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.


Spring Cleaning, Spring Misconceiving

I recently discovered mold in my apartment.  I suppose that’s where this all began—my hunt to deep clean, organize all that which has laid stagnant in my apartment for who knows how long.  Too long.

Sifting through old graduate work, I found a letter written by a colleague in response to a presentation I gave on dualisms and the split between humans and nature, connecting it to my own personal story.

He wrote (sometimes in broken English as he is a native Asian):

“I really really appreciate all the trouble you’ve gone to, to tell the truth, your presentation sounds like a ‘tricky.’  You have experienced a lot of things.  You have interested in many cultures.  As you said, Eastern culture including Buddhism.  You told us about farming.  You touched a lot of materials.  That’s you.

Of course you’re young.  You can make mistakes.  And you can confuse between comfortable science and inconvenient sacrifice.  I can feel that by seeing you.  You can do everything.  You have a innumerous possibility.  So I hope you keep your purity even though you will experience a lot of frustration, failure.

Brian [our professor] said, ‘We can make mistakes.  That will give us a future.’”

I imagine my 28 year-old self standing up there, stumbling upon the correct words, confused about myself, my path, and hurting from all of the mistakes I’ve made.  I’m sure I was up there blaming the split between humans and nature while underneath it all I was actually causing unnecessary suffering unbeknownst to myself.

I feel humbled and comforted to have friends walking beside me.

My colleague ended with:

“I believe in you.  Someday you will be a good leader in this society.  I’ll pray for you.”

I’m reminded of Matthew 5:19-20—

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.

I pray that our mistakes become our greatest allies.  Or maybe I should rephrase that.  I pray that my mistakes become my greatest allies. 

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.


Somehow We Succeed


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.

Is it just me…

Is it just me, or are many of those claiming to be on the ‘spiritual path’ merely passive, afraid of confrontation, anger, hate and facing other ‘negative’ emotions.  Forgive me for my overuse of quotation marks here but the words or phrases quoted are difficult categories for me to accept as real, or more appropriately, solid.

As a woman who would consider herself to have been on the ‘spiritual path’ for 4 years now, I’m coming to realize both slowly and surely that many of the things I considered ‘spiritual’ were merely defense mechanisms to avoid facing my own self-deprecating patterns embedded more in psychological categories than spiritual.

There is a term to define this: spiritual bypassing.  It was first coined by author John Welwood and is used by integral theorist Ken Wilber to describe the tendency to focus on spiritual beliefs and practices to avoid and deny various aspects of earthly existence, mainly in terms of practical challenges, and unresolved emotions and memories.

The only way out is through, and is one of the most difficult things to face.

Therapy and the Blog

Blogging reminds me of therapy.  The more I play around with themes, colors, background options, etc, the further away I get from what I came here to do.  The appearance will come on its own accord.  Fiddling with these ‘surfaces’ does little.

Just write and the rest will fall into place.  This morning, my therapist said, “Just keep doing this work, and suddenly you’ll see the structures of your life change (at their own accord).”  I added that last part in paranthesis because that is how I imagine it happening.

Awakening to the Dream

This morning after a little unease and confusion I found myself saying, “I feel like I’m waking up from a dream that I’m not ready to wake up from.”  Referring to my life and current situation, I was unsure how to go about my day.

In his book, The Unfolding Self, psychologist and consciousness studies pioneer Ralph Metzner discusses awakening from the dream of reality.  When something in one’s consciouness shifts, how does the rest follow?  Daily tasks, practices, habits, routines…the materal stuff?

There is a lot of pressure in writing one’s first blog post.  I get the sense this intuition has something to do with this morning’s “awakening,” or more aptly, “rude awakening.”  To me there is a linear process to the whole blogging thing – sign up, choose a format, add some designs, and post!  However, dreams are cyclical.  The characters are never who they appear to be, the messages get skewed, and personal interpretation might as well go out the window.

The unconscious does its job, and the rest follows.  In “following one’s dreams” in reality, or our waking state, we rarely get that opening.  Most days, most of our lives actually is about the monotony of paving the way, or making room for that opening, or the possibility of the to come.

It reminds me of Superman, when he rips open his shirt to reveal that which is hidden inside.

When the time is right, things don’t just “work themselves out.”  We have to rip open the fabric to reveal that which is hiding inside.