Monthly Archives: May 2014

Flying Home…again

Pigeon Columbidae Bird Flying in Cloud Sky

In my constant search to find the meaningful connection between the benign and the spiritual, it occurred to me we’re all like pigeons (stay with me, I promise there’s a point to this). Here’s how this conclusion came to be:

Each day, while I’m working to stay present to my clients’ stories, I’m also working really hard to ignore this flock of pigeons that inhabit the neighboring rooftop. They cluck, they coo, they peck, they copulate, sometimes they even fly at my window. I’ve been told they’ve increased their population over the years, staying put and not flying beyond the roofs and gutters. This makes them easy prey. Recently, a hawk caught one of the pigeons. I heard a thump, a squawk, then saw a stream of grey feathers trickle between the buildings. It was like watching a disturbing cartoon.

As their quirky bird shadows invade my office and challenge my attention span, brave souls sit with me and share their deepest insights, feelings and fears.  My client’s bring vulnerability and pain to the sacred space I hope I’ve created for them. Each and every one of them is a soul struggling along life’s tumultuous journey. Many want reclamation of Self, inner peace, or understanding of the challenges they face. Others fight desperately to stay put, because they can’t  envision change and only want some temporary relief. Some come for existential reasons, others to battle the daemons left by trauma. Some are willing to make the journey, others refuse the call. The one thing they all have in common – as is the case with everyone – they’re seeking a way back to their center.

Life has a funny way of pushing us away from ourself in an effort to bring us back home, doesn’t it?

Journey in itself connotes forward movement and that means obstacles along the way, since no path is without its potholes or fallen trees.  In Joseph Campbell’s brilliant classic, The Hero with  A Thousand Faces,  the voyage of humanity is mapped out through the use of myth, dream and archetypes. In the beginning of everyone’s psychological adventure, we’re thrust into a departure, which repeats itself with each life experience. This call for departure incites fear of the unknown. We fight like hell against leaving.  We want to stay put, to cling to the familiar, to not look beyond the rooftop where we were born.

Yet, when we stay, we stagnate. We become psychologically (and sometimes physically) obese. We cling to illusions of self-importance. We use ego defenses, harmful behaviors or judgment to convince ourselves we’re right. Campbell writes:

Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered: for it is always possible to run the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.

      Despite our best efforts to resist this calling, life forces beyond our control will thrust us out of our comfort zone. In most cases, those very real energies show up as depression and anxiety. These are major indicators that something isn’t flowing, that we’ve resisted a call. If this pain grows big enough, we seek aid to help make it across what Campbell calls the first threshold. When we do this, we can then open up to new possibilities and integrate deeper meaning into our lives.

 “…some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain. These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of self.”

So many of us are like those fat pigeons outside of my office. We don’t want to fly great distances, we don’t think about what lies beyond our own rooftop, nor do we want to. We may not be content, since our stagnation makes us weak and annoyed, yet we know this rooftop.

There’s another type of pigeon, though. One that can look beyond its comfort zone and embrace what’s out there. It knows where it’s going because it’s flown great distances before. This type begins to fly short distances when it’s young, yet it always returns since it’s deeply connected to home. Over time, it gains strength and makes longer flights. It understands how to manage turmoil, since when in flight it reaches its legs back and hold its tail feathers to keep from fatiguing. This pigeon has the same ancestor as “old fatty” yet operates differently. The homing pigeon can push its way through high winds and bad weather. It brings back messages from far away places. It returns home with the wisdom it experienced and then it rests until next time.

Yes, we’re like pigeons. All of us. We can choose to exercise our wings and make strides. We can develop the strength to manage in times of trials. We can learn to fly out of our comfort zone – or not. We can embrace life’s journey or remain dormant and dependent. It’s our choice. Safe travels.

Artwork: Kim Seng

Sending Energy The Old-Fashioned Way

16l Johannes Vermeer (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1632-1675) Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window 1657I wrote a letter to a friend the other day because it was the only way to contact her. I was complaining to myself that an e-mail would be faster and then it occurred to me that what I was doing was sending my very metaphysical friend my personal energy. I changed the negative thought and reflected on loving energy. What better way do we send energy to someone than through our touch? What a lost art, not just in taking the time to write our words but in taking the time to send our intentions.

In our fast paced life, it’s much easier to fire off a text or e-mail. Yet, what energy are they receiving? Ours? The rest of the world’s? The person who wrote the html programming?  I don’t have many friends left whom I can even imagine sending a letter to, but I would like to try to be more purposeful about it. Even a card with a note has this energy attached. We have touched it. We have chosen it. Our feelings for them are carried in the paper and ink.

This energy became very apparent to me during a dirty Santa session with friends last Christmas. I chose my gift on the table based on the flow I saw emanating from a bag. It turned out to be a hand-knit scarf (which was subsequently stolen by another friend). This was the only handmade gift that year. The idea that of all the gifts on the table this one was beaming, stayed with me. This was confirmation to me that the intention of our energy embeds in the things we touch. This is what we do when we send a note or gift forward. We’re sending forth a piece of ourselves.

 

 

The Spiritual Necessity of Ego

egoblogIn any spiritual community the discussion of ego regularly comes up. The common message – whether spoken or unspoken – is that the more spiritual you are, the more egoless you become. I think the exact opposite occurs. In my observation, the more spiritual involvement someone has, the more ego seems to be involved. Maybe this is just the converse elements of the human condition working themselves out, like Yin and Yang or Anima and Animus but spirituality and ego work in opposing ways that seem to fuel each other. This can be for good or bad.

It takes ego to step into a pulpit. It takes ego to get on television with your latest insights, write a book, lead meditation groups, standup at a Spiritualist retreat and do readings, trust in your visualizations and yes (gulp!), to write a blog. It takes a sense of purpose to practice spirituality and the only way we’re able to obtain this purpose is through the management of our ego.

Ego is necessary to the human condition. Ego is how we choose to see ourselves. It’s needed to operate in our world. We need our egos to maintain balance and identity. When we make choices about who we are and what we need and want, we’re making value statements. These values are what form our unique brand of spirituality. David Richo in his book HOW TO BE AN ADULT states:

A psychologically and spiritually conscious person acts from a consistent – though always evolving – sense of values. To value is to esteem the worth of something, to declare that it has meaning for us (pg. 48).

Those on a spiritual journey, no matter what their road looks like, are seeking meaning in their lives. They’re applying their identities to this process and that takes the use of our egos.

No great spiritual leader who lived on this earth was without ego. Jesus certainly had one. So did Gandhi and Buddha. In fact, the whole concept of Buddhism is about managing ego-mind to obtain connection with our inner light. In the modern-day example of a man of spirit who stayed consistent with his values, Nelson Mandala could not have achieved what he did without ego.

It’s what we do or don’t do with ego that’s important. An unhealthy ego, or what Ricco calls neurotic ego, keeps us locked in dark places. It keeps us from working through old hurts, it develops a false sense of Self because we fear going inward, it keeps us looking for the stimulation of addictions because we’ve wandered too far from our spirit, it keeps us in the victim/perpetrator/rescuer mode of abuse. When we work solely from ego, we’re unbalanced. We have no psychological boundaries and cannot honor others’. Just think of spiritual leaders who have used their positions to molest or steal.

When we’re attracted to the “spiritual limelight” because ego wants the hit, we’re not seeking truth we’re seeking an adrenaline rush to keep our false self going. We’re not seeking the light, but choosing to manifest our darker places. As Ricco says:

     Psychological and spiritual work – both necessary for full human realization – are meant to proceed both separately and simultaneously as life unfolds. Effective psychotherapy attends to both ego and Self and is the primary form of help in the process of change and transformation.

     Psychological work is the linear chronology leading us from problem to solution, from inadequacy to competence, from dysfunction to high level functioning.

     Spiritual work is a journey from the compelling attachments of the neurotic ego to Here-and-Now centered Self (pg. 105).

 I recently listened to a modern-day self-help leader state that she has managed to work herself out of her ego. Perhaps how she manages her ego is different these days, but it’s exactly her ego that allowed her to perform that interview – and that’s okay.  It’s when spiritual leaders and practitioners deny their ego that the temptation to deny their humanity gets out of whack. Then they lapse toward self-aggrandizement and judgment. Talk about the neurotic self!

Like the feminine Yin and the masculine Yang that balance the Self in active and passive energies, so ego and spirituality force us to work that fine tee-totter effect of becoming. The recognition of our very human ego, is what keeps us closer to our spirituality. When we embrace our limitations, then we can find our infinite potency. ~ Namaste~