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!
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.
*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.
I had a dream the other night that seemed to be pointing to my oft feelings of low self-worth. In the dream I was both chasing and being chased and never getting to my goal.
Why is it so important to see my own worth, my own value, my own strengths? If something needs doing and I know intuitively that I can contribute and am dedicated to act on that intuition does it make any difference if I think I’ve got little or nothing to offer?
It seems to me that low self-worth is only important if I use it as an excuse to not contribute or to not act. Knowing at some level that I know something that can on occasion help others ought to be enough. Knowing that there’s something within me that can contribute if I let it seems to be more important than whether I feel good about it or about myself. I realize that it steals some part of my sense of aliveness but so what? If what I’m being enlivens another it might be enough. The satisfaction of having given from myself outside myself ought to be enough.
I’m tired of chasing self-worth. Sometimes I catch it but have never been able to hold onto it for very long. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to keep probably because I don’t ever think it’s real. Trying to attach certain talents to a sense of self-worth also seems a waste of time. I can see my talents or at least what I think are talents in the moment and I’m freely willing to give them away if necessary. What determines what’s necessary seems to be something deep inside, something other than my ego-self, i.e. that part of me that craves self-worth.
It is this deeper me that I’ve learned to trust. Whether that makes me a talented person of some worth seems irrelevant. Chasing it doesn’t seem to change my overall estimation of self so why bother? I know when I have something to give and can only hope that when given it is useful. Trying to get acknowledgment for the giving of something useful is also futile for my ego won’t accept it anyway, it’s primed only to reject. It’s an interesting creature this ego-self in that it longs to be accepted and yet rejects it when it comes around. It’s kind of like a self-involved and petty dictator.
Because I’ve learned that others need to know that their gifts to others or me have been received, welcomed, and made useful in order to feel complete I’ll acknowledge them. However, as you can guess in my case a gift of “Good work, Bob” or “you did a great job” will be acknowledged outwardly but almost never believed or if momentarily believed not held onto. The Bob Ego-self doesn’t believe it’s of much or any value. However, the “Deeper-Bob” knows otherwise so this is what I try to operate out of. When I operate out of Deeper-Bob incredible things can and do happen.
When I stop chasing my own metaphorical tail life becomes much less stressful.
“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.
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.
My last blog of the year is on flowers and their meaning in dreams.
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts. There’s fennel for you, and columbines—There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference—There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. “
–In Shakespeare’s Hamlet
On a walk with my wife early this summer I was admiring all the gardens along our route, not just the quality of the landscaping but the profusion of flowers as well. While bending down to take in the fragrance of a rose I recalled an earlier dream where a rose played a prominent part. This got me to thinking about flowers in general and the special place they have in all our lives and dreams.
We adorn our church sanctuaries with flowers, brides carry a bouquet of flowers as they walk down the aisle and the space is often covered in flowers. The poinsettia shows up at Christmas, the lily makes an entrance at the Christian celebration of Easter, and the Lotus is divine, symbolic of creation. Gods and goddesses sit upon the Lotus that symbolizes purity and raising them above the common, muddy existence of desire and attachment.
Flowers are at our funerals, our graves, our love affairs, our weddings, on national and regional flags, significant celebrations, and we even name our children after them is it any wonder that they also show up in our dreams?
Though today flowers tend to be just pretty emblems of occasion they once had great social and spiritual meaning.
Though Roses may mean a declaration of love today, Marigolds once held that position. Basil is pretty much an aromatic herb for many of us, but for many Indians it is the symbol for the god Vishnu and can be found in a place of honor in their family gardens. Forget-me-nots are the flower of Pisces from the Zodiac, the Yellow Wattle is symbolic of Australia, Tulips are symbolic of Sagittarius and heralds of Spring, and Daisies perfectly symbolize young innocence.
Carl Jung, the 20th century Swiss psychiatrist and guru of dreams saw the rose as representing the Mandala, a symbol of the unconscious self. He thought that dreams with roses were very spiritual in nature and that they were the equivalent of the lotus signifying transformation.
Across the millennia people have assigned mythical and religious meaning to flowers. For example, Lilies might represent the Trinity or the Virgin Mary, Easter, rebirth, or royalty (as in the fleur di lis).
The morning-glory is appropriately named, because the flower blooms in the morning and dies by the afternoon. Georgia O’Keeffe brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted the viewer to look closely at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions. Many of her paintings are considered by some to be spiritual in nature, though some see many of them as sexual so I’m not sure how successful she was at having people see her paintings without preconceived notions. However, the concept of “seeing” something with no preconceived notions is often the Eastern way of seeing a thing’s true nature.
Some time ago for a men’s group I agreed to give an overview of Buddhism. Now, what I know about Buddhism you could fit in a shot glass and still have room left for the shot. But I didn’t let that stop me, primarily because I wanted to learn something and have long since discovered that it is through the teaching of something that I learn best. What I learned is that by letting go of all my notions about what is real I could quite possibly gain a sense of true happiness.
Self-trust is a theme here as is forgiveness and being responsible–to act as though you are responsible for all there is. Want a good job? Want a good relationship? Want peace in the world? Who’s responsible for that? “But I can’t be responsible for all that!” You might cry. No you can’t, if you define responsibility as a burden, or as blame, or if your image of yourself is too small to include it. If your view of the world is that there is you and then there is everything else, then you are most definitely outnumbered. But what if you held yourself as bigger than your image?
Now, I’m not talking about your ego-image, that’s always small and can only be inflated through and by itself, including only itself, excluding everything else. What I’m talking about is something much bigger than your personal identity–your personal consciousness. I’m talking about the awakening of something primordial, always becoming, life affirming, and inclusive–inclusive from the point-of-view that everything is already connected and reflecting everything else.
It has been said that the consciousness of a Kingdom can be seen in an individual. Truly powerful kingdoms affirm the individual who, in turn, affirms the collective. When I act as though I am you, my responsibility for your well-being shifts because it is my well being that is at stake.
Part of the process of becoming a fully actualized human being includes the rectification of the opposites that exist within us and that we project onto the outside world. As long as we continue to act as though we have no responsibility for the conflicts that are a result of the faux separations we have created in our psyches, then the peacefulness that grows from being connected will struggle to be realized. I say realized because the peace is there–it’s not as though we have to create it. It is, however, hidden beneath all our fears, unacceptance and rigid adherence to personal point-of-view–all things that separate us from each other.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) set out on a journey to eradicate suffering. What I think he discovered is the real cause of suffering, us, the ego us, the illusory separate us. He preached a way of reconnecting with what is real in order to reveal the rightness of this greater spirit. In this place of the here and now we can experience the happiness, the joy, that is Being.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
This is a quote oft attributable to Frederick Nietzsche that I ran across while searching for aphorisms. It stuck with me all week mainly because it seemed to be speaking directly to me.
Two other quotes that seemed to apply came to mind as well, though I don’t recall from where I first saw them and Google didn’t help at all. My apologies to those who first spoke them.
“People who don’t understand things tend to reject them.”
“Let your heart lead and your mind follow”.
(I can imagine the corollary to that might be “let your mind lead and heart will get lost in the dust”.)
Not all that long ago I had a dream that seemed to reinforce this notion of some inner voice, or song that few others can hear. The dream seemed to be an extension of the dream I had even earlier that I had labeled The Blue Fresco. This dream could also be interpreted as what I’m now calling a “Hidden Music” dream.
It’s only when I’m quiet, when I’ve stilled the incessant chatter of my ego-voice that I can hear the music. When ruled by pride, fear, desire, worry, anger, distrust, greed, or when I imagine myself better than others I cannot hear the music. When I judge others or myself, I cannot hear the music. When I surround myself with distractions (TV, Facebook, Twitter, video games) I cannot hear the music.
It is only when I seek the sound of silence that I can hear the music of the spirit. It is from this deep venue that my soul waits to be expressed by as Rumi said, “It’s most beautiful face”. To dwell in this place is to dance to the music that few will ever hear, not that they cannot but that they will not and herein lies the cause of our deafness, the “Will” of will not, the be-all and know-all of the human consciousness that hides the beauty of what we all are beneath its suffocating self-centeredness.
It is this self-centeredness of the will that has us search the world for some treasure when the treasure is in us all the time. It’s what Lao Tzu called the Tao, “the origin of all things” the heart of all our being, the essence of what we are. It’s what lies between each of our words and the thoughts that create them. It’s what is beyond our personal and collective motives.
When we become self-centered the music cannot be heard. As Lao Tzu said “the quest for outer acquisition closes the door on the Tao” and it is the needy self-centered ego-self that is always projecting outside itself its unreality because it knows that it is hollow and empty within. No matter how hard it tries, no matter how many self-help programs it takes it cannot fill the void of itself for here there is no music within the void. It is not in the personally created ego that we can find the music of our true self.
As with that dream of several years back (The Blue Fresco) one needs to leave the empty world behind it and follow the intuition of the child into the mountains beyond where the music lies. Therein lies the connection with the spirit, the real self.
Not too long ago my wife and I presented a Cornerstone class on conflict resolution at our granddaughter’s elementary school. Project Cornerstone first came to the school district as an anti-bullying program. But over time the use, or over use, of the word “bully” to identify a certain type of behavior has hardened into a type of person rather than a type of behavior i.e. they “are” a bully instead of them “behaving” like one.
When “bully” becomes a label instead of a description of a behavior it leaves little room for the person displaying the behavior to change or even to defend themselves because the use of the word sets them in concrete. The label then becomes a way of excluding someone. Most of us do that with the word “evil”. Once we’ve hung that around someone’s neck they’re no longer a human and they are open to all kinds of abuse.
This isn’t unusual behavior on our part in that we humans often tend to paint each other with a broad paintbrush. It’s easier to do this and doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. This becomes especially noticeable when we are caught up in our fear of something that we don’t understand and begins to escalate radically as the more helpless and fearful we become.
Tribally we humans tend to reject outsiders and behaviors that we don’t understand and when those so-called outsiders seem to be of a particular tribe we tend to paint them all with one color. Even the best of us sometimes fall into this trap as when we condemn a race of people for the actions of some of that race or when we condemn an entire religious group for the horrific behaviors of a certain subgroup.
In recent years we have witnessed the horrific behaviors of a religious subgroup and have rightly labeled their actions as evil, but some people out of their own fear and ignorance have branded all of that religious group as being evil. This is of course a big mistake and totally unhelpful to the cause of peace and our ability to detect what it is that needs to be done to contain the evil behavior and how to lessen the number of those who fall prey to the lure of this subgroup.
While we hold people accountable for their behaviors and while we do what is necessary to end and/or contain the evil we must look at what conditions are enflaming and enabling it and do what is necessary to end those as well.
Yes, we need to fight this, but we need to fight it intelligently and not do it in a way that throws gasoline on the fire thus spreading its damage over a greater area. We need to respond to the presence and actions of evil and not just react.
Reacting is a “lizard brain” action where no thought is required just instinctive animal reactivity. God gave us so much more to work with that lies above the reactionary archaic brain stem and we need to resist the tendency to label everything we’re afraid of or don’t understand as being evil and thus subject to our wrath. We need to stop acting like a frightened snake striking whatever moves and more like the intelligent thinking sons and daughters of a loving God we are.
Simply put, we cannot push back the darkness of evil by simply pouring on more and more darkness– we need to add some light to it. WE (you and I) need to come up with some ways to 1) rein in our own lizard brains and 2) find ways to end the spread of evil and once accomplished deal appropriately with the root causes of it. To do anything else will only perpetuate the evil i.e. you can bloody the land with more killing and that may subdue the evil but only temporarily.
History is rife with lessons on how we humans take the wrong paths toward peace. That’s because we react out of fear instead of responding to it and using it as a motivator to change, a change necessary because we have failed to do what is needed to treat others with the respect we would want for ourselves.
Now, that is not to say that we can end all evil. There will always be those who have been sickened by their own minds and will seek solace from that pain by attempting to dominate and control those outside themselves as though it’s the outsider who causes their sickness. There will always be egos that want to feel bigger and more important and will attempt to subjugate the world around them.
Compassionate Containment may be what is wanted and needed in these cases at least until science can find a successful means of healing them. But each of us who are healthy has the means for controlling our own negative and reactive behaviors. We need to get serious about learning what those means are and start actualizing them.
We need to embrace the real meaning of enlightened civilization and grow beyond our reactive tribal mentality. Currently we seem hell-bent on sewing the seeds of our own destruction.
Life is holy, but some people out of either ignorance of that fact or as a self-serving and malevolent expression choose to not treat it as such.
We can either enhance life or diminish it, extol it or denigrate it. What enhances life is love, given freely without strings or attachments. Everything else is just a barrier to achieving and experiencing wholeness everything else is just survival, though of course one needs to maintain the latter to express the former.
But when the survival mode dominates we can only limit ourselves i.e. we take and hoard, hold onto, close up and restrict. In love we give ourselves away and in so doing save ourselves. Survival mode comes from a personal context of insufficiency (there’s not enough) and vulnerability (life is fragile). Survival with no other purpose than to continue life is a form of death. The soul is not about survival but the full expression of who and what you are_ it is about wholeness.
This is what wholeness looks like: No limits, open, truly free i.e. to be unbound by your beliefs, your prejudices, judgments and self-protections.
When we are free of the barriers we put up in order to feel secure, when we can give of our life freely we are then said to be in “possession” of it i.e. it belongs to us and not to someone else’s ideal or belief or dictate or expectation for us. When dominated by our survival mode, or even to the degree by which we have allowed ourselves to be dominated by this mode of living, everything else possesses our life and we are not free to be what we are.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
But to be what we are takes immense courage, “The courage to be” as Paul Tillich called it– it’s not about what you do or don’t do, it’s about who you are and expressing that regardless of the evaluation of others.
Your life is holy, everyone’s life is holy and the clannishness we’ve created in order to protect ourselves from seen and unseen dangers is killing us, it selfishly treats only a select few as being holy and only if those few adhere to the clan belief system. There will never be true freedom to “be” with this kind of limit on the expression of wholeness i.e. ‘holiness’.
“I am neither of the East nor of the West, no boundaries exist within my breast.”
Beliefs that teach that only certain humans behaving in certain prescribed ways are looked upon favorably by God attempt to build fences around the real God. But God cannot be fenced in and fences don’t enhance, they diminish. To denigrate the differences between us does not enhance the human spirit it is a barrier to it.
If you were to strip away the stories, the interpretive overlay, and dogma of every religion you will notice that virtually every spiritual leader, credited with starting a new way of thinking, a new way of being in relationship with each other and with the spirit that created us has done so out of knowing that the purpose of being human is to become whole and to express that wholeness freely and honestly. All have known that what we are is love and that we need to learn to express it more freely. Anything else is not love and it is not an expression of wholeness or the sacredness of each of us.
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”