The Soul’s Journey Moving Healing from the Head to the Heart

June 16, 2022

 A son who showed up like a mirror reflecting all his worst fears.

A left hook, his son crumpled on the kitchen floor.

Tortured by clinging to a faith that betrayed him.

A restless angry God that he struggled to love.

And the fear! And the fear!

Haunting him.

An insidious thought he could never truly own.

“Perhaps I am wrong”

Part of my morning practice is to read a page or two from James Hollis’s remarkable book Hauntings. On this particular day he was suggesting that everyone’s life has a core complex, a subterranean, archaic reflex that can regularly impact our current reactions and behaviours. I have known for a while that my own core complex has been my relationship with my father. It could colour my reaction to many situations causing either fight or flight depending on the trigger – similar responses that my father had often triggered.

I have learned how to live with this conflict; the wound is always there but how I react to it can be managed. This was not always the case as I remember once getting fired because in the moment I yelled at my boss “you don’t have a constructive bone in your body” when I thought he was being unduly critical. This was  was actually a child’s response to his father rather than a reasoned adult to his superior. My past could haunt my present in a way that at the time I seemed unable to control.

Much time has passed since then and I have done an inordinate amount of exploration around my relationship with my dad and have over time learned to forgive him, believing that he had done the best he could under the circumstances. I felt curious about why I was revisiting this once again when I felt that I had completed my work around this issue.

Hollis was friends with the great poet Stephen Dunn who gave permission to share his story of his relationship with his father where a secret had permeated family life causing ongoing friction in the household and a complex to develop around secrecy. I sensed that much of Stephen’s healing came from writing about this. In a poem titled The Ghost, he writes, “An outgoing man, my father once held back a truth that would have rescued him from sadness. Now he roams my inheritance in every word I hear him speak. He vanishes, returns, no place for him in this entire world.”

Hollis suggests that only dialogue with such “stuff” provides release. I reflected on my journey and all the complexities derived from a father who could not accept his son the way he was. My disbelief in God at the age of 14 had become a wall as impenetrable as the ideological iron curtain that had developed between the west and the USSR after the war. Our relationship was forever strained as a result. He accused me as being “willful” as though it was a deliberate choice made to offend him.

As I mused about the past, I noticed words flowing up from somewhere deep within. Words, then phrases, then sentences that seemed to morph independent of the thinker into a poem. I stopped in wonder and surprise at what seemed a miracle. As I read the words I sensed I understood my father for the first time. Then I felt a piece of my personal puzzle slip into place reminding me of Dorriane Laux’s exquisite poem Break. “ we put the puzzle together piece by piece loving how each curved notch fits so sweetly with another.“

I realized that underneath this core complex I had unconsciously wanted to know why my father could not love me unconditionally. As I read the poem I could see how impossible I would be for him to express love to someone who mirrored all his worst fears. Suddenly I felt more at peace. It was as though the healing had shifted from my head to my heart.


The Soul’s Journey- Equanimity

December 2, 2021

May we dwell in the great equanimity free, from passion, aggression and prejudice. Pema Chodren

Failed again – my equanimity had been shattered! I walked home disconsolately having been refused admission to the movie theatre because I offered a photo of my driver’s license as support for my vaccine passport. Both were on my phone however according to the strict letter of the law only the original driver’s license is acceptable of proof of identity. Most places have allowed me to use the photo including a cinema in the same chain but not this theatre. ‘The law is an ass”, I mumbled to myself while reluctantly accepting I had not maintained equanimity under the stress of not being admitted.

However by the time I got home which was a pleasant six-minute walk on an urban greenway in sunshine. my equanimity was restored. It gave me a chance to pick up my glasses that I had previously forgotten and I suspected all I would miss was the commercials.

Equanimity is one of what the Buddha called the Four Immeasurables. The others are loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy. One of my daily intentions is to sustain these beautiful attributes and it has proved much more challenging than it sounds.

I was soon tested again as when I got back and presented my license as I was still refused entry. The attendant now wanted to scan my vaccine passport again pretending she had never seem me before. Frustration returned, it seemed more like the mad hatters tea party than real life. I think she wanted to show me who was boss as I had asked for the manager last time. Frustrated I pulled up my vaccine passport and grumbled “Bureaucracy! You missed your calling”. She was more graceful than I deserved and this actually made me feel worse.

I have learned that what destroys equanimity are complexes. This is the term C.G. Jung used to describe a structure generated by history that carries a quantum of energy. Under certain stimulus this energy rushes up like a subway train and possesses the present moment. There seems to be an inner script that creates a reaction to a given situation that is often illogical and unreasonable.

I already could see I had not acted with the grace I would have liked and clearly I had not lived up to my self-professed desire to stay in a state of equanimity no matter what life threw at me. But why had this episode triggered a complex? I noticed an energy flooding my body when she refused me admission.

In the moment I react at her despite knowing she is doing her job and following the instructions she has been given.  Why does this feel so much more? As I journal about this I see the connection to the past. It is like a time machine transporting me to another place. My father is telling me I can’t go to a movie because Sunday is the Sabbath and we must keep it holy. The same type of unreasonable restriction and this same energy bubbles forth in the lobby of a cinema.

So why the comment on bureaucracy that I see clearly was passive aggressive? Perhaps it represents a minor attempt to have a voice, perhaps even an attempt to confront the “powerful other.” My learned strategies as a child combined compliance, confrontation and escape. As an adult I could never be sure which coping mechanism would show up. Perhaps a combination of the three is to be passive aggressive.

Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis suggests, “What is not conscious has a larger influence on us most of the time than that which is conscious. What is not rendered conscious will continue to control us and that which becomes conscious calls us to accountability.”

I guess next time I should take my drivers license with me!


The Soul’s Journey – Slender Threads

November 13, 2021

I came across this term ‘slender threads’ in Jungian psychologist Robert Johnson’s compelling autobiography titled “Balancing heaven and earth”. He describes them as a kind of connective tissue linking one experience to the next through synchronistic events. He went much further in describing that he felt his own life was somehow inspired, guided, and even managed by unseen forces outside his control. He admits this may seem an audacious notion in this time. He suggested that whether we call it fate, destiny, or the hand of God, slender threads are at work bringing coherence and continuity to our lives. He says that over time they weave a remarkable tapestry.

I completely related to this concept. In hindsight I look back over my life and see what appears to be an unseen hand maneuvering circumstances to result in a certain path. Now as a more cynical friend of mine observed it could’ve just been the choices I made that made it look that way. However I believe it’s more than that. You can’t create synchronicity by will, it just happens. Whether it comes from some unexplained external force or perhaps it is an aspect of my own unconscious is still a mystery to me. But I have learned I don’t need to understand in order to appreciate. I came across a wonderful quote by psychiatrist and theologian Gerald May who suggested that “the unique reality of mystery is that mystery can be experienced, appreciated, and even lived without being understood.”

Recently I introduced this concept to my spiritual guidance group and to help illustrate it I reviewed the series of improbable threads that resulted in a senior advertising executive – a workaholic, an atheist, entirely focused on his own wants and needs to become a spiritual coach.

It began with an entirely unwelcome and unexpected opportunity at work. The background was that someone had been recruited to take on a particular job with a client who was unhappy with the existing management supervisor. It was the single largest account that the agency had and was engaged in a competitive review. The new person did not show up and there was a desperate need to fill the role and the only warm body available was me. I was asked to leave the clients that I managed which included Chevron, Pharmasave, Molson, Blackcomb Mountain and BC Tourism and turn them over to my colleague. To me it felt a bit like leaving the safety of my cruise ship and being asked to take over on the Titanic as the captain had abandoned ship. I politely declined hoping that would be that however I was on the receiving end of a severe tirade. “Your cushy life is over whether you like it or not.” Fortunately I had an obligation at the dentist that gave me a chance to lick my wounds.

At the dentist I thought of a compromise- I would agree to take over the additional account in addition to everything else I already controlled; in return I would be promoted to director of client services and they had to trust me to manage the situation. Hopefully this would safeguard me against failure and ensure my future promotion as my boss was going to retire.

Somewhat to my surprise and perhaps disappointment my foolhardy proposal was accepted and the die was cast. The good news is that I was successful at the new job, (somewhat to the surprise of the COO who told me a year later that he never really thought I was the right person for the job). The bad news was that one year later this bizarre transition had a completely unexpected consequence. The new client decided to move their head office from beautiful Vancouver to Calgary and wanted me to provide service in that city. I flatly refused to move but offered a compromise. I would spend three days of each week away from Vancouver. So I had a flat in Calgary, an office in both cities and every Tuesday afternoon I would head to the airport returning on Friday. It was a crazy way to live and had unforeseen consequences.

I will draw a veil over the events in Calgary due to a sense of shame and embarrassment. Suffice it to say that it offered fertile ground for my mid-life crisis and within two years I had quit my job, my wife and friends, booked two first class tickets around the world and went traveling for a year with my much younger girl friend.

It was an amazing if challenging experience and at some time during the trip, actually in Berne in Switzerland, we agreed that if we survived the year together we would get married. Somehow we did but it seemed touch and at times. I learned just how much a bad hairdo can impact someone. However we did not live happily ever after. The final thread was that after eighteen months of marriage she told me the relationship was over. I found myself abandoned, all my plans trashed and feeling without hope for the future. Yet as many Jungian analysts would predict this traumatic experience resulted in a complete re-evaluation of my life and the start of yet another unlikely journey that eventually resulted in me becoming a spiritual coach.

The improbable slender threads: the new hire not turning up, the acceptance of my audacious offer, the move to Calgary, the world trip then her leaving me. – all leading to a complete transformation. Was this the fulfillment of a plan or just a series of coincidences? Perhaps it saved my life. An astrologer said that my chart indicated that if I had failed to change my life I could have “left the body” in my fifties.

One of the members of my group could completely relate to this concept as she looked back on her own long life and realized that certain events concerning relationships that were completely beyond her control led to an amazing life of service to children and their families in Vancouver’s Children’s Hospital.

A few years ago I attended a conference in Petaluma, California where three teachers presented their stories. Each one of them observed on the power of this guiding force to positively effect their unfolding lives. As Jungian analyst and author James Hollis commented, “If we open to this possibility of an invisible and dynamically active world, we then live in a mystery anew, a prospect both inviting and daunting.”


The Soul’s Journey – Tending To The Soul

October 26, 2021

“Perhaps it is time for me stop seeing the soul as a thing but as wonderful metaphor for my deepest self to support meaning and development on life’s journey. Soul becomes assumed based on the principles of depth psychology but requires attention to flourish. I encountered something I wrote regarding the soul back in 2013 that inspired me long before this blog, “as you feed me so shall I blossom.” It now has a new sense of mystery attached to it. So with a renewed sense of confidence I can begin to write again.”

So with this insight and inspiration on soul I freed myself from the anchor that had been holding me back and I began to write again. Reviewing my previous blog raised some curiosity about the past 25-years. I realized that I had begun attending to the soul without really knowing it. In 1993 I began to meditate more as a tool of stress management than anything else yet I sense it stimulated something deep within me. From that time on I began to experience features of an inner life I had never previously imagined. In hindsight I believe it began a process of awakening my intuition.

Julia Cameron in her beautiful book Blessings states, “Synchronicity, coincidence, reinforcement and serendipity – these are friendly companions that speak to me clearly of higher realms”. I would add to this dreams, metaphor, signs and symbols. Since I began this journey of finding meaning in my life, I have counted over thirty such experiences that have reinforced my belief in our inner guidance system and helped guide me onward. (Ironically before 1993 I have almost no recollection of such things although I suspect they may have occurred and I was unaware.) Some were so powerful like my psychic love affair that they had long lasting impact. I have kept a record of them all and title them Moments of Awe and Wonder. Each became a reinforcement and affirmation of earlier experiences and they continue to inspire me during times of confusion.

I realize it all starts by having an intention but then requires paying attention. They became a living experience of John O’Donahue’s perspective that if we allow time for soul we will come to a sense of its dark and luminous depth. What started with meditation expanded to include studying dreams, exploring signs and synchronicity, walking in appreciation of beauty, reading poetry, listening to sacred music, visiting sacred spaces, contemplation, soul focused retreats, reading oracles, morning reading and contemplation on being and writing on soul and the deep heart.

As I began to pay attention, more and more of the magical and mysterious began to show up. Some seemed inconsequential but others more powerful. What they all had in common was that they made no sense to my rational thinking. As James Hollis once observed, ” my rational side is still confounded by these offenses to our Western notions of causality”.

I have learned to accept there are certain rules to these experiences,

1) They are generally to be acknowledged as supportive of my inner journey not the ego’s desires. I don’t own them; they are numinous in that they approach me. I have to let go of any expectations that I am the architect or that I create them.

2) As I experience them rather than create them, I must accept them as gifts to be appreciated and released. They become affirmations on the amazing nature of the mystery and help me to accept that which makes no sense to my rational mind.

3) They can provide guidance and support at various stages of the journey yet they are temporary signposts. Once the gift has been received and acknowledged they don’t return in the same form.

4) No-one can really learn from another’s mystical experiences. I sense that each of us to honour the wisdom of our own deeper selves.


The Soul’s Journey – The Lens We Look Through

September 24, 2021

Many, many years ago I underwent a personal transformation part of which was adopting a pair of circular-lensed, blue tinted spectacles similar to those worn by John Lennon. Of course from that point on, everything I viewed had a blue tinge. I enjoyed seeing the world differently to everyone else and they made me feel cool.

Recently I have begun to assess the metaphysical lens I wear and how it impacts the way I see the world. I realize this impacts everything I perceive and to complicate this the information that I receive is tinted by this lens. In addition I begin to unconsciously screen out that which is not consistent with what the lens is showing me. I begin to behave the way the algorithms of the social networking organizations work – they feed you only that which is consistent with the views you already hold. I can only see that which is “blue”. In this way I begin to assume “reality” is the way I perceive it. My mind becomes closed to alternative perspectives and views.

This danger was exposed during COVID-19. I am fortunate enough to have a friend who became my “bubble partner” for regular walks. He was one of the few people I met consistently through COVID-19 and of course COVID-19. was a matter for discussion each time we met.

At first our views seemed entirely consistent. We feared loss of our individual rights. We thought the pandemic was initially over-stated. As the cases dropped we both thought the authorities were imposing too many restrictions. We thought the media was biased and exaggerated fear and trepidation by announcing cases, deaths and hospitalization on every news broadcast. We both thought it was time to let COVID-19. be treated as nothing more than a severe influenza.

Then as phase 2 took hold last year we began to shift apart. I welcomed vaccines; he, I believe, felt coerced into something he was not sure was necessary. He believed that the key to the future was finding treatments, while I wanted Covid-19 to disappear. He found a lot of informed support for his point of view while I began to resist reading or hearing what he had found.

Then we entered this bizarre summer of 2021 where cases began to increase despite dramatic success with vaccinations. The hospitalizations began to grow; those in intensive care were no longer old people and it was described as a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The concept of vaccine passports were developed. I was all in favour. I agreed with our premier who rejected the idea he was removing people’s rights rather he was granting rights to those who had been vaccinated because they were protecting their fellow citizens.

He on the other hand was horrified that this discriminated against the vulnerable, and that the real solution was finding effective treatments for those infected. Each week we seemed a little further apart. Then it struck me our lenses had become so different. Mine was blue and perhaps his was pink. Each of us seemed to find differing information to support our views.

I heard the anti-vax demonstrations were aggressive, he said they were peaceful. He determined that vitamin D helped prevent COVID-19. but for every paper he quoted I could find one that said the opposite. It was then I realized the danger of not removing my lens to view all the information. If I failed to consider both sides of the argument then I would just feed my preconceptions.

He is a much more diligent researcher than me but his research generally supported his point of view however that did not mean it did not have some relevance or truth. For example the Mayo clinic while questioning Vitamin D effectiveness also states, “In addition, vitamin D deficiency is common in the United States, particularly among Hispanic and Black people. These groups have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19″ (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/expert-answers/coronavirus-and-vitamin-d/faq-20493088”)

Also some reputable authorities claim that the much abused and derided Ivermectin can be an effective counter to COVID-19.  in appropriate cases with the right dose. (https://journals.lww.com/americantherapeutics/fulltext/2021/08000/ivermectin_for_prevention_and_treatment_of.7.aspx)

I realize that viewing any situation through my lens restricts my viewpoint. I have learned that we unconsciously feed our own biases and predispositions.

My friend’s diligence has taught me not that he is always right but that I must open my mind to alternative possibilities. We must learn to expand our horizons or we become restricted and limited in our views. As author Craig Lounsbrough so elegantly states:

“If I see only my bias, I have surrendered to a single myopic lens through which to view the world. If I dare to surrender my bias, I will spend the rest of my life seeing the world and throwing away lenses.”Author: Craig D. Lounsbrough


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.


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.


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