A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality


5 Comments

Forgiveness heals

IMG_0791

Carrie Ure

I got hit hard with the flu a few weeks ago. It came on suddenly after a series of intense emotional experiences which included landing a nine to five job after nearly a year of underemployment, making a deeper commitment with my lover, hosting my beloved spiritual teacher in my home, and embarking on a year-long Fate and Destiny project with my cherished Sacred Contracts Crew. Perhaps at some point the system must shut down to integrate so many monumental events.

During the past few weeks as these various events coincided, I have  attempted to read Caroline Myss’ new book Defy Gravity. I say “attempted to read” because I have literally been arrested at the beginning of the second chapter. Illustrating the power of this book and these ideas, I been unable to move beyond the first major truth. It’s about forgiveness.

Myss makes the point that all healing begins with letting go of the need to know why things happen as they do. And that is forgiveness in its essence. It’s common in the new age to throw the term forgiveness around quite a bit, yet the concept begs a deeper look. I believe Myss gets it and I have examples in my own life as evidence.

I remember the precise moment her teachings reached me. In my early 30’s I had been struggling with the “why me” syndrome. Here I was, talented, beautiful, healthy, educated, even lucky,  but I couldn’t seem to get my life together. Week after week I moaned and complained to my therapist about what an awful upbringing I’d had. Nobody loved me enough, nobody cared for me when I was a child, blah, blah, blah. I spent a fortune on one therapist, then another and finally a third, a Jungian dance therapist, very well known. Although she had come highly recommended, she refused to take me at first. Perhaps she’d been warned about my propensity to whine. I badgered her until she finally relented.

About nine months into our sessions I walked into her office, a curious, haunted, place. There on a shelf near the door was a huge book with the heavy title, “The Victim in Holocaust Germany.” I will never know whether she placed the book in my path or whether it was simply one of the major synchronicities of my life. Although I did not even open its cover, I may as well have been hit over the head with it. In that moment I saw perfectly clearly that my own attitudes of entitlement and victimhood were keeping me stuck. My pattern of blaming my alcoholic parents and chaotic upbringing for my problems kept me searching for the answers to my miserable existence.

My deeper path in my spiritual life began that day, a long quest to discover how I could forgive my family and myself and set us all free. I left therapy shortly thereafter and never returned.

They say that the teacher always arrives when the student is ready. I discovered Myss’ wonderful first book, “Why people don’t heal and how they can,” shortly after leaving therapy.  In the book she explains that it is impossible to heal while one identifies as ill. This basic premise has remained consistent in all of Myss’ writing and it comes to full fruition in her latest book.

To stop identifying myself as the victim of bad relationships and events has changed my life profoundly. And to stop identifying myself as angry and hurt has healed my relationships.

In 1997 in the midst of continuing spiritual work, I picked up “Anatomy of the Spirit.” Using the exercises in the book I began working on forgiving others, including members of my family. I had been carrying one particular regret, a relationship that ended 10 years before, in another part of the country. At that time, I had befriended two women, Evelyn and Jenny. The three of us spent lots of time together, and during the summer Evelyn and I both got married within a month of one another. Jenny attended both and played a crucial role in my wedding, signing the marriage contract as a witness. Shortly afterward during a reunion of the three of us in Evelyn’s newlywed apartment, there was a terrible misunderstanding that left me angry at Jenny. Evelyn and I both severed contact with her.

I later moved to a new city, started a new life and a family, all the while remaining friends with Evelyn. Yet I regretted that I had cut off our friend Jenny. With my new found awareness about victimhood I realized that I had hurt myself and her over a perceived offense and now I wanted to know in my heart that I could return to a place of purity and love. I didn’t even know how to do it, and I figured I would never see her again. I was looking for peace in my own heart, a return to the innocent state before the regretted incident. I began to see my anger and resentment as a choice, and I was ready to choose peace.

I decided to journal about it. It was a lovely fall day and we went downtown on a family outing. My husband dropped me off at a pub near the art museum and left me to my journaling while he took our toddler to the park to play for an hour. I poured my heart into the journal, forgiving myself for cutting Jenny out of my life 10 years before. I recognized the choices I had made, the resentments I had held and I let go of trying to understand the situation or justify my part in it. I wrote until I felt complete and, at last, peaceful about the situation. My husband and son soon returned and we crossed the park to the art museum.

We entered the featured exhibit in the hushed building. My toddler, unable to keep his voice quiet, cried out, disturbing a group of art patrons. Distracted by our noise, a woman in a group of three turned to look at us and my jaw dropped in amazement. It was Jenny, the very friend I had been writing about. She approached me in complete shock. We embraced and I learned that she had been living in my city for several years. We chatted for a few minutes and parted ways, but we ran into her and her friends again twice that very day. I guess Spirit knows my willful character and orchestrated a message I would never forget! Not only that, the following month Jenny showed up in the same yoga class that I attended and we remained there together for the next several years. Although we never picked up our close friendship, we healed enough to be together every week.

Forgiveness has been my constant companion since that time. It is the most powerful force I know. What I now understand is that I have only to sincerely intend it and the task is complete. Anyone and anything, no matter how small or how large, how trivial or important, can be forgiven. The smallest resentments, when forgiven can yield the most leverage.

As I lie on my sick bed, Facebook and my cats for company, I’m weak and tired but I have the luxury of time. Someone comments on my post, an ex-boyfriend I haven’t seen in a while and I feel familiar unresolved resentments welling up. I’m not even aware that I’ve been carrying them around, but I drift in and out of sleep, praying to be released from my negative thoughts about how we parted. My prayer is simply this: may I be willing to let go of any anger I bear toward Richard. May I choose to let go of anger.

Richard calls the next evening for the first time in many months. He hears I’ve been sick. We converse like old friends. I hear caring in his words, I express love in my voice. Would I like him to bring homemade soup, he asks? Thanks so much for the kind offer, I say, but I believe I’ve got all the remedies I need.

Advertisements


6 Comments

The Coward confronts Father Time

“Fear is a symptom of loss of authority; when we give away our authority, we should be afraid.”  Caroline. W. Casey, Making the Gods Work for You

This month's full moon is in the sign of Capricorn

This month's full moon is in the sign of Capricorn

I celebrated yesterday’s Super Full Moon in Capricorn with a full-on, no holds barred Saturnalia. If you’re visualizing party favors, drinking games, sumptuous feasting and orgiastic pleasures, uh hum, get a grip on yourself. Saturn gives us what we need, not what we prefer. Mine was a more serious celebration.

I started the day by reading Holly Alexander‘s fine Examiner.com article on the subject, praising myself for really tuning in to the vibe of the day. After all, I have been feeling a renewed interest in setting career goals and working hard to tick things off my TO DO list, a very Saturnian mind-set. Of course I should have known better than to get smug, for that is exactly the thing Saturn least tolerates. After working all morning I swaggered to the mailbox around midday to find a large envelope from the IRS and a jury summons. My solo Saturnalia was officially under way.

The other thing Saturn despises is a cry-baby. What to do?

Risking everything, I ranted to my cat Loki, named, ironically, for the Norse God of mischief, no doubt another Capricorn trickster at my side!  I raved about the injustice and insensitivity of large government agencies while Loki napped, secure in his zero-income tax bracket. I left a voice mail for my accountant, emailed my astrologer and had myself a little pity party. That’s when I looked up to see the pile of books a friend had recently returned to me. At the top was the fine book, Making the Gods Work for You, by renowned astrologer Caroline. W. Casey.

Mid-sniffle I opened to the chapter on Saturn.

One thing I love about Casey’s work is her understanding of how difficult it is for the modern urbanite to swallow astrology whole. She insists that astrology is not a belief system, but rather a language that “provides the vocabulary with which we can begin a detailed investigative exploration of the psyche.”

Casey goes on to say that all acts of belief, even in science (gasp!), are superstition. This idea conforms nicely with Buddhist thought. And Saturn would agree. As Casey puts it, “even if, owing to some fluke, we happened to believe in the ‘truth’–it would still be a booby prize, because the act of belief is an abdication of autonomy.” Didn’t the Buddha say the very same thing we he stated, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own common sense”?

Here’s the point about Saturn as the ultimate mascot for achieving mastery and authority over one’s life: sooner or later we all have to deal with the boundaries of form, structure, time, laws, discipline, and responsibility, and this is a solitary endeavor. We can choose to tackle Saturnian realities head-on or we can let their shadows loom over us in the form of depression, inertia and fear. Via one method or the other, whether conscious self-inquiry or shadow-boxing with demons perceived to be outside ourselves, Saturn will have his way with us.

I know this first hand. With Saturn in Capricorn, in the first house, directly on my Ascendant, my most pressing life project has been to face my fears. On my path to complete authority over my own life, I have repeatedly encountered bullies. I am finally beginning to understand that it is only in facing my own fears that the bullies will retreat.

There is certainly no bully feared more than the IRS. If I understand the teachings of many spiritual traditions, the closer we get to resolving an issue, the harder it seems to bash us on the head. Perhaps this means I am finally ready to let go of the big fears about setting my own rules, being worthy of earning a right livelihood and becoming the true author of my own life.

Yes, I celebrated in true Chronos (another traditional name for Saturn) style yesterday. I quit crying and got to work. I filled out the Jury Summons Deferment form, citing my need as a sole proprietor to focus on my small business. I then called the IRS and spoke to the supervisor of the auditor “handling” my case. He apologized profusely for bungling the paperwork during my recent audit and assured me that it was unlikely that I would hear from them again. Hmm.

Scratching my head, I got back to work, one more fear checked off my list.


4 Comments

The Apollo Archetype

self portrait by Asher Daniel

self portrait by Asher Daniel

Archetypally speaking,  if we’re going to move from the Fossil-fuel Age to the Solar Age, we’re going to need a mascot, and the Greek god Apollo is the likely choice.

My recent fixation with Apollo started several months ago when I took the diagnostic self-test in Peter Lemesurier’s fine book, “The Gods Within.”  Who knew that I was a prissy, controlling, self-centered, overly rational and eternally boyish adolescent trapped in the body of a middle-aged woman? The truth is that I am not alone.  No matter one’s gender or station in life, our western culture prizes staying in our heads. Orderliness, youthfulness, and the fascination with science and technology rule the day.

I sat with a client the other day to use her Sacred Contracts chart to access higher wisdom about a thorny life issue.  As we settled in, she opened her spiral-bound pad to a drawing that stunned me because the day before I had made the same sketch. In her version, a circle filled with third-eyes radiated six paths and six negative spaces, twelve rays in all. Each ray pointed to an idea or course of action, like a solar-powered TO DO list. We had both taken our personal mundane issues and applied symbolic sight using the image of the sun.

I saw the Sacred Contracts sun-dial illuminating our way, and I felt connected to the wisdom of the ages. After all, mystics have always sought their answers in the larger perspective, and in doing so have “discovered” every human science from astrology and astronomy to physics and meta-physics. Apollo shows us that our discoveries in the world are fueled by the search for the self.

Just as a magnifying glass can concentrate the vast solar rays to burn a pin-hole into a blade of grass, we can use the powerful Apollo Archetype to harness overwhelming universal themes and bring them to bear on our own earthly issues.

For me, it’s easy to conjure the Apollo Archetype because I live with an adolescent boy. My son (pun intended), stands right on the precipice of puberty. He is poised at the perfection of childhood energy, innocence, purity, and light-hearted joy. Not afraid to play, he is in love with discovering his own mind;  he is giddy with appreciation for technology; and he is innocently enthralled by competitive team sports. He has left sloppiness behind and arrived at gracefulness.  At the end of his 12th year, not yet sullied by the messy chaos of falling in love or the trauma of making life-altering decisions, Asher is the very embodiment of the Greek god Apollo.

Everyday I am inspired by Asher’s energy and enthusiasm. I am amazed by his ability to stay in the batter’s box, feet planted, a fast-ball racing toward him at 60 mph. He knows going up that even the best batter has only a 30 percent chance at hitting the ball, and a much slimmer chance of making it to first base. Yet he stands in the box and faces doubt, fear and distraction. I challenge myself to do that same dance at my desk each day.

It is no wonder that the first step in healing and integrating Apollo energy is to bring everything into the light of day, where shadows lose their power. Thus, cities pass “sunshine laws” to expose lawmakers’ actions and redress corrupt back room deal-making.  Daily, all over the world, hidden banking practices come to light during these trying economic times. There is a new level of transparency of human endeavor as scientists discover the most detailed mechanisms of the mind and body. Spiritual bookstore shelves burst with modern stories of enlightenment, examples of the harnessing of Power (the sun simply radiates energy), rather than the exploitation of Force (fossil fuels must be extracted by mechanical means).

As Lemesurier points out about Apollo Therapy, “We need to let his heavenly light back in to dispel our self-imposed darkness. And not only on the psychological level,  but on the bodily level too.”

Clearly, it is time to lighten up, to see ourselves in a new light, and to shine our lights. I would encourage anyone in the grips of depression, despair or hopelessness over personal or global issues to study Apollo and become intimate with his true nature. Consider being a spiritual solar-panel. Harness the power of symbolic solar sight to generate and radiate your own individual contribution to the world.

Like it or not, we must expose ourselves to illumination while integrating the deep shadows cast by this important archetype if we are to redeem ourselves and our world in the Solar Age.


2 Comments

A mundane mystic faces her fear of loneliness

one of my early visitations

one of my early visitations

Last Monday I left Chicago, and the second part of the year-long CMED Sacred Contracts Workshop, all pumped-up about my experience.. During an intensive four days led by renowned teacher, Caroline Myss, I worked closely alongside five other individuals, a crew of six navigating the waters of personal transformation. In the end we each produced a Chronos/Kairos/Cosmos Chart, a holographic depiction of the obstacles sabotaging our personal growth. As every spiritual seafarer knows, one must be able to see below the tip of the iceberg in order to safely navigate the chilly depths.

During the workshop and in the presence of my crew, I asked to transform my fear of being alone. This is a deeply protected fear that prevents me from fully expressing my gifts. My struggle looks like a craving for distractions, anything to divert myself from the privacy of my own soul. I would rather go to lunch, watch a movie, call a friend, or throw a party than to sit silently listening to my heart. In the past, such avoidance created a lengthy depression and broken marriage. Lately I am more prone to to take time for myself, no matter how uncomfortable I feel. Still, I sometimes resort to an unhealthy focus on others. It’s not that I choose activities that are a waste of time, it’s that I use them addictively, to avoid rather than to confront myself. Soon I have squandered a whole day or a whole week, and still I am fearful, lonely, and searching for an antidote. I have run headlong into the states of mind that I hoped to avoid!

Working with my Sacred Contract has helped me to see that when I shun solitude I resist the full expression of my true self.  I am, by nature, a reclusive Mystic/Renunciate dressed as a vivacious, hedonistic Lover and Storyteller. Through the voyage into my archetypes I have come to know that these paradoxical identities illuminate my own personal path to liberation. Still, the Hermit and Lover spar constantly; the Renunciate and Hedonist challenge one another at every turn.

In her seminal book Sacred Contracts, Caroline Myss describes the oft-misunderstood Mystic:

“Many want to believe that they have mystical inclinations, yet underestimate how arduous the genuine mystical path is. When they find out, they’re usually happy to let someone else have this role.”

I’ve been looking all my life for that someone else to play my role for me. Others may approach their life path through the pain of illness, the chaos of anger and blame, the grief of abandonment and loss. My lifelong challenge is to accept the excruciating loneliness of the mystical path. I have tried everything to avoid my destiny, but none of my plans have worked out. So these days I pray for acceptance and peace, that I may gracefully fulfill my dharma.

With the Mystic in the 6th House of my Sacred Contracts Chronos Wheel, my acceptance is to be found in the humble act of “peeling potatoes,” as St. Theresa of Avilla, dubbed it.  The Sixth is the house of fetching wood and carrying water. There is nothing glamorous or ecstatic about getting up each day, making breakfast, caring for my child, going to work, tending the pets and the plants. My work is to accept the humanity of my earth-bound existence rather than to pray for a heavenly release from suffering.

I don’t know that I will achieve my highest aspiration, to attain enlightenment for the sake of others. But if I do, perhaps it will be by staying home, listening to my child, making hot soup, and quietly chronicling my own mundane mysticism.


1 Comment

The artist and the lover in bed together

Brian Lockyear, "Yin & Yang," Woodblock, ed. 25, 10 x 10 inches

Brian Lockyear, "Yin & Yang," Woodblock, ed. 25, 10" x 10"

“If you cannot caress your canvas, or your sculpting medium, you cannot caress your lover’s body — and if you can caress your lover’s body, you are an artist.”

from “Entering the Heart of the Sun & Moon” by Ngakpa Chogyam and Khandro Dechen

I am captivated by the process of falling in love. Being spiritually oriented as well as intellectually inclined, I can’t help gazing in wonder at the gift of love’s arrival in my life. In the moments when I am not actually gazing into my lover’s eyes, not physically entangled in his embrace, I simply must see love through the kaleidoscope of the various spiritual disciplines I pursue. I feel compelled to read about love and to chronicle my personal experience of the depth and height of the universal.

My Buddhist leanings dance with the Sacred Contracts work I will once again study intensively next week in Chicago.

In the book excerpted above, Entering the Heart of the Sun & Moon, Ngakpa Chogyam and Khandro Dechen discuss a little-known Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practice known as Khandro Pawo Nyi-da Melong Gyud or Vajra Romance. Spiritualizing relationship or relating spiritually involves two aspects. The first is to actively, consciously recognize the enlightened, complimentary qualities in one’s lover as a way of empowering those qualities in the self, for the betterment of all. Secondly, the romantic need to see, smell, touch, taste and hear one’s beloved, is opened wide to consciously include all of life, other people, our wider community, our experience of our own mind, our physical reality and everything. In Nyi-da Melong Gyud lovers challenge themselves to open to all of life and  to sustain the “falling in love” indefinitely through self-awareness and mirroring.

I have to admit that this practice perfectly illuminates my own sacred contract. With the Lover in the seventh house, I find that my passionate nature best expresses itself in interaction and relationship with others, but also in the spiritual pursuit of the inner or sacred marriage. My Mystic is devoted to a path of union with the Divine, in all forms. My Storyteller must talk about it even though my Coward fears such lofty pursuits!

Interestingly, I have fallen in love with an Artist. My beloved is currently following his heart. He recently left the safety and predictability of a long career in computer science to pursue his dream to become an architect and designer. His contract simply demanded creative freedom and self-expression. Fueled by a similar late-bloomer’s passion, we are meeting one another on familiar turf. Our union reminds me that the Lover and the Artist are quite happy in bed together, thank you!

It’s easy to see what the two have in common: a bridging of the spiritual and the material through passion, self-expression, appreciation, idealism, devotion and a desire to surrender to the chaos of creativity. In this light it would seem that the Artist and the Lover are one and the same. Instinctively we know that it is not so! (In my work as an archetypal consultant, I help my clients untangle such fine distinctions in order to uncover their own contracts for self-realization, self-guidance and growth.)

How then do the Artist and the Lover differ? I believe it is exactly in the dimensions of male and female described well in many Western as well as Eastern sources. The Artist defines his passionate relationship to the world  through creation (form) while the Lover passionately appreciates the creation (emptiness). Are they not the Yang and the Yin, the convex and the concave as Chogyam and Dechen express it?

And what of the romance that arises between them, the continual dance of emptiness and form? As a Lover I am experiencing the interplay as an illumination of my own inner Artist. In the process of being in love, I feel alive to express my joy, enthusiasm, and gratitude in the form of my medium, the written word. At another time in my life, an experience of love resulted in pregnancy and the birth of a tiny human being, the ultimate creation!

Likewise my beloved, the Artist, experiences the dance in his creative output, a masters thesis complete with renderings, models and prose. But through the lens of romance he also plays to his inner Lover. He connects with a newfound passion and appreciation for his work, a satisfaction present only when there is a beloved present to accept/receive his gift.

The Lover and the Artist thus reveal themselves as the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine of the creative archetypes. They dance as the Dakini and Daka, receptive and active romantic forces. In love as in art, it matters little which gender plays which role. The enterprise depends more on the dynamic foreplay of lover and beloved, the inspired ah ha with which the artist seizes his brush. Each sees the perfect enlightened complement in the mirror of other. Emptiness into form, form into emptiness. Both enter the spiritual dimension beyond time and space, beyond happiness and suffering, beyond gender, beyond self, the boundless creativity of the present moment.

May the Lover and the Artist enjoy a long and timeless love affair!

(thank you, sweetie, for the inspiration and the artwork!)