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:


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.

Control and Anxiety

May 16, 2014

The influence of control in my life reminds me of an octopus. It lies unseen in dark places with its eight tentacles probing into my outer world. The first seven tentacles represent resistance, overwhelment, the need to be right, impatience, anger, planning, manipulation Despite my desire to stop at seven blogs on control this eighth tentacle representing anxiety has finally overcome my resistance.

Recently I had been reflecting on anxiety and realized that although not an anxious person on the surface, I frequently suffer from a low grade, unconscious anxiety that has a surprising capacity to impact my life. Perhaps this is why it took me so long to see the relationship of Control and anxiety.

Of course a natural question about unconscious anxiety is how have I become conscious of it? This emerged from my study of Jungian Analyst James Hollis’s teachings around the unconscious and anxiety. Hollis states that we cannot know what is in the unconscious directly but we may discern influences of which we are not conscious through examination of dreams, patterns and behaviours.

He also suggests that addictive patterns of behaviour are anxiety management systems. They can take many forms from the more draconian such a drug addiction or alcoholism to the less damaging such as TV or simple habits.

I became curious about a pattern of behavior that involved watching TV. It was not any TV; it was focused on a specific form of what I now describe as comfort viewing. It would frequently feature repeat performances of old British mystery programs that were familiar, I liked the characters, they were predictable, and nothing would scare me, disturb me or surprise me.

I realized it was a form of escape; it definitely had a pattern to it; it was somewhat mindless, and like a spider could entrap me in a lethargic snare. Reluctantly I concluded it had all the characteristics of a mild addiction.

Following Hollis’s logic if I am engaged in an addiction no matter how mild, there must be anxiety at the heart of it. I realize anxiety is a bit like a referred toothache, it may not be directly associated with the real centre of pain.

This began a quest to examine potential anxieties in my life. I began with the existential anxieties of life: death, health, age and aloneness. It felt healthy to own some of my fears. Hollis suggests that the best way to deal with anxiety is to turn into fear. Anxiety is a child state while our adult self can handle fear.

However I sensed there was more and perhaps something was going on in my life that was causing anxiety that I had not known so it had been repressed.

It was not difficult to identify. I am organizing a major event in Assisi for the Spiritual Community of which I am part. It has taken on a life of its own with 90 people already registered two years ahead of time.

I realized my anxiety had arisen because I was not on top of the organization required. I was telling myself I had lots of time but at some level there was a fear of being overwhelmed.

It had tucked itself away in my unconscious to show up in my pattern of TV viewing. I realized the best way to deal with it was to tackle the problem and within three hours I had everything under control. The effect was palpable, I could engage in my life in a different way. It was as though an invisible restraint had been released.

For some reason at first I did not see the relationship between this anxiety and control. It occurred to me later that as long as I keep things under control my anxiety is managed but when I lose control, the child state once again assets itself and begins to control the agenda of my life. Once again I am held hostage by the past.

This morning the catalyst to this blog came from observing a distinct shift in my feelings and sense of self after reading a relatively benign e-mail. At first I entered a state of denial but it was difficult ignore that I shifted from feeling good to feeling “blaah”.

What had happened? The e-mail was about a pilgrimage that is associated with the event I am planning but not part of it. There is significant anxiety in the community about getting on the pilgrimage because it is a much smaller event than the Gathering. To some degree I have become the focus of this anxiety and accepted responsibility for forwarding names to the organizer.

The e-mail took me off the hook as the organizer had now stepped forward but had triggered anxiety. Why?

This loss of control means I have to accept that all the people who contacted me are no longer my responsibility. The adult accepts this however the child grows concerned and worried that he missed someone.

I turned the anxiety into action and send an email to everyone advising them of the new development and that there is someone else on whom to project their anxiety. My job is complete.

Now I can leave for Europe with peace of mind. Back in five weeks.

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, ( 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 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.

To Put Away Childish Things – part 1

March 8, 2014

I am staring out of my window at a gloriously sunny February day; in the background are the mountains glistening with new snow. I feel more than miffed. Last night I was already to go, bag packed, a place to stay, skis, boots and poles at the ready. Yet here I am looking at it. It is the consummate ski day and I am not there.

My plan was to arise early and be on the road by six. To make it worse I receive an email from a friend who also assessed the potential and is already there. What happened to my power of discernment? I feel betrayed by my own inner guidance that at the last moment caused me to change my mind.

It takes me all morning to shake my disgruntled feelings and adjust my attitude. This at least led to a productive day however it was not until the evening that I was prepared to explore the inner journey that had transpired.

For a number of years I have tried to live my life from the inside out. What I mean by that is that I do my best to assess the guidance that is emanating from my Higher Self/Soul/Psyche. I do this by following signs, synchronicity, serendipity, dreams and sometimes oracles. It has given me an immense sense of satisfaction dropping into the flow of a soul directed life.

I have become accustomed to pulling a rune to verify my decisions. (Runes are an oracle based on Norse symbols recently popularized by Ralph Blum.) They have been remarkably effective at ensuring I book flights at the right time, avoid undesirable situations, and have over the years saved me hundreds of dollars. The evening before my planned ski trip I checked in with the runes and drew a very negative result. It gave me pause; I wondered if the highway may prove dangerous or the weather problematic. When I woke the next morning the rain was pounding on the skylight, recalling the rune I turned over and went back to sleep.

As a result I missed the best day of the year! What did this mean? On the one hand I could accept that for some unknown reason I was not supposed to go; it would be about trust. On the other I could be facing a need to re-evaluate my relationship with how I use runes. Eminent Jungian Analyst and author James Hollis suggests that once the energy has left the image it becomes nothing but a dry husk. Was I being asked to change? I decided I it was time to begin an enquiry.

My first step was to consult the oracle in question and ask whether this was about trust or change. The rune I pulled was very clear, “Movement” – rune of transit and transitions, new movement, new attitudes or a new life, a relationship may need to change.

I knew immediately it was time to let go of runes as a simple decision-making tool. I noticed a sense of resistance and anxiety to this idea. It was a sure sign of a shift being required. I could sense how dependant I had become on their use. I would defer responsibility for my decisions and blindly follow the response. Upright meant yes, reverse meant no.

They had served me well but it was time to move on. It still felt appropriate to use the runes as a spiritual practice supporting me as a tool of spiritual exploration but not to make decisions on buying tickets or going skiing. It was time to practice and explore a deeper discernment.

I sensed that this transition had begun some time ago but it took the loss of a perfect ski day to get my attention.  On the Soul Journey there are many steps, stages and stations and what was useful and served us at one time may eventually lose its power. The words of St. Paul came to me, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” It was time to grow a little.

Two Roads Diverge…

February 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It

October 28, 2013

IMG_0564Recently during a trip to New Mexico I was hiking just outside of Santa Fe in the Sangre de Christo foothills. Due to a wrong turn I found myself at the trailhead for the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe Canyon Preserve Trail. It seemed like a pleasant jaunt through an area that had originally been under water with a self-guided trail explaining where the original dams had been. It was a bright sunny day the trail was an easy stroll with lovely views and big skies and was exactly what I felt like. My enjoyment was expanded when I came across this sign that made me smile. “If you come to a fork in the road, take it – Enjoy the Mud, Avoid the Mud.”

Somewhat to my surprise this sign led to a continuing philosophical contemplation as additional meaning began to emerge. First I began to realize how frequently during this road trip I had inadvertently followed this sign’s advice. Often I had taken a fork without having any idea of where it may lead. Sometimes it led to the mud and sometimes avoiding the mud. Suddenly the wisdom of the sign’s suggestion became apparent. Accepting the mud and learning to enjoy it could shift a negative experience into a positive one.

The previous day I had got stuck in an enormous traffic jam on my way into Santa Fe. I was at a complete standstill when irrationally I had pulled out of the traffic and made a turn with no idea where it may lead. Finding myself on the side streets of the city with no idea of how to proceed, I noticed a local park with convenient parking. I pulled off and sat for a moment; I did not have a map of the city and I could not use my iPad without Wi-Fi. Suddenly I decided to “enjoy the mud”. I took my bike off the back and set off to cycle into Santa Fe. A moment of frustration led to a day of freedom. It was as though a weight had been lifted off my back. I followed my nose and eventually found a bike route that led me past all the traffic into the downtown area. I realized how much better I was served having my bike and not the car. I found a delightful bookstore and coffee shop “Collected Works”; I enjoyed the first really good coffee since I left Vancouver and I got my bearings on my iPad so I could plan a delightful unencumbered day.

Camping Moab

Camping Moab

I had a similar experience with Moab where due to a Saturday arrival and an astonishing number of tourists I was despairing of finding a campsite. I pulled off in frustration wondering what to do next. My plan was to drive back into town and find a coffee shop with Wi-Fi but as I pulled out I came close to hitting a passing vehicle. In embarrassment I adjusted and took an unexpected turn to the right. Now I am driving down a strange backstreet with no idea where I was going. It seems to be taking me away from town then as I reached a fork in the road I saw a sign, “Kane’s Camping – 4 miles” I followed a scenic drive along the Colorado River to an admittedly somewhat primitive campsite that became my home for the next two days. “Enjoy the Mud.”

My reflection expanded to embrace a broader vision. The sign on the hike became a new stop on the journey of the Soul. It presented a mystical moment when the way ahead was clearly signposted. The Soul journey always goes where it needs to go. The guidance was clearly about acceptance and surrender. The mud couldn’t impede me as long as I didn’t resist it. Perhaps it is not about sweating which fork we take but rather ensuring we embrace wherever we end up.

 Postscript: At this point I was going to quote John Lennon and his “Life is what happens” quote. To my surprise although Lennon used these words in his song, Darling Boy, he was not the originator. Allen Saunders who wrote the comic strips Steve Roper and Mary Worth first made this observation in 1957, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

An Engagement with Eros.

October 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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