Attending to the desires of your soul and your spirit
As an interspiritual minister, my understanding of the divine has very little to do with religious creed or theological pronouncements. I believe that the experience of the numinous, or of the divine, can be had in as many different ways as there are people. For some people, the draw is more toward what might be called spiritual - i.e., toward the heights, toward understanding, toward purification and perfection. It may be understood as an ascentionist stance - to improve, to grow, to become better. For others, the draw may be more toward the soul - a draw toward interiority, toward earthiness, toward understanding the deep recesses of one's own mind.
Either tendency is a perfectly good place to start, but with Jung, I believe that if we focus exclusively in one direction - whether upward or inward - we leave out the other. The unintegrated "other" then falls into the unconscious, and gives rise to autonomous complexes that most often act by projection on other people or situations, and unbeknownst to us, can trip us up. Often, an experience with one of these complexes feels like a possession, and people will often say, "I was just not myself!" And indeed they weren't. They weren't the self that the ego has crafted with so much effort!
In my work with spiritual seekers, my goal is to attend to both to the spirit and the soul. To reach for the vast expanse of the skies, while being firmly rooted on the earth.
The dance of inward focus and outward participation in the world
In Jung's Red Book, which speaks in exquisite detail about his encounter with his own depths, he speaks about two opposing forces that we need to encounter and work with. He calls them the spirit of the depths and the spirit of the times. As the names suggest, on one hand, we need to hear and respond to what our spirit and soul are calling for - what their deep agenda is. On the other hand, we also need to function in our day and time - so that the gifts we receive from the spirit of the depths may be shared with our fellow beings. In common parlance, we may call these inner/personal work and ministry/spiritual activism.
As a spiritual companion, my role is to always be aware of, and carefully track, where the spirit of the depths and the spirit of the times are acting in your life at any given time.
A spirituality of rhythm
In his beautifully lyrical book, Anam Cara, John O'Donohue talks about a spirituality of rhythm, which I find deeply appealing. Indeed, a more poetic way of understanding Jung's concept of individuation is not that we become a static and forever-perfected whole - an "individuated being;" but rather, that we engage in a dance of the opposites. Every indigenous culture, from any part of the world, understands the importance of rhythm. Day follows night; summer follows winter; life follows death. Days lengthen, then shorten, only to lengthen again. Plants go from seed to new shoots to saplings to mature trees, to flowers, to fruits, and back again to seeds.
So it is with our lives. There is a season for everything. If we are in the place of winter with some aspect of our life - be it loss or grief or illness - we cannot force the winter to end prematurely and for spring to hasten ahead of its time. Spiritual practice, and soul work, is often about sitting patiently with what is. And it is about allowing. We remember how the trees shed all their flowers, fruits and leaves before winter comes, so when the snow lies thick on the branches, they do not break from the weight! Equally, when it is time for spring's green fingers to cast its magic, for new shoots to poke their tender heads from the frozen earth, we cannot hold on to the winter barrenness - because it is the time when life wants to grow and flourish.
A lot of my own inner work, and the work I do with others, is about discerning and being with, what is arising, and letting go of what is no longer true for us.
Some practices I utilize
FIRST, I AM NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. I WILL NEITHER DIAGNOSE NOR TREAT YOU FOR ANY ILLNESS.
If necessary, though, I am happy to consult with your mental health provider and work in a way that enhances your overall wellbeing.
Some techniques I use, as seems necessary, are (but not limited to):
Deep heart-to-heart conversations (which the Quaker teacher, Parker Palmer, beautifully calls "listening with soft eyes")
Art making (making mandalas, building altars, creating collages)
Rituals inspired by the journey, and informed by our combined best estimate of where we need to go next
I am a lover of images and imagination.
My access to spirituality is through the door of mythic stories and archetypal images. Images arise in us continually – whether from our dreams, our meditations, our fantasies, or from the consensus “reality.” I never cease to marvel at how, when we sit quietly with these images, without forcing any “meaning” onto them, they speak with the voice of the deepest, most ancient and most profound parts of ourselves.
I love to use these images as my guides to design personalized rituals and altars, invoke them through chanting, toning and drumming, utilize them to create personalized guided meditations and inner journeys, and use them as psychopomps to understand more deeply the individual nuances of the journey each one of us is here to take in this lifetime.
As I travel deeper in my own journey, I find that I am drawn as much, if not more, to the deep darkness, to the shadows, the place of rest and restitution, of patient waiting to hear the still-small-voice - as I am towards the light and its aspirational qualities. I am called by the Mothers and the Grandmothers to invite souls into the deep humus, the “muck” of lived life - and finally, into an ecstatic celebration of our embodied presence on the lap of Mother Earth.
A GLIMPSE AT WHAT OUR WORK TOGETHER MIGHT LOOK LIKE
By what name(s) do you call the divine?
What is your idea of the divine? Where and how do you see him/her/it?
When you think of the divine, what are the images that come to mind?
Where do you feel the presence of the divine in your body at this moment?
How does the absence of the divine feel in your body?
Can you sense the divine in this current dilemma in your life?
Can we just pause - just where we are - and breathe into what is arising right now?
What might this difficulty or dilemma be trying to tell us? What inner voice might be trying to communicate with us at this moment?
Who are the gods that are knocking at your door?
These are some questions that may be heard in an interspiritual counseling session with me.
We might begin and end our time together with silence, with a prayer or meditation, with poetry, with invoking the directions and/or your ancestors and/or the divinity of your heart, or with a simple ritual. I will typically ask you what feels the most meaningful to you.
During the session, there might be talking and listening, silence, guided meditation, dreamwork, active imagination, or working with the different parts/voices in you. There could be poetry, reading or chanting together. There could be drumming and journeying. There could be a ritual. There could be storytelling or psycho-spiritual education. Or it could be none of the above!
When we start working together, I do not presume to know “your God” or your sense and mode of connection with the divine. We sit together with the mystery of what is known, what is unknown, and what is trying to arise at the threshold of the two.
My goal in our work together is to create a container, an “alchemical vas,” within which your wholeness can emerge at its own pace and rhythm. A place that feels safe and inviting enough for the shy soul to appear. Together, we attend to what is alive in the moment, and listen to your Inner Teacher, your Inner Sage, your Still-Small-Voice-Within.
I do not presume to know what is right for you. I see my task as staying present — looking, seeing, and bearing witness — to what is arising from deep within your own soul and spirit. And to help nurture these emerging aspects of you - that bring you closer to your wholeness. Together, we suffer, endure and celebrate the gestation and the eventual birth of the sublimely unique you! We celebrate your birth as the divine child!
Here is my blessing on your search for wholeness, in the words of the poet, Audre Lorde:
Black Mother Goddess,
Salt dragon of chaos.
Attend me, hold me
in your muscular flowering arms.
...Protect me from throwing any part of myself away.