The Dark Night of the Soul

I am compelled to write about the dark night of the soul because I am currently journeying through a dark night myself. The recent death of my mother was my entrance, this time around. We all take our turn in the dark night journey. Loss is the entrance. This may be a loss of a loved one to death, to the break-up of a relationship, loss of health to illness, loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of youth, loss of a dream….loss.

In astrology the dark night of the soul would be associated with Pluto, the planet of loss that happens out of your control that takes you to your knees in surrender. It is through this surrender that the soul transforms. In tarot, you could associate the dark night of the soul with the Death and The Hanged Man archetypes. The former applies to the actual loss, the latter to the journey that comes with the loss. If you pull these cards, you know it is your turn.

The dark night of the soul is not fun, easy, predictable, or known. Each time a person goes through it, it is their own unique journey. At the same time, the dark night of the soul is archetypal, universal, and collective. There are key elements we all experience when going through it. It’s helpful to know that you are not going insane and that nothing is wrong with you when you feel…

Hopeless, like nothing can lift your heart out of the shadows.

Despair, like you’ve fallen into an abyss and there is no light to be found.

Confused, like one minute you are in your every day life with your usual struggles and pleasures (no matter how intense they may present) and the next minute you’re in a different place emotionally. You feel feelings you cannot name. Your life does not seem to make sense.

Angry because you feel as if life unfairly took something important from you.

Judgmental of yourself because you are not functioning like your usual self and being vulnerable makes you feel embarrassed.

Like hiding or withdrawing because interacting with others makes you feel worse. Maybe you are envious of what they have that you have lost. Maybe you try to explain yourself but it makes you feel worse to do so. Maybe the contrast of your life against their life is too much to bare. Maybe you need silence. You don’t laugh as easy. You don’t feel chatty. You cannot care about their lives the way you normally do. You have very little to give.

Like escaping self-destructively into food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, television, or whatever thing or activity will act like a balm on the harsh feelings. Maybe you have an addiction issue and the dark night takes you to a new level of needing to surrender to not partake in your addiction. Maybe you don’t have an addiction issue but keep over doing it and feeling bad about yourself and struggle to find balance.

Like you can’t sleep or you sleep too much, your dreams are intense, you wake up each morning in a fog, you never feel truly rested.

And these are just a few of the feelings and experiences I am tapping into that we all share when in the dark night. The dark night is not a depression. It is a rite of passage.

Just know you are normal for experiencing all of the above. This journey will take its own course in its own time. There is nothing you can do to stop it and it is enforced upon you.

Surrender is the key.

Surrender is all you can do but at the same time, you have a choice to continually make and grapple with every single day. I stress “grapple” because the dark night of the soul is an internal wrestling match on the regular.

You can surrender and radically accept all of these feelings and experiences that seize you, not identify with the feelings, let them pass through you and allow the dark night to mysteriously transform the myth of your soul.

Or you can resist the dark night by identifying with the feelings and telling yourself a story that creates suffering based upon these feelings.

This story can be that you are bad, guilty, wrong, fucked up, not good enough, or that you need to just pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with life, that your feelings can’t compare with those who are going through worse, that you don’t have the right to feel pain and loss as you push all your feelings down into the shadow, slowly making yourself sick either through seeming like a shining star of strength or through self destructing from escape into addiction or fleeing or doing something impulsive that makes your life fall into suffering. You get the idea.

Suffering is the story, not the feelings.

The internal wrestling is hard because the feelings that rise up in the dark night are unnamable and often intense. The key is to let them rise and pass through you like chemical storms.

Agony, loneliness, despair, anger, regret, every form of vulnerability where the ego feels like its fallen off the throne and lost its crown, can present in the dark night. Or maybe you feel a low level blah, a loss of interest in your regular activities, or you need to be alone. Depends on the temperament as we are all different.

The key though, is to allow the feelings and desires to present and be honored without buying the stories the feelings want to sell.

Sometimes the thoughts create the feeling but I think more than often, the feelings create the thoughts. You feel sad and then you tell yourself, “I am not good enough”.  You feel confused and you tell yourself, “I am lost.” You feel guilty and you tell yourself, “I am not lovable.”

This is why I am not a big fan of reframing thoughts to change the feelings. I think this winds up invalidating the feelings and then what you resist will persist and the feelings will find a way to express, often through physical illness or projection onto another. Feelings need to be recognized and felt to leave the body. Our culture has a morality around dark feelings being bad and it winds up making the self sick as a result.

I am more of a fan of mindfulness practice. When a big scary or dark feelings rise, instead of trying to change the feeling into something positive, witness the feeling, feel it, and do not identify with it. You are not your feelings. If you do this, the feeling will rise like an internal storm, express, and leave the body like waves that roll through.

When you identify with the feeling that rises inside, you create a story from it. If you identify with despair in your dark night, you may create a story that says, “my life is always painful and I never get a break.” This traps the feeling by perpetuating it over and over inside of the story. This causes suffering.

If you don’t identify with the despair rising in you, the feeling will storm, express and leave the body. This is where the magic happens. Somehow, from letting feels express and leave the body, you slowly begin to transform.

This is the soul journey of the dark night. The essential nectar. It’s in the meaning making. It is spirit playing the role of you and making a myth out of your life. It is you finding forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation for yourself and for those who have hurt you. You let go of the clinging, you release the suffering, you release the karma. Your heart purifies and you remember who you are. Love.

This is how the soul transforms. Through loss.

The dark night of the soul is an archetypal rite of passage that is meant to transform your soul. Grief is the medicine. But you have to allow this to happen.

If you resist the feelings by over-identifying with them and creating stories of suffering that perpetuate the same patterns in your life, you wont transform. You will petrify. You will grow more resentful, guilty, bitter, defensive, untrusting. You may get sick if the stories turn into physical aliments from all the trapped feelings.

If you don’t identify with the feelings that rise within you and you learn how to let them express and pass through, you will mysteriously begin to feel differently about yourself, your past, those who hurt you or who you hurt in your past. You will begin to find forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation.

Forgiveness. Redemption. Reconciliation. Big words, big topics. I will save digging in for another blog.

This is the power of of the dark night of the soul. It is soul medicine and to understand the medicine you must remove judgement on light being good and dark being bad. You must remove the perspective that happiness is good and sadness is bad. That gain is good and loss is bad. You must allow the full spectrum of life experiences and feelings expression within you, without identifying with them. You must be willing to heal, grow, and evolve. It’s very hard!

If we collectively (and we are starting to) understand and educate about the medicine of the dark night of the soul it would be easier because no singular human would feel isolated in their experience and they would have a map for how to traverse through the pitch black dark night of their soul journey. Perhaps many of our ancient elders experienced this collective wisdom in their earth based cultures?

I am only giving a brief summary here and I am writing this mid-dark night of my soul. Figure I have another year left. I am internally wrestling my ego’s compulsion to identify with the feelings and tell myself negative stories about self. My witness is strong and although the negative story maker is busy as work, I am not identifying with those tales.

It’s important to understand that not identifying often means saying “no, I wont believe this story about myself,” not necessarily being free of the negative stories blabbing away in the psyche every time a hard feeling rises up. It’s learning to ignore the blah blah blah while allowing the feeling to swell and express without thoughts. Eventually the thoughts and meaning-making return but as a wise soul myth, and not a false negative self story.

I am just now beginning to enter the realm of forgiveness. More to come. I am in the dark night with you and if you are not in the dark night, hello from the darkness.

The Archetypes in the Collective Shadow and Self-Parts in the Personal Shadow

Understanding from a Jungian perspective, depth perspective, internal family systems perspective (all of which root to the indigenous shamanic perspective), the psyche is made up of many “parts”. Integrating these self-parts brings healing. Each system of thought may have its own specific map and set of methods but they all stem from the fundamental idea that the psyche is made up of many aspects and that the conscious self, or ego, is only a tiny portion of the entire psyche.

Ego is our aware self-part, the part of the psyche that is literally conscious of self on a basic level of knowing you are a person. The unconscious contains the aspects of the psyche we are not aware of and do not identify with as a result and yet the workings of the unconscious deeply effect our conscious lives.

Jung made a distinction between the personal and the collective shadow. Shadow is another word for the unconscious. A poetic and metaphorical word, as Jung was quite the poet in my opinion!

Shadow refers to what cannot be seen. Many people think the shadow is the negative or “bad” traits of the personality, such as the desire to harm, steal, self-destruct, cross boundaries, take selfishly, etc. Although such traits may exist in the shadow or as a shadow personality, the shadow is a neutral term. The shadow is simply what is hidden from the conscious self.

The personal shadow contains what the ego represses in order to be liked and valued, or in order to survive. Hence, the personal shadow contains personality traits the ego thinks will cause shame and also wounds and feelings the ego could not process consciously, stemming from childhood trauma, abuse, or anything too harsh.

The spectrum of what gets relegated to the personal shadow by ego is different for each person because we all have our temperaments and that factors into the mix just as much as the events that take place. Nature and nurture.

The collective shadow is not personal. It is the root of the personal. If our individual selves are the flower, the personal shadow is the seed and the collective shadow is the soil. To understand, think in terms of all of life living symbiotically and interconnected at all times. We are always attached to every living cell of the universe and we would not exist as individuals without the collective holding us here.

Ancestral patterns, wounds, and karma live in the collective shadow and so do the archetypes. The archetypes are the collective instinctual drives we all share in common. Jung took this a new level and defined these archetypes as have their own sentience. We do not create the archetypes. The archetypes are our human foundation.

This concept is hard to grasp and requires the right brain to do so, which is of equal value to the left brain. The ancient and indigenous cultures engaged their right brained skills and understood the archetypes as the many gods and goddesses that ruled each particular collective human function (agriculture, fertility, truth, sexuality, mothering, fathering, morality, etc).

It is important to understand that no matter how you connect to the archetypes, the relationship is cultivated by the imagination or right brain. The imagination does not mean what is being imagined is false (though it might when turned to fantasy). Imagination allows us to communicate with levels of sentience that are not detectable by the five senses. Just as real but cannot be seen, touched, heard, tasted, or smelled.

In tarot, archetypes are imagined as the 22 major arcana. Jung imagined his own list of major archetypes. Internal family systems imagines its own essential model of archetypes living in the psyche. Astrology imagines planetary archetypes to map out the psyche.

I am not here to convince you that archetypes are real, sentient, or needed to heal. If you think this is all bullocks, no worries mate. If you feel drawn to this information than this concept and understanding of the psyche may be very healing for you. I also find it to be fulfilling spiritually and creatively to connect with the archetypes and I do so daily though using tarot, astrology, painting, and journeying.

Healing using archetypes involves becoming aware of the archetypes. Becoming aware brings the archetypes into conscious life. Integration means to bring what is unconscious into conscious life through bringing conscious life to the unconscious. Say that ten times fast!

Much of who we are is collective and not individual. As westerners we tend to avoid the collective level of reality culturally speaking and also psychologically speaking. When you take your ego into the unconscious to integrate with the archetypes you transform into a more balanced, healthy, fulfilled, and happy person. Nature makes it so. By reconnecting with your natural roots, you will experience well-being.

For example, integrating with the Animus (the masculine archetype of the conscious feminine ego) will make a feminine identified ego take authority over her life, set healthy boundaries, make good decisions, partner with an equal who values her, differentiate herself from family, and contribute her ideas to the world as a unique person.

If her Animus is not integrated and lives unconscious and ineffectual in the collective shadow of her psyche, she may see men who do not value her as holding all of the power, she may lack boundaries and give too much of herself away, she may feel lost inside, she may be overly critical and judgmental of her partner, she may be filled with unconscious “shoulds” that she projects onto those she loves as if they are be-ll end-all truths.

In this woman’s personal shadow may live a lonely and desperate character who feels not good enough to be loved and valued by others. Let’s call this character the disempowered girl. This disempowered girl is a mirage living in the woman’s personal shadow, made up of repressed energy from childhood trauma. 

The Animus is sentient and an essential foundation of this woman’s psyche. The disempowered girl is not sentient. The disempowered girl is a character made up of a narrative made up of repressed feelings that never integrated with the woman’s ego.

The disempowered girl emanates the negative vow, “I am bad” (understood through the lens of  cognitive-behavioral work). The disempowered girl is the wounded inner child when understood through inner child work but the inner child is also the child archetype.

Jung used the term “complex” to describe when an archetype becomes the center sun that personal shadow characters orbit around. The sun being the archetype and the planets being repressed energy in the personal shadow make up a galaxy of dysfunction.

In in this example, the child archetype would be the sun and the disempowered girl would be the negative narrative orbiting around it. The child sun would want to integrate with the conscious ego through expressing curiosity, following wonder, experiencing innocence, play, and newness but it’s pulled the disempowered girl into its orbit.

The woman, in her waking ego life, feels shame all of the time and she is too scared to try anything new and express curiosity. She judges herself and others unaware that she is doing so. She sticks to a rigid routine to feel safe, all because of this complex.

But I don’t want to get too far into complexes. My point of this blog is to share the distinction between sentient archetypal aspects that make up the fundamental nature of the psyche and the self-parts in the personal shadow that are living as characters after being repressed by the ego long ago.

I have done a lot of work on myself and with clients on engaging with the self-parts in the personal shadow, treating these parts as valuable, giving them love, acknowledging their existence and letting them express so that they may be released. This work is effective. Using tarot is a potent way to unearth these parts, as are dreams and noticing what causes big reactivity in relationships.

When you suddenly become conscious of a self-part in the personal shadow and give the part love, acknowledgment, and freedom to express, the part will often dissolve. Dissolving means integrating because when the part is released from the shadow it has integrated with the conscious present ego self.

Sometimes the part dissolves all at once and other times the part dissolves slowly over years. I have parts that have taken twenty years to integrate and sometimes a switch in treatment is what brings healing.

Sometimes it is best to not treat the personal shadow part as a character that needs acknowledgment, love, and expression. It may be more effective to use the mindfulness practice of radical acceptance and not attach to the repressed energy as a character. This would look like allowing the expression of the repressed energy to exist with conscious radical acceptance while at the same time not engaging with the part as a character, essentially ignoring it, over and over.

So, if the disempowered girl living in the personal shadow of the woman expresses through her conscious ego as a perpetual feeling of shame, the practice is for her to allow the shame to present with radical acceptance, over and over, while she ignores the shame at the same time.

I like to use the example of the movie “A Beautiful Mind” where the main character overcame his severe delusions that showed up as a group of friends that did not really exist. He did this through a very mundane practice of mindful radical acceptance. By learning to accept the appearance of these friends while at the same time not engaging with them at all, he found integration. He healed.

Sometimes you will need to attach and lovingly engage with the self-part in the personal shadow. You will need to treat this self-part like a parent or therapist and give this part love, listening, honor, and expression. Maybe you’ll need to give this part a job or a role to fulfill. In this way, it is the relationship between ego and self-part that creates healing and integration.

Other times you may need to use radial acceptance and mindfulness to heal from a chronic issue, pattern, or block. You may need to heal by not identifying with what is in the shadow while radically accepting the conscious emotional expression of this shadow part without identifying with it.

We are not our wounds. We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings.

Integrating the archetypes into conscious life, on the other hand, is necessary. You don’t want to not identify with your most fundamental human instincts. Well, unless you are a radical Buddhist monk. Otherwise, you want to integrate the archetypes so that you live with more health, balance, freedom, and happiness.

How do you know the difference between a self-part in the personal shadow and an archetype?

Usually the self-parts in the personal shadow leak through conscious life as chronic issues, negative narratives, and repeated feelings, whereas the archetypes tend to seize the ego and come on strongly as potent feelings or character traits, instincts or impulses.

For instance, in the personal shadow may be an “ugly girl” who was teased as a child and felt rejected by her classmates. This may show up in the adult woman’s ego as a chronic insecurity narrative where she is always trying to lose weight, look prettier, shop for new clothes, and improve herself because she never feels pretty enough.

The archetype that pulls the “ugly girl” into orbit may the lover, our instinctual desire to sexually merge with another. The lover archetype would seize this woman with erotic desire, feelings of love, seduction, a crush, a need to merge with another. Now we have a complex (usually there are more parts but for the sake of example, I make it simple).

The complex blocks integration of the lover with the ego of the woman because the “ugly girl” in her personal shadow shows up as the insecurity narrative in one form or another and she never allows herself to feel beautiful enough to merge with another. The lover remains shadowed and the “ugly girl” remains in the driver’s seat of her conscious life.

Does this woman need to engage with the “ugly girl”, listen to her, love her, and let her express all her wounds and pain? Does this woman need to give radical acceptance to the insecurity she feels while ignoring the chronic narrative of insecurity at the same time? Or does this woman need to do a little of both?

Intuition guides us and so does trying out different methods. I am naming only two methods and using only one framework of understanding the psyche. The important thing to keep in mind is to not compare yourself to others and do not treat any healer or therapist as a god who knows more than yourself. Results are real and methods work. Healing also may happen without any method. Keeping the mystery alive after all of this explaining! Do what works for you.

 

 

 

Full Moon in Capricorn, Karma, Feelings, Stories, Release…

The full moon in Capricorn is happening today. Following the cycles of the moon is akin to following to the cycles of the unconscious. Beneath the ego’s conscious realm of logic and reason dwells the realm of intuition, feelings, soul and the unconscious. The sun is the ego’s domain and the moon is the soul’s domain.

When the moon is full it is illuminating the soul and the contents of our personal shadow that wants to be seen at this time. Bring in Capricorn and we get a focused light. Capricorn focuses the lunar light on what is pragmatic, tempering our feelings and bringing rational understanding to the watery realm of feeling and intuition.

Bringing pragmatic and rational understanding to the feelings and intuition is calming for the nervous system. Many of us are experiencing heightened suffering right now in our personal lives and facing the crisis of this country. We are experiencing relationship challenges, health challenges, loss, confusion, emptiness, rage, sorrow, and battling to get out of old stories of suffering.

Bringing rational understanding to the feelings means discerning the feeling from the story. The feeling itself is a somatic expression. Sorrow is crying. Anger is screaming. Despair is wailing. Emptiness is staring into space. You get the idea. It’s never healthy to repress the feelings. Let them have expression.

Maybe you express through singing instead of crying and screaming. Maybe you express through running. However it gets out, get the feeling out. Make time to get the feeling out. Just like you wouldn’t hold in poo that needs out (how ridiculous!), do not hold in feelings because if you do it will make you sick just like holding in poo.

Use the rational Capricorn energy to make time to let your feelings have release.

The next step up the mountain is to keep your hawk eye out for the stories that like to grow on feelings the same way yeast likes to grow on fruit. Sadness may grow an “I am not good enough” story. Anger may grow a “you are bad” story. Emptiness may grow a “life is meaningless” story. Despair may grow a “I want to die” story. On and on. These stories are akin to unhealthy bacteria that make the system sick.

Just like fruit grows moldy if left uneaten, feelings that are left unfelt tend to grow bacterial stories. Other times these toxic stories grow from dwelling too much in a feeling. If you eat 100 apples you will get sick. If you dwell in sorrow you will soon grow a story that says you are incapable, used up, worthless and worse off than everyone else.

Having a regular meditation or yoga practice helps the mind stay aware of the stories so that we can cherry pick which stories are healthy and which to ignore. When you ignore a story long enough, it recedes and eventually dissolves because stories are not real. Feelings, on the other hand, are very real. If you ignore and avoid a feeling it will grow into a story that that you think is real while the repressed feeling makes you sick by showing up as illness, crisis, codependency and so forth.

The pragmatic thing to keep in mind is that the feeling is what needs tending and releasing so toxic stories do not build up and deceive the ego into nailing the self into it’s own coffin while still alive. Dramatic, I know. But truth be told, we humans are dramatic creatures. We are sensitive creatures. We need tending.

If we do not care for our feelings we get addicted to toxic stories and substances and relationships and people. Being able to show up as the present true self in each moment is tall order for the state of the human collective we are in. Crisis is global and personal. Capricorn reminds us to take each moment one baby step up the mountain of progress.

Take one little baby step of awareness to look within….

See how you feel. Feel how you feel. Hear how you feel. Know how you feel. However you get there. Find your feeling in your body. Maybe a song, movie, or story helps you get there. Maybe talking to a friend, a therapist, a healer, a pastor, a tarot deck, or spirit helps you. Locate the feelings in your body and take some time with it. Take some time to feel. Feeeeeeeeel. Breathe. Sit with it. Dance with it. Be with yourself. Connect with yourself.

It’s hard to feel the painful feelings. Sorrow, anguish, rage, despair, oh so hard. Anxiety is a cover up feeling, not the root. Anxiety is the ego feeling a loss of control and security. Some of us need medication or outside support in one form or another to manage anxiety. If you are able, could you allow yourself to feel beneath the anxiety…to feel the loss itself? Could you allow yourself to go deeper and feel the shame?

It’s not easy….it takes time, patience, love and tenderness…and it’s still hard…

Can you see the toxic stories you are telling yourself about yourself? If not, you may be projecting them onto others. Maybe your partner, a friend, a child, a sibling. Can you pull back these projections and face that you feel this way about yourself on some deep down level? If you pull back the projection, you will be forced to feel.

Capricorn is ruled by Saturn and Saturn is our karma. Our karma is our attachments. Our attachments are our feelings. Feelings are so hard to feel that we actually carry them from lifetime to lifetime. Feelings do not just go away. They must be felt to be released. If you die with guilt you are born with the same guilt in your new life. This is your karma.

Saturn will bring you lesson after lesson, experience after experience, to get you in touch with the feelings in your shadow that you are denying. Each time you ignore the feeling and project blame outward or blame the self, you miss the point and your karma continues. What if you felt the guilt all the way instead of avoiding it by trying to be good? Then you would feel what is beneath the guilt. Beneath the guilt may be a feeling of joy or love you never knew existed inside you.

Denied feelings may be painful or joyous and everything in between…

Coming back to the simplicity, feeling the feelings is the medicine. Feeling the feelings dissolves your karma, dissolves the toxic stories, dissolves the complexes. You purify yourself by feeling the feelings. But…there’s one more little aspect to liberating yourself from your limitations, your karma, your toxic stories, your patterns….and this is…

Love. If you bring love to the feelings you can be assured that the feelings are releasing. If you bring judgement to the feelings by crying and judging yourself as you cry, you are creating a toxic story and the feeling perpetuates. You release sadness and create new sadness at the same time. Some people are addicted to this process of continually releasing and re-creating sorrow, despair, anger, etc, through the power of telling themselves they are bad.

It can get very tricky in the psyche. Love assures you of complete release and experiencing love is not something Capricorn, Saturn, me or anyone can teach.

Love is the divine. Love is the transpersonal. Love is God. Love is Goddess. Love is larger than you. Love is life. If you call upon the power of love it will come to you and although it may take time, love will permeate the shadow and every feeling inside. Self love is as mysterious as the divine. You must know and feel this love personally and nobody can tell you how.

Love is not Capricorn’s domain but it is the moon’s domain. The full moon in Capricorn means we have the opportunity to bring unconditional love to our karma, limitations and the feelings that are wizard behind the curtain of every story created.

Capricorn full moon bring unconditional love into the heart of every human being on Earth and fill our cups until they are overflowing. Illuminate the stories we are creating and the feelings beneath the stories that ask for release. Bring us this step up the mountain of progress. May we heal, may we evolve, may we climb with gentleness, pragmatism, and grace.

 

Many Voices, One Center…

There are as many perspectives on healing as there are healers who are healing, scientists who are researching, philosophers who are contemplating, poets who are dreaming, and artists who are creating. It’s up to you to choose which focus or path resonates with who you are and what works best for you. Do you know who you are and what resonates with who you are? Do you know what is best for you?

Complex trauma tends to shatter the ego from an early age, submerging aspects of the self into the shadow. Multigenerational wounds stemming from cultural and family of origin mistreatment wait patient on the dark sea floor until transpersonal and instinctual forces lift them up toward the surface for the ego to see. How often we don’t see the wounds because we project them onto our dearest loved ones or the world or the self in a negative fashion. The message gets lost. The story of pain morphs into body ailments and rejection. The true self is not heard among the clatter of other voices; mother, grandmother, brother, great grandfather, teacher, authoritarian voice imposing shame.

Dive deeper if you believe and recover past lives in or out of the bloodline, in or out of the earth or milky way, where guilt and defeat collected in the belly of your soul…or maybe it was victory and power that collected, usually it’s a mixture of every feeling not worked out, over glorified, shunned by the ego or ignorant to the soul. Our tapestry of karma tells tales as sentimental as a delicately woven blanket made by the hands of an experienced and wise elder. You don’t need to believe in past lives or even the true self to understand that the mind, conscious and unconscious, creates a multitude of stories based on what we experience.

It is never just one story. It is never all or nothing, black and white…well, except when it is (which sometimes is really is). Sometimes we must pick a side and fight and some things resonate as wrong or right deep down beneath logic, such as unnecessary killing, suffering, violence, and abuse. But when it comes to be a human being, we do not hold only one perspective, one way of being, one karma, or one destiny. The conscious self, or ego, wishes it to be one thing and tries its hardest to think one way and have one truth to create one outcome, in a sweet attempt to mirror wholeness. But wholeness is not having one perspective to make one outcome happen.

Wholeness is getting back in touch with our center (soul, true self) that is able to balance and contain the multitude of who we are. For life is always moving and changing. Simple appearances hide complexity. Nothing is really solid even if it appears so to the eyeball. All atoms are moving about and there is a ton of space between them. Split atoms and space keeps getting bigger and containing more complexity. The ego sees what it needs to see to adapt to the world. The eye sees what it needs to see to adapt to the ego. As your consciousness (or frequency) changes, so does your perspective. This is how the soul evolves. If the ego can let go of rigidity and open gently to the vastness within, it wont repress this evolution, it wont create a great divide.

The past is happening now and the future is happening now too but on other dimensions that would shatter the ego just as trauma can do but shatter the ego to the point of no return. We have limitations for a reason. Linear time is a needed limitation but my point is more emotional than philosophical. Our ancestor’s wounds live as alive in this moment as they did when they happened according to linear time. These wounds live inside of us. If you believe in past lives, same goes. In this life, same goes for what we experienced in childhood. Same goes for the future too but I think to speak of this would wax too philosophical for this blog.

The voices of our ancestors, mother, father, siblings, culture, past lives, lives on other dimensions, lives as other sentient forces…all lives live in the unconscious mind in a non-linear fashion, alive as ever and very naturally. The unconscious is the sea containing everything.

On one hand, you can spend your life digging up ancestral, past life, family of origin, and other-dimensional karma, never reaching an end point to the healing but always refining, evolving and liberating your soul in the process. On the other hand, when you know in your feelings that all of these stories are not Self and you find your Self in breath over and over through the practice of some form of meditation, while continuing to open and purify your heart through feeling your feelings, you may heal just as effectively without going into any stories, conscious or unconscious.

I have healed from both these modalities equally. I have also grown tremendously from good old fashioned cognitive-behavioral mindfulness and using my conscious will to re-author my life stories. I have also transformed deeply from making art out of pain to honor the feelings and stories of suffering. And these are still only a few modalities of healing out of many. My true self finds the most effectiveness from using these five modalities and each speaks to a different voice inside. The breakdown:

Bringing the wounding, personality traits, true self and gifts out from the shadow connected to the family/cultural system and bloodline is what allows me to be in the world and in relationships as a differentiated being, true to herself and in loving relation that honors the differentiation in others. This work is most powerful for me in letting go of identifying with the the wounds I carry, being my real self with others, and in aligning my heart and will so that when I say I want to do something, I am more likely to do it. This work is always in progress.

Bringing the wounding, personality traits, true self and gifts out from the shadow connected to past lives on earth and on other dimensions transformed my sense of self and life itself on a very zoomed out level. In the zenith of this awakening some very chronic and severe symptoms fell away, never to return. This healing journey along with reconnecting with the divine feminine, awakened my calling to be a healer. Knowing the story of my soul beyond this world anchors me to this lifetime.

Finding my Self in breath and knowing in my feelings that the stories of the soul are not the Self gives me a direct experience of inner peace and equanimity, leading me to my center, over and over. Also, I am able to hold the stories of my soul with a lighter footprint when I am anchored to breath as Self, first and foremost. This is the Tao so to speak, it is beyond language.

Mindfulness-based CBT is the work that helps me not get stuck in stories and helps me choose to re-author my life stories, cause to be frank, I am not a huge meditator. I do meditative yoga about four times a week and I am always the observer watching myself but I do not specifically meditate every single day. I do use mindful CBT almost every day, along with narrative work to not sink into story and to keep my center vibrant and creative. This work also helps the feelings to express and pass through me like weather, allowing suffering to be used as grist to evolve.

Creative expression is my home base. I will not let go of a soul story unless I turn it into art. This is because I have a fervent attachment to honoring painful stories. I do not believe forgetting is healthy. I believe we must always remember our history and how suffering is caused, how power is misused, how lives are harmed, how abuse is formed and how it steals the life force and autonomy from the individual. When I turn abuse into a novel, a shattered ego into a painting, or heart break into a poem, history is honored and I can let go of identifying with the wound. I embrace the open broken heart through creative expression. Ritual, singing, cooking, ceremony, painting, writing, are some of the ways I engage in daily.

These are the modalities that work best for me and this is why I use them with clients. I connect to the wounded healer archetype and am called to be healer from my personal experience. I don’t claim to be in expert though I have a lot of experience. I do not seek power but I also admit that in my shadow there is a woman who is learning to empower herself. Once the story of empowerment is fully honored she will transcend empowerment, not needing to become stronger than her oppressors or be in a dialect with them. The story will evaporate and change as all stories do when we give them conscious embodiment, space to breathe, and time to express.

I treasure my humanity and no longer feel shame for my vulnerability, wounds, or weaknesses. We all share the same shame and it’s ok to feel it, know it, express it, let it go and laugh at our collective self-consciousness while not forgetting the horrible abuse that stole our freedom. We can use the pain to transform and reclaim our autonomy. Holding the tension of opposites allows the masculine and feminine aspects of each one of us to have a voice; to evolve and to honor what is without changing it into something else.

My intention in writing this blog is to spark your center. What modalities resonate with you and why? You may or may not know. We each have our own path to healing. I offer what I offer as a healer and I have plenty of referrals to give out in my community. I think it is important to never give your power away to a healer. Nobody knows more than you know about your inner self. The right healer for you will evoke a feeling of rightness inside, bring out your soul stories, help you to find your center and to come home to your true self. If these words don’t resonate, no worries.

Sometimes there is chafing, conflict, or transference, where new perspectives get cracked open, trust needs building, or projection emerges in the relationship between healer and client so that the client may heal. This opportunity is golden. There is a difference between the golden opportunity of healing conflict and not resonating with a healer. If it’s the former you usually get a big emotional reaction and if it’s the latter, you may feel more annoyed than upset, more unaffected or just…off.

Approaching healing from different perspectives, in my opinion, is most effective. I cannot imagine eliminating any of the modalities that I use and I am always open to more. Some modalities fade away over time and new ones take their place. I would not be surprised if one day I ditch some modalities completely. We are ever changing and evolving. I remain unattached to all modalities except one. Creative expression is my home of homes, this I know to be true. What do you know know to be true?

 

 

 

 

Tarot Card Medicine

Tarot cards may be used to predict the future and for healing. I have been a reader for about twenty seven years and professionally for about seventeen years and in my own practice, I have witnessed both aspects reveal through the cards. Not all readers use the cards to predict and many do not believe in prediction. I use the cards in service to the healing journey and if psychic predictions come through, I share them and include the sentence, “take this with a grain of salt, ” because I do not want to hold the power of an all seeing/knowing eye.

My intention is to be a very human ally and guide even if I channel psychic messages at times.

The way it works is that I connect with the divine/higher self/true self (whatever word works best for you to describe the transpersonal aspect). I channel messages using the cards as keys that unlock my unconscious to see into the unconscious and life of the client.

Sometimes I will channel a loved one who has passed or a specific soul guide. Sometimes I am given a picture of what is to come, usually in metaphor. The cards have predicted the endings and beginnings of relationships, lives, jobs as well as inner transformations/cycles for myself and clients for so many years that it does not seem like a big deal. Prediction is a very minor aspect of the Tarot’s medicine.

The medicine of Tarot is in their ability to illuminate what is hidden from the ego or conscious self. Many years ago, a Tarot client said to me, “you have uncovered in a half an hour what would have taken months in therapy”. My calling to bridge Tarot reading with therapy was sparked by her words. How often I have said in a reading, “this would be beneficial exploration for therapy.”  My desire is to be a messenger and a guide through the therapeutic journey.

I love using Tarot as a therapist. To be honest, I don’t see too much difference between these two roles. Every Tarot reader I know is a healer but the persona of therapist is more legitimized in our masculine-heavy culture. Although, there are many readers who are not healers in their soul-calling or their training. Point being, for those readers who are healers, the only thing separating them from having therapy clients is largely the way society does not legitimize the tarot reader as a healer. I have served on both sides of this fence and have a strong opinion, hence the diatribe. Back to the Tarot talk…

Tarot reveals different aspects of the unconscious. Archetypes, feelings, personality traits, vows, wounds, soul gifts, and the true self may be dwelling in the ocean deep of the unconscious. The magic of Tarot is when aspects are suddenly revealed to the  conscious self it…just feels right. The illumination feels so good, as if a missing piece has been returned to the whole. The illumination itself is healing. Though more than often, aspects emerge like tangled balls of yarn needing to be sorted out and understood. Family of origin, personality traits, vows, feelings, and multigenerational wounds create complexes and take time to process on a cognitive level.

Awareness and meaning-making is medicine for the conscious self while embodiment and expression is medicine for the unconscious self. What first brings unconscious content into conscious awareness are dreams, projections, triggers, creative expression, “freudian slips”/blurting out without awareness, ceremony/ritual, and images that speak directly to the unconscious, such as Tarot cards.

When aspects emerge from the deep you feel that relieving feeling of something missing that is returning even if it’s incredibly painful. We all crave integration. The great divide between the conscious and unconscious self is unhealthy and we long for wholeness. In therapy the sacred space to release and process what comes up and out is often painful. Just as often, joyful and confident parts emerge from the shadow, starving for the nourishment of conscious integration. Those of us who have over identified with the pain body relegate self-worth, self-love, and happiness into the shadow. Tarot cards illuminate all.

Another wonderful medicine of Tarot is the illuminating of one’s soul karma, purpose, and lessons. From the ego or conscious self’s vantage point, we seek the same basics; belonging, success, security, health and healthy relationships. But the soul does not seek these things. The soul seeks to fulfill its destiny, which is rooted in evolving its character as being spirit embodying as an individual self.

The soul is the meeting of spirit and matter.

For instance, the ego may want to experience success in work and experience suffering when success does not come over and over. But the soul may be wanting to evolve through learning how to let go of worldly success and to surrender to a deeper sense of fulfillment through unconditional love or the divine.

The ego may be attached to success as a way to validate its self worth. The client may come in with the problem of not being able to manifest success in their work life unaware of how their soul longs to feel self-worth through surrender to love. The cards will reveal this. Paradoxically, success in work may suddenly occur once this reversal of energy has taken place.

Everyone is at a different point on the journey with different soul lessons, purpose, callings. Tarot reveals the specifics.

Some people do not want to uncover in one session what might take months otherwise. Some people might not want a guide to tell them what is going on inside of them. For those who do not prefer this but still want to use the cards, I have them read their own cards. You do not need to logically understand the cards to read them. In fact, some of the best readings I’ve received were by those who never looked at a deck in their life.

By looking at any image or set of images, we speak directly with the unconscious. The client may do their own digging and meaning making.

Tarot cards may be used solely to explore the unconscious if the client does not believe in soul lessons, karma and the evolution of ensouled spirit. The cards may or may not be used to predict. They may or may not be used to understand the dynamics of relationships with others and the self. Tarot can be read as effectively by a novice as by an expert because intuition does not require practice to be strong and The Fool can bumble out unconscious wisdom through playfully making a story out of an image, without realizing it.

Jungian Psychology and Becoming Whole

Carl Jung called it the individuation process. Through the lens of shamanism it is called soul integration. I see Jungian psychology as the western european reinterpretation of the indigenous practice of soul retrieval, where the healer of the tribe would travel into non-physical dimensions (the names of these dimensions vary from tribe to tribe) of the sick person, retrieve fragmented soul parts that fled during trauma, and return these parts to the individual in present time, making them more whole.

In Jungian psychology, the unconscious would be the name of this other, non-physical dimension. The shaman would be the psychotherapist. The soul parts would be aspects of the Self tossed into the shadow, as well as archetypes living in the collective unconscious. Bringing these aspects of self and archetypes to conscious awareness through active imagination, dream interpretation, creative expression, etc, would be akin to the shaman retrieving the soul parts for the individual and breathing them back into the heart through the process of spiritual journeying and ceremony.

This correlation is my humble opinion. I have not studied up on this correlation and perhaps much has already been written. I am reflecting upon my personal thoughts from my own personal experience. I have had soul parts retrieved by a shaman and I immersed in the shamanistic healing lens for a number of years in the early 2000’s. I retrieved my own soul parts after a time as I desired to do the work on myself, straying from the tradtional path.

I need to mention that this was a western civilization’s appropriated version of shamanism I immersed in. Although this appropriation was rooted in loving intention to bring authentic healing to others, I acknowledge it is far different than if I were to study with an indigenous tribe and experience the true original essence of the practice…and even then, I would still be a westerner entering a culture not my own.

Jung used the metaphor of shadow and light to refer to the conscious and unconscious and turned the spiritual concept of soul into the psychological concept of the Self. Jung translated the earth-based spiritual into the psychological in a society that devalued and oppressed the indigenous soul, pushing this aspect of our human nature into the shadow (this is the Tricker archetype of which I will save for another blog) in favor of western, masculine dominant civilization (again, another blog for this mammoth topic). Although he had his own battles with devaluing the feminine (his own shadow), I am thankful for his work, his words, and his translation that allowed the earth-based feminine wisdom to survive in a cloaked western masculine form. Again, this is all my humble opinion and I too, have my shadow.

The soul journey is filled with the light-experiences of security, pleasure, belonging, connection, health and well-being. The soul journey is also filled with the shadow-experiences of insecurity, pain, loneliness, illness, abuse, loss and separation. We are each unique and yet we share in common the nature of the soul journey which is filled with shadow and light experiences.

The ratio of shadow to light experience is different for everyone. Why? I find it valuable to not ask why. Asking why puts a narrative around the happening that produces suffering that stems from comparing. Sure, you can say it is karma, or law of attraction…but what if you didn’t make a reason that put control in the individual for causing the ratio? What if nature simply produces a variety at random?

What if karma is not about how much pain we endure but more about how we handle it? What if the more we learn to handle shadow experiences with self-awareness, love, and acceptance the less we create some shadow experiences that stem from self creation (such as relationship conflict and self-sabotage)…yet the more we are able to metabolize and grow from shadow experiences that we do not cause (loss, abuse, oppression, death)?  Questions to think about (and again, another blog topic). Back to shadow and light reflection…

We also contain light and shadow aspects within the Self. The light is what we are aware of and the shadow is what we are not aware of. The light is the conscious self, or ego. The shadow is the unconscious, which has a personal and collective level. Think of it like an iceberg. The ego is the small tip of the iceberg rising out of the sea. The personal unconscious is the large expanse of the iceberg submerged under water and the collective unconscious is the depth of the sea itself.

What we (and others) approve of about the self is expressed as our conscious self or ego. What we are ashamed of and judge about the self hides in the shadow of the personal unconscious. Painful feelings, traumatic experiences, and the wounds we carry may also get relegated into the personal shadow. Some of us have consciously over-identified with our wounds, traumatic events, low self-esteem and self-worth, causing a healthy and positive sense of self to live in the personal shadow. It’s different for everybody.

When the self becomes too divided, suffering results in a variety of ways. The ego projects onto others what hides in the shadow. This happens in personal relationships and collectively. When we do not own our own shadow material, we blame others for in relationship. Our inner division is reflected in relationship division. Feelings stemming from unprocessed complex trauma, abuse, or hurt relegated into the shadow can morph into physical and mental illness. Addiction may result as a way to continue avoiding the painful feelings and wounds living in the unconscious. We may relegate our spiritual connection or soul-self into the shadow and on an ego level, always find the need to compete and prove ourselves due to being so disconnected from essence. 

The collective shadow contains who we are systemically. All of us are deeply connected to our family system. We inherit multi-generational wounds, character traits and behavioral patterns through the bloodline from our ancestors and immediate family that live in the collective shadow and may be unconsciously creating chronic issues in our lives. For instance, A great great great grandmother’s anger from being oppressed and abused may be passed down from generation to generation as a character trait of being easily enraged for the smallest of reasons. This rage may cause conflict and reoccurring issues in each new woman born into the bloodline. 

The instinctual human drives we all share in common as a human species also live in the collective unconscious and are called, archetypes. These collective instincts are invisible and so the archetype is like a pictorial costume the instinct wears so that the conscious self can be aware of it.  The drive to live, love, belong, sexually connect, succeed, make meaning, spiritually commune, create, mother, father, etc…are the archetypal instincts. For instance, if you suddenly feel a strong urge to have a baby, it is the mother archetype connecting to your conscious self, asking for embodiment. If you suddenly know you must become a healer, it is the healer archetype connecting to your conscious self.

If an archetype over-powers, it may cause suffering, illness, and imbalance. A good example of this would be an insecure and outcasted young man who suddenly becomes driven by the spiritual teacher (hierophant) archetype. If he finds a sense of empowerment from this archetype he may lose himself in it and become evangelistic and dogmatic as he mistakes connection with power when developing a following of students.

An archetype may also be stunted. For instance, if the artist archetype connects to the ego of a woman who suddenly feels the need to create, but she doesn’t express it due to being too busy with work, she may turn toward excess eating or drinking to release the pressure of the artist archetype building up in her belly as creative fire and passion. 

The archetypes are mysterious. They tend to wake up and connect to our conscious self of their own accord, having their own consciousness. Jung tended to see them as sentient unconscious forces that possess the ego. The god and goddess pantheons may be seen as archetypes. They can make us feel more connected, inspired, alive, and whole, when we embrace them in a balanced way. For instance, if an isolated and lonely young woman suddenly connects with Venus, the archetype of feminine love, she may experience her female sensuality and open her heart, attracting in a romantic partner.

One of my teachers warned us about the archetypes, due to their nature being collective, they are impersonal and do not care for our personal lives. Hence, we have to learn how to say no to them sometimes, if it isn’t in our best interest to work with them. For instance, the warrior archetype may connect to the ego of a woman who is always fighting, when she needs to find more softness and love in her life. In this case, it would be best for her to not give in to the sudden desires to fight in certain situations.

I am only touching upon this topic and feel this blog is already growing too long. I would like to wrap it up with a few words about the healing process…

Transformative healing naturally happens when we illuminate unconscious shadow aspects with conscious awareness by giving acknowledgment, honor, and expression to these parts. The healing for the conscious self is through gaining awareness, understanding, and expressing what is in the personal shadow. The healing for the unconscious is when we give conscious embodiment to the archetypes through creative expression, ritual and ceremony.

When the unconscious and conscious find one another through these means, the healing takes place of its own accord. I can say from personal experience, when I become aware of what is in my shadow, I gain a sense of humor about it and it doesn’t seem like a big deal after I express the initial shame, embarrassment, or fear that was keeping the deeper feeling or aspects of Self in the shadow. I have also experienced more wholeness and fulfillment by allowing certain archetypes to have creative expression in my daily life. 

I find it very useful to allow the ego to feel all the uncomfortable feelings (shame, sorrow, anger, humiliation, etc) with radical acceptance in order to do this integration work. When all the parts of self begin to connect, being who we are feels right and flows, no matter what the experience, be it shadow or light. 

Integration of the shadow and light allows the Self to become more whole and balanced. In essence, we piece ourselves back together with wisdom, love and creativity, turning suffering into gold. Narrating the “story of me” is meant to be a creative process and determines our internal experience. Like the clam turning mud into a pearl, the pain we have been through may become the fodder for transformation and healing.