A book that opened a door and led me to a path for my life

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When asked one time what book had the biggest impact on me in terms of offering a path to follow in life I thought briefly and came up with the following. Louisa May Alcott’s, “Little Women”.
One of the main characters if not the main character, Jo March, had much to say to me. When I first read of her in the book I was intrigued and a little infatuated. I was only ten years old. Not your usual fare for a little boy though I was also reading Moby Dick at the same time.
Her boldness, outside the box thinking, and steadfast honest behavior was such a breath of fresh air. Though a female in a world dominated by males she represented freedom and independence from what seemed like a very restrictive society even for males. To me she represented a way out of the cultural box.
All the male hero’s of my early years seemed to be of the same cloth and color, i.e. various shades and textures of emotionally restricted John Wayne’s, Clint Eastwood’s,and James Bond’s. None of them could show a lonely, sensitive, intuitive, inner-directed and compassionate boy how to express his soul in a healthy way.
Then along came Jo who should have been much more restricted and oppressed than this young white male of the suburbs and yet her joi devivre and drive to own her life gave power to this little boy and offered hope that he too could break out of the box that culture and family had put him in.
“You can be lonely in a crowd, if it’s the wrong crowd” Jo said to her sisters and putting into words how I had been feeling for all of my short life.
Though it took me several more years to fight my way out of the box and to find a crowd where I felt accepted and included this one book set me on a path toward my own expression of a self I’ve come to appreciate more and more as I grow older. Also like Jo I’ve found that the union of both my masculine and feminine aspects e.g. the rational, assertive, decisive masculine and the inclusive, compassionate and intuitive feminine has made me stronger and more useful to others. From her I have learned to own my own being and resist what others wanted me to be. Thanks, Jo.
It is often said that we have the power to choose the path we walk but like the book I read at 10 years of age more often than not if we look closely enough we are chosen for the path from a place deep within us and it is from there that experiences come into our life and have the power to transform us.
As a boy I knew I was different and those differences were not accepted by many of those around me. This presented me with my first known crisis, are those differences wrong and thus need to be corrected toward some definition and expectation of ‘normal’ or can I continue being different? Though we all have to make some changes to accommodate the world we find ourselves in the question becomes by how much and of what kind? This has always been a balancing act for me i.e. shall I give in to living a life with little or no mistakes or do I engage it as fully as I can, mistakes and all, and do it without condemning myself for them or alienating others to the point where I get totally ignored and/or rejected?
The decision to be as much of myself as I can has gotten me into trouble sometimes (maybe a lot) but has driven me down a path with very little boredom and where sometimes I’ve been of some value to others. Outside the box living has become my norm over the years and continues to inform many of my actions right or wrong.

Cleaning out our ego’s house

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Spiritual Awakening

Houses in dreams are metaphors for the “us” that lives within our bodies– our inner self. It is our spiritual dwelling where the soul rests and looks out upon the world. The doors to its rooms reflect aspects of ourselves open and closed such as our sexual self, our feeling self, spiritual self, our intellectual self and how we cope with the world self. Furniture in our dream house reflects the habits, beliefs, attitudes and values with which we furnish the mind.

Whether we find our dream self in a flooding basement or locked in an attic the symbols tell us something about ourselves and how we are dealing with the world we live in.

It is in our dreams that we most often brush up against the soul and get a peek at the divine. In our meditations, daydreams and musings the divine can also intrude.

But where is this divine being really, in the sky, in the ocean, in a rock, in a church/tabernacle/temple/mosque/synagogue? Some say it is everywhere and some say it is within the heart of humankind alone.

In the Hindu religion the coconut is cracked open and offered in a ritual signifying that the hard exterior of the ego needs to be cracked open in order to get at the sweetness of the divine within. The sweet innards are also a symbol of transformation because the palm tree sucks up salty water and transforms it into the sweet water of the nut.

The Kingdom of god is within (amongst or in your midst) from luke 17:21 and in the King James version (i.e. it’s a spiritual kingdom) of the bible is also a version of the Spirit within you concept.

A poetic look at the path to God-realization is also found in the lines of the 13th century Persian poet Mahmud Shabistari:

“Go sweep out the chamber of your heart, make it ready to be the dwelling place of the Beloved,
when you depart, He will enter, 
in you, void of yourself, will He display His beauties.”

–Mystic Rose Garden, Mahmud Shabistari, as translated by E.H. Whinfield

 The Sufi musician and teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan says that in The Inner Life, a person needs to be whole to take the journey. His point is that one needs to get their basic self in tune with their higher self.

The basic truth is that before any spiritual light from our inner selves can come into consciousness various distortions of thinking need to be dealt with. This often takes a lot of personal work and that is why there isn’t much of it going on with the “immediate gratification” mentality and rigidly shallow awareness that exists in most places across the world.

 In our spiritual lives these days we spend far too much time battling with others about who has the best truth or which holy book uses the best words to describe what can’t be described with words. I suspect that all of this is a distraction and barrier to true spirituality.

Basically the differences in religions and the differences found within each e.g. protestant/catholic, orthodox or reform, Shia or Sunni, Mahayana or Theravada, Shaivism or Shaktism are only of the human ego and not of God.

The Spirit of life cannot be found in any place or any time but can be glimpsed within the heart of humankind but only if he or she has swept that heart clean of the nonessential ego rubbish thrown there.

We need to start cleaning out our house or be forever swamped by the garbage of the fearful ego. We need to clean out the rooms of our spiritual house so that we can welcome the Spirit in.

Simply put, God is not a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jain, a Hindu or a Christian– He is ONE and ALL.

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.

Soul Dreams      

hands-khattaway-300x300.gifI’ve been having dreams of people and things where there are parts or aspects missing and dreams of my childhood and childhood home where I see things and people I haven’t seen in years. There’s a common meaning between these kinds of dreams, that of something lost, something that used to be there but is no longer.

There’s an ‘energy’ in each of the images of a dream, an energy associated with each of the aspects of ourselves. Sometimes when something is lost or missing or that was associated with some part of our childhood but no longer present our deeper self longs for the missing part. What’s lost could be an admired aspect such as hope, or a dream of the future, or a feeling of excitement, or love, or of peace, acceptance, potential, possibilities, esteem, or meaning.

The list can be endless for when young, everything is possible and then life happens and the possibilities get whittled away and we learn to let go of more and more of our dreams. All these energies of the self that have been filed away or shoved down into the unconscious want to be recognized, reenergized if you will, and brought back into the self that is you.

For me it is enchantment, awe, and significance that has been carved away from my core, the suppressed expressions of my soul. My dreams serve as healers to the wounds suffered by my soul self and reminders of who I am. A dream of my eleven year old self has an energy that I gave up over time and sometimes this aspect will return in the form of my childhood bedroom or a beloved, but now gone, family member or pet and serve as a guide to regaining the lost energy.

The process is often called “soul recovery”. We may have lost some part of ourselves due to some pain or abuse, some trauma or heartbreak but for whatever the reason we cannot feel complete until we have learned to bring home the missing aspects. They’re still there, these missing parts of ourselves, they’re still part of us.

The eleven year old is still in there with the same dream for his or her life and the essence of the dream can still be expressed only now we have tools and opportunities gained through age and hard fought for wisdom that can help us to harness our missing energies and express the basic core of the dream. But first we have to recall the messages of our inner self through the medium of our sleeping dreams for it is in these dreams that the soul is trying desperately to communicate with us what we are really here for.

Don’t give up on your soul dreams. Listen to that small quiet voice from within that wants you to know who and what you really are.

As I finished writing I pushed away from my desk and took a break, pulled on a jacket and stepped outside into a brightly crisp morning and bid the just rising sun a good day. As per my morning ritual I closed my eyes and welcomed my part of the earth into its new course– standing before each of the cardinal directions and whispering a heart-filled gratefulness. With each breath in and out I chanted the morning’s mantra, “Earth am I, air am I, fire and water and spirit am I. Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us”

I opened my eyes once again to the east and the sky was ablaze with gold, the distant trees dark silhouettes against its slowly strengthening glow. Turning to the North again and preparing to turn through the compass once more I was stopped in my tracks, for this morning the Earth had given me a new gift. Rising before me stood a brightly colored and full-arced rainbow with one foot planted near a Sycamore at the end of the street and the other stretching off to the south as though challenging me to follow.

The crows were flying out of the northwest on their morning pilgrimage and flew through the multicolored arc, winged black caricatures of the magical arts transformed into soaring messengers of joy. This is going to be a soul dream of a day.

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.

What is a True Human Being?

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“A true human being is high without wine.

A true human being is full without dinner.

A true human being seems lost and befuddled.

A true human being is not ruled by eating and sleeping.

A true human being is the king in disguise.

A true human being is a jewel in the dust.

A true human being is not fashioned of elements.

A true human being is a shoreless wide ocean.

A true human being is a rain without clouds.

A true human being sees truth face to face.

A true human being is wise without reading.

A true human being is without belief or falsehood.

A true human being is not burdened with right or wrongness.

A true human being steps out of emptiness, arrives in a glory.

A true human being is secret and hidden.

Oh my dear and beloved you shine like the sun!

Oh my heart, go and find a true human being.”

 

–Rumi

What I hear in this poem is that our true nature is not of the material Earth, the body and what feeds it. We’re much, much bigger than that. Who we are is not of the dust that returns to dust but lies quietly surrounding us within and without.

 

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There is another world inside this one–no words can describe it.There is living, but no fear of death;There is Spring, but never a turn to Autumn.There are legends and storiescoming from the walls and ceilings. Even the rocks and trees recite poetry. 

Here an owl becomes a peacock,A wolf becomes a beautiful shepherd.To change the scenery, change your mood;To move around, just will it. 

Stand for a momentAnd look at a desert of thorns–it becomes a flowery garden.”
–Rumi

 

The world to each of us is the product of what we project, what we see, what we hear and what we feel. It is determined by our own minds and our own prejudices.

To Rumi, those who see their true nature fall in love and it is through that reality that they can live in the “Heaven on Earth” that so many religions speak of.

 

“Without love,all worship is a burden,all dancing is a chore,all music is mere noise. 

All the rain of heaven may fall into the sea– Without love,not one drop would become a pearl.For those in love,Moslem, Christian, and Jew do not exist.For those in love,faith and infidelity do not exist.For those in love,body, mind, heart, and soul do not exist. 

Why listen to those who see it another way?–if they’re not in lovetheir eyes do not exist. 

If you hurt others, don’t expect kindness in return.One who sows rotten seeds will get rotten fruit.God is great and compassionatebut if you plant barley,don’t expect a harvest of wheat.”
-Rumi

 

Basically we live, see and become what we project. Another way of saying that is, “we reap what we sew”. We can only feed ourselves, our inner selves, by the projections that we have put out there. If we see only fear, or anger, or hatred, then it’s only their council we can hear. In short, we are only listening to our own egos.

 

“We can’t be what we can’t see”
-Marian Wright Edelman

 

Another way of saying this is that peace in the world does not exist outside ourselves. It is only when we find it in ourselves that we can make a difference in the peace of the world. Angry, hateful and dismissive people cannot find peace or comfort because they are not being that which they seek.

We need nothing to tell us how we should feel, what we should believe and how we should act. At our core all of this is known. At our core is the “true human being”. It is only at the surface where our egos lie that we are forced to listen to that which is outside of us, because the ego-self does not know what’s inside and because it so desperately wants to remain in control, it depends on extensions of itself to provide the guidance and wisdoms it lacks. But being only extensions of itself it can only project the ignorance it lives within.

Once one finds their core being, their true human self, there is no need for the others outside us.

Poetry and the loss of soul

12006963_f520.jpgAs I sat working on a workshop on poetry I’m developing I began to list answers to the question, “What is poetry?”

When I came to the end of my list I wrote down, “Everything, and every event in life is poetry. The soul of our being is a poet!”

Poetry speaks of and from the imaginal. When it “speaks of” it’s the soul trying to understand itself and in the “speaking from” it is talking about a nonlinear, non-rational, imaginal, and animating force behind the human quest and thirst for meaning.

Poetry for me is an imaginative activity that encompasses everything in life. Imagination is at the root of all poetry and may very well be the essence of our souls as well. It seems that when my soul desires to break free of my egoistic rational and literal interpretation of reality it speaks to me through poetry and metaphor in my dreams and the events and people in the world around me.

Poetry is about images not literalisms or naturalisms. It is about alternative ways of seeing the world and ourselves. Poetry helps us reconnect with our soul.I say “reconnect” because our society seems to be suffering a loss of soul where it has lost its connections with others and with self. This affects those within the society by robbing them of their sense of belonging and communion.

Our personal myth has also gotten lost, as has that of the larger myth of the greater society. Meaning has become blurred, as has our reason for living.

The current social situation infecting the country and the world is a symptom of our loss of soul. Radical and violent approaches to regaining what is lost reflect the unrecognized panic people are feeling associated with this loss. But this panic is also a symptom of the loss of soul and trying to treat symptoms is futile; It may temporarily relieve the pain but doesn’t cure the cause. Addressing the loss behind the symptoms is critical.

It’s the imaginal needs of the soul that are missing and this has separated us from that which gives life meaning. We see some attempts to address these imaginal needs of the soul in the growth of interest in astrology, divination, magic and fantasy. Even poetry is experiencing a revival. But the society in general is trying to deal with the loss through literal thinking e.g. more jobs, better wages, better medical care, and walls and laws. These may have their merits but are not what the soul is crying out for. Achievement of these goals might temporarily satisfy the ego, a voracious consumer of temporary satisfactions, but will do little or nothing for the soul.

We seem to have lost our excited and loving connection to life. We are in survival mode and this abuse of our souls that we have tolerated for so long has led to the symptoms of disconnection that we see in our communities and greater society. This disconnect is the herald of our greater loss of soul.

Humans are being treated as commodities, objects to be manipulated, and subservient to the power and greed of others. People have become just a means to and end for producing ever-increasing capital. To that end they (we) only have one purpose until they are no longer needed. There is no soul in this and that has stripped people of their own soul expression, their raison d’etre. Modern society implies that a human’s meaning is in what they can produce outside itself. It ignores the inside meaning and demeans the experience of spirit, humanness, individuality, essence, purpose, emotion, mercy, morality, wisdom, and God. Our soul has become secondary to our utility and with this shift in our meaning is the loss of meaning in life.

Are we just cogs in the machine or plug-ins to the corporation god or do we have greater meaning than that? I know that you know the answer. So what are you going to do about it? Hint: the answer is already in the text of this post.

 

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The Wind in my life part 2

 

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“Floating to the surface of an impenetrable water a pulsating mandala whose rings appear and disappear when a disembodied voice exclaims, “Where’s the wind?” and is the last thing I hear before I wake up.”

Excerpt from April 8, 2019 posting from The Book of Dreams Blog

 

Yesterday I wrote down a poem generated by a dream the night before and titled it, “The wind in my life.”

Now normally I think of the wind in a dream as symbolizing ones soul, life source or energy but it also reflects the changes in one’s life and it was these changes that floated to the surface and demanded my attention.

But change has always been attached to people so that every change event came with a person or persons introducing it or acting as the co-navigator(s) for the ship of my life.

It’s not too far off course then to think of the people in my life as the souls of the winds of my dreams. It’s people who for whatever reason have blown me in directions I didn’t know I wanted but perhaps needed to go.

In looking back across my life I see moments where people entered my life at precisely the right time to help steer me into a new direction. As I wrote in yesterday’s poem, “…I don’t know where I’m going!” So it’s a good thing these navigators keep showing up or I’d be foundering in some uncharted sea or held fast on some unseen shoal.

How these souls find me when I most need them is a curiosity. It’s as though we are somehow attached at some as yet unseen level. I wonder if our souls communicate with each other though we aren’t always open to their message or willing to let go of the illusion of thinking we know something and allow ourselves to follow one who does?

In the poem I curse the winds that never stay put like a pulsating mandala whose circles of completion and new beginnings forever seem to appear and disappear but it may be the wisdom of these symbols of the psyche to forever be changing for the change is the pulse of the universe within itself continually individuating and transforming the separate into the whole. 

Because I really don’t know where I’m going I will sometimes curse the wind and the curse itself will become part of the whole for which I search and the pulsating mandala that is my life will sometimes float to the surface of a dream and add light to the journey.

The wind in my life

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Floating to the surface of an impenetrable water a pulsating mandala whose rings appear and disappear when a disembodied voice exclaims, “Where’s the wind?” and is the last thing I hear before I wake up.

This was another night’s dream that stayed with me as I awoke but this night’s dream brought with it one of those rare delights, a poem that I share with you now.

 

 

 

It was so very long ago,

just yesterday I think

We set sail and followed the wind

Into this very dark and unknown sea

with only a promise fore and aft.

Born in opposition

An incomplete whole

A compromised mandala

Searching for a self

Here not there

A there in potential only

and forever becoming.

Like the wind Psyche’s rings won’t stay put

With the rhythm of the heart

They rise and fall

Rise and fall with every beat

Never solidly there.

Like an on-shore beacon

Of a home not seen

For oh so long.

A Guide-on that gives light

To the there

We set out to find.

Arrived!

No?

Not here?

Maybe there?

And we tack into the wind once again

And run once more toward home

Are we lost?

“Where’s that damn chart?” I say

“What chart?” You say.

“The one you were following.” I say

“There’s never been a chart

I was following you.” You say.

“But I don’t know where I’m going!” I say.

And we tack back out to search for that

damnable wind that will never stay put.

The Warrior in me

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This post is a continuation of my exploration into the masculine and feminine psyches.

A comment from a reader the other day to my query about how I might work with other men in developing their inner awareness through the work with dreams nudged me into taking another look at the mythopoeic work of Robert Bly and reminded me of his book Iron John and the concept of the warrior and wild man who was at the center of the men’s movement back in the 90’s. At the time of his heyday I was still resisting aspects of the male in me that I deemed negative and unwanted but I found myself attending his workshops anyway. Something in me at that time said that I needed to explore a little more of what I was resisting but I had not done that much justice until this most recent communiqué.

I believe that in every man exists an aspect of the warrior. It’s something that every one of us have to deal with in our jobs, our neighborhoods and with other people usually but not exclusively in the form of other men. Many of us have worked on our own aggressiveness so as to moderate it or in some cases to suppress it. As boys it’s what our mothers worked the hardest on to civilize. Some of us had to be worked on more than others. Eventually Robby became a “Good Boy” and relatively civilized. Relatively being the operative word and the warrior became pacified.

The warrior in me came to the fore while in the Marine Corps and especially when I found myself in a combat zone in Vietnam. But I can also say without any internal conflict that we did not belong over there doing what we were doing. I thought that then and think that now. Not that I didn’t think that hurting others was wrong but those thoughts were just abstractions to me at the time and could be easily dismissed. It wasn’t until confronted with the realities of death, grief, self-preservation, camaraderie, and hardship that I was able to see that this was all wrong that we had no right to be involved in the Vietnamese civil war or to kill those who had different ideas than we had. Also while on the ground I began to see that we were not welcome by the everyday people. There also seemed to be an organized resistance underground where the women who did our laundry on the base during the day were directing rocket fire onto us at night. Over time I began to feel as though I was the jackboot Nazi invader.

Was I not a patriot? Yes I was, but I was also becoming a more conscious patriot and I had lost my America Love it or Leave it mentality after a few short months in country. I began to think we had all been lied to. Over time I became more and more suspicious of our politicians and leaders and that eventually grew into a general distrust of government.

Defending my country against communism wasn’t part of my patriotism either because that too was a little too abstract and as it turned out it was wrong because it was a fabrication for going to war in 1965 as much as WMDs were for invading Iraq in 2003.

When I came home I was yelled at, accused of having killed babies, and spat at on one occasion. I observed some protests where our troops were booed and weekly statistics about American deaths were applauded. But I understood where they were coming from so I tried to help people separate the war from the warrior, the politician from the pawn, and the generals from the fodder.

We lost that war because it was all too abstract to those not actually engaged in it and neither the politicians nor most of the people had their heart in it.

After the war I worked hard at putting the awakened warrior to rest.

Today my thinking is along the lines that 1) War should be the very last recourse and only as a defense. 2) That evil should never be met with evil. 3) That aggressive domination of any kind is of the negative male attribute and needs to moderated. 4) That the people of any nation have the right to form their own version of the perfect union and to do so without intervening force. And 5) If you find that all other choices are gone and war is the only choice left then engage in it like you mean it as with everything without heart their can be no win and people’s lives are given for nothing.

After my war I came to the conclusion that if young men were to say no to war the generals and politicians would be hard pressed to start any. To that end I began to do presentations to 8th grade classrooms in Santa Clara Valley that were decidedly anti military and anti-war in theme. These were matched with representatives from the military recruitment offices so as to bring some reality to their romanticized version of the military. Anecdotally these seemed to have some effect.

After having watched people in Vietnam literally starving while pulling up weeds in the rice paddies and having heard some of the stories about how joining the Marines was the only way to escape poverty and hunger for some of the guys I also came to the conclusion that undealt with hunger contributed to mankind’s aggressiveness and so I eventually joined an organization dedicated to ending hunger and became the chairman of the Santa Clara County program presenting and recruiting donations from Palo Alto to Gilroy and then into San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin and Monterey counties.

I also discovered that I had some intuitive skill in listening to the grief and fears of other Marines in my squadron and this awareness helped me to move toward a career in psychology.

I resist the warrior less these days because having discovered that I can never fully outrun him I have over time learned and am still learning to work with the warrior and to enlist his power for good when it is needed.

In short, my experiences in Vietnam literally set the stage for the rest of my life. It opened my eyes and brought purpose to my life. As part of my journey I do not regret the experience because it’s clear to me now that this path is the one that God wanted me on.