The Souls Journey – Searching for Equanimity

December 16, 2019

One of my favourite aspects of Buddhism is what is described as the four immeasurable – equanimity, compassion, loving kindness and sympathetic joy. Recently the cosmos seems to have blessed me with a number of opportunities to practice equanimity.

This is not one of my natural traits. My niece Amy refers to a common genetic response of my family that she refers to as the Simpson spin. She has noticed it in my two younger siblings as well as myself. We come by it honestly as our father role modelled the spin during our childhood. Needless to say this is practically the opposite of equanimity.

Recently I was preparing for my visit to Mexico where I am writing this. I went to check in on line but they could not find my booking. (So at least the story has a good ending) I tried a few times to no avail. It would appear fleetingly then finally disappeared completely. I decided to call Air Canada for verification but their system had imploded under call pressure as they had switched on-line systems. They could not even put me on hold.

I still had my original booking in my email so I printed it out and the next morning ready to leave I arrived at the airport with almost two hours spare to find out they had no plane flying to Mexico that day. Immediately anxiety set. I could feel this flood of stress created by the news. I could see it but in that moment despite trying to calm myself, focus on the breath and using the tools I had learned to help establish equanimity, it did not work.

I was directed to ticketing where there was a line of only two people, but I stood there impatient, angry and upset. In my state the wait seemed endless however eventually I got called to the wicket and a pleasant woman confirmed there was no plane that day but I had been rescheduled for tomorrow. I let go of my impulse to debate and complain. In fact I noticed an immediate shift in how I was feeling and as I began my journey back home I realized that my stress was caused by uncertainty and once that was cleared up I actually felt quite content to spend another day in rainy Vancouver. I did my best to see it as a gift and was quite productive which was a pleasant outcome. I did however write to the airline and expressed my concern that this it happened, and later they offered me 25% discount on my next flight.

The next day the lesson continued. The security line up was amazingly slow and I could feel tension building up. This time I was able to simply focus on breathing in and out and the inexorable line crept forward as I stayed calm and relaxed.

This was followed by a long haul through Mexican immigration but again the same strategy worked. Then the final test was clearing customs where I faced the longest line I have ever seen. This time I had a very irate, negative fellow traveller behind. The constant stream of negative comments and hostile energy was relentless.

The breath strategy was hard to hold on to and I tried sending him positive energy at the same time. Suddenly it felt calmer and I turned around to see him cheating the system and taking a short cut. Normally this would drive me crazy but I felt only relief. I think the words of the wonderful Persian proverb are a great reminder when equanimity is challenged, “This too shall pass”. In 25 minutes I was on my way, even missing my bus connection did not concern me, just arriving was such a joy.

I sense that learning equanimity is a great gift. Pema Chodren In her wonderful little book, “Comfortable with Uncertainty” teaches about equanimity as follow, “We practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion before it hardens into grasping or negativity.” I may not be there yet but I am heading in the right direction. As the great Sufi port Rumi suggested. “The real truth of existence is sealed until after many twists and turns of the road.”

The Soul’s Journey – Emotional Contagion

December 14, 2019

Recently I facilitated a small group who meet each month for spiritual support and guidance. We begin with a meditation and then each person checks in with something from their current story. One member shared her deep sense of loss and grief on the demise of a partner a year earlier.

The group does not interact during this sharing but save questions and comments until the end. On this occasion another person shared her how touched she was and launched into her own story of her own loss twenty years earlier.

I could feel a shift in the emotions of the group and thought I needed to try and moderate this so I asked a question of the person who seemed the most composed. Her response was to begin to cry. I realized then that the whole group had descended into grief.

For a brief moment I experienced a sense of overwhelment and sat back wondering what was the appropriate response? In this situation I have learned to take a few slow, steady breaths so for a moment I just sat awaiting inspiration and it came. The person who had accelerated this spiral of grief began to apologize for taking so much time sharing her old story. Then to my amazement every member of the group shifted from grief into caretaking her.

It afforded me the opportunity to talk about changes of state and that we all needed some tools or activities to manage our own feelings. It is not about repression or suppression but rather being able to shift from feelings to a more composed state. Exercise is an excellent way to create endorphins that help to calm anxiety. I find humour, walking in nature and beauty and sharing the story with someone can really help me shift.

The following day I began to explore the phenomenon of what I learned is called “emotional contagion”. Somewhat to my surprise this is an accepted psychological term and that most emotions can be transferred. I think we have all experienced being sucked into vortex by negative people and who hasn’t found themselves laughing without quite knowing why?

Recently in a podcast on Tapestry (a CBC program – a weekly exploration of spirituality, religion and the search for meaning) I listened to Dr. Steven Stosny talk about Headline Stress disorder and how people not only become more angry and resentful after being exposed to headline news, their feelings can be picked up by others. In couples counselling he finds his clients are more resentful and more angry after listening to the news.

When the next group came around I had an amazing example of both positive emotional contagion and shifting of state. The first person to share expressed her negativity towards Christmas as it reminds her of her partner who died only a couple of years previously. Once again I could feel the empathy of the group shifting. However at the end of her sharing she drew an angel card from the bowl on the table. It said “Flexibility” and her outrage was such that the whole group broke into laughter and the mood immediately shifted.

What popped into my head were the words of the Sufi poet hafiz “What is this precious love and laughter budding in our hearts? It is the glorious sound of a Soul waking up.” (interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky)

The Soul’s Journey – Is There Any Such Thing As a Bad Meditation?

November 26, 2019

During the early days of my meditation practice I recall attending a meditation workshop on Primordial Meditation, Deepak Chopra’s version of Transcendental Meditation and on video he stated that there was no such thing as a bad meditation. I have held to this belief through good times and bad.

Imagine my concern recently to listen to a podcast from one of my favourite CBC broadcasts – Tapestry (Tapestry is a weekly exploration of spirituality, religion and the search for meaning.) and hear Professor Ralph Purser accuse the military and corporations of hijacking mindfulness for their own nefarious purposes. Could it be true? Can meditation be put to negative use?

The professor’s premise is that mindfulness is being used by corporations as a stress reduction tool to maximize profits, and by the military to help soldiers become more focussed. I listened with dismay – had my premise been fallacious all these years. Then the interviewer asked a question about the writer’s strong negative critique of Jon Kabat-Zynn on the ground he introduced mindfulness to corporations and the elite.

At this point Purser’s credibility dissipated. I have a great respect for Jon Kabat-Zynn as a teacher and a human being. Perhaps I am not wrong after all. I found 4,970 Google hits for the words, “there is no such thing as a bad meditation” so I have numbers on my side. I am also in the company of such luminaries as renowned author and motivational speaker the late Dr. Wayne Dyer who always stated the same.

American philosopher Ken Wilbur suggests that meditation can accelerate the development of human consciousness and that the only way to test this hypothesis is to begin meditation. I feel meditation is a bit like a wonder drug except it is free with no side effects. Proven benefits include reducing stress, stimulating the immune system, increasing blood flow, regulating the heart beat, improving mood, activating the intuitive faculties, strengthening neural pathways, and improving compassion and empathy.

Dr. Andrew Weil sent me an email summarizing the seven benefits of meditation that he is aware of then I encountered a wonderful book by Rick Hansen titled, “ Buddha’s Brain – the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom which listed a dozen more. It is easy to convince yourself of the positives of meditation if you take the trouble to review the data.

The military may think they can use mindfulness meditation to create better soldiers, and corporations may consider they can improve profitability by reducing stress but what do they really know? Perhaps this is more like a Trojan Horse that looks like a gift but insidiously begins a process of creating better, more self aware human beings that change the very institutions that thought they were controlling them.

It is these institutions that most need a shift of hearts and minds and I suspect that more will be accomplished by Jon Kabatt-Zynn bringing mindfulness to corporate and world leaders than will ever be achieved by the attacks of the professor.

The Soul’s Journey – Holding The Opposites

November 22, 2019

During my morning meditation this morning, a thought intervened. Before I could wave it away and return to the breath it observed, “Stop worrying, let him have his way, why do you care, it’s his event, and you won’t be doing this again.” I brought my focus back to the breath but some time later another thought interrupted, “You have a responsibility, you are not acting with integrity, you need to have a voice, you know you are right”. Once again I waved it farewell and returned to my mindfulness practice.

It was not until some time later as I sat with my morning tea reflecting on the glorious Fall day in Vancouver and recording some thoughts in my journal that, the memory of the two voices returned. It was not all unfamiliar – the voice of compliance versus the voice of confrontation. I had honed these two opposite responses in my relationship to my authoritative father.

As a child and for much of my adult life these voices had been almost entirely reactive and I rarely felt in control of which would emerge. Once I got fired when the confrontive voice emerged with one of my bosses and I told him, “You do not have a constructive bone in your body.” Other times I have slunk away feeling like a small disgraced child.

More recently in my quest to become conscious I have learned to pause, to take a breath and perhaps deliberate on my response. Management Guru Steven Covey’s words “Between the stimulus and response there is a gap” in his renowned book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® has been remarkably helpful to pave the way.

More recently eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis in his book Living The Examined Life reminds me of C.G. Jung’s advice, “to suffer the dimension of the opposites within ourselves as long as we can bear it and to wait upon the appearance of the third” Hollis suggests that the third embodies the discernment of which choice summons us to a more developmental journey. It is time to wait and discern.

This week I have also encountered the need to try and maintain positivity relative to the global comedy that we seemed destined to play out. Recently I listened to two podcasts – one titled Does the Deep State Exist, a devastating report by journalist Jack Livesay on how the “Deep State” undermines democracy and in fact represents the fulfillment of a prophecy by President Dwight D Eisenhower  on the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

And the other by Sacha Baron Cohen, a brilliant, insightful damnation of how the social networks breed fake news, propagate hate and are also destroying democracy.

In between I watched a delightful travelogue featuring British comedienne and raconteur Joanna Lumley in her series The Silk Road where she follows in the footsteps of Marco Polo. This episode took place in Iran and was fascinating, intriguing, beautiful but most of all so different to perceptions of Iran we get from our media. The people were so lovely, friendly, helpful and wonderful examples of the capacity of our genus for kindness and generosity.

I felt a welling up of sadness at the possibility if certain factions of the US military industrial complex have their way, bombs will rain down on these cousins of hours. What kind of species are we when the killing of innocent human beings becomes an acceptable by product of the insatiable desire for weapons production. So here again the need to hold the opposites of human behaviour and wonder how to sustain hope in light of the terrible possibilities.

Ironically I believe I know the answer but whether it is remotely achievable is another question. It requires the changing of hearts and minds to perhaps what the Buddha referred to as “The Four Immeasurables – Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity”. Then we can redistribute wealth, eliminate violence, guarantee basic standards for living and resolve global warming. This is easy to say but difficult to do. It is by no way new, and every wisdom tradition has at its heart the same principles. Yet I wonder if we can survive as a species long term unless we can radically change.

So I can only hold these opposites about our species. On the one hand peaceful, creative, ethical, loving, caring, capable of great change, advancement and self sacrifice. On the other fearful, grasping, greedy, manipulative, violent and selfish with the capacity to willfully destroy our selves. Perhaps I can find hope in this beautiful Cherokee story:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

 He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

The Soul’s Journey – Have I Lost my Mojo?

November 6, 2019

Recently my sister called to check on me and as the conversation unfolded I realize she had some concerns about me. She told me her daughter Amy thought I had lost my Mojo. I was both fascinated and alarmed by the idea that I had left such an impression on my niece.

I thought I should check precisely what Mojo means and found out that the traditional meaning is magical power, a spell or talisman. However in the Cambridge English dictionary it describes Mojo as a quality that attracts people to you and makes you successful and full of energy.

How disconcerting! What had I said to give that impression?

I went to my journal to assess what has been happening in my life at the time of the conversation. To my surprise I had been at my beautiful place in Cortes island and recall feeling particularly joyful and positive at that time. Obviously this had not been translated in my discussion with my niece. My curiosity mounted. What resulted in the impression that she passed on to her mother?

My sister explained that she thought it was connected with a conversation about spirituality and that Amy believed I had lost my belief. A light shone dimly through the fog surrounding my recollection. I recalled sharing with Amy that I had found the simplicity of my earlier beliefs had been transcended by a complexity around holding opposites. I was feeling less clarity and more confusion about my path but I was not concerned as I knew I was in good company. Eminent author and Jungian analyst James Hollis suggests that signs of a spiritual maturity were that, “ The mystery will transcend our desires for clarity and certainty.” The mystery perhaps had become more mysterious after the following transition that occurred last year.

I have just concluded Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari and I am feeling disturbed. For 25 years I have lived with the belief we are spiritual beings having a human experience and not the other way around. Suddenly this is in question. Previously I had been reading Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond an equally depressing saga of human viciousness and brutality. Where I asked myself, in the bloody, violent, competitive, destructive story of our genus was there any indication of underlying spiritual beings? It was a strange moment to consider letting go of something that had so powerfully influenced the journey of my life and has helped me find meaning in my own experiences. Suddenly like a match extinguishing itself in the dark the light was gone.

Then I asked myself a question. What remains if I let go of this concept of the eternity of a Soul moving from incarnation to incarnation in some mysterious way I did not understand. What would then remain? I went for a walk allowing this confusion and lack of clarity to be absorbed in the exquisite beauty of a Vancouver evening. I noticed no distress I just felt different. I sensed it was yet another evolution of my worldview and there have been many.

I reviewed what remained: I still believed in a guiding force that I call the inner compass in my life. I continue to relate to the concept of the unconscious with all its unseen power over me. I will continue to seek meaning in my life and unravel my own psychology and explore this mystery I am part of it. The driver of this I still choose to call Soul ,for now I give up the need of immortality. I felt a sense of relief.

Then I saw an enormous gift from this transition. It seems to me that the preciousness of this one life expands once one can no longer rely on anything to follow. It creates a sense of responsibility to the collective to support its positive unfolding. I came across a relevant quote from James Hollis that seemed inspiring, “What I long for is an experience of this life that I would not trade for an eternity in those Elysian Fields.”

I have certainly been undergoing a transition in my belief structure. However I always believed continuing change is a positive and not negative. It is as though all the beliefs I have ever held are to some degree like those nesting Russian dolls and the new one both replaces and embraces the old.

I called my niece to ask her what she had meant and she seemed bemused. “Those are mum’s words, not mine”, she said. “I was just sharing our conversation and perhaps not doing a very good job.”

I laughed; it was another lesson in not making assumptions. The good news is my Mojo seems intact and to quote the words of Julian of Norwich “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

NB I came across this wonderful poem by my friend Ann Ladd who writes beautifully about the sense of deconstruction on the spiritual journey.

Humble Journey

My certainty is tattered and torn

shredded beyond recognition

It is frightening, though inevitable

to dismantle the platform

that gave me a view of the world

that allowed surety of

purpose an action


The world as it is!

Bedevilled by its shocking

unfairness and cruelty,

graced by its generosity

and indescribable beauty,

reluctant acceptance

humbles me,

leaving only the choice

of attitude and action

in a given moment.

I choose forgiveness and


Exploring the Mystical World of Dreams Level 2

September 21, 2019

trevor's dream 2

This was a dream of amazing drama: fire, earth, water and air, a house, rainbows and water falls. How do you explore such a rich image that has been conjured up from your unconscious? My Level 2 dream workshop is designed for people who are already familiar with dreams and the inner world of exploration. It will help you explore deeply the worlds of dreams, symbols and active imagination.

Dreams tap directly into our unconscious. They often contain people and symbols from the past. Recently I had a dream featuring an old boss of mine from my first job in Canada 50 years ago. The immediate question was why did my unconscious select this person from a fifty-year old memory? I realized one tool at my disposal was to engage in “active imagination” with this person and ask them. This is but one of the ways we can enter our imagination on a journey of exploration.

This workshop will help you find ways to access your own guidance and deeper wisdom that can be accessed by tapping in to your unconscious.

 Workshop Outline

This workshop will help you go deeply into the world of dreams, active imagination, symbols, projection and the unconscious. The unconscious by definition is that of which we are consciously unaware yet there are ways we can discern what in our unconscious is trying to enter consciousness. Specific Contents:

1) Exploration and Working with Dreams as Guidance

2) Engaging in Active Imagination

3) Exploring Images and the Power of Projection

4) Understanding The Languages of Intuition

5) Using Poetry as a Pipeline into our Inner World

Fee by Donation (Däna *)

Details: November 10th Kitsilano, Vancouver 10:00 am to 4:30 pm (Max Eight People)

What Others Have Said

 “I found the sessions I was able to attend to be simply excellent.  I loved the opening meditations, your flow in bringing the content into application, and your style in honouring of individual input.   Thank you for showing us a craft that you have obviously invested time and energy in mastering.” Joyce Gwilliam

“Thank you SO much for such an interesting, inspiring and fun evening! You are such a relaxed, organized and passionate teacher so WELL DONE!”Janie Brown

Trevor Simpson is a Spiritual Coach, author of Life’s Little Book for Big Decisions and has worked with dreams since 1998. He and Indrus Piche have been dream partners since 2002 and have developed a Dream Partnering process to support others interested in dream interpretation. (

* This is from the Buddhist tradition of Däna– “Däna is a gift given from the heart. 
It brings joy and benefit to both the giver and the receiver.” (Still Water Working Group).

The Soul’s Journey- The Search for Meaning

June 12, 2019

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

You Don’t have To Feel Guilty About Feeling Good

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

Summer is for Recreation

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

Trust Your Life

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

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

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

Have an Intention and Pay Attention

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

Don’t Force It

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

Practice Discernment

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

Recognizing The Call

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

– It approaches you rather than you seek it out.

– It evokes passion and inspiration.

– The doors open easily to bring it forward.

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

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

There is only one rule

On this Wild Playground,

For every sign Hafiz has ever seen

Reads the same.

They all say,

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

In the Beloved’s Divine Game

O, in the Beloved’s

Wonderful Game.”