It's raining. A good day for cocooning in and being quiet. I've been busy, busy, busy with home projects and social events. My dear, sweet, brave, beautiful, hilarious friend from Boulder, Co. just left after a short visit and I miss her already. Our long talks about life, personal work, and spiritual growth has put me in a contemplative state.
That, and reading a book called "A Year to Live" by Stephen Levine, in preparation for a monthly class I'll be taking with 7 other intrepid seekers over the coming year. We are going to explore how to live fully in this moment as if we only have a year to live...and to face that end time without fear, whenever it comes.
I read this morning in Chapter 5 about the importance of doing both our deep personal psychological work as well as the mindful spiritual work of focused awareness. Levine says this: "When one level is fostered to the detriment of the other we develop a psychological limp or a spiritual swagger." Oh, how I have seen (and experienced) both!
For almost 15 years I've done deep personal work based on a Jungian psychology of archetypes and shadows. I have gone away for a number of weekend experiential "initiations" and "trainings", that are really like intensive counseling sessions. With skilled, loving leadership and facilitation I have uncovered many psychological keys to understanding my core psychological wounds, what behaviors continue to prevent my full expression of Self, and how to break through barriers and become more fully expressive of my own nature. My twice monthly women's group continues to support and challenge me in this awareness, keeping me on track and reminded of where I came from and where I'm going.
I could go on and on and you are either right there with me now, or you've already tuned me out. Suffice to say, I know myself pretty damned well and the whys and hows of my psyche's dance steps. I still sometimes lose the beat, but more often these days, I get right back in the groove without too much anguish and sometimes with a fair amount of laughter at my 'backsliding' into a less aware state of being in the world.
But for a long while I was so focused on the psychological work, and "healing my wounded Self" that I walked with that psychological limp like a badge of courage, obvious to all. I AM DOING MY WORK! I HURT! That eventually went away and my walk became whole again. For others, I've seen them move into "wound worship", limping along on a constant path of "healing" that never seems to conclude, always seeking another training or workshop to be the "be all, end all" for their suffering.
And I've seen the opposite -- the spiritual swagger of those (me too, sometimes) who "transcend" the mundane woundedness of the human psyche and move right into assumed higher planes of existence by focusing on a constant "feel good" spiritual high, as if to say, "This incarnation of the human experience is full of pain...let's not go there." Let's go instead to the Zafu or the mat or the ashram or the temple, church, or mountaintop where I can just be At One With the Cosmos and not have to muck around in figuring out why my earthly life is such a friggin' mess...why I'm lonely, or angry, or afraid a lot of the time.
There is such satisfaction and relief in the ah-ha moment of a psychological breakthrough. There is such euphoria in spiritual transcendence. But in my judgement, as Levine says, there is something incomplete in choosing the duality of one or the other. Integration is key.
As I move more inevitably into my eldering years, with mortality on the horizon and more real, there are times I feel the terror of impending death. I love this life and what I've made of it. I want more of it; I am so curious about the future and what the world, and me in it, will be.
Yet, reality is that it is our nature to die. Gotta do it. So, the work of this age and stage is to get ready; to fully embrace what this human life has been, is, and will be, and to remove the obstacles to living it freely and without constraint of old patterns, wounds, and inner voices that hold me back and keep me down. It is also a time to turn inward; yes, to sit in quiet contemplation in those places of calm and to connect with a consciousness greater than I am; to know that whenever the end comes, whatever awaits, I am ready to take that step without fear, with peace, with love.
At least, that's the view from here....