Because the human psyche is designed to respond to any kind of threat with an either/or response of confront or flee better known as fight or flight we have a tendency to avoid upsetting input e.g. bad news, negative thoughts and negative feelings such as upsets, worry, anxiety, sadness, grief, desire, even hate or anger. But sometimes we get stuck and perseverate in one or more of the negatives and then we try to handle them (think get rid of or avoid or fight them) by essentially stuffing them, “I won’t watch the news”, “I will think only positive thoughts”, “I’ll meditate, or yoga or exercise the feelings into calmness, Aum” or some such variation. This is not to say that these techniques should not be used because sometimes we need to calm down in order to hit the pause button. If these exercises are part of your regular routine then you’re already well positioned for what comes next.
But for most of us the sporadic use of centering techniques is a kind of hiding from the negative and is not very effective or only temporarily effective. Why? Well, just because you’ve stuffed something out of sight doesn’t mean it’s gone it’s just waiting for another trigger to bring it out again. As most who practice regular centering know, life happens regardless of how centered, wise or enlightened you think you are.
Next time instead of trying to flee the feeling as though it were something to avoid or despise try holding your feelings with respect and compassion after all they are a part of you and the reason they are there at all is the psyche’s attempt to care for and protect you.
Next time you might just “feel” them without trying to figure them out or to dismiss or demean. Try not to diminish their reality by stuffing or explaining them away just accept them as they are without judgment or condemnation. Look at them and actually feel them. They are real and they are a part of you and just as real and necessary as any other part. Don’t engage them or go into agreement with them, just have the feeling, observe it, observe where in the body it is located, how vivid it is. Does it have a color? Does it have a shape? Is there a sound to it? Observe all aspects of the feeling.
When you are able to do this, it tends to reset your consciousness about feelings and their service to you toward your health and well-being. You may also notice that when you are just able to have a feeling without it having you, you become more present in your life and when you become more present life becomes more magical.
Dreams of avoidance, running away from or running after; dreams of loved ones who have passed– grandma, grandpa, mom and dad, sister or brother, or best friend; dreams of when we were younger; dreams of flying, of being trapped, or alone in an empty town looking for a place of respite.
In a time of high stress and confusion they’re all dreams of searching for solace, comfort, support, and relief. They’re all dreams looking for peace of mind where there doesn’t seem to be any. For many their dreams include prayers to Jesus, God, or in the bringing of loved ones back again into their lives.
Many of us spend parts of our waking days reading the statistics of those who are infected and those who have died in our area, in our state, our country, and our world. But the numbers don’t seem to help nor do the empty promises of our leaders some of whom just seem to be mostly interested in themselves and how they look.
We sit alone with our frustrations, our anger, fears and grief for those we love and for the loss of security, morality, peace of mind, and in many cases the loss of livelihood. All is a cry for help in a time of great unknowns.
For many there is a natural attempt to hide from the pain and fear of it all or to rage at it or to understand it, but we can’t get away from it or understand it and raging only increases the sense of despair. We can’t even get away from it in our sleep. We cannot evade our suffering for it is a part of us nor can we evade the suffering of others for in what is happening, we are all in this together and we know it. Blaming won’t fill the void nor will avoiding the fear and anxiety.
So, what to do?
Many have tried Zoom get-togethers, gardening, running, long walks, puzzles, video games and binge-watching old favorites on the nostalgia channels, the list is endless, but it hasn’t filled the need for the peace of mind we seek.
So, where does someone find peace of mind and solace when there doesn’t seem to be any?
Some who have written me have found it in the giving of grace, understanding and comfort to others– the leaving of cut flowers or a favorite meal on someone’s doorstep, calling a lonely shut-in, shopping for someone who cannot get out as easily, and calling to find out if they are in need. Though we are physically distancing it doesn’t mean we cannot grow closer to each other through our active caring for one another.
From my understanding of the human condition we need to acknowledge each others suffering as well as our own and not hide from it and that in doing so it will help to open the door and let the light shine into the shadows of our lives right now.
In short, many who have written me are finding the peace of mind, comfort and solace they need is in the giving of it to others. Go figure, when we give away what we don’t have to others we seem to get it back. Perhaps this a lesson we needed to learn during this time of separation, partisanship, and distancing especially in a country that prided itself in its unity by declaring to the world that its states and its people were “United” and that EVERYONE counted. Perhaps we need to act as though EVERYONE counts and in so doing get that we count. Many seem to be saying that to care and be cared for instead of making one another wrong may bring the peace of mind we crave.
My most important lesson in life I learned from Pinocchio
In this time of seeming unreality I was reminded of the story of Pinocchio where a wooden puppet dreamed of becoming a real boy. The Blue Fairy promises him that if he is good and his heart is true and honest he will become a real boy. Of course he suffers all the wrong turns in his journey toward realness and many characters and circumstances try to steal parts of his soul along the way. He becomes lost, abused and alone at times but eventually he finds his way home by taking the ultimate risk to his life to protect his mentor and creator, the loveable old toy maker Geppetto, by being willing to sacrifice himself for love.
The story is a mirror of the path we are all on as we grow toward wholeness and self-actualization. I believe that at our core our hearts are true and that we can only experience this when we are willing to let go of our ego selves, to sacrifice our self-centeredness by the giving of our heart and mind to something other than our self and when we are willing to open to love.
Pinocchio is an allegorical tale of the Heroes Journey that we are all on, a journey toward reality and wholeness, awareness and redemption where we struggle, die to our old self, and are then resurrected anew. Nearly every story worth its salt has a hero, or heroine, striving for something of great value e.g. life, justice, a golden fleece, freedom, transformation, and/or redemption. Each is tried in the crucible of what life has to throw at them and all are convinced that to attain the goal will bring them wholeness and make them real.
We are all on Pinocchio’s Journey, all trying to find the gold of our core being. As we set out we look into all the nooks and crannies of life, down all its dark alleys, or pray to all its gods and Blue Fairies hoping that somewhere out there are the answers to becoming real. But with some luck and perseverance we can learn that the answer to becoming real has always been within us– that reality is a function of what’s in our hearts and not what is in some temple. Life can steal the parts of our self that we have given up to others so that we can feel safe, but Life cannot steal our heart for it is immutable.
The real you lies at your core being and is available to you when you give up your need for ego survival. This is the lesson of Pinocchio.
Because it is not the point of the article, I am not going to go into what the soul is or is not or where it goes when we die. When I speak of Soul Loss I’m speaking to what happens to our souls when we abuse them or when we injure them.
Whenever you’ve said to yourself, “I wish I were dead” we’ve sent a part of the soul to the land of the dead. Every time we give up on a dream or when we lose trust in ourselves we give up a part of our soul. When we play small in our life by giving in to our fears or pride or greed we injure the soul as well for the soul only wants to play large in everything we do. We are constantly banishing pieces of our soul.
In fact many of us cause harm to the soul through our self-destructive habits–drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, self-criticism, overeating, arrogance, etc..
But the soul also leaves us when grief has become so painful that we shut down or when fear becomes too great. Even certain life changes can bruise the soul such as a relationship break-up, a death in the family, or a change in jobs or life style.
Immigrants and refugees suffer this kind of damage when they leave their homes, especially when they are not leaving out of choice. This is of course compounded when their freedom destination has been blocked.
Soul loss is chronic in societies where there’s a small but dominant group of people who control the lives of others such as in autocratic, totalitarian or theocratic cultures or subcultures (this can happen here in the U.S. in villages, small towns, or in peoples homes with an oppressive element). It also happens in cultures and subcultures where opportunities are restricted on an ethnic, class or gender level, or where there is a huge and widening gap between those who have and those who have not. We also see it in cults or with the rigid dogma of some religious sects.
And some jobs are so stifling because of certain oppressive management practices that the soul begins to retreat to the darker parts of our being. The fact is that the soul thrives in creative environments where the individual’s independence is honored and nurtured.
Some say that only trauma will trigger soul loss but isn’t that what I’ve outlined above? Do not all these little traumas whittle away at our souls?
Have you suffered soul loss? It’s possible. Look closely at yourself for a moment do you, or have you, suffer(ed) from depression, constant anxiety, low energy and constant fatigue (any chronic sleep disturbance)? Does the world look gray around you regardless of the weather? Do you suffer low-self esteem, emotional numbness, helplessness or are caught up in and can’t let go of a negative past or some past event? Do you stress over many little things? Are you extremely overweight (or affected by some eating disorder), given up your dreams, or suffered or acted out abuse? Those who have suffered extreme abuse and who have been diagnosed with PTSD are on the rise globally.
Have you ever suffered a loss of self-esteem from a failure or at the hands of a bully personality? Most of us have and most of our negative soul-damaging experiences have been unavoidable. But it’s what we do afterward that can make all the difference to their healing. Often it’s the degree to which we let the hurts steal a part of our souls and when we go into agreement with our darker aspects that the loss was deserved that determines the depth and longevity of the experienced loss.
When we try to stuff the stink of soul loss i.e., suppress it or try to change it by adding perfume to it through a change of narrative the smell becomes buried but isn’t gone. It continues to foul our inner atmosphere until we bring it out of the darkened depths and into the light where we tell the truth about it without drama, judgments, and self-criticism.
Did you know that in some studies in the U.S. almost half the adult population has reported suffering some kind of childhood abuse (this includes neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse)? 1 Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident in their lives and that 28% of teens 14-17 have reported sexual victimization.2 Children who live with domestic violence regardless of whether the family is intact or not have a higher risk of abuse and I contend not only suffer psycho-emotional damage but soul loss as well.
But we do not lose our soul permanently or any part of it for that matter. What does happen is we lose touch with it and/or build up barriers to its expression. Meditation, dream work, creative expression, poetry, art, giving, and yoga are some means for healing a damaged soul.
In the fictional novel by R.J. Cole, “The Archipelago of Dreams” is an exploration of how damaged souls are healed in the spirit world.
1deMouse, Lloyd, The Evolution of the Psyche and Society, Journal of Psycho-history v. 29, #1, 2002, pg.239
One reader wondered if it was a right for a religion to judge others who were not of that religion.
Judgment isn’t really a right, but people judge, that’s what we are…we’re judgment machines. It’s the way our brains are hardwired. We just have to remember that our judgments may have nothing to do with reality because we project our own biases, prejudices, beliefs, and feelings onto everything. There’s an old saying, “Don’t believe everything you think”. The ego part of us always wants to keep us separated usually with us being the best (or better than) and the other guy not being the best or less than.
We then ‘project’ this bias onto our religion and use our religion to prove we are right. This is circular reasoning, a logic fallacy, but the ego-centered person isn’t concerned with logic or facts, they’re just concerned with being right in their own mind or in their own culture or subculture/tribe.
This doesn’t mean that “judgment” is always wrong because if the practice of a religion that is created out of love (and all religions are created out of love) shows only hate, then the practice of that religion is wrong…it’s not the religion that is wrong, it is the practice of it that’s wrong. This is where judgments are needed. For example, does some religious practice further the cause of love or hate? If it’s hate then it’s being practiced in the wrong way.
So, again, it’s not the religion that is judging, it’s the human beings who practice that religion and if it is being used by them to exclude, demean and make others less than, then it’s being done wrongly.
In each of us exists a spiritual self that comes from a wholeness that includes everything and everyone. But in order to interact on this plane of existence a temporary illusion of separateness needs to be maintained. This is the job of the ego part of the self, that part of us that we created with the help of our parents, family, society, and culture. Even when we stand before one another and see a separate individual, at our core we are one. There is little problem with this unless the ego has convinced the self that the separation is real this is when we don’t recognize the divine being in the person standing before us.
When we think we are vulnerable to the illusion of a separate being we become frightened and want to protect the self, though it doesn’t need protecting. Look around, is this not so? We then create illusions to safety and institutions to reinforce the illusion. But are we any safer? As long as we are stuck in our own egos we will never feel safe, you can never feel safe when you think that what you are is this small, trembling being that is threatened by all other small, trembling beings. And no matter how many small, trembling beings band together there’s no bigness in that, only a whole lot of small and trembling.
I’ve read that those who try to rule by fear don’t know who they really are. The more fear and control they spread the smaller they become. Those who sustain their egos through force have only physical power and that always comes to an end usually a whimpering end. Those who sustain through love last forever.
A couple of years ago I wrote two posts* that posed the
question, “Who are you?” I’m still pondering that question and thought I’d
share what I’ve come up with since then.
Self-discovery, true self-discovery where the soul
illuminates the ego rather than the ego darkening the expression of soul or
adding false light upon itself can be a tricky process. You know when you’re on
the right track when your discovery brings awe, beauty, and happiness. This
seems pretty simple, so why is it so hard?
I think part of the reason rests in from what part of ones
self one is asking the questions. Asking questions and pondering answers
generated from the ego-self almost always complicates the process and limits
Sometimes even asking a question at all can distort reality.
Sometimes in order to “hear” one needs to shut-up.
Sometimes just observing, watching, looking, minding (as in
being mindful), hearing, seeing, feeling, or sensing is all one needs to open
the door to enlightenment. Note that I don’t say anything about “doing”
anything with any of that incoming awareness data? That’s because “doing”
usually shuts the process down whereas the act of “being” keeps the process relevant
Try the following:
Step outside, go on… what do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you see? You named it all didn’t you e.g. a “dog” “barking”; new-mowed grass; it’s hot out, must be 90 degrees for god’s sake!; there’s the neighbor playing with their one year old–cute little guy.
Now, try stepping out and observe without doing anything
with what you notice. Much quieter, huh? Sometimes when I do this, not only
does a sense of peace well up, but tears of happiness, feelings of belonging
,and sometimes a sense of being big enough to include it all–of being bigger
than I was before stepping out the door pervades my consciousness. But as soon
as I start labeling the experience…poof! It all goes away.
When I “decide” what it is that I’m experiencing I immediately kill all the alternatives, I objectify a subjective experience, I limit the experience. To add “cide” to almost any word means to kill the alternative or object.
Now, it’s not that the process of deciphering and deciding
has no usefulness, because on the contrary it’s an evolutionary security
process and the faster you can accurately do it, the greater the chance of your
personal survival. So I wouldn’t ignore this skill when walking down a dark
alley, but one does not have to treat their whole life in survival mode.
When the stresses generated by my mind’s reaction to reality
begin to weigh heavily on me sometimes just quieting it by stepping outside and
letting the reality wash over me without trying to corral it i.e. define it or
add meaning to it will center me and bring me peace.
What does this have to do with the original question, “who are you?” It’s about telling the truth about an observation, whether that observation comes from outside you or from within. It’s about opening to the unvarnished, unmediated experience of reality.
Wise men and women have for millennia wondered if what we have assumed was objective reality was only a dream.
Edgar Allen Poe who once queried, “Is life but a dream within a dream?” What a curious question! Is he questioning whether we can distinguish between what is fantasy or reality? Isn’t this inability to distinguish fantasy from reality part of the very definition of what is considered magical thinking and a component of an obsessive-compulsive thinking disorder?
As I looked into this question I found that the Australian Aborigine thinks that we are continuously within a dream that creates what we call reality.
“I do not believe that I am now dreaming, but I cannot prove that I am not.” Exclaimed the 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell.
The Toltecs believed that we are the dream of God. They suggested that God is dreaming the world into existence. This seems very much like the Australian Aboriginal world-view and not too different in essence to the book of Genesis.
But what happens when God awakens from the dream?
A Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu, Relates that he had a dream of being a butterfly and when he awoke he asks whether he was Chuang Tzu dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Tzu?
He went on to say,
“Someday comes the great awakening when we realize that this life is no more than a dream. Yet the foolish go on thinking they are awake: Surveying the panorama of life with such clarity, they call this one a prince and that one a peasant—What delusion! The great Confucius and you are both a dream. And I, who say all this is a dream, I, too, am a dream.”
So which is the illusion, the sleeping dream or my waking life? And where does truth lie, in the every day or in the fantasies of my dreams?
The psychotherapist Carl Jung posited the idea of complexes i.e., a core pattern of emotions, images and ideas that influence everything we see or think or feel. Along with these mostly unrecognized complexes there are also ancient archetypes we all share and that are mostly unseen factors that determine our vision of reality as well as our responses to it. These psychic features of human beings show up in both our sleeping dreams and the waking dream we call life.
Many scientists, philosophers, and cosmologists wonder if what we see around us may not actually exist. What we are seeing may only be projections from our psyches. That’s not to say that there is not an object out there to be perceived, but that our relationship to and understanding of it is subjective. The philosopher Schopenhauer stated that there could be “No object without subject.”
“There is no one who hears, there is just hearing. There is no one who sees, there is just seeing.”
–C. Beck, Everyday Zen (1989)
If I were to carry the idea in the above quote further I might add, that there may be no “I” who is dreaming, there is just dreaming.
When I am dreaming, who is creating the dream and who is observing it? When I talk to myself who is listening? And what about the dreams where I am dreaming that I dream of seeing myself? Is there more than one “I” in there? How many?
Are our dreams like a book that our soul is writing about us? Am I really awake when I climb out of bed and into the waiting day? Is it as Jung once quipped, “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”
“The awakening of consciousness is the next step for mankind.”
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.”
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.”
“The measure of your life will not be in what you accumulate, but in what you give away.”
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.
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.
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.