Poems for SoulClarity 1

May 8, 2016

INTRODUCTION

I believe in synchronicity and this piece is a result of a series of coincidences that began recently in Seattle. I was attending the fifth workshop in the series Archetypes of Spiritual Guidance and made the decision to stay at a B &B closer to the venue rather than being held hostage to the ferries that are a consequence of staying with my friend Maryann on Bainbridge Island. To my surprise when arriving at my lodging I found that there was a bed but no breakfast so I decided to frequent a local Starbucks close to the venue.  As it happened my teacher Atum O’Kane would also drop by for coffee and each morning we would meet up and then walk together. Each morning I chose to share a poem as we strolled and his response was that I must do something with them. At first my resistance stepped in but on my return to Vancouver the synchronicity of those encounters was too much to ignore and  I have decided to make a recording. I realized that each of the poems connected with me at a soul level so it made sense to add a personal introduction to each one and perhaps relate them to my work as a spiritual coach so I began an unfolding blog which is now complete. Each of my spiritual coaching sessions starts with a meditation and poem to create the Sacred Space that is essential for the work to begin. These are some of those poems and my reflections.

AT THE END OF THE YEAR. by John O’Donahue

The first poem on the blog is paradoxically the last one on the CD. It is by the Irish poet John O’Donahue who sadly died at the age of only 52. I was not that familiar with his work until a friend gave me his beautiful book To Bless the Space Between Us. He was a priest, philosopher, activist and poet with an amazing gift for the language. The passage I learned is three stanzas from a poem titled At the End of the Year.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks
for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time
nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver
caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance
of being here…
We bless this year
for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way
it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
 

It seems appropriate to be recording these words at a time when 2012 is nearing its finale and of course I am reaching my destination – to complete this journey with poems I have learned and loved. Twenty-three in all, I hope you they feed you as they have inspired me. They truly provide me with that sense of “the veil lifting” and the soul finding delight.

SONG OF A DREAM by Sarojini Naidu

Exploration of dreams has become one of the passions of my life. I believe that some dreams offer a window into the soul’s wisdom yet understanding the language of symbol and metaphor used in dreams is not always easy. I practice a process called Dream Partnering designed not to interpret dreams but rather facilitate a process to allow the dreamer to access their own inner wisdom. (For more see http://www.soulclarity.com/free_taste.html) I am always keeping an eye open for poems on dreams and here are two of my favourites. The first is called Song of a Dream by Sarojini Naidu

Once in the dream of a night I stood
Lone in the light of a magical wood,
Soul-deep in visions that poppy-like sprang;
And spirits of Truth were the birds that sang,
And spirits of Love were the stars that glowed,
And spirits of Peace were the streams that flowed
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.
Lone in the light of that magical grove,
I felt the stars of the spirits of Love
Gather and gleam round my delicate youth,
And I heard the song of the spirits of Truth;
To quench my longing I bent me low
By the streams of the spirits of Peace that flow
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.

A dream full of beautiful imagery that to me connects directly to the world of Soul.

LAST NIGHT AS I WAS SLEEPING  by Anthony Machado

The second poem is titled Last Night as I was Sleeping by Anthony Machado and wonderfully translated by Robert Bly.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!
that it was God I had
here inside my heart. 

Oh to have such a perfect dream, imagine golden bees making white combs and sweet honey from one’s old failures, how beautifully he captures the world of soul in this lovely poem.

WE LOOK WITH UNCERTAINTY by Ann Hillman

The next passages resonated the moment I read it in a monthly newsletter from Banyen Books. It is attributed to Ann Hillman and presents a beautiful perspective on the process of transition that is such an integral part of the Soul journey.

We look with uncertainty
Beyond the old choices for
Clear-cut answers
To a softer, more permeable aliveness
Which is every moment
At the brink of death;
For something new is being born in us
If we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
Awaiting that which comes…
Daring to be human creatures.
Vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.
 

 A major change is never easy and this poem captures so delightfully the vulnerability of transition and the need to explore beyond our limitations. Frequently I sense in clients the apprehension of being stuck and simply hearing this poem can cause a major shift in awareness. One client suddenly could see that being stuck was actually standing at a new doorway awaiting that which comes.

A NOISELESS PATIENT SPIDER by Walt Whitman

Simply reading about Walt Whitman’s life is inspiring; he was someone whose ideas were far ahead of his time. He had contemporary, earthy beliefs for someone living in the eighteen hundreds and I find his poem titled the Noiseless Patient Spider so relevant to the nature of the Soul journey.

A noiseless, patient spider, 
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated; 
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul. 

 I love the sense of space, urgency and insistence. I love the expressive dialogue with the soul as part of himself. I love the suggestion that at times we are awaiting a foundation to form on which we can build. He brings the intoxication of the Soul journey to luminous life.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN by Robert Frost

This next poem by Robert Frost became renowned for the last few lines; in fact many years ago I had assumed these constituted the whole thing. During my research I found this quote, One stanza of ‘The Road Not Taken’ was written while I was sitting on a sofa in the middle of England: was found three or four years later, and I couldn’t bear not to finish it. I wasn’t thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. He was hard on himself that way.”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

As we follow our life’s journey there are moments when we make decisions that irrevocably shift every event from that time on. I had such a moment in the dentist’s chair in 1998 when I made a career choice that ultimately resulted in such an improbable series of consequences that some times I wonder where the other road would have led. Today I am more conscious to discern whether the road I am about to select is consistent with my soul’s desire and I think that that makes all the difference.

THE GREAT WAGON by Rumi

The Great Wagon by Rumi is an astonishingly rich construction rendered into ethereal English by Coleman Barks. It contains eight separate stanzas any one of which could provide fodder for intense reflection however I am going to record my three favourites.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it.
 

 So many intriguing concepts that seem so relevant to the Soul journey – the suggestion that there is place beyond our ideas of right and wrong, the reminder that we need to stay awake, that inspiration comes on the wind and that it all starts by setting a clear intention for what we really want. Then the last stanza “the price of kissing is your life” reminds me that once we commit our hearts to the soul journey there is indeed no going back.

NOW IS THE TIME  BY Hafiz

My next poem is beautifully rendered by Daniel Ladinsky from the work of Hafiz and embraces the issue of change.

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred
Why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
With veracity
And love
Hafiz is the divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon
My dear please tell me
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?
What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?
Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
This is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But grace
Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.
 

 This poem reminds me to explore the mystery of the Divine in a number of ways. I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist household with an authoritarian, patriarchal, punitive God. As a result at the age of thirteen I became an atheist. Thirty years later I began to realize that my atheism was in fact resistance to a God concept espoused by my father  and it was time to “stop throwing sticks at God”. I have realized during this amazing journey that indeed “all my ideas of right and wrong were indeed training wheels”. My soul journey became one of finding the sacred in everything in my life.

IF EACH DAY by Pablo Neruda

Finding light in the darkness is a theme of the next two poems. The first is by Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet who led an amazing and conflicted life. Exiled from Chile for communist beliefs, awarded a Nobel prize for literature, an outspoken critic of American imperialism who finally died a suspicious death after his close friend President Allende was ousted from power in a military coup. This man truly had experienced darkness to a degree most of us can only imagine. The poem is succinct and needs no explanation.

If each day
Falls inside each night
There exists a well
Where clarity is imprisoned.
We need to sit on the rim
Of the well of darkness
And fish for fallen light
 

THERE IS NOTHING I CAN GIVE YOU by Fra Giovanni

The second poem was written almost five hundred years ago as part of a letter and is attributed to Friar Giovanni Giacondo, a Franciscan friar who was also an architect, engineer and archeologist. During my research I realized the version I have learned has been adapted from the original but the integrity of the author’s intent is maintained.

There is nothing I can give you which you have not got; but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No Heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see;
and to see, we have only to look.
I beseech you to look.
 

The soul journey consists of many landscapes and one we will all encounter at sometime is commonly known as the dark night of the soul. Each of these poems helps us to remember that eventually light will overcome darkness

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS by Wendell Berry

I am enjoying finding out more about the poets I have grown to love. Wendell Berry is a remarkable long-term activist, a farmer an academic as well as a poet. Recently his poetry has demonstrated both his love of and fear for the environment. The next poem expresses exquisitely the challenges of despair and the power of beauty and nature to support us in holding our centre when we are confronted by thoughts and feelings of hopelessness.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.
 

On my own soul journey I have realized how essential it is to sustain hope in times of despair. I love the line, “the day-blind stars are waiting with their light.” It expresses a faith in the possibility of positive change. I do have to work on building a foundation for my faith. To support me I have created a Soul Journal where I capture stories of the light that appeared when it was most needed. Reflection on these stories help restore me when the affairs of the world create the despair that Wendell Berry describes.

A DIVINE INVITATION by Hafiz

My next poem is short and sweet; an interpretation of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky in his book, “I heard God Laughing” yet it has profound meaning for those committed to exploring the landscape of the Soul.

You have been invited to meet
The Friend.
No one can resist a Divine Invitation.
That narrows down all our choices
To just two:
We can come to God
Dressed for Dancing,
Or,
Be carried on a stretcher
To God’s Ward.
 

There is a quote in the New Testament, The spirit is willing but the flesh is week. All of us when we undertake to explore the journey of the soul will come up against resistance that is often unconscious and prevents us from fully engaging with our spiritual exploration. Accepting the call of the Soul is a bit like taking the red pill in The Matrix, you can never go back. I believe that the soul in its desire for expression will try and support us through a course correction when we go astray. It may start with a nudge then a push that may graduate to a full on cosmic two by four if we don’t as Hafiz says, “Get Dressed for Dancing”.

 BE PATIENT by Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke is a Bohemian-Austrian poet who I had always assumed was female because of his name. He was a renowned German poet who lived at the turn of the twentieth century. The poem I am about to share is best known for the first two lines but there is great depth in the complete passage.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
 

This poem has great relevance for those moments on the soul journey when we seem to be in stasis. I have long believed that the soul treasures experience not outcomes, yet the ego’s satisfaction relies on accomplishment. We live in a paradigm that assumes success is a series of achievements but when we commit to the inner journey we learn to live by a different yardstick. I will frequently quote this poem during spiritual coaching as a reminder that sometimes we need to fully experience the present before the next step opens to us.

 INVICTUS William Ernest Henley

I encountered the poem Invictus in a movie of the same name. There is an extremely emotional scene where Matt Damon standing in the jail on Robin Island hears the voice of Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela reciting this poem. This poem inspired Nelson Mandela during his twenty-seven years of incarceration. Although I can never hope to match Morgan Freeman’s drama and passion, it has become one of my favourite recitations.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
 

 The poet William Ernest Henley who lived in late Victorian times wrote this under extreme personal duress. He suffered from TB, had one leg amputated and major surgery on the other just before he wrote this poem. He captured dramatically the resilience of the human spirit responding to adversity, something I have witnessed many times with patients living with cancer.

OPEN THE DOOR by Rabindrinath Tagore

I had no idea what an accomplished creative genius Rabindrinath Tagore was until I did some research for this recording. Writer, playwright, songwriter, poet, philosopher and educator, he was the first non-European to win the Nobel prize for literature. The poem I am going to share is particularly appealing for someone who lives on the coast of British Columbia and learns to treasure the occasional days of blue sky that are a welcome interruption from the rain.

 Open the door,
liberate the blue sky;
let the inquisitive flower-scents
 enter my room;
the light of the early sun,
let it flood my body
 from vein to vein;
I am alive, the word of greeting
 that’s throbbing
in every twig and leaf,
 let me hear it;
this dayspring dawn,
let it swathe my heart and mind with its scarf as it does the field
green with the shoots
 of new grass.
The love I have known in my life
utters its silent language
in the sky, in the air,
 everywhere.
I am bathed in the light
 of its pure enthronement.
All that’s real I see
 as a necklace of jewels
on the breast of blue.
 

Recently this poem assumed a new significance for me. I was attending a workshop on the archetype of the liberator and was asked to create a daily practice to focus my intention on the act of liberation. This poem has become my morning ritual, at the conclusion of my meditation I begin the words, “Open the door, liberate the blue sky” It is a wonderful way to greet the day.

THERE’S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson.

I have a client who frequently begins the session with the words, “Well I am back in the hole again.” He is referring to a lovely poem that I frequently refer to in my spiritual coaching work. It’s titled: THERE’S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson.

1) I walk down the street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost . . . . I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes for ever to find a way out.
2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. . . . its a habit.
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
5) I walk down another street.
 

This is such a brilliant analogy for life. If you find yourself in the same situation again and again and it is never your fault, then you are living the first chapter of the poem. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day you repeat the same story over and over without realizing you are stuck. The first step to moving on is awareness. Once we are aware, we move on to the second chapter I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. This is the stage of denial. Although you are aware of your pattern you aren’t yet prepared for the conscious work that will result in a shift. It often takes a lot of work breaking through resistance and old patterns before we can finally walk down another street.

The Guest House by Rumi

It is a source of deep astonishment and wonder that long before Freud, Jung and Adler, in fact over seven-hundred years ago, the poet Rumi pronounced a wisdom that would be at home in depth psychology today. His amazing poem The Guest House reminds us that hidden within the darker responses of our lives are gifts.

 “This being human is a guest house, Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of furniture. Still treat each guest honourably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whomever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
 

Rumi reminds us of the opportunity to become conscious and find meaning in our experience. Once we can begin to witness the events of our lives from this place rather than that of victim then we begin to find the gifts. The exploration can take some time and energy but each of us have a tremendous capacity for healing; we just have to remember who the patient really is.

Certainty by Tukaram

Tukaram was a a seventeenth century Indian saint and poet whose work I was introduced to in Daniel Ladinsky’s book Love Poems from God. This poem called Certainty struck me as an incredibly contemporary message reminding of the dangers of attachments to any one belief system.

Certainty undermines one’s power, and turns happiness
into a long shot.  Certainty confines. 
Dears, there is nothing in your life that will not change – especially your ideas of God. 
Look what the insanity of righteous knowledge can do: crusade and maim thousands in wanting to convert that which is already gold into gold.
Certainty can become an illness that creates hate and greed.
God once said to Tuka, “Even I am ever changing – I am ever beyond Myself, what I may have once put my seal upon, may no longer be the greatest Truth.”
 

 I suspect that all of us who have embarked on this journey of the soul may have encountered times where we felt absolutely certain we had found the path to truth. We may even feel it is our duty to persuade others. Tukaram’s wisdom clearly anticipated the tragedy of sectarian violence that we see today. He also reminds us that concepts of God are not fixed points in time. Some of my most challenging moments on my soul journey have been when my God concept has eluded me. James Hollis once wrote that “when for whatever reason the energy no longer enlivens our (God) image that structure dies for us as a source of the divine. The energy has departed leaving a dry husk.” At that time there can be a “dark night of the soul” challenging our faith. Tukaram affirms the positive possibilities when he says, “Dears there is nothing in your life that will not change especially your ideas about God.” The Soul Journey calls us to let go of old certainty and be open to the mystery. The Soul Journey is dynamic not static; James Hollis also said, “We find our God in that which enlivens the Soul, simply say hello.”

Special Plates by Rumi

This poem had a profound effect on my life. Special Plates is the first of the three Rumi poems I have learned, Rumi is a another Sufi poet whose words were captured so magically for westerners by Coleman Barks. This poem has a special significance to me because it was not only my introduction to Rumi but also the beginning of my love affair with soulful poetry. I had impulsively signed up for a two-year program called the Art of Spiritual Guidance comprised of two weeks and eight weekends that started in October 2001 led by a teacher I had never heard of called Atum O’Kane. The first week of the program took place at a beautiful resort called Hollyhock located over six hours and three ferry rides from Vancouver on remote Cortes Island. By the time the first session began, I was beginning to have serious misgivings about the sanity and wisdom of my decision. Who was this teacher with the strange name? Who were these strangers? Had I really committed almost $5000 and two-years to something I had never heard of a month ago? Then after a brief moment of silence, Atum read this beautiful poem.

Notice how each particle moves.
Notice how everyone has arrived here from a journey.
Notice how each wants a different food.
Notice how the stars vanish as the sun comes up.
and how all streams stream toward the ocean.
Look at the chefs preparing special plates
for everyone. according to what they need.
Look at this cup that can hold the ocean.
Look at those who see the face.
Look through Sham’s eyes
into the water that is
entirely pearls.
 

As I heard these words I felt an unmistakable sense of reassurance flow through my body. I knew I was in the right place at the right time. In part I sense there was a soulfulness that connected at a soul level. I believe great poetry like a dream can break through the clutter of the conscious mind. The words, “look at the chefs preparing special plates for everyone according to their needs” hung in the air between us; this would be no cookie cutter program, no one size fits all. I felt relief flood through my body; my fear of dogma and institutional doctrine dissipated; this would be a program of personal discernment. In that moment I realized that I had not only arrived here from a journey but was beginning one.

THE JOURNEY by Mary Oliver

The next poem I would like to share is very precious to me, not just because of its exquisite language but because it is generally the very first poem I use when someone comes to me for Spiritual Coaching. The decision to start Spiritual Coaching often emerges from a time of confusion and a sense that you need to shift the direction of your life but don’t know how to proceed. Mary Oliver conveys a remarkable sense of the unfolding drama of change.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations –
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little.
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheet of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
 

To me Mary Oliver is perhaps the quintessential American poet, her depth and wisdom and soulfulness that inhabits so many of her poems creates a wonderful perspective for the concept of the Soul journey. This poem reminds us that we must make our own way, that we may feel resistance from both within and without; that at times it may be stormy but light will begin to shine.

LAUGHTER by Hafiz (rendered by Daniel Ladinsky)

This is a stanza from a longer poem that spontaneously comes to mind.

What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?
It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!
 

Hafiz is the wonderful Sufi poet so brilliantly interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky in his book I heard God Laughing.

LOVE AFTER LOVE by Derek Walcott

The second poem I would like to share is by Derek Walcott, the eminent poet from St. Lucias who Robert Graves once commented that “Walcott handles English with a closer understanding of its inner magic than most if not any of his contemporaries”. This poem is called Love After Love.

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you ignored
For another who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes.
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
 

This poem reflects so beautifully that wonderful moment that as renowned psychologist and teacher Jean Houston once said, ‘You are more than you think you are and something in you knows it”. It recognizes that moment when you come face to face with your Soul and you understand that you are a part of something much greater than you ever realized. I find Robert Grave’s use of the words “inner magic” most profound. It is as though Walcott’s words can speak to us at a deeper level than our brain can absorb. I recall reading this poem at a workshop and there was a moment when it brought one of the participants to tears. When she tried to explain her reaction in words, it just wasn’t possible. The heart had engaged with the exquisite sense of Soul that Walcott had created but the mind was unable to interpret. Such is the gift of beautiful soulful poetry in our lives.

A DIALOGUE OF SELF AND SOUL by W. B. Yeats

The first poem I learned was by W.B. Yeats, it was written when he was 83 and was a part of a much longer poem that is a reflection on his life. I first heard it on a meditation recording by John Kabot Zyn, and it had a powerful impact on me at that time. More recently I heard James Hollis refer to it in a lecture from his book “What Matters Most” as an example of finding meaning in one’s life.

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.
 

What Yeats does so beautifully is remind us of the gift of individuation and that when we have the courage to  seek meaning in the experiences of our life, and forgive ourselves then there is a response from the soul. I have sensed that as I identify the complexes that have bound me, there is a release of the energy that binds me to the complex. This sounds akin to Yeat’s delicious words, “so great a sweetness flows into my breast.

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Getting Beyond the Block

January 20, 2015

One of the joys of traveling is making new friends and my recent trip to Sayulita was no exception. Staying at the same hotel was a lovely British woman working on new business venture. When she heard about my background in marketing she asked me to provide some input on a project on which she was working. As she began to show me what she had done, I became incredibly impressed by the professionalism, the quality of the work and the depth of thinking. Nothing she showed me seemed in need of any input at all. In fact the opposite was true as my suggestions were clearly redundant. As the discussion continued she began to hesitate over her words then paused to say, “I’m not sure what I want your help with anyway. Basically I am stuck on finding the right images for my web site.”

I reflected back on what I had seen so far “You realize you have done all the difficult work here: the initial thinking, the concept, the positioning, the branding, the logo, the look and image. They are all finished, now you are now looking for some photos. Why do you think you are stuck on the easy bit?” She hesitated and looked a little embarrassed then went on to explain that she had been involved in a series of personal problems that had thrown her off centre. Although valid, they did not seem to explain her paralysis.

I observed that the images won’t make or break the proposition anyway because they are easily changed. I speculated that when this kind of block occurs there is normally some fear involved. Her response was instant and clear, “oh I’m scared it will be a failure and I will look bad.” Her wheel spinning has nothing to do with the issue; it was about anxiety and apprehension for the future. It reminded me of a common depth psychology truism, “it’s not about what it’s about.” Almost like a magician’s wand, her insight seemed to free her up so she could move ahead.

It seems appropriate to add a little background. This was not an inexperienced amateur, this was a consummate professional who had spent years successfully implementing far more complex projects for her clients. She knew her experience and skill set were more than up to this task yet she ground to a halt when faced by something that in her previous role she would have simply delegated.

So what happens? Notice there was no conscious knowledge of fear holding her back. Rationally she knew that she could do this and anyway she also knew that failure was part of business life. It was far better to move ahead and learn from failure than it was to quit. However this unconscious fear created inaction, paralysis and a sense of feeling stuck.

From a spiritual coaching perspective, the first thing is to ask yourself when you are blocked is a series of questions.

  • Does this behaviour represent a pattern in my life, has it shown up before and what did I do about it?
  • Are there familiar voices from the past behind the fear? Sometimes it is a parent or a teacher or other powerful other in our early life. This is what eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis refers to as a haunting in his book of the same name.
  • If yes what does this voice cause me to do or stop doing?

Our goal is to defuse and dissipate the power that old voices have over us. The first step is awareness, the second is for the adult to reassess their relationship with the old voice. At this juncture I engage in a discussion – this reaction has a reason for being, I acknowledge it then suggest it no longer serves me and it’s time has passed. It helps me if I can identify the primal anxiety that has been aroused.

It is not always an easy or comfortable exploration but it does help us understand ourselves better and to gradually bring change into the ways we reflexively respond to certain situations.

As James Hollis once said, “we all sleep in haunted houses and in history’s unmade bed.” We need to disarm the ghost and recover our personal authority.


What’s All This Soul Stuff Anyway?

November 17, 2014
 
“What is this precious love and laughter budding in our hearts,
it is the glorious sound of a Soul waking up 

Hafiz interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky

Late in his life Carl Jung wrote to a friend and said, “I have failed in my foremost task to open people’s eyes to the fact that man has a soul” The derivation of the word soul is from the Greek word psyche that in turn means breath.

In medical terms the psyche is the sum of who we are: body, mental faculties, emotions and … For some the definition stops there, for others it may include the nebulous concept of the unconscious while depth psychologists and Jungian analysts believe there is a Soul. Unfortunately we cannot identify the soul with a body part. It is an elusive concept

Thomas Moore the writer of many books on Soul suggests that Soul must be imagined rather than explained or understood. A tough concept for the logical and literal minded.

In my Spiritual Coaching practice, the Soul represents a guiding force that supports us on the journey of life and aspires to that which serves our highest good.

As the spiritual coach my first priority is to assess whether my client can accept this idea. It does not matter what name we ascribe to it: Psyche, Self, Soul, Higher Self, Inner Wisdom, I look for common language that we can share.

Why do I consider this of importance? First, I consider the inner guiding force is the most effective tool for helping us through the dark wood. Second, it has a language of its own that is not verbal. It speaks to us through the circumstances of our lives. This can be through our body, our dreams, the patterns of our life, through sign and synchronicity, through “the still small voice”. Third, once we accept the principle that the Soul desires to communicate then it behooves us to listen and pay attention.

Our growth frequently comes out of the ennui, confusion, sense of being stuck even depression that are the sign that something wants to change. I have noticed both in my own life and in those of my clients that ignoring the signs or ridding ourselves of the symptoms can often cause an exacerbation or deterioration until we wake up. I once heard this described as “the cosmic two by four”, a description that seems especially pertinent and a good reminder to stay attentive.

In his excellent book, What Matters Most, James Hollis reminds us that, “if the ego is living in harmony with the psyche there is no problem, there will be a sense of energy, purposefulness, the supporting function of feeling and a sense of well being. In those moments one is in right relationship.” I think that sums up Hafiz’s poem pretty well!

Spiritual Coaching helps to assess whether we are in right relationship with ourselves. It begins with a check-in to the current emotional, mental and physical circumstances of our life and an enquiry into what they could be trying to signify.

The wonderful Julia Cameron, author of many books including The Artists Way once wrote, “Today I listen with my deepest heart. I am alert to guidance in many forms and formats. As I open my attention to a broad range of cues, I find myself guided and guarded.” An excellent practice for honouring the Soul’s journey.


Gratitude to Old Teachers

November 11, 2014
 When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

This poem by Robert Bly resulted in reminiscence about some of the important teachers in my life. I realize that much of the foundation of my belief systems has resulted from the teachers who crossed my path at precisely the right time.

The first was a Minister of the local Baptist Church, the Reverend Gordon Glover. I was fifteen years old and my inability to accept the basic tenets of the church was causing great conflict with my father and mother. Somehow my mother persuaded me reluctantly to visit the Minister of the church I had been dragged to for many years. After he welcomed me in I explained the foundations of my disbelief – the loving God crucifying his son to save me, the absurdity of being born again, the inconsistencies in the whole story. He looked at me with care and concern then leaned over and said, “you are absolutely fine, don’t worry about it. You will find what you need in your own time.” Needless to say this earned him the enmity of my father for the rest of time but to me it was an amazing moment.

They say that when the student is ready the teacher appears. Well in my case I was a long time getting ready. It was not for forty years that the next major influence on my spiritual life showed up. It was the amazing late Reverend Marvin Anderson of the Unity Church in Vancouver that guided my path for a number of years. He reintroduced me to a form of Christianity that gave me the freedom to have my own beliefs. No longer was everything in the Bible literally true. God was no longer an elderly, patriarchal male who believed in retribution. He helped me to see that my previously proclaimed atheism was actually a lack of belief in the God espoused my father. He had a brilliant mind, was widely read and helped to broaden my spiritual search.

I began to study at Unity Village in Missouri for two years and deepened my quest in many ways. He introduced a concept that was profound and as far as I can tell original. “The simplicity that precedes complexity is useless, the simplicity that follows complexity is the pearl of great price.” It helped me through the years when I had to let go of simplistic beliefs and attitudes in order to grow. Finally he preached a sermon that freed me from a trap of my own making. I was sitting in the balcony of a packed church in the company of hundreds of kindred souls. It was as though he was speaking straight to my heart. “Some of you need to move on, your time here is done.”

Leaving Unity opened the door to my next teacher. Following a series of signs and synchronicities I enrolled in a two-year program called the Art of Spiritual Guidance. It was crazy thing to do; I did not know the teacher; it was a significant commitment of money and time; yet I felt called. Atum O’Kane was a profound influence in my life. He opened the door to the psychological aspects of my spiritual journey. He introduced me to Carl Jung, the unconscious and the shadow, dream work, body sculpture and drawing to connect with deeper wisdom, and a deeper understanding of Soul. He introduced me to Sufism, mystic Judaism as well teachings from the Christian and Buddhist tradition. He provided the groundwork that gave me the confidence to practice as a Spiritual Coach teaching how to hold sacred space, how to listen from the heart and trust my intuitive wisdom.

Atum is still a big part of my life, shows up in my dreams but the primary teaching role has passed to a man that I deem to be the wisest I have ever met. James Hollis is Jungian Analyst, writer and teacher. His framework for the spiritual life feels right. His belief that meaning is a much higher aspiration then happiness has profoundly influenced my work. His understanding of the powerful forces of the unconscious is second to none, yet he is the first person to say, “I know nothing about the unconscious, that’s why it is called the unconscious.” However he helps us understand that we can derive from dreams and the patterns of our lives the forces that unconsciously control our responses. His explanation of complexes, how they originate and how they affect us is a keystone to my understanding of self, limited as it may be.

His audio book, Through The Dark Wood is the best recipe for a meaningful exploration of our lives I have ever encountered. Up to this time I have listened to it ten times and each time I get something new.

I am the product of my great teachers, I feel amazingly blessed to have met each one of them on this earth walk. To quote the beautiful song written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley – “They are the wind beneath my wings.”


Learning the Gifts of Loosening Control

November 10, 2014
The Magical I am Harmony Garden

The Magical I am Harmony Garden

This journey began with a vivid dream then a series of apparently disconnected incidents that eventually combined into to a glorious mosaic. In the dream I am with my spiritual teacher Atum on a bus when I realize I have left my baggage behind customs. (Nothing symbolic about that!) I ask if I can see him later and he says, “no”. I feel disappointed but go about retrieving my bags. The dream segues and I am with him again but this time he is wearing a red and white polka dot jersey.

I know the dream is important. Atum when he features in my dreams is generally representative of the inner wisdom aspect of psyche. I work with my dream partner (for more http://www.soulclarity.com/Dream_partnering.pdf) and look at the key symbols, feelings and energy within the dream. The symbol represented by the red and white jersey is a delicious example of how the unconscious extracts a personal symbol that is only truly meaningful to me. Followers of the Tour de France will recognize that this jersey is awarded every day to the rider who earns King of the Mountains.

A crystal clear meaning emerges. There is some baggage connected to my history that needs to be cleared in order for me to move on to a higher plane of inner wisdom and intuitive understanding. However I have no idea what the “baggage behind customs” represents. All I can do is affirm, “show me the way” and wait on the will of heaven.

My attention shifts to a long driving trip I am planning to Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. I am planning to visit friends in Aspen, Santa Fe, and Mammoth Lakes. In between I want to visit Ghost Ranch (a wonderful retreat center in Northern New Mexico that I found last year), and Sedona in Arizona, where I love to camp and tour the sacred sites.

After confirming dates with my friends I begin to book my reservation in Sedona. There is a problem that is initially frustrating but then I hear a distinct message that I need to leave space in my trip and not plan so meticulously. Somewhat reluctantly I decide not to make any other reservations. Those of you who follow these reflections will know that my desire to plan comes from my need to control everything and that letting go will likely add to my anxiety.

So the day comes and I set off for the long drive to Aspen. This is not to be a travel blog; I cover the details extensively at www.hangin.wordpress.com. The inner journey insinuated into my consciousness on my second day in Aspen when I decided it was now timely to book the nights at Ghost Ranch. To my horror and frustration I could not get in; it was full. It was interesting to observe my reaction. Even though I had surrendered my need to make a reservation, I had a major attachment to going there. For a moment this wrench in my proverbial wheel threw me off centre.

Then I recalled the wisdom of allowing space and decided to see it as an opportunity leading me to research other options. I found a wonderful daylong steam train excursion in Southern Colorado with the romantic name “Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.” It followed an old mining route from Antonito to Chama crossing a high pass at Cumbres at 10,000 feet.

I became enthusiastic about the new possibility and decided to book a B and B in Antonito but when my totally valid credit card failed, I wondered if the universe had other plans. I surrendered once more and focused on enjoying Aspen. Unfortunately my friend’s wife Kathy was away in Paris with her daughter and I did not expect to see her but she decided to leave Sunday and they arrived home at about nine after a long day in the air.

She was upset that I was leaving the next morning and asked if I couldn’t stay another day. Her husband observed nonchalantly that my plans had collapsed anyway so I gave up the idea of the train ride to spend the next day with her. It became clear during the day that this was the reason my plans went awry. We had an exquisite day together visiting the monastery of Father Thomas Keaton in Snowmass, and other beautiful parts of the Aspen Valley while catching up on each other’s lives.

Kathy also provided the insight for the next step of unfolding trip. She acquainted me with the a town in Southern Colorado named Crestone and the adjacent area called Baca Grande where twenty-three spiritual groups had made their home thanks to the generosity of the land’s developers. This idea resonated immediately and my next destination seemed set.

It was an amazing day, crossing the continental divide over the 12,000-foot Independence Pass then gliding down to the high desert plateau below. I found Crestone with ease but the hotel was full. No problem, although I would not make Santa Fe I could stop en route. Baca Grande was a special place. I meditated in a Carmelite Monastery, walked around a Buddhist Chorten seven times But the highlight was an exquisite meditation garden called I am Harmony, created with an amazing variety of natural rocks and colourful crystals. There was even a labyrinth. I stayed over an hour contemplating at a series of mediation stations. It was so much more than I could have imagined and I soaked up the sweet energy and astonishing vibration of a truly mystical space.

Then as I left I realized, I could make it easily to Antonito before dark and as long as I did not mind completing my trip to Santa Fe in the dark the next day, I could also do the train ride. It was a magical moment; it felt like I could do it all. But as I reflect back the magic had just begun.

Full of my exciting adventure I arrived safely at my friend Robert’s shortly before eight at night. To my delight he asked me if I wanted to visit Christ in the Desert Monastery. I was ecstatic because not only had I wanted to go last year but it was also close to Ghost Ranch so I asked if we could make a stop there as well. I felt so pleased that I would even get to spend some time at my original destination. Everything seemed to be combining so sweetly into a perfect trip.

Christ in the Desert Monastery provided yet another magical experience. It is situated in the beautiful Chama valley set adjacent to the red rock mountains of the Colorado plateau. The natural beauty is breath taking; the church provided an inspiring opportunity for meditation but the real surprise was yet to come. Entering the reception I heard a woman say my name. At first I ignored it but finally I looked up and was astonished to see my friend Taj from Petaluma who I had met a year ago. Now here I was 1,500 miles from home, and there she was 1,250 miles from hers. To use the English expression I was truly “gobsmacked”.

She was conducting a retreat there but it appeared possible that we would both be in Santa Fe for the weekend so I agreed to call her the next day. Robert and I stopped briefly at Ghost Ranch; it was too brief a stay and better than nothing but he was hungry and the dining room was closed.

We stopped for lunch twenty minutes south in Abiquiu then headed back to Santa Fe. Here the first glitch in this amazing day emerged, I had left my credit card in Abiquiu. This meant a special trip back the next day to retrieve it. Fortunately they confirmed it was in the safe and I felt surprisingly relaxed and trusting but curious about why this had happened.

The pieces fell into place as I drove back the next day. I realized that how I really wanted to spend that day was to return to Ghost Ranch and hang out. I also discerned that I wanted to delay my departure from Santa Fe, spending this day retracing my steps was making everything seemed rushed. Suddenly I relaxed, smiling at the realization that because I had built space into my trip, I could now let go of Sedona. I felt a sense of relief flow through me, the mystery of forgetting my credit card felt purposeful rather than careless.

I enjoyed a wonderful day at Ghost Ranch, walking the labyrinth, visiting the sacred Camposanto memorial site and hiking to Chimney Rock where I strolled over 200 million year-old sedimentary rocks. Then on my return I called Taj and we agreed to meet in Santa Fe for tea.

It was sitting in the roof top garden at the top of the La Fonda hotel in downtown Santa Fe that the mystery cracked wide open for a glimpse of the numinous power of the universe over the events of my life. I was sharing two stories about my life with Taj. First about all the personal work I had done around the impact of control on my life then the dream that started this blog. As I concluded there was a pause and then she gently interjected, “you do realize these two things are connected?” I looked puzzled and she filled in the space between us – “the baggage behind customs is surely the work you have been doing on control.”

I was stunned. In the words if a beautiful song composed by my niece Amy Newton, “it all made sense for a moment.” This whole trip had been about loosening up my control and allowing the universe to magically intervene. The amazing synchronicity of meeting Taj brought everything to a perfect finale. Paying attention to the signs had allowed me to do so much more – spend a day with Kathy, visit Baco Grande, take a steam train excursion, visit both Ghost Ranch and the Monastery. Trusting my intuition had allowed me to have it all.

I glanced down almost expecting to find myself wearing a red and white polka dot jersey. Oh well not quite yet!


The Archetype of the Journeyer

February 14, 2013
This is the sixth in the series of workshops I have been taking on the Archetypes of Spiritual Guidance. The theme is the Journeyer which also translates to the pilgrim or the perhaps the explorer. I struggled a little bit with the framework that Atum utilized for this archetype. Basically we explored three possibilities. The first was the six realms from Tibetan Buddhism. These include: the Hell realm, realm of the hungry ghost, animal realm, human realm, first heavenly realm, second heavenly realm (realm of the Gods). The second was a lovely model for manifestation based on the Kabbala tradition. The model had four steps: inspiration, creative imagination, building and then living the experience. I have used various models from my own experience including the seven step model based on the seven days of creation that I learned at Unity Church as well as the adaptations I developed for decision-making and activating intuition. The major difference would be starting with intention as the first step. I did like the idea of living fully the manifested creation. A good reminder. The third model was based on the seven stages of Pir Vilayat. We used music to reflect the stages, I soon found myself overwhelmed as it seemed far too complex for my simple needs. I love creating sacred space through music; in some ways my choices would resemble those selected by Atum with the addition of the many forms of chanting. My evening contemplation practice focuses on three different forms – Gregorian, Buddhist and Sanscrit. The states or stages that Atum offered through Pir Vilayat were: the angelic, sacred, exultation, innocence, beauty, djinn and astral. I consider many of these to create sacred space and are part of the mystery of mystic experience but his differentiation did not resonate with me.
At the close of the workshop I realized that I want to develop a clear understanding of how I view the Journeyer archetype relative to my personal journey and to my client work. I realize it would all fit in the Human realm of the Tibetan tradition which is where I see the primary work of the journey of the Soul. I think that in the Hell realm and the addiction realm (hungry ghosts) there will be psychological issues that require resolution before entering individuation and spiritual coaching. In the animal realm people will not have reached a high enough level on Maslow’s hierarchy to evolve. Perhaps the model that most resonates for me in terms of the Journeyer is the Hero’s Journey espoused by Joseph Campbell. There are three primary transitions in the Hero’s Journey, each with a number of steps. It begins with Departure, followed by Initiation and finally Return. We may not encounter all steps in every journey but they provide important reference points both personally and with Spiritual Coaching Clients. At the conclusion of this reflection I have quoted from the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction web site which accurately reflects my memory of the Hero’s Journey that I first heard presented by Jean Houston many years ago.
As I concluded this reflection I realized there was one more piece I needed to add in terms of the Journey and Spiritual Coaching. From both my own exploration and my work with clients I have drawn some personal beliefs
The soul seeks experience, it is often not about outcomes, it is about the journey.
We are brought experiences to support our learning and to fulfill our highest good.
We are here to achieve both psychological and spiritual healing and the soul has the capacity to guide us to both.
We are supported best on this journey when we strive to balance the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our being.
Our primary responsibility is to work with intention and pay attention. The Soul will show the way however we must remember the Soul speaks its own language through symbol, metaphor, synchronicity, serendipity and dreams.
Manifesting in our lives is a co-creative process that begins with intention and flows into inspiration yet essentially it must always serve our highest good.
The Hero’s Journey.
Departure
The Call to Adventure
The call to adventure is the point in a person’s life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.
Refusal of the Call
Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
Supernatural Aid
Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.
The Crossing of the First Threshold
This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
The Belly of the Whale
The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person’s lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.
Inititation
The Road of Trials
The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
The Meeting with the Goddess
The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the “hieros gamos”, or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.
Woman as the Temptress
At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which as with the Meeting with the Goddess does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. For Campbell, however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
Atonement with the Father
In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power. For the transformation to take place, the person as he or she has been must be “killed” so that the new self can come into being. Sometime this killing is literal, and the earthly journey for that character is either over or moves into a different realm.
Apotheosis
To apotheosize is to deify. When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. This is a god-like state; the person is in heaven and beyond all strife. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return.
The Ultimate Boon
The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
Return
Refusal of the Return
So why, when all has been achieved, the ambrosia has been drunk, and we have conversed with the gods, why come back to normal life with all its cares and woes?
The Magic Flight
Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
Rescue from Without
Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience. Or perhaps the person doesn’t realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon.
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
Master of the Two Worlds
In myth, this step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
Freedom to Live
Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The Cosmic 2 x 4

December 10, 2012
cosmic2x4

The Cosmic 2 x 4, © Lorne Craig

Last weekend I did a workshop on Explore Your Dreams and Intuition in Victoria and began to reflect on the ways the Soul will attempt to help us course correct when we are not fulfilling our deeper purpose. At first a nudge, then a push and eventually if we are unable to adjust, out comes the gentle persuader otherwise known as the cosmic two by four. When exploring this gift of intuition, I like to recall Emily Dickenson’s insightful quote, “the sailor cannot see the north but knows the needle can”. The soul in this case is the needle and the ego the sailor but because they speak different languages, it is easy to head off in the wrong direction while assuming we are following our soul’s guidance. This is the moment the soul then will attempt to apply a course correction.

It all seems a little unfair at times. Once we commit to the journey of the Soul, we have to learn a new language. The Soul speaks in many languages including symbol, metaphor, synchronicity and serendipity but of course is always interpreted through an ego whose languages are thoughts, feelings and sensation. When working with intuition we always have to be on guard for the ego’s interpretation to suit its agenda and maintain its security. I have observed that when we try to interpret intuitive signs through the mind, we can easily get misled; it is then that the Soul may resort to getting our attention, at first gently and then with a little more persuasive power.

I have had many in my life from a broken ankle on Grouse Mountain to breaking down in Sault St. Marie. However more recently it was the encounter of my calf against a bus seat caused by a very erratic driver that painfully got my intention. I was returning from the workshop in Victoria and had just stood up to assert control over my suitcase and backpack when the bus lurched forward and threw me backwards. It could have been a lot worse as my body managed to regain the seat however my calf was given such a whack that momentarily I could not move. I hobbled off the bus and lurched cautiously home.

When something like this occurs, I realize there are a variety of possible causes: I have been a victim of a random act that has no cause, it is to slow me down for an unknown reason or the Soul is applying a course correction. In this situation rather than curse fate and forget about it, I commence an inquiry that normally starts with asking the question of one of the oracles or divination tools that I use. Once home I nestled down beside the fire and pulled out my I Ching. This is an ancient Chinese divination tool that requires you to throw three coins six times. These result in a hexagram that is ascribed a number that indicates the reading. As I threw the coins I knew there was something significant occurring. Four of my six throws consisted of three identical symbols (these are called changing lines), always a sign of an important message. The reading was 39 Obstruction – surrounded by obstructions you must first retreat, then seek direction of the sage. “what is called for is a retreat into self-examination and self-correction.” It seemed to confirm that a course correction was required.

It did not take me long to comprehend the intent of the incident. It will take a little explaining so bear with me. I love all things connected with Hobbits so when an ad for a free application showed up on my iPad, complete with the characters and music from the movies, I could not resist. It seemed like a harmless little strategy game balancing resources to build a village and forces to protect it. I began to play but over the weekend of the workshop I became somewhat obsessive. I played Saturday night after the workshop until 1.00 a.m. in the morning then played for three hours traveling home on the ferry. It had turned from a mild fascination to an obsession and I had no idea why.

The next morning I went to the gym and put on James Hollis’s remarkable audio book “Through the Dark Wood”. He was talking about addictions and suggested an idea that seemed to make sense of my recent experience. Addictions are basically anxiety management systems; we all have them; they only become problematic when the cost of the system gets to be too high. He posed some questions, “How do you reflexively react to stress? Where do you habitually go to when reacting to stress.” He observed that we all have them and they protects us from painful feelings and allow us to numb out, and to distract us from our own lives. The next part put my experience into context. Addictions have an obsessive compulsive component to them that show up when an idea imposes itself on our ego. We find ourselves doing something without really knowing why.

My game that started as a harmless exploration, had become the way I coped with the anxiety of the weekend. Harmless in itself however my soul wanted to remind me that it was time to be conscious and see it for what it had become. I haven’t banned myself from playing however I have become more conscious about it and avoiding the game playing me. The needle had spotted something that the sailor had missed.