Tag Archives: spirituality

… a haunting dream pops up again …

The scene takes place on a sunlit peninsula, set in a glittering sea. I play with white cubes, each feather light. The childlike part of me experiments with the beauty of forms and the building of imaginative structures that mirror colours of  the sky and surrounding landscapes. Others join in, and not just friends, strangers too. We have fun, laugh and toss cubes to each other. We are building a temple to celebrate play.

A crowd approaches. Stable minded, committed to rational thinking and adverse to risk-taking, they object to our frivolity. Some serious looking folk move in with knives at their belts. Our vision of lightness offends. We demonstrate how temples can rise and fall in the blink of an eye. ‘You put a lie to order,’ they say, ‘you ridicule our values.’ They fear us, having invested in solid structures, walls, to house the light of their gods.

With no gods to protect, we thought we could do with movable walls. After all, there are walls and walls.

—————

As a child I wondered if I’d dropped onto the wrong planet, but was later heartened by brilliant minds with deep insights and generous perspectives on consciousness, including C G Jung.

I found a sense of safety in knowing that I can hoist the sails of my boat, catch a spirit wind and sail on a light-wave towards higher dimensions.

That said I’m a bullshit detector in the post-new-age spiritual market, where I could’ve done well with a how-to-keep-sane book.

When the above dream first arrived, many years ago, I thought, heck, I live in this space/time to engage with and challenge limitations in myself and others. I felt suspended between the virtues of Plato’s top-down and Aristotle’s bottom-up metaphysical arguments. I explored question such as – do the aggressors in my dream represent the judgmental part of me that inhibits the creative impulse of the child that shrinks when it feel unwelcome? … Yes.

Acquiring skills to facilitate creative workshops and dream seminars, brought me over two decades of confidence and joy. I discovered my intuitive connection to a higher intelligence, and I learned to trust in group processes. Former participants fondly remember these times. We had a safe space to play in.

The dream returned to show up once more my fear of rejection. This time I’m alone, the fear applies to my writing. Rejection has become the rule in this over harvested and exploited field. And as much as the explosion of writing contributes to a massive leap in the expansion of consciousness, I must admit, having spent years writing and polishing my first opus, I’ve become a judging discriminator myself. The persistence of writers is admirable, though I gasp when I hear that some writers query hundreds of agents or publishers – really?

I sent out one query only (I hear you gasp) to a niche publisher, who, in response to a poet friend’s recommendation, read my novel, loved it and wanted to launch it, but then, sadly, three years on, had to fold her publishing venture. Further delays were unthinkable, so I published, at the risk of losing the roof over my head.

Readers have personal tastes. When a book is not branded and displayed in literary markets, finding tasters will not happen overnight. I’ll keep an open mind. Appreciating and understanding my ghost of rejection is the real issue for me, especially in a time when fear assumes bestselling qualities and depression spreads like a virus.

I’m editing the sequel to Course of Mirrors and will continue writing. If procrastination was an academic accomplishment I’d have earned a PhD during these last few months.

Not to be too hard on myself, I endured five weeks without heating or hot water, editing wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing, winter boots, hot water bottles and gloves, until, finally, a government grant towards a new boiler was approved. Bliss … my brain cells are warming up again.

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… then they lived again – friends – soul families …

How we make friends is a mystery. What is the unremembered that draws people and groups together as in a mirror? Are there families of souls tasked to exchange particular reflections during particular times?

Via serendipitous events my son was born in a Hamlet in the deepest Somerset hills among neighbours who adored him. The phase lasted five years, enough to provide me with a much needed hiatus after intense years of work, travelling and communal life.

Our selfless neighbours left an indelible impression on my son. They made him a valued and loved part of a small community. Our farmer friend, Hope, was hungry for knowledge, though never realised her dream of travelling as a journalist. She had however the most vivid visions of Tibet; a place neither of us had visited but felt strong emotional connection with. Not the first time, I had a shock of appreciation for the unremembered sparking instant rapport slipping through time.

‘We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.’ – William James

I was thirty then, had travelled much and been involved with innumerable internationally composed groupings, circles upon circles – this was to continue for decades to come. Among the groups were people who felt strangely familiar, like Hope. We would guard out solitude, cry together, or laugh hilariously about silly things. Equally there were those wary of me, often for reasons unknown to themselves, which made me wary of them. You may know this treading-on-eggshells feeling.

Serendipitous time-jumps weave through my novels. The cast of ‘Shapers’ has characters from ‘Course of Mirrors’ set in a future time, but caught in similar psychological dynamics.

It has been said that behind every creative expression is a desire for immortality, the prolonged influence of personal achievement. This seems simpleminded to me. I think our desire is to create beauty and meaning to make our existence worthwhile. It is the human search for our spiritual identity, generated by three persisting questions: who are we, why are we alive and what is the purpose of it all?

In this illusionary play of differences and multiple meanings we need friends. To have even one friend is a blessing. Friends distanced by space, and time, reside in the heart nevertheless. They include those who died. They may be writers, artists, innovators, past and present. They include friends who moved to other continents. They include the sympathetic minds we encounter via the internet, who greatly enrich our lives.

Friends I shared core experiences with are especially dear.  A few of them I see face to face at yearly intervals. We may catch up on the narratives we hold of each other, though there will be new thresholds – moments where the known encounters the unknown.

My mum used to put a ruler or a book on my head and mark my height with a date inside a doorframe during my rapid growth years. More than a physical measurement, these marks made me think of what else had changed during the months since the last recording. Our essence abides, but our persona grows and is mutable in the way we evaluate ourselves against the passage of time.

This is why I like having guests. When a Dutch friend visited last month, the thought arose as to how the time gaps between our actual meetings affect us. He suggested I write something about this. He works presently in Germany, so our conversation slipped into German, with snippets of Dutch and back into English. He uses one language for business, another for philosophy, and yet another for emotional subjects. This strikes me as a neat arrangement. A little space between feeling and thinking, and a choice between modes of operating can make one’s internal communication more finely tuned and coherent.

The occasional visit of a friend eclipses my routines and opens extra dimensions, like the virgin pages of a notebook where our idiosyncrasies are redrawn, edited and updated. Connective threads shift past memories or future visions.

We are re-imagined and in the process re-connect to our essence.

The lens we focus on each other is subtly adjusted by the most intimate of all friends, the angel that is our inner story teller.

 

 ‘Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.’ ― Henry David Thoreau

‘No human relation gives one possession in another—every two souls are absolutely different. In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together to find what one cannot reach alone.’ ― Kahlil Gibran

 ‘Mankind is interdependent, and the happiness of each depends upon the happiness of all, and it is this lesson that humanity has to learn …’ –  Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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… guiding spirits & stones …

Contemplating buzzwords relating to my soon to be published novel, Course of Mirrors, I thought I make a start with guiding spirits, or angels.

We each have one, so ancient, such intimate presence, so discreet and soft spoken, we fail to notice. My protagonist forgets hers, despite obtaining an object of remembrance she takes on her journey as talisman – a shiny black stone, polished by the elements,  holding aeons of memory and embodying her first encounter with spirit in matter, the invisible in the visible:

“I was bridge, river, riverbed and water falling from the cliff, the aria of water. I was air, breeze and water dust rising. I was mirror to mirrors yet looked from beyond mirrors. Behind my eyes a truth flashed.”

When, seemingly by chance, she does remember her treasure, a timeless power is released, the miraculous happens, aligned with nature’s power to transform.

‘All time is contained in now.’ – Meister Eckhart

‘Time is eternity living dangerously.’  – John O’ Donohue

These related posts open new pages, so you don’t lose this one:

Oh my sweet crushed angel.

The magic of remembrance.

 

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… I lost an ally, but not her frequency …

Launch of 'Heart of a Sufi.'

2011 launch of ‘Heart of a Sufi’ at a friend’s place.

Before I share the book cover of ‘Course of Mirrors,’ my first novel to be released in spring, I must step back and credit once more a book I co-edited and am proud to have helped produce. ‘Heart of a Sufi’ was published by a group of friends in 2011. A limited print-run of hardbacks sold quickly and recouped our expenses. I wrote about the background to this project in honour of Fazal Inayat-Khan here in March 2013.

 

Joe Linker, a blogger friend, wrote only this week a spot-on review of this unusual book – brilliant, heartfelt thanks. One of our small editorial team, Rahima (Elspeth) Milburn, would have been delighted with the review of this book she endorsed with passion. Sadly she died peacefully shortly before 2017 was rung in.

by-ashen-portrait-of-elspeth-spottiswood-smallerI miss her. She was a deep thinking woman, a painter, psychotherapist and lover of poetry, especially Rumi, whose verses she recited often in her very deep and distinctive voice.  She was an inspiration to many. For over ten year, up to 2004, we run monthly seminars and additional workshops together, on themes like mythology, the power of the imagination, and the significance of dreams. I feel deep gratitude for her supportive friendship and feel strongly that her frequency lives on.

The portrait on the right I did in her studio, around the Millennium.

A group of us, companions on her path, will travel to Cornwall next week to join the large Milburn family and send their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother on her journey. Some of my readers may remember a humorous poem I wrote for Rahima and her family – posted here last October:

Regarding ‘Heart of a Sufi’ … while there are only very few of the beautiful hard copies left, some with Watkins in London, the work is also available as an e-book  with Troubador or Amazon.

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Autsch

Autsch

Finding this photo reminded me of how I kept bloodying my knees on the sharp stones of circumstances, and still do. My hope for a warmer communication with my father was dashed. He revived, and with it a fierce need for control. Lines by Dylan Thomas come to mind:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light …

Humans are mortal, but maybe humanity as a whole is immortal, and particularly its desire to find a meaningful answer to the circus of life.

‘Mein Freund, die Zeiten der Vergangenheit // Sind nur ein Buch mit sieben Siegeln. // Was ihr den Geist der Zeiten heißt, // Das ist im Grund der Herren eigner Geist, // In dem die Zeiten sich bespiegeln.’  –                                                                 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust (I)

Just like the human brain receives and conducts thoughts and ideas (like a radio,) so genes may receive and conduct what a psychic seedpod brings along at conception, that is – familiar patterns drawn to new constellations as through a mathematical time-grid (astrology may not be far off) – so that our realities are really mirrored from other spheres.

Via this psychic seedpod our story seem to arrive with template personality types, whose potentials and constraints determine our genes, not the other way around, at least not until the body’s biochemical traffic assumes a habitual force. With the psychic seedpod comes a pack of shadows – talents, passions, traumas, hurts or humiliation engendered by generations before us. With this pack also come tasks: to tie up loose ends, and to redeem faults not of our making.

From the start out endowment attracts projections, like a magnet, coercing us to oblige the projectors. Forget about being right, about justice. The secret of transforming energy and doing better than those before us lies in responding to situations, even when our habituated cell-traffic unconsciously demands a knee-jerk reaction. Awareness slips easily. Faith by itself does not help the evolution of human qualities. Insight, humility and patience are also needed, but often lost when buried emotions pop up.

My father’s constitutional short fuse with the world at large had over time found creative outlets, but his recent outburst hooked me into early experiences of feeling manipulated and made small by anger that belonged elsewhere. I became his nearest Blitzableiter (lightning conductor.) A personal scar opened. Autsch.

Recovering in Munich last week, the fragment of a poem prodded to be recalled. Back home, I reached for my Richard Wilhelm edition of the I Ging – Das Buch der Wandlungen. Opening a page at random, the fragment I was trying to recall showed up as a footnote. Romantic poets may have lacked irony, but they often touched on a pulse of wisdom … these lines from the last stanza of ‘Die Ideale’ by Friedrich Schiller:

… Beschäftigung, die nie ermattet,
Die langsam schafft, doch nie zerstört,
Die zu dem Bau der Ewigkeiten
Zwar Sandkorn nur für Sandkorn reicht,
Doch von der großen Schuld der Zeiten
Minuten, Tage, Jahre streicht.

The quirky translation is mine …

… Activity that never tires                                                                                                                                       Slowly creates but never wrecks                                                                                                                                      That to the houses of eternity                                                                                                                                  Only sand grain by sand grain gives                                                                                                                             Yet wipes from the great guilt of times                                                                                                                   Minutes, days, years –

P1080230 - smaller

I wish I had the patience and good humour of my little Garden Buddha …

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Even ‘Brexit’ and the realisation that the good old UK is really a Divided Kingdom leaves my Buddha smiling.

The deeper problem – a runaway capitalism all over the world, makes people angry. The solution is pretty clear to me – give every citizen a basic wage, so they won’t have to go begging from the state every time they experience hardship or are out of a job.

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… the opportune elevator pitch …

Image by Carol & Mike Werner

Image by Carol & Mike Werner

Once a hotel, now a home for senior citizens, to live independently or, when needed, access a care unit, is the place my father chose as exit platform. The building has Escher-like features. Doors along every corridor look alike. The only way to determine floor levels are the artworks of residents gracing the walls. At one end of the building is a sluggish and brainless elevator. Hardly bigger than a telephone cell, it is airtight and eerily silent. Once inside, the occupant is suspended in time, with no sense of movement, up or down.

‘Can we squeeze in?’ I ask, pushing my dad’s wheelchair into the tiny cubicle. The man is baffled. Landing at ground level was not his intention. He is the reticent carer in training that worries dad, who detects a touch of paranoia, a sentiment he himself is familiar with, plagued at times by imagined dubious intentions of people. I’m a lost case to paranoia, but I allow for paranoid people’s intelligence. They value truth.

Occasional bouts of confusion haven’t impaired my dad’s wit. He suggested we should discover what interests the uncommunicative carer  so we can butter him up. I tried, going about it the wrong way. ‘Do you like alcohol?’ I enquired, thinking of a choice bottle from my dad’s apartment, the home I must soon dissolve.

‘I’m no alcoholic,’ was the curt reply. Newcomers from Eastern Europe tend to have admirable principles.

With the three of us trapped, sans sound, at snail-pace, embarrassment has no distraction other than a mirror covering one wall.  ‘Ah Herr W, how are we today?’

‘So, so,’ my dad says, with a melancholic pout.

The mournful air compels the carer’s curiosity. ‘What things interest you?’

‘Everything,’ my dad says, ‘the whole world. ‘And he cunningly adds, ‘what interests you?’

‘Everything,’ says the carer, ‘countries, people, science, religion …’ The elevator door opens to the care unit … ‘most of all religion.’

Pa at St Michael 1967

Dad at St Michael 1967

My dad shoots me a wicked smile. His library, I discovered, apart from books on art and travel, had accumulated works on ideological themes he used to rubbish with a vengeance. As a young mother in rural Somerset, insular for a while, I did an OU course on Comparative Religion, wanting to explore the key influences prophets and their early followers had on cultures throughout history. My dad’s comment at the time was, ‘Next you’ll send Jehovah preachers to my door.’ Attempts to bridge our bizarre dissonances had only ever elicited angry reactions, which I chose not to energise, enduring the grief. My dad’s cranky nature shielded a fine intellect, fed by reading and extensive travelling. His disapproval of me, I sensed, held a childlike envy of my bohemian autonomy, freedoms not available after the war. We battled with our shadows in isolation, me remaining the wayward daughter that lived abroad.

During my most recent visit, I arranged for some of my dad’s paintings, photographs, books and creative tools to be around him in his care abode. They’ll provide openings for conversation with those who now look after his daily needs.

Our war is over. It is heartening to observe how my dad’s reclusive attitude softens and, like blossoms falling this spring, gives way to new fruit.

Out Beyond Ideas

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

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… maps of meaning …

Maps, the symbolic depictions of relationships between different elements, be they objects, regions in space, or ideas in conceptual domains, serve as orientation devices. Though it’s worth remembering Korzybski’s point, ‘The Map is not the territory.’

Earthrise, Dec 1968

Earthrise, Dec 1968

Given the complexity of global problems, there’s a dire need for charting the increasing expansion of specialised knowledge, diverse traditions and experiences, into a wider context. Since the poetic image of our planet rising in space did not grip the hearts of a critical mass, we need theoretical overviews to dispel confusions, and explore how all the seemingly disparate comprehensions of the world we live in can work together in a more intelligent and unified way.

Ken Wilber is a great proponent of an’ Integral Theory,’ bringing together many fields of knowledge and methodologies, scientific and spiritual, in an attempt to show how all these partial truths can be reconciled and be mutably enriching. This 1.5 hour talk  is brilliant, and eminently worth listening to.

In his AQAL  map  (You can press – 1MB free – and get a screen resolution)  Wilber integrates various developmental ideas, which may remind of Abraham Maslow and Carl Gustav Jung, to name but a few mapmakers before him.  In the above talk Wilber describes developmental tipping points in recent history, which apparently needed only a small percentage of the population, the 10 percent who could embrace the new value, to bring about a collective shift in consciousness.

He’s expecting another tipping point to emerge soon. Fresh conceptions can bring more truth and more love to our actions, more consciousness, more skill to deal with complexities, and more compassion to every dimension of human knowledge and activity.

I hope you’ll find the time to listen to Wilbers talk, and maybe further study his work.

Fazal Inayat-Khan  Photograph by Ashen

My former Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, (image by Ashen) also felt strongly that new conceptual maps were required. His aim was to integrate transpersonal aspect into the field of psychology. During a summer school in 1990, a few weeks before he died, he sketched the following cosmology on a flip chart and invited us to play with it.

Fazal's Cosmology

The graph depicts three worlds, the natural Cosmos, the finer Psyche, and the yet finer Pneuma (spirit,) differentiating the function, structure and content of each world.

How these three dimensions can relate to an individual is set into the same framework.

For me, this playful ordering made perfect sense, and, in a kind of epiphany, helped me to clarify the tremendous importance of the world of the imagination, and how it is held together by meaning. It also gave me new ideas about time. These days I like to call the Psyche the changing room.

Barn, group room, smallerOur small group that day was encouraged by Fazal to replace terms and use our own words in this presentation, according to our own understanding. He was this kind of teacher. I dearly miss this wonderful friend, the community and the place.

Does this cosmology, this orientation device, corresponds in any way to your understanding and experience? And I’d be curious know if you feel inspired to change or move words around.

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On the ‘OTHER’ page of this site (see top bar) you can find a PDF link to an article I wrote on the imaginative function based on ideas of the great Muhyi-d-Din Ibn ‘Arabi. The article is called ‘Science of the Heart.’

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… cats …

I had various pets I cared for as a child, among them talking parakeets, hedgehogs, crows, snakes, mice, and dogs – but never cats. Actually I wanted a horse, but it never happened.

Cat, Yesh &SuzukiThen came Somerset, and I thought my young son would enjoy a cat. He did.

We called her Suzuki. I must have been into Zen … ‘Enjoy your problems’ – that kind of thing.

Cat, Suzuki with Buddha, bliss - Copy

As you can see, Suzuki had leanings to our stone ‘Budai,’ drawn to its lucky charm and its loving nature, easing her through tough moments … as you can also see.

Cat, Yeshen, Suzuki's lot

To catch mice in the ancient cottage we lived in was beneath her. She gifted us with other creatures. One summer, after returning from a trip, during which time our kind neighbour fed Suzuki, the wool fleece rug in our bedroom looked at first pristine and welcoming, but the moment my bare feet stepped on it my legs were jumped upon by armies of tiny, shiny armoured flees. Par chance I spotted a pack of post-it-notes on a Chester drawer and an ‘aha’ moment occured. I peeled off the pests amass from my skin with the sticky stripes, stomping about for a while, so none should be left out. I recommend sticky stuff for emergencies; it works, among other tricks I soon learned about.

Then came a time when we moved from home to home while in transit towards Surrey. In one such charmed place Suzuki distinguished herself as baby rabbit catcher. Never a killer, she plonked the fluffy bundles on the living room floor, where they sat, stunned and motionless … there you are, a present … We freed the bunny back into the neglected orchard of the property, but it soon returned, carried gently at the scruff of its neck by Suzuki. This happened innumerable times, likely with the same bunny, over and over. I wondered whether it was born into the wrong body, and was truly a cat – or our spayed cat was truly a rabbit in want of babies. We’ll never know. Unsure where we would end up, we left beautiful Suzuki with a woman who adored her. My son was upset, and only partly reconciled by a teddy friend.

Teddy 5

Cat, Amber136Entering a more settled phase in Surrey, we adopted a ginger rescue cat, Caspar, who appeared dour and joyless, most likely due to distressing experiences. My attempts to create rapport were unsuccessful. One day he simply disappeared, and I blame myself to this day. In due time, I searched and found Amber, a gorgeous tabby kitten. Slow in having her spayed, she produced offspring, giving birth in the living room, an unexpected and magical event, while I had friends over. The three in the litter were very different, in looks and temperament. The first and last born kittens found homes. Cat, Jetty and Tulips - lowerMy son thought it best to let the children, accompanied by their parents, choose, so we ended up with the middle born, sleek, black, and with a lovely tranquil nature. We named her Jetty. I linked with her in grief when Amber was sadly run over in the street a few years on.

Jetty lived to be 16. She died on my birthday a few years back. When Katia, a writer friend, posted her experiences with cats  –  it saddened me to hear the story of the sudden demise of her companion. Genie reminded me of Jetty, which sparked this post, in honour of her friendship.

Cat, crop - smaller - CopyHow to describe the deep bond we can form with an animal? Is it our need for acceptance, totally reciprocated from a creature that has all its needs for shelter, food and attention met? I think that’s a flatlander’s view. All meaningful connections happen beyond rational thought, in other spheres. Animals are sensitive to vibrations beyond our clock time awareness, often knowing of events before they happen, which is why they can warn and protect us. And because their senses are wide open to fine energies, as well as vulnerable to harmful ones, we, too, are moved to protect them.

We humans are urged to be clever and become quickly absorbed in the ongoing evolution of the rational mind. Animals can teach us to stay closer to nature, the most powerful text of life. And they maintain a strong link to dimensions we frequently lose, where all experiences mingle in the ever expanding pool of universal consciousness. With all our specialness, nature is indispensable to us. An animal friend whose intelligence detects moods and intentions, cats are particlularly good at this, can show us any moment, as in a mirror, our true state of being.

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“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” – Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” – Jean Cocteau

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… love …

Little My - Tove JanssonLike me less or more, I’ve no qualms sharing that my persona hosts a little devil, an entity suspicious of principles, endless re-branding of what is obvious and free, including pearls of wisdom, and annoyed with much else in the world. This little sprite is my soul’s guard, my bullshit detector, and my Cara (friend.) She mocks hypocrisy, sanctimonious attitudes, power games and manipulation. Every now and then this sprite, like Tove Jansson’s Little My, when enraged, oversteps a mark and creates wanton conflict with my otherwise gentle nature and, at times, too trusting persona.

When a resolve is needed but not forthcoming, I resort to tools of remembrance – head-clearing techniques that calm the mind. Sometimes this works beautifully, but not today, when, of all subjects, I intended to write about ‘love.’

I’ll go ahead anyway, stating that the illuminating intelligence we call love is a core reality inside us. Words are kind of inept, but Rumi got it right.

‘The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.’

Rumi (translated by Moyne/Barks)

Irrespective of the despair and suffering experienced around the world, there are plenty of instances when people realise love moves in cracked hearts, and the sun dawns – things are the way they are because we observe them that way. This is our creation, our prison cell and our freedom. Fear may kick in when reliable walls suddenly dissolve, but equally, a realm of exquisite frequency can transcend the exacting laws of dense physicality, and stun us with the simplicity of an underlying truth. People wary about being laughed at keep silent, others start creeds, and there’s the occasional genius – the teacher, artist, writer or outsider, who convinces with plain yet startling expressions of the intelligence living inside us, the one being, pulsing through life’s revolution with wings of beauty.

What, I ask myself, would ensue in the unlikely event of every conscious being on this planet becoming enlightened to this deeper reality simultaneously?

I am interested to know what you think …

My thoughts go like this. In the temporal physical world, at least, friction yields energy we can use and direct. When it comes to the psyche, maybe we need to look at the yearning for love as a means to expand consciousness rather than a goal that promises the laurels of eternal life. Life is eternal without this nonsense of enlightenment as a goal, because, think about it, anything that has achieved wholeness stops becoming. A perfectly ripe apple that drops to the ground does not magic itself back to its branch, a new dream begins.

While appearances overwhelm and dazzle us with joy, pain, suffering and confusion in ongoing fluctuation, we can, at times, become aware of this soft rippling breath flowing through the visible and the invisible universe, sustaining the beauty and intelligence that life is ultimately animated by. When this love spins its hidden silver thread through us we are inspired. Angel - Der Engel - Woodcut for H C Andersen 1888 - smallerEven my little devil is charmed when our angel appears, serene or with a humorous smile – ah, you remembered, hello again, eternal child, welcome to warmth, elation, wonder and respect for all differences. For a while there is no judgement, no right or wrong. We’re moving in a vastly different dimension, of which the visible world is just one expression.

Various traditions propose or speculate on a purpose to life, but ultimately we create our own purpose by committing to a path and changing its meaning on the go, only the intelligence of love seems to be a constant.

The separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one’ – Einstein

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… dreams …

Photos by Ashen

Photos by Ashen

I used to host regular dream groups. We did not so much set out to analyse our dreams, but we played with them by engaging with their images, characters and objects. Sometimes we enacted scenes to widen associations and deepen our insights. While there is some excellent literature on working with dreams, a lot of it is boring, misleading and superficial. For me, the main purpose of valuing dreams lies in befriending the unconscious and the bringing to light what is timely and meaningful.

When we have no obvious explanation for events, dreams may bring subtle messages, offering glimpses of dynamics usually hidden from our awareness. A staggering 90 percent of personal and collective psychic dynamics trigger and compel our actions in life, and for good reason. The self-regulating psyche protects us from too much awareness. When encouraged, respected, and left to do its work, much like the immune system, the psyche can encapsulate runaway viruses of the mind by blanking out anxieties and obsessive thoughts, unless a trauma results in an ongoing inner storm. The processing of traumatic experiences is vital for the health of the individual, the family, the tribe, and our collective psyche. Something equally important to consider is that as adults our natural childlike curiosity about life may have become flattened by engrained habits and obsessive needs for security and control, both diminishing the meaning of our lives.

Note: Each embedded link here will not lead you away from this post but bring up a fresh page.

In an earlier blog post Joe Linker’s comment led me to an article by Oliver Sacks on altered states in The New Yorker  where Sacks pointed out a long tradition of ceremonial drug-use to stimulate the brain. Drugs certainly relax jaded attitudes by activating the senses and bringing insights and fresh perception. Sacks, and many like him, were admiringly fearless and creative, before there was a clamp down on drugs and they became illegal.Dreamseries 2

In dreams as in trance, induced or not, the mind can kick up imaginal representations of feelings, and metaphors. We shift to another realm, escape the logical structure of time and also tap into the collective psyche. We may hit a T junction, one path leading to an illuminating visionary state and the other to a schizophrenic state of confusion, which is why science sticks with rationality and is generally not keen on the imagination. The question as to what pulls us towards Heaven or Hell has no easy answer, yet all inner state, when approached with respect, patience, and most of all, wisdom, can have a healing and effect on our personality, and, in instances, as we know, result in significant works of art.

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Freud’s iceberg metaphor illustrates that our individual psyche swims like a mountain of ice in a vast sea, only to reverse into its fluid state once its coherence dissolves back into the sea. As a simple and more intelligent map of various unconscious states I prefer the egg diagram by Alberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis.

Active imagination is a gentle way to befriend the unconscious and build bridges towards consciousness and daily life, and a way to explore dreams without messing with the dreamer’s unique meaning. I share here some practical tips:

Remembering dreams:

You can ask for a dream, especially when you feel stuck and ponder a question. You might even write the question on a slip of paper and put it under your pillow.

Try not to move your head after noticing a dream. Place holds memory.

Have a notepad and a soft pencil next to your bed, maybe a microlight, so you can scribble down a memory facet before fully crossing the threshold into waking. Even a single image, phrase, number, colour or feeling can act as a key for recalling a dream later on.

To catch a dream – try disrupting your sleeping pattern with an early alarm clock setting.

Experiment with your head position while sleeping – north, east, south or west.

Towards understanding dreams:

The psyche does not care about logic. The meaning of a dream may however unfold like a seed when we attend to its poetry and rhythm.

Ask yourself … how do I relate to the characters or objects of a dream? What feelings and sensations are evoked? In what context did the dream arise? How does it relate to my present situation?

Write a story or make sketches of the images. Tiny fragments can offer connections via free associations.

Give a voice to the characters and objects appearing in the dream. What do they want? Allow them to express their thoughts and feelings. Such dialogues can reveal surprising insights.

Change the script, create a different outcome, face down a fear or a shadow and follow through to what wants to happen. This approach can move a dream to a different level of understanding.

Ask yourself: Where does the energy want to go? What is emerging?

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Dreams express the voice of the soul; they are our contact with our deepest self, our inner substance. The mere act of recalling, experiencing and consciously honouring our dreams connects us with our real selves and awakens previously unavailable levels of creativity and vitality, even without interpretation.

Carl G Jung

A related post on altered states.

And if the subject of dreams interests you, here are some more links:

Edward C Whitmont was a Jungian psychoanalyst, who deepened my understanding of the psyche through his exceptionally clear writing. His books may be out of print, which would explain why they’re so expensive:  Dreams – a Portal to the Source and The Symbolic Quest

Other excellent authors to look out for, apart from Jung, are Anthony Stevens, Private Myths – Dreams and Dreaming, and Marie-Louise von Franz – The Interpretation of Fairy Tales.

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