• Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche – Bill Plotkin

    Wild Mind by Bill Plotkin
    Wild Mind

    What does it take to crack the shell of prolonged inactivity when it comes to blogging? The mind has been at work for the last two years reading, changing, looking but somehow the importance of tapping at the keyboard and exposing my soul has been missing. Time has been taken up with other things.

    A couple of months ago an invitation arrived to review Bill Plotkin’s new book Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche. The publishers had seen that I’d made mention of SoulCraft in Sacred Sorrow: Powerlessness 2. It was enough to break the chains of slavery to the routine that had drowned the inspiration to blog.

    That and an innovative approach to publicising the book…… http://bit.ly/wildmindtrailer and an interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqT2AQ3Yvfs with this man who has thirty years experience in the human potential arena focusing on his clients’ relationship to nature. This symbiotic relationship provides a path to the fullest expression of their humanity.

    Field Guides generally assist readers in identifying the flora and fauna; provide maps; and describe points of interest relevant to a particular region. Wild Mind is no different – it allows us to recognize the aspects of the psyche that will direct our passage through life to create a naturally enhancing & sustaining personal and global culture.

    What Plotkin has done is create a map for seekers who wish to experience a life that embodies the fullest expression of our humanity. When he embeds a personal story from someone who has used the map the terrain of his idea becomes more visible.

    The major landmarks of this map use the Medicine Wheel and the directions (North, South, East & West) as a template for an engaging exploration of the facets required to fully express ourselves and to carry that into our communities and nations to bring about transformation that spirals out into global consciousness.

    The Facets are:

    • North: Nurturing Generative Adult – compassionate and competent
    • South: Wild Indigenous One – sensuous, emotive, instinctual, playful
    • East: Innocent/Sage – pure, simple, clear, lighthearted, wise, perceptive
    • West: Muse/Inner Beloved – adventurous, visionary, symbolic, mythic, poetic

    One of the directions will be our preferred way of being in the world. Its polar opposite points towards our weakness. Our weak facets may be the horizon from which our symptoms, our addictions, and our dysfunction arise. Those weaknesses are the sub-personalities formed in early childhood by an immature ego creating a sense of safety for allowing us to co-exist in a world that appears to be maleficent to our under-developed ego. By acknowledging and assimilating the strengths the other directions hold we come into harmony within ourselves allowing us to then radiate this harmony out into the world.

    Plotkin writes:

    “We’re being summoned by the world itself to make many urgent changes to the human project, but most central is a fundamental re-visioning and reshaping of ourselves, a shift in consciousness,” writes Plotkin. “We must reclaim and embody our original wholeness, our indigenous human nature granted to us by nature itself. And the key to reclaiming our original wholeness is not merely to suppress psychological symptoms, recover from addictions and trauma, manage stress, or refurbish dysfunctional relationships, but rather to fully flesh out our multifaceted, wild psyches, committing ourselves to the largest story we’re capable of living, serving something bigger than ourselves.”

    In order to attain this Original Wholeness Plotkin offers some ideas around managing the process. One of these tools is “the four steps of emotional assimilation”

    1. thoroughly experience the raw emotion itself without interpretation, censoring or sanitizing (south)
    2. explore (a compassionate self-examination) what this arising of the emotion tells us about ourselves (expectations, values, needs, desires, attitudes) (west)
    3. expression in a kind hearted and non-violent way (north)
    4. review entire emotional process, see how how fits into our life story, have a good laugh (east)

    Another idea that opens us up to inspired living is that of a three dimensional ego – an ego that has matured to the point that it is “blessed with some degree of conscious communion and integration with the Self, Soul, and Spirit“. When we are anchored in this 3D-Ego we may “experience ourselves not only in service to Soul & Spirit but also as Soul and as Spirit.”

    Towards the end of the book he offers … healthy, mature cultures emerge from and have always emerged from nature from the depths of our individual and collective psyches from the Earth’s imagination acting through us, from the mythic realm of dreams or the Dreamtime, from Soul, from the soul of the world, from Mystery….emerge and evolve naturally and organically through the coordinated activities of mature humans, humans who have learned again what it means to dream the impossible and to romance the world. Mature cultures are self organising. They can only be dreamed into existence.

    Has the South Asian kingdom of Bhutan embraced their Wild Mind and provided a key to our discovering a template for a mature society? Instead of a Gross National Product they have a Gross National Happiness indicator. This is used in their five year planning and is supported by four pillars: Promoting sustainable development, preserving and promoting cultural values, conserving the natural environment, and establishing and maintaining good governance.


  • Sacred Sorrow: The Sacred Wound Part Four

    A wise old proverb says, “God comes to see us without bell;” that is, as there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so there is no bar or wall in the soul, where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away. We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God. Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man ever got above, but they tower over us and most in the moment when our interests tempt us to wound them.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    What if our higher selves were – at every moment seeking the most potent expression of our existence? What if it was asking us to create the reality that was in the best interests of not only humans but all the beings that inhabit Planet Earth? I know I have been procrastinating as I consider this post and what meaning there might be behind it. Procrastinating? I’m not so sure now. Every time I come back to work on this I look at it and seem to be blocked. There’s just something about it that won’t allow me to move forward with it. I had hoped to expand on the reference to the enneagram I left at the end of Part Two of these series of posts. I made a start and yet each time I came back to it I’d look at it and it’d look back at me and there’d be nothing going on. Uninspired – I was blocked.

    The enneagram is full of complexity, follows many nuances of character. I doubt whether I would have done it justice within one post and I certainly don’t have the depth of understanding that would enable me to talk intelligently and fluently over another series of posts. The enneagram is one of many great tools to use if you are seeking understanding about yourself and your motivations. I gained some insights into myself through reading and maybe if I’d dedicated myself to it I may have found a path to enlightenment. I don’t know if I have some sort of spiritual attention deficit or whether I’m looking for a simpler path, but I found myself leaving that behind and seeking other ways. I’m not sure I felt it at the time but now it seems life is complex enough without following someone else’s ideas about finding enlightenment. I did the reading, talked about what I found, discovered as I said in the earlier post that I sat at point five on the enneagram, and wasn’t sure I liked being pigeon-holed. I guess being “the Thinker” I find it easy to get lost in ideas and the seeking of wisdom in books, while all the time it waits for me to get out there to physically embrace life and find my own wisdom through experience.

    As I sit here, dealing another hand of Mah-jong, I’m visited by a spider. I seem particularly sensitive to its path across my hand. And I flick it off. Hardly exemplary behaviour seeing as I favour the Buddhist philosophy of doing no harm to any living thing.

    The story of Robert the Bruce and the spider springs to mind. Robert sought the answer to whether he should continue fighting the English. What am I seeking the answer to as I follow this trail through the Sacred Wound and should I continue? Am I clutching at straws? Seems the Spider thinks I am on the right track as he has taken his leave of me.

    It seems this post has been slowly coming into focus over several months, since December, in fact. And paradoxically what has now come into focus is mist. While road tripping to Mount Cook with my daughter I was touched by a synchronicity as I listened to the retelling of a Maori myth and heard a piece of native wisdom. It is said that Mt Cook or Aoraki as it called by the Maori is a place of Spiritual Enlightenment and it is hard not to be awe-struck by the grandeur of the place.

    Mt Cook
    Mt Cook

    The first time I visited Aoraki I was blessed with an uninterrupted view of the mountain. This second time the weather seemed against us. From the vantage of the hotel the mountain was covered in mist. Having observed this phenomenon, the tohunga, their spiritual leaders discovered the wisdom for their chiefs of not always being available for the tribe, of having time away. Wisdom also is not in full view. It must be found in our encounters with life.

    We sought a closer view the following day and were rewarded. So it is with enlightenment itself. It is said by some that we are already enlightened we just have to remember it is so. And yet sometimes the face of the mountain, the face of enlightenment is shrouded in mist. It is easy to get lost during those times, to forget we’re always a spark of the divine and then to create trauma for ourselves and others, tearing open the fabric of the soul. This tear may become the sacred wound in its turn opening you or the other to the possibilities of a benevolent soul consciousness.

    The myth I heard told the story of Aoraki and his three brothers, off-spring of the Sky Father – Rakinui and Maori Earth Mother, Papatuanuku. They had set sail voyaging round Papatuanuku when their canoe ran aground on a reef. They climbed on the top side of the canoe, but the wind rose from the south freezing them, turning them to stone. The canoe became the South Island, “Te waka o Aoraki”. Aoraki being the tallest of the brother’s, became Aoraki the mountain, and his three brothers the peaks surrounding him. The rest of the crew became the Southern Alps, the mountain range for which the South Island is famous.

    As I pondered this the words of Emerson came into focus. From an enlightened perspective there are possibly no greater attributes than those he speaks of in that quote – Justice, Love, Freedom and Power. Just as those mountains tower over us so do those values. They’re something to aspire to. In the routine of our lives it is easy to lose sight of these aspirations. I guess these aspirations are what bring us to study the concepts contained in the enneagram and other systems of spiritual guidance.

    Each of these aspirations lies on a continuum, Justice-Injustice, Love-Fear, Freedom-Slavery, and Power-Impotence.  I feel impotent in the face of what the earthquake has wrought. I had my year mapped out – an exit strategy for my job, a move into something new. All this is on hold for now. This opened up a feeling of slavery to the job I was already in and on-going frustration with the mundane nature of the tasks ahead of me. As I read these words now I’m touched by a sense of injustice. That an earthquake can affect not only the physical, but also the mental and emotional is a testament to the power of nature. And my lot is nothing to what others have endured. It brings me back to gratitude and humility. Is it fear that holds me in place, keeping me safe until I’m ready? Or can I venture something new now, generated from the passion in my soul for transformation.


  • Sacred Sorrow: The Sacred Wound: Part Three

    The Hero’s Journey

     At a depth of 5km below the Earth’s surface a quake registering 6.3 on the Richter scale struck the people of Canterbury on February 22. Though 8 times less powerful than the 7.1 which struck on September 4 at a depth of 10 km this quake was far more devastating. With an epicentre less than 10 km from Christchurch and its timing, 12.51pm in a city already weakened by the September event the quake left 166 so far confirmed dead and many still unaccounted for, as well the centre of  Christchurch in ruins.

    earthquake damage

    I had hoped to carry on from the previous post and explore the enneagram further. Thoughts around that subject were beginning to gel and then another quake. Everything else began to pale into insignificance. Was this our Mother Earth lulling us into a false sense of security pending the release of the masterstroke? Had we become complacent?

    At Wainui I was catering for two schools when it struck. The intensity of the shake, while not as long as the 7.1, and the almost immediate loss of power convinced all present that this was a “biggy”. Buildings were evacuated and all protocols adhered to. The worry for teachers and parent helpers was evident and in the wake of the previous quakes the children were well drilled in keeping themselves protected.

    I was lost for the first week not sure what my role was in all this. My process is that I focus on what is in front of me in that moment and allow it to unfold. This meant attending to those closest to me as the days past.

    Eventually I realised that this quake required a separate post and at the outset I seemed lost for words and ideas. How does one do justice to something like this? How does one honour those whose lives were taken?

    Looking through some of the faces in the paper of those feared dead I found a face that looked familiar. I recognised him as a regular in a bar that I also drank at a few years ago. I don’t remember engaging him at all though we may have sat in the same group on the odd occasion. It turned out he died entering a building to bring injured people out. There is sadness for me in not having connected with him in some way.

    <iframe src=”//www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/key/UqFiVYjOuIdA8″ width=”425″ height=”355″ frameborder=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;” allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”//www.slideshare.net/AndrewMichaelChallies/heros-journey1″ title=”Hero’s Journey” target=”_blank”>Hero’s Journey</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”//www.slideshare.net/AndrewMichaelChallies” target=”_blank”>Andrew Challies</a></strong> </div>

    The word Hero fits many of the people who were caught in town when the quake struck and just did what needed to be done in the circumstances. As I pondered it further, listening to news reports, listening to politicians, hearing the stories, it seemed a perfect example of the Hero’s Journey unfolding in a short space of time.

    I had touched on the Hero’s Journey previously in my post Working with Qualities of Soul: Cyclical. I follow the work of  Carol Pearson who developed a system of 12 archetypes that assist the path of evolution for our souls. My initial discovery inspired an on-going passion for the work.

    The journey evolves through 3 stages – the preparation, the journey, and the return. Within those 3 stages there are 4 archetypes encountered as we assimilate the rememberings required to move to the next stage. The archetypes of preparation are the innocent, the orphan, the warrior, the caregiver. In the journey stage we have the seeker, lover, destroyer, and the creator. Finally on our return we are governed by the ruler, the magician, the sage and the fool.

    The devastation wrought by an earthquake as experienced in Christchurch can immediately precipitate people, both individually and collectively, into encountering the archetypes of the preparation. An abrupt transition from innocent to orphan as the quake wreaks havoc upon the populace. From an apparently innocuous sort of day we become victims once more to thrashing of the earth. This sense of victim is one of the attributes of the orphan archetype.

    earthquake damage

    People began instantly and instinctively to look after those who had been obviously injured, or going into wreckage searching for those trapped. These are prime examples of the archetypes of the care-giver and warrior. I speak as one who watched from afar seeing the images on a television screen.

    My reality was different being 80km away from the centre of Christchurch. As a chef the archetype that was strongest for me was, I imagine, the caregiver. There was a sense of frustration as I waited for the groups present to decide if they were going or staying so that the warrior element in me could respond to the call to action and begin cooking. When the power returned I watched the TV with fascination as the story unfolded. There was an aspect within me that would have liked to have been amongst the destruction having my mettle tested and at the same blessed because I was away from the worst of it, not having to face the pain obvious to those who had first-hand experience of death and damage.

    Within the exploration there is the challenge of not attempting to make the events fit nicely into an ordered unfolding of the Hero’s Journey process. With any kind of process there is fluidity around the steps. As the drama unfolds a particular stage may arise out of sequence. As the dust settles the services – Fire, St John’s, and Civil Defence – attempt to impose some sort of order on the scene. That sense of order can be identified with the ruler archetype.

    After those initial hours of people working instinctively a more structured approach begins to take shape. Within that structure there can be instances of archetypes showing their faces as events unfold. Each of the archetypes may play its part over the course of a day. Each day holds the potential of seeing ourselves as innocent or victim, caregiver or warrior, as seeker or destroyer, lover or creator, as an opportunity to take responsibility like the ruler, find our personal power like the magician, the wisdom of the sage and the joy and freedom of the fool.

    The Christchurch quakes have become threshold events enabling us to look more closely at these archetypes. The features of the preparation are seen in the immediate responses to the devastating effects as the virtuous aspects of the archetypes – optimism, realism, courage and compassion – play out. That said, there are also the negative aspects, wrought by fear – abandonment, victimisation, weakness, selfishness.

    There seems to be a cycle involved here, where a fearful focus may precipitate us into the next fearful experience of an archetype. Awareness of the process may assist us to arrest the downward spiral and refocus with a more positive attitude.

    The initiation sets up the continuing journey and the qualities we’re hoping will be embedded in our psyches – a sense of autonomy, of humility, acceptance, passion, commitment, and the sense of an individual calling. The archetypal passage of the journey tends to cycle through seeking, destroying, loving and creating and in fact one of the insights from “Awakening the Heroes Within” suggests that from a lifetime perspective the path of the hero may end in the journey phase. I somehow felt sad that perhaps people weren’t getting the most out of their lives, that it was interrupted before the opportunity to live it fully presented itself. And I also understood how one could be quite satisfied by the loving and creating aspects of the journey

    The journey isn’t about the acquisition of things or knowledge although these may arrive as part of the process – physical representations of the inner passage. The gifts of this unfolding are those that nurture the psyche – the virtues being shaped within our characters and personalities.

    It seems the further we travel the path of the Hero the gifts become less tangible. I know for myself I began to question the almost constant seeking – the “looking” for answers. I was doing course after course acquiring knowledge and somehow feeling I did not yet know enough to do what it was I was meant to be doing.

    I think that was when I began to move into the return. I took the Ruler’s responsibility for what I already knew and allowed it to colour my personality, to expand my character. Essentially all we can be responsible for is how we respond in any given situation.  Whether we follow our heart or our fear is a choice and that can be changed in the blink of an eye. As soon as we accept that responsibility the other aspects of the return seem to come into alignment quite quickly – the personal power of the Magician, the wisdom of the Sage, and the joy and freedom of the Fool.

    Knowledge of the Journey doesn’t take away the challenges. It allows you see the landmarks ahead safe in the knowledge that when this one is reached another one is beckoning. Feel the freedom of the fool and know the optimism of the Innocent is just around the corner motioning you onward to the start of another journey.

    During the last week as the post has been slowly coming together I was informed of another tragedy – and old Air Force friend had been killed while assisting people in a car accident in Queensland. I remember the laughs we shared and not only am I reminded that joy matters on the Hero’s Journey but that Death is the ultimate return and going out with the Heart of a Hero is a true blessing. I’m also reminded to notice the areas of my life which are undergoing change, to acknowledge those things which are passing away,  let them go gracefully and then embrace the new – that which is becoming.  Thank you, Alan. Your inspiration will live long.









  • Sacred Sorrow: Sacred Wound Part Two

    Earthquake Damage
    Earthquake Damage Manchester Street

    Back on 4 September at 04.35 we had a 7.1 earthquake here in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Media reports tended to focus on the initial rupture and the rescue attempts that followed. Because of the timing of the quake there was no apparent loss of life. Lucky for a quake of this magnitude. Reports focused on serious injury and damage. Buildings damaged irrevocably were demolished in the aftermath. The effects though have been experienced in other ways. The aftershocks have engendered the fears suffered in the initial rupture and have come back to haunt some of us.

    Initially there was an interest in the liquefaction caused by the quake. International scholars flew into Christchurch to experience this firsthand. It seemed as if this was the very earth bleeding once the rupture opened wounds on the surface.

    This sense brings us to the possibility of seeing the earthquake as an opportunity to re-experience a sacredness in some way. Certainly the wounds are visible in the cracks in the earth, the crumbling of walls, the caving-in of ceilings. If we imagine those cracks, that crumbling, that caving-in as occuring within our psyches what might emerge as we begin to rebuild ourselves? Are there elements of ourselves that may have been neglected as our lives have evolved? Can we imagine incorporating these elements as we begin to rebuild? Doing this innerwork develops contact with our deeper selves as long as we keep in mind that once this is done we need to turn our attention outward to the wider community.

    The quake opens a path to reconnection with each other. Checking on their well-being as each aftershock hits. Accommodating and feeding those displaced by the quake. This turning outward extends a hand to life – that whatever or whoever you give a helping hand to is returning that gift. You see in their eyes the very emotion that is going on inside of you. The giving is in the receiving as the receiving is in the giving.

    If the Sacred Sorrow of the Sacred Wound opens us to this opportunity to fully see ourselves in another’s pain then it also allows us to fully experience a Sacred Care. A care that goes beyond even our love for one another and reaches into a space where we have a love for the places we live, homes, environments, fully connected to all those things that involve us as earth-bound creatures.

    It was a couple of weeks prior to the earthquake that I’d set the intention for these posts and the immediate experience I was rewarded with was a beautiful day. I took my time driving to work stopping to take photos when they caught my eye. It seemed odd to have all this beauty arrayed as further consideration of the Sacred Wound. At the same time I received another gift although at first it didn’t seem so.

    Ambivalence may not seem to be great gift and its affect on my disposition was quite strong. Ambivalence is defined as the simultaneous experiencing of opposite emotions. The word itself is a combination of ‘ambi’ meaning both and ‘valence’ which is associated with the charge a particular ion will hold while combined with another in a molecule. The one cancels the other leaving the observer with the impression that either the molecule or the person has a neutral demeanour. I’m guessing that seeing this neutrality can be frustrating to someone wishing to have attention from this other.

    While reading Thomas Moore’s Writing in the Sand I came across his discussion of self-possession in his chapter on Facing the Demon. He describes Jesus as a self-possessed person having the attributes of ‘allowing life to flow through him’, a ‘conduit for the uncertainties that life offers’, ‘not fighting the life that wants to be in you’ and an ‘even temper’ and ‘cool demeamour’. The latter two could be confused and sensed as ambivalence.

    Later I was told that when considered in the light of the enneagram ambivalence can be thought of as an almost normal state of being. That somehow took the curse off it. And it had my mind ticking over.  According to Don Richard Riso in his Understanding the Ennegram, point five or personality type

    Understanding the Enneagram

    five, which he describes as The Thinker, is ambivalently identified with both parents. If this sense of ambivalence has relevance to the sacred wound maybe the different points of the ennegram can hint at and perhaps tell us more about our sacred wounds. Worth exploring in my next post!


  • Sacred Sorrow: The Sacred Wound Part One

    Apologies to all who felt I’d left them hanging at the end of the last post. I’m told they wanted to know how I was wreaking inhumanity upon myself. I reread it and thought perhaps it wasn’t enough to know that a person feels this way. Or do we have a fascination for the methods of a person’s undoing? It seems so when we glance at the covers of any women’s magazine or tabloid newspaper. In the wake of the undoing what do they do to rebuild their lives? Noting that the Sacred Wound was the next installment in this series of posts I felt that the hanging was a perfect segue into it.

    The Sacred Wound for me is a tear in the fabric of the soul caused by a traumatic event. This could occur at any time during our lives and open us to what may seem initially to be a Pandora’s box of experience and yet also contain that which remained in her box – hope. Hope of an increased soul consciousness, of heartfelt connection to all divine sparks that exist in this universe.

    The best discussion I’ve found on the net in regard to the Sacred Wound is at Lightworkers.Org. It gives a comprehensive outline to a subject that is really an abstract concept. Anyhow….

    Spring is in full swing, new beginnings, new life sprouting. A time to trim the threads lank and frayed by the depths of winter, cutting away that which has served its purpose and splicing what is still strong back into our lives.

    All this talk of threads and hanging has me considering rope more deeply. Ostensibly the twisting of hemp firstly into strings and then three strands are twisted together to form rope. Metaphorically I see the whole rope symbolising our physical existence and the three strands representing the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual attributes we all carry with us. Life is a constant twisting of the strands together allowing ourselves to be fully connected. It reminds me of the helical nature of DNA. Rope is used to bind, to secure, to attach. And it tangles.

    My obsession with MASH at present has not left me and I find I’m seeing threads in the stories that have left me feeling that those episodes were somehow unfinished.

    I‘ve been guilty of leaving things hanging. I have attached threads to those I have been in relationship with and have not had the sense to consciously detach myself from them. I have become entangled in these threads and by allowing this I have metaphorically hung myself in my relationships. The threads I’ve left hanging in the external have been the unravelling of my inner world.

    In New Zealand we have the Plunket Society who provide support services for children under 5 years old. Families had a Plunket Nurse who would monitor the development of the child. Their progress would be written in up in a Plunket book including graphs of their growth. A few years ago my mother gave this book to me and browsing through it I noticed that from the age of 6 months my graph went into a decline. Until then the graph described a straight line upwards, after, it began to fall off. I asked her about this. She said that at the time they’d left me with my grandparents while they attended a wedding in another part of the country. I imagine this to be my sacred wound. A sense of abandonment perhaps. I have no recollection, no memory of it except this record of a decline. And yet I have a strong sense this played out in my relationships. That when I felt a sense of abandonment or neglect, a severing of a bond, then I would go into a decline and seek that bond in someone else. I see now that it became the end of my marriage and other relationships into which I entered.

    I remember during my marriage developing an emotional though unrequited attachment with a co-worker. But not consciously detaching from that previous entanglement I came to point in a subsequent relationship where the thought of meeting her again and the hope of reciprocated feelings led me to exit that relationship. It remained unrequited and a period of grief followed.

    Grief for what? Grief because this was my Sacred Wound insisting I look more closely at it? Grief because I had betrayed the essence of love? Grief because love requires me to love myself first before surrendering to relationship for a fuller expression? Or all of these things?

    I return to MASH and one episode sticks in my mind…. In it they explore a soldier afflicted by hysterical paralysis. Nothing is physically wrong with the patient but he is unable to move his lower body. He has feet of clay. In face of an enemy attack he is absolutely frozen with fear. The method of treatment is doing nothing for the patient until he breaks through and begins to take responsibility for himself and goes back to the fighting. The fear is that if sent home instead of returning to the front guilt will overwhelm him and affect the rest of his life. A line at the end of Black Hawk Down fills this out further – one of the soldiers says to another that war is not about politics or ideologies, its about the guy next to you. This was the wound experienced by the soldier in the MASH episode, doing nothing to look after the guys next to him, the guilt of this causing his hysterical paralysis.

    Having not experienced war first hand this is all supposition from me and yet I get the feeling that war is a collective sacred wound.

    I’m aware that this is somehow unfinished but there is a second part to come….




  • Sacred Sorrow: Man’s Inhumanity to Man and Other Beings

    I’ve been procrastinating again. Well I imagined I was until I had a rather significant discussion while out to dinner the other night. We were talking about personality and I mentioned that my conversational skills had been described at times as being like squeezing blood out of a stone. Yes I do tend to hold myself back. And I brought up my blog. This is how I am putting myself out into the world, how my stone is beginning to ooze blood. The talk turned to excavation and then to archaeology.

    “Emotional Archaeology” was bandied about as we talked about where the blog is going. I wasn’t sure if that captured the tone correctly. Was it deep enough? The word “psychotropic” came to mind. On reacquainting myself with the word I discovered it meant “acting on the mind” usually referring to drugs. My thought around psychotropic was in the  deeper sense of “psyche” meaning soul, and “–tropic” meaning turned toward, or having an affinity with. So the blog in a poetic sense felt like it had a “Psychotropic Archaeology” an excavation of my deeper self to develop this sense of a Creative Mythology

    A few days prior to this enlightening discussion the thought had come to mind that at its conception a blog is a blank slate yet to be written and each post the same. I choose a subject and the words that will populate the screen and speak to the readers.

    A new born is a blank slate when they enter the world. Initially what is written in their psyche is chosen by the environment they inhabit. They take their original cues from their mothers, then fathers, siblings if they have them, and so on until a day comes when they have to select or reject the cues they’ve picked up during their formative years. Their experiences may dictate to them that this or that cue is not working in a certain situation leaving them to wonder if this is really how life is meant to be for them.

    And so collectively with Humanity. In its primitive state what might have been the cues taken that evolved into the wars of today? War seems a huge manifestation of an inhumanity wrought in the tribal communities of prehistory. My ponderings coincided with a visit to Wellington to see my children. And the following image struck me as I walked along the waterfront….

    Anchors on Wellington Waterfront

    What is it that anchors our inhumanity in our collective consciousness?? Can we blame the media for placing images in front us ad nauseam or is there something deeper going on? An opportunity for individual or collective compassion and action perhaps? An opportunity for us to wake up to a collective and personal need to change.  First our inner selves and then the outer manifestation of this inhumanity which seems embedded in our very nature.

    As always I rely on my day to day experiences to fuel the blogging fire. What can I excavate from the previous weeks events to furnish the room of understanding. And the inspiration (or is it desperation) to complete this post keeps coming. Only yesterday I received this in my inbox….

    I see desperation in the images accompanying the script. And sorrow that the way the world works leads to this.

    M*A*S*HI have also been trawling through the M*A*S*H series on DVD. Hardly an episode goes by without a tear being shed. There is no dearth of material for an examination of Sacred Sorrow. A couple of episodes stand out…

    Dear Sigmund: Sidney Freedman their on-call psychiatrist is spending time at the Unit during which he is composing a letter to Sigmund Freud. The plotline that touched on this inhumanity theme involved a pilot shot down over Korea. His war has consisted of flying missions from Japan dropping his deadly payload and then returning to Japan to spend his off-duty hours with his wife. During his stay at the 4077 he comes face to face with the horror he has wrought in the form of a injured child whose village has been bombed from the Air. A defining moment for him. In a parallel plotline there is a prankster at work in the camp offering some lighter moments. While funny there is something faintly dark about using someone to be the butt of another’s pranks.

    Preventative Medicine: A sobering episode where Hawkeye contrives an affliction for a Colonel who has an overwhelming casualty rate, whose achievements as a commander are more important to him than the welfare of his men. Hawkeye has him come down with symptoms akin to an infected appendix which he then removes. The resulting recuperation time means the colonel will be taken off line duty indefinitely.

    With his penchant for bringing the ironic to life I often find the voice of Hawkeye in my head….

    While we’re on the DVD trail I picked up The Cove a couple of weeks ago not knowing that it would have relevance to the post. The blurb mentioning elite team, covert mission had piqued my interest a while back and it seemed the time to hire it. As the story unfolded the issue of dolphin exploitation and secret slaughter was in the foreground.

    Then I received an email showing photos taken in the Faroe Islands where the slaughter of the calderon dolphin was openly acknowledged and was described elsewhere as a rite of passage for young adult males. The images are sickening. Another sorrow of our inhumanity.

    And last but definitely not least is a sense that what we create in our lives is related to our predominant thoughts and feelings. Focusing on this theme brought that home for me. The ease of which all this arrived at the threshold of my awareness and then battered down the door seeking sanctuary. So when I turn inwardly and consider further – what are the ways I am wreaking inhumanity on myself and why…..

  • Sacred Sorrow: Powerlessness 2


    “Individuation, as a process can be seen at important stages of life and at times of crisis when fate upsets the purpose and expectation of the ego-consciousness.”

    E A Bennett – What Jung Really Said

    It seems an age since I sat here with a sense of dedication and commitment to my blog, and a need to open my mind further to the possibility that somehow others maybe inspired by what I put in here. It has been twelve weeks at least since my fingers tapped out a new creation for the blog . It almost sounds like I’m in a confessional telling my sins to a priest. Go easy on me.

    Since April 2 I have had an insane work schedule, a holiday, a season change in both climate and work, the passing away of a goal, and in orbit around me others have experienced the death of a loved one, hospitalisation, and an overseas move. They all involve surrender, letting go, or what may seem to be our fate.

    Surrender is the other side of powerlessness. When we go beyond the anxiety of having fate cast an ugly hand, or the feeling that life has betrayed us somehow, we enter the realm of surrender, the place where trust envelops us and allows us to acknowledge that while difficult our current experience is actually moving us forward.

    In Greek Mythology Lachesis, Clotho, and Atropus are the Fates, the Moerae, the three sisters who decide the fates of humans, singing of the experiences we had, that we are having, and the things we will have. Lachesis apportions the lots of fate, Clotho spins the thread of fate and lastly Atropus cuts the thread of fate as we move from life through death, the ultimate surrender, and onwards. And the Fates are attributes of our own souls. We know what has gone before, what is ultimately in our future, and we have an inner knowing of where life is carrying us.

    In honouring a relationship with our soul we may be led into experiences that appear to invade our psyches and push us in directions we hadn’t considered. Surrender is giving up the ways of being that don’t serve us anymore and being open to the possibilities it holds for us, receiving the new experiences life offers us around each new corner.

    I acknowledged the passing away of a goal when I noticed coming up against barriers to its fulfilment. The act of surrendering to the release of something I was holding onto allowed a new idea to take its place. This new thought seemed more difficult to bring to fruition and yet it held more promise than the previous one. It fits well with one of my favourite quotes from Neale Donald Walsch – “Live the grandest version of the greatest vision you ever held about Who You Are.” By offering ourselves to this possibility there maybe sadness as we leave behind those ideas we hold about ourselves that have outlived their usefulness.

    Soul Craft coverBill Plotkin in his book SoulCraft tells the story of Lauren, a woman wandering alone in a sandstone canyon during one of his soulcraft intensives. After she’d been walking for an hour unbidden sensations both emotional and physical left her afraid and struggling. She was in an area surrounded by ancient cliff dwellings and could feel a great sadness emanating from them. This induced a profound experience of grieving, and she left the canyon under the shadow of what Bill terms a soul encounter or initiation. From this she gained the belief she was destined to grieve and assist others in connecting with their own deep sorrow. She received a secret name from the canyon and prepared a naming ceremony in the following three months. After this she went on to drag her feet for a few months until an “accident”, a fall from a horse, forced her into accepting this path that had been chosen by her soul.

    Through committment to the tug of soul she now facilitates grieving processes through word of mouth.

    Surrender means acceptance of what the present moment holds, of what fate has allotted us right now whatever that may be. In saying that we hold the power to apply meaning and emotion to this current experience. We have choice. We are the architects of our own fate. All we need to do is take up our paddle and move out into the current of our life, honouring both the times when we have a gentle course and also when we enter the rapids and life throws us around, shaking us up and making us more acutely aware and focused on our path. There is power in powerlessness if we allow ourselves to be directed by our hearts and souls, allowing a life that engages the mysteries of existence.


    Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche Bill Plotkin. New World Library 2003

    Animas Valley Institute

  • Sacred Sorrow: Powerlessness 1

    “Did you come here for forgiveness,

    Did you come to raise the dead,

    Did you come here to play Jesus

    to the lepers in your head?”



    This morning before I got up I entered into a shamanic meditation, a guided meditation to my medicine place. A place of spiritual solace gifted by the Creator, however you perceive him to be. A place to receive guidance, to connect with teachers and guides

    Over the past months I have neglected this source being too focused on the tasks in front of me as a Catering Manager. Whenever I have entered the space it has only been experienced superficially – no real depth to the communications within. And again this morning this was so. No depth of experience. While two of my guides were present I felt largely ignored by them, something that I have patently been doing to them.

    One of the stimuli for this exploration of Sacred Sorrow was a dream a few weeks ago. In it I had found a piece of land I felt I wanted to buy on a corner in my old neighbourhood. It was an empty section with mounds here and there and hedges in the middle and the surrounds. I went away to source the finance. When I came back there was a bohemian couple living on it. I felt aggrieved that I’d missed out on this property. Not only that but the man came up to me and reached into my pocket and removed a shiny glass ornament, dripping wet, from my pocket with a red and blue symbol embedded in its centre. At the same time a piece of pounamo (jade, greenstone) with crocheted wings flew out of another pocket and alighted on the nearby hedge. I was noticing a sense of deep sadness within me as this unfolded. Underlying the sense these items were being taken away from me was another feeling of them being still present.

    There’s a sense of powerlessness in some of the imagery. I know I’ve not been doing myself any favours in other areas of my life. Allowing my addictions a greater hold – TV, computer games, cigarettes, email, coffee. I feel powerlessness as I consider them and the ways I can break the habits.

    As I ponder the last thought I see that by transferring that sense of powerlessness on to the objects themselves there are ways to divert myself from the sense of addiction. Seeing the objects as powerless diminishes their hold on me and my sense of personal power grows stronger.

    Addictions are certainly manifestations of the “lepers in my head”. The verse in “One” those words come from also include references to forgiveness and raising the dead. By playing Jesus to the lepers in our heads we’re able bring to life that which may lie dead or sleeping within our psyches. Unable to forgive my own faults how can I expect to forgive the faults of others.

    How often in the silence of my mind do the lepers take up residence and I hear myself saying I should do this, I should do that, I should have done this, I should have done that!? It occurs typically when feeling a need to confront my addictive ways. I have heard it described as “the tyranny of shoulds” or “shoulding all over myself”. There is a sense of doing things on a whim when should is mentioned. Powerlessness kicks in when I add have to the mix. I missed an opportunity. Poor me and into a downward spiral!

    And yet “ONE” holds a positive message as well. As I consider it from a point of powerlessness I see the lyrics pointing towards an impotence in relationship not only with another but also with the world itself. Perhaps the “raising of the dead” can be acknowledged as we work with those parts of ourselves that we have left for dead in the aftermath of shoulds. Can I forgive myself for not standing up and being definitive in the path of a storm of shoulds? Can I hear myself saying I AM or I WILL when a “should” is like looking on the face of the Medusa, poisonous serpents flailing about her head, threatening to turn me to stone.

    One love, One blood

    One life, you got to do what you should

    One life with each other

    Sisters, Brothers

    One life, but we’re not the same

    We got to carry each other, carry each other

    Can I find the power within to help myself in turn offering the same to others struggling.


    Going Home to Your Medicine Place Guided Meditation. Academy of Shamanic Studies

    ( http://www.shamanic.ac.nz/index.html )
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  • Sacred Sorrow

    “Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”
    – Henry David Thoreau

    I have to say that I’ve been in denial about this post for some time. Avoiding it like the plague. Endeavouring to keep my self safe. I should be happy shouldn’t I?? I felt like taking a restraining order out against my psyche and yet Sacred Sorrow seems to be burning a glowing branding iron into my soul. Encounters with people, places, books, movies, myself keep it in the forefront of my mind.

    I first became aware of this concept about ten tears (freudian slip or what?) years ago when I granted it visitation rights to my soul. It manifested as a poem.

    Keeper of the Sacred Sorrow

    From how many lifetimes

    Has this holy melancholy

    Followed me.

    Where is it taking me,

    Past and future

    Wrapped up in the now?

    I make a vow

    To follow my heart.

    Why has this arrived

    To be reconciled?

    Where will it lead?

    What might it heal

    Without knowledge of the wrong

    Being righted?

    As my soul is laid bare

    I gaze upon its naked form

    With love.

    I see it glowing warm

    With the embers of learning.

    Knowing that as I perceive the love within

    So I can perceive the love without

    In the other who is myself.

    A choice is no choice when I live in fear,

    No choice is a choice when I live with care.

    Within that fear I ask a humble why?

    Care creates unclouded sky.

    This occurred a couple of years after I was gripped by a serious grieving process following the ending of a relationship. I was barely functioning for months. Work at the time was all I could manage. At seemingly random moments I’d be stricken, waves of grief washing up on my shore. Tears arriving from my as yet uncharted depths. Emotions welling up. I’d imagined previously that maybe I’d had some deeper connection to life and here was an indication that perhaps there was an element of superficiality to my existence. It pushed me further into areas I hoped would answer the questions this grief had posed to me. Counselling, psychotherapy, shamanic practices, life-coaching.

    So why at this time have I become acutely aware of sorrow and sadness again? I have narrowed it down to three or four ideas that are present for me: powerlessness, man’s inhumanity to man and his fellow beings; the perception that I’m not in a place or job that is nourishing to my soul’s evolution; and possibly the reopening of what is termed the sacred wound. It is not a grieving process but probably indicative of something amiss in my psyche. Am I once again living at the surface of my psyche rather than exploring the depths.

    Seems a good opportunity to explore those concepts in the following posts.