Posts Tagged ‘indigenous mind’

Re-enchanting the World

October 19, 2013

I have a sad story to tell. It is the story of a woman who lived in a shoe. No, that’s a different story. This one is about a woman who lived on top of a sweet little mountain tucked into a great range of mountains in Western North Carolina, the oldest mountains in the world some say. With wildness, woods and big sky all around her, she breathed every day the immensity of her environment. The animated world of nature’s sound, light and color, of strong wind blowing through big trees, of owls, coyotes, bears and forest animals filled her days as she taught and wrote, dreamed and mused and enjoyed the company her tribe, the mountain people. When the woman conducted telephone sessions with those who called for her assistance with dreams and plumbing the depths of psyche, the massive trees outside her window spoke to her in oracular ways, communicating in astonishingly precise messages what the soul of the world had to say about the soul of these conversations. Wind, light and shadow shaped leaves and branches into faces and symbols that spoke deeply to the emotions and issues at play. She could read them as easily as some read their books.

This woman loved her mountain home, thinking to stay there to her dying day until one day she suddenly realized, like a lightning flash, that she had to move into town. The knowing struck so soundly that she could only move forward with it, could not look back. And so she did.

In town she was helped and guided with loving care by both visible and invisible allies as she faced the challenges of finding living spaces and work spaces, as she endeavored to build her new work along with networks of colleagues and friends. One day, quite magically, she found a new cottage home to buy in a forested neighborhood with nearly an acre of enchanted secret garden behind it. Birds and squirrels, wild turkeys and even bears came to call. She began to make plans for how to build little yurts or domes in precious woodsy spots around the magic garden, there to host dream groups and other activities in support of soul work and psyche. Her next planned project was to transform her cute little wood shed into a zendo where she can get away from phones, computers and electronics of any kind to just be in the woods alone with nature.

One fateful day last week, after being away at her downtown office from morning til night for several days running, the woman went out to her back garden to sit in the sun while she had her lunch. Looking up from her plate her eyes could barely register what greeted them. The forest on one whole side of her property had been clear-cut. It was gone. Disappeared. A cleared, devastated landscape now shown where the forest had been. Her secret garden was no longer secret – there is now no barrier between it and the barren land that stretches over to the brand spanking new three-story house that had been built on land that she thought was two lots over, but which now, excruciatingly, she realizes borders her land. She had been saddened at the new development as it did not seem consistent with the other houses and sensibilities in this forested place, but at least the trees and shrubs created a visual and sound barrier. No more. Now the formerly private life in her garden is but a view to cut down trees and a looming house. At night, what was previously dark forest now has three stories of light bouncing off the trees. And the woodsy spaces where she planned to place a yurt, a dome and her zendo might as well be in the middle of the street, it seems.

If someone had torn the side off the woman’s house it would be horrible, but at least she could call in a carpenter and have it put back up in short order. Not so with a forest that took decades to rise up into its lusty complexity and beauty.

A friend came over to take the woman out into nearby woods on a hike, hoping to help revive her spirit. Normally the rich enchantment of the wild world would soothe and refresh her immensely. But when she got to the forest she realized that something felt altered in her perception and it scared her. As she entered it seemed as if the enchanted world had faded like a dream from which she had been jolted awake. Now all she saw about her was wood, dirt, leaves, roots, rocks – all seeming like dead matter rather than living presences; she saw the forest as a simple commodity you can just cut down and not care. The woman thought, “Wow, this is how the world is actually experienced by some people. I never, ever saw it like this before!” As Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” She was suddenly seeing differently, or not seeing what had always been apparent to her before. She began to question her sanity; was this diminished reality the raw truth of things and previously she had lived in a fanciful delusion?

Her heart became sick. She couldn’t think or sleep or look out her window.

She hasn’t yet met the people who did the clear cutting. They will move in soon. These folks may be the sweetest people in the world, and her assumption is that of course they absolutely mean no harm to anyone at all; they are just building their own nest in the way that makes sense to them. But these new neighbors have left her with a task she never expected to be faced with – how to reclaim lost enchantment. The shock has done something to her she realizes, more than just the matter of planting new trees and boundaries. It switched off an internal energy current, and now she has to figure out what the experience wants from her, how to respond, how and even whether to locate the inner light box and turn the switch back on. She is bemused.

Ok, it is time for the author to change voice. I wrote the story in the third person because it is feels too painful to write in first person. And maybe because it would sound self-indulgent to say “me” and “I” throughout. Some have told me that I am over-reacting to this event and I accept that. But I want to write a short bit about my grief for the Earth that arises along with my own personal grief; maybe that is partly what makes it all so big for me.

Historian and philosopher Mircea Eliade elucidates the chasm between the sacred and the profane, explaining that in archaic societies the entire cosmos was experienced as sacred – rocks, trees, stones, stars – all manifestations of the sacred. He wrote that, “It should be said at once that the completely profane world, the wholly desacralized cosmos, is a recent discovery in the history of the human spirit.” Scientist Rupert Sheldrake uses the term “machine cosmology” to describe the worldview that has developed since the scientific revolution. The universe is now seen as a machine, soulless matter mechanized by mathematical urgencies. And we, as part of it, are such. Not sacred, not gods and goddesses, but matter made up of physiological urges. Rene Descartes was an original visionary of this movement.

In this cosmology, waters are not sacred, air is not sacred, you can pour poison into them and devastate whole ecosystems without it being a crime of any kind. It’s just a machine, no sin to dismantle it. I won’t go on and on. I have written a whole dissertation about this, and addressing the concern is central to my life’s work.

We do still have access to the original mind, what I call the indigenous mind, which experiences the world as ensouled, but the other mind that is aggressively instilled by modern culture and education threatens its extinction, at which point the possibility of human survival on the planet may be in question. I am seeing this recent event in my life as a kick in the derriere, possibly precisely intended to help me regain focus around these intentions and passions which have become diluted by efforts to simply survive my life. Must begin again, and anew.

I will close with this little story. Soon after moving to my new home, I re-upped efforts around an intention I have held since childhood; I want to be able to actually see fairies, gnomes, leprechauns, dwellers of that realm that I truly believe are real but which stand just outside most humans’ perceptual capability. I spent some weeks going into my secret garden at night to leave these beings some food and drink, having read that they love to be fed by us. It is said that the matter of the offering remains, but the fairies, leprechauns and such imbibe the essence of the food and are nourished. I love the idea, so began feeding them, hoping to introduce myself as the new resident here and let them know I care to be in relationship to them and hope to see them.

When the shock of the forest clearing hit last week, I worried at once about the fairies and leprechauns and how this might affect them. I understand that my confession may now convince the reader that yes, indeed, delusion is a problem here. It does occur to me as well. To that thought system however, I impart this story told to me by an Irish friend. Priests in Ireland became concerned with the common folks’ belief in fairies and felt it their duty to eradicate this nonsense from their minds. Maybe the fairy realm competed with the messages of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, not sure. A priest says to one of his parishioners, “Now Mary, you don’t believe in fairies anymore do you?” To which she replies, “Oh NO Father. I don’t believe in them anymore. No, not at all. But – they’re there!”

To this struggle between a sacred and profane cosmology that erupted in my own psyche recently, reviving my concern regarding the same struggle in the world psyche, I will say that I’m with Mary. When we happen to stand in the position of a desacralized cosmos, matter as machine, and poo-poo the idea that trees, stones, plants, stars are beings, we know we are just too smart and too sophisticated to believe in such spirits. Of course we don’t believe in them.

But they’re there.


Ecuador’s Rain Forest and Us

May 4, 2013

I have been following the news about what is happening in Ecuador as their government plans to destroy rain forest and the way of life for the Waorani tribes people as well as a vast diversity of plant, insect and animal life in order to drill for more oil. The U.S. is their largest importer of that oil, so we in this country are deeply connected to this problem, a travesty and tragedy in the opinion of many, and certainly in mine. The whole world is deeply connected to this, we are one organism on this planet. We lose that forest and those people and we lose a significant and sacred part of ourselves. Tragic denial is at play here. Concern for this is trumping nearly every other concern in my life right now. My heart wants to know what to do with it.

Since moving into town during this past year my psyche has been adjusting. It has not been an easy adjustment. I love, appreciate and enjoy immensely the value of what town and city offer, and know the absolute necessity of congregating in towns to feed and support each other at every level. But experientially it has become clearer and clearer to me how much the landscape of where we live affects and creates who we are and how we think. I had been living in wild, raw, undomesticated terrain, for better and for worse unfettered my much of what human progress is about. The values of what it is to be a part of that, and what benefits THAT, are what I was living at a cellular level for more than 8 years. It took over my being in a way I invited and hungered for.

My dissertation for doctoral work in depth psychology was titled Reawakening Indigenous Sensibilities in the Western Psyche. It was to me not only a matter of historical and anthropological interest to understand how indigenous peoples perceive and interact with the earth and each other, but a matter of survival. My inner experience was telling me that if we do not rediscover and reclaim our human birthright demonstrated in the modes of perception and capacities indigenous people maintain to be in clear conversation, mutual respect and intelligent interaction with the natural world we will destroy ourselves with certainty. These ways of theirs are the baby that was thrown out with the bathwater in modernization and civilization. I cannot easily describe how this concern took over the deepest level of my heart and being.

When I recently moved back into town and listened to all that is around me I was having an almost violent reaction inside, which I learned to monitor and be quiet about for the most part. I am learning to train and domesticate my internal psyche, attempting to trust the process while maintaining connection to all that I had reclaimed of my original nature, as I see it, while living away from all of this. The focus, the concerns, the values, the conversations reflected to me in an urban environment scream, at times, of a disconnection from what I had been awakening. I have felt like a lone tribal person with persons around me unaware even of the existence of the landscapes of psyche which I had come to know as home. Part of me cried “These are not my people.”  As I have looked at the faces of the Waoroni tribe people on the news these  last days I have instinctively felt, “Those are my people,” even as biologically and culturally I am worlds apart from them. Their internal values, their inner GPS, seems more familiar and significant to me than that of the world I now inhabit and was raised in.

This is not just theory, it is very personal for me. I believe if we are to remember who we are as a species, something about this needs to become more personal for all of us humans. We are developing a collective pathology that urgently needs a cure before we destroy ourselves and our nest. To pour poison in rivers and into the air is the same as injecting arsenic into our own blood stream. The shortsightedness of our modern way of life has made us addicts who need to come out of denial and into recovery. It is nobody’s fault, yet each of our responsibility – personally, individually, one-by-one – to wake up. This is my belief, and an urgently, deeply held conviction.

Obviously I have to learn how to stand with a foot in each world psychologically and spiritually, to integrate the seemingly opposite value systems into an inspired and careful relationship in my life, internally and externally. That is the private part of the work for me. But the public part is to make this cry, to find voice for my crying.

One of Carl Jung’s favorite stories was of a Chinese village that was suffering a devastating drought. They heard of a famous rainmaker and brought him to come help them. He asked only for a hut where he could sit alone for 5 days. He stayed in there, and on the 4th day the rains came. The rainmaker explained to the village that they had become terribly out of Tao, and this was producing the imbalances that were creating the harsh circumstances for their village. Jung loved the part of the story that all it took was one person to come and to sit in Tao to bring the whole village, and nature, back into harmony and allow them to flourish once again.

How can we measure the out of Tao-ness that we are experiencing all over our tiny Spaceship Earth, with war and hunger, social and psychological ills? What might Ecuador’s diverse rain forest and these Waoroni people be doing to help us powerfully to survive as they hold a certain relationship to Tao? What can each of us do to assist in this situation?

I have written a massive dissertation on this, I want to make it a book, I need to do more, I want to do more to address this passion in my heart and my gut. Meanwhile I am trying to find Tao within and to say these few words, hoping they are good for today.

Avatar and Healing the Split

January 18, 2010

Over the weekend I saw Avatar for the second time, accompanying a friend who really wanted to see it. Themes in the movie resonate with much of what I have worked on for the last decade. The book I am writing, as yet untitled, is a re-writing of my doctoral dissertation,  Reawakening Indigenous Sensibilities in the Western Psyche. It is about the split between the indigenous ways of sensing and knowing inside us and the development of the ego and the Western structures of mind; two very different, apparently opposed, operating systems.  The major tool that I use for doing this healing work with myself and others is dream analysis, learning the language of the dreams of the night.

The most fascinating image for me in the movie was the chamber for traveling between the worlds. The protagonists go to sleep in one world and wake up in the other. That is exactly how dreams of the night work, unbeknownst to most scientists who study dreams, much to my serious aggravation. The dream world is just that, a world we enter, an autonomous realm of seeing and experiencing. We go to sleep in this world and wake up to life in that other world. As humans have evolved we have split off remembering or respecting this, to our detriment I believe. Just as in Avatar, we wake up in this world we call “real”  to eat, work, crap, make records and logs, laugh, smoke, do whatever it is that we do, and then return. Indigenous people do not split the realms as we do; they know that both are real and interface each other, and that dreams reveal crucial experience and information. To ignore it is to self-destruct, as we are doing. The beauty of the movie for me is the demonstration of this.

Ever since I was little any time life was hard for me I wished I could be asleep. My mother came in to ask me why I was crying in my crib one day and I responded, despairingly, “I’m awake!” It was so sad I guess. As a 6 or 7 year old, stuck on a horse in a pounding hail storm with miles yet to go before we were home, Mom quotes me as crying and saying, “I wish I were alseep!”  For the last few years I have been struggling with a sleep disorder; it is very difficult to get to sleep and even more difficult to wake up once I am asleep, like I am in a coma. Sleep clinics, medications, serious attention to Jungian analysis, nothing has been working to heal this problem so far. Every day I feel like a lone pioneer trying to resolve it, and am starting to think that this must be part of my calling. Yet it is difficult, and I know that I really must find the way to improve. (The quote for today in my book of daily readings from the poet Rilke says: “The tasks that have been entrusted to us are often difficult. Almost everything that matters is difficult, and everything matters.”)

I feel my particular struggle is emblematic somehow of the split that we collectively suffer between our indigenous and enculturated selves and between our sleeping and waking selves. Maybe without knowing I have put myself into a test tube to work on this; my life and my self have become an experiment to see what might be done.  The only medicine that I haveso far found essential in helping me is the concept of non-violence. I become angry and upset with myself on both ends of the problem – for not being able to do the simple thing of getting to sleep, or the simple thing of waking up. The more judging or impatient I get with myself, the worse the problem gets. The more compassion, curiosity,  tolerance and persistent attention I am able to apply the more I feel I am getting somewhere. It is not an easy tension to hold.

James Cameron has hit a nerve in the collective psyche in both Titanic and Avatar, each immense blockbuster hits. Both demonstrate in their own way the hubris, cluelessness and tragedy of the Western imperialistic standpoint of mind and its catastrophic, heartbreaking consequences. As a student (and doctor) of depth psychology my supposition about why so many millions of people flock to these movies over and over again is because seeing them is like staring into a mirror of our own personal and collective unconscious, and we’re trying hard to see who we really are and how to work out our difficulties. I think Cameron is elucidating and resolving splits in his own psyche brilliantly by telling these stories, and is giving us the opportunity to do the same along with him. Every artist is doing something similar, really. Art, like dreams, help to reveal and heal the split. Art and dreams come from the same or similar realms.

The song lyric “Breaking up is hard to do…  They say that breaking up is hard to do, now I know I know that it’s true.” has always sung itself in my mind as “Waking up is hard to do.” Literally and figuratively, it is hard to do. I’m working on how to make it less difficult. May the gods continue to assist.