Departure Parte Deux

(I’ve sort of lost track of my previous posts. Things have been a bit hectic, doctors’ appointments, etc. If I’ve already posted part [too much?] of this post, I can’t find where I did that but I beg your forgiveness. There will be more to come of this particular post but the original is much too long to post here. I beg your indulgence as I try to get organized.]


Perhaps the days and months and years of our life have been going alClimb success ladder Royalty Free Stock Photoong fairly agreeably and it appears we have pretty much everything we need for it to continue that way. We’ve worked hard, we’ve had some accomplishments, we’ve hit a few bumps and survived them in some fashion or other. We’ve “made it” to some degree.

And yet, and yet…

In spite of that we begin to feel a vague restlessness or indefinite dissatisfaction, a discontent, and we’re unable to put a name to it. Some of us will interpret it as a feeling that our job has become boring and stultifying or perhaps that our life or our mate has.

Sexy woman in red sports car Stock ImageSo we leave our family, get a red sports car and a boyfriend – or several – and try to fill the void, scratch the antsiness. On the other hand, some of us will stay with our families but have an affair with our best friend’s wife or the pool boy or a co-worker.

Others of us will think the problem lies totally within ourselves. Perhaps we decide we need a promotion or maybe we conclude that we should consider some new career path or a different life direction altogether. Maybe there’s something we’ve always wanted to do and now seems like a good time to try it. Although others might think it foolish, we quit our job shortly

Healthy food and sport equipment isolated on white Stock Photobefore retirement age and take off on an aimless trek across the country.

Others of us will think we could enjoy life more if we just got healthier and into better physical shape, so we take up jogging or buy a membership at the gym. We exercise and watch our diet. We buy organic food and use supplements and investigate natural forms of medicine and health care.

We do all the right things and yet, and yet…

We try to fill that edgy feeling of growing emptiness, that antsy feeling of not fitting quite right in our skin, by searching for we know not what. We feel there’s something vital missing but we just can’t put our finger on it. Whatever spin we give to the situation, in some nebulous way we’re vaguely unhappy and don’t quite know why. We don’t even know what it will take to make us happy.

Peace and Love House Stock ImageWe may chide ourselves for this uncomfortable formless feeling. We have a pleasant life – a good job or career, a lovely family, a house, two cars and a dog. We should be happy, we should be content.

And yet, and yet…

Some of us are sooner to hear and quicker to respond to this Call. Others of us may continue to ignore or misinterpret it until, like that proverbial mule that just won’t pay attention, we get hit between the eyes with a cosmic 2×4. When our world then comes crashing down around us we pay attention. We finally hear the Call to Adventure even if it’s still not perfectly clear what it is or to what we’re committing ourselves if we respond.

Some of us ultimately will be able to ignore this Call to adventure because it can be so subtle, especially if we don’t get beaned by the 2×4 or if we still Diet concept. one  pea on an empty white plate Royalty Free Stock Photoobstinately ignore it. After a dimly perceived and unclearly understood struggle with ourselves we give up the search for something to fill the emptiness and with grim determination we soldier on. Life will seem to go on as before but in some way something alive will have disappeared. Caroline Myss calls this “deliberate unconsciousness,” a refusal to listen to the calling of our Soul. For those of us who choose this path there might be no more Calls.

Then we ask, “Is this all there is?” wondering when and why our lives have dimmed.


If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things;…[if] we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.

Michael Podesta

Our departure on the Hero’s journey begins with a Call to Adventure though Departure sign Stock Imageprobably most, like me, won’t recognize it. Many will think it’s simply another problem or perhaps a more or less severe or serious illness or just one more thing piled on. Not everyone will need the intensity of insistence that my Soul expressed in order to get my recalcitrant ego to respond.

End of the rope Royalty Free Stock ImagesEven when my ego did finally acquiesce, it still didn’t know to what it had yielded or why. It only knew that it had reached the end of its rope and couldn’t hold on any longer. It had no idea what would happen when it let go, but let go it must.

We naturally feel excited and adventurous when we leave home to go away to school or when we consider marriage or some other long-term commitment, or apply for a job, etc. We may be uncertain or timid, but the uncertainty adds piquancy.

As time goes on we’ll make more choices and decisions knowing Tough Decision Ahead Sign Means Uncertainty Royalty Free Stock Photofull well that the outcomes will not always be exactly what we envision but we expect that they’ll be close enough to be acceptable and we’ll adapt. Tolerable risk and uncertainty is what makes them the kind of adventures we tend to expect from life. The key word here is “tolerable.” The Hero’s Journey will most likely change your notion of adaptability and tolerable.

The Call to Adventure I have in mind is the one we often begin to hear close to mid-life, paradoxically around the time many of us are feeling less and less adventurous, wanting to be more and more settled and secure. It’s the one adventure we rarely, if ever, can predict or choose.

Sheep Stock ImageIt will probably come upon us when we think we’ve finally got things fairly well figured out, when life doesn’t seem to be coming at us quite so quickly anymore and we’re looking forward to resting on our laurels for a while. There is nothing fixed about the timing, though; we can hear the Call at any stage of life.

The Adventure to which we’re called carries a vagueness and unknown risk that will often seem intolerable so we unconsciously become deaf and blind to its announcement. The outcome of this Adventure, if and when we’ve successfully accomplished it, will be quite similar for everyone yet we will be totally unique in our experiences. Growth among the stones Stock Photos

Depending on our particular lens, we will have grown spiritually or emotionally or psychologically or most likely in all of these areas. We will have become more integrated, more our Authentic Self, whatever that may be for us.

It probably will not be like anything we ever would have suspected.

It’s a chancy thing, deciding when to post and when to wait. At the risk of posting too soon after my last post, I decided to go ahead because this post is so closely related to the previous one that I didn’t want to risk having you forget what I’d written about before. If that’s a problem, forgive me, please.

I said in my last post that when we pass the last gate to the uWho cares emoticon Royalty Free Stock Photographynderworld or, to say it another way, are relieved of all that egoistic stuff we thought defined us, our dark night of the soul can show us we weren’t who we thought we were. But if we are not who we thought we were then who are we? Ah, that question is the crux. We’re ready for the real discoveries to begin.

Who am I?

This question begins the conscious dropping of our defenses and the opening Fresh hard boiled eggs with shell. Stock Photographyto a new level of awareness. With our egoic resistances at the ramparts it’s like being encased in a hard shell that not only keeps out those myriad things we all fear but it also keeps us from growing any larger. The shell cramps not only our style but our growth. Once those oppositions are out of the way and the shell is shattered or dissolved we’re open to an influx of new values and ideas, new ways of thinking, of living. We’re able to undergo expansion in many directions.

This shell-less vulnerability is exceedingly alarming for those who are strongly attached to the ego’s restricted view of itself but at the same time it provides a sense of freedom that’s exhilarating. Maybe we’re flying instead of falling.

What if the shadow-dragons we fear so much, the same dragons and beasts that in myths and fairy tales are actually princes and princesses waiting to be released from their enchantment, what if these dragons are nothing more than parts of ourselves that want only to be seen and loved for who they are? What if everything that we fear and hate, even that which seems to be outside of us, is actually only a part of us wanting to be loved? What will happen if we release that dragon? Playing house.. Royalty Free Stock Image

Love, both that which we desire to give and that which we yearn to receive, is hidden deep in the core, in the heart of our pain, grief and loss. The heart must be broken in order to release it. To release something doesn’t mean to get rid of it, though, as the phrase is so often used, but to open up what limits it and thus allow ourselves to feel it. To release it is to free it. Then we become large enough to contain love without restriction.

What allows us to potentially make this fearsome yet thrilling expansion?

Woman face profile in pink flower bud Royalty Free Stock PhotoPartly it’s as Anaïs Nin writes, “…the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” and partly it’s Wisdom, our innate wisdom, our Soul’s wisdom, which has orchestrated this descent into the underworld. Wisdom knows when the time is right.

Here we can begin to understand the symbolism of Enki’s little nonhuman creatures from his kingdom of Waters and Wisdom that will provide us with food and drink. When we’re no longer willing to suffer the pain of restriction but we don’t yet know what it takes to bloom, Wisdom provides us with the courage to brave the depths of the unconscious and it helps revive us when we (egos) have been hung on a hook. Water symbolizes the unconscious, an uncontrolled and fluid world of uncertainty, a condition the untransformed ego finds terrifying in the extreme.

It’s also the world of incredible creativity where we needn’t learn to think Think outside the box Stock Photosoutside the box because there is no box. In this free flowing world of ambiguity the ego must surrender its false and rigid claim to identity and invulnerability or go mad, be shattered, in its efforts trying to maintain it. That’s why a guide or skilled support person(s), or at least information, can be so important. They can help us to remain grounded even as we step out into thin air.

We can depend on the faithful servant, the remaining part of our ego consciousness from the upper world, to get assistance even when all seems Monument valley Stock Imagelost. This is when many of us go to physicians or religious teachers, to counselors or therapy or support groups, or perhaps to a wise friend. Remember that not all descents are exceptionally dramatic or intense so varying levels of support are fitting. Even with these diverse sorts of assistance, though, we still must make the Journey alone. As the old gospel song says, “You got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself.”

We must find the ability and the courage to “go with the flow” of our Perpetual stream with tower Royalty Free Stock Photowatery unconscious until we’re able to simply accept what is, and eventually come back, now a healed, or at least a healing, and whole being of both light and dark. As with Inanna, we’re no longer completely separated from our dark sister. Now we understand her and our connection better and thus have better understanding of ourselves.

The Journey has only partially commenced, though, when the ego is fully stripped of all the tools with which it tries to control life, when it finally says, “I can’t do this anymore,” when it acknowledges that it’s done all it can – and it’s not enough. It’s quite necessary for the ego to be strong enough to surrender its illusions about itself, to not know and to be OK with that even if it’s uncomfortable.

The ego is destined from birth to be the sturdy intersection that can withstand Rays of light against a dark background Stock Photothe dynamic interplay between the light and dark energies, the interface between the spiritual world, which is in our mysterious unconscious, and the conscious external physical world in which we live day by day. I see the ego/self in a subordinate partnership with the Self, acting as a sort of translator between the unconscious and conscious worlds. It’s the put-upon middle manager who must absorb stresses from both below and above, mediating between the demands of both the executives and the labor force in order to get the job done.

Interestingly, I had a many-times recurrent dream (the only recurring dream I’ve ever had) that described this very situation but, as a beginner in interpretation, I didn’t understand it right away. Actually, I didn’t understand it until just as I wrote that previous paragraph.

In this dream I’m a member of a guerrilla group though it’s never clear whom we’re fighting. Indeed, we never do any overt fighting. We’re always just Balloon with mask in crime Royalty Free Stock Photoscoming back from a foray or preparing and planning to go out on one. In this dream I’m always the second in command to a charismatic and powerful leader. Strangely, in our dim, dark world I never get a clear picture of him even though we work very closely together. He comes up with concepts and aims and it’s my job to implement them with and through our troops. The leader and I have an exceptionally unique and intimate relationship. Its strength is surprising.

I’m also surprised to see that, even though I’m initially uncertain about my ability, I’m actuaGround troops Royalty Free Stock Photolly very good at my job. I’m able to motivate and persuade our followers in whatever way is required. As I revisit this dream now, I realize that the “I” that I am in this dream represents my ego who took orders from my commander, my Higher or Authentic Self, and got things done through the “troops” who represented various aspects of my conscious self that interacted with the “real world.” I (ego) mediated between the “executive” and the “labor force.”

Perhaps the similarity between my earlier dream and the Inanna myth has become apparent now, while my guerrilla dreams were telling me what would follow. It’s as if some part of myself was telling me what to expect as I set out, all unknowing, upon my Journey. I would be stripped of all I thought made me who I was, which did pretty much happen in my “real” life. I had to relinquish nearly all those things I’d worked so hard to build up, to develop, to gather together so as to be safe and secure.

But, as Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature… .”

So, in the one dream it’s apparent that I’m leaving the area of collective slPopcorn Royalty Free Stock Photoseep and mirage, (the “public building”) and entering what appears to be a public park but which turns into a personal terror. Even though I may have some uncertainty at the beginning, I’m confident. Once embarked, though, I’m not able to turn back. I can only continue onward even though it may be more difficult and unnerving than I’d bargained for. Alice, a wise friend puts it thus: it’s like you’re popcorn; once you’ve popped, you can’t unpop. You are forever changed, from a hard shelled restricted state to a much softer state.

In other words, once you begin to birth your Authentic Self, once you begin the Journey, no matter with what slight consciousness, once you’ve burst the hard protective popcorn (egoic) shell, you can’t stop the process and you can’t reverse it. My Inanna-dream message only took me to the point of ego identity divestiture; it didn’t tell me what to expect next. Maybe it was at this point that I declared, “I can’t do this anymore!” Or maybe that’s because not even my dream-maker could say what would be next. Who could be sure what my ego would do? Would it survive?

Then again, if I’d been able to interpret my guerrilla dreams more accurately, maybe I wouldn’t have been so confused.

And still yet again, what kind of an adventure would it be if the outcome were a foregone conclusion?

Joseph Campbell opens The Hero With a Thousand Faces:

“Whether we listen with aloof amusement to the dreamlike mumbo jumbo of some red-eyed witch doctor of the Congo, or read with cultivated rapture thin translations from the sonnets of the mystic Lao-tse; now and again crack the hard nutshell of an argument of Aquinas, or catch suddenly the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimo fairy tale: it will always be the one, shapeshifting yet marvelously constant story that we find, together with a challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told.”

With that tremendous single-sentence paragraph he tells us that the story is universal no matter how unique the specific details might be and that it’s never completely finished. It’s our human story.

Spring Queen Royalty Free Stock PhotosCampbell then reminds us that symbols in these tales don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They represent archetypal patterns of energy that arise from the collective mind and at some level are recognizable by all of us. Trappings may change from culture to culture but under the “clothes” we find the same energetic qualities.

Myths are stories we tell ourselves about ourselves as individuals, as a culture, as a species. If a society is based on “rationality” and “science” rather than on “illogical” and “irrational” myths, its members will still recognize, respond to, and even live out the forms and energies of the archetypal mythology. They will just do it unconsciously and perhaps wonder “what got into them.”

It’s not unusual for a culture (or individuals) to be affected by archetypal influences that are not understood and which it will refuse to own even though those forces actually arise from within. The qualities of these influences, desirable or otherwise, are then projected outward onto some other society, culture, individual, or even an age. It will try to co-opt them or elevate them or eradicate them or subdue them, anything, rather than take the Journey, do the hard work of learning about them and its own shadowy aspects.

Responsibility for our own life is thus abdicated because we perceive that some “other” apparently is always at fault or praiseworthy for what happens. And so Genocide - Ethnic Cleansing Stock Imagewe have crusades and pogroms and jihads; we attack Jews and Muslims and Christian sects; we attack skinheads and blacks and whites and gays, not to mention Mexicans and Asians and the French; we persecute or criticize lazy homeless people and lazy poor people and lazy rich people. We yearn for a “golden age,” or a “simpler time,” or the “good old days.” We don’t see our own qualities and our desires in our projections of those stereotypes.

The thing is, until we do, we can’t recognize and become Who We Really Are.

Our unconscious connections to the archetypes are multiple and various. There is the cultural connection, of course, as we buy into the group collective myths, “groupthink.” Then there is our personal and individual link to the images and energies of the collective. Finally, we also have our own distinct personal mythology related to, but distinct from, the collective.

One of our collective myths as Americans, our story about ourselves, says that The flash, green lantern and super woman Royalty Free Stock Imageswe are a generous people and wish no harm to anyone who doesn’t mess with us and that we’ll always stand up for the underdog. Like all myths, this is true to an extent. However, to the degree that we don’t behave in accord with that or any myth we hold about ourselves, we unconsciously project that behavior outward onto others. We justify whatever we do based on that projection as if it were true, even if it has no basis in fact.

For example, if we are involved in a “war on drugs” and some of our citizens use illegal drugs, then we will make the providers of those drugs the fundamental problem and attempt to eradicate them instead of seeing and healing the problem of the users.

This ultimately doesn’t work, but the logical argument that says that if there were no users and buyers there would be no sellers is just smoke in the wind because to understand it and act upon it would mean we’d have to change something about ourselves as a society. This “Us and Them” mentality allows us to see others as different from us and therefore not subject to the same standards and rights as we have.

All cultures and societies do this to some degree.

Our personal mythologies are similarly built on ideas and beliefs we’ve Rebel baby Royalty Free Stock Photoaccepted about ourselves, such as being the “good girl,” or the “rebel,” or maybe the “powerless victim” or the “martyr,” sometimes even the “hero.” Anything that’s not in accord with our ideas of what this means is repressed and stuffed into what is called our shadow. There it remains out of our conscious awareness but it still operates in our lives and affects our behaviors.

In my case, for example, I believed myself to be the good girl who worked hard and was a productive member of society, a strong person who albeit at times felt I was a victim, of circumstance if not of people. The myth allowed me to avoid much of the responsibility for what happened in my life.

Society, disguised as my parents, as well as religion and teachers and even various stories, ads, and commercials, told me how to be a good girl, what it took to be a productive member of society, and even suggested that “stuff” happens and there’s no help for it.

But was this mythological “good girl/productive society member/victim” really me? Oh, yes. And no. There was, and is, so much more to me, and to all of us, than that. It’s just a difficult process to sift through all of the overlays to find out what that is.

Besides being blindly expressed in our collective and individual behaviors, archetypal mythological images and situations arising from the collective are often revealed in our “irrational” dreams. Here we may do totally uncharacteristic and inexplicable things that might appall or astound, awe or surprise us in waking life. Some of these dreams might even inspire us to actions we’d otherwise avoid.

Dream garden Stock PhotosEven our apparently ordinary dreams can have a mythological motif. I had a dream long before I was aware of the Heroine’s Journey, that even in my ignorance of mythology and symbolism I recognized as being significant. There’s nothing weird, like blue sparkling ball-people, in this dream, but it had a lot to say.

It’s essentially a presentation of a part of the myth of the Journey. It could easily be the basis of an adventure story, an animated fairy tale movie, a work of science fiction, a novel, or any one of the myriad ways myths can be presented to us. The gist of the message was clear but I was well along in my spiritual journey before I began to understand the archetypal symbolism of many of the details. This was the dream of which I wrote previously (A Real (and significant) Dream August 21, 2014)

I would term this an archetypal dream. Perhaps you recognize some similarity to the ancient Sumerian story of Inanna, that is, setting out clear and bright and confident, then going down into a dark place, being stripped of all forms of identity, finally feeling bereft and alone. Carl Jung said that the myth of Inanna is “another variation of the motif of the Hero and the DragonWater Dragon Stock Image…” expressing “the psychological mechanism of introversion of the conscious mind into deeper layers of the unconscious psyche.”

That is, it is the experience of the ego as it turns to look inside to find a true identity. It is the story of people over the ages taking their journeys into their mental and spiritual interiors where live their dragon-shadows, those rejected and/or unknown aspects of ourselves with which we desire no contact for whatever reasons. I was going to meet my dragon, even if I didn’t know it existed.

(Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom—often said to be wiser than humans—and longevity.)

Spring goddess Stock ImagesNow, a brief depiction of the story of Inanna. She was Queen of Heaven and Earth (a being of light) and her older sister, Ereshkigal, was the dark Queen of the Underworld. The most common version of the myth of Inanna begins with the statement that she “opens her ear” to anguished groans from below. Thus, until this point she’s either been unconscious of them or she’s ignored them, denied their existence.

These sounds of agony are coming from Ereshkigal and InannaDay of the Dead woman with Sugar Skull Face Paint Stock Images decides that she will descend into the depths to see what’s going on. She girds herself in bright finery (my dream white suit?) that identifies her as a goddess of light and upper world substance (all that important baggage?). At the gates of the underworld she tells her faithful servant (ego – note that ego is a servant) to wait three days. If she hasn’t returned by then, go for help.

The gatekeeper refuses her access because Ereshkigal is upset that this dazzling creature wants to enter her murky realm. None of this bright light and its implied criticism for her. She finally relents but tells the gatekeeper to open each of the seven gates (perhaps representing the seven main energy centers/chakras through which the body communicates with its various energy layers?) that lead to her deep chamber only the tiniest crack. At each gate Inanna must remove some article with which she’s arrayed herself in order to barely squeeze through that gate.

Finally Inanna is without everything that had identified her as Queen of Heaven and Earth, (just as I was dream-stripped of all that I felt identified me as me). Naked, she enters the throne room of her sister where the waiting judges of the underworld immediately condemn her to death. Ereshkigal strikes her and Inanna is killed, turned immediately into a rotting corpse that’s hung on a hook on the wall.

Fairy elf baby Royalty Free Stock PhotographyAfter three days Inanna’s servant goes for help but can’t find any until finally Enki, the god of Wisdom and Waters, fashions two creatures, who are neither male nor female, and gives them food and drink for Inanna. These tiny beings, creeping like little insects through the cracks in the gates, slip into Ereshkigal’s underworld. In the throne room they find Ereshkigal still writhing and groaning in her agony.

Instead of trying to comfort her, they merely echo back to her the various pains and ills as she cries them out. “Oh! My back!” she cries. “Oh! Your back!” the creatures reply. “Oh! My arm!” cries Ereshkigal and they reply, “Oh! Your arm!” Their simple validation of her anguish finally relieves her torture. Somebody noticed! There’s nothing so painful as being ignored or unseen. (Sounds like fibromyalgia, to me!)

Grateful to the creatures for having acknowledged her distress, she promises to grant them any wish they have. They ask for the corpse of Inanna, which they revive with the food and water, and they then take Inanna back to the upper world. Restored, Inanna now has a clearer understanding of the shadowy depths that make up the world she shares with her sister. She no longer ignores her.

From a rational point of view this myth makes little sense. All it says is that someone who went to visit her sister is treated badly and is rescued by nonhuman characters. But from the symbolic mythological and psychological point of view, the message is significantly different. Inanna as goddess of heaven and earth represents our physical conscious ego, that “awake” part that lives in the outer world, the part that most of us think of as our identity, along with all the trappings of career, reputation, life station, etc. And yet, that is not all there is.

Like Inanna, we have a dark sister/shadow/unconscious side that mustScary nun in a cape Royalty Free Stock Photos be acknowledged. Most of us would prefer to deny this prickly truth, much like Ereshkigal’s existence was rejected and denied until her pain became overwhelming and Inanna could not ignore her cries. Before her descent Inanna hadn’t experienced the depths of darkness. She suspected they were there but she avoided them, avoided even thinking about them. She thought she had all the important truth, the truth that is seen in the light. Naïve and immature, she believed that being a pure child of the light was all that was necessary.

Until she acknowledged her dark half, and accepted not only its existence but even its right to exist, she would be a creature aware of only half of herself.

In our conscious lives in the midst of this Journey we might be diagnosed as depressed, and why not? It’s a depressing situation. We’re about as down as we can get, trapped in our underworld, just meat hanging on a hook on the wall. No matter how we wriggle and squirm, we can’t get ourselves off that hook. Finally we just hang there in misery.

Most likely we’ve tried desperately to get out of this dismal time, what has often been called a dark night of the soul. Our intellectual and physical energy is of no use here and, indeed, it often seems to have disappeared.

Desperately we may try medication and/or therapy in an attempt to find relief. Medication haHeadache pills medicine tablets Royalty Free Stock Images its place and it may very well get us back to “normal” again. However, avoiding this pain and discomfort by medication can actually abort a significant opportunity for personal and spiritual growth through an experience of the darkness. If we listen to pains and ills and cries of anguish that arise from our darkness and validate their existence, we can start to alleviate them and begin the return to the light.

We can bury them or ignore them with medication but they won’t go away until they’ve had their day with the judges. A good counselor or therapist can help us, with or without medication, to find our way through this dilemma but even then, the goal must be personal growth and not just an attempt to “get back to your old self again.” Being “your old self” was what helped to get you here.

I don’t want to romanticize serious conditions such as depression. Being miserable for the sake of being miserable doesn’t make us better or more spiritual. Still, there is a wisdom in depression if we can only recognize it and will listen to it instead of simply trying to escape it.

Depression can be an agonized Call from our rejected depths, a Call that forces us to go inward, into the obscure unconscious deep in which our Self abides along with our dragon-shadows. Most of us have seldom done this to any great extent and almost certainly not deliberately. If we inadvertently touched upon it once in a while, we recoiled from it and scrambled back to the light as quickly as we could.

This avoidance is generally encouraged by conventional medicine and psychotherapy. As a society we prefer to live always in lightness and forced optimism, as unrealistic as that may be, medicating both the lows and highs of real life for the lukewarm comfort of our egos.

It’s better to encourage understanding of the meaning and growth potential of that dark depth process and to support those who are undergoing it. However, most of us are generally caught up in the exigencies of making a living and caring for our families, living a life that cannot include this kind of “time out,” so we see no other recourse but to medicate and plow onward through the fog.

Exploration And Discovery Stock PhotographyThis is our challenge for these times, to be able to experience the dark and unconscious depths required for spiritual growth, growth of consciousness and awareness, then bring back our hard-won knowledge so that, like Inanna, we can maintain a less naïve and more conscious presence in the light of the everyday world.

Over past ages monks, mystics and nuns have withdrawn from the world in order to undergo this long process at the personal level but our test now, in this age, is different. It’s up to our generation to begin to consciously bring together the two sides, the light and the dark, the yin and the yang, the male and the female, to make a whole world, not just a whole individual.

This is a very large order, indeed. It can only be done one by one by one although the results are cumulative in the collective psyche.

Of course, ego goes into this descent reluctantly and with its shell of conscious identity. Baggage like careers, good reputations, social standing, and well-behaved children, amassing things and accomplishments, the whole lot that we think are so necessary to proving who we are to the world and to ourselves, has nothing to do with our true identity. It’s all extraneous paraphernalia that get in the way of finding out Who We Really Are.

If, howeverMany faces 2 Stock Photography, our ego, our painfully and carefully constructed physical consciousness of who and what we are, does make the descent into the darkness and is divested of these trappings of identity, we will be surprised to discover that even without them we don’t cease to exist. We may not like the way we feel in this naked, exposed condition and we may be confused and uncomfortable, perhaps even in great pain, but we do still exist. That tells us that we are not the egos we thought we were.

I’ll stop here. This has gotten to be a very long post and I have much more to say on the subject than I want to add right now.

So, I’ll leave you to yourself here, to think about this and see how you feel about it. Thinking and feeling are the two faculties that we need to use together even though they often come to different conclusions. They’re a good way to understand the saying that “the opposite of a profound truth may just be another profound truth.”

Good luck!

The Heroine’s Journey

Mystic morning Royalty Free Stock Photos

Midway upon the journey of my life

I found myself within a forest dark.

For the straight-forward pathway had been lost.

Dante Alighieri

Inferno, first canto

In the previous post, which I titled “Before Death,” I described how I felt when my life was turned upside down. The confusion, the lack of energy, the despair, all of it led to what I eventually concluded was a sort of Near Death Experience, also written about in a previous post. Poster Royalty Free Stock Images

As the years passed and I had occasion to learn more, I concluded that the NDE was most likely a sort of shamanic event whereby I died as a way to “shed” my old self and began to discover and bring to life my new self, hopefully a more aware self.

One way to express that journey from “here” to “there” is as the Hero’s Journey or, as I termed it then, since I’m female, the Heroine’s Journey. I’ve since discovered that is also a Heroine’s Journey that is not just a feminine version of the Hero’s Journey but since I’ve already written this as part of my book, I’ll let it stand as the Heroine’s Journey. For now, anyway.

If it seems grandiose to use a term like “heroine” in the context of what we see as our mostly ordinary lives, it isn’t.


1 a: a extraordinary figure often of divine descent b: an illustrious warrior c: a person admired for achievements and noble qualities d: one that shows great courage

2 a: the principal character in a literary or dramatic work b: the central figure in an event, period, or movement

We are the heroines and heroes in our life stories. It takes great courage to live in this world, to dare to experience what it has to offer. We are the central Couple dating drinking coffee at cafe, Barcelona Stock Photocharacters, the “stars,” of our lives as we live them. We see life through our eyes, we feel life through our emotions, we live our lives in accordance with the choices we make. No one else sees or feels or lives life exactly as we do no matter how similar views, feelings, and lifestyles may be. We thus live a life no one else has ever lived and that no one else ever could. We truly are unique, extraordinary, and courageous and, therefore, heroic.Phoenix Bird Royalty Free Stock Photos

The Heroine’s Journey is an allegorical description of our sacred journey of individuation or spiritual awakening, the journey through life in which we all participate, consciously or not. It is an archetypal, mythological, psychological, and spiritual trek. I personally relate to the myth of the Phoenix, that is, dying and being reborn.

One of the greatest expounders of this is Joseph Campbell. He speaks in masculine terms but since this Journey is not gender specific I use “heroine” because it’s too easy to think men are the only ones who are heroic and I want to avoid that. When the mythology is understood we realize that the “warrior” male/female and the “nurturer” female/male both exist in every one of us, thus the Journey applies equally to men and women.

In our culture it’s relatively easy to find stories about warrior heroes and heroines like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil) in Star Wars and Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Hobbit house with blue door Royalty Free Stock PhotoWeaver) in Alien, but it can be more difficult to find male roles that demonstrate the nurturant feminine without parody. However, think of Samwise Gamgee in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Rings sagas. Sam (his full name incorporating “wise” is not an accident) becomes the companion and helper of the protagonist/hero Frodo Baggins.

At first “simple” Sam’s greatest gift seems to be reciting and making up poetry but during their perilous journey he often exhibits great intuition and psychological understanding, qualities generally said to be feminine traits. He takes care of their baggage, cooks, and generally makes sure Frodo has the support he needs to continue his quest, all quintessentially feminine activities.

For all these so-called “feminine” qualities, though, male Sam’s role indicates the strength inherent in the nurturer, not to mention as much or more courage as is demanded of Frodo. When Frodo is about to succumb to the enchantment of the ring, it is Sam who supports him and prevents him from giving in.

The Heroine’s/Hero’s Journey is first, and most importantly, about inner transformation, not gender, and secondly, how that transformation manifests in the world.

I’ll end this post here, for now, but there’s much more to discuss in this issue of Journeys and genders.

Before Death

When I had to retire over twenty years ago, I was seriously depressed and my Depression Stock Imagemind was foggy, full of cotton. I couldn’t concentrate or use the logical thinking processes on which I’d depended as long as I could remember. I recall going to my physician one time, nearly in tears of mental anguish, and I cried, “I’m losing my words! If I don’t have my words, I can’t think!”

You see, I had to be able to think or I wouldn’t be “me.” He looked at me rather strangely and I’m sure he thought I wasn’t losing my words so much as losing my mind. He didn’t have any answers for me, but he did eventually come up with a diagnosis.


A seemingly innocuous word merely meaning painful muscles and connective tissue. Oh, but the reality is so much more.

Psychology Illustration of Man in Depressed State Stock PhotographyThere is almost always depression, which simply piles on more misery. There’s often a host of various seemingly unconnected symptoms, all of which may come and go with no discernible cause or regularity. These can include tinnitus, vertigo, unexplained weight gain or loss, mental confusion, extreme fatigue out of all proportion to the exertion, and various organ dysfunctions, among a litany of other puzzling problems.

This inconsistent and perplexing picture has commonly led to a “diagnosis” of hypochondria and/or psychosomatic disorder with patients often feeling as if their very real distress is dismissed. Of course, all of this causes stress. Stress worsens the symptoms.

Sometimes other – incorrect – diagnoses are made based on only one or a few of the diverse symptoms. At other times there can also be overlap with other diseases that complicate matters. If there are no other “legitimate” diagnoses, treatment in such cases is generally ineffective and once again the patient is often made to feel as if she (with fibromyalgia it’s usually a woman) is somehow at fault or even lying or at least exaggerating.

The fundamental and invariable symptom, though, has always been unexplained and persistent pain of varying degrees.

After about ten years of struggling with worsening symptoms, I had finallyHands Senior in wheelchair Royalty Free Stock Photography accepted early retirement on disability, five years before I would have qualified for a regular full retirement from federal civil service. I’d planned to work at least another five years beyond that and thus unexpectedly retiring ten years early obviously made a big difference in my expected income and plans.

This was not what my life was supposed to be like.

It was not the life I’d expected. I’d done my best to punch all the necessary tickets to get me on track for a healthy and active retirement in what I’d expected to be the far future. I’d done all the right things as far as diet and exercise. I ran, I lifted weights, I counted calories and fat grams. I’d even finally listened to those who had been telling me for years that I should be more ambitious so I could get promoted and thus retire with more income so I went back to school to finish my undergraduate degree.

Maybe all of this was due to my subconscious realization that I needed to somehow grow spiritually but I interpreted it as a need to be in control of my Crash! Stock Imagelife and, at least partially, to grow in status. I did the things I needed to do to be “successful,” and in some ways I was successful. I graduated with honors and I got promoted both as a civilian and as a navy reservist. However, the stresses of doing so much built up more and more until finally all the stress lines converged, at which point I crashed and burned in a complete collapse.

My three-legged stool didn’t just tumble, it simply disintegrated as my life fell apart. I was shocked and stunned. It wasn’t supposed to work this way. Nepalese peasant woman Royalty Free Stock Photography

Coming from a long line of what I’d always described as “sturdy peasant stock,” I’d always thought I had more than enough physical, mental, and emotional strength and endurance to outlast anything. My sense of abandonment and betrayal was utter. I just didn’t know who to blame.

For most of my early life I generally felt confused and uncertain, simply doing what and going where I was told without a real sense of direction. (See the puny ego there? I had very little idea of my own needs and desires. I was a “good” girl. Do what you’re told and everything will be OK.) If I committed to a course of action, I would finish it but it wasn’t part of an overall plan. I just took whatever life presented to me and did my best to work with it. I did pretty well.

This “going with the flow” might have been the “right” thing to do, in some sense, but it certainly wasn’t because I was enlightened or knew what I was doing or why. I supposed that as long as I worked hard “something” would make it work out all right. Most of the time it did.

This time, though, my situation was nowhere near all right, not to my way of thinking.

Several years prior to this I had written a retrospective of my life for a professional journal. In the process I noticed there seemed to be a sort of pattern or plan to my life, though it certainly wasn’t mine. I didn’t have one. Events that had once seemed to be obstacles actually now looked like switches on a railroad that got me back on the right track. But how could this situation possibly put me on the right track? How had I even gotten off it? Had I somehow gotten off the labyrinth path and stumbled into a maze? It sure felt like it, I was so confused.

For a long time all I wanted to do was to “get better,” to go back to work when I got “well.” I didn’t want things to change, I didn’t want to change, I just wanted to go back to what I had been, to life as it had been, to make it all work out the way I’d planned.

Instead, all I could see was that I’d been weak, that I’d failed. And after all I’dFailure - Sad Person Loser Denied and Unsuccessful Stock Photography gone through to get there, putting myself through school – twice; surviving a crumbled marriage; taking care of my health and making sure I did “all the right things.” All of it, wasted.

I tried oh, so very many things for a multitude of reasons. Maybe studies had showed a certain treatment had helped others. I’d try it. Maybe testimonials meant there was hope for me, too. I’d look into those. I spent my precious savings on a host of things from acupuncture to yoga, bodywork to supplements, meditation to chi gong and, of course, books. Many of these things were truly helpful.

But not to me, or at least not in the way I wanted them to be when I wanted them to be.

Giving Our Power Away

“In many ways, we are taught from the time we are children to give away our power to others. When we were told to kiss and hug relatives or friends of the family when we didn’t want to, for example, we were learning to override our inner sense of knowing and our right to determine for ourselves what we want to do. This repression continued, most likely, in many experiences at school and in situations at work. At this point, we may not even know how to hold on to our power, because giving it away is so automatic and ingrained.

“To some degree, giving our energy to other people is simply part of the social contract, and we feel that we have to do it in order to survive. It is possible to exchange energy in a way that preserves our inner integrity and stability. This begins in a small way: by listening to the voice that continues to let us know what we want, no matter how many times we override its messages.”  - Madisyn Taylor

I came across this in my inbox today and suddenly I understood more clearly why not being listened to as kids, by being treated as if we’re joking when we’re not, why acting as if we can’t possibly know what we like and why, etc, is so infuriating. It’s obvious but I hadn’t been able to put it into words.

Superhero kid. Girl power concept Royalty Free Stock PhotosWhen these things take place we get angry, not because we’re giving away our power, but because it’s being taken away from us. Maybe not deliberately, or maybe deliberately but unconsciously, but taken all the same. And it may take 50 years or more to unlearn the repression we’ve learned, if we ever do, and then we feel angry and guilty, maybe, and resent those who’ve caused us to feel this way.

As very young children, toddlers, perhaps, it’s often necessary for our “power” to be taken away from us. We can’t be allowed to rush out into heavy traffic, for instance, just because we want to go. Eventually and ideally we should come to grips with how our power can be used and that knowledge should make us a bit freer. We can learn to walk several blocks to school without our parents’ fear we’ll dart out into traffic. We can learn what kinds of foodsBig Power Boss Stepping on Little Employee Stock Photography we like and how we want to dress and adorn ourselves.

Except that very often our power is fragmented by what parents or society think we should do and how we should behave and what we should want. We may be trusted to cross the street but not be trusted to choose our own clothes. Not trusted to know what we want.

Which brings up two experiences I’d like to describe, one of my own, one of a friend’s. When I was a young teen, one of the rare times I actually got new clothes, my mom decided to get me a charcoal gray suit with a boxy jacket. Not exactly teen fare but by this time in my life I’d learned to pretty much go along with what I was supposed to like.

Pink woman shirt Stock PhotographyBut she also wanted me to get a pastel pink blouse to go with it. That was a popular color combination that year. Only I didn’t like pink, especially pastel pink. I mean, who ever heard of a pastel Scorpio? So I protested, maybe not loud or long, but definitely out of character. I expressed my power the best I knew how.

It wasn’t enough. With protestations of, “It looks so good on you,” “It’s such a good color,” “It’s so pretty,” my mother overrode every protest I made until I caved. And cave I did. A picture taken of me in that suit with the pink blouse shows me hunched over, head bowed, trying to disappear. I literally look caved in on myself.

And it wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally realized why pink has made me feel sick to my stomach so often over the years. It wasn’t the pink color, per se, but the battering of my soul that took place when I was made to do and wear something I really didn’t want.

The second event happened to a friend of mine. Another friend of hers had decided Nails manicure Royalty Free Stock Photothat she’d give my friend a manicure as a gift. My friend, however, didn’t want a manicure, didn’t like manicures, would have preferred a gift of a massage. Over the course of several conversations and meetings with other friends where her refusal of a manicure was treated as a joke, my friend’s resentment grew. Why was it so difficult for her friend to see and hear what she said?

It was, to my way of thinking, a power struggle, albeit likely an unconscious one. Because her friend loved manicures (as my mother loved pink) she simply wouldn’t acknowledge her friend’s desires as being legitimate. She probably didn’t even hear her, not really.

Until my friend finally blew up and got angry. And then her friend was amazed to discover that she didn’t like manicures. Well, duh!

Of course, anger is one way, a very potent way, of expressing our power. But it Young female expressing her anger Stock Imageoften leaves us feeling uncomfortable and vaguely guilty. Why should we have to get angry to accomplish our desires? We shouldn’t. Have to, I mean. When we have to, it feels as if we’re being unheard, perhaps belittled, our desires given no shrift. And under certain circumstances we’re overridden and we give in.

My friend expressed her desires often and clearly and yet it took an explosion to get her message across. I wasn’t allowed to get angry, much less explode, and I carried the consequences of that assault on my power for over 50 years.

You’re entitled to your wants and desires and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. Not that you should ride roughshod over people like you may have been overridden, but I trust you to know right from wrong as well as when you’re right and you have that right.

May your sense of knowing what is right for you be expressible and expressed. Let us hope you can express your desires and wants and that people will hear you.

I wish this for you.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 175 other followers

%d bloggers like this: