A PATH WITH HEART: Difficult Problems and Insistent Visitors

As you continue your soul work you will eventually discover the repeated patterns of thought, feelings and sensations what Jack Kornfield called the “Insistent Visitors.” In this video/audio blog post I take you through four basic principles for dealing with these difficult and repeating problems.

The four principles are: Expand the Field of Awareness, Come to a Full Awareness of the Feelings, Discover what is Asking for Acceptance, and Open through the Center.

Inquiry Practice

Inquiry is a powerful soul practice, a path to self-realization or what Jung called individuation. While, ego wants the answers now, and well, most of the time it thinks it has all the answers, soul is activated in the inquiry practice. Soul lives questions, where ego lives answers. (From a quantum physics perspective, think of ego as a particle and soul as a wave.) In fact, we need ego to live answers, for it focuses mostly on our physical survival and operates reflexively, most of the time. However, ego’s life is lived mostly unconsciously, responding to stimulus faster than the speed of light.

Consciousness is a soulful affair. Until we have chosen each and every one of our responses to stimulus we are living a mostly unconscious life, from an ego that was developed in childhood. What was feared in childhood is not as scary as an adult, but until we have the capacity to stop our reflexive responses we have not truly grown up.

An inquiry practice begins with true curiosity into the functioning of ego. The key components of an inquiry practice are: experience, observation and distinctions.

Experience is composed of three parts: the event, your perception, and your judgment. For example, your boyfriend comes home and slams the front door. You believe he is angry and think it is about this morning’s argument. The event is your boyfriend coming home from work. You perceive that he is angry because the door slammed and you judge that it is about this morning’s argument. If you don’t separate your experience into these components, then you are apt to react as if the morning’s argument is still going on and fore go a new experience with your boyfriend.

Observation is composed of two parts: the observer and the observed. The work of consciousness is to continually improve the observers skills to see what is there in great depth, tone and color. However, observation is only one of our six perceptual organs. By far it is the most used. We see, we hear, we smell, we feel, and less so taste the world. And for some we intuit the world. It is important to make distinctions between these six perceptual ways of becoming aware of the observed.

And finally, distinctions give depth and breadth to what is observed. This is where knowledge comes in. The more you know about your psyche and the world, the better you are at sensing and judging what you are experiencing and choosing the appropriate response in the moment, not from your canned patterns of responses.

The mystery of life reveals itself when you stay in the inquiry as long as you can without foreclosing with answers. Too often we get trapped in the questions starting with why and never venture into asking questions beginning with who, what, where, when, and how. Challenge yourself to learn the distinctions of inquiry practice, and then challenge yourself with asking better questions about your psyche and the world.

Dreams direct us towards wholeness

Dreams are like the white blood cells of our immune system they protect us from foreign bodies and carry the healing potions for health and well-being. Every single night we dream. Whether we recall and interpret these dreams or not they work on improving our psychological adaptive system just as the white blood cells work on improving our biological adaptive system. So, what is the advantage of dream recall and interpretation?

CONSCIOUSNESS!

To recall and interpret dreams we work to make that which is unconscious conscious. In so doing we begin to rise above our fellow primates separating ourselves by our magnificent human capacity for consciousness. Left alone our biological and psychological immune systems focus on survival. By bringing our dreams to consciousness we can work towards self actualization, the pinnacle of our unique purpose and fulfillment.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

5 KEYS TO DREAM RECALL [1]

  1. Keep your dream journal by your bed.
  2. Write down three or four lines regarding your day’s events, thoughts, feelings, conflicts etc. before going to sleep.
  3. Begin to think backwards as soon as you wake up. What was just going through your mind?
  4. Write down everything you can recall even if it does not make sense.
  5. Try not to allow your ego to edit the dream recall. It is best to let the dream flow through you as you write it down.

THE FOUR STEPS TO INTERPRETING YOUR DREAMS[2]

1. Making associations.

Go back through the dream identifying each image, symbol and/or dynamic and its associations in your life. For instance, let’s say you dreamed about playing tennis with your father in Florida. Associate your thoughts and feelings about playing tennis (dynamic), your father (image) and Florida (image). If by chance you played with a particular tennis racket in the dream this may be the critical symbol in your dream. Pay particular attention to the symbols for they hold the transformational power.

2. Connecting dream images to inner dynamics.

Inner dynamics are the internal processes that go on in your head and body. It is your energy system, your attitude, your emotions, your moods, your pattern of thinking and relating to others. Go back through your work in the first step and identify the connections between your associations and your inner processes. For instance, let’s say the action in the dream has your father lobbing a high ball to you and you swing and completely miss it. Where in your life are you looking up to hit? And have you already swung and missed or are you about to? What does the HEAD FLEXPOINT RADICAL RACQUET symbolize?

3. Interpreting.

By this point you may already have an idea of what this dream means. At In this step you should tie together all the work in step one and two, looking for a central theme. Dreams always reveal something you do not know. Now let’s say with the above dream your dear friend (reminds you of your father) gave you a lead for a job interview in Florida that you think is way above your head. You fear you will swing and miss thereby disappointing your friend. Now the particular tennis racquet the transformational symbol in the dream makes great sense. It suggests you should use your head, be flexible and dare to be radical on this job interview.

4. Walking around with your dream.

To really know if this interpretation makes sense you must live with it. Hold it in the back of your mind as you go through the day to see what occurs during the day to support or add to your interpretation.

Now if this dream went unanalyzed it is very possible you would swing and miss falling into your childhood pattern of missing lobs from your father. However, by bringing the dream to light you can consciously interrupt this pattern by using your head, being flexible, staying focused on the ball and strategically planning your radical shot leading to game, set, match.


[1] Adapted from Gayle Delaney’s Living Your Dreams: The Classic Bestseller on Becoming Your Own Dream Expert

[2] Adapted from Robert Johnson’s Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

Reading with Soul in Mind

Often when we sit down to read we engage our “thinking mind” gathering tidbits of knowledge like we do fruit at the market. Tossing them in the basket of our mind we continue through the chapters perhaps thinking, “I already know this; tell me something I don’t know.” While this kind of reading serves most uses it does not lead to wisdom.

“Reading with Soul in Mind” engages all of you in the process of reading. It is a slow and disciplined process of engaging with the text like you would that ideal peach in the market. You pick it up and squeeze it ever so softly twirling it in your hand admiring its peachy color wondering if it had been bruised. Next you lift it towards your nose and sniff hoping to whiff that ever so sweet peachy smell. And if it passes this final test your mouth is watering in desire for this unique soured-covered sweetness to glide down your throat.

Now, I am not suggesting we eat the text. However, I am suggesting we engage our mind, heart, body and soul in the process of digesting the text. So, how do you do this?

First, hold the text in your hands as if you are holding a sacred object (or a peach). Let your hands feel it; and let it feel you. You can sniff it if you want to but I doubt it will make your mouth water. Most importantly prepare your mind, heart and body to be in a place of wonder and openness to gifts of knowledge before you.

Secondly, read sitting at a desk with your favorite writing instruments, a dictionary and journal nearby. Read slowly and deliberately making sure each word is understood looking up the words you do not understand immediately. Also, reading slow allows the ear to bounce along with the rhythm of the text. I like to breathe in through my nose and read out loud the sentences that inspire me letting the words vibrate through my entire body as if I was chanting a Hindu mantra.

Thirdly, check in with your body often. Does your heart and chest feel open or closed, relaxed or tense? Does the perimeter of your body feel hard like a melon or soft like a peach? Is your mind in a state of judgment or in wonderment?

Fourthly, underline whatever inspires you, touches you, and challenges you. Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Underlining is my meditation.”

Fifthly and most importantly, stop to inquire when you misread something, when you feel an emotion arising and especially when you find yourself confused or distracted. This is soul trying to interrupt the linear flow of reading with wisdom for your self realization.

Finally, go back to where soul interrupted and begin the inquiry process.

  • If it was something you read then ask, “what is it about what I just read that stirs me?”
  • If it was an emotion then ask, “What is this emotion? What color is this emotion? How does it feel? What is this emotion attached to?”
  • If you find yourself confused or distracted then ask, “What am I resisting? What am I denying? Where have I closed down and why?”

Journal, draw or tape record your questions and the spontaneously arising answers. Continue to inquire into each image, concept, body sensation or emotion that arises. It is critical to stay in inquiry mode as long as you can, hopefully exhausting your mind’s habit of shutting soul out of the co-creative process of self-realization.

By taking the time to read with soul in mind as suggested here the focus moves from tossing the fruits of knowledge into your mind basket to focusing on what your soul deems nutritional for your journey towards wholeness.

Evolution is a spiraling process between the Eternal and the Now

The conflict to be resolved in our era is — the rift between those who believe that evolution is an upward and outward linear progress in time and space, and those who believe evolution is a spiraling process inside time and space, bouncing between the eternal and the now, between the unmanifest and the manifest, between the archetype and the complex, between the godhead and his co-creator, Sophia, for its ever-changing identity. The former believe the future is unknowable, the later believe the eternal is unknowable. So the former chases after the future, and the later chases after creation.

I am in the group that chases after creation because we believe this is the way to know the eternal. This is a central tenet of Jungian psychology; and it is what separates the Freudians from the Jungians. Is the origin of Ego connected to the Self Archetype [God] or is the ego simply a construct created in the battle between pleasure and pain? If you quiz the biologists, who profess the latter, you will find they do not see their domain springing from physics.

I’m not sure if we can prove one way or another that spirit came before matter, or visa versa. I think this is the one, and only, place faith is required. Certainly we can read through the documents of anthropologists and archeologists and see the preponderance of material supporting the theory that spirit gave birth to matter. However, only those who are inclined to read and believe these reports will get it. It seems so obvious to me. To follow the opposing argument back to its roots you find a belief in chaos, in meaninglessness, and man’s superior ability to tackle both, or to be lost in existentialism. And therefore the man, or corporation, who has the loudest proclamation will win.

And if one believes this to be truth, then Nature has no voice; women’s intuition has no voice. The irony of this silly progression in irrationality is their biological origins were abandoned. How does one say biology is the beginning of everything and then abandon nature’s laws? Perhaps only those prone to illogical thinking can explain this, or those prone to ruling the world like the stupid lords before. But those who have investigated their rational and irrational ways of being along with their socially embedded beliefs will not fall for these paroxysms of stupid atheists and scientists.

If you have a choice – then choose life not death, choose humanity not corporations, choose self not ego, choose We not I.

A Cure for the Midlife Crisis

The Midlife Crisis

How to recognize a midlife crisis?

  1. You have the desire to start over.
  2. Your marriage is stale.
  3. Your career is less than adequate.
  4. Your life seems rudderless.
  5. You feel more impulsive than ever.
  6. You just bought a brand new red convertible.

The midlife crisis has less to do with the passage of time than it has to do with psychological experience. That is, the ego achievements of the first half of life have been accomplished: you have a wife/husband, children, pets, home, career, car, Ipad, etc. But what you don’t have is happiness. It is at this specific moment in your life that you begin to wonder about your legacy – what impact will you have on the world?

The midlife crisis is a wakeup call sent from your alienated soul. The first half of life is the domain of ego. Childhood patterns developed to protect the ego unconsciously run your life. Up until now you have been living what I would call a societal egoic life. The rules and roles that run your life, unconsciously, are not your own. To say to someone — you are a chip off the old block — is very true. Until you consciously choose the values, roles, and rules you will live by, you are simply a chip off the old societal block. Who you think you are is what Jung called the persona, the mask you show the world. Midlife is the time to emerge as a unique individual soul.

It could be said that acting out the midlife crisis — having the affair, changing careers, buying the red convertible — is a defense against the reality of death. Said differently, the existential task of midlife is to make sense of your life before you die. This means a transfer of power from the unconscious ego, to the conscious soul. Death is a reality that is easy to deny in the first part of life, but cannot be denied in the second part of life, although there are huge industries — plastic surgery for one — built around helping you continue to deny death. That aside, death creeps in with every wrinkle, every gray hair, the flabby belly, the hormonal changes, and aging children.

So what is the cure for the midlife crisis?

SOUL CONSCIOUSNESS!

The consciousness I am referring to is a state of being. It is not your identity (social persona); it is not your ego-consciousness; it is not your shadow (the part of your self you deny and repress). It is your ever-present self-awareness. Ego is focused on objects, obsessed with the past and the future, and leary of the present moment. Soul, on the other hand, is eternally present, alive and moving towards wholeness — its evolutionary purpose. Ego speaks in language; Soul speaks in symbols. Ego’s purpose is to protect the self from harm, and propagate the species. Soul’s purpose is to create, to love and move towards wholeness.

Jung outlined several steps in the project of one’s soul journey, a process he named individuation. They are:

  1. Encounter with the Shadow
  2. Encounter with your Soul-Image
  3. Encounter with your God-Image
  4. Emergence of the Self

I will talk more about these stages of individuation in another post. For now here is James Hollis, the author of The Middle Passage, identifying the end of the midlife crisis:

We know we have survived the midlife crisis when we no longer cling to who we were, no longer seek fame or fortune or the appearance of youth. The sense of life as a slow taking away, the inexorable exeperience of irreplaceable loss, is transformed by relinguishing the old ego attachments and affirming one’s deepening descent into the mystery. (Hollis, 1993, p. 113)

Psychologist or Clergy?

In the last essay entitled “Psychotherapists or the Clergy” of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung wrote that Freud’s theory of sexuality and Adler’s theory of power are “hostile to spiritual values, being, …, psychology without the psyche” (1933, p. 228). His claim is that the psychology built on the medical model focuses on psychopathology following the experimental findings of neurology which gives little to no credence to the reality of psyche in its own domain. Instead they reduce everything to biology — chemical processes and hormones.

As a depth psychologist my training, education and experience is in “psyche.” I am not trained in psychopathology. To be licensed as a psychologist you must know the manual of psychopathology — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – now in its fourth revision. Depth Psychology is for adults without mental illness, and I do not work with people with severe mental illnesses.

Jung said,

“All creativeness in the realm of the spirit as well as every psychic advance of man arises from a state of mental suffering, and it is spiritual stagnation, psychic sterility, which causes this state” (1933, p. 225).

He observed over the many decades of practicing psychiatry a common origin of neurosis – spiritual emptiness.

Jung was the first to require his analysts to be analyzed before they could become analysts themselves. He asked,

“How can I help these persons if I am myself a fugitive, and perhaps also suffer from the morbus sacer [holy disease] of a neurosis” (1933, p. 236)?

Interestingly there are no requirements stated, other than what is required by the accredited doctoral psychology school one attended, about the number of hours one needs to have undergone in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. My school, Pacifica Graduate Institute, required 50 hours. I have participated in over 5,000 hours of psychodynamic analysis, a much more intense and deep psychotherapeutic treatment.

The question I am left with, also the point, albeit subtle, Jung made in his essay, is — are licensed psychologists trained to heal neurosis? If they are trained and tested in psychopathology how does this lead to healing? Doesn’t one have to be trained in healing to be a healer? Shouldn’t one be healed themselves to be deemed a “healer?” Perhaps this is why psychiatrists are mainly pushing pills these days. I believe it is nearly impossible for licensed psychologists to heal neuroses if they have not learned about “psyche.” Perhaps this is why most of their treatment modalities, i.e. cognitive behavioral therapy and skill building, never really touch the depths of your soul, the originator of neuroses.

All ye with weary hearts and neurotic symptoms are welcome to my consulting room. Let it be known, I will not diagnosis you with a psychological illness; I will, however, tend your soul.