The Soul’s Journey – Coping with Trauma and Overwhelment.

November 23, 2016

There were two major events in my life recently. First Donald Trump was elected to the presidency and secondly Leonard Cohen died. Both affected me deeply but only today did I begin to see an evident connection.

Leonard Cohen’s passing was not announced until Thursday evening after the election. One of my first reactions was to buy his last recording “If you want it darker”.

It was later announced that he had died on the Monday preceding the election. It seemed an interesting coincidence that the man who wrote these words, “And now the wheels of heaven stop, you feel the devil’s riding crop, get ready for the future: it is murder” over twenty-years ago, should never breathe a single breath on the same planet as President elect Trump.

Listening to his latest work the words, “But it’s written in the scriptures
and it’s not some idle claim,
 you want it darker 
we kill the flame” resonated in a new way. Perhaps he was the flame. Is it beyond belief that either consciously or unconsciously he made the decision to leave us because of the bleakness of the future he saw ahead?

There are other words that seem overt reminders of Trump’s pre-election statements on the second amendment: “They were middle-class and tame 
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim.”

So perhaps Leonard Cohen’s coping mechanism with this trauma was to “shuffle off this mortal coil”.

I began to review the many different coping mechanisms that friends of mine had manifested to the news of the election result.

Some became motivated to become more active – to join like-minded groups and support change in positive arenas such as the environment, poverty and racial tensions.

Others became obsessed to understand how such a regressive step could occur. They focused on how this could possible happen, questioning all the data particularly “how could 53% of while women vote for a man who admitted to sexual assault.

There were those who just wanted to make it all part of a divine plan. They kept texting Cohen’s words “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” A CRACK!!! I felt like screaming, “This isn’t a crack it’s a f***ing canyon!”

There are also those who preach forgiveness and understanding for those who have inflicted Trump on us. We need to understand how they had been ignored and left behind and this was just a reaction. Although I believe in forgiveness, I struggle with understanding. These were ignorant ill-informed people, who believed the lies and who have created the most powerful man in the world out of someone who has the emotional and psychological development of a six year old. Don’t take my word for it, listen to this amazing, scary podcast by Jeff Salzman https://www.integrallife.com/daily-evolver/trump-terrible-integral-look-boy-who-would-be-king

My response had been avoidance. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I won’t listen to news about the transition. I behave like an ostrich, I want to bury my head in the sand for four plus years. (An even more classic case of avoidance is someone I know who has created a fantasy that it did not happen and Obama is staying for eight more years.)

I began to be curious about how our initial coping with this trauma would reflect on our personal psychology. Frequently our initial and most powerful responses to major trauma are a function of old coping mechanisms developed in childhood.

I could see my own reaction clearly as an old pattern. When I finally gave up on combat with my authoritarian father, I would hide myself away. In face of the overwhelming other I just would not show up. Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis does a remarkable job of summarizing our responses as a child to the powerful other:

1) Stay out of harm’s way – avoidance. We can do this by distancing, suppression, repression (unconscious), projection on to others, distraction, numbing and drugging, and disassociation.

2) The birth of the power complex – we move in and attempt to take control. Education is a benign form.

3) Compliance – give them what they want. Produces dependency on state, religion, and results in giving away authority.

How interesting. Perhaps it is another victory for Donald Trump that he has overwhelmed us into child states.

It is a great reminder to always reconsider the first reaction and allow the adult self a say. Sometimes gifts come in strange packages!

And on the subject of gifts, here are the words of Leonard Cohen’s last gift to us all

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker
Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord
There’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame
They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim
You want

 


The Soul’s Journey – Finding your “Go to Support Chest”

November 15, 2016

I woke up at 4:40 a.m. the day after the election full of dread. Racing around my mind were confusion from trying to hold two opposites. That consciousness was positively evolving when the Americans had just elected a bombastic, misogynist, racist, ignorant narcissist who had no concept of truth and likely the emotional and psychological maturity of a six year-old.

I knew I would not sleep again that night so I got up and followed my intuition. First I forced myself to engage in my morning meditation practice. Difficult as it was to still my mind, I prayed for equanimity. Then I put on some Gregorian Chants and began to read my Soul Book.

In times of stress, anxiety and uncertainty I try to avoid my tendency of engaging my normal anxiety management systems (distraction, diversion, and varying mild addictions like mindless TV viewing). Instead I open my “Go to Support Chest” to search out practices that feed my deeper self. Sacred music, meditation and reviewing my Soul Book are prime examples of what can sustain me during existential crises.

In the inner cover of my Soul Book are the words, “Reflections, Contemplations, Meditations, and Inspiration.” It is a miscellany of poems, quotes, and stories where I have experienced moments of awe and wonder within this mystery that we live. I write in bright, cheerful, coloured inks that register easily on the eye. In moments like this when the future seems so bleak and incomprehensible, I find things to uplift me.

On this particular day my eye caught a beautiful extract from a poem by St Francis that I encountered in “Love Poems from God” by Daniel Ladinsky. ‘For laughing and passion, beauty and joy they are our hearts truth. All else is labour and foreign to the Soul.” It seemed a perfect focus for the day. I shared the quote on Facebook and found out later that sharing poetry was one of the primary ways people were supporting each other on social networking.

Another entry reminded me of all the different ways to feed the Soul: Love, Peace, Joy, Compassion, Gratitude, Wonder. Awe, Mindfulness and Meditation, Music, Poetry, Dance, Laughter, Passion and Play.” It was time to let go of disappointment, sadness , grief and anger. Time to let go of needing to know what it all means. We live in a mystery. It was time to reflect on the wonderful words of Gautama Buddha, “Never in the world does hatred cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love.” . It worked. I felt a deep inner piece that supported me through the day.

I subscribe to a beautiful service that sends me glorious Soul Poems with beautiful pictures every day. Unfortunely the Panahala site has closed I suspect in disappointment after the election results but Joe Riley’s poem on November 8th was perfect. It was by Rumi:

This is now. Now is

All there is. Don’t wait for Then.

Strike the spark, light the fire.

Sit at the Beloved’s table

Feast with gusto, drink your fill

Then dance

The way branches

dance in a spring wind.

The green earth is your cloth:

Tailor your robe with dignity and grace.


The Soul Journey – Understanding the Stories That Run Our Lives

November 5, 2016

This was the theme I developed for my small Spiritual Guidance Group that met last Wednesday. The idea was unexpected and had indirectly arisen as a function of the dream I wrote about in a recent dream blog. (http://wp.me/p7aFpI-4z)

This dream encouraged me to explore something that was missing in my perspective as a spiritual teacher. The clue to its resolution was in the yellow T-shirt I had put on during the dream. Yellow is a colour associated with the mind and the sun.

The “ah hah” moment came when I remembered I refer to James Hollis, eminent Jungian analyst, as the teacher of my mind. The dream prompted me to return to a task I had neglected – to record notes from his lecture series from his book, “Hauntings”.

Once more his wisdom inspired me. In his second lecture he suggests that much of our lives are run though unconscious stories that we are continually in service to and asks, “what are the implicit stories that your life history seems to be manifesting or dramatizing or externalizing in your life.”

He gives a remarkable example from a friend of his who also happens to me my favourite poet – Stephen Dunn. As a child he lived together with his parents and grandparents on his mother’s side of the family.

Unbeknownst to anyone the grandfather had a mistress, who got sick. He ran out of money for her hospital bills and asked his son in law for money but made him promise not to tell his wife. A secret was born.

It was never repaid – his wife found out the money was gone and asked where. He told her he had lost it at the track. It created a permanent rift between them; he fell into alcoholism and Steven grew up in a fractured family where the coping mechanism was silence. He confided in Stephen when he was in his late teens but promised him to secrecy.

This story and secrecy was an undercurrent to his life and when asked by Hollis how it had effected him he responded, “I thought that arguments were played out in silence and silence was what I armed myself with”

I was profoundly touched by this account and began to wonder what stories had unconsciously shaped my life. I realized that as a fifteen-year old I had concluded that there was no God; life was therefore meaningless and so I had better take care of myself as best I could.

This story was the undercurrent of my life for the next thirty years. It resulted in a very self-serving, controlling and manipulative persona. Only when it was replaced by a new story that I was “a spiritual being having a human experience” could I begin the true journey of the Soul. From this perspective life had to have meaning.

I reviewed my insights with a dear long-term friend and he was intrigued. He began to share his own confusion about why his parents had moved the family from relative comfort in the UK to comparative poverty in Toronto. “I was always trying to find out”, he confided. “I even questioned my mother if she had followed a neighbor who moved here.” I asked him if he sensed there was a secret behind it. It was as though the scales fell from his eyes. “All my life I have been trying to find the answer to a secret I did not know existed.”

I asked how this may have impacted him. He was exquisitely honest, “Sometimes I wonder if there is something I am not aware of – some hidden agenda.”

It was an amazing moment. It confirmed the power inherent in Hollis’s teachings.

Later that evening I reviewed this material with my group. The impact was so much more than expected. People begin to see stories that had shaped and were shaping them:

  • A child who thought she had to always take care of people.
  • A family where silence and conflict avoidance were prevalent.
  • A child constantly in search of a father’s approval.

The final question we delved into was also from Hollis. Exploring our current unconscious stories is but part of the Soul journey. The question still to be answered is what story wants to enter the world through each one of us? Hollis suggests, “We all have these stories lying within us. We need to find the story we are meant by the Gods to live in this world and to understand what interferes with that story emerging.”

To quote teacher and mystic Atum O’Kane, “Before my life is over may I sing my song.”

 


Explore The Magical, Mysterious Amazing World of Dreams Vancouver Nov 27th

October 25, 2016

clooney

Recently George Clooney appeared in a dream. I had no idea why he was there but knew my unconscious had not selected him without a good reason. Our unconscious is profoundly brilliant at selecting precisely the right image – our challenge is to find out why? For more see “Why Did George Clooney Appear in My Dream?”

Dreams tap directly into our unconscious. Learning to work with dreams can prove to be a source of guidance, inspiration and insight. Dreams come in many sizes, shapes and configurations. Not all dreams are created equal. This workshop will help you discern the different types of dreams, identify the dreams that are most significant, explore why some people and symbols show up and provide tools and a process to explore their meaning. Only the dreamer can truly know the meaning of their dreams and a dream unexplored is a letter not opened. (The Talmud)

Workshop Outline

  • Learning to differentiate types of dreams and discern which are likely to be meaningful.
  • How to facilitate remembering dreams and keeping track.
  • To explore the principles of dream analysis and how to tend a dream.
  • Exploration of the relationship between the imagination and dreams and how symbols are created in dreams
  • Introduction to dream partnering
  • Looking at the dream in the context of your life..
  • An exploration of energy, feelings and consciousness in dreams.
  • Learning to understand archetypes and their influence on dreams.

Location and Timing

Kitsilano, Vancouver Sunday November 27th, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Contact trevor@soulclarity.com if you have any interest. Maximum 8 People

Fee by Donation

What Others Have Said

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

“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

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. (www.soulclarity.com)


A Conflict of Complexes

September 21, 2016

vanier-parkAt the conclusion of a workshop I attended this summer, we were asked to prepare a poem summarizing four key elements that had touched us in the program. The workshop was titled, “Embracing the Human and Divine within us.” My poem was based on an experience with a guided visualization.

We were encouraged to begin in a place of beauty with which we were familiar. Mine was a magnificent Vancouver vista encompassing mountains, ocean and city and a pond in the foreground. I sit in this particular spot each summer night just before sunset and engage in a contemplation of the beauty around me.

During the visualization we were encouraged to see a figure walking towards us. I realized that approaching me was a duck, a familiar visitor on the long summer evenings.

A moment of confusion flitted into my mind when we were asked to seek guidance from the figure but I dutifully followed the directions. Of course my guest said only “quack” and I was forced to suppress my secret merriment to avoid breaking the meditative container. My poem evolved naturally from the experience.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-1-08-09-pm

When I shared this with a friend who was also attending, she responded that it only had one element not four. I noticed my resistance to her observation and decided that “the fat lady had sung” and that was all I was going to do.

I set off on my twenty-minute walk to the workshop and immediately noticed there were two distinct voices in my head. There was the rebellious, independent self who was quite content with what he had done. Yet there was also the compliant more apprehensive self who wanted to do what the teacher had asked. I observed the feelings connected with these energies and knew they were both old and familiar. Suddenly, quite unbidden, a new refrain emerged crafted by the compliant self.

‘Heart opening to music

Mind opening to story

Soul opening to Soul

I open to the Beloved”

I felt both fascinated and pleased. If we were asked to share, I had both options covered. It was only after I headed back to Vancouver I began to examine the significance of what happened.

These are both aspects of who I am. They represent two different strategies I adopted as a child to cope with my authoritarian and religious father. They carry both gifts and shadow. The rebellious self has independence, self-determination, innovation, strength of personality and can see outside the dots. The shadow aspects are that it can be abrasive, aggressive and confrontational.

The compliant self has the benefits of sustaining harmony, cooperating and safeguarding the persona from risk and harm. The shadow side is going along for the sake of peace, retreating and running away, not having a voice and becoming like wallpaper in a room.

In a teaching environment these two complexes can be in conflict. Depending on the circumstance I may be controlled by either one. The challenge is not to react to a situation and fall unconsciously into one aspect or the other. The opportunity is to become conscious of the underlying current and respond from the best of both.

As eminent Jungian Therapist James Hollis comments in his remarkable book “Hauntings”, complexes are not good or bad, but they do have a troubling power to “remove a discriminating judgment” from any given situation and impose a view based on our disempowered history.

I have learned the greater the awareness I bring to these complexes, the greater my choice in how I respond and the more empowered I feel. The wisdom can only be achieved in hindsight; in some ways it seems a shame that “life can only be understood backwards; but must be lived forwards.” (Soren Kierkegaard)


My Path to Equanimity – Denial, Victim, Humour and Surrender

June 24, 2016

“You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare, don’t mix them”

Hafiz interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky.

How do we avoid reacting to situations that seem designed to press every button. This is a story of what I came to describe as “the hotel room from hell” that had all the makings of a nightmare.

However it led to an insight into one of the effective coping mechanisms I have created to help me deal with life’s obstacles – I seek meaning in the experience. I am still uncertain about whether this is pure delusion on my part however perhaps that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it helps me avoid the “nightmare” and to shift from anxiety and discomfort into some equanimity.

When I checked in to the Puerto Allegra Hotel; despite my confirmed reservation they had no rooms left and moved me to an adjacent hotel. It was a spartan but clean facility with  a cute balcony.  I enjoyed my stay and the best news was that it waste no charge.

The next day I checked back and they allocated me room 210. It was not the king room I had reserved. It had two queen beds squeezed into a tight space, it was dark with a window out onto what appeared to be a narrow chimney of light between rooms. The diagram behind the door suggested it was by far the smallest room on the floor. However it was nicely appointed and I had already enjoyed an excellent free breakfast so I went to the beach with no inkling of what the night would bring.

The chimney in fact contained all the air conditioning units. It also possessed the quality of an echo chamber so at night I was treated to a symphony of AC units, each chiming in as though they formed an unholy orchestra with a malevolent conductor arranging a score to minimize my sleep.

I began to recognize them – there were the quieter ones that I associated with the strings, the deeper more full throated ones that were the woodwind section and finally the “tuba”. This monstrous instrument was out of tune, a harsh raucous sound that insinuated itself into my nervous system. If I was asleep it would wake me. If I was awake I lay their in awful suspense of its next interruption.

The next morning I tried to get my room changed. Victor at the front desk gazed helplessly at me, scanned his computer screen more out of desperation than hope then pulled out a huge stack of booking.com forms and began to tell me how he had no rooms for any of them.

Now normally I would have gone to find an alternative but I was attending a workshop for the next four days so it was not possible. It seemed as though I would just have to suffer.

I went through four stages of adjustment. In some ways it became my own workshop of dealing with attachment. It began with denial – this can’t really be happening, surely it will diminish as the night goes on? This cannot possibly be normal.” Then I moved into victim. “Why did it have to be me. What had I done to deserve this? This is so unfair.” It was a short step to judgment. “Why do these selfish people need their AC on. How on earth can a hotel dare rent out a room where you can’t sleep?”

By now I was trying ear plugs but they could not blog out Tony the Tuba as I began to refer to him. The third stage was ironic amusement. I was in this hotel because I had decided the place I originally selected at half the price was too small and spartan so I had decided to treat myself to a little comfort. There was obviously a lesson in here for me somewhere as my original was beginning to look like nirvana.The cosmos seemed to be demonstrating its sense of humour at my expense.

Finally I moved into acceptance and surrender and somehow, after three sleepless nights,  slept seven hours without a break. This was obviously due to extreme fatigue because my final night was a repeat of the first except now I was sanguine, calm and relaxed despite being awake and perhaps the thought of my own bed helped.

Regardless I had found meaning – each stages of acceptance helped me move through the one that followed: from denial to victim, then amusement and finally surrender. I worked through each fully allowing full license for expression.

Frankly it was a lesson I would rather not have learned yet the journey into meaning made it palatable. I can see no way I could have avoided it but perhaps next time I may resist the temptation of luxury for my normal spartan accommodations.

Hafiz’s lovely poem finishes with the words, “you have all the ingredients to turn your life into joy, mix them, mix them.” Somehow mixing denial, victim, humour and surrender had just that effect.

There was one final gift. The workshop was being held a half hour walk from the hotel. On the second morning I found a route that took me along the Rio Cuale for about twenty-five minutes. The natural beauty combined with the soothing babble of the creek over rocks completely restored me. Despite sleepless nights I was raring to go.

 


The Soul Journey 3 – Getting Stuck

June 2, 2016

“Midway on Life’s journey I found myself in a dark wood where the right way was wholly lost and gone.”

So begins Dante’s descent into hell. Recently I was considering what subject to select in my series of evenings on the Soul Journey and the idea of getting stuck popped into my mind. We all get stuck at times but often we don’t even realize that we are mired in a slough.

So what are the symptoms that can accompany stuckness? They include:

1) Withdrawal of energy or life force.

2) Ennui – a sense of boredom, listlessness and dissatisfaction.

3) A lack of focus and motivation.

4) Lethargy and inertia.

5) Life becomes dominated by distractions e.g. TV, mindless behaviours, computer games.

Recently I was exploring with a friend her sense of frustration at her life due to a change in her financial circumstances.

I suggested there were three possibilities:

  • “Shit Happens” – sometimes there is no evident rhyme nor reason to our changing circumstances. We just have to accept and move on.
  • We are being asked to live a new state of surrender to the situation, letting go of the old and accepting the new.
  • There is a deeper meaning we are being asked to explore. The circumstances have developed to help us open to something new to which we may be in resistance.

I believe we should always make an attempt to check and explore whether there is meaning as the other two strategies are doomed to failure if we are actually in resistance to our own good.

As I am reflecting on the subject I realize to my chagrin and some amusement that I too am stuck. Recently I had a bladder infection. It was painful, accompanied by fever and blood in my urine, which of course caused me to rush off to the doctor who prescribed a dose of heavy-duty antibiotics.

The next week I was listless, unable to focus, I was lethargic and watched a lot of comfort TV. (In my case hours of British mysteries on Knowledge network)

It never entered my head that there may be more to it. I had assumed it was a small taste of what getting older would feel like when the health one has taken for granted is compromised.

However I notice I am still struggling with some of the symptoms of being stuck even though I have completed the antibiotics. I decide to read my I Ching. (The I Ching is an ancient Chinese divining system that involves throwing three coins six times to form a hexagram that is then interpreted in a guide.)

I draw “Taming of the Power of the Great” The theme is that in the face of rising tension; keep still. Spiritual understanding not practiced under fire is without value. We must apply our knowledge in trying situations.

It is immediately clear to me that I had failed to do draw on my “Soul Rescue Kit”. This kit is a compendium of what feeds me when I am stuck? It includes music, contemplation, beauty, poetry, chanting, contemplation, and a review of my Soul Book. (A journal that contains inspiring stories, quotes and poems.) However once again I had resisted that which would benefit my inner journey by substituting activity. It is a source of constant bewilderment that I fall into the same old patterns.

I suggested a practice to create a specific Soul Rescue Kit. We used the active imagination and working with creating images around the theme “What Feeds Me?” The result was pertinent for each of the group. “Light. Love, Beauty, and Music were the common themes.

We cannot avoid getting stuck at times, what we can do is bring consciousness and practice to the situation as opposed to slipping into old patterns. As Rumi once said, “The real truth of existence is sealed until after many twists and turns of the road. The seeker says had I know the real way it was I would have stopped looking around. But that way of knowing depends on the time spent looking.”