Commitment: The Container of Creativity

Commitment: The Container of Creativity

When we hear the word commitment, most of us think of obligation and restriction. After all, modern life is already so heavily structured,  we’d much rather ‘see what happens’ and ‘go with the flow.’ So we may avoid making commitments. Or if we do make them, we keep them ‘soft,’ in the event that something shinier comes along. We change careers an average of 7 times in adulthood, half of all marriages end in divorce, we communicate in the undemanding ways of text messages and emoticons, infinitely scrolling, rarely giving the fullness of our presence to anything. And by extension, we are growing to expect that life should be immediate and convenient. But what if convenience is really a sham? It proposes to make your life easier, and there are obvious benefits, but there are often hidden tolls being taken elsewhere. Easy puts work into robotic hands, undermining our own necessity. Easy destroys the mentoring relationship. Easy robs us of the privilege of courtship, the very thing which bonds us to a place and its resources, or a craft and the people who’ve made a slow mastery of their lives.  Consider the ancient alchemists who, despite...
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Loss of Identity: A summoning of the Numinous

Loss of Identity: A summoning of the Numinous

There’s a famous story that Robert Bly tells about Carl Jung who, whenever a friend reported enthusiastically, ‘I have just been promoted!’ Jung would say, ‘I’m very sorry to hear that; but if we all stick together, I think we will get through it.’ On the other hand, if a friend arrived depressed and ashamed, saying, ‘I’ve just been fired,’ Jung would say, ‘Let’s open a bottle of wine; this is wonderful news; something good will happen now.’ Now this may seem like backwards thinking to the rational mind, but to the soul it makes wonderful sense. These kinds of promotions in social stature set the ego into inflation, believing itself to have finally been recognized as the supreme ruler it was meant to be (!)  The ego’s survival depends upon the belief that it is in control and it doesn’t like to think that it might lose its ascendancy. But in those moments of trembling loss, it is forced to face its smallness. Jung wrote, “… the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.” Indeed, in those initiations by illness, loss or depression, when we are dragged into the underworld to pass through...
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Soul Retrieval: A Service to the Whole

Soul Retrieval: A Service to the Whole

The unconscious is not some repository for psychic junk, but has an unfathomable intelligence which inclines it to growth, not for growth’s sake, but for the long view of harmony and wholeness. The parts of us that are lost, ignored or rejected are felt as missing to the unconscious, so it works urgently to retrieve them by producing dreams. Remembering our dreams, and responding to them accordingly with our life choices, is a process Carl Jung called Individuation – or what the shamans before him saw as ‘soul retrieval.’ In many shamanic traditions when a person undergoes initiation, they are struck with a life-threatening illness or violently dismembered in a vision state – but the Call of the Journey is the same. One must set about re-membering what has been lost and, making radical changes to the way one lives, then come back together in a new way. This takes enormous bravery because you are up against not only your own fears and limitations, but our cultural ‘groupmind’ as well. But as you undertake this slow and often treacherous work, that same awareness can fuel you forward. Like trees who share the same root system, we are but individual...
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Dreamspeak: Eating Your Shadow

Dreamspeak: Eating Your Shadow

The single most healing practice for those who fear that “Evil” exists outside of oneself -in the form of malevolent spirits & other entities, like Satan – is the integration of one’s own shadow. Or what I call Shadow Eating. Most of us have been raised to be moral, good & agreeable, but we have also been putting all of our “unacceptable” qualities in what Robert Bly calls The Long Black Bag we drag behind us, what Jung termed the personal Shadow. The Shadow is the place where everything we have forgotten, denied, rejected or not yet discovered goes to live. The greater the denial of one’s darkness, taboo, or ‘negative emotions,’ the more fertile the breeding ground for fear, shame, depression, violence and anxiety. Now if you add public power to that equation, you are in for real trouble. Anywhere you see the attitude of the “evil-doer,” the corrupt “Other,” you can be sure the shadow has been denied in the self and now projected onto the outside world. In those places where extreme self-righteousness is proselytized, the more rampant the shadow becomes. For instance, in the Christian...
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Dreamspeak: The Importance of Fairy Tales

Dreamspeak: The Importance of Fairy Tales

As Joseph Campbell famously says, “Dreams are the private myth & myths are the public dream.” Indeed Campbell and other mythologists, such as those delightful Jungians, discovered amazing cross-cultural motifs in Fairy Tales. Those patterns, (or what we now call archetypes), are found repeatedly in stories from around the world, seemingly unconstrained by geography or epoch. Imagine for a moment that you could strip your ‘local’ story down to its bare essence, to find what you  have in common with everyone in the world, and you’ll get archetypes. From the Greek archetupos, meaning “first-moulded,” fairy tales are the blueprints of our innate, universal experiences. Archetypes get activated in our dreams during meaningful transitions, but having lost the art of symbolic language in our culture, we don’t recognize (or remember) them when they arise. Working with dreams & fairy tales helps us to see when we are undergoing important rites of passage, such as initiation, courtship, marriage, birth and preparation for death. They bring meaningful dimension to our human lives by showing us the chapters in our mythic journey. We...
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Dreamspeak: Faith in Synchronicity

Dreamspeak: Faith in Synchronicity

You dream of an owl and the next morning one swoops by your windshield. You are feeling grateful for a friend’s support when the song, “You’ve got a friend” comes on the radio. You finally quit an unhappy job and are offered a great opportunity the same afternoon. Not only are spirit and matter connected but they are, as Carl Jung puts it, “two different aspects of one and the same thing.” All of us have experienced synchronicity, (especially frequent among active dreamers,) and while we may not agree on why these ‘waking dreams’ occur, we unanimously feel our ‘clock and calendar constructs’ collapsing, and are saturated with a sense of meaningfulness. As many aboriginal cultures view it, time is more circular in pattern, not like the Western linear comprehension of time, (past-present-future), but flexible to the individual at the centre of that`time-circle.’ This is why we can heal our past as if it hasn’t happened yet. It is also why, with enough faith, we can dream things into being. In a giant leap of faith, my partner and I pulled up our roots in search of a new home. It is our dream to live in a thriving and activated community that is in alignment...
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Carl Jung: Pioneer of the Unknown

Carl Jung: Pioneer of the Unknown

Cosmic Divorce Until the 1840’s, the starting hypothesis for every scientific experiment was that the cosmos is organized in an intelligent, harmonious and unknowable design. Under Descartes’ influence, who believed reason was the only valid way to gain knowledge, The New Science was born. Purely interested in objective, physical reality, the unknowable was no longer marveled and esteemed, but renamed ‘irrational,’ and made synonymous with absurd. The philosopher-alchemists, who sought to link matter and spirit, faded to the fringes and Materialism grew into the myth of our time. The next 150 years of rationalism produced astonishing advancements in technology and industry, but while the logos-bias may have relieved some of the anxiety produced by the unknown, it also killed the mythic imagination. Without Eros, we forgot the teachings of our ancestors which connect us to the eternal. We lost the very thing that gives us substance and brings accountability into our lives. Without a sense of location in nature and the family of things, we have set a slow apocalypse in motion. Cheerleader of the Soul In a wildly skeptical era which saw few dream-warriors, one intrepid visionary...
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Dreamspeak: Monsters Need Love Too

Dreamspeak: Monsters Need Love Too

  Every self-respecting superhero has an arch-enemy. No matter how strong you get, there will always be a personal kryptonite that drops you to your knees, reduces you to tears, keeps you up all night churning, or causes you to behave badly. Even if you’ve grown wise to it, somehow it still manages to swallow you up. And once you’re inside its belly, it’s all you can do to breathe until it decides to spit you out again. Everyone has them and few shake them free. Carl Jung called them “complexes,” but we know them better as monsters. When you’re a kid, they appear in your dreams with hooves, pointy teeth and reeky breath. As you get older, they take on subtler forms; a tidal wave, military men, a fleet of poisonous spiders or, in my case, a desk job. But the best way to spot them in your own psyche is to pay attention to your feeling. When you feel inexplicably haunted, anxious or out of control, then you are probably in the sweaty grip of a complex. Like behavioural blueprints, complexes often develop as survival responses to the conflict and insufficiency we feel in childhood. Needing to protect yourself as a child, you may become withdrawn or confrontational, hypersensitive or...
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Dreamspeak:  A harmony named Desire

Dreamspeak: A harmony named Desire

I once had a dream that a blind fool began wreaking havoc in my community with his eccentricities. He sang so loudly, people put their fingers in their ears. He danced like a madman and knocked things over with his drunken pirouettes. He really knew how to clear a room. Somehow, I was the only one who liked him. When we were alone, he turned to me and whispered, “Don’t choose things that are familiar to you, but don’t choose things that are disagreeable either. Choose things that are unfamiliar and interesting to you at the same time!” As it turns out, the blind fool was a sage visionary. He was warning me not to become stagnant in familiarity, but to aspire to risk within limits. Somewhere between those two things, a holy harmony named Desire can be struck. Maybe the Transcendentalists had it all wrong; desire is not something to be ‘risen above’ as we’ve been routinely taught, but the very meat of creativity. Desire is what propels us to evolve, which draws us into life, towards that which we love but don’t yet understand. Following our heart’s desires may take us away from security, but it ripens our character while keeping us deliciously alive. Too many spiritual traditions...
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Dreamspeak:  Be Your Own Expert

Dreamspeak: Be Your Own Expert

There is an old parable that says if you meet Buddha on the road, kill him. However cryptic, the teaching warns that if you think you’ve made contact with your ultimate guru, you have great work ahead of you to integrate their qualities into yourself. You must ‘kill’ off your admiration for the teacher outside of yourself by learning to become your own expert. Dreams, by their very nature, teach us to do this with ever increasing attention. Once we learn a few simple tools for decoding our symbolic language, we gain access to an inexhaustible wealth of inner wisdom. We begin to discover that both teacher and student live simultaneously on our insides, and seeking becomes an enterprise of interiority. As this consciousness grows, your overall propensity for “othering” diminishes. The more Gestalt work you do, walking in the shoes of your dream characters, the greater your awareness grows for how much of reality is filtered through your projections. As usual, this awareness carries over to waking life. Where once you might have given up your yum to the impressive people around you, now you begin to see those same people as reflections of yourself. As my good friend...
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Dreamspeak: Participation Mystique

Dreamspeak: Participation Mystique

“I’ve been dreaming my ex’s girlfriend keeps trying to befriend me. In the dreams I just ignore her, but she’s following me around. When I first met her 3 years ago, she was a ‘normal’ girl, in capris with very little makeup, but about 2 years ago she got breast implants, a few tattoos and changed her wardrobe to be more of a rocker like my ex, who is a musician. She is completely re-vamped and still doesn’t seem to have his attention.” Have you ever had the experience of barely knowing someone yet feeling an immediate emotional attraction to them? Maybe you find yourself fantasizing over them so much that you’ve begun to neglect work and sleep…but how can you resist? The object of your affection possesses a beauty, ability, lifestyle, or authority that you find intoxicating and enviable. You are caught in the grip of your admiration and, even if you wanted to, there’s no turning back. Some of us romantics call it falling in love; others know it by the sober name of projection. Not one of us is immune to its mystical pull which draws us blindly, sometimes destructively, into each others arms. Eagerly, we place our psychic gold into the lover’s...
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Dreamspeak: Dream It Forward

With science, we strip things down to get at their heart. With dreaming, we are as shaman-writer Martin Prechtel describes, adding layers to the bulk of our soul by remembering. He is not speaking simply of remembering stories that are passed down through generations, but of a much further memory than that. Every time we dream, we are dipping into a wellspring of ancient wisdom. Though the scenarios in our dreams often appear contemporary, they are held together by archetypal motifs that are neither constrained by culture nor time. The entire appendix of our species, Carl Jung teaches, is within each of us for the accessing. The question is – what to do with all these layers? The idea Jung had was that in strengthening the bridge between unconscious and conscious, one had the chance at becoming more whole. Instead of living out two separate lives, one hidden and the other on display, it is possible through dreamwork to heal that split and live a more individuated life. It isn’t enough to simply dream something, you must put into practice what wisdom you’re given. Bring it down into the material. This process is what I call dreaming it forward. Of course the first step is to...
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Dreamspeak: Playful genius

Dreamspeak: Playful genius

I dream of a wise little girl. I’m very drawn to her but am interrupted by her father arriving before we can connect. He is urgent, speaking another language. He is difficult to understand and stressed out. He has crumbs all over his hands. I am asked to tell stories to the children, which I very much want to do. I see the little girl grown up now, on stage singing in a night club. She has a very unique voice, not like anyone else I’ve ever heard, but she can’t seem to get enough breath behind it. I get the feeling she has been too coached by her father, who is still hovering. Imagine you had meticulously collected footage of yourself looking and behaving heroically in a number of scenarios, hoping to broadcast it to the world at large. But before your release, someone comes along and splices all your outtakes together instead, showing you at your most unrehearsed and vulnerable. Our dreams are like this. While our well-manicured personality sleeps, our roughness hits the town and is caught in an unprepared, nightly act. I often get asked why we dream, but it’s just as unanswerable a question as why we live. It helps me, however, to think of dreaming as...
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Dreamspeak: The You in Me

Dreamspeak: The You in Me

Of all the skills called upon in dreamwork, a tolerance for ambiguity is perhaps the most vital. As with relationship dreams, it can be difficult to decipher on which ‘level’ they occur: is the dream about the actual person, or does the character represent an aspect of myself? I find yes is usually the right answer to either/or questions. Since we can only see the world filtered through our own perspective, that differentiation somewhat falls away. What triggers me about a certain individual might not even register on someone else’s radar. So while the person may well possess difficult qualities, it is no coincidence that I can spot them like a hawk. We attract people into our lives who possess matching or companion pieces to our own. For instance, let’s say your ex-lover was painfully distant and even though you’ve broken up, you keep dreaming that he’s abandoning you. The dream is showing you that this ‘aloofness’ is still active somewhere in your life. Like many people, you may have chosen a new relationship that is playing out the same, disappointing drama. But if you are always attracting aloofness, it might be because you are also aloof. You can see it clearly in the...
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Dreamspeak:  Tiny Light

Dreamspeak: Tiny Light

When Swiss dream pioneer and founder of Analytical Psychology, Carl G. Jung, was in university, he dreamt he was walking at night into a mighty wind with his hands cupped around a tiny light which threatened to go out at any moment. Even as a gigantic black figure pursued him, he knew that everything depended on his keeping the little light alive. To keep the light of consciousness alive as we enter into the shadowy aspects of our psyches is the great task of dreamwork. It is perhaps the most common reason that people resist dreaming, for how frightening nightmares can be. But covering your eyes is usually worse than looking. It is when you avoid pain that dreams tend to reoccur, or turn up their creepiness volume. This is not, as you might suspect, to torture you, but rather to get your attention so you may progress. Just as a bird must be pushed out of a tree to find its wings, so too must we face our demons if we hope to turn them into allies. It is through our toughest experiences, including difficult dreams, that we discover our agency. You might even say that we require risk in order to become ourselves. As far as personal growth is concerned, the smelly stuff of our dark...
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Dreamspeak: Nightly Amnesia

Dreamspeak: Nightly Amnesia

At the end of our lives, we will have spent almost 7 years dreaming, most of which we won’t remember. “I don’t dream.” Is the most common response I get from people when they discover the line of work I’m in. Never more than two minutes elapses before the same person will say, “…but I did have a strange dream last night.” Welcome to Dreamspeak, a column in which we’ll be exploring the intriguing world of dreaming. We will be looking at the art and architecture of dreams, learning practical methods for understanding their structure as well as marveling at their mystical qualities. The truth is we all dream every night. While we are asleep, complex symbols are narrated together in a sophisticated order to form our private myths. Yet every morning, we wake up with amnesia. Or, if we do remember something, it reads like gibberish. This is not because we need an expert to interpret our dreams, but because we have forgotten our mother tongue, the language of symbols. Our psyche generates, grows through and is healed by images. So intrinsic are they to us that our everyday speech is made up of them. We ‘dig our own graves’ and get ‘knots in our stomach’, we find...
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Every ounce a queen!

Every ounce a queen!

“I want to die having lived my own life.” Woodman began, her temples white with the mark of cronedom, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. The sort of relief that one feels in finally belonging, after having lived a long life in a world divorced from the cosmos, in denial of nature. Marion Woodman; author, teacher, crone, shepherd, came to remind us that what is most missing from our culture is the Mature Feminine. Real Mothering, she explained, is the ability to “hold presence.” It is not divided attention, like the sort you feel when you’re speaking to someone as they psychically compose their grocery list. “I don’t have time for that,” she said. Holding presence “is to love the other exactly as they are, not as you want them to be.” It is love without judging, without getting the other tangled up in your own unconscious, unlived life. “Holding presence is to make space so the other can grow into their destiny. They can feel that,” Woodman assured us. “There is a destiny that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will.” Woodman recited William Shakespeare to illustrate the battle between...
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