rhythm that wanted to naturally evolve? The power of the ocean to force me back seems akin to the Soul’s power to throw obstacles in my way and force change in my direction. How frequently do I think I know best and attempt to remove the obstacles so I can stubbornly and relentlessly fulfill my will.

I recall when I was convinced my focus should be on decision-making. I wrote a book, organized presentations, created a web site, started doing workshops and a consulting practice. For a time I believe this was a passion shared by both the Self and the self.

Then things began to shift. Opportunities dried up, book sales slowed, the phone stopped ringing. For a time I resisted; I tried to break down doors; to identify new opportunities but to no avail. Only when I let go of my attachment could the natural flow of my life resume its course. The path of Spiritual Guidance and working with dreams began to unfold.

So how do we best surrender to the natural flow of our lives. How do we allow the river of our lives to find its natural course. How can we tell when our ego has taken hold and that the Soul is blocked?

Eminent Jungian psychologist James Hollis suggests we pay attention to the energy we feel for something – does it feel alive or has it become a dry husk? I have observed that paying attention to our lives is important. Notice when doors begin to close; observe what is capturing your attention and interest and pay attention to your dreams. Is there some passion that is unexplored? Check in and ask yourself if you feel as though you are in flow.

The New Year is a great time to take stock and assess your life’s flow.

Flow Resumed

Flow Resumed

Remember the power of the ocean to sweep away the obstacles we place in its way. Is there anything you keep doing over and over again and expecting a different result. What do you need to surrender in 2016 in order to open up to a greater sense of flow?


The Beagle Knows The Way

December 13, 2014

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 my withness, my here?
Kate Knapp Johnson

IMG_0362I recently arrived in Sayulita in Mexico. My custom every morning is to don the luxury of shorts and T-shirt and walk along the beach to a viewpoint on the headland at the North end. It is such a pleasure to shake off the claustrophobia of winter and stroll beside the crashing surf. On my first morning I observed a cute beagle wearing a red bandana playing with another dog. As I progressed the beagle passed me then stayed within relatively close range but always in front. I wondered if it was my imagination that it seemed to be glancing behind to ensure I was still there. When I branched off the beach to take a trail inland I was convinced it was following me from the front.
Interestingly enough this is an old espionage trick employed by agents who don’t wish to be discovered, they learn to follow someone yet stay in front. Perhaps the beagle had been James Bond in a former incarnation. I became fascinated in observing her. She was always taking a surreptitious glance to ensure I was there. At the brow of the hill she went ahead when I turned left to ascend a path to the viewpoint but within moments, she panted beside me and forged ahead. At the top, she frolicked happily until I was ready to leave then led me back down the path.
I decided to take an alternate route home and she seemed to anticipate my change of plan. At one point she paused on an alternative trail branching upward and turned back to look at me as though to say, “let’s go this way instead.” I had become quite attached to her friendly presence when she abruptly disappeared.
I was fascinated by this encounter and could not help but think there was some meaning attached to it but it was not until the next day while taking the same route on my own that a sweet metaphor emerged. I began to see the beagle as s symbol for the Soul while I was the Ego. The Ego self always thinks it knows the way while the Soul attempts to guide us on unexplored pathways. Of course the Ego self always thinks it knows better. Yet despite our stubborn persistence to go our own way, as the lovely poem by Kate Knapp Johnson suggests, the Soul will never abandon us.
Last night I had the perfect opportunity to observe this in action. I set out for the town to witness the end of the celebration of the Virgin of Guadeloupe. It concludes in the cathedral and I thought I would enjoy the chanting, music and ritual associated with such an occasion. As I passed my favourite taco place to my surprise there was a seat available at the bar. I ignored the voice that encouraged me to keep going; I set aside my concern that it was too congested jammed between two sizeable males and decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so I squeezed in. The Ego had its way.
The result was in hindsight to be expected. First I seemed to be invisible then the chef got my order wrong, nobody asked what I wanted to drink and the meal came without accessories. Then the man beside began to tell me that he was a chef and went on and on about his training that seemed to result in him working in a brew pub. Eventually he asked me a question, then proceeded to spend forty-five minutes answering it. It was not my favourite evening but at least the food I got, although a surprise, tasted good. The Soul is very forgiving.
During this year I have learned more than once that if I am open to change, leave space and pay attention then the guidance will be there. I just have to learn to follow rather than lead. “I think tomorrow I will follow the trail, the beagle suggested and see how it turns out!”

Postscript: I followed the beagle’s trail. It was not quite the idyllic jaunt I had expected. It was steep, haphazard with too many moments when I had to choose between options. I began to worry about getting lost in the jungle but for some reason the thought of the beagle leading the way encouraged me. Then just when I felt completely lost, like magic the signposts appeared – a rock emblazoned with blue paint, a wider path and finally a rock with the words in English “Base Camp” and an arrow pointing the way. It was a.great adventure and a great reminder that the Soul journey is not always the easy route to take.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Control and My Need to be Right

April 24, 2014

I wrote this blog last November then revisited and retitled it when I began my exploration of the power complex and my need to control. After a conversation with a friend where I felt some deep shame and anxiety about the manner in which I tried to make her wrong. Inadvertently she triggered my fear of losing control and I reacted in a way that was a clear sign of a complex engaging. My relocation helped me to see that my need to be right is a way I put up walls to protect my carefully constructed control.

Many of my friends through the decades will have noticed (and likely challenged) my need to be right. I used to say that I was only wrong once and that was when I thought I had made a mistake. That of course is an exaggeration yet my track record is actually good. I have always had a commitment to excellence, being informed and to getting it right that has sustained both my business and personal life.

The unfortunate side effect of this preoccupation can be obsessively arguing the point and refusing to admit even when I am wrong. In the past few years as my focus shifted from the worldly to the sacred I have become aware that true Soul work involves both the psychological and the spiritual. I have also learned a lot about attachment and how it causes suffering and I have worked hard at letting go of my need to be right.

This caused a rift with one long-standing friend who claimed I was no fun to argue with any more. I recall the moment of humbling insight when I realized that most of my facts were actually other people’s opinions. This was accompanied by the realization that truth was frequently relative. For example one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist and that everyone feels justified in their opinions.

So I have become more reticent to take sides and more willing to entertain opposing positions. Even if I don’t agree with them I can at least not try and shout down the person expressing them. This has created a much more peaceful and constructive coexistence with my close friends and helped me guard against raising issues that I know may trigger others.

If I create a furor inadvertently with no agenda then I know any reaction is someone else’s responsibility. I have also learned that the universe has an uncanny way of ensuring I live up to my commitment to unravel my personal psychology by setting the perfect trap. The same way a spider weaves an apparently innocent, gossamer web, the universe creates the perfect environment for my issues to emerge.

Recently I organized a major retreat involving ninety-five attendees. My role included registration, payment and eventually room assignments. At check-in someone came to me and complained, “How come I have twin beds in my room when single people have doubles” My response was quick and reactive, ‘Well you must have requested it.” He protested that he would never have done such a thing but I was so convinced of my perfect system that it never entered my head that I could have made a mistake. I realize now that to even consider I was mistaken would have thrown my sense of being in control.

Fortunately I could fix the problem as a couple had cancelled the day before but I went away aggrieved at his manner and attitude. I have observed in myself that it is very difficult to take responsibility for my behaviour when I am in the midst of the feelings. After talking it out with a couple of friends, the feelings of hurt and misjudgment dissipated and I let it go.

When I got home I checked his registration and found out to my horror I had made an error. Feeling mortified I sent him an abject apology but went no further in assessing my reaction and response. Those of you who follow my scribblings will recognize unconscious resistance setting in. The cosmos has developed a SWAT rapid response to my resistance; it immediately presented a parallel situation for my “enjoyment”.

The next morning I am sharing a conference call with two friends and regaling them with some of the more outrageous stories about what happens when one tries to organize ninety-five well-meaning members of a spiritual gathering to a retreat. (For example one woman booked attendance for herself and her husband. His response was to cancel the credit card.) It had become particularly dramatic during the two weeks prior to the conference with seven people canceling.

One of my friends hoped that she had done nothing to exacerbate my situation. I recalled that she had tried to cancel a couple of weeks before. Her response was immediate suggesting that this was only because I had a poorly defined cancelation policy. I thought it had been really clear, “Refunds are not guaranteed and will be negotiated based on final attendance.” She retaliated that I should have set a date and clearly communicated it. I noticed my desire to argue the point then chose the path of asking if we could discontinue the conversation as I did not think I wanted to carry on.

After the phone call was over I sat and pondered my feelings and energy around the discussion and this time knew I had some exploration to do. Obviously a complex had engaged. It was only then that I realized the similarity of the two incidents. In both cases I wanted to be seen as right. In fact in the moment I could not entertain the possibility of being wrong. In the first example I was wrong; in the second there was certainly some grey area, I had not mentioned the cancelation policy since my original communication in May of 2012. Once again my need for perfect control had been threatened.

The complex once it began to unravel was easy to follow. James Hollis, Jungian analyst and author of In The Dark Wood, suggests that all anxiety and reaction will stem back to the core wounds of abandonment and overwhelment and how we dealt with them as children.

One of my mechanisms to handle that sense of being overpowered by a powerful world was to take control of the situation and being right was an essential part of that control. When this was challenged there was a risk of the fortress being undermined and my job became to defend it. The child within me could not take the risk of the walls falling and getting overwhelmed.

I decided I needed to write to my friend and explain and apologize. It took five drafts before I got it right. When I am responding to something sensitive like this I check each response out by drawing a rune and asking if this is the one I may send. Each negative rune resulted in redrafting and taking out more and more of the self-justification.

The final draft was simple and to the point. “Sorry we got into the refund issue I noticed I was feeling a little reactive and needed to let go. (The complex around needing to be right.) Thanks for your feedback, I realize for the next one I will clearly state that no refunds are guaranteed after the final payment date so everyone understands instead of “Refunds are not guaranteed and will be negotiated based on final attendance.” In fact I will be able to refund everyone the majority of their money.” The rune I drew? – Joy, it seemed the perfect ending.


Control and Resistance

March 30, 2014

Sometimes I think a good metaphor for my life is that of a nursery surrounded by a mystery. It seems that each time I leave the nursery to explore the mystery I am jettisoned back to the nursery again.

This time it began with a visit to the dentist. About a year and half ago I had a root canal and the filling had been gradually wearing away. I had ignored it for as long as possible but it was becoming sensitive and my hygienist appointment was due so I decided to try and combine the two visits.

When I made the appointment I was not convinced that the receptionist had really understood my request, “I want to see the hygienist followed by a half hour appointment with the dentist.” However to seemed no big deal and following my recent journey with impatience I decided that I could let go of my need for control and make a second appointment if necessary. I was prepared for a loss of control or so I thought.

When I arrived the receptionist was tidying magazines, placing them in neat rows on the table. “Nothing obsessive compulsive about you”, I quipped. She laughed and replied that it was her job. Then a stranger wearing a lab coat who had been standing at the entrance to the surgery said without any introduction, “I’m ready for you now.” I froze, “Who are you? I am here to see Erin; you’re not Erin. I don’t want to go with you.”

I presumed they had substituted my regular hygienist for this stranger, (forgetting not to make assumptions). She explained that she was the dentist’s nurse and he wanted to replace my filling before I saw the hygienist.

I relaxed and followed her like an obedient sheep behind a shepherd smiling to myself as I knew a complex had engaged. “How was your day before I spoiled it?” I enquired. “Well I think that is the first time anyone has refused to accompany me”, she smiled. “The first person who was not six years old” I responded.

One of the positives of my commitment to unravel my own psychology is that I no longer judge myself too much for these autonomous reactions that CG Jung referred to as “splinter personalities”. Whenever I behave in a manner that does not make sense, I can see a child’s reaction under the surface. In that moment I became six years old again.  I think it helps me to immediately own what has happened and bring it into the light. My humour helps to defuse any embarrassment or shame that arises while at the same time I commit to an exploration of the complex.

So what happened? Why did this incident cause a complex to engage so spontaneously ?

Clearly it is connected to my misunderstanding of the situation; this caused me to feel anxiety about an unexpected and unapproved change. Obviously this is once again about my old friend control. My plan has been changed. I am no longer in control. I am again a powerless child in the face of the powerful other. At the heart of my reaction is a six year olds reaction to overwhelment.

This time rather than the impatience and frustration I felt at Puerto Vallarta airport, my response is resistance. I don’t want to go with her. Immediately the image of a six year old being taken to school by his mother for the first time pops into my mind. He refuses to enter the grounds until a teacher takes his hand. Then he runs away every day much to the consternation of his older brother who hated being made late. My sense of control was obviously threatened by school.

It fascinates me that even as a six year old I developed the coping mechanism of control to try and deal with my environment. Having a younger sibling I became independent at an early age. I have spent sixty-five years refining my control mechanisms now I am beginning to deconstruct them. First impatience now resistance, I can hardly wait to find out what’s next.

As Dorianne Laux says in her beautiful poem Break, “We put the puzzle together piece by piece loving how each curved notch fits so sweetly into another.”


To Put Away Childish Things part 2

March 19, 2014

As I reflected on the loss I experienced when the runes that had served me so well seemed to lose their power, (http://wp.me/phAyS-tf) I began to consider the relationship of loss, change and surrender to shifts in God concept.

The idea of having a God concept as opposed to a belief in God is one that does not sit easily with everyone. Sometimes it is difficult to entertain that something we felt so convinced about could possibly shift; there is security in the known as opposed to the unknown and the idea of change is frightening yet I have realized over my life, change has been essential for my growth. Substituting “Mystery” for God accepts the possibility of change. As the great Indian poet Tukaram expressed, “Nothing in your life will not change especially all your ideas about God.”

My first God concept was an inherited (one could suggest ‘brainwashed’) Christianity and I was a “born again” Baptist. The God I had been exposed to was a stern, unequivocal patriarch whose righteous anger had been mitigated by sending his son to die to redeem our sins. All I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart and I was saved.

Unfortunately for some unknown reason this also meant no dancing, no movies, no rock and roll, church three times on Sundays and that everyone else outside our small sect was going to hell.

At the age of thirteen I had my coming of age and I rejected what I considered an illogical, small minded, simplistic dogma and thus became my father’s worst nightmare (with all the unforeseen ramifications that are not part of this story). I recall even at that time a sense of loss; I loved prayer, it removed some of the ambiguity from life, and now I had no one to pray to. In hindsight it feels very similar to how I felt when the runes lost their power. It forced me to grow up.

I became what I described at the time as an atheist. In reflection I had actually abandoned belief in the God of my father but with no curiosity to explore outside of that tradition, I assumed I was an atheist. In fact for a time I became a rabid anti Christian attempting to persuade others from the validity of their faith. Proselytizing was obviously part of the family tradition that I had trouble abandoning.

It was not until more than twenty years later that my mind began to open to other possibilities. I began to explore the nature of my relationship with the energy of the universe. The catalyst was my second wife who had a strong sense there was more to life than my limited perspective; I began to open my eyes to new possibilities. Something that had never been discussed in my previous circle became amazingly common place, even my sister espoused beliefs that I had never imagined. In response to my question, “why had she never told me?” she responded, “You wouldn’t have been interested.” Something I had to admit sadly was true.

My experimentation with the idea of setting intention and trusting the universe to support that intention became the key to what appeared to be amazing manifestation. The universe became my giant candy store. I could have anything I wanted. This perspective has been the subject of many successful marketing programs. “The Secret” was probably the most renowned.

Yet this too had to pass. and eventually it lost its energy for me. I realized that the universe desired more from me; there was some form of reciprocal expectation. Through an astonishing series of events (see http://wp.me/phAyS-bO) I awoke to a new belief. I was not a human being having a spiritual experience rather I was a spiritual being having a human one.

Once again I had to give something up. This time it was the irresponsible manifestation of what I wanted. It was replaced by a search for meaning and purpose.

A pattern began to develop. Each shift in God concept was accompanied by a loss of something and a search for the new. Renowned Jungian analyst and author James Hollis refers to it like this, “When for whatever reason this energy no longer enlivens that image for us then that structure or concept or experience dies for us as a source of the divine, what remains is a dead myth or ritual that no longer touches or moves us. The energy has departed leaving a dry husk.” The dry husk that Hollis refers to was always replaced by a bud of possibility.

The next God concept that emerged was truly surprising to me. It took a broken ankle to drag me kicking and screaming back to Christianity in the form of the Unity Church. The key came from a passage in the book the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: by Sogyal Rinpoche. He suggested that too many new age Christians were spiritual flirts, “pick a path any path.” His encouragement was to go deeper; I overcame my resistance and returned to my roots.

This new thought Christianity attracted and engaged me and for three years I studied, reflected and went to the Unity School of Religious Studies. I was convinced I had found my spiritual home yet this too ran its course. The Unity God became too much like the God of my childhood. A nicer, modernized, more feminine version but still too simplistic and black and white. Basically God did not judge but your own consciousness did. Positive relationship, finances and health accrued to a formula of having the appropriate consciousness in place. Once more the energy was lost and the symbol became a husk and it was time to move on.

Once again there was a real sense of loss. I had loved this much healthier concept of God; in fact I appreciated the idea that my consciousness was the arbiter of my heath, prosperity and relationships but once the energy had gone, I had to move on.

I moved on to a broader concept of Christianity attending theological college and intellectualizing the different concepts of God within Christianity but it led to a dead end. The loss was immediate and traumatic. The realization there was no quick fix. Prayer and spiritual practice went so far and no further. It was time to forsake the Pollyanna perspective of so many religious and spiritual traditions and grow up.

I entered an expanded world. I enrolled in a program called The Art of Spiritual Guidance. It expanded my awareness to Sufism, Jewish mysticism and Buddhism. The heart became a priority. I learned Arabic practices plus most importantly I learned about Carl Jung. The world of depth psychology opened to me and everything took an amazing shift. I realized that for me spirituality without psychology was nonsense.

My new God concept became much more connected to the divine within. I began to focus on the nature of inner wisdom. Exploring my intuition through dreams, signs, synchronicities and oracles such as runes became a focus. I also studied the nature of my personality. For a time I lost any sense of the Divine as transcendent. I realize in retrospect that I developed a dependence. I was trying to remove ambiguity and uncertainty from my life and the runes became a tool to achieve this. Unwittingly I had assumed a contract with God, “I draw a rune and it will tell me the right course of action.”

The shift began last August. I recall reading Brian Swimme’s description of the divine. “The powers that built the universe are ultimately mysterious, issuing forth from and operating out of the mystery. These are the most awesome and numinous in the universe. Humans are these dynamics brought into self awareness.” Brian is a mathematical cosmologist who teaches evolutionary cosmology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in California. His interpretation resonated with me.

At the same time I was introduced to the ancient story of Job through both James Hollis and author and poet Steven Mitchell. It helped me see the futility of assuming a contract with God. This was supported in Terence Malick’s amazing movie Tree of Life. He begins the movie with a beautiful passage from Job, “where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth… while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” For a moment when watching his astonishing visual cinematic art of evolution I experienced something numinous, ineffable yet totally real and it changed me.

A new God concept emerged. It had three pillars: to unravel my own psychology, to explore my relationship with the Mystery and to serve where I am called. At the time I did not realize there was something I had to give up. Now I realize I had to surrender this implied contract with God. In hindsight I realize I had a great deal of resistance and the energy had departed from the runes long before I appreciated the change.

I realize the universe is a complex and mystical place. It seems for every step forward there is a loss yet I also see how elements of old God concepts are maintained in the new. At each shift I grow up and perhaps let go of childish things. I sense it will lead me to deeper levels of responsible discernment. The adventure carries on.


A Cacophony of Crows

March 26, 2013
Image

© Lorne Craig

A cacophony of crows followed my client down the walk as he arrived for his spiritual coaching session. “What on earth do they want,” he exclaimed but I held my peace knowing what a powerful totem the crow could be in the aboriginal tradition. I believe the soul speaks through the language of metaphor, signs and dreams to name only a few; perhaps this was a synchronicity and if so it would raise its voice again. After our opening meditation and poem, he began to share the series of soulful practices he had engaged in during the previous two weeks: meditation, music, painting, cartooning; it was impressive; I almost sensed that like a small child he was expecting accolades for his performance. A Rumi story flashed through my mind: “It is just as if a king had sent you to the country to carry out a specified task. You go and perform a hundred other tasks; but if you have not performed that particular task on account of which you had gone to the country, it is as though you have performed nothing at all.”* I took a moment of silence to sense where to go next.

“Do you recall our last session?” I enquired gently. A blank look crossed his face, a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car, “No” he confessed sheepishly so I took him through my recollection. “You arrived filled with some angst, a nagging irrational assumption that you should be doing more. You sensed you lacked the discipline to complete the meaningful projects you started and resorted to the old and familiar. We explored possibilities and you listed eight things that perhaps met your sense of the meaningful. There was a real passion for one and we agreed this would be the start of the journey. I reminded you that a journey of a thousand miles starts but with a single step. I encouraged to experience this as a journey, not striving for an outcome but fully living the experience, sensing how it felt to discipline yourself and what resistance came up.”

By now I can see it has all come back accompanied by a bemusement that he could have forgotten something so significant. “It’s called resistance” I said, “Like a strong rip tide it is an implacable, unconscious force that impedes our forward momentum. It can show up in procrastination, forgetfulness, rationalizing, missing or changing appointments, confusion, distraction and indecision.”

At that moment the Hero’s Journey, the foundation work by Joseph Campbell popped into my mind. I was not entirely sure where I could find the reference I needed but in the same way that a shiny button can emerge from anonymity the journal I had kept in 1997 appeared. I opened it to the reference I was seeking, in itself an amazing synchronicity and found notes I had taken at the Body and Soul conference in Seattle from a wonderful presentation by the inimitable Jean Houston. The second step in the journey after the Call is Resistance. The next step is to break through and Cross the Threshold to Adventure, which is guarded by a monster. “So what is your monster?” I enquired.

Seamlessly he answered my question. “It’s the desire to avoid a trap door, fear of growth, fear of losing control, fear of committing.” I sat in wonder as he so clearly elucidated something that he was unconscious of minutes before. I asked where he thought these fears came from and he recited his ability as a child to escape things he feared. He realized that the escape artist, the Houdini who gets out of things stemmed from the childhood fear of the powerful other that James Hollis talks about so insightfully. As a mature accomplished fifty-year old, he can take a different path.

Suddenly I glanced out of the window and saw the Crow standing sentinel on the ash tree in the neighbour’s yard. It seemed to be checking in on our progress. I asked my client if he would be interested in hearing about the negative aspects of the crow totem. I took out my copy of Jamie Sams and David Carson’s Medicine cards and turned to reverse crow. The essence of the reading was that contrary Crow speaks of broken law. In seeing what is true you need to weed out past beliefs and ideas. Honour the past as your teacher, your present as your creation, and the future as your inspiration. “It is always your creation, so call on Crow and shift that creation to your new reality. Amazing! As we closed the session I noticed the Crow had flown away, I hoped the monster had gone with it.

* http://www.writespirit.net/spiritual-poets/rumi/discourse-4/