The Soul’s Journey – How I learned to stop worrying and love the Donald.

August 9, 2017

L-CRAIG-STRANGETRUMP

Recently I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation. In layman’s language, an irregular heartbeat. My doctor observed it in my routine check up. I had first noticed it last November, but as I had no other symptoms I had given it no thought. My MD, however was definitively alarmed, threatening to put me on Warfarin – rat poison for goodness sake! However, she ultimately settled for 81mg of aspirin and a referral to the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital.

So what does this have to do with my new relationship with our orange-topped Leader of the Free World? Be patient. All will be revealed.

My belief in the relationship between mind, body, and Soul caused me to immediately begin an enquiry both inside and outside conventional medical treatment.

The physical reasons behind this rhythmic shift, according to the Mayo Clinic, can include: high blood pressure, heart attacks, coronary disease, valve problems, congenital defects, stimulants such as caffeine, stress, sleep apnoea and a host of others. I resigned myself to a journey through the conventional medical system – blood work, an echocardiogram and a heart monitor for twenty-four hours. I also pursued healing on a series of other fronts. I began to have bodywork, started acupuncture along with a series of back exercises. (I had not considered that the spine plays a fundamental role in conducting the signals that cause the heart to beat)

But on the emotional and spiritual side, what could have happened to cause this disharmony?

Clearly my heart had lost its rhythm. That seemed a curious and meaningful metaphor.

I knew that I had first noticed my heart beating irregularly in November of last year. I wondered what could have happened then to trigger such a change, so I sought out my journal and found two entries. Both were on the same subject: My despair at the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

I began to see the trap I had fallen into. I had become active at seeking out all news that disparaged the new President. I wanted him to fail, to be impeached or resign.

Every day I would look for the most negative articles I could find. I loaded the New York Times app on my phone as well as the New Yorker, who seem to hate him more than anyone else.

I would YouTube all the anti trump comedy shows – John Oliver, Bill Mahr, Saturday Night Live, Seth Grogan – my life became dominated by my anti Trump philosophy.

Ironically I was learning a poem by Hafiz at the same time interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky and titled “We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners”. It includes the phrases: “Run my dear at anything that does not strengthen your precious budding wings. Run like hell my dear from anyone who may stick a sharp knife into the sacred tender vision of your beautiful heart.” I had been doing the opposite. I had been running towards the very thing that had compromised my heart and my desire to live my life through the lens of love and compassion. It was time to change.

So I disengaged. I dropped the obsession and introduced balance.

I no longer sought out the bad. I tried to acknowledge the good and even began a daily practice based on an adaptation of Psalm 15:

Lord, may President Trump be trusted with power.

May he find a passion for justice,

May he speak the truth from his heart.

May he let go of his selfish interests and grow beyond his own limitations.

May he see the wretched as his family and the poor as his flesh and blood.

May he learn to be impartial and worthy of the people’s trust.

May his compassion prove boundless and his kindness astound all the people.

(Thanks to Stephen Mitchel for his exquisite adaptation)

This is a daily prayer I have introduced into my spiritual practice. It took quite a wake up call for me to change, but I have decided it is time to shift from my obsessive negative perspective on the new president to send positive messaging.

I still have doubts this will change Donald Trump, but perhaps it will change me and support me in creating a deeper rhythm of harmony with my heart.

If you would care to join me, who knows? Maybe we can help his heart, too.

NB Special thanks to my friend Lorne Craig who both provided the hilarious cartoon and edited my original to make it so much more coherent.

 

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The Souls Journey – How to learn to Say Yes

August 9, 2017

Yes:No - Lorne

My recent blog on “How to Learn to Say No” triggered an unexpected self-awareness. I needed to learn how to say “Yes”. My default response when asked to do something was often “No”. This was intriguing. While I was exploring the mechanisms that caused someone to react with a ‘Yes”, I realized I had the opposite inclination. So what gives?

I realized my initial response would always take care of my own needs and feelings first. In fact I would not naturally consider the impact my response may have on another. For example recently I planned a visit to idyllic Cortes Island where I am fortunate enough to have a second home. One of the gifts of visiting is I get a chance to hang out with a dear friend of many years. One of our shared interests is soccer and when he knew of my intention to come he suggested we watch the Confederation Cup Final together. As my interest in the sport wanes in the warmer weather, I abruptly dismissed the idea. It was not until I began this inquiry that I began a process of reconsidering my reaction. Suddenly I began to see that that this was not about soccer but friendship. It never entered my head that he may have extended the invitation because he wanted to see me. At no time had I considered the feelings that may have been behind the invite.

So why, when faced with choice, is my automatic response more likely to be no, and what can I do to become more conscious in my decision as opposed to reactive? Once again I suspected this is a pattern created in childhood by a coping mechanism. However while I find the situation that is likely to create the reaction of “Yes” easy to comprehend, I could not immediately see what circumstances may lead to the opposite result.

Those who can only say yes are likely influenced by demanding or narcissistic parents where yes is rewarded whereas no could result in a withdrawal of affection and the like. So under what circumstances could “No” become the answer that gets rewarded and affirmed.

I sense the key must lie in my early dependence as a child. At the age of six my mother had a baby girl; my younger brother was only four and she had three older children to care for as well. As a result I became extremely independent.

As a therapist suggested later my needs weren’t being met yet my self-sufficiency as such resulted in this not being a problem. My universe became that containing me and my younger sibling. We create a world that was autonomous of the world around us. Under those circumstances it seems reasonable that self-preservation of this entity became the coping mechanism and a natural consequence of that was to reject things that interfered. In this way saying no, unless it clearly served the primary scenario would emerge as a natural result. Thus my automatic response to anything that does not immediately resonate with serving myself is “No”.

So how to change? Well the first step in this as in any other healing journey is awareness. By becoming aware I can begin to notice when the default response is about to manifest. The second step is to play for time – can I let you know later? The third step is consideration of the other – how will they feel if I say no? Is there a higher good to be addressed? How would I feel if I said yes? Finally there is the conscious response which may be either yes or no but it will be a considered response as opposed to a reactive one.

Recently I had scheduled an evening with a small Spiritual Guidance group that I facilitate. When the number dropped to only two people attending I decided it was not worth the time and energy. However both of the remaining people seemed quite upset. They asked if I would meet with them anyway. I noticed my immediate inclination was to say no but I took some time rather than reacting. I realized that perhaps there was a higher good that took precedence over my feelings so I reinstituted the meeting. It was a wonderful rewarding evening that I am so glad I did not miss. As the Hindu proverb says, “you take one step toward God and God comes running towards you.”

 


The Soul’s Journey – What to do when you can’t say NO.

July 25, 2017

Yes:No - Lorne

Recently I was visiting my brother in London who is having some renovations completed in his beautiful North London house. I found myself in a discussion with his painter who told me he also had outside job on the weekend. When I enquired how he had got on he replied, “I was two hours short of completing and I have no idea when I will find the time to finish.” In response to my curiosity about his schedule he told me he worked seven days a week. I expressed some surprise to which he observed that his challenge was he could never say no. “People are always changing jobs, adding jobs, wanting changes and I just keep saying yes and now I am in an impossible jam”.

I felt great compassion, as this is a common theme in the spiritual coaching work I do. Recently a client in Vancouver had trod in dog poop immediately prior to two sessions and I had been exploring the metaphor of trying to avoid something but stepping in it anyway. He commented, “It’s exactly what happened to me during the past week – twice! I had calls about two ‘shitty’ jobs. I could see they were both things I should say no to but despite protesting by the end of the conversation I had accepted them.”

I shared with the painter my perception that this inability to say no normally stems from some childhood pattern of compliance. We learn to put other’s needs before ourselves. We may become conflict avoidant. Saying yes makes us feel safe and we become unwitting members of what eminent author and Jungian analyst James Hollis refers to as “nice persons anonymous” This childhood coping mechanism unconsciously and insidiously begins to control our adult behaviour. We say yes when saying no would be in our own best interests.

I suggested to the painter that he might be concerned that people would be angry with him if he said no. He paused for a moment then said, “Wow – that made brought me close to tears; you just described exactly how I feel.” Clearly his inability to say no is connected with the past. Possibly someone in his early child hood had caused him to feel unsafe when he said no and this pattern of resistance now infused his current life.

There are many possibilities in how this resistance to saying no can emerge. My client in Vancouver told me that his stemmed from his days of being a nerdy teenager who was always the one left to last when captains were choosing teams. “I never got picked”, he explained so now if someone chooses him he always feels compelled to say yes.

A narcissistic parent or parents who feels their needs are always given priority over those of the children will invariably result in a child who focuses on the parents need’s rather than their own. They learn that the only right answer to a demand is yes. As Hollis observes in his insightful book Hauntings, “much of our life is governed by invisible presences.”

What to do? The first step is to own and acknowledge that your response is not totally within your control. Ask yourself if you have said yes to something recently that you wished in hindsight you had turned down. Then assess whether this was a reactive or measured response. If yes then welcome to “nice persons anonymous”. The journey begins here.

The first step in any healing process is awareness – without that you can go no further.

The second step is exploration. For now don’t try and change anything just begin to notice and record the number of times you instinctively say yes. Write them down. Recently in my spiritual guidance group I asked, “when did you last say yes when you should have said no and one person replied “at least once a week”. Sometimes change can begin just by bringing awareness to the issue.

The third step is to bring conscious attention to the moment and discern what was going on with your feelings and your body when you said yes. Frequently when I walk along the ocean I see a great blue heron demonstrating the art of perfect, still focus to the present moment. Bring your inner heron to the moment and describe the feelings, energy and your body.

The fourth step is an examination of this reflection to check your familiarity with the experience. Frequently you will be able to connect the dots. You will find the moment reminds you of past experiences. This is how my client perceived his unwanted nerdy teenage self was at the root of his acquiescence.

The final step is to begin to free yourself from being a hostage to the past. Using your new self-awareness learn to separate your response from the moment of reaction. Instead of saying yes, begin by taking a breath to expand the moment. If you still say yes, don’t beat yourself up; this is a journey toward change.

Then ask for some time – “can I get back to you on that”. Learn to avoid immediate reactions. Let go of the fear they will be mad with you. You did not come into this life to only take care of others, self-care is equally important.

Finally assess the response from the mature adult perspective. Does saying yes serve me?

What is my responsibility to the other? If you still say yes, know that you have made a conscious decision not a reactive one.

And remember as Tao master Lao Tzu said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step”.

NB Some of you may not relate to this problem one jot, perhaps you like me may have a no as your reactive response. Stay tuned for the sequel – “what do to when you can’t say yes”.

 


The Soul Journey – Signs and Synchronicities

February 22, 2017

He stood there looking more serious than usual. ‘I have to take my shoe off”, he announced. I found this a tad bemusing as he always takes his shoes off when he arrives for his spiritual coaching session however he continued to gaze at me in a somewhat accusatory fashion. I developed a sense I must be missing something then he repeated himself. “I have to take my shoe off”!

The penny dropped – “you didn’t do it again?” I asked. Last time he had turned up he had inadvertently trod in dog shit while parking his bike. We had thought nothing of it at the time and concealed the offending shoe on the back deck during our session. It seemed an amazing synchronicity for this to have happened twice in a row. I have lived here for twenty-three years and never trod in dog poop outside my house.

As you may be aware I believe that each of us have access to a guiding force that resides within. The reclusive poet Emily Dickenson referred to it this way, “The sailor cannot see the north but knows the needle can.” This inner compass can speak to us in many ways. What I refer to as the languages of the Soul are not as readily understood as our native tongue. They include dreams, metaphor, symbols, signs and synchronicities amongst many.

Carl Jung created the term synchronicity (synchronizität in German) to describe a meaningful coincidence. I was eager to explore the possible metaphoric meaning of my client’s current experience.

After opening our session with our usual guided meditation I asked him to recount how it had occurred. “I remembered last time”, he told me, “so I knew it could happen again, that patch seems a particular favourite for untrained owners and their dogs so I was aware of the possibility and more careful than usual. But then I stepped back on to the sidewalk into a pile that I was not expecting.”

I reflected back to him what he had just said, “you knew it could happen, so became more aware and then to your surprise then you stepped in it anyway. Does this have any metaphorical connection to your current life”? By now he was rolling his eyes as the significance of his experience sank in. “It’s what happened to me during the past week – twice! I had calls about two ‘shitty’ jobs. I could see they were both things I should say no to but despite protesting somewhat by the end of the conversation I had accepted them.”

I began to remark on the amazing nature of this connection when he interrupted me to suggest, “you don’t have to look so gleeful about it!” I attempted an apology but shared with him my awe at the amazing way the inner compass had revealed itself. It felt so affirming of my belief system.

We have worked for a long time on his tendency to want to please and always say yes. He is aware of the root cause that he loves to be picked. It is a compensation for the gawky teenage nerd who was always last to get chosen for sporting teams. This desire to please in order to get accepted is a very common wound from the child’s need to manage an overwhelming world. Eminent Jungian Analyst and author James Hollis refers to himself as the founder of a “recovering nice person’s group”.

We had developed a strategy based around not reacting but taking time to respond by always asking if he could call back rather than replying immediately. This provides time for the adult response rather than the child reaction to the old complex. However as often happens we develop a misplaced sense of confidence. Then we step right back into “it” once again.

And I can’t help feel a sense of joyful awe when I witness the inner guide working through these concrete signs and synchronicities. As James Hollis wrote in his book Swamplands of the Soul, “All we can say for sure is that a mystery comes through us, seeking its own fullest incarnation and that whenever we serve the mystery within us; we experience a linkage to the mystery outside. When we stand in conscious relationship to the mystery we are more deeply alive.” Even when standing in a pile of dog shit!


The Soul’s Journey- Living in Flow

February 20, 2017

It is following the way in its fullness, now satin now cresting. All knowing, it flows one way in shining or in shadow.” Linda Hogan

An annual tradition during my Christmas visit to Ontario is to spend an evening prior to New Year’s Eve with my niece and her family when we write cards reflecting on the year that has past, reading the cards we wrote the previous year and drawing a card from one of the divination cards I have given to my niece for a potential glimpse into what the ensuing year holds.

This year we used Lynn Andrew’s insightful offering titled the Power Deck – the cards of wisdom. It seemed both amazing and exceedingly unlikely that my niece and I randomly selected the same card out of a pack containing forty-five cards. The particular card was Flow. The words that resonated with me were “Become one with the river, dissolving the sense of mind and living totally in your instinctual nature. Let go and relax into the eternal flow.” It reminded me of the beautiful poem by Linda Hogan from which I quote above.

Later when developing a metaphor on the Soul journey as train journey (see https://ta44.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/the-souls-journey-what-station-are-you-at/ for more) I decided I am currently at a station called Flow. It represents the worldview that if I stay conscious and aware, attend to my spiritual and psychological needs, set intention and pay attention then what is mine will come to me – both the good and the less so.

I used to relate to the idea of flow as everything in my life running smoothly and positively. If things went wrong then I presumed that I was no longer in flow. I have begun to realize that flow is much more akin to a river, beautifully expressed in the lines of the poem by Linda Hogan.

There are many aspects of the river that relate to life. At times it is tempestuous and dramatic tumbling over rapids. At others it will be serene and placid. It has eddies and backwaters where we may be diverted for a while and when it becomes difficult to see progress. It may also have blockages – boulders or logs that abruptly stop everything. There may even be whirlpools where we get stuck going round and round.

Currently I am planning a trip to Europe and all has not gone smoothly. I make plans then I am stopped in my tracks by various obstacles so I start all over again. The lack of forward progress feels very like a whirlpool. I am doing my best to let go and trust.

When we become one with the river we don’t fight the obstacles, we accept them. It is not so much about breaking them down but allowing them to dissolve. Sometimes we may need a shove to help us move around the blockage.

I believe I am going to Europe – I have my flights booked. The first and last parts of the trip are to be devoted to family. As for the big chunk in the middle it is still a mystery. And sometimes living in the mystery is what Flow is all about.

 

The Journey by Linda Hogan

The mouth of the river may be beautiful.

It doesn’t remember the womb of its beginning.

It doesn’t look back to where it’s been

or wonder who ahead of it polished the rough stones.

It is following the way

in its fullness,

now like satin,

now cresting,

waters meeting, kindred

to travel gathered together,

all knowing it flows

one way, shining or in shadows.

And me, the animal

I ride wants to drive forward,

its longing not always my own,

overrunning its banks and bounds,

edgeless, spilling along the way

because, as I forget,

it knows everything

is before it.


The Soul’s Journey – What Station Are You At?

January 12, 2017

I think that a train journey is a wonderful metaphor for the journey of the Soul. We move from station to station over our life and of course there are two stations that we will all experience – Birth at the beginning where I sense we are unrealized Spirit and the final terminus where hopefully we have fulfilled the Soul’s desires and become realized Spirit.
Of course the stops in between are unique to each one of us. There are many terrains in which we may find stations – desert, ocean, valleys, dark, light, the roller coaster and the stop named Resistance is all too common.
I believe the journey of the Soul embraces every aspect of who we are: the emotional, psychological, spiritual, mental and Soulful. A client asked me recently how to discern what was Spirit and what wasn’t. My reply: “It’s all Spirit to me.”
This is what makes this epic adventure so challenging, so complex and so rewarding. It is important to differentiate between the station we inhabit and the current state. The station is our personal climate while our state is the current weather within that climate.
For example an early station in my life was Fundamentalism. It was a demanding station with a very masculine, authoritarian God, severe punishment for wrong-doing and only one way out by being saved by the blood of Jesus. While stopped at that station there was good weather and bad weather. Times of great happiness combined with equal confusion.
The train eventually pulled out. For a while it travelled through no-mans land then arrived at Atheism where it remained on a siding for twenty years. There was lot of varied states at this stop from enormous joy and success to absolute shock and despair.
Discerning our current station can help us identify the foundation that helps us manage the variety of states that may occur. For example my current station has evolved from the belief that I am a Spiritual being having a human experience. My specific stop at this point in my life is a station called Flow. It represents the worldview that if I stay conscious and aware, attend to my spiritual and psychological needs, set intention and pay attention then what is mine will come to me – both the good and the less so. During a recent Spiritual Guidance evening with the small group that I work with we did a practice to reveal the current station of the members of the group. I started with a guided meditation to encourage a process of practice of active imagination to access the guiding wisdom that each of us can access.

“Close your eyes, perhaps sigh and feel yourself coming fully present to this time, this place, this moment. Then bring your intention to a single breath. In, Out, Deep, Slow, Calm, Ease, Grace, Peace, Smile, Release, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.
Now imagine an empty canvas, it is blank, it is waiting for you. It will reveal to you the station your Soul train sitting at. “Held in the embrace of silence, resting in the deep heart, allowing my Soul to be, I come home. Allow an image to begin forming in your mind. Where are you? Don’t engage with it or shape it, allow it to take its own form. When you feel ready begin to draw the image or write the words that are emerging.”

What was most revealing was how unique each image was to the individual journey and in every case there was a deep sense of wonder at the positive aspects of the station despite current conditions that may be challenging. One participant was reluctant to draw because she feared the image would represent her current difficulties. Instead it offered her an oasis for respite when things seemed too intense.
Some times we get stuck at a station too long. We have to be aware that if energy departs from this place, it is time to move on. Resistance can result in being stuck. One client of mine who clearly realized she had stayed too long at stop named Constructive Discontent exclaimed, “I jammed the emergency brake on and can’t recall how to release.”
Unfortunately there is no map of all the stations. We muddle our way through as best as we can – hoping we fulfill our personal itinerary and doing our best to remember the wonderful words of the poet Em Claire.

It’s a beautiful time to be alive.
And the long walk home is peopled—
We, are everywhere.
Yet the struggle to surrender is where we walk alone.
So the next time you fall
look
to either side where you lie
and take the hand
of your dear Sister or Brother
whose own face is muddied.
We can rise together,
even if we fall alone—
for it’s a beautiful time to be alive
even
on this long walk home.


The Soul’s Journey – Understanding The Emotional Coup D’Etat

January 9, 2017

I slammed my iPad shut with a vehemence that surprised me. It was as though I needed to eliminate the offending e-mail from view as quickly as possible. I sat feeling a flood of energy flowing through my body like a hot flush. I noticed a desire to indulge in some mindless television viewing. I recognized the signs that a complex had engaged.

The concept of a complex is explained exquisitely by eminent author and Jungian analyst James Hollis in chapter 4 of his amazing book Hauntings. A complex is a reaction based on history charged with energy that is autonomous of our conscious state. Hollis refers colourfully to the moment when a complex engages as an historical “coup d’etat”. Our response to this take over is generally one of three reactions: “avoidance, dominance or compliance.

Mine was obviously avoidance so rather than follow like a lemming this unconscious dictate, I resolved to explore my reaction and understand it. Moving myself to an easy chair, putting on some sacred music I began to review the sequence of events that led to this moment.

I had made a commitment to organize another gathering of the spiritual community of which I am part. This decision had emerged from the completion process I had conducted at the conclusion of the very successful event in April in Assisi, Italy. One of the questions I had examined was: “What do I take away from this journey?” The answer was that I am very good at this type of thing then the realization that this was a way I serve both the teacher who becomes my partner in the event and the community.

My job is to underwrite the financial cost, organize the space for accommodation, meals and meeting, liaise with speakers, invite and register guests. The theme and program are developed with my input.

One of my priorities is to craft communications to the community. This involves details of the program, the location and costs. I had taken what my teacher had sent me and made some suggested edits. His response was the “offending email” that had so triggered me.

Upon sharing his words with a friend she observed, “it all sounds perfectly innocuous to me”. So what on earth had caused such a powerful reaction in both my body and my feelings? It was obviously not about the present moment.

The answer was not too difficult to understand. My over–the–top reaction was based on history. The child who works so hard on something only to believe his efforts judged as inadequate. It was reminiscent of my relationship with my authoritarian religious father.

My reaction to the email emanated from my sense of implied criticism and judgment because he wanted to use his words and not mine. I had worked hard on the proposal and it had been summarily rejected. My avoidant reaction was consistent with my child hood coping response to disappear.

From the adult perspective his words and response were entirely reasonable but complexes are neither logical nor rational but emotional. I noticed a sense of relief as the pattern became clear. It was as though the intense energy of the complex could now be released in the light of self-awareness.

I was still left with a lingering confusion about whether I had made the right decision taking on this major event – but that is part of another story.