The Fool and the Psyche

As a thirty year old woman on the path towards wholeness, images, words, sounds, dreams, symbols, and archetypes of the process of individuation (including initiation) have found little pockets, settling in to my psyche.  I’ve often used my own indignation towards family as entrance points in my own initiation process, catalyzing the continuous unfolding of my psychic development.

In Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves:Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, a diverse bundle of cross-cultural stories are revealed and unpacked using academic rigor.  Embedded with healing potential, these stories are nothing short of inspiring.  Chapter three, “Vasalisa the Wise,” is the story of the archetypal initiation into womanhood: the initiation of intuition.

I’ve often wondered why modern contemporary adults do not seem interested in initiation, change and/or transformation and appear all too capable of shrugging this deeper part of human experience off, pushing it out of their lives as it it were unimportant, not a natural and necessary part of human existence.  I’ve become aware that adults in contemporary society falsely enter adulthood as adult bodies, but not adult souls.  Dr. Estes states, “The arresting of a woman’s initiation process occurs for various reasons, such as when there has been too much psychological hardship early in one’s life–especially when there has been no consistent ‘good-enough’ mother in the early years.  The initiation may also be stalled or uncompleted because there is not enough tension in the psyche.” (p. 85).  The latter claim proves my intuitive concern.

About two years ago, my brother climbed the Tetons in Wyoming.  He went with a guide, a few friends, and a bit of training ahead of time.  After his climb, he passionately relayed the event to me: the fear at the beginning, the pain in the middle, and the rush at the end.  I thought it would change him.  To me it sounded like a genuine initiation experience–the threefold process of separation, initiation, return.  However, almost two years later, from my perspective it didn’t seem to change him very much, nor affect him deeply.  He would say it did (affect him deeply), but I’ve seen no behavior changes, signs of greater empowerment, practical steps taken to integrate his peak experience into his daily life, or even simply–being kinder to those around.

Dr. Estes states, “Sometimes a woman is so bound up in being the too-good mother to other adults that they have latched onto her tetas, teats, and are not about to let her leave them.”  (p. 87).  I couldn’t help but notice the etymological similarity of Tetons and tetas, as well as visual structure of the two–two mounds.

In translation, one can fake their own psyche into believing they’ve achieved something, crossed a mark of initiation.  But this initiation into adulthood is as old as time and will never be fooled.

“..[S]ince the dreaming psyche compensates for, among other things, that which the ego will not or cannot acknowledge, a woman’s dreams during such a struggle will be filled, compensatorily, with chases, dead ends, cars that will not start, incomplete pregnancies, and other symbols which image life not going forward.” (p.87).  My own dream life is punctuated with these images for some time now.  I’ve been questioning my family structure and dynamics, my past, and back at the “woman” I used to be.  I’ve been holding on, pleading to myself that for me the path is different.  These rules do not apply and I do not have to sever ties or jump.  I do not know how to look ahead, to look to the unknown and jump into the Woman I am becoming.

I’ve tried to latch onto these images–my brother was an idol who has reached initiated adulthood even though deep down I know that my own initiation involves something completely different–a severance, something that involves jumping into the unknown when it is truly unknown and learn to stand not knowing what happens next.  The psyche can trick the psyche’s psyche.  But there is nothing that can fool the Psyche.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse-November 28

I’m not sure if it is just me awakening to the complexities of the world, or if there really is something going on in the sky.  This morning between the hours of 4:15 and 9:15a.m. PST (peaking at 6:15a.m.), the Penumbra Lunar Eclipse brushed the sky with an orange glow.  Watch an amateur’s video of this eclipse here.  The Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Earth is aligned between the sun and moon.  The moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, causing a darkening effect, not a total black out.  The Umbra causes a total black out and Antumbra has the outer ring effect.

I’d like to take things to a more personal level.  This morning I awoke around 9:00a.m. and felt as though I was awakening from the deepest of slumbers.  There was no connection to ‘myself,’ my body or mind.  I felt a spacious distance that was uncomfortable and tried to shake out of it, as I prepared to drive my partner to work…9:15a.m.  “What did I eat last night?,”  I questioned, and blamed it on the 11p.m. yogurt snack from the night before.  After dropping him off, I laid in bed for an hour, but the distance remained.

When I finally emerged from bed, I glanced at the calendar and thank you to Alex Grey who attends to these things, saw the eclipse event marked in my calendar…9:15a.m.  Things made just a bit more sense and I felt a bit more clarity on how to work with these energies to not be bedridden for the rest of the day.

Although I know this type of inquiry is not accepted by mainstream culture, even I was offended by this Huffington Post article claiming that, “Despite popular myths, there’s not much evidence to back up the idea that the moon (or any other astronomical body) has much of an effect on human or animal behavior.”  Ask any person working with developmentally disabled adults and they’ll tell you differently.  A few months ago my bank teller stated, “I never believed in that full moon stuff until working at the bank.  Some crazy things happen!”  I’ve often heard this phrase repeated among non-believers, surprised that even they (accepting of dominant culture, not questioning the status quo) observed correlations between the full moon and erratic behavior.

Although, I’ve got to hand it to Huffington Post for phrasing their disregard as, “not much evidence,”… an ambiguous phrase, indeed, I’d like to take the opposing side for the remainder of this post:  We’re made up of the same stuff as the moon and earth, of course we are affected by these forces!  Evolutionary Cosmologist Brian Swimme states, “The awareness that bubbles up each moment that we identify as ourselves is rooted in the originating activity of the universe.” (The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, 1996)  Even human consciousness is rooted in the original flaring forth 13 billion years ago.  Where else do we think thought comes from?  How selfish to think it is ‘ours.’  I love science and technology, but I also love my self, and cannot disregard that which arises in my world.  “Things are real because we experience them,” states spiritual leader and yogic practitioner, Mariana Caplan.  I have to believe this.  Not doing so would be like turning my back on that awe-inspiring blood orange glow in the sky this morning at 9:15a.m., measured and accepted by mainstream science, human experience, and rooted in cosmological law.

s/Self Reflection

Looking back on my trip to India, a mere four years ago, I am taken aback, embarrassed even.  I can’t believe the person in those photos shares the same body as me, some of her structural make up.  That thing that wandered the streets taking photos of lepars, beggars and thinking she was doing something (which to some extent she was, considering that a part of India runs on its tourism industry) was asleep.  She was alseep, even though at the time she/I would argue she/I was not.  That person, her face fatter, her soul thinner, even though at the time she/I would argue it was not.

 

This thing inside has shattered that thing in that photo.  I can no longer look at those photos and say I didn’t know, even though I now know that I didn’t know.

 

What did they think of me—my white skin and smiling face, expecting a chai every time I stepped foot into that ashram?  I couldn’t do it now, and to be honest with myself, couldn’t do it then.  I know that.  I remember those voices inside.  I felt I had to prove something to someone, but who, I’m still not sure.  And what was the cost?  I will never know, and how settling is that?

Doors Open

It’s all so bittersweet,

This pounding in my head,

The ever-growing, longing to know you

More and

more and

More.

 

For some reason I thought it would go away.

Once you find something, it should.

Once the questions are answered, a door is closed,

To, unbeknownst to me, reveal an even greater opening,

To a strangely familiar unknown.

In a Pickle

In “How to Live a Life of Peace,” Sakyong Miphan Rinpoche writes:

“The world is becoming ever more crowded, speedy, anxious, and intense. Under such conditions, our tendency is to become less compassionate, more aggressive, and more prideful. I feel that cultivating peace is the only way that the human race is going to survive.”

He continues:

“How do we live a life of peace? By first discovering our peaceful nature. In ‘peacefully abiding,’ or shamatha meditation, we train in continually bringing our focus back to an object such as the breath…

Peaceful abiding meditation is not escapism; it is realism. Only the foolish think that they can find salvation outside themselves. When beings don’t trust their own nature, they become agitated. That turns into blaming others, which becomes vengeance and destruction. Even if we destroy something, in the end we are just left with our own mind. The path of peace is one of exertion and diligence in working with the mind.”

In the past I was a nomad.  I was young, unsupported, and immature on the spiritual path–I had not yet gained the tools to face and work with my own mind.  Yet I was sensitive.  I’ve always been sensitive and attuned to my own rich inner life and its connection with the outer world.  In my nomadic life, I lived alone and traveled from city to city, moving when my outer life became too challenging.  My inner life projected outwards, manifesting thoughts and creating my reality as, “I don’t like these people.  This city is too crowded.  This city doesn’t have enough trees.  This city has too many trees.  That person looked at me funny.  I think that person wants to hurt me,”  coming full circle to, “I don’t like these people.” Where I then moved.

Some of those thoughts might be true, some of them not.

In his book, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, shaman-in-training (if I can boldly say) Carlos Castaneda describes the first lesson from his teacher, don juan.  It was a simple lesson–that Castaneda discover his seat on the floor.  There was only one spot that was unique, one where he could be at his very best and it was his task to ‘feel’ his way to the right one.  Castaneda spent an entire evening of trial and error until he finally exhausted himself to sleep.

When he awoke, don juan congratulated him–

“[O]nly a fool could fail to see the difference.”

The connecting point between Sakyong Rinpoche, myself, and Castenada lies in the shared word, “fool.”  As I mature, develop my practice, and discipline my mind, I realize the subtleties and complexities of the modern, individualist mind.  As an American who grew up hearing, deeply believing, and eventually living by the clichéd phrases, “follow your dreams,” and “you can do anything you set your mind to,” I understand the importance of don juan’s message.

Sometimes the discursive thoughts one experiences during meditation are there for a reason.  Meditation is a very personal practice and it is up to us individually to discern the difference between the mind’s innate wisdom and discursive thoughts.  For me, I’m experiencing a stuckness between two worlds.  When I meditate, the thought patterns, images, and feeling tones of my job and my experience of it tearing me apart are the discursive thoughts that I am repeatedly forced to recognize, and let pass by.  But they continue to arise–these same exact thought patterns and cycles.  The more they arise, the greater the charge resonates in my body.  They are arising now not only as thought patterns, but as thought patterns manifesting a negative bodily charge.

So, I am in a pickle.

The easy answer is, “quit your job.”  I’ve tried.  But I am in a sticky financial situation and in the middle of meeting with my boss to put in my two weeks I shut down, told some strange, incomprehensible story making the situation worse.  The other easy answer is, “stop meditating,” but deep down I know that is not an option.

Taking lessons from Castaneda as he discovered his spot on the floor, I know I should trust my ‘feelings’ at work–the uncomfortable contractions and negative self images that arise both while I’m there and while I’m away thinking about being there.  But it’s not that easy.  Like a trickster figure, they change!  At work, one moment I’ll be experiencing a crushing pressure and dark figures and colors and then within an instant, these feeling tones and images are released!  For an instant I experience peace, a peace that is addicting.  My mind is a nasty good player.  Wait, is this addictive peace that which Buddhists describe as ‘attachment?’  Is it these that keep us (me) on the cycle of samsara or am I just talking b.s.?

It’s embarrassing to play the fool, but more embarrassing not to be able to support oneself financially.  And why am I so terrified to find a different job?  Writing is keeping my mind off of ‘discursive’ thoughts for the time being (are they discursive?),  and I am appreciative of that.

So I thank you for listening to this chatter.

Wishing you a peacefully abiding mind and being.

Kim

Crayfish, why do you molt?

Molting crayfish, what do you mean to me?

A thread of events, I suppose.

Believing in myself?

 

Molting crayfish, I haven’t written poetry in a while,

I’ve forgotten the fire, I’ve forgotten the rage.

It’s too much to remember.

I’m pretty sure we remember to forget, not forget to remember.

 

As the old woman emerges in me, the convulsions shed old habits, dirty deeds,

Washing them clean.

But we are never clean.  That is the blessing of being human.

 

Crayfish, or should I call you Crawdad?

Somehow We Succeed

Humans…

My intense love is closely intertwined with intense hate.  I spent the day brewing beer at my workplace and came home to catch the last half of, “Undercover Boss” on tv, where new president of the Kendall-Jackson winery disguises himself as a worker, only to later reveal and gift those worthy employees with new promotions, benefits, money, as well as demotions.  The Huffington Post has a great article on it if you are interested.

Anyways, back to humans: we intrigue me.  How do we keep on keeping on?  What is that driving force that pulls us towards overcoming?  And why?  Wouldn’t it just be easier to give up sometimes?

Eight hours of sweat and hard work to make one batch of craft beer (me).  Twenty years of dedication to a company (Kendall-Jackson) for one man to finally feel appreciated.  And for what?  So that some college kids (that I also have the privelage of playing the role of waitress for) can get drunk, have a good time, and then go on Yelp to describe how “meh” the beer was at Triple Rock?  So that one man (Kendall-Jackson guy) can finally take a vacation with his family?   How did he get by in the meantime?

Sometimes I think about death, sadness, and “what if the person I love the most leaves me?”  I think about how intense joy is interwined with intense sadness, love and hate, as well as life and death.  Those thoughts creep up on me.  I used to think I could control this by bringing on intense emotion through thought.  I still do, I suppose.  I thought, “If I face it now, I will not be surprised when it creeps up on me later,” until I found myself in a six-year long depression, and spiralling downward.

I don’t think we know what we are doing here.  Great novelist, playwright, and poet Samuel Beckett quotes, “Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.”  I still don’t feel at ease, but maybe that’s my path.

In a letter to his sister, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Hence the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire.”  I never wanted to have an inquiring mind.  It just happened.