A Soul’s Journey – From Clarity to Confusion

April 17, 2019

Either this deep desire of mine will be found on this journey
or when I get home
It may be that the satisfaction I need
Depends on my going away, so that when I have gone
And come back I will find it at home.
I will search for the Friend with all of my passion
And all my energy until I learn
that I don’t need to search.
The real truth of existence is sealed,
until after too many twists of the road.
The seeker says,
“If I had known the real way it was,
I would have stopped looking around”
But that way of knowing depends
on the time spent looking.

Extract from Baghdad Dreaming by Rumi

Living An Examined Life

This morning I began to read for must be the fourth or fifth time Living An Examined Life by eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis. It is a profound book of guidance for the soul journey and I found myself thinking, “This is the only book I really ever needed” then laughed out loud as I recalled Rumi’s poem above.

My bookshelves are full to overflowing with different theological, and philosophical perspectives of life. Today some of them seem downright crazy and it amuses me that they captured my attention so intensely at different moments on the journey. Some I still love but many reflect a very different station of my life. From belief in the occult and bizarre new age extra terrestrials to the tomes on new thought and how we could have everything we wanted just by setting intention.

Each of these stations of my life had its own power then at a certain point I needed to move on. As James Hollis suggests in his book Hauntings, “There are only answers that make sense to you in this moment in your life and they will fail you tomorrow. What is seemingly true to day will be outgrown when life or our Soul brings us a larger frame through which to view them.

A Trip Through Time

My library is like a time machine. From the New Testament, the last gift my father gave me, to Living An Examined Life, the books journey through evangelical Christianity, to new age craziness, to the power of intention, new thought consciousness to an eclectic combination of Christian mysticism, Jewish mysticism, Sufism, and Buddhism. Then the sad realization that despite all my Soul study and reflection I could still relapse into the same reactive, inconsiderate, impatient SOB I had always been. So my library then became crowded with books on psychology and all of James Hollis’s eighteen books as I realized the journey of the Soul necessitated not only Spiritual but psychological exploration.

Certainty Evaporates Like A Mist Over The Ocean

Now after twenty-five years certainty has vanished; I stand in awe at this unfathomable mystery of which we are all part. As C.G. Jung observed, “No-one can know what the ultimate things are. We must take them as we experience them and if such experience helps make life healthier, more beautiful, more complete and more satisfactory to yourself and those you love you may safely say, “this was the grace of God”. or more simply expressed by Sufi mystic Rubia of Basra, “No-one knows anything about God and those who say they do are just troublemakers.”

Many years ago I wrote a small book to help people through tough decisions, it was titled “From Confusion to Clarity in Four Simple Steps”.* I think my next book may be “From Clarity to Confusion – A Soul’s Journey”

* www.decisionclarity.com

 

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The Soul Journey – Midwife for the Soul

April 16, 2019

Recently I had a dream where I was in a classroom and one of the topics was advocacy; this caused me to review an earlier blog I had written after doing a workshop on the archetype of advocate of the soul. It reminded me that I prefer the metaphor of the midwife for the Soul and so my dream led to this reflection. *

The Spiritual Midwife

As a spiritual coach I believe the role of supporting someone in the birthing their Soul on its amazing journey is a great honour and privilege. The midwife of the Soul’s responsibility is not just to assist in its birthing but to support the growth and development. There is a lovely line from the poet Hafiz, “What is this present love and laughter budding in our hearts, it is the glorious sound of a Soul waking up.” As a Spiritual Coach I help to bring awareness to these Soul moments that can so easily get lost in life’s busyness.

Mirroring The Soul’s Journey

Life can be one constant distraction and remembering the nature and power of our Soul’s journey is challenging and can easily get lost. I keep a Soul Journal where I keep all the examples of mysterious, unexplained synchronicities and serendipity that feel Soulful. Whenever I am feeling lost or disconnected my Soul Journal becomes both a reminder and a reflector.

When a client is sharing the circumstances of their life they sometimes miss the significance of the connecting events. I am often able to become the mirror of their experience reflect how the pieces connect together like a jigsaw puzzle. During one session a client a client shared a series of what she saw as disconnected events:  the recovery of a long lost e-mail connection, a song – “the answer will come on a blossom covered breeze”, the dream of a lost bag, followed by losing the bag, the dream of the visa, culminating in seeing the four blossom covered cherry trees cherry trees. Putting these experiences together like a puzzle formed a picture that enabled her to capture the awe and wonder her Soul’s journey.

Cultivating and Feeding The Soul

Eminent author and Jungian analyst James Hollis in his book Hauntings suggests seven questions we need to ask ourselves in relationship to the Soul.

  1. Do I have one?
  2. If yes, what do I mean by that?
  3. What does that mean to me?
  4. What does that ask of me?
  5. What does it mean to show up?
  6. Can I mobilize the wherewith all to engage and serve it?
  7. What happens if I do not?

As a Soul midwife this requires me to explore both personally and with my clients the continued focus on these questions. This requires feeding and cultivation. There was a time when I realized that devoting energy to feeding my soul is an essential part of the mind, body, and Soul balance in my life. Up until that time I thought it was enough to meditate regularly. (I have had a morning practice for twenty-years.) However I sensed that my Soul needed more so focus on sacred music, walking in nature and beauty, poetry, journaling, dance, even play became essential nutrients for the soul. So now I commit three segments of the day to my soul – morning meditation, afternoon walk and evening contemplation listening to sacred music,  and reading or learning poetry. In Spring I love to consider the possibility of the Soul saying to me, “as you feed me so shall I blossom.”

Psychology as Soul Work 

One of the great challenges I continue to work with is my failures to be as Soulful as I intend to be. It was only when I realize that unravelling my own psychology was an essential part of engaging my Soul. This journey was begun by a chance meeting with James Hollis’s book, Why Good People Do Bad Things – a life changing encounter that helped me realize that without understanding the factors that were unconsciously influencing my reactions and responses to life, I could never truly be Soulful. Only when we understand what shifts us from our Centre can we truly embrace the role of the Spiritual Warrior.

The exploration of Soul brings us into a relationship with the invisible world. It is life shifting work and as James Hollis reflects in Hauntings, “if we open to this possibility of an invisible, dynamically active world, we then live in a mystery anew, a prospect both inviting and daunting.”

  • An interesting consequence of this process was that it led me to think about the client who was the catalyst for part of the original blog. I was curious about how she was so I emailed her to check. (I had not seen her for over a year.) Her response was as follows, “Isn’t it always so amazing how things happen.  I’ve thought about you a number of times more recently and when I recently drove up Arbutus I glanced at the coffee shop in case you might be sitting there having a cup of coffee!  I’ve wanted to visit with you but because I didn’t have a specific focus or concrete purpose  I put it off.  One time, not long ago, I put it out to the universe that if I was meant to converse with you or someone else the “Universe” would let me know.   Well….I guess this is it….” She became the mirror for my Soul and what a gift that is.

The Soul’s Journey- Exploring Hidden Depths Through Poetry

January 12, 2019
screen shot 2019-01-12 at 6.50.26 pm

The gift of Soul poetry is that it unfolds itself like a Russian doll

I began learning poems about seven-years ago. It began primarily as an exercise to test my aging brain’s ability to recall yet over the years it has become so much more. I have become curious about the poems I choose to learn. I never know precisely what draws me to a poem or a poem to me. It is more than the words, more than my initial response; it is a connection at a deeper level. I call this my Soul poetry.

The gift of Soul poetry is that it unfolds itself like a Russian doll where inside each doll is another doll. As I go explore the poem’s meaning it requires going deeper not just into the poem but into me. It is no longer important what the poet meant, the importance is how I relate to the poem emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. I can learn a lot about my inner landscape from how I respond to each poem.

I have observed that the attraction toward an individual poem is guided by the current focus of my inner journey. For example when I was getting far too intense about my spiritual enquiry I found myself drawn to poems about play. “There is only one rule in this wild playground, all the signs Hafiz has ever seen read the same, they all say “have fun my dear, my dear have fun in the Beloved’s divine game”

When I found myself at a time of transition the poem that emerged was by John O’Donahoe titled For the Interim Time with the words: You are in this time of the interim where everything seems withheld. The path you took to get here has washed out; The way forward is still concealed from you.”

The more I have worked with poetry I have realized it is an exquisite place to appreciate projection. Projection is when we project emotions, and feelings that are often disowned or unconscious onto someone or something else. So my desire for play that is being restricted by the intensity of my work shows up in my engagement with Hafiz’s poem. (This also happens with dreams – one of the roles of dreams is to compensate for that which we are failing to live consciously). The acknowledgement that I am facing a time of transition shows up in the appeal of John O’Donahoe’s poem.

Recently I did a workshop on exploring our inner relationship with poems. I would recite a particular poem three times. The first time I would ask the group just to listen and discuss their reactions. The second time I would ask them to close their eyes and rather than concentrate on the words check in with the feelings the poem evokes. The third time I would again suggest the eyes be closed but this time they should observe which stanza has the most energy or significance for them.

The result was way beyond my expectation. One of my favourite poems to explore is by Denis Levertov called Primary Wonder. On one level everyone recognized the exquisite description of how the distractions of life can divert us from our focus yet there was one stanza that caused a dramatic division in the perspective of the group. Over 50% were triggered by the lines “and that, O Lord, Creator, Hallowed one, You still, hour by hour sustain it.”

The debate was intense with a lot of resistance to accepting this was not “badly written” but a projection of old wounds around religion. Fortunately my point was made impeccably by one participant who had been brought up in a tradition far from conventional Christianity and could not understand why there was any problem.

Another wonderful poem Prepare to Feel by Julie Levitt caused one group all to feel sad while another tapped into an intrinsically positive message. Why the difference? Did the words change? Of course not, the feelings arise from some relationship that we project onto the words themselves.

I am so grateful for this interest in poetry that flourished quite late in my life. I have learned fifty poems so far, I have to continually refresh my memory or they can slip away. Yet they are so much more than a brain exercise, rather they help me keep in touch with my inner state. As Rumi once wrote, “Your heart is the size of an ocean. Go find yourself in its hidden depths.”

Quoted Poems – full length.

Prepare to Feel by Julie Levitt

Prepare to feel the same

Prepare to feel disappointed at having no time for wonder.

Wonder why the starling flew in at that moment.

Wonder why the reflection of the last light of sun through the church window appeared

over head at that precise moment.

Wonder why the neon from the hotel surprised us like night time did?

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.

How do I know?

Because I am old enough to be surprised and disappointed many times.

How do I know?

I am embarrassed to tell you how many times I turned away from amazement and was

greeted anyway by starlings, and herons and hawks that flew by in their usual migratory

pattern.

Primary Wonder
“Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; caps and bells.
And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, 0 Lord,
Creator, Hallowed one, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.” Denise Levertov

A Suspended Blue Ocean
The sky
Is a suspended blue ocean.
The stars are the fish
That swim.
The planets are the white whales
I sometimes hitch a ride on,
And the sun and all light
Have forever fused themselves
Into my heart and upon
My skin.
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.”
by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

For The Interim Time

When the near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,
No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.
In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.
You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.
“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”
You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.
Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.
As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.
What is being transfigured here in your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.
“To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. Pub in 2008 by Doubleday in Blessings


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Soul’s Journey – Reading the Body’s Signs and Symptoms

May 19, 2018

I am standing at the top of my stairs when my throat began to close up. I am puzzled. Is this an allergic reaction, a virus or something more metaphysical? I stood for a moment and the words “it’s hard to swallow” popped into my head. I laughed. I knew exactly the meaning of this symptom. Within minutes my throat had eased.

 Mind/Body/Soul?

My interest in the mind/body/soul relationship was developed by medical intuitive Mona Lisa Schultz’s remarkable book Awakening Intuition.This was expanded by metaphysical teacher and author Louise Hay’s work particularly Heal Your Body which has become a superlative reference book when I sense my body is trying to tell me something. More recently there is the Jungian perspective that suffering is a device the Soul may use to get our attention. Eminent author and Jungian Analyst James Hollis suggests we lose life force if our lives are not consistent with our deeper Soul desires. I am by no means an absolutist in terms of the body/Soul connection and certainly do not suggest that all our ailments are connected to a Soul issue. However I do believe we owe it to ourselves to at least consider the possibility when we get symptoms

Too Hard to Swallow?

I have had too much personal evidence that my body is part of my intuitive system to ignore it. The message from my throat closing up was that an interview I had completed earlier for a story I was planning to write for the Centre for Integrated Healing was just too hard to swallow and I should not write it. On another occasion I had a persistent chest cold but before heading to the doctor, I asked myself what inner work this may represent. The response came loud and clear “you have something to get off your chest”. I connected the dots to recall an encounter with a friend that remained unresolved and was getting in the way of our friendship. I got it off my chest and both the cold and the friendship were healed.

Following the Clues

However it is even more affirming when I encounter this principle when working with a client. Recently one arrived who was clearly feeling very good. In response to my enquiry he said that so much had turned around since our last session. He was on top of his job, his financial state was finally reflecting all the work he had been doing and best of all his painful back was better. I asked if he saw any connection with his back healing and his improved state. I recalled that last session we had looked up L5 pain in my Heal Your Body book. The first suggested cause was security. “It’s interesting” I observed, “that your back improved at the same time your security concerns diminished – are you interested in exploring the connection?” A couple of months ago when he was feeling financially insecure, I had suggested prebilling and was curious if he had followed through. He shook his head and said that he really enjoyed the lump sums flowing in when the project was completed. “Any other reason?’ I queried. There was a pause then he exclaimed, “that isn’t exactly true, I don’t pre-bill because it causes me to feel an obligation to the project. “But aren’t you already committed once you accept the project?” I enquired.  At this point I reflected on the sequence of events: “you felt financially insecure, you chose not to improve things, you got an L5 problem that Louise Hay suggests is about insecurity. This healed once the cash flow improved.” It seemed quite convincing and I wondered out loud whether he thought he could have avoided the back problem if he had taken steps to address the insecurity earlier. Then it was like the roulette ball falling into the desired slot. The voice dissuading him from the appropriate measure to increase cash flow was the reaction of an old child complex around avoiding responsibility. Perhaps the Soul gift was to remember if this happened again to renegotiate from the perspective of the adult who knew the commitment came from accepting the project not by asking for a pre-payment.

Another amazing example that the Soul knows the way even when the ego doesn’t and that sometimes we need to pay attention to the body to get the message.


The Soul Journey – Reflections on Fate

May 8, 2018
Trevor:Cameron

Conventional and Unconventional

In April this year my friend Cameron Stewart unexpectedly died. We had been extremely close in the late sixties when as twenty-three years olds we shared an apartment in Toronto. Now he was gone. As one ages we have to get used to losses and the vagaries of fate and the imponderable question of why him and not me and the realization that this is one aspect of the mystery we can never know.

How Different Could Two Friends Be?

As I reflected on these days long gone, I remembered what a vibrant, charismatic, unconventional young man Cameron had been. He was always the life and soul of the party; he could play the guitar; he wrote songs: he was gregarious; he was amusing and quick witted, and he was a chick-magnet. Everyone wanted to be his friend and I think I was always a little bemused that he chose me.

I was his opposite – conventional, square, responsible, organized, disciplined and had a solid job. I was also shy, likely depressed; I still blushed when embarrassed which was frequently, had low self-esteem and zero self-confidence with women. We were complete opposites. He was everything I wanted to be.

He did help me come out of myself after I broke my square dependable horn rimmed glasses in a car accident, he encouraged the acquisition of a pair of blue tinted circular frames similar to those worn by John Lennon. Little did I realize how much my life would change.

“That Which We do not Bring to Consciousness Appears in Our Lives as Fate”

It had never occurred to me that Cameron represented something that was disowned in my own consciousness. Jungian analyst Robert Johnson referred to this as the projection of our inner gold on another person. However my shift in image from the new glasses and growing my hair gradually helped me reclaim some of that gold.  However it did seem my fate was to live a very unconventional life changing countries (living in England, Canada and Australia), changing jobs, changing relationships, a dramatic mid-life crisis resulting in me leaving wife, job and country to travel around the world with my girl friend for eighteen months at the age of 48. Devoting myself to spiritual enquiry at the age of 50 and never working full time again.

That Which You Resist Persists

Tucked away in my unconscious was the desire to be as unconventional as him. However my conditioning, as a child and young adult, both at home and at the boarding school that I was sent to, (where such behavior would not have been acceptable) had resulted in the unconventional self to be unacceptable. So fate stepped in. As I reflect I can see now that I was never really felt in control of my life. It had been my fate to be unconventional without really intending to be. Cameron although never losing his spark of unconventionality stayed married to the same woman for 48 years, brought up three children, and was mostly consistently employed in a secure job.

Time To Change?

Perhaps it is time to become deliberately unconventional and reduce the power of fate – perhaps the gold earing and the tattoo I have sometimes admired in others. On the other hand fate seems to have dealt kindly with me so perhaps I shall just leave things alone.

Thank you for journeying together dear friend, may your sweet soul rest joyfully in the mystery.

 


The Soul’s Journey – Reflections on Soul

April 16, 2018

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 who would never leave me?

My witness, my here.

 Kate Knapp-Johnson

How is it with your Soul?

This reflection originated after reading an article on the origin of the Methodist movement in the 1700. This was the greeting of original members of what was called the “Holy Club” founded by John Wesley. Methodism was a derisory term used by their critics due to very strict methodology that the Holy Club followed.  John Wesley who was leader of the club turned table on the mockers and adopted the name.

Concepts of Soul

I found a helpful web site BeliefNet that had asked teachers from different faiths their perspectives on Soul and the body. There are common elements around the spiritual nature of Soul but also many differences. Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis talks about psyche the Greek word for Soul as representing inner energies related more to the unconscious than the conscious. Hollis suggests five questions in his book What Matters Most: Do I have a Soul? What does it mean to me? What does it ask of me? What does it mean to show up? Am I willing to engage with it and serve it? I worked with a group and asked them to draw whatever emerged when I asked “How Is It with Your Soul?” No one struggled to form an image and I felt that all images represented something deeper than the ego state.

Personal Concepts of Soul

I think that each of us must answer Hollis’s five questions and determine our own relationship with the idea of Soul. I have found that once we bring conscious attention to Soul, it will meet us in many different ways. My enquiry over the years has led to my reflection below as well as my own personal “ten commandments” to help me fulfill my soul’s desire for expression through me.

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My ten commandments