The Magical Mystery Tour To Inner Guidance

January 22, 2013

“What I found were “coincidences” which were connected so meaningfully that their “chance” concurrence would represent a degree of improbability that would have to be expressed by an astronomical figure.” Carl Jung

I think I must be challenging to have as a friend. At times my desire to live a soul directed life must appear confusing and self focused; it can get in the way of commitments that I make and perhaps hurt people’s feelings. Recently I found myself trapped in a paradox where my needs seemed in conflict with another’s. I was looking forward to a trip to the BC interior; my first stop was Lac La Hache for the Caribou experience of sunshine, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing; the second stop was Kamloops to visit friends and perhaps ski downhill then finally on to Revelstoke. Until a week ago everything seemed promising and then a cloud appeared on the horizon. Actually that is a really bad metaphor because the real problem was that there were no clouds on the horizon. The jet stream shifted and the flow of Pacific moisture creating snow dried up. I decided to cancel the downhill portion of my trip because there would have been no new snow for over ten days and just go cross-country. Then a series of events unfolded that in hindsight created a perfect storm that I did not see until I was swept up into it.

But first some background to the strange and wonderful life I lead. Over the past few years I have evolved a belief system based around the concept of the soul and the soul journey. To me my soul is an aspect of my being that represents a place of deep wisdom. It bonds my humanity to my spirituality; my soul journey takes place as I attempt to follow the guidance that arises from within and support my soul in manifesting its expression in the world. The ego becomes the servant of the soul as opposed to the master. Needless to say there is an uneasy relationship that develops as I attempt to discern the difference. I sense the ego and the soul speak two different languages. The soul speaks through metaphor, symbol, dreams and synchronicity while my ego likes good old fashioned English. About two years ago I made a commitment that I affirm every morning, “to live a soul directed life guided by synchronicity, serendipity, intuition and dreams.” Setting that intention has had great power in affecting my life’s outcomes.

Back to the unfolding of the week’s events: it all started with a reminder that I had not got a transponder to cross a new bridge I would need to take on Thursday; I was strangely disconcerted and wondered what had caused me to forget. Later in the day I noticed a minor case of plantar fasciitis, not a huge problem but I wondered how it would impact cross-country skiing. Then when I got home that afternoon from Whistler, I observed that the free delivery of the Globe and Mail, which I had cancelled because of my trip, was still being dropped on the step. I found this curious but took it in isolation as opposed to part an unfolding pattern of connected events. That night I checked the weather forecast and to my dismay realized that clear, crisp cold sunny weather to which I was looking forward, was now predicted to be cloudy with above freezing temperatures. I was not impressed and thought I would e-mail my friend to see what she thought.

I have noticed that frequently my guidance comes as a series of clues or signs; it is a bit like getting a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle without even knowing there is a puzzle. I suspect it stems from the love I have of mysteries and the satisfaction from finally seeing the whole picture eventually emerge  but on this occasion I was not able to put it all together. Julia Cameron wrote in her lovely little book Blessings “Synchronicity, coincidence, reinforcement, and serendipity – these are friendly companions that speak to me clearly of higher realms.” It’s good to have company in my bizarro world.

The next morning I woke up with a sense of uncertainty and discomfort; for the first time I wondered whether the sequence of events were suggesting that I should not go. I decided to draw a rune to arbitrate on the decision. Whenever I find myself confused or caught in the battleground of thoughts and feelings, I will consult the runes.  Sometimes I smile at myself, yet this particular oracle has an uncanny ability to help me discern what is the soul’s intention for me. If you are not familiar with runes, they are based on the runic alphabet, used by early Norse peoples including the Vikings; the runes have no clear origin as an oracle although the word “rune” derives from the Gothic word “runa,” meaning “mystery.”  Their popularity today stems significantly from the work done by Ralph Blum, who dedicated himself to the re-introduction of this “sacred oracle.”   He suggests that runes assist “training of sacred Intuition – a new way of listening to the inner voice.”

After my morning meditation I went downstairs, made tea then checked my e-mail. There was a response from my friend in Lac la Hache. She did not pull any punches, “my initial reaction to your note was ” major bummer” if you’re not coming! I’ve been doing lots of prep in anticipation, cleaning, shopping etc. and am so very excited!” My immediate response was to write to say I was coming. How could I break my commitment at such short notice? It seemed thoughtless, selfish and unfair. I decided I would go but then recalled my commitment to draw a rune. I hesitated then realized that I had no choice. There was no point in committing to live a certain way then ignoring it. I sat and posed my question, “should I go on my trip to to Lac la Hache?” Tentatively I place my hand in the bag and extract the rune that came to hand. When I am asking a yes or no question, I accept an upright symbol as a yes and reversed symbol as a no. I stare in dismay, Reversed Self – the rune was definitely not in favour.

I sat for a while and began to reflect on any reason why I should stay at home. One thing came to mind so I wrote to my friend: “how lovely to feel wanted. My first reaction was to come regardless however you likely appreciate that decision-making is never that easy for me. I woke this morning feeling uncertain; I also noticed some plantar fasciitis, not good for foot exercise. I decided that I would accept whatever guidance my soul imparted to me. I truly attempt to follow the affirmation, “I will to will thy will” and the rune I drew Reverse Self suggested to me I was not supposed to go. There are a couple of possible explanations. I have two friends from my spiritual community coming to Vancouver this weekend and one is staying here. Both expressed dismay that I had decided to go out of town. I felt comfortable about my decision at the time but this week a dear friend of all of ours died unexpectedly. It is possible that I am supposed to be here to do some grieving with them. However I am not going to decide yet, tomorrow I will draw a second rune then call you with the final outcome.”

I did my best to surrender the ultimate decision to my higher self. My equanimity got further challenged when I began to develop distinct signs of a head cold. I found myself bargaining with my higher self, “look I won’t go if you don’t want me too; I don’t need a cold to discourage me.” Perhaps the decision was already clear and I was in resistance. The next morning I woke with a very clear dream fragment. I had gone onto a restaurant and asked for a table to myself. They seated me in a good location but just after I sat down someone I knew came up and asked me to join their group. I was a little reluctant but thought it would be impolite to refuse. The moment I reached the new group I knew I had made a mistake: it was huge; they were noisy, and playing silly games. I felt myself shuddering then woke up.

It seemed clear to me that the dream was related to my current dilemma; if I get pulled from my centre, I will regret it. The final rune was  Reverse Separation. I picked up the phone and called my friend and to my delight she totally understood. It would have been one thing not to come because of weather, another altogether to be following my deepest wisdom. I realized that the weather had just been a signpost along the way and when I checked the forecast after our call, it had resumed to being perfect. So synchronicity, serendipity, intuition and dreams cooperated to point the way. My plantar fasciitis diminished, my cold symptoms dissipated, I had a chance to grieve with my friends and because I was in town I connected with a new client. What a strange wonderful cosmos we live in.

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Reflections on Sacred Space

February 5, 2012

Chapel of The Holy Cross - Sedona

Recently I commenced a new training program with my teacher Atum O’Kane called Archetypal Dimensions of Spiritual Guidance. The first program was titled, The Keeper of the Sacred Space. The concept of Sacred Space is a curious one. Does it reflect a space or an experience or likely a combination of both? Is every space sacred and is the difference what we bring to it? The possibilities seem endless: religious sites, music, relationships, natural beauty, a storm, the ocean; I have at times found the Sacred in each one. A recent list I recorded in my Soul Journal included: Notre Dame Cathedral, St. Peters in Rome, Chapel of the Holy Cross near Sedona, the chapel in the forest near Twin Lakes at Mammoth, the beach near Yachats in Oregon, Tuolumne Grove of giant cedars in Yosemite, the Sanctuary at Hollyhock – the list could go on but these are all places where I have had some form of mystical connection.

My experience suggests we can both encounter and create sacred space. I like the idea that Sacred Space is an encounter with the numinous or spirit. It is as though an “other” enters the space. When we create it we fashion the conditions in which the numinous or spirit can be evoked. In Sacred Space there is normally a sense of the “other” which is to some extent indefinable. Sometimes the catalyst is the space itself. Recently in Erfurt, Germany I encountered this sense of Sacred Space in two churches; one where Martin Luther used to preach and the other where Meister Eckhart taught. It is interesting to reflect on the common aspects of this experience as well as the differences. I was common to both of them and I introduced a contemplative perspective as I sat to meditate. Each building had a history, a gravitas; both places had been used for sacred ritual for over 1,000 years and had celebrated the energy and insight of two of the most remarkable teachers in Christendom. Both buildings had suffered war damage and been beautifully restored to their traditional form. They were the only two churches of the five that I visited that created such a distinct energetic impression of the sacred. Now at this juncture one could assume that it was my knowledge of the great men who had preceded me that created my experience yet I only knew of Martin Luther’s personal involvement with the building. I only found out about Meister Eckhart’s relationship with the Preidiger Kirke sometime afterwards. This perhaps leads me to the revelation that Sacred Space will always contain something of the mystery about it.

Sometimes we may feel a special energetic connection with a place without really knowing why. Recently I encountered a sense of Sacred Space totally unexpectedly in a place where I have walked many times before. I was taking my daily promenade around the beautiful seawall in Kitsilano. I began at Granville Island and then intended to stroll around Vanier Park to Kits beach. I had not prepared for foul weather and as I observed a storm moving in off the ocean, I wondered about making a dash for home. Yet for some reason I decided to embrace the storm and walked defiantly into the strong west wind and driving rain. I decided to do the Navajo Beauty meditation. ‘I walk with beauty before me, I walk with beauty behind me, I walk with beauty all around me” and suddenly I was in the grip of ecstasy. I found myself in that strange mystical state where tears and laughter magically intertwine. As I got wetter and more wind-dragged, I laughed with a sense of pure joy and began to sing

I have also observed that engaging with someone on a deep, level can transform the space whether that space is a store, a taxi or a doorstep. I sense this starts with a sense of “meeting” in a meaningful way; I liken it to a soul connection. What causes two souls to open in this way is part of the mystery but the result is a sense of Sacred Space. For example recently I was at a party, an unfamiliar event as I avoid them like the plague, but my new neighbours were having an open house and it seemed the friendly thing to do. As an introvert I can handle intense social stimulus for only a limited time, so I am always one of the first to leave. As we share a landing, it was a short trip home but en route I encountered a young man standing outside my door. He greeted me and we began to converse about the need of the introvert to recharge their batteries. Realizing we were both introverts led to an engagement and a dialogue around how introverts derive their energy from the inner world and that this time of conversation actually helped the batteries recharge; it seems to me that in that moment we had entered Sacred Space.

In my practice as a spiritual coach I have learned the importance of creating Sacred Space to provide a container for the work that I do both with individuals and in groups. There are two steps in creating the Sacred Space and two in closing it. Creating it involves preparation and attunement. Preparation involves grounding myself, clearing my energy, and bringing attention to my heart then the lighting of a candle. Attunement, which means bringing into harmony, takes place after the session has commenced. It is orchestrated through a guided meditation/bodyscan and concludes with the recital of a poem. (The poem will reflect some aspect of the soul journey.) Closing sacred space involves a simple ritual with the client using a guided gratitude meditation and a reading (I always use Julia Cameron’s Blessings) Once the client has left I extinguish the candle, re ground myself, shake off the energy with a simple affirmation letting go of any that is not mine. “I release what is not mine to hold”

Encountering or creating Sacred Space requires our presence; the mystery is whether the space is sacred without us; would an atheist find the essence of the sacred in the same way? Perhaps the soul needs to be in an awakened state. I think the words of Hafiz are an appropriate way to close, “What is this precious love and laughter budding in our hearts? It is the glorious sound of a soul waking up.”