A Zen story

 

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There is a story of a young, but dedicated Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find enlightenment?

 The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years .”

 The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?”

 “Well, twenty years.” replied the Master.

 “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student.

 “Thirty years,” replied the Master.

 “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

 “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.” replied the Master.

 We take our attention off the path in a number of ways. Even the chasing after a goal can distract and limit you. There’s nothing wrong with a goal, but whether it be happiness, peace, money, or enlightenment whenever you chase after something your focus is on “not enough” i.e. insufficiency versus abundance. So if your goal is to experience sufficiency and abundance of anything then shift your focus away from doing and toward being.

“He who knows enough is enough will always have enough.”

–Lao Tzu

You can’t get abundance, but you can “be” abundance i.e. you can tune into it. Focusing on what you don’t have automatically makes what you have “less-than”. A mind that’s focused on what it doesn’t have is always functioning in insufficiency. Abundance can’t gain a foothold in a mind tuned to “not enough”. First step: start acknowledging what you have. The second step: Start giving it away to others.

 

“Wherever I go, and whoever I encounter, I will bring them a gift. The gift may be a compliment, a flower, or a prayer. Today, I will give something to everyone I come into contact with, and so I will begin the process of circulating joy, wealth and affluence in my life and in the lives of others.”

–Deepak Chopra

 

“The measure of your life will not be in what you accumulate, but in what you give away.”

~Wayne Dyer

 

The truth is that life is like a mirror, it reflects what you put out there and boy have I learned that lesson yet again this week.

 

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Picture found on https://sites.google.com/site/briansatchwannabe/exhibition

 

 

 

Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting

Morpheus Speaks: This is the book 10 years in the making that many of you have been waiting for.

In it you will find a means for decoding the alchemy of dreams and the mysteries of the inner self. There are special sections on Native American, Aboriginal, shamanistic , pagan, and the Abrahamic and Asian religious traditions spread throughout the book.

The symbols of our dreams are like the paradoxical parables and koans of all religions. As with the questions presented by all holy ones our dreams are speaking to us in a way as to offer us an illumination of who and what we are. They are truly the road to our souls.

 

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In both Kindle and Soft Cover (click on this and preview and purchase on Amazon)

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Living Life Intentionally

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Not so long ago while waiting for my wife outside the pharmacy I was listening to a podcast discussion regarding the living of one’s life intentionally.

Intentionally? Like what? Intentional Parenting, was my first thought versus laizez faire (or unconscious) parenting. What would that look like? Do we take an interest in our children’s education other than letting them watch whatever they want on T.V. whenever they want (thus letting something else input their learning)? Do we allow a T.V. in their room? (what effect does that have on their learning?) Do we think we’ve done enough if we just say, “Do your homework!” or “Have you done your homework?” or do we sit down with them while they’re doing it? Or do we just let the teachers do it? Do we make sure there are books in the house and make sure that they see us reading? Do we read to them regularly, or do we just expect them to learn to read at school? What are our expectations for them and do we communicate those with them? Do we care what they want out of their life? How much do we even think about what we want for them?

How about Intentional Living versus just letting it happen? Do we watch what we eat and intentionally eat what is good for us? Is pre-prepared food good enough? Is exercise important? What about intentional recreation? Are we conscious of what we put into and onto our bodies and our children’s bodies? Do we honor life’s feedback or just resist it?

Then there’s Intentional Personal Development. Do we ask what would help us to be better people, or do we wait for it to just happen, or do we even care? Do we look to see what would be the responsible approach to our finances? Are we proactive with our finances, or just buy things on impulse? Do we practice Intentional Spending and Saving?

And what about intentional dreaming? Imagine going to bed every night with the intention of having a dream that helps us get in touch with our lives at a deeper level.

 

Imagine

 

Zen masters talk of a mindfulness walk, a fully conscious walk of intention. Imagine walking through life being aware of what’s going on around you. Imagine treating the one life you’ve got like a favored pastime, being as interested and engaged in it as possible. Imagine treating your life as something sacred.

Imagine a life lived with purpose. What would this require? Certainly at the very least it would require us to be more conscious of what’s going on both inside us as well as outside us. What if we treated our lives as a game plan, or a book i.e. a story? How would we want the story to go and how would we want it to end? Instead of walking through life letting others and circumstances write the story for us, how would we write it ourselves? What would that take? We already know who the hero is. What do we want for them?

What does your version of the Quest for the Golden Fleece look like?

One thing I’ve learned about writing stories is that it helps to have a good outline, or you’ll just wander around in the wilderness letting the story write the story. It also helps to stay on message and be consistent with my intended purpose. The other thing is that details are important; they can make the difference between a ho-hum story and a good read. Lives are like a story, the good one’s require intention.

A marriage of our disparate aspects

 

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This morning I received a comment from a reader who identified as being non-binary and was musing as to whether women in the current gender equalization movement were suppressing their feminine aspect in favor of their more powerful masculine.

The following is my answer to those comments:

I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. I too believe that women are suppressing their feminine aspect in lieu of strengthening their masculine. I don’t see this as unusual for any time an entrenched behavior is shifted it takes time for the new behavior to become more balanced, though I also don’t see a call for this balance coming from the movement.

I also believe we are seeing the effects of a gender change in roles that have rendered some males feeling emasculated and others becoming over masculinized as a compensatory effect. However, there is also a small minority that are empowered to seek out and reinforce their feminine aspects so as to be more balanced and effective in their lives. These are all to be expected as well.

Not sure what you mean by non-binary because this can encompass those that see themselves as neither male nor female, while others see themselves as both and still others who might want to be categorized as transgender. As for myself I identify as male but find a lot of shadow aspects to that identity and spend a lot of time learning to strengthen my more feminine aspects e.g., compassion, inclusiveness, intuition. I’m trying to include all sides of my personality and only move one or the other to dominance when occasions arise that may require it.

The concept of non-binary is as I understand it been around for millennia. A form of this can be found in many Native American tribes as an individual called a “berdache” or “two-spirit” person who was allowed to switch gender roles within the tribe and was considered normal and embraced. It should be noted that this was allowing another expression of the soul and spirit of the individual and perhaps even of the tribe and not necessarily a sexual expression.

Interestingly my spirit guides are feminine e.g., A she wolf, a woman, and an eagle. These dream beings usually come to me in when I am in a transition or high anxiety state in my waking life. I reveal all this to say that I don’t want to use a term such as non-binary when describing my inner self. I am looking toward a marriage of the disparate, and sometimes conflicted, parts of myself i.e., what Jung might have called a coniunctio or a synthesized polarity or culminating non-duality. The tension between these dualities is in my mind necessary in order to function as a whole being so I’m not looking to create an undifferentiated oneness even if that were possible while a living human. Another of the aspects that are by definition highly related to this marriage of aspects is that of the intellect and feeling. These can coexist but if one or the other is allowed to dominate a person can become behaviorally skewed.

The attempt to bring into harmony all aspects of the psyche is not unlike what the alchemists were really up to with all their experiments.

 

“It is the moral task of alchemy to bring the feminine, maternal background of the masculine psyche, seething with passions, into harmony with the principle of the spirit, truly a labor of Hercules!” –C.G. Jung

Unlocking the unconscious

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Why do I draw a distinction between the unconscious and the conscious self?

The short answer is because it’s a convenient way to talk about them. Actually all is consciousness. The unconscious is just the unaware part of the conscious mind i.e. the conscious is unconscious of the unconscious. Get it?

We perceive a lot of things during the day, but we are not necessarily aware of them. Some of this unconscious material affects the meaning we consciously give to the things that we perceive e.g., for someone who lives in Montana, or in the middle of Europe or in Russia the word “Palm” elicits a different meaning than it might for someone living in Hawaii, the Philippines, or California. This is because the word has been biased through ones experience.

In reality our past perceptions of our experiences and the decisions we’ve made about those experiences bias everything that we see in the present and often into the future. It’s a bias, or a conditioning, that has served humankind well over the millennia where we had to learn a set of responses to a set of experiences in such a way that it made our survival more likely.

But conditioned responses have a down-side because they remove us from the events of the moment. This might be good if we find ourselves in an emergency where we need to act quickly, but in any event where we need to act more thoughtfully it can have disastrous effects. This is especially true if we come to depend on a set of conditioned responses without thinking before reacting.

Old material stored in the unconscious can be stimulated if the conditions are right and then used as a means of responding to new situations. Sometimes this is appropriate, but much of the time it is not especially in the modern world where the response patterns required are significantly different than those needed by the cave man.

Ever notice how some things just seem to happen to you, over and over again i.e., choosing the wrong mate (girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife), or you make the same kind of bad decision over and over again, or negative things just seem to happen to you more frequently than to others? Why are you stuck in a dead-end job, you’re just as smart and talented as the next fellow? It may be because of conditioned and unconscious material buried in the unconscious mind.

This is why some folks go to therapy, or counselors, or special self-development seminars and workshops–to find out what is tripping them up. Others seek answers through meditation or their dreams. Dreams tap into the unconscious on a regular basis and provide a means to make the material conscious again. But the unconscious mind functions differently and not as rationally and more chaotically than the arguably more ordered and linear conscious mind so it takes a bit of work to decipher the meaning of its images.

A Cabinet of Wonder: Museum for the Soul

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Cabinets of Wonder, Cabinets of Curiosity, Wunderkammer, and Chambers of Art were sort of the first museums and often served their owners as a place for retreat and reflection, which is how I use my section of the Den where I do my writing and have my own cabinet.

They’ve been around in one form or the other (as whole rooms, warehouses, or in a piece of furniture) since about the 16th century. Click on this Wikipedia link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_curiosities ) and you can scroll through a number of different Cabinets and read a little background on the subject.

I also include this link to the Idols of the Cave that as it says in its introduction is, “a site devoted to the experience of Wonder, cultivated according to Renaissance rite and custom.” http://idolsofthecave.com/about-this-site/

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Over the years I’ve collected objects that move my imagination in some way and have placed many of them on display that I frequently just gaze at and let whatever thoughts, memories, or feelings surface as a result. They also seem to serve as food for the soul and help me enter into the imaginal realm. To that end I have collected poems and quotes that inspire and transport me into this realm as well.

The cabinet includes such items as Bismuth (the modern Philosophers Stone), Merlinite, Galena, Aragonite, Lapis, Amethyst, Ruby, Hematite, and translucent slices of agate. Fossils of Ammonites, trilobites, and orthoceras share the dishes of a brass apothecary scale with old compasses, sundials, antique pocket watches and a bronze hourglass crowding the corners.

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There’s a Theodolite surveyors instrument, an 1890s microscope, an armillary and orrerary (planetary models), a brass scale and assorted dragons including a bat skeleton that I’ve relabeled as “Draco Infantia (Latin for ‘baby dragon’). North American butterflies, dragonflies. Bats, a flying Dragon Lizard, and shells from the deepest regions of the ocean adorn the walls while some vintage laboratory glassware sits on a bookcase full of old books and artifacts that have caught my imagination over the years. A taxidermist’s black crow stands watch over a sculpture of old magnifying glasses that serves to remind me that it is the realm of the hardly noticed that can open a whole new world if one were to look more closely at life.

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I believe that anything that opens a link between our soul and us is worth exploring and experimenting with and our own expression of that can be immensely fulfilling.

Books that I’ve collected include the research of alchemists, psychotherapists, shaman, mystics, artists, poets, mythologists, physicists, theologians, fantasists, and holy books, collected dreams, and journals also share the crowded space along the wall and stacked upon the floor all representing a lifetime of interests.

 

 

 

How to forgive and let go

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“How do we forgive” was the question one reader posed as a comment at the end of a blog on letting go. I thought it a great question and realized that I had not really answered it in any of my ramblings on letting go of what binds us. Here’s my answer to this blog follower’s question, hopefully others will find some value in it as well:

M.,

Great question that really gets at the heart of the healing process. Firstly we need to look honestly at our own hurt our own pain our own sense of trust that has been damaged by someone’s actions. There’s a very strong desire to exact retribution, to even the score, and to make yourself right again by making the other person wrong and punishing them. When hurt it can often feel as though you have been made less than and that somehow you matter less than others.

If this sense of betrayal and denial of your worth becomes so intense that it drives you in an inherently negative and self-defeating direction it can harder to let go. So first of all look at your emotions and own them. Notice that when holding on to your anger, resentment and hurt you are a different person than you were before the affront you are feeling like someone you don’t really want to be.

So you must own your feelings around this and don’t give power to the offender by making them responsible for your feelings. The process is about changing something in you not in them because you can’t change them. You can only change you. If you’re waiting for them to say or do something to make right whatever wrong has been done then you’re handing them the power over your life. This goes for resentment too. Holding onto it also gives the power to the perpetrator. Hanging onto resentment just keeps the pot boiling inside of you. Resentment is a poison that keeps you stuck and unhappy and makes it imminently more difficult to move on. Essentially it makes you a prisoner to the situation.

Remember that to forgive doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to maintain a relationship with the perpetrator(s) i.e. to those who have been disloyal. Forgiveness is a way of setting you free. It’s about altering the mindset of “poor me” or “why me?” It also opens the door to learning from the experience which will open a channel to your own inner wisdom and will allow for healthier perspectives and possibilities to move forward.

I don’t know your circumstances but often those who have hurt others are hurting within themselves and this causes them to lash out. Here’s the tough part because it requires you to move outside your own wounded ego and your damaged sense of self to look deeper into what may be causing them to hurt you. Try, without any expectation on your part of them accepting their wrongdoing, to give them the opportunity to look into their own behavior. This requires an act of caring for another human being and takes you out of your wounded self. Often to see that it was another wounded self that caused you harm can have a healing effect for you. And that’s what forgiveness is mostly about, the healing of you.

It takes confidence, bravery and strength to forgive and allows us to adapt and makes us more resilient so as to help the next time we are wronged (and there will be many next times). In so many ways the process of forgiveness is an act of love for yourself. it’s a way of standing up for yourself and saying that “I don’t deserve this” and that “I am strong enough to own what has happened and then take control of where I am going from here”.

Remember also, M., that you do not have to do this alone. There are many trained facilitators and counselors who can help you with the process of forgiveness. If you want help with your process try Googling “therapists who can help with the forgiveness process” and research what you get.

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”

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Its not nice to mess WITH MOTHER NATURE
by FrenzySadist
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Fan Art / Manga & Anime / Traditional / Books & Novels©2013-2019 FrenzySadist

My wife and I were talking about an old television commercial about how a new margarine tasted so much like butter and the main character dressed as Mother Nature herself exclaimed, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”. This got me to thinking about our troubled relationship with nature and that seems to have led me to a dream later that night.

It was a dream full of ruins, tidal waves, death and destruction, oceans turning into deserts, fires raging across the globe– an apocalypse, perhaps, but one of our own making, not God’s.

The planet does not need us in order to survive. We need it, so why are we killing it? Are we that arrogant that we think we can do whatever we want with it and that that won’t negatively affect the ability of the planet to sustain us?

The planet is like a spaceship hurtling through space. Though it isn’t the primary purpose of the ship, it gives us a means to feed and water ourselves, keep us protected from the freezing temperatures of space and provides us with oxygen to breathe. That’s all well and good and it’s all incidental to the journey that spaceship Earth is on i.e. we can use it as long as we behave ourselves, but this ship is self-regulating and when something threatens it will fix the problem so as to continue the journey. And the “fix” could be accomplished by getting rid of the part that is causing the trouble and replace it with something more reliable.

I think we better stop being the problem that needs to be fixed perhaps we too need to be more self-regulating in a more harmonious way with this planetary ship we’re all traveling on?

Certain self-serving elements have turned the plea for a sustainable economy into a political tool. This only distracts those easily distracted in order that they may be manipulated to support an unsustainable agenda, the unfettered domination of the few over the many. They’ve also developed a profound ignorance of what it takes to sustain a livable eco-culture and it is this ignorance that allows them to ignore the evidence that they are gravely affecting the ability of the ecosystem to sustain us, all of us. Their greed and obsession with the need to control is choking the planet. But the planet will retaliate and either reduce or exterminate the threat– the bigger the threat, the bigger the reduction.

Perhaps it’s time the easily distracted woke up from their stupor, their self-created delusions, and say “enough is enough”. The planet doesn’t care about our greed, our politics, our ignorance, our beliefs, our religions, what we want or don’t want, or our self-serving ignorance. If we become too much a problem for it we will go the way of other species who couldn’t adapt to it’s primary goal, sustainability i.e. perpetuation of itself with or without us.

Bottom line, the planet doesn’t need us to survive, but we might be providing it reason to get rid of us in order for it to survive.

So what to do…well, might you want to hold the big picture in mind while you act on local needs and initiatives, as local as what goes into your dinner and into your garbage? Think about it with only minor discomforts, you can actually save the world!

The healing of the anima/animus: So how do you step outside the trap of the box you’ve gotten yourself into?

 

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I’ve been talking in class about the rational, concrete and patriarchal world we live in i.e. the cultural-emotional “box” we live in– the myth that informs and directs how we live our lives and react to our environment.

The question that came up for me when I first realized that the box even existed was, “Okay, how do I get outside it?” which is a typical male response to any problem. I’ve been working on that for over 35 years now. At first all my efforts were for naught because I didn’t really understand the parameters of the box (didn’t know where the walls began and ended) so everything I did was within the context of the box i.e. more box stuff. When I realized that it was I who was creating the box, albeit in partnership with the society I was living in, I began the task of tracking down what I was doing and why, in other words, “what purpose did my behaviors have for the life I was living?”

In my case it was about maintaining and protecting the persona (my presentation to myself and to the world of who I was or at least wanted to think I was) and not dealing with the hurts in my life– most of them gained during the experience of being parented either by my mother and father or the other authority figures in my life, that was pretty much all adults, though there were certain children I gave that power to as well e.g. some bullies, girls I was in love with and who demeaned it, boys I looked up to who ignored me or taunted me with their arrogance.

These hurts are real, though the patriarchal society might say, “Snap out of it you wuss* and get on with it!” To the degree that I didn’t honor the reality of the feelings, of the emotions, is the degree to which they went underground into the subconscious and then grew until they began to effect not only how I viewed myself, but my world perspective and how I reacted to my experiences, in other words, how the material I shoved into the subconscious took over the running of my life.

So how do we begin stepping outside the box we’ve built for ourselves?

Here are a few suggestions that have helped me along the way:

  • Do something you thought that you couldn’t do– perhaps even something you were afraid to do.
  • Read poetry, fantasy, fairytales, ancient mythology**. Step outside the rational, concrete and patriarchal world and into the symbolic and mythic.
  • Become more conscious of your own myth, the story of your own life.
  • Become more receptive to your own inner environment.
  • When you see someone and you’re finding yourself judging them don’t make that judgment real, just notice that you’re judging. Chances are the judgment has nothing to do with them and far more to do with you.
  • Have your feelings, don’t let them have you i.e. don’t become them. Notice them without doing anything with them, don’t resist them***just experience them without judging them.
  • Notice what the circumstances are associated with your feelings. For example, what’s happening when they show up? Remember to just notice.
  • When you reflect upon an early emotional injury (usually recalled when a similar circumstance shows up in your current life) what do you do with the hurt e.g. do you automatically let the ‘perpetrator’ off the hook by taking some or all of the blame? Try letting the emotional experience play out without doing anything with it, don’t even analyze it, just have it. Don’t make it any more solid than it is by either agreeing with it or resisting it.
  • When having a feeling or emotion notice what’s happening in your body. Do you feel tightness anywhere? Has anything happened to your breathing? Are your hands clenched? How do your arms feel? Check your neck, back, chest and face, anything happening there?
  • Keeping our emotional injuries bottled up regardless of their level of trauma i.e. their degree of severity, allows them to fester and grow. Frequently they will find a form of outward expression through the body i.e. through over or under weight, migraine headaches, debilitating pains, nightmares, or stomach ailments– to which the patriarchal medical response is to prescribe a pill, or to tell you it’s “all in your head” and not real.

When I was working full time as an administrator the level of stress that had to be dealt with and endured on a regular basis made life very difficult over time. Eventually I developed pain in my right shoulder that became so painful that it could not be endured and totally incapacitated my use of that arm and severely affected my ability to do my job.

Medically I was sent to physical therapists, chiropractors and eventually was given cortisone shots to reduce the pain and inflammation. The shots worked for a while but eventually the pain returned and sometimes moved to another part of my body such as the neck or lower back. Basically I was ignoring the messages of my body and soldiering on like the Great Patriarch said I must.

For the last two years before I permanently retired I was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s office. Within a month after I retired and I was able to reflect upon all the emotional material that I couldn’t see my way through while in the trenches, the pains disappeared, never to return.

As with all myths there are ‘turning points’, those shifts in personal awareness and perspectives of the hero (in this case, you). Those who take the mythic journey within themselves will also experience these shifts and over time become less dominated by their subconscious and more able to live a life of true conscious ‘free-will’.

It is a fact of life that when all seems the most hopeless and becomes like wandering a wasteland that the stage is set for transformation. Up until then the ego, the center of who we think we are, sustains the lie that all is well and that material success and rational living are the only goals in life.

So what to do?

Women in this society need to acknowledge their inner strength through the development of their animus (inner masculine) so as to forge their own voice and identity. Men on the other hand need to nurture their anima, or inner feminine, so as to polish the sharp edges of their voice and to ensure that it is their voice and not that of another who is speaking for them.

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*a very patriarchal colloquialism implying that anyone who looks too closely at their emotions and inner self is being too girly, i.e. not rational and manly.

**a symbolic, non rational, non concrete activity

resisting is the best way to keep something stuck and growing into something bigger.

Of Two Minds

 

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“I’m of two minds” is a phrase often heard when someone has not made up their mind about something or believe that something is neither this or that but perhaps a melding of both. But this phrase also describes perfectly the relationship between dreams and waking life.

We know today that the brain functions in a unified way but that its two hemispheres have somewhat different inputs to that functioning. Various modern technologies have shown us that dreaming often takes place in the right hemisphere of the brain, though there are inputs from the left. During REM sleep the rational left hemisphere becomes less dominant and the more metaphorical right side of the brain comes to the forefront.

During wakefulness the left side is involved in language presentation and interpretation while the right brain is more involved in the emotional interpretation of sensory input and the right brain also has language input through the emotions evoked by words e.g. intonation (pitch, rhythm and tone)1.

The left side tends to be linear and concrete in its interpretation of sensory input while the right tends2 to be as I said earlier to be more metaphorical and thus uses images of everyday objects in a different way that often leads to a different perspective on things and provides new and perhaps heretofore unknown information.

Training the brain to interpret sensory information in only one way, such as what we do in our schools, can actually limit the brain’s overall functioning and thus its ultimate usefulness. The logical and often concrete thinking process of the left brain frequently ignores the personal meaning and importance of objects, words and experiences of the individual, the right brain information that often affects our decisions in our waking life, though unconsciously for we tend to be ignorant of their existence in a left-brain dominant world.

Attention to dreams and the openness to their contribution can be transformational to the individual and produce incredible results toward the success of everyday living.

As a diagnostician my work with children in a therapeutic setting literally took off when I started adding their dream material to the mix of standardized psychological testing in my tool-kit. My understanding of what was affecting the kids from their personal perspective of their world took on a whole new dimension that was quite useful in their therapeutic intervention.

Training kids at an early level to be conscious of all the available inputs to their experience and understanding of the world they live in ought to be part of any educational curriculum i.e. there is more internal wisdom in each of us than can be found in a dictionary or on-line encyclopedia or Google search. Standard educational approaches are needed and most useful but sorely limited when an entire resource uniquely individual is ignored.

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1This is not necessarily true for all languages in that some do not use pitch to distinguish words.

2I use “tend” because neither side of the brain is all of one way of functioning.