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Shock and Awe: The Call to Adventure, The Hero Self

Degrees of Understanding Over Time

Image Credit: https://www.crystalinks.com/merkabah.html

Before someone named it cyclothymia, I thought it was just an awareness of the seasons and life cycles of nature. In my blood I feel the frenetic energy of summer and the call to hybernation in winter, the preparation for the darkness in fall and the spike of seedling energy in the spring. This is sometimes labelled SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Cyclothymia and SAD aren’t the same thing. Perhaps they are comorbid. I don’t know. All I know is the earth calls and I still have to go to work. The sadness of SAD comes from not making space to honor these changes of the seasons, the cycle of life and death, the way people have for so long. I feel my lack of connection with the earth like a missing limb.

As I may have said here before, I’ve dabbled in many religions. The one that I have been exposed to the longest is Christianity, but there are some true traumas in my relationship with what they call the one God. I had to find my way back to being able to say the word by turning to spirituality from a mythological perspective–stories that people over time have used to understand the unknown. I sought to explore these stories and found a thread of something similar in all of them, though each belongs to itself, much like consciousness as it runs through human beings I imagine. I turned to Wicca when I was sixteen, a rebellious reach in the opposite direction of the dogmatic Christianity I was exposed to and have since decided that limiting my beliefs to one religion, including science and rationality, was the best way to become a product of those belief systems, rather than a conscious individual within those systems actively seeking to embrace and/or improve upon those systems for the better of the self or the self and the community. I believe the same goes for one’s culture. Blindly believing in the American dream made me a product of it. And products do not think. Nor do they have souls.

I am not here to bash the American dream. It is a beautiful concept that I simply forgot was built on the assumption that we are all aiming for common human decency. Maybe I forgot this because I pursued money and material success only to find it was meaningless without substantial character, without friendship or love. Like Harry Potter‘s Voldemort. When one is driven merely by the preservation of the physical self and goes to any lengths to save that self including lengths that are at the expense of the well being of others, all we have left is fear.

Have you ever gotten mad at your loved one for something that seemed really important to argue over, argued over it, pissed and moaned thinking it was the biggest deal in the world only to look back on the argument later and wonder what the hell it was even about?

I feel that kind of ambivalence towards the American Dream in regards to earning money. Money as an end goal is always empty. Now, chasing the American Dream in regards to creating something grand out of practically nothing against all odds even though I’m just one person because I have the help of friends and loved ones who are aligned in a like minded cause and maybe I’m not the hero of their story but I can be the hero of mine helping them be heroes too like the Avengers: That I can do. At least, that’s the kind of dream that will motivate me against all odds.

“I want something good to die for to make it beautiful to live,” wrote Queens of the Stoneage and I came here to make this life beautiful to live only to find that that the things I would die for are, well…

I didn’t know. But I think I’m figuring it out slowly. Aren’t we all?

Here’s an interesting article on modern witches and the resurgence of polytheistic and pagan religions in the modern global capitalist complex. Perhaps this resurgence is because we all feel the call to nature of which I spoke at first. I might have started considering myself a witch the first time I picked up Harry Potter in third grade. I believe all people have magic within them. I believe science and magic are the same thing, only one is demonized because we do not understand it. I think they’re both just different pieces of a bigger picture that incorporates them both as valid and the same. How’s that for out there? The story of Merlin brought me to this idea. The Once and Future King, by T.H. White is an excellent read. Fictional and excellent. It is the story of King Arthur in a traditional sense, and yet Merlin hints at being a man from the future (our time).

Merlin is considered a wizard because he understands concepts of science that are from the future. He’s magical because he can do things people understood as magic in the Middle Ages but that we now understand as scientific. I imagine that knowledge and further understanding will eventually bring us to the place where both our sciences and our religions will be considered rudimentary and crude and I hope that for our future generations. We must buy them the time.

What if we see as magic now what will later be called science?

What if mental illness as we understand it now can serve as a gift with further cultural education? It’s not madness, it’s this kind of intelligence, or that kind of intelligence. Maybe labeling this thing we understand as an illness once worked because it didn’t fit with the current cultural model, but when 1 in 5 Americans adults (just the adults) will experience symptoms of mental illness in their lifetime, it starts to look like perhaps the narrative of the current cultural model has failed to account for something important regarding the health of it’s people. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

What I like about Wicca is it is nature based. It helped me to acknowledge the cycles of nature as it moved around me in such a way that these cycles began to inform my understanding of my moods. I get the same moods in the same cycles every year. These cycles reflect the cycles of nature. They have been the same for fifteen years. I have journals to show them. I haven’t actively practiced wicca in maybe two years? I dated a man who called it, disdainfully, a coping mechanism and I found myself too afraid to practice while with him. Everything is a coping mechanism. He drank a six pack a day.

I believe not practicing wicca or, for that matter, any spirituality that positively molds a framework of narrative for my weirder, out there experiences, has negatively impacted my mental health. My mental health is better understood as I understand, pay attention to, respect, even revere the cycles of nature. It is better, also, with meditation, intention setting, writing, reading, focused, meditative work which come with most religious practices. I practice kitchen witchery and kundalini yoga, or was when my kundalini awoke. Now I practice labels and seek clinical help. The clinical speak around mental illness scares me more than the witches and demons. Isn’t that hilarious?

I do not like the idea of strict adherence to any man made text or set of rules. The rules are written within us and the heart knows them in innocence.

Meditation and present moment awareness significantly improve my mental health if I practice them daily. Present moment awareness, when cultivated alone, can be brought to other activities. I must practice daily in order for it to be effective. I do not practice meditation at all right now. I have not found a quiet place to be alone and practice in a long time. That or I do not go to be in a quiet place alone because there is a part of me that resists. There is a part of all of us that resists.

Today I start to meditate as part of my morning routine. Meditation is the difference between me getting out of bed and going to work and feeling like there’s no point.

Its easy to say, “Just meditate every day.” It was easier for me to run two to four miles a day, timing each mile for speed, than it was to meditate every day once for ten minutes. But ten minutes in the morning is what it takes.

Yesterday I asked myself when the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life was.

I lived with my mom. I was 25. I had a pretty steady routine that involved writing, three meals a day and snacks, cooking, work four days a week, taking care of myself and my dog with a daily run to the river, and a trip to Tahoe for school every six months for residency. It seemed to me then that my life was a mess, that the worst disaster that could have happened happened and I moved back home to once again depend on my mother. I’d failed at fleeing the nest. I was not one in the Darwinian gene pool to be meant to continue its lineage. My mind is a mean dark place sometimes.

But I also had daily conversations over a glass of wine with my mom and a smoke–a spliff on my end and a vanilla something or other on hers. We healed a long broken relationship, or strengthened what was a shallower relationship before perhaps. I use harsh language but it wasn’t all that bad. Things just got better. I learned to love my family. Somewhere along the way, with loss of innocence maybe, I forgot how much family means. We healed. I visited my dad and my brother and sisters over the mountains then, too, and we healed. My life was not a disaster. I was taking much needed human time to build relationship with people my lifestyle had separated me from.

My sister came home and the three of us lived under one roof again with my step dad and our brother and sister from him. I was sixteen the last time we lived this way. I was sixteen when they moved and I got emancipated. My growth in the realm of family ended there and it would be nine years before I would get an opportunity to revisit this part of existence that was once integral to survival, at least in tribal culture.

I just realized I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about regarding family and looked into the concept of what a family is. Here is some literature I found from the North Carolina Sociological Association called “The Concept of The Family: Demographic and Genealogical Perspectives” by Charles B. Nam, Center for Demography and Population Health, Florida State University.

Nam writes about the demographic perspective:

”  In the United States (and, for the most part, throughout the world), the “family” is defined in censuses and surveys as two or more persons  related by blood, marriage, or adoption, AND living in the same residence  (Fields and Casper 2001) .”

”    In fact, some persons who meet the standard demographic definition of the family and are included may have little association with other family members in the same residence.  For example, they may have different schedules of sleep, work, or other activities, and they may not communicate by phone or mail.  Their inclusion in the family is pro forma and based only on the given family definition. These facts raise questions about the boundaries of the standard demographic definition of the family and its consequences for interpretations of how family structure might be changing over time.  “

And about the genealogical perspective:

” One can examine a family tree and extract a family structure using a variety of family definitions, based on how extensive one wishes to consider the family (Finnegan and Drake 1994).  Family trees typically distinguish between living and dead members of the family, so that several family definitions can be applied to only living members.  In this sense, the genealogical approach to looking at family structure provides for a broader range of family forms than is possible from the demographic approach.  Thus, one can describe a couple and their offspring, living together or not; a multi-generation family, living together or not; as well as extended family groupings. “

These are just two, of many perspectives, surrounding a complex subject. There is always more than one perspective.

The demographic approach is the current cultural structure. The genealogical approach is the structure of the current human within the broader scope of history that widens the possibilities of definitions for family.

Rationality and science and math and business seem to me the demographic approach to life. The creative, spiritual, artistic, receptive, surrendered, unconscious, archetypal divine feminine allows for a more “genealogical” approach, I think. Both inform each other. There’s no reason to not consider them both equally valid. There is no reason one cannot embrace both and practice both. We are complex beings with enormous capabilities if only we could stop placing ourselves in boxes. Boxes are easier to understand, but they are still prisons.

I had no idea family was something I needed to cultivate until given the opportunity to cultivate those relationships. The value of family is beyond measure and, having discovered it, I cannot imagine having gone through life without loving my family. What a horrible thing to admit, but we all have horrible potentials within us.

When I was fourteen, fifteen, I kept to myself. My definition of family then was more the demographic “pro forma and based on the given family definition,” type because I had never been without family. I read books and played trombone and video games and shut the door only to emerge for dinner or the occasional family outing. I resented my family for reasons I still don’t understand. Probably the resentment is from my own fear of self-expression which I have blamed always on others instead of taking responsibility for and growing the balls to express myself. There’s probably a lot more to it than growing balls.

But my life imploded. I had a hypomanic episode at 25 and moved home. That’s what they say it was. I have a manifesto that I wrote then in a journal open on my lap. I have a trunk full of journals I have been keeping, writing, and accumulating memories in since I was fifteen. A personal Pensive. I won’t publish it here–it’s long and my perspective has changed since then. Perhaps in another way at another time.

The essential mission of the manifesto was to reclaim my freedom by reclaiming my spirit, which I felt had been taken away from me by the inundation of material distraction in the world in the form of advertisements playing on subliminal desires so constantly they were changing the neuropathways of my values. I was introduced to the internet on a cell phone at the same time I hit puberty.

To be honest, the thought quite scared me at first: that media was playing a central role in shaping my identity. But I have come to understand since then that our identities are shaped by many things: Religion, genealogy, biology, race, ethnicity, occupation, location, education, experience, language. As our identities change from experience, location, age, knowing, and understanding how much we do not know, as we move through experience and space and time, there is a consciousness within that shapes a narrative around the events of our lives, trying to make sense of them, trying to return us to a state of equilibrium with ourselves in the world. A sort of entropy of identity. A “normal” if you will. I call this consciousness the observer or the witness, a concept that has its roots in Taoism and Hinduism. Ram Dass talks about it. I did not start listening to Ram Dass until two days ago. But the witness or observer consciousness is an old concept. I think that The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer, was perhaps the best read I found that explains the witness or observer to the animus/ego in a way that it is palatable. I found my way to consciously understanding the Witness mentality through this book.

This is an affiliate link. Sharing openly for you to purchase at your discretion in whichever way you please. This was a great book though. I’ll review it here soon.

Stories, religion, philosophy, art, music, history, psychology are the tools we use to consciously shape the identity of ourselves, our culture, and our values. Reference Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

As a kid I read. As an adult, I meditated. Meditating allowed me to look back over the time I’d spent learning and reading and to reach for the narratives I’d read, real or not, that related to my experience. No matter what I was going through, I could reach through time and space into the mind of someone who lived 2000 years ago because they wrote a story that we have then interpreted through a western cultural lens.

If we then apply psychoanalysis to this lens, as Joseph Campbell did, we understand the subconscious motivations of civilizations and can witness what subconscious motivations led to what consequences.

We can use these to inform our culture. But there is a caveat.

When I moved home at 25, it was difficult to face myself as an adult who lived with my mother. I had more pride than I imagined. Pride is associated with Ego, the animus. There are many stories about pride being the downfall of man. Pride was the downfall of Satan. My culture quite values pride, as do I. Now I strive to temper it. Having the cache of human-related story to reach for helped me ask some questions that shifted perspective.

I went from asking: Am I crazy? Why can’t I take care of myself? How did I wind up here living with my mom again?

To instead asking: What is within my control? What is outside my control? What am I learning here?

My story shifted from the viewing myself as a person who failed to meet the expectations of my western cultural consciousness to be a successful independent woman to instead viewing myself a western woman in an unconscious culture that had taught me to abandon the important value of family. Then I started to understand that while it had something to do with my culture, it had quite a lot more to do with me. I started to take responsibility. I started to follow the call of the heart.

I have been overidentifying with having a mental illness in a negative light because I am calling it an illness. It is an imbalance. Physically, it is something that requires more attention than others might need for their own self care. I need a lot of exercise and stillness, a lot of meals in small doses, a lot of little things in exactly the right place, a lot of quiet and alone time to contemplate and create to inform my understanding of my identity or my life unravels. Its always a struggle to find my equilibrium of identity after a big shift. It’s not fun.

Then again, it doesn’t have to be.

As a kid, I remember reaching for stories to inform my weirder experiences. I had a lot of them. Sweat lodge, for instance, or Ceremony. The drumming in the teepees and my sister, my mom and I these white people. I felt like we were encroaching on something that didn’t belong to us just because it was in us the tiniest bit they said. I didn’t want to use my voice. Another time I thought about stories like Pocahontas as the blankets closed around the hut made of hard, bent willow branches and tied with sinew. The hole in the ground in the middle of the domed hut held the hot lava rocks and two men tended the door on either side to pour water and sprinkle herbs which we first pass and pray over aloud sometimes. I may have prayed aloud once. They close the flap. I don’t remember if the singing begins first or afterward. Or the prayer for that matter. It is all a blur. We sit in one row in a circle around the pit with the rocks, facing the rocks on our knees or foreheads to the ground in prayer, or cross legged as we please. Mother, my sister, and I. I am seven or eight years old. The tent is damp with steam from the hot lava rocks and thick padding of blankets over the domed hut. I do not know what it’s called unfortunately. I am eight years old, and do not have the language with which to judge and identify this experience other than with stories. I think on Pocahontas and the way grandmother willow is animated and I pretend to be her (Pocahontas, not the grandmother) and the steam against the glowing rocks shows eight-year-old me faces of the ancestors. The singing moves through me at first. Then the darkness sets in and the only thing I see are these red lava rocks and the steam and the glowing of the faces around at a spark and then dark again and wild chanting and singing like wails and women crying and yelps. A prayer in sound and fire and water and earth. Being joined in voice and song in prayer or intention, should you like to call it that, is nothing short of a psychedelic experience. There are no drugs involved. It is immensely healing. A test in will and in one’s understanding of the power and place of that will in aiding the larger will of it’s tribe. A group of humans kissing the earth, breathing, singing to feel her cool promise of eventuality. I stayed every round pretending I was Pocahontas and knowing I was getting stronger.

The preface to the 1949 edition of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces opens with a quote from Freud:

“‘The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised,’ writes Sigmund Freud, ‘that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth. The case is similar to what happens when we tell a child that the newborn babies are brought by the stork. Here, too, we are telling the truth in symbolic clothing, for we know what the large bird signifies,” (xii, Campbell).

Jacques Derrida argued in his book, Limited Inc. that, ” that linguistic meaning is fundamentally indeterminate because the contexts that fix meaning are never stable,”(https://books.google.com/books/about/Limited_Inc.html?id=-ANhg9zaAtIC).

That is, the meaning of language, which is the symbols we use to communicate complex ideas, changes according to context. My favorite example is this.

“It” means something different now than if I write “it” again now. The context of the second “it” is being informed by the first mention of it and that meaning changes when we reach the third “it,” in the second sentence to then include the mention of the first and second “it”s. I believe this is something like the example used in Limited Inc. by Derrida, but it is well worth reading the text yourself, as I’m sure his examples are better understood firsthand.

Joseph Campbell wrote, too, in the preface to the 1949 edition of The Hero With a Thousand Faces, “It is the purpose of the present book to uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-difficult examples and letting the ancient meaning become apparent of itself. The old teachers new what they were saying. Once we have learned to read again their symbolic language, it requires no more than the talent of an anthologist to let their teachings be heard. But first we must learn the grammar of the symbols, and as a key to this mystery, I know of no better modern tool than psychoanalysis,” (xii, Campbell).

The stories of minds throughout time built the one that informs me today. I read and I have been analyzing my mind through a psychoanalytic lens for fifteen years through dreams and Jungian psychoanalysis.

I believe our culture only practices a part of the story of what it means to be a human being on earth. The end game is not material. At least, not entirely.

The only modern literature I’ve found to talk about cyclothymia supports it as an illness. The literature I’ve found only addresses the physical and chemical symptoms. Therapy helps to build stories, and the stories we build within ourselves to communicate with one another build the stories of our culture. Ancient stories about mental illness approached it as a spiritual battle. Whether you believe in spirit or not, approaching the idea from a psychoanalytic perspective, as a myth that helps to inform a part of reality we do not yet have the science to fully understand, can allow for a suspension of belief.

I highly resisted the call to any form of spirituality, having felt the oppressive, fear-based dogma of the Christian god at a young age. The oppressive dogma is the man-made interpretation of language. The heart of the religion is a guide to finding the heart of one’s self. Approaching spirituality, religion, science, and myth as stories that constitute only one part of a grand picture no one person can ever understand, allowed me to engage with them without hatred or fear as well as if humanly possible. I learned to explore the stories people live in. A theological drifter with one foot in the material world and another in the myths of my people over ages and centuries, cross referencing them always with my own experiences. Is this true? Is this working?

Back then, my relationship with my family was weird and distant. A back and forth once in a while about money or health.

I moved home after a brush with mushrooms that had me reeling through some otherworldly experiences I did not have a cultural context for understanding. Reading and educating myself have helped. When I set aside the pride and saw that this was a chance to understand family, I realized this was a chance to change. I started coming out of my room. I started cooking with my family, playing video games with my brother, music with my sister, talking with my mom and my step-dad. I felt like the sixteen year old kid who, instead of disowning my family, decided to love them. We healed. We do not get along all the time. We annoy each other. But love is something that is as present in being annoyed as it is in being in joy.

The fall, the way back to my mother’s was a shock to my identity, one that jettisoned me out of many boxes: Stable, sane, in a relationship, employed, functional adult, student. I became a daughter instead, a hatchling returned home to nurse battered wings. Pride? Gone. Shame: came from the stories my culture tells me about who I’m supposed to be versus who I am. Action: question what you are ashamed of. Ask yourself what can I do about it in this moment? Do that. Over and over. Each little step is another in the direction of pride again. Is there a middle ground or are the spikes and crashes necessary?

And what if we go in the direction our culture validates as successful only to find the cultural lens of success is not a guide to good character or health or wellness or sustainability? We must find these. They exist within the current structure somewhere. Just like a person getting well, reallocating resources to address what is not functioning as it should, or can in respect to its potential, is necessary to the health of a civilization. We are only as well as our people and our land, even if individually we manage to find wellness.

Just a couple months prior to moving home with mom, I prayed to reclaim my spirit, feeling I had lost it somewhere. The prayer was the wish. The fall a disaster. The journey, an adventure. Upon successful venturing through my deepest fear (moving back home-there are so many worse things!) the reward is one I didn’t even know existed, greater than I possibly could have fathomed, and is beyond the material. A rekindling of family.

I have come to understand manifestation, reclaiming of spirit, and the path to enlightenment in cycles that often begin with a wish and a shock to the identity. I believe these shocks come from drugs sometimes, from the death of someone close, from moving to a new location, switching jobs–anything that significantly changes the narrative around one’s personal identity.

I believe, like in any story, the hero starts out in a stagnant state. Recognizing that the way of their kind is just one way in many, the hero’s curiosity leads them to wonder. Could we do better? The hero makes a wish. Something happens. A disaster. The Hero is to blame. This is the call to adventure. The hero rises to it and is successful or denies the call and hears it over and over until they must pursue the adventure or go mad. The outcome is the difference between tragedy and comedy. The perspective along the way is the tone, the style, the type of story one’s hero’s journey relays.

My favorite heroes are the ones who stand in their own way because they do not realize their own power. My favorite heroes are the ones who are motivated to win for their friends and their family. My favorite heroes are the ones who are their own worst enemies. And my favorite heroes are the ones whose friends and families remind them towards the end what they are fighting for.

Harry Potter faces the evil in himself metaphorically when facing Voldemort. They are both of the same soul, Harry being a horcrux, and yet the part of the soul that wins out is the one who knows love and friendship.

Flick, in A Bug’s Life, or Turbo in Disney/Pixar’s Turbo, are very small characters who face great odds against giant systems that are in place outside of their control. They find a better way for their people by answering the call within themselves to take action, although the action is one they are not certain they are capable of rising to.

In following the call within, I found my way back to family and embodied the hero who values love and friendship. I defeated my metaphorical Voldemort. The nature of life being a changing and cyclical one (as in the cycles of nature), I believe we have many opportunities to face our demons in this way–a shock, a stripping of pride, a reclamation of positive personal identity through myth.

In his article called, “How Industrial Cultures View Mental Illness,” by on Big Think.com, Mike Colagrossi writes, “Culture determines how mental illness or aberrant mental behavior is viewed and dealt with,” and “Culture is the arbiter of our conscious reality. To say that it influences how we think and act would be an understatement. For the non-inquisitive or complacent mind, it can set us into the inane doldrums of prefabricated patterns we take to be both our day-to-day reality and how we even view our own psyches and world around us. It comes as no surprise that it also has a significant effect on what we consider to be a normal psychological disposition.”

I have not looked into the research behind this article or its sources, though I intend to.

The point I’m getting at is the above article talks about how people with mental illnesses were once revered as guides to aid people through times of spiritual awakening or as guides, essentially, through the subconscious, aiding the “non-inquisitive or complacent minde[ed]” through the forest of the shadows within the psyche when, as the human experience commands, we must face those shadows. The language in the article is used to describe people is negative in context of our culture and may not be the appropriate language to use here. Everyone thinks differently and all perspectives serve to create the whole of the cultural perspective. In ancient cultures, people like me helped people who were facing their downs, through the downs by spiritual means. You may not like the word spirit. I know I didn’t when I was younger. But is is a symbol for something. A symbol for something humans have not yet identified with science but that many humans throughout history have experiences with.

With the eradication of the value of spirit in a modern materialist culture (the path to success led away from the value of family which is as immaterial as it is material) and a lack of understanding around what spirit stood for in the psyches of the peoples of the past, we have lost a significant part of our humanness: a positive mythology to describe things we still do not understand regarding the workings of the mind, consciousness, and it’s path to finding meaning that is not one as simplistic as “progress for the sake of progress” (hello Umbridge) which is the American dream applied without positive, humble, selfless, sustainable values.

My culture’s story about mental illness is a mythology based on one perspective: a clinical one.

I do not wonder at the rise of wicca and new age mythologies today. I believe people crave the language of myth to inform the unknown which our culture claims to know through technology and science which are part of a much more fantastic picture. I believe the craving for this fantastic picture comes from the inherent inability of the fulfillment of the American Dream to fully inform the wide breadth of human experience of which we are capable.

Mental illness is misunderstood, or it would not be so prevalent. That or it was always prevalent, and it was better understood. Probably there is a story in which both statements are true. Probably we are an intelligent enough culture to tell that story and act by it instead.

Modern tribal cultures have less of prevalence of disease and mental illness and I wonder if it is because they value community and spirituality over the material. Ancient cultures found places for mental illness and even revered it in the realm of the spiritual, emotional, and what a Jungian psychoanalytic approach might call the archetypal divine feminine. Dark, shadow places of the psyche, not unlike the sweat lodge in which I heard the voices of my people and felt a sense of community unrivaled by my experiences on the normal “American Dream” path through school and sports and teaching and blah blah blah. This is important. But it lacks imagination and meaning if one has not taken the time to formulate meaning for one’s self. I lived a pretty passive life and found myself at the end of school and in a career on the track set out for me only to discover it had no meaning for me personally. That lack of personal meaning led to a lack of caring about job performance, and when the job performance is the shaping of minds of our future and those minds are only a handful of years younger than yourself…well I was not equipped to think I knew anything they wouldn’t learn eventually. I had to live. I had to feel like what I had to offer was more meaningful than just the reiteration of statistics and data fed to me through academic channels of a structured, federally approved curriculum.

Here is an excerpt from an article on cultural preservation from Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine about the mental health of indigenous people as it relates to colonization, industrialization, genocide, and in many respects, Christianization, and the importance of offering meaning to one’s society as an individual:

“It is critical to note that an essential feature of a people’s sociocultural environment is meaning. Each culture provides pathways by which individuals may satisfy their needs for positive affect, prestige, and meaning. Small-scale, hunter-gatherer societies provide several such pathways: excellence in hunting, storytelling, or as a healer. More complex societies offer a greater array of pathways. Whatever its size, complexity or environment, a central task of any culture is to provide its members with a sense of meaning and purpose in the world. What happens, then, when a people’s way of life is destroyed through disease, genocide, loss of territory, and repression of language and culture, when pathways to meaning are no longer available?” 

My culture once told me that if I went to school, got a degree, and worked hard, I would be successful. I did these and success was empty because I looked around my world and saw chaos and anger and sadness and saw too that some carrot I saw dangling at the edge of my future was in itself a symbol that represented the very happiness found in the things I was running from: family, community, humility, spirit, ritual, emotion. I had moved through life, consciously cultivating meaning with this American Dream construct of assured success at the end only to find that the American Dream promises a kind of success that does not require the individual to find meaning beyond the federally approved curriculum. I am not negating the importance of material well being or the beauty of the American Dream. The body is our connection to reality, but that fact does not make the physical our only reality or we would not have concepts like meaning and spirituality, and religion and philosophy. I’m only saying that a to achieve the American Dream without also cultivating and consciously crafting one’s personal identity makes one a product of their culture instead of an inhabitant of the culture, actively participating in its creation.

Active participation requires questioning, self-care, curiosity, risk, adventure, meaning, a search for meaning, bravery, communication, community, humility, and an open-minded interpretation of reality that allows space for things to be unknown and uncertain.

I had to learn to care about people differently, to approach values differently, and to cultivate them consciously and in order to do this I needed to let go of my story about what I thought it meant to be a successful adult. I had to fail. I failed fantastically, but the lessons learned in the loosening of my grip on what I thought was real were far outside my capabilities to imagine until I dove into what was unknown.

The shock of being a failure to my culture allowed me to see the failings of my culture and to understand where I needed to take responsibility for actively participating in the creation of my identity within it and where I could craft that identity to hopefully aid in repairing myself and one small corner of the hole that is the moral fabric of the modern American mind, even if that mind is only my own.

Even if one does take the time to formulate meaning around one’s identity through stories based on one’s experiences, I believe it is also imperative to social health that these stories also contain meaning for one’s role in their tribe. I do not know my tribe. But I know that Joseph Campbell said everyone has within them, the potential to be a hero. Check out this analysis of Star Wars and the Matrix from this Campbell’s Jungian psychoanalytic perspective.

Who knew going in the opposite direction of what I thought was success would lead me to this hero self? I say this and it sounds egomaniacal perhaps, but Joseph Campbell posited that all people have within them the structure of this journey of the hero, that it is ingrained in the structure of western thought, and that each person has within them the potential to embody this inner hero.

A quote from an article in Quartz Magazine called, “May the Force Be With You: This Classic Formula Can Show You How to Live More Heroically,” says:

“‘A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself,’ according to Campbell’s definition. Anyone can become a hero—on purpose or even accidentally. But it involves a painful evolution that is a prerequisite to greatness.”

He approached this idea through a psychoanalytic lens .

I believe the painful evolution is the shock, the crash, the stripping of pride when we find ourselves at our lowest.

I am faced with a diagnosis now, and my call is to heal this from within with all the methods available to me and publicly that this may stand as some kind of record for someone.

The heart calls and we must follow it no matter how crazy people tell us the call is. We must follow our call to adventure or remain stagnant. Nature does not allow things to stand still. Forcing it to be other than it is only delays the inevitable…kind of like our economy after the 2008 crash.

My culture’s understanding of bipolar and schizophrenia are like the demographic understanding of Family illustrated above: data driven, physical, and lacking in the cultural or humanistic perspective. I am not saying it is wrong. It is just one perspective of a bigger picture that needs more information. In the event that one’s body is at risk of harm from bipolar or schizophrenia, my culture’s understanding of bipolar and schizophrenia call for a pill, restraints, talk therapy, sometimes even jail if the person is lucid enough. But modern medicine can cure what was once incurable and it can help to keep one safe temporarily. You go to the hospital for a broken bone and they fix it but if you go back out into the world and jump off the slide again the leg is going to break. My culture fixes the “breaks”–the episodes, the intolerable snap.

My tribe’s culture calls for sweat lodge and the ancients knew certain diets and told stories about ascended masters and spirits and ghosts and aliens. If I treat these stories as symbols for the unknown human experience, rather than as factual accounts of otherworldly beings–that is, if I use otherworldly symbolism to explain the emotions and experiences I don’t understand the science of–then I have a much better story and a much less stressful human experience than if I were an ill mental patient who needs a pill to make her right again. I can’t not identify with something my culture tells me is an illness. I must be able to participate in my culture to be healthy and to feel meaningful and thus the ill factor must be addressed. But I must participate actively instead of as a product of my culture to create meaningful change within it. And the change that means something to me based on my story and the stories of so many people I love who have had brushes with chronic mental or physical illness, even been consumed by it, is a change in the way we view illness as a culture. Chronic illness is a cultural epidemic the likes of which was once healed by spiritual methods, which might just mean stories we told to explain things bigger than ourselves.

Imagine for a moment that what you think you know about anything is just a big story we’ve all decided to participate in. Imagine that by participating in this story, you are helping to write it. Every day. With every action. With every dollar spent. Every morsel devoured. Every word spoken. Every judgment. Imagine every action as leading to the next and what the outcome of these actions equal on the individual, interpersonal, familial, societal, cultural, national, global, universal scales.

We are not intelligent enough to calculate these in every moment, and yet every moment does echo through all of these spheres.

But we do have a cultural story that allows for understanding things bigger than the self: The Journey of the Hero.

Today, I step into my hero self. The best way I know of to proceed is to understand I know nothing. Innocence breeds curiosity, kindness, and understanding. I would rather tell myself a story that deems me as crazy but lets me learn things like the value of family, of caring for myself and my people despite and even because of our individual differences, than tell myself a story about my identity that would let me hate them, blame them, be different from them. Somehow they became them. I don’t even know who they are. This metaphorical “they.”

“They” are people like you and me. I would rather sit at a bar with someone who spouts a bunch of stuff I think is nonsense and laugh and accept their ideas are working for them, maybe ask questions, and let them continue on with their life than I would spite someone or condemn them as wrong. What do I really know? What does anyone really know?

That’s not to say I’m not mean sometimes or spiteful or judgmental. I am. I’m a moody person. But, as best I can, I make amends and try not to make the same selfish mistakes again.

In the same light as WWJD, I sometimes ask myself, What Would Harry Do? because Harry Potter is a character in my culture’s mythology who embodies a hero to me. Who are your heroes? I know it’s silly, but it’s better than hating on people, better than making people feel low so I can feel slightly higher. Why not just build my own identity? Carve out my own space in this place. Take responsibility for my adaptation instead of hating on them or him or her or my president because he is evidence of my country’s total ambivalence towards consequences that don’t involve guns, money, or walls apparently.

I believe the need to be right stems from fear of losing control of one’s narrative of identity in some regard or another. I believe this because I have often needed to be right and found at the root of my fear a question about my identity revealing something I didn’t want to face. Like what a selfish sixteen year old I was. Like what a selfish 25 year old I was. But the parts of ourselves that live in the shadows must be recognized to be brought into the light. I saw my selfishness, let my walls down, and let myself become part of my family.

A large part of my depression and mania have originated from this incongruence between my idea of who I am within vs. who I am in the world now. This, I believe, is why present moment awareness is such a valuable tool. Instead of identifying with my past and the labels of who I was within the context of my occupation, my best friend, my location, my purpose and passions even, I am here in this moment in the world in the reality of it experiencing it with curiosity and innocence. This perspective lets me see the basic building blocks of reality when there are too many stories from external realities trying to inform my personal one. The present is the seat of consciousness. It is the truth inherent. The stories are there to help us weave the narrative of experiences in the present. As best I can, I try to let the present inform my personal narrative about my identity, but sometimes there are inexplicable things which I can call an illness or a gift or perhaps there is a perspective out there which holds both as true, knows a larger scope of the story, and I suppose that’s what I’m here to discover.

Both past and present must inform the whole of the identity. The present identity co creates the future.

This is all theoretical. It’s a subject I can write a book about and intend to. For now, may we all find the bravery to take the leap into our hero selves, whoever they may be, whatever that might look like.

Be well. Be brave. Break boxes today. It’s okay. We’re all a little crazy.

The Power of Ritual and the Science of Intention

Ritual.

The word connotes the occult, the weird, the religious, karma, fear.

At least it did for me initially and does, currently, for many who do not intentionally practice or who fear the underworld currents of the old pagan ways brewing beneath the surface of the culture.

There is a pagan counterculture dedicated to reclaiming the sovereignty of connection with the Divine not in a walled church built to demonstrate the extravagance of man’s abilities in God’s name. I do not deny the holiness of beautiful and grand or equally quaint and small churches. Also, I have felt the grace of sanctuary in churches and am grateful for those moments. But my god’s church is nature.

If I sound bitter, it might be because even though I was born in 1989, I was raised to believe my abilities, which are completely human and have belonged to humans for thousands of years, are necessary to hide. The fear of witch burning in old Salem has not been eradicated from communities of modern pagans in America. Despite a huge rise in the numbers of people who openly practice, the cultural context of pagan ritual is so associated with occult traditions that opposed our founding father’s religious statutes upon which framework the current constitutional structure is built, that to practice paganism in modern America is to actively engage in an American counterculture.

Now witch burning takes place in mental wards, with psychiatrists, pills, feeding tubes. This was my experience anyways. Some people benefit greatly from these practices and I need to remember that. For me, the modern methods of addressing mental health felt like being tied to the stake waiting for the flames only the flames never came. The waiting is maddening. All those doctor’s and therapists standing in the commons, waiting. Poking and prodding with needles and doing tests. Waiting. What’s wrong with me. Waiting.

Only to tell me I’m just hypersensitive and probably the testing and the stupid fluorescent lights in all these office buildings are making it worse. The hell stops when I embrace my pagan self.

Meditate, ritual, yoga, G.O.D. (Get Out Doors).

Rituals come in all shapes and sizes though. We practice the daily rituals, for instance, of brushing teeth, going to work, meal times, sleep schedule, etc. Each of us partakes in our own forms of daily ritual.

And the more we partake in these rituals, the more habitual they become until, eventually, the habit is nearly subconscious.

This is the amazing thing about ritual.

If you want to manifest something in your life, action is necessary, but sometimes we don’t exactly know what that action is. Ritual is the conscious commitment to action through subconscious programming.

I like to start here: write down every action you take today—not your opinion of them, not what they meant to you or others…just the actions. This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. Write a summary of your day and make it as detailed as you can.

Alright. When you return home, look at those actions.

Does anything seem out of alignment to you?

Today I choose my morning meditation instead of a cigarette.

What I like to do here is pick one thing—only one—and decide what you will replace this thing with.

Sleeping in?

Get up early.

Irritable?

Meditate.

Out of shape.

Exercise (make it fun. Shoot arrows or something. It doesn’t have to be torture).

It’s best to start with something small. If you’re an alcoholic for instance and you want to go from guzzling a bottle of vodka a day to not drinking…that’s probably not going to happen in a day.

So trying to tackle your biggest demon right off the bat may serve to overwhelm you and set you back further. Little steps, little changes, build confidence to risk bigger changes. So maybe just eat more veggies today or something. I mean that kind of small.

Eventually, these little changes add up to a changed life. Changed actions that equal different results. But it’s a patient process. Do one thing and intentionally practice this thing until it is habitual. Then keep practicing it until it’s second nature. It does eventually become automatic, but since you are practicing new muscle memory and making new neural pathways, it takes a few trips down a new dirt path to make it a road.

See how long it takes. Hell, put the day you start on your calendar and note later how long it takes for you to repeatedly do something until you don’t have to think about it.

This is what you’re working with. The time frame will allow you to understand how long significant changes may take in your life so you are not disappointed when it’s not instant.

For me, it’s about three months. If I do something regularly for about three months, it becomes a habit I no longer have to consciously remind myself to do.

The thing is, whatever is replacing your “thing” should bring you joy (if that’s what you’re cultivating), but sometimes joy lays on the other side of fear.

We often find ourselves in empty rituals, monotonous rituals, or dissatisfying ritual routines primarily because we like comfort zones. Stagnation is a sign of one who has stopped in the face of fear, established comfort, and never opened the door again to conquer that ugly voice in the back of the mind that says you’re not something enough to bring it down.

Starting a business, for instance, is pretty manageable with hard work, classes, dedication. But if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s going to stop you from giving up on your commitments that day?

For my part, I noticed I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should or could be doing instead of doing it. This was my thing. Thought without corresponding action.

Fear was why. Putting myself online in video format was kind of terrifying. I’m an introvert with a history of disastrous encounters with stage fright.

So here’s what I did. I took the website offline, declared a redesign publicly to hold me accountable, and I recorded a practice video.

Guess what?

It wasn’t that bad.

The next morning, I woke up and made another video. And the next.

It doesn’t matter if they’re usable, if they’re perfect or if they completely fall short. I’m daily facing this fear and daily participating in the conscious action of creating something in my life that brings action to my hopes. And daily these hopes are manifesting because I am acting on them.

Furthermore I made a schedule.

I dread schedules. The creative in me raves against them, but there’s a lot to do to build one’s own way of life into the structure of a culture that doesn’t have a clear space where one fits.

But what if you can’t get past that initial block of fear? What if you don’t know what that leap or action is?

This is why I enjoy the Wiccan ritual methodology. It’s very similar, in some ways, to native rituals I’ve participated in.

The basic idea is that one uses tools to represent the elements—a cup for water maybe, a candle for fire, incense for air, a rock for earth. Engaging with each of these things creates more neural pathways in your brain associated with the intention you are setting forth; therefore you have a more likely chance of recalling that intention throughout the day or week (more pathways=more chances for association). This is how I understand it in a loosely scientific fashion.

In a more subconscious psychological sense, ritual trains the subconscious brain to engage with your intentions by using symbolic objects.

Symbolism is what Carl Jung used to understand the subconscious mind, and Jung even proposed that hallucinations could be subconscious projections of subconscious symbols, a waking dream essentially in which the subconscious talks to the conscious mind.

With ritual, we tell the subconscious mind how we want it to speak to us by choosing which objects or symbols we use to associate with our intention.

The subconscious, because it is not bound by the rational restrictions of the conscious mind, then alerts you throughout the day or week through “signs” that may seem like they come out of nowhere.

Say you do a ritual, for instance, for integrity and you walk down the street later that day and see a sign that says something like, “integrity is integral.” Furthermore, you use a yellow barrette for your ritual because you like the color and the wind in your hair.

You hear “wind in her hair” on the radio and notice little girls in town with yellow barrettes. You’ve set the reminder like an alarm clock. Please brain, remind me of my intentions. These signs are just your subconscious recognizing the set intention.

So what do you do with that?

You’ve set the symbols in ritual. Check.

You see the symbols and hear them in your life. Check.

Now you interpret them, and take action.

Sometimes the action is very clear and interpretation is not necessary. This is the action your subconscious brain believes will take you where you want to go based on what you’ve told it. Since it can draw connections you consciously cannot, it probably knows something you consciously do not. Actions are best taken with integrity and trust.

Sometimes, though, the signs are a bit trickier. For clarification I like to use tarot cards. Again, These are simply symbols. Say you pull a card with a yellow butterfly and it says something like: “you are holding onto the past because you miss innocence, but one does not have to be young to be innocent. The butterfly is the symbol of transformation and yellow is the color of the third chakra…will power. Take action to change your life, whatever that may be, and have the bravery to transform. Innocence is in the eyes of the beholder. Break free from your cocoon and witness.”

So you think back to that wind in the hair song, to the young girls in town who had yellow barrettes, and here’s where the connection could go: I just want more outdoor play in my life, maybe with other women my age.

I think what scares people about tarot and ritual is that many people associate such practices with the occult which connotes evil and demons and is a connotation left over from centuries of Christian slaughter and repression of pagan peoples.

Come on. We are smarter than that people. We are smarter than fearing some old world magic. I’m fact, if we were smart we might figure out what made the controlling Christian military forces so afraid of it that they crushed it down at all costs for thousands of years.

If they feared evil and destruction and greed, that’s already here.

Check this out: the Roman Catholics stole pagan rituals, assigned their own religious symbolism to these rituals and gave it a different god, and set up churches where the stolen practices were preached to gain control of state through the church. It was the only way they could convince pagan people’s to bow down—take the gods they believed in, turn them into one god, and tell them there are punishments if they do not follow that god. Enforce those punishments harshly using resources of state (armies if necessary) and withhold knowledge from the people so they do not learn any better. The priests of Rome, scribes, and rulers were the only people who were literate. Taking away knowledge was an amazingly easy way to control people—especially superstitious people. Superstition without the ability to gain knowledge is a sure recipe for being manipulated by someone who know better.

Herbalism’s story is an excellent example of this systematic genocide since herbalism was passed down primarily through word of mouth and the recipes were often individual to the household though based on the basic properties of plants. Plant knowledge is an old shamanic knowledge and shamans are the most ancient of the practitioners of ritual. When scribes and priests became the master holders of knowledge specifically because they were literate, the ways of the people, the pagans, and their shamanic roots were changed in the history books by those who could write, held as highly valuable knowledge belonging to church and state, and the knowledge was prevented from being perpetuated in the populace by witch burning, crusades, and the intentional withholding of knowledge to promote superstition and therefore complacency in a slowly and newly converted peoples.

Witches were condemned for their healing Magicks and rituals which were essentially knowledge of herbs and of how to be whole as a person in connection with the divine through nature and ritual. these individual connections with the divine threaten the ruling authority of the church, since if one could talk to god in his or her own practice, what need was there for a church? How then should the state rule the thoughts of its people?

Christmas, Halloween, Easter, May Day, and others have their origins in ancient pagan rituals. Christmas was a Druidic ritual held in a grove of oak and involving the slaughter of a sacrificial lamb, the lighting of candles, and the collection by of mistletoe to spread the blood of the lamb. It was celebrated under a different name obviously, and eventually became known as Yule. It’s the mistletoe that gives away its Druidic roots. The druids used the mistletoe to spread the blood of the sacrificed lamb on a tree I believe. https://gnosticwarrior.com/the-druid-festival-of-christmas.html.

The role of plants in changing a polytheistic peoples into a monotheistic peoples must be fascinating. Look what marijuana did for us.

All that being said, I do not by any means hate Christianity or the Christian god although I did spend time in my teenage years doing so. I’ll be the first to admit that I wanted to hate Christianity for its complicity in destroying the credibility of my gifts which I saw as curses. I wanted to hate Christianity for motivating me through fear for so long. But it was the interpretation I was exposed to which made me fear it and interpretation others were exposed to which made them condemn. The concepts are not the practices.

I believe that, like any religion, it is the practitioner’s interpretation of the religion and the practitioner’s corresponding actions which makes the concepts of it good or evil. I know many godly Christians who I would trust with my everlasting soul, and many who I wouldn’t trust with my spork at the lunch table.

So now we get into interpretation of the meaning of symbols in your ritual. If you are getting evil symbols and feedback…I hate to tell ya, but this is your interpretation of these symbols. What’s worse…if you’re interpreting symbols in a negative light, this is indicative of a general practice of doing such, which means the action you’re looking at changing is that of changing your mind. And that’s a lot easier said than done.

Yesterday I did a meditation for presence and DJ and I had a long lunch. Afterward he said, “That was nice. We should do that more often. Just be present.”

He didn’t know about the meditation, but a small five minute meditation in the morning allowed that moment to occur and a sign came back to me in the form of his comment. This is the feedback loop of the universal flow. We change the feedback loop by changing our actions, and changing action, as far as I know this far, is greatly mitigated in difficulty by engaging in ritual.

In fact, I believe it was the effectiveness of pagan ritual in connecting us with the divine that made it so condemned.

Anyways, a ritual can also be something as easy as making a practice of doing the or at regular intervals. So what is your same thing every day? What are your rituals? Why do you worship?

Are Millennials the Hero Generation?

This guy is my hero
This woman is too.

My sister and I were talking over the phone last night about finding meaning, “integrating work,” as Ms. White mentions above, with life, relationships, health, etc. in a purposeful and sustainable way.

White mentions the boomers vs. millennial sentiments we see floating around the internet. You know the ones: that the boomers are always making fun of millennials because we are the entitled generation, boomers worked hard, walked to school both ways in the snow, ate spam and made clothes out of flour sacks for soldiers and sold cigarettes to pregnant women. They did a lot of crazy shit. And millennials are just lazy, entitled, full of complaints about how they feel about things and what’s the point of it all?

But if Boomers’ kids, and their kids’ kids are concerned about things like meaning, are having to redefine success as something that incorporates meaning and health and sustainability, that is a sign that we have progressed. We aren’t entitled. Boomers have laid down the foundation of a world in which we can concern ourselves beyond the basics of security to such an extent that we have evolved to understand basic security is not all we need.

Putting down the younger generations for actually evolving is a little like laughing in the face of progress.

And putting down the older generations for not having evolved is a little counter intuitive and, yes, can look ungrateful. Did you know we are the most educated generation ever? Literally of all time? Our parents and grandparents hammered that shit home. Get an education.

I’m not going to say that being educated makes a person smarter. You can sit through as many classes as you want and pay for that piece of paper, but if you aren’t engaged and you’re not learning that paper is basically just a pass to access an inundated job market. That being said, really engaging in an education is priceless and I think it’s great that our parents and grandparents were so successful in getting us educated that education is no longer a guaranteed ticket to success.

My mom still thinks that having a master’s degree is a guaranteed ticket to employment. It is not if I rely on the linear models of success of which Ms. White speaks. The market is inundated with so many educated people we cannot pay educated people enough to compensate for the incredible school debts such people have accrued. But if I hustle, as Smiley suggests, my education has provided me with the tools, the creativity, and the discipline to create success for myself.

What that required first was this understanding of who I am, where I come from, what I’m working with, what my limitations are and which limitations I want to grow beyond. A quarter-midlife crisis. What I like about both of the above videos is that they emphasize turning this “Crisis” state into a search for meaning where meaning was lacking.

Now we get to be creative y’all.

One thing both videos touch on, as well, is the importance of emotional intelligence and taking responsibility for who we surround ourselves with (Smiley mentions “believers” or people who hold you accountable and Ms. White mentions taking responsibility for how we feel when we engage with social media). Both videos mention, too, that this emotional intelligence and responsibility lead to authenticity or, as they put it, alignment.

We’re the generation responsible for laying down the emotional groundwork for a society that values meaningful work–meaningful as in risking instability to work at a job that doesn’t require a person to mentally check out for eight hours of the day, doesn’t require misery, and doesn’t brutally degrade the body. Meaningful as in we have quality time with ourselves, each other, and find purpose in our existences.

This call for alignment rings bells in my mind associated with yoga, with Tao, with balance, meditation. Align your chakras. Align your heart with your body with your mind.

There are many who believe this alignment looks like present moment awareness which is what this desire to not “check out” at work looks like to me.

We want presence.

We want to stop living as faceless formless avatars and start living as human beings with purpose and intention.

We are seeking to become more aware of ourselves, our intentions, our actions, their consequences, and to become responsible for taking the first steps onto the risky plateau’s of valuing the emotional and physical well being of human beings OVER progress for the sake of progress or success for the promise of a stability that isn’t on the way.

The linear model of success is not only unsustainable for the individual, it’s unsustainable for our people and our planet.

Spending eight hours a day in a place you don’t want to be is, of course, going to make you unhappy.

Millennials, as mentioned above, are the “Purpose Generation,” the “Yes,” generation. Both of the above speakers mention that the first signs that they were not in the right career, despite being extremely successful, was the body shutting down or breaking down in an alarming manner.

Smiley, in the first video, woke up every day with shooting pains in his back that went from his leg all the way up his spine and persisted all day despite being only 28 at the time. Sally White, in the second video, was having seizures, couldn’t eat, couldn’t walk, couldn’t function and had to move home despite being extremely successful. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her except that she showed symptoms of chronic stress. She was in her mid twenties.

Both of them decided to pursue meaningful work, work that resonated with their personal values, and the physical symptoms went away.

A statistic I quite enjoyed from Smiley’s video is that “50% of millennials[…]would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values,”(Refusing to Settle).

Aw y’all. I’m touched.

I had no idea that at least half the people in my generation feel more motivated by the search for meaning than the search for material success. This makes me damned proud of my people.

It occurs to me that this whole process of being diagnosed, told to do this, that I’m susceptible to that, that I function this way and need to do things just so has been immensely taxing on my sense of autonomy. I was so terrified of my brain’s potential to betray me, I needed people who understood what was going on in there from a clinical perspective to tell me it was going to be alright. You’re not getting worse. You’re just wired differently. Not broken, just different. But putting down my defenses enough to let other people’s understanding of me define me felt violating.

I was one of those kids who did all the things she was supposed to do right up through grad school and into teaching. Those things I was supposed to do were bestowed on me by others who believed that such a model of success would guarantee well being, but it turns out that meaning must be found within and I could not find meaning in that model of success which aligned when it was handed to me.

Funny, I see all kinds of ways teaching is meaningful and loved that part of the job. But it felt wrong to be teaching people about meaning, about discovering their intentions for going to school, about understanding that it doesn’t guarantee success or intelligence, about how to craft meaning and engage in critical thinking and build their dreams through education, when I had not yet pursued that search for meaning for myself. Sometimes I would come into class feeling jaded about my future and the futures of my hopeful students and the discussion would lean dark and heavy. It felt irresponsible.

Equipped with that information and set free from the promise of further therapy, it behooves me to move forward from what has essentially been a quarter-midlife crisis (Who am I? What does all of this shit mean? Why do people do work they hate? Why do I? Take the risk. Make the leap.) into what these crises lead to–a shift in consciousness that allows for meaningful action to be taken.

What does this look like?

Both of the above videos also mention taking risks, not comparing one’s self to others, and “shifting away from a linear model of success,” by following one’s calling even as that calling progresses and shifts. We might not have just that one thing that defines us. But awareness of this inner calling and it’s shifts require emotional intelligence.

Both videos also talk about the influence of social media in creating incredibly high expectations for who we think we are supposed to be or where we believe we are supposed to be in life. Ms. White mentions that failing to be authentic on social media has created an expectation of perfectionism that isn’t achievable from any realistically human standpoint, while Smiley mentions that comparing ourselves to those inauthentic representations of successful people further distracts from understanding that success is defined by the individual if we are imbuing it with meaning. Meaning is subjective. Therefore one must look within to find it.

I believe Millennials, in this regard, are the Hero Generation.

Check this out.

In The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the purpose of the hero as follows:

“The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms. Such a one’s visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought. Hence they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn.The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man–perfected, unspecific, universal man–he has been reborn. His second solemn task and deed therefore (as Toynbee declares and as all the mythologies of mankind indicate) is to return then to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed.”

(p. 14-15, Campbell, 2008)

There is another Ted Talk called “Life Crisis? Start a Business,” by Bailey Richert, in which she describes the kinds of decision-making necessary in entrepreneurship as the kind of decision-making which allowed her to define those “visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought.”

She wasn’t just asking herself what she wanted, how she was going to get it and what that would look like. She was asking herself all of those questions after understanding that her “personal and local historical limitations,” (i.e. the linear model of modern success) were not representative of “more normally human forms.”

Each of the above Ted speakers finds themselves in positions of success according to the socially accepted model of success only to discover that such was formed by “a disintegrating society and psyche.” Each decides to “die as a modern [wo]man,” in the metaphorical sense by reaching that modern model of success and foregoing it’s promise of stability because of an inner call to find purpose and meaning. We might identify this as the Call to Adventure, the first step in the journey of the hero.

So maybe millennials look like the lazy generation because we are doing things a little bit differently than our bare-knuckle boomer forebears who muscled their way through life and buried those emotional scars done unto their psyches by the basic drive of any species to find stability.

They paved the way physically. They laid down the infrastructure. Gen Xers killed it with breakthroughs in technology, science, math, physics, psychology, medicine, etc. Now Millennials are seeing the social, individual, psychological, medical, and environmental impacts of such astounding progress, finding the paved paths to success end in material wealth while forgoing the “normally human forms” of wealth in relationships and self-actualization, and are trying to establish meaning, now, around what the astonishing progress is all in the name of if money and security are not the end game we thought they were.

We are the Hero Generation. We are dying to the modern ideas of man and woman, delving into the deep dark of the psyche, and bringing back boons like:

Ignoring one’s emotional state for too long leads to physical, mental, and spiritual degradation (demonstrated in the three videos mentioned above, in many of the videos I’ve shared on this blog, and in our country’s healthcare crisis, which may be linked to this crisis of meaning).

One thing to note is that Smiley talks about one successful entrepreneur friend of his who came to San Francisco from Spain with no job lined up, asked Smiley on the street (a perfect stranger at the time) if he needed a designer, and through that ask ended up becoming the head designer for a startup team of four or five people who were “bought out by Yahoo for 80 million dollars.”

That stranger heeded his call to adventure by moving across the world, to a city he didn’t know, without a job lined up, and asking complete strangers on the street if they needed a designer and the payout was enormous, not only monetarily, but because he’d followed his dream and become successful at it.

A lot of people are afraid to heed the call to adventure by taking risks. What if you invest in that business and you lose everything? What if you quit your job to get another and find there are none available to you? What if you pursue your dream and it never comes true? Is that worse than never pursuing it?

Those risks look different for everyone. Sometimes that risk is simply talking to another person. Sometimes that risk is turning to something other than self-destruction. Sometimes that risk is speaking your truth or letting someone down who you had hoped to hold up. The call to adventure comes from within.

“The first step,” Campbell wrote, “detachment or withdrawal, consists in a radical transfer of emphasis from the external to the internal world[…]to the peace of that everlasting realm that is within. But this realm, as we know from psychoanalysis, is precisely the infantile unconscious. It is the realm we enter in sleep. We carry it in ourselves forever[…]all the life potentialities that we never managed to bring to adult realization, those other portions of ourself, are there; for such golden seeds do not die. If only a portion of that lost totality could be dredged up into the light of day, we should experience a marvelous expansion of our powers, a vivid renewal of life.”

p. 12, Campbell, 2008

This process of withdrawal and going within to seek meaning is present in each of the above stories and Campbell describes this process as visiting the lost pieces of the self in the unconscious, those pieces left behind or forgotten or never realized, and bringing even one into the light of day.

Self-actualization.

Even more interesting, I think, is that he describes this process of individually hearkening to this call on a cultural scale.

“Moreover,” he wrote, “if we could dredge up something forgotten not only by ourselves but by our whole generation or our entire civilization, we should indeed become the boon-bringer, the culture hero of the day…”

p. 12, Campbell, 2008

Millennials are not lazy. We’re culture heroes. We are trying to face ourselves, go within to find meaning, reach beyond the stereotypes and limitations of modern culture to find the innocent self, the human self, and dredge up from those forgotten pieces of humanity into the light of day what it is we’ve been missing.

Alignment.

Presence.

Purpose.

Meaning.

Health.

Those are some pretty big forgotten pieces of culture. So I guess if you feel the need to withdrawal, if you are feeling like something is missing, wondering what it’s all for, maybe you’re hearing the call to adventure. Maybe it’s time to withdrawal, ask yourself what you want, take the risk. Probably your whole generation is feeling it. You’re not alone. We are all looking for meaning here. It’s alright. We are an entire generation of culture heroes.

For my own part, this attempt to appear completely transparent on an online platform has opened me up to a lot realizations about who I thought I was, who I actually am, and where to go from here. It was scary. That dive into the self is…well its uncomfortable. And every Hero’s journey is met with obstacles to be overcome, many from within. This journey through the self is a way to find the self that exists outside of the boundaries of the present and the culture. Strangely, presence is a great way to discover that self.

Practical Action Step: Meditate, exercise, dream.

Practical Action Step 2: Step outside your comfort zone into the direction of your dreams.

My Practical Action Step today was a morning meditation. This afternoon I’m going to record the first video in a vlog series. It’s a risk I’m not super stoked about taking if only because it feels uncomfortable, but it’s been in the works as an idea for the next step on this site for a while.

So here we go.

Starting in on that Practical Action.

Joining my fellow Culture Heroes.

Thanks all.

Be well.

References:

Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces. 17. New World Library.

Life Crisis? Start a Business | Bailey Richert | TEDxHarrisburg. (2016). [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybZp0Fi-Hws

Quarter Life Crisis: Defining Millennial Success | Sally White | TEDxRoyalCentralSchool. (2017). [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgf0OUsQJuA

Refusing to Settle: The Quarter-Life Crisis | Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky | TEDxYouth@MileHigh. (2015). [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddek3gQVt9Y

Manifest

My doggo has been sick for a couple days, so she and I have been up all night making sure she gets her business taken care of outside. She’s getting old and people food is now officially off the menu in all regards. I’m standing out there with her in the middle of the night wondering if there’s something I’ve done to manifest this, but sometimes a sick dog is just a sick dog who needs some love and care.

That being said, today is a follow up on the “do what you want and you will get what you want” spiel, adding a further layer of complexity to this beginning bud stage of what we call manifestation.

The basic principle of manifestation is that one receives what one puts out. The pioneers of the law of attraction in this age were Abraham and Esther Hicks with their channeled messages from a group of non-physical entities called Abraham. You can listen to their channeled messages on their website, on Youtube, or echoed in any modern practitioner’s philosophies. Their teachings were the basis of the movie The Secret, an oversimplified and fluffy introduction of to a concept that is actually a bit more complex.

I take what I will from philosophers and gurus and teachers, never comfortable with accepting any one person’s teachings as fully truthful or accurate, but one of the things that remains true for the law of attraction, or rule of three as it’s known in wicca, is that we attract experiences into our life via emotion.

Here’s the rub…

Our culture has suppressed us emotionally, told us to suck it up, and now we are a bunch of emotionally unintelligent people so we keep accidentally attracting all the things we fear or have suppressed. I believe learning to identify, own up to, and heal one’s emotions is the most important task granted to human beings today because I also believe that if multiple religions and teachings and philosophies over centuries and various cultures state that we get what we put out, perceive, and feel, that there’s probably something very valid about the idea.

That and I’ve practiced manifestation and emotional body healing and I will tell you from personal experience, healing emotional wounds changes the emotional landscape and changing the emotional landscape changes the physical, mental, and spiritual landscapes.

Teal Swan is a spiritual teacher who has many, many resources for emotional body healing. I highly recommend using them and I highly recommend approaching her teachings with a Buddha-like objectivity since too much attachment to any one person’s works or teachings is essentially and exercise in occultism.

Here are the nuts and bolts as I understand them. Feelings are like frequencies. As we walk through life, we collect experiences that offer us feelings around which we create narratives that influence how we perceive the world around us. If we have a collection of experiences that are good, it’s easy to have a good outlook. If we have a collection of experiences that are not so good…well, it’s much more difficult to have a healthy outlook on the world.

Mentally we can do our best to train ourselves into objectivity by understanding psychology, how people work, how we work, going to talk therapy, reading up on why people do awful things to each other and why people are good to each other.

Reading is an excellent way to understand people and different ways of thinking and is therefore also an excellent way to nurture and cultivate compassion.

We can try to reconcile with, punish, reinforce or change our behavior and that of others, but what we are ultimately aiming for is a place where everyone feels good. This is civility. Peace on earth. Etc.

People are not going to feel good until we learn how to feel.

And until we learn how to feel good within ourselves, we will try to change the world around us or will look to what is outside us to satisfy, to make us feel better, and so we buy things and vacation and enact laws that enforce a patriarchal Christian viewpoint on a nation that could probably use some archetypal divine feminine nurturing.  

When we feel trauma and suppress trauma, we hold that trauma and continue to manifest instances in our lives that reflect that trauma until we learn to face it…facing it meaning sitting with the emotion of it. These experiences are most commonly reflected in our relationships with others. An example I think many of us can relate to is in dating: Have you ever been or seen the person who dates different kinds of people but always ends up in the same kind of relationship? The common denominator is you, and yet you can’t understand why this shit keeps happening?

What a lot of people fail to mention regarding the law of attraction is this initial first step of getting good with yourself as absolutely necessary for conscious manifestation and then people go to try and manifest and think it’s bullshit when it doesn’t work. You can spend all your conscious energy, for example, telling yourself you want a big house and aiming for that, but if there’s a subconscious part of you that believes you don’t deserve it or aren’t worth it, that is the energy you are putting out into the world and you are going to keep not getting a big house. Even if you do get a big house, that subconscious part of you that believes you’re unworthy haunts the happiness you hoped to gain. I’m in the life I’ve been dreaming up since I was a dreamer, for example, but still have depression and anxiety that must be managed. It doesn’t matter what you manifest: If you are not good with you, that energy will poison the wellspring of your life. The only antidote is self-love.

On the word energy: Considering that matter vibrates at a frequency which allows it to hold shape, that frequencies change the shape and patterns of matter on the molecular level, and that we are made of matter, is it not reasonable to argue that thoughts and music (aka: frequencies…frequencies that we are able to CONSCIOUSLY CREATE with our mind brains people!) might affect the matter we are made of and the matter we come into contact with? Check out Dr. Masaru Emoto’s famous experiments on the effects of sound on water molecules here if you’d like a better and inspiring example of what I’m talking about. Also, is it not kind of ironic that EMOTE is in his last name.

The etymology of emotion

“emotion (n.) 1570s, “a (social) moving, stirring, agitation,” from Middle French émotion (16c.), from Old French emouvoir “stir up” (12c.), from Latin emovere “move out, remove, agitate,” from assimilated form of ex “out” (see ex-) + movere “to move” (from PIE root *meue- “to push away”). Sense of “strong feeling” is first recorded 1650s; extended to any feeling by 1808.” https://www.etymonline.com/word/emotion

Emotions are a reflection of how we move through, affect, and are affected by the world.

Google search says:

“e·mo·tion/əˈmōSH(ə)n/Learn to pronouncenoun

  1. a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”

We have a whole lovely cache of subconscious fears and programming to dig into in order to understand what frequencies (emotions) we’re putting out and we must learn to embrace and change that programming, but how do we do that if emotions are formed by encountering circumstances, relationships, and moods, all things that seem to be outside us or our control? All we can do is take responsibility for ourselves, our own actions, and our own reactions to the aforementioned stimuli.

Think about it.

My personal triggers are around fear of being cheated on. An ex cheated and it fucked me up. Afterwards, I suspected every boyfriend of cheating or being capable of it. I realized this was a story that was causing me to act towards them as though they were cheating whether or not they were. So I was creating a circumstance that was lose lose. I had to choose to embrace trust, jump into that fear, and stop telling that story by telling another one. You are loved. This person loves you.

Imagine that.

The story we tell ourselves about our experiences and our actions influence our perception of the world and people in it, which therefore influences how they react to us. Because emotions are instinctive, many of these exchanges of signals and reactions are so subtle, we are not aware of them. The more tuned in you are to your own and others emotions, the more apparent these signals become.

Here’s an exercise:

  • Write down something you’d like to manifest in your life.
  • Now, without thinking about it, write down all the reasons you want this thing in your life now.
  • Once you’re done with that, write down how you will feel when you have this thing.
  • Write down how you feel now.
  • What is the difference between what you are feeling now and what you imaging you will feel like when you have managed to manifest this thing?
  • The discrepancy between these emotions is the distance between you and manifesting your goal.

The closer you can align your emotions with the perceived emotion of receiving what you are manifesting, the more in alignment you will be with the manifested frequency. The law of attraction basically posits that we are tuning forks, that the tune is our emotional frequency, and that our conscious thoughts can change those frequencies.

So how do you begin to change your own mind if you are working from your own limited experience and perspective?

You must look at those experiences which formed your mind to begin with and change your mind about them. This is emotional body healing.

  • I encourage you to start by sitting in whatever emotion you are in right now. Breathe it in. Gently ask yourself when the first time you felt that emotion was. Sit with your eyes closed. Go back to the last time you felt this way. The time before that. The time before that. All the way back until you meet yourself experiencing this emotion for the very first time.
  • When did you first feel this emotion?
  • What did you need in this moment?
  • Picture your present self offering this past self exactly what you needed in that moment.

What happens when we do this is we create a mental landscape that allows us to learn the lessons from difficult experiences with a healthy cognitive distance. It also allows us to see where we are and how far we’ve come, that we are not our experiences, and that emotions are intensely powerful influences in our lives which can positively or negatively steer the course. It is up to us to take the wheel and drive and this exercise gives us a test run in taking the wheel.  

Whatever you are manifesting, may you start simple, may you love yourself, and may you always come from a place of love and the greatest good of all.

Also, keep in mind that you are as much a cause as an effect. What you eat, watch, think, love, spend time with, become you. If there are areas in your life that need some cleaning up, I encourage you to take those first steps today, even if all that means is figuring out how you feel.

Be well and in joy friends.

Ritual, Routine, and Prayer as a Guide for the Subconscious

In Manifest , I mentioned some basic philosophy around manifestation, authenticity, and facing one’s fears in order to heal one’s subconscious emotional material, effectively stopping this emotional material from influencing your actions and beliefs, thus allowing you to consciously craft beliefs that are more aligned with what you are manifesting.

The next step in the process is action.

For me, the difference between a good day and bad day can be as simple as waking up at 8 or 9 o’clock versus 11:30. The sense of time lost and things not done from waking up late gives me existential anxiety, perhaps worsened by the fact that I just turned 30. In truth, I’m so excited to be thirty. My twenties…well, they were fun but I’d never do that shit again. I feel like I’ve barely come out this side alive and even then I’m still standing here catching my breath. If my life were a video game I’d say I like to play on hard mode with nineties cheat codes and my twenties were like Laura Croft on PSP, good idea but the controls sucked and the rebirth of the franchise went to shit until PS3. Get it? 3? Like 30? Three is where it’s at.

All joking aside though, the number 3 is a big deal. The rule of 3 in Wicca is that for every finger you point at someone else you have 3 more pointing back at you. We celebrate and acknowledge three in the concepts of mind, body, spirit. We name three in calling upon the Mother, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 3 is known as the holy trinity.

In Betty Bethards Dream Book: Symbols for Self-Understanding, the text says, “dream has a spiritual message.” One excellent way of discovering our subconscious fears and working through them gently and easily is with dreams.

Try this, before going to bed at night, intend with a conscious breath, to dream tonight. Sleep with a journal by your bedside, and perhaps some mugwort (either tea or you can burn it like sage but it smells kind of like weed. Don’t drink mugwort tea if you are pregnant). If you have a dream book, great. If not, I would recommend being choosy about your book if you are going to try this out. My mom, her mom, and my sister and I have all used the same dream book, the one by Betty Bethards mentioned above, and it has made for some great conversation between my sister, mom, and I. The symbols are numerous, simplistic (which is good), and follow a Jungian archetypal model, so I believe many people in the western world can subconsciously identify with it’s symbols as they are as cultural as they are individual. I tend to think that the simpler and more common the definitions, the less suggestion is involved and the more we are allowed to interpret the meaning of a dream on our own. So, that’s the next step. Write down the actions of the dream, the sensory details, whatever you can remember upon waking up. Then look up the symbols in a dream book that you resonate with and see if you can uncover the story your subconscious mind is trying to work through. Write down a story about it. Connect the dots. Craft meaning. Doing this as a daily practice has had tremendous results for me, allowing me to stay present during the day, conscious of my self-talk and my inner narrative/dialogue, and dreaming regularly does wonders for creativity and opening the third eye chakra if that’s the kind of lingo you’re into. This is also a tremendous way to practice crafting a conscious narrative about your life, something that does change yourself and the world as you influence and are influenced by it. Perception is half the battle or half the fun depending on how you look at it. Ha.

Which leads a bit into the next point: Ritual/Routine.

Oddly, we can train ourselves like dogs. We are creatures of habit. When I work on the line, my line is set up the same way every day because if we get busy, I want to know where the pickles and the squash and fennel and dressing and dessert and cheese and sauce and fig compote and everything else is at without having to think too hard about it. Having things in place (mis en place) and knowing one’s mis en place can be the difference between a smooth service and a disastrous service. If I know where things are, I’ll put a salad together without even thinking about it, leaving my mind open to listen to expo, call back, organize plating next tickets, whatever. It just makes life easier.

Similarly, ritual is as effective, if not moreso, in changing our minds and behavior as routine. Routine is good as long as you are working for what you want or what is good for you…whatever. But sometimes we find ourselves in routines that need to be broken.

Ritual is like holding a tuning fork to one’s heart and soul. I like the good old fashioned Wiccan practice of drawing a circle around me, thanking each of the elements and each of the directions, and then simply clearing my head, asking for guidance, and meditating for a short while, focusing on my breath. Holding my hands in prayer at the heart chakra or palms up on the knees is centering as well.

I very much like to use crystals, herbs, cups, candles, incense, and or sage in my rituals because giving ourselves sensory reminders of what intentions we are setting during the ritual creates more neural pathways to this memory of setting this intention and therefore reinforces it.

If a ritual like this is too hokey or woowoo for you, something as simple as a bath, a walk, a sit at the park, a meal, or a dance can be a ritual, so long as you set an intention.

To me, routine is the track and ritual sets the direction, so if you find you are in a routine that is taking you the wrong direction, ritual is a great way to reset the arrow. Doing a big ritual on a full moon with some friends full witch style or just going to a body of water by yourself to take a dip are just as effective.

Try this: Get a piece of thread or string that is a pleasing color to you. Tie it around your wrist or ankle and just let yourself feel what the color inspires in you. If it had a word what would it be? If you could picture yourself feeling this way, what would you be doing? Where are you? Now, every time you notice this thread, stop and let yourself breathe in that picture.

Here’s the deal: if what you are picturing is very much out of alignment with your life, you’re probably going to start noticing those blocks. For instance, if one notices the thread in a business meeting, imagining a trip to Thailand could feel awful since you are not in Thailand and won’t be for quite some time. This then equates negative emotions with the envisioned vacation and, if you ascribe to the notion that emotions are the tuning fork for the frequency one is manifesting, the response from the universe is vacation=badfeels and we do not get vacation.

It could also be inspiring. The point of this exercise is to inspire but it can backfire. You are responsible for crafting the narrative. Positive breeds positive and negative breeds negative. If you are envisioning something and telling yourself it’s impossible on a subconscious level, that’s the vibe you’re putting out. I might recommend starting with something small, like picturing yourself eating breakfast every morning or something. We often need to prove to ourselves that we can do little things in order to do bigger things, so it’s okay to take baby steps.

I’m fully aware how out there and hokey and bogus a lot of this sounds, but I wouldn’t be writing it down here if I hadn’t tested and practiced these methods for the better part of my life. That’s another story for another form of media perhaps. I’ve approached these philosophies with skepticism and tried them with as much objectivity I could muster and can say that they have helped me and others and my life is richer for them.

Lastly, I will touch on Prayer. Rebecca Campbell in her book, Light is the New Black has an entire chapter on prayer and, indeed, spells out a lot of concepts I touch on here in a user-friendly guide sort of way. It’s a tremendously inspiring book if you are into the concept of manifestation.

Prayer was something I felt forced into. Always. When I was younger, the concept of the ruthless Christian God was lorded over my child psyche and my hands came together in prayer because grandpa said so. I believed for a little while, and then decided being in fear of god was no way to live. I returned to prayer a couple years ago because I nothing was working. I surrendered and prayed to a version of the universe or god or grace as I had come to understand it, and my life changed. Drastically. Quickly. Tremendously. However prayer is something one comes to in one’s own time. I remember being encouraged to pray and finding it distasteful, so if you do not pray, that’s okay. I think if we do come to it, we do so through surrender and sometimes we are not yet ready or willing to surrender our egos to our souls. For my part, prayer, routine, and ritual are the nuts and bolts that were necessary to lay the groundwork for building a better life than the one I was in and remain tools I use to plant the seeds for what life is to come.

Do you have other tools or methods for laying the groundwork? Have you used these tools before?

May you plant some good seeds today and cultivate those you are blessed with.

Lens of Perception: What’s Your Real?

For anyone who has been reading here for a while, a lot of what I do is explore how intention and action become results, especially when results seem to come as unintended consequences of accidental actions even though they are the results we were looking for in the first place.

Our subconscious brains fit pieces together while our conscious brains go along clumsily omitting and stitching together pieces of experience to create a story that makes sense to it, which usually means that story is missing something.

I set out, when starting dualnaturehuman, to discover what we left behind as part of our human experience in adopting our rational mind, western world view and I have encountered some profound lessons since starting.

1: I actually want children (my biological heart wins out over my rational mind and I think this is the norm for human beings, not the exception. The heart wins!)

2: My curiosity around psychosis, psychedelics and plant medicine was pretty close. Jeremy Narby, an anthropologist from Stanford who studies the medicinal plants of the Ashaninca in the Amazon, discovers in his research of their plant medicine and lifestyle that these people experience the hallucinations of their world on Ayuhuasca as real. What’s more, he discovers that these people enter a state of awareness that allow them to be aware of what is taking place in their bodies on a molecular level so they can understand what exactly the plant is doing in their brain and how to synthesize it. And finally, these people are also not the exception. They are the rule.

3: The snake is representative in many tribal and Amazonian and ancient cultures across the world (via Joseph Campbell, who this Narby guy references fancy that) of the fissure between the two hemispheres of the brain, of DNA, of the “ladder” (double helix) that let man descend to earth from the heavens and ascend to the heavens from earth, and that this DNA activation is essentially what is happening when Shamans in these cultures participate in plant ceremony.

I’ve been trying to find the blind spot and Narby identifies it as plant medicine, furthering his claim by explaining that because the spirits and beings that the Ashaninca people see in their hallucinations are accepted as real, because the world of hallucinations is as real if not more realm to them than the merely rational world through which the western lens is aimed, they are capable of learning from their own DNA things that our ancestors new and things about plants that our own pharmaceutical companies can only rip off, synthesize, and profit from with a minimal degree of success in comparison to these tribal healers. Again this guy is from Stanford University so this isn’t just me rambling or making conjecture as usual.

Remember that Kundalini snake I told you about some time ago? I’ll put that post up here if it’s not, but I was talking about this snake and Joseph Campbell and how the snake is representative of our collective ability to individuate ourselves from the archetypal parents and become self-actualized, excerpt the western world has forgotten those rights of initiation?

In his research, Narby discovers some research about the cosmic anaconda in the mythologies of the Desana. He quotes Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff from the book “Brain and Mind in Desana shamanism”:

“Within the fissure [between the two hemispheres of the brain] ‘two intertwined snakes are lying, a giant anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and a rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria), a large river snake of dark dull colts and an equally large land snake of spectacularly bright colors. In Desana shamanism, these two serpents symbolize a female and male principle, a mother and father image, water and land…; in brief, they represent a concept of binary opposition which has to be overcome in order to achieve individual awareness and integration. The snakes are imagined as spiralling rhythmically in a swaying motion from one side to another.”

(Narby 57).

Imagine my surprise upon reading that this search for what was missing, this language, this individualization and this experience of other worldly beings—all this stuff I’ve been trying to explain and understand, is not able to be rationalized in our culture because we do not believe in what we cannot see. what’s more, it’s a common, ancient part of human experience that is wired into our DNA.

Further, the implications of how these people use plant medicine and hallucinations alongside interactions with other-dimensional beings to learn what modern science has not been able to replicate in terms of their bio diverse farming or pharma techniques implies that consciousness is something we in the western world are experiencing in an extremely limited capacity, if nothing else.

I only wound up here because modern science could not explain to me what I was experiencing, nor could any diagnosis be made nor any medicine applied. What’s more, I have a strangely diverse background of multi-religious exploration, ceremony, and trance states, along with a fundamental knowledge of Jungian symbolism and Joseph Campbell’s works that allowed me to explain to a therapist what I understood about interacting with other-dimensional beings and the symbolic nature of the subconscious in such a way that she said she was looking forward to one day seeing my work.

So maybe I am onto something.

Lately I figure that identifying the realistic parameters of the experiences are less important than simply telling them as they are. We live in a world in which the very foundations of our reality is being questioned and the work I do is meant to anchor me to a foundation of reality that exists in myth across time across cultures so we can persist while our own limited perspective dies away.

Insanity is defined by ones inability to adjust to the reality and expectations of one’s culture, but when that culture is itself insane from lack of originality or new thought, or if that culture is in transition from one set of beliefs to another. (As I believe we are) it is this narrative of the timeless human condition that holds us firm. The journey of the hero through light and dark, across land and sea, individuate from the mother and father, brings us to a trust in our own hearts, our own ability to persevere, and maintains sanity where there is none.

What’s more, we suffer this journey regardless of whether we choose it. We are in the youthful throws of binary bickering here in America. I believe we possess the capability to become individualized, but the back and forth must inform the consciousness which proceeds, not own it. We haven’t yet separated ourselves as a country from our mothers and fathers, slaves and plantation owners, rich men and poor men, whole human or almost human.

These narratives weave their way through our culture like these binary snakes, like the DNA which Ayuhuasqueros can become aware of and learn about in trance states.

The stories we believe about reality are perhaps as influential in creating it as what is objectively real, if only because we act upon what we believe and we are fully capable of creating anything from dinner to vast civilizations.

We are being asked to look at the old stories, to repair them, to rewrite them. I only hope that in the rewriting, we manage to reconcile the snakes.

On my own search for individuation, the snake has appeared to see me across thresholds of consciousness that challenged everything I’d been told about reality and what’s real. It also allowed me to see beyond the confines of the binary. All I can say is that the discovery of this book and its author is a huge step for me in the direction of this exploration. A Stanford scientist is over here asking questions I’ve been trying to understand for years and confirms the blind spot between science and this ayuhuasqueros is in their understanding of the fundamentals of reality, one of which includes other-dimensional beings, and one which does not, but both perspectives have created medicine. Both are valid in their own ways, so at least I’m not just crazy. What a relief.

In the meantime, I will continue to explore kundalini, the snake, and myth. I’m currently exploring the effects of the imagination on body-awareness and present moment awareness in relationship to manifestation.

Manifest Update

Since I posted quite a lot about manifestation last winter, I figured a check-in was due. Let’s see.

Six months ago I didn’t have a job. A friend lent me money to pay rent. I couldn’t manage my finances at all. I was drinking every day, trying to quit cigarettes, my relationship was in the toilet and our car’s busted out back window had admitted enough rain into the carpet and seat that mold began to grow there. Dishes were piled in the sink for days at a time. I would hardly go outside for days at a time. I called all of my contacts every day–by that I mean the handful of people I talk to. I hated myself and the people I love hated me pretty well as well. I”d ruined an opportunity to work in an organic, scratch kitchen that was my dream job and I was feeling pretty damned sorry for myself.

Now I am working full time selling healthy food to people. We both got out of the service industry right before the pandemic hit, found our way into grocery stores, and then the pandemic hit and we worked all through it. I am teaching cooking classes and writing for my company’s blog. I’m running every day. DJ and I have a steady income, a new car, and are moving into a two-bedroom apartment next month. I regularly keep up with the chores and cooking. We’re cooking up plans for a business, a family.

Six months.

What changed?

While significant change takes a little bit of effort every day (sometimes a lot every day), for changes to become habits and habits to manifest as results, I was stuck in a rut for a while there before the upward trend started, just bumping up against what felt like an invisible wall.

Resistance to change, time to adapt to new perception in a new place after being in the same familiar one for thirty years, addiction, fear, and clinging to identifying labels for security were holding me back from enthusiastically moving forward into what is an objectively good life I think. I’m blessed.

Appreciation I think is where it starts. I think this is why people with depression sometimes use humor to cope. It’s not always easy to see a silver lining or a route to hope, but laughter can cut through depression better than most things. A dark sense of humor can become a gateway to a more optimistic outlook and a more optimistic outlook can and does create positive outcomes if acted upon. I think most people have this capability to think about doing something, learn about doing something, envision doing something, set out to do something, and get it done given enough time.

That being said, I think there are things we can set out to do that are timeless: heal family wounds, maintain and strengthen the bonds of our currently existing relationships, cultivate inner peace that we may bring peace to our days and to others, test the self, hold to values that have been tested and proven to improve your life and the lives of those around you. Test those values all the time and question always how this can be done better. I don’t think achievement, joy, kindness, intelligence, passion, ingenuity, and resources are lacking in the world but media does perpetuate fear because we engage more readily on a subconscious biological level with a fight or flight response and because this fear causes us to consume more media in which we are looking for answers to mitigate those fears.

Our instincts know things that have been informed by thousands of years of evolution and those instincts can be trained and honed, but I was allowing mine to be trained and honed by the hatred, anger, and fear mongering media.

Step one: No More Social Media.


Be the Lighthouse.

I don’t know who, if anyone anymore, might read here, but a lot of what I explore is how consciousness shifts, how personality changes, and how we engage with dialogues about sanity.

What I’ve been doing for a while now is recording the events that mark shifts in my consciousness, between identities, archetypal encounters, personalities, dreamscapes, and values, over the course of a lifetime. We are complex, multi-faceted, multi-talented creatures that have been taught to distrust our instincts.

I would argue there has never been a better time to proceed through life on instinct, since there has never been so much knowledge available with which to inform and train one’s instincts. The original explorers of consciousness via instinct and knowledge were known as shamans. Neo shamanism is experiencing a resurgence in the west, I would guess because, like Campbell’s hero, the shaman ventures beyond the realms of sanity and the civilized to bring the boons of knowledge back from the dark mother, nature, chaos, introversion, receptivity, vulnerability, aloneness to the sun father, analysis, order, consciousness, community.

So this is the magic my people work with—a resurgence of divine femininity and intuition.

I think the reason I liked Augusten Burroughs’ Toil&Trouble so much is he explained how he understood magic, topically with anecdotes with which I identified, and then named this term for me: Chaos magic.

If I’d been introduced to that term another way, the word might have sounded too out there for me to stand by: Chaos.

But out of chaos comes order and by god here we are doing this thing called life. The proteins for life and the likelihood of their synthesis is less than the number of observable number of atoms in the universe (Narby, 75).

So how do we actively engage this transmutation?

If you haven’t read any of my journal entries yet, then maybe you don’t know I appear to be batshit crazy, or at least flitting up against the entrance to the cave of batshit crazy. That’s fine with me. I had to stop caring about whether or not I was sane. It is what it is.

Make believe is a powerful tool, and visualization. Athletes use visualization techniques, as do yogis, and you better believe that the better you can visualize something, the more likely you are to be able to achieve that goal. There’s something about doing the reps.

Our subconscious minds are powerful tools. When we envision something we desire, spend time with that idea in our minds, especially if that vision makes us feel good, the subconscious brain will work to focus more on that, so opportunities for creating the envisioned result start to appear as though out of nowhere, when really our unconscious mind has simply been trained to look for those clues. This is what people who practice manifestation perceive as synchronicity. Similarly, I think there are some synchronicities that appear too mystifying to pass off as mere chance.

Note: We perceive so very little of reality that consciously looking for these opportunities without letting the subconscious do the work of seeking via feeling and visualization is far more taxing and far less likely to yield results.

Values: Humility. Curiosity. Light-heartedness.

I have three careers: Cook, Teacher, Writer. Six months ago I was writing thinking it would go nowhere.

At work, we write nightly e-mails to let the Managers and CEOs know what operations look like in the store on a day-to-day basis. My manager asks me to please not write the same thing every night since that’s what most of the employees do and she has to read them all.

Every day, I start telling a story in the nightly email and the regional manager so enjoys reading them so much, she asks me to reach out to bloggers for collaborations. I look into it, realize we should probably have a company blog if we’re going to reach out, and a week later, we have a blog for which I’m now collaborating with an RD to write about nutrition and health.

As for the cooking classes, I originally applied at the grocery store to teach the classes they hold there, but they needed a grocery clerk, which has proven beneficial to my health and sanity as it is a very mellow job. Being a line cook for 12 years was enough for me. I need regular meals and snacks and pee breaks now and a busy line in July calls for a catheter and colostomy bag if you plan on eating or drinking at all. Just kidding (only kinda).

How a job at a grocery store became a job that encompasses all three of my careers might be a resulting mix of luck, persistence, patience, and hard work, but it seemed to happen naturally and all at once. Like one day I was a clerk and the next I was doing all the things I’d set out to do.

Fundamental shifts in how I spend my time and what I value occurred as well, and it’s these, I think, that create the real changes.

The Value of Time:

When I quit drinking, for example, I had to acknowledge that I drank because I didn’t value myself and my time, didn’t want to put the effort in to test my abilities against the challenges that stood between me and my goals, and didn’t want to face the feelings of worthlessness instilled in me by my own lack of integrity and by others’ responses to that lack of integrity.

I’d wasted quite a lot of my time wallowing in alcohol because alcohol distanced me enough from any sensation of ambition or hope for something better that I could go one more day leaving that call unheeded. Alcohol was a panacea against realizing myself, my limitations, and my abilities. Instead of testing myself, I was trying to preserve myself in time, make it stand still, pickling my liver until I was ready to move forward again only to discover the waiting weakens and the longer I wait the harder it gets to start. Just do. Just stop now and do.

I realized alcohol was primarily a thief of my time, so I started to ask myself, what do you want to spend your time doing? That’s what you should spend your time thinking about. Work became easier when I started enjoying my time at home instead of drinking it away.

Humility:

I was wrong I was so wrong~

There’s no better place to start.

Right and wrong are subjective and we ultimately must live with ourselves alone and die alone so instead of being right or wrong lets just be relaxed and kind.

Boundaries:

Sometimes when you’re relaxed and kind, people who aren’t relaxed and kind feel more unsettled in their own skin. People compare. Don’t compare yourself to others just to who you were yesterday and all that. I started to be more understanding of people because it feels better.

A nurse comes in to the grocery store where I work and yells at me about needing to enforce how people in the store wear their masks, then asks me for a couple scoops of ice cream, which seems to me the most likely place in the store for the potential of transmission if it’s going to occur here. She’s probably tired and needed to blow off some steam. I like to have ice cream after blowing off steam too.

It feels better to say, “Okay,” let her yell a second, and then say, “Okay,” again and continue ringing up her purchases. There’s a pause and some beeping and scanning while she realizes that she’s yelling at a clerk about masks who is wearing a mask, that she has no reason to yell at me, everyone in the store is properly masked. It is hilarious when she asks for ice cream. She needs it.

To me, this feels lighthearted. Let her blow off steam. Who am I?

My identity has primarily been formed as a backdrop of people’s projections in the past. I stand quiet and watch and people talk at me and I listen and am in the space of their emotions, their motivations, their desires because this is the space I’m in.

When faced with something for which one has no language to categorize nor mythology to contextualize, we are left in a zone of receptivity in which we face ourselves against what is. Without language, we have no personality. Without personality, the possibilities to become are infinite. I argue it’s no words and labels and definitions which hold us back from our unrealized potentials quite often as well.

“We introduce our focus of study—personality and language—with the words of Louis Milic (Milic, 1966, p. 82):
The fundamental assumption is that the style of a writer is an idiosyn- cratic selection of the resources of the language more or less forced upon him by the combination of individual differences summarized under the term “personality”. This selection might be called a set of preferences ex- cept that this term suggests that the process is mainly conscious and willed. Although it is doubtless true that some part of the process of composition is deliberate and conscious, especially at the level of meaning, much of it is not fully conscious and it is this part which is of greater interest to the stu- dent of style. The reason is obvious: The unconscious stylistic decisions are less likely to be affected by the occasional and temporary characteris- tic of a given composition (its subject matter) and are more likely to reveal something the writer might be struggling to conceal. If we are interested in his personality, such information would naturally be of great interest […]”

Alastair James Gill, PHD, University of Edinburgh 2003.

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.65.217&rep=rep1&type=pdf

As a writer, or as someone who watches, we learn to see the personality of a person is defined quite often by what they do not do or say. Like a person who doesn’t react to being called names probably has a pretty solid self-esteem. A person who says, “Let’s work hard today everyone,” is probably the most likely to pop off for a smoke break in ten minutes. People don’t usually say what they mean.

Our words are actually quite powerful in this way. They lay the foundations for the structures of our thought, for what we believe possible, and they create the symbolic pathways by which we hope to achieve our goals. We learn to ask for things or say no, communicate desires and boundaries, and words appear to be the first in a series of communications which defined the personality.

As a kid who didn’t talk much, a defined personality isn’t something I would say I carried around with me from person to person. Again, I felt more like people were seeing projections of themselves when we spoke than they were seeing me.

The more I put into words, the more I commit to the suggestion of a personality, the less possibility. Am I making sense? This is a sensation I’m having trouble expressing in this context t but may make more sense in my book which is in its organization phase.

Because I was the kind of kid who turned stress into focus and creativity and because alcoholism took so much from me and because I’m not drinking and things are clearing up again, it seems necessary to write it all down on a book.

The memories started coming back after a night I spent in jail a couple weeks ago. I slipped up, drank a bottle of cooking wine, locked myself out of the apartment and through a rock through the glass door to get back in. Someone had shattered it not two months before, so I guess my drunken brain remembered this and thought it would be the best way to go about it. The cops thought I was a burglar or looter and I was held in mod-security for a day on felony property destruction with malicious intent.

They dropped the charges and we paid for the door (DJ helped me out and even talked to my mom…I love that man) and I remembered the people I love who’ve been to jail and we’ll just say a lot of things about my life and choices became clear.

The cops here in Seattle are pretty ruthless lately too. The protests have not improved their cuddliness factor.

So I’m writing. I’m writing about the changes fundamental personality shifts have required of me (changes that I’ve documented in detail and which are not well-known to psychologists—how do humans change their behavior—and of the influence of alcohol on myself, friends, and family.

A person who undergoes these transformations needs close friends to remind them sometimes of the correct course. When all the possibilities arise, it’s easier to be unkind than kind. Reminders help us to do the hard work of learning to be kinder than we were yesterday.

Sound & Fury

Firstly, if you haven’t seen Sturgill Simpson’s Sound & Fury on Netflix, check that shit out.

Secondly this post is about arguments.

DJ and I can get into some pretty heated arguments. Sometimes, when the fights get really bad, I start pulling all the clothes out of the closet as though to pack and go to a hotel. I take the key ring with the car key instead of my keys and we argue about who is taking the car half-heartedly because we both know I will only take the dog on a walk to the park and back and then we will be calm.

Sometimes we talk it out. Sometimes that’s not necessary. It’s just another argument built up from the tension of our lives.

A 390 square foot place with a big lazy dog and another person becomes cramped after a year no matter how much you love them. Thankfully, we’re moving soon, but the time in a tiny place together has taught us a lot about each other and ourselves.

My projection issues, for instance, are all but gone finally. I’m taking responsibility. The other day I understood how out of touch with reality I’ve been when I watched a documentary about extreme sportsman—surfers, skiers, wing suit jumpers, base jumpers, etc.—and this free diver sank to the bottom of the ocean in the full lotus position amongst a bunch of sharks and meditated for three minutes and something without air.

I cannot (not can many, I suppose) fathom ever doing this in my life. A younger me might have envisioned what it would take to train, what fear would have to be overcome for me to swim with sharks, might have thought if I try hard enough I could…

Today, my ego is less in the picture. I’m seeing reason a bit more clearly. There’s no way I’m going to be training to meditate with sharks any time soon and what that man did was truly amazing. I feel grateful to have witnessed it.

In the place between identities, when one ego has died and we are in flux while the other takes shape according to the new environment (psychic, spiritual, physical, or some combination of these), possibilities arise. Opportunities knock.

When I first moved here, I didn’t know how much of my ego would stay behind in my hometown and how much shame I would have about becoming the woman I became. Then again, the shame was a reflection of a superego with harsh judgements and a warped urge to please others born from an over attachment to my mother who I never completely differentiated myself from in terms of my values and identity until about six months ago.

Neurosis.

I’m starting to enjoy collaboration. My paranoia about people is dissipating. Once, I truly hated people. I believed that human beings, by our nature, are self-serving, unkind, and fearful.

I think I may have mentioned in an earlier post that, for me, one of the most important words to meditate upon in recovery is Responsibility.

For me, this looks like taking responsibility for my emotional state by acknowledging my thoughts about a situation honestly—be it good or bad—and taking action that is aligned with what feels right, based on reasoning what the best course of action is for the desired outcome for all involved.

My responsibility is to take actions that lead to my own greatest well being and the greatest wellbeing of others to the best of my ability and to think thoughts that cultivate these actions so much so that right action becomes instinct as well as I can manage, which is going to look like wrong action to someone inevitably somewhere unless I believe in some kind of inherent human truth.

But then I have to believe I am capable of perceiving is inherent truth which means perhaps others are not unless I’m willing to accept I cannot possibly be thinking truth all the time which, we come to discover, is truer than the possibility of one knowing anything at all.

So it is to those in my own direct line of contact I must defer firstly.

To do this, I must be present in the moment. There is no right or wrong, objectively. Right action is subjective to context, so moment-to-moment awareness is required to make choices that are properly contextualized.

In order to be present in the moment, I must let go of past traumas and their influence on my current emotional state, perception, and actions.

In order to let go of trauma, I walk into the eye of the storm. I feel pain. The voices grow loud. The shame and the guilt manifest as demons to be exorcised and sent to other planes of existence by the grace of whatever created such a place as this.

Without story, what chaos.

I am responsible, therefore, for writing this story of my life by taking conscious action according to the story I tell myself about a situation which is a collection of ambient thoughts that make me feel good or bad about a situation. The action I want to take is not in reaction to my feelings, however, but as proactive steps to enact change.

This looked like when I wanted a beer and the craving was taking over I’d tell that demon to fuck off and go running instead. If I couldn’t power through I’d walk. Then the craving gets loud and I run again. I talk to someone, read a book, call a friend, anything.

My feed that demon.

This looks like the conscience on my shoulder telling me I’ll feel better in this house when the dishes are done motivating me to action instead of being drown out by blame or anger or excuses like it’s his turn.

This looks like forgiving myself when I’m lazy and standing up for myself when it is his turn.

It’s a moment-to-moment choice of thought content to cultivate peace. This is my form of rebellion now.

The more I take responsibility for my feelings, my place, my narrative, the more I’m able to give to others from a place of simply wanting to give. I’m not asking others to fulfill my emotional needs, to give me anything, to do anything they wouldn’t do. I’m not needing or demanding or controlling or paranoid like I was when I felt weak and vulnerable and crazy.

No one owes me anything.

My personality is starting to emerge anew as someone who likes to garden and give gifts and take care of her skin. Cooking and cleaning, once burdensome chores made better with music, are now relaxing activities with satisfying end results that contribute to the wellbeing of my entire household.

The selfishness of my youthful ego, so eager to become someone, has been transplanted here and grown into a contented someone of no importance to anyone of any importance, but a functioning member of her community and home all the same. The small pleasures this grants me are innumerable.

At night I massage DJ’s shoulders and his back, sometimes his arms and legs, his hands and feet too if he’s lucky and I’m not too tired. The satisfaction I get from seeing him satisfied is something a mentally-ill me didn’t understand.

True love needs nothing.

The Fury:

It surprises me how even after I announced that the writing here was a stream-of-consciousness journal from the point of view of a mentally ill person, all of my words were taken at face value by some readers, as though in my heart of hearts I intended all the horrible victim thoughts and angry rants.

1 in 4 people will experience symptoms of mental illness in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization.

1 quarter of all people.

For many, those symptoms come in wake of a loss—a loved one, a job, an opportunity, a dream. Significant changes to the foundational pillars of our lives—divorces, deaths, and relocations, pandemics—activate the shifting spheres of personality as we learn to let go of some behaviors and adopt new ones in order to adapt.

This process is what I believe Jung was talking about when he said the following:

“The archetype is a symbolical formula, which always begins to function whenever there are no conscious ideas present, or when such as are present are impossible upon intrinsic or extrinsic grounds.”

Psychological Types: Or, The Psychology of Individuation, (Jung, 476).

Firstly, if we look closely at this statement, the absence of conscious thought, or the presence of conscious thoughts that are impossible against the assumed ideas of reality, is a state of madness or insanity.

Sanity is engaging in an agreed upon reality and operating in a form whereby the balance leans more towards peace, hopefully.

Carl Jung documented his own decline in sanity, something I too have been documenting in my own life unwittingly. The more I learn about him, the more I feel he is my spirit animal.

I’m sort of learning to have a sense of humor.

So we establish that the conditions of healing archetypal consciousness and recognizing it require a lack of sanity from the outset or a very detailed and continuous dream analysis. I think this is why mushroom trips are so good for people. They set off the ego death and are a marker for the experience as something intentionally embarked upon.

Secondly, the observer of the archetypal consciousness is also, I believe, the witness consciousness or soul consciousness mentioned in Buddhism or in the teachings of Ram Dass. These observers of people and leaders in the fields of consciousness necessarily push the boundaries of sanity.

I tell myself this is what I’m doing when I’m really losing it—not from a place of ego or because I think I’m so profound or anything. Many of my thoughts are neurotically cyclical—but because a positive narrative is always a lifeline of hope.

Further research reveals that the idea of archetype “activation” is also present in animals:

“Following Wilson’s lead, the psychiatrist Anthony Stevenssees archetypes at work in ethology, the study of animal behaviour in natural habitats. Animals have sets of stock behaviours, ethologists note, apparently activated by environmental stimuli. That activation is dependent upon what are known as ‘innate releasing mechanisms’. The fungus cultivated by the leafcutter ant ensures the ant only collects the kind of leaf that the fungus requires. The emerald head of the mallard drake causes the mallard duck to become amorous. Other characteristics from maternal bonding to male rivalry might be called archetypal too.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jun/20/jung-archetypes-structuring-principles

The archetype I faced in this bout with insanity was the devouring mother. Nature, the dark, creative, chaos. She is the mother who will always nurture so you will never leave, like the evil spider mother in Tim Burton’s Coraline. She is the divine feminine’s shadow side, feminine power gone unchecked, chaos run rampant without reason, time without patience. Death and destruction.

We experience archetypes according to the symbolic language of our culture because language is what structures our narratives and therefore understanding of experience.

An experience like realizing I have forgotten what it means to love is really an experience for which there is no words. The blooming understanding of how not to be selfish, of what gratitude feels like, of gently opening to trust and the possibility of happiness, are not experiences for which there are words.

We have stories. We have events that reveal. We have actions and choices taken and interpretation. We have language and narrative and consciousness some of the time.

If 1 in 4 people experiences mental illness in their lifetime according to significant change, it seems likely many people are experiencing mental illness right now.

What instincts have been activated in our people and our neighbors?

Jung wrote, also, that these archetypal activations override reason, that objectivity is impossible, essentially, because one experiences the archetype by adopting definite behaviors and ideals, at least temporarily—embodying a structure of behavior based on a sort of collective symbolic knowing deemed the collective unconscious. He continues:

“These subjective tendencies and ideas are stronger than the objective influence; because their psychic value is higher, they are superimposed upon all impressions.”

Psychological Types: Or, The Psychology of Individuation, (Jung, 476).

This is projection. What this means is that when one is in a state in which some shock has rocked their world view to such an extent that something they believe is impossible is suddenly possible—again, loss, divorce, death, relocation—they are temporarily governed by instinctive action born from the collective unconscious (which may be, simply, biological instincts communicated via culturally symbolic narrative structures) which SUPERSEDE reason and logic.

All interpretations of events in this state of mind are colored by the activated archetype and are therefore projections of one’s subconsciousness upon experience. Since the experience is one in which one is either not conscious or cannot consciously reconcile with occurrences, one projects ideas into the experience and takes action to test them until a more solid understanding born of trial and error brings the experience into such focus that language can then be used to categorize it into a reasoned, communicable state.

I didn’t know that I was facing down the internalized judgements of my mother’s value systems based on how she rewarded me or withheld love from me as a very young child, something all people must overcome or remain symbiotic with. I didn’t know that losing my mind would be necessary to undo those value systems or that putting a new one in place would mean I didn’t know what I stood for for a while.

What this implies about the ability to communicate peacefully is that is the height of reason and compassion, for to communicate with a person who lacks reason and consciousness, one must speak with emotions and learn to unhear the words. Words spoken without reason are often hurtful since they are born of these projections.

To admonish an unreasonable person for not having reason is as good as poking a sleeping bear. No argument can be won with reason if had with the unreasonable. It is the duty, therefore, of the reasonable, to show the way to the path of reason, whether the horse will follow or not. I did not know that glimpsing reason was as chance and lucky a thing as it is.

Then again, plenty of unreasonable people have responsibly human hearts and will act for the rights of a person despite what foolish beliefs they may claim to cling to. The problem with clinging to the languages of reason and science and logic to inform a decoded reality is that these are not the only mechanisms by which humans operate and understand one another.

We are entering an era in which we are decoding the barriers that stand between apparently opposite disciplines, such as Wicca’s rule of three and the observer effect in physics alongside the law of attraction in new thought, and the microcosm reflecting the microcosm in Jungian personality theory. They all, across disciplines, can be said to be representative of a phenomena about which each discipline seems to have only a small part of the picture and offers its own interpretive lens of analysis for explanation. A bigger picture waits to unveil a more all-inclusive outlook.

Emotional, spiritual, logical, social, individual, and physical intelligences are some we are capable of. If all exist on one plane, there must be a narrative in which all are possible that supersedes what humans think we know about being human.

In theories like Anil Seth’s Ted Talk How Does Your Brain Construct Your Conscious Reality? Seth, a neuroscientist, explains what my mystic great grandma came to believe was the basis for the law of attraction based on a book called The Holographic Universe, about which I wrote a story in a previous post about the Law of Attraction.

The spiritual concepts of the ancient past are more important now in the modern present than ever. When else has the battleground of the mind been so important as to hold the balance of nature in its clutches? How conscious of these consciousnesses are you?

When we argue, DJ and I do so in a state of dual consciousness in which we are both aware that this is just another argument while also being aware we are pretending it isn’t. Holding two states of consciousness is a practice in Taoism.

I am the angry girlfriend and the faithful life partner and the raving mad bitch of a jealous lunatic and the nurturer who cooks dinner all in one.

Humans do not exist in single dimensions of personality the way we see them communicated through words and headlines and still life observations and video clips in media.

The romances of pain and suffering are still, at their sources, fed by pain and suffering. The only way to engage a different outcome is to feed a different food.

I had to stop social media, cut down on coffee, exercise, shower daily, eat three meals a day and that is actually harder than I gave it credit for being. I thought I was more together than that. I thought I was greater than that, as if living as a functional person is anything to snub one’s nose at.

My credit is fucked and I have a juvenile financial intelligence. I own practically nothing by my own minimalist preferences. It was my first instinct to react like a cornered dog when we moved here to this tiny apartment in this city so far away and for me to not trust anyone when I can’t even trust myself. I didn’t trust myself to be able to care for my dog and thought she’d be happier with someone more together only to realize after sitting with it that this isn’t how bonds of friendship work. They don’t just turn off and turn on.

We live like deep see cephalopods, trailing the tendrils of experience which make up 75% of our mass behind us. How much weight is memory.

When I hear hateful things and see the way my people scream at one another, I’m seven and listening to my parents scream at one another through the phone. I’m thirty arguing with DJ about how we’re going to pay the bills or why is he working so much. I’m feeling the way time slips from days into weeks and the grind and the knife’s edge upon which a pandemic hit America teeters.

I think when I grab the keys we both know that this could be the argument that takes it too far, if I’m really serious. Am I acting from a place of insanity or am I conscious right now? We both know I’m acting out something else and that this is not an argument that will take things too far. Not this time.

What’s more, we recognize once again that the likelihood of that argument ever arriving lessens every day because through all of it we still see one another.

Some say Jung spoke the language of the human heart. I believe so.

What’s more, I believe this is the language, the language of symbols and nature and reason and stories and dreams and art by which we communicate, that prevents the argument born of unrelated frustrations being expelled through some archetypal act like a tantrum, from becoming the argument that takes it too far.

One is an act, a play, a tenuous display of what could be, a testing of waters that prove tepid and unpleasant and through which we would rather not proceed.

Following through, taking the keys and the car, is the point of no return in which we must now adapt. My country’s protests are displays still, but displays are nearing actions with more utility.

The other day, two people were shot in the autonomous zone. When police responded, they were screamed at and harassed and were not granted access to the crime scene. The corpse of a 19-year-old was delivered to a hospital by autonomous zone medics and the police resumed investigation there. Another person is in critical condition. There is an ongoing homicide investigation.

The fact that a homicide investigation is being interfered with by local protesters who are armed and have claimed the zone of Capital Hill as autonomous from law, essentially, makes me wonder if this is a moment in which they are taking the keys, or if they are really driving away in the car.

For a time, I think my country will be insane. We are learning new ways.

It is my hope we are intelligent enough to remember ourselves as we adapt to a world that is changing now so quickly it is hard to keep up if you don’t cultivate some sense of adventure, or at least duty.

For my own part, when my heart is pumping a deafening torrent of rage blood through my veins, I run, I get distance, I take a walk to the park and back, and when I’m no longer just running on instinct, the way to peace becomes clearer. I’m learning not to speak unless peace is the desired result. I’m learning not to act unless health and community and kindness are the projected result. My actions refract out into too many lives (this world is so busy now and I’ve learned to stop being selfish) for me to be irresponsible with them.

Jung said too:

“Man is the microcosm of the macrocosm ; the God on earth is built on the pattern of the God in nature. But the universal consciousness of the real Ego transcends a million fold the self-consciousness of the personal for false ego.”

https://whatsmyquote.com/quote/man-is-the-microcosm-of-the-macrocosm-the-god-on-earth-is-built-on-the-pattern-of-the-god-in-nature-but-the

Because we live on earth, we must pattern ourselves according to nature. We know better, but sometimes it is not in our nature to be better, especially when we are sick, afraid, watching our economy collapse, watching our loved ones pass.

Sometimes our instincts are nature-cruel like Zeus upon Leda. Often, they override our reasoning. It is up to those of us who are reasonable to shed our petty egos, the ones that want and need validation. It is up to those of us who are conscious to be brave and confident in moving forward and to do so with a clear vision of peace. My anger was born of resentment for the task of crafting a life for myself. Depression is cruel like that. Mental illness is a corner in which I lack all vision for what is good.

For the insane, neurotic, cyclical thoughts lead to neurotic, cyclical behavior. Addicts are insane this way. For the conscious person of sound reason, the heart sounds out it’s fury and becomes a dance of action in contextualized, present, moment creation of a life unfolding with enthusiasm.

The games we play with our identities, putting so much stock in labels and boxes and reasonable notions of security, used to anger me, but when rid of the games and the labels and boxes, the chaos is so extant, the potential for randomness so palpable I could taste it on the air with every step into this new life, I was humbled and quickly bored. The ego trips become playful games. The Buddhist wise man is also the fool. The archetypal child is also the wizened crone.

The point of the sides, the divisions, the cultures, the symbols, the languages, the conscious and the unconscious, is not to eradicate the possibility of negative experience.

A heart attack came on the wind for my grandpa a couple of days ago and it was just so sudden, the shock of it left a hole in my family like a meteor strike. I can blame the coronavirus or his heart doctor and be angry because hurt becomes anger when we fear feeling or don’t know how. Fear becomes hatred. That’s an archetypal concept.

I hope that the natural divisions of people and creatures across boundaries are in place so that we may learn from them how to overcome together those things that divide us as human beings as a collective on this planetary home.

I hope too, that we learn the power of words again, and of hope, and of vision shaped in accordance with sound action to create positive change.

Because I cannot change the world, I change myself. Six months ago I was an alcoholic smoker, half insane, couldn’t hold a job, a dime, or a candle to my deflated ego for which I compensated by talking a lot about the past and blaming other people for my problems.

Today I don’t drink at all. I have more faith and trust in my love and my family than I ever thought possible. I am exercising reason alongside emotion, aiming for peace, praying always with thanks and gratitude for those I love.

They are simple, old ways.

I’m teaching cooking classes and writing and I’m a clerk. We are making a family. We are moving into a bigger place and bought a reliable car.

It was hard, at first to train ourselves to cook instead of order out, to overcome our laziness, to overcome the patterns of addiction.

It was hard to kill my big fat ego that thought I wanted something more than this, as if this life is anything to sneer at. They call it privilege but it was hell. To not recognize one’s blessings is hell.

When we made peace, DJ and I began to tenuously form plans for the future. We picked a direction, aimed, and we’re accomplishing our goals together.

Speaking about our vision of the future and discussing how we were going to achieve it was more effective than any of our arguments. The time we spent arguing was a necessary reaction to our fear, our pain, our discomfort. The emotions alerted us and the things said in pain and anger and fear stung enough to linger for a while.

Once we forgave one another for our humanity, we were able to understand how the other works. Once we saw each other clearly, it became easier to forgive further. We began to work together. We built a life from our last dollar.

We began to work together once we accepted the delineations of personality and instinct by which the other operates across a variety of circumstances.

I think human beings see the heart of a person in what they do, say, see, and how they react, but there’s no pinning it down with a word or a box or a label. The heart, as an archetypal concept, is a direction beyond biology or instinct or personality. What’s remarkable is how true a heart can stay through how much change a human being sees and all the slips of sanity along the way.

My grandparents were married for fifty years. When grandpa passed so quickly, I remembered a version of myself who danced on his toes as a girl. To love someone is to hold the memory of them like this, collecting experiences with them in the heart where, good and bad, they are cherished.

I know love because when grandpa died I knew grandma felt the fifty years of their experiences become unshared and the thought of my experiences with DJ being things I hold alone takes my breath away. The weight of us is in our focus.

What joy is it to share in an experience with someone? What triumph to persevere through hardship past those moments of no return through all odds only to find the mechanisms of nature will stop a heart and leave you breathlessly alone in the very end no matter what?

Sometimes an argument just needs space and time. Sometimes our 390 square foot apartment is just a bit too cramped and we both need space and switch into instinct mode and we are irritable and reactive and angry and a fight would be welcome and the drama would be so easy to feed.

Shared or alone, my time here is for cultivating peace.

I go on a run even though I’m an alcoholic and who am I to think I could be better because sometimes the most responsible decision is to take a foolish leap in the direction of hope. You’re going to be cyclically worrying about something anyways. Might as well make it your sore legs.

Those thoughts sore into something more ecstatic like, hell yeah you’re running and you look great and you feel great and you’re going to be in such a good mood now and your anxiety is going away as life is going to be better all around.

I

More often, I’m cruising ata place in the middle in which I go to work even when I don’t want to. There are people there I respect. Once, the reason would have been I need the money.

My values are changing for the bette.

The judgements begin to lessen and pass. The desire to argue gets swallowed down and transmuted into a fiery anger that fuels my desires to create. I pick my battles, most of which were with my own sense of inadequacy, so the battles are primarily about discipline.

Run. Read. Write. Work. Cook. Clean. Sleep. Eat. Shower. Watch some tv. Human things.

They seemed so mundane and insignificant in my heart even though in my mind I knew family was the most important thing.

When I moved, I missed them so much. A family is all I wanted though I’d never have known if I’d stayed in my hometown. In moving away from them I moved towards my own.

I recognize I know nothing. I listen. I find the listening to be more wholesome and I find my personality to be more stable when I say less about it.

Our hearts contain the secret solutions to our pains. The inner world knows the way to peace if one can persevere in the heart.

For the person who knows all of their innermost fears knows no boundaries. The heart prevails.

My grandparents argued.

I didn’t know that this was an expression of their love for one another until love seized me and had me passionately arguing about it.

I believe we argue because we care.

We are looking for ways to communicate and we are looking for solutions and it is human nature to care about one another because we are historically depend upon one another. It takes a village, as they say.

My insanity began to pass most noticeably when the paranoia disappeared. When I stopped thinking my coworker was undermining my work, when I stopped believing my boyfriend was cheating, when I stopped thinking my friends didn’t care.

All of these fears were beliefs that were based in old traumas, past events that were coloring my perception of the present. My reality was not objective.

It takes time to heal our projections. It takes trial and error to build personalities that are not conflicting with the nature of reality, especially since the occasions upon which to build new personality comes from a clash with reality in which we discover our previous idea of what constitutes reality is now untrue. Our egos wax tender and our tempers run hot.

The best part about this time in which we are swimming in the primordial image soup of the collective unconscious soul, is that we get to envision, in this period of rest from the conscious and active construction of our world in favor of subconscious reflection, a better future.

When the desire to stop arguing is superseded by the desire to make peace and I’m so tired of arguing that I could stand to make for some compromise, which is necessary on both sides unless this is a fascist dictatorship, I know sanity is returning.

Then it is time to act again.

This is the lesson, for me, of the archetypal dark mother, or nature.

Everything in its own time. Patience. Make room for the unpleasant things by increasing appreciation and gratitude for the little things to such an extent that they aren’t little things at all. Believe in the goodness in others and respond with goodness especially in the face of hatred. Own your character and actions responsibly. What you believe about others is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. Healing yourself will enact tremendous healing upon your life. The more lives heal, the more the world heals. The microcosm reflects the microcosm and vice versa.

I desire peace and cut out social media. I desire health and learn to cook. I desire love and learn to trust. I love and start to live. I live and remember death. I appreciate and feel gratitude in the face of loss.

We exist as individuals across dualistic boundaries, inhabiting complex emotional and psychic spaces in which multiple possibilities for personality erupt to take shape based on choice if we happen to have awareness of our faculties in the face of our instincts that day. More often, choices are made based on fear based on past instincts which further reinforces the illusion of that insanity.

The clean slate begins with forgiveness. Despite my fears, I act on what I choose to believe based on what kind of person I choose to be. When I let the past decide the color of the actions I take in the present, I give that past power over my present. When I don’t trust DJ based on old fear and irrational interpretation of him being home ten minutes later than usual, I am giving power over my personal narrative to my ex boyfriend who cheated on me, which is where the fear comes from. He has no business in this life, so when this fear arises I look at the facts, weigh them against my emotions, and usually discover I’m being irrational.

People call me naive a lot, so I know I’m naive. I also know that people say they feel seen by me, like I really heard them. People open up and tell me things about themselves they wouldn’t normally tell perfect strangers.

The saddest part of being insane is the part where, if you recover, you realize that by acting on instinct based on past traumas and archetypal fears instead of in accordance with the context of the present moment, you hurt people by not seeing them correctly, which causes the arguments.

The part that is worse than that maybe, is the moment you realize that this is normal human behavior, perfectly natural, and that what you were desiring to destroy the whole time was not outside of you at all but merely and intrinsic part of your civilized personality desiring the demise of your natural human heart’s desire to be truly seen.

We want to proceed in the direction of certainty, ridding ourselves finally of all need to feel and interpret and live and sense and touch and go and wonder by aiming for some utopia enforced by fascism.

Consciousness seems to fight for its own demise.

If the complaint is without a solution, look within.

The ego death is the experience in which we encounter the changes that kill personality, awakening us to the unconscious wherein we find answers outside the bounded language and “rightness” of our culture to inform a new rightness from a more all-encompassing landscape of truth wherein the things that symbols represent exist unfettered by representation. The collective unconscious.

Some believe this is what we tune into when we do acid or mushrooms the way my grandpa did in the sixties while my grandma watched over him, her sober flower girl instincts leading her to love and joy and tolerance of what she did not partake in but appreciated witnessing.

Yes we’re polar opposites, grandma and grandpa.

We are here in the soup today without sanity to find a missing piece of human nature, some part of us that has been misused and abused, some mechanism of judgment used unjustly.

We name it police and government and politics and race.

I name it fear and hatred.

I can’t right the many wrongs in the world. I can’t even right all of my own wrongs. I don’t believe in progress for the sake of progress. Progress in the wrong direction isn’t progress at all.

When I’m insane, the best thing to do is care for myself radically and to radically trust those who love me and whom I love because we share experiences together that tells those people who I am and will help to keep me on an even keel, morally.

When I’m most insane, morals are relative. Kindness is subjective. There are definite answers to fantastically abstract questions and certain ways to proceed across an open playing field.

The scariest part is realizing we are all making this up as we go along and no one really does know if the world is going to end or the virus is going to mutate and wipe us all out or if an earthquake is going to hit or a heart attack is going to thump rage blood into the last breath of the life of the person who shares you. The one who knows you best.

We are in this together until the end. I pray the part of us that desires to eradicate human nature finds value in those mistakes made upon civilization by it. I pray the courage to forgive and believe and create wins out over pettiness and anger and hatred, justified or unjustified.

Six months ago I hated you all. I know the demon can be put down with love and understanding. I know choosing to love and understand what we don’t know means a change in personality and that changing ones personality means temporary insanity and vulnerability and trust and facing fears.

I know that with patience and understanding, a collective vision creates collective action. I know our collective is enormous and I’m just one in a small family in a 390 square foot apartment, but a life is worth a thousand voices…many more according to BLM protests.

It is no small thing to be one person.

If one person had done the right thing, the BLM movement would never have erupted nor so many movements for peace and justice and equal rights and opportunities before today.

I am two states away from where my grandpa’s absence left a crater in the heart of my family. Grandmas house was the safe zone. It’s where the the best of our family’s golden years were spent, where innocence thrives and salami sandwiches and juice boxes and cousins and games color shared memories of a time preserved in our hearts as the time of plenty.

We don’t know what they will do about the house or the bills or how long grandma will be able to persevere without the one who shared her, who knew her across all boundaries.

We weren’t expecting the time to run out as quickly as it did.

Recap

When I first started this site, the goal was to understand the way we categorize mental illness in a society that has dominated its own nature with science and rationality. The first entries here were stream-of-consciousness journals from the perspective of a very mentally unwell me.

The responses I received in the midst of that unwellness were primarily of encouragement from strangers. Oddly, from people who thought they knew me, the judgments were harsh.

I think what had me shy away from the approach of destigmatizing mental illness was that people assumed I was rational while I was in the midst of a pretty bad episode. The responses of judgment from people assuming I was fully in my faculties was harmful enough that I had to withdrawal in order to bolster enough self-esteem to get out of that place of sickness. Now that I’m out of that place of sickness and seeing the symptoms reside, I’d like to do a little bit of a recap about what the symptoms of unwellness were and what practices I used to overcome those, if any, both for future reference for myself and for anyone who has been reading here to understand a little more about cyclothymia, sometimes known as “bipolar light.”

The first sign of illness I can identify clearly is the Victim Mentality.

Victim Mentality usually looks like blaming all of my problems on other people, my family, my culture, my society. “It’s not my fault that the system is corrupt and my traumas make me do these terrible things.” For me, this also looks like an unwillingness to cooperate or be generous with my time.

Root Causes: Low self-esteem, unhealthy diet, feelings of insecurity or worthlessness, depression, (it’s worth noting that, for some, pregnancy can induce depression or low self-esteem), poor self-talk, traumas, brain damage, anxiety, PMS, catastrophic thinking.

Medicine: Conscious self-talk, meditation, running (running is the best way I know to train the mind to put down negative thinking), a makeover, daily showers, three meals a day containing all the food groups and required daily intake of nutrients, cleaning the house, a schedule and routine that involves all of these, cutting out addictions, community, open communication.

Root Values: Clarity, Strength, Bravery, Kindness, Humility, Wellness, Vulnerability, Trust, Responsibility

In order to put down the negative thoughts, one must have the clarity to recognize the negative thoughts are merely thoughts. Just because you are thinking that people suck and the world is falling apart because people value money more than each other doesn’t mean that’s true. In order to achieve objectivity, one must have the strength to recognize that they are responsible for the condition of their own lives and must be strong enough to take responsibility to change what they can change. This requires some objectivity, which can be achieved by asking yourself, “What if I’m wrong?” and then envisioning scenarios in which your perspective is wrong. This is an exercise in remaining objective, creative, and adaptable to a more all-inclusive possible future.

Often, feelings of victimization and hopelessness come from a feeling of not being able to control or influence one’s environment, so undoing this feeling means taking direct responsibility. As soon as we set out to take responsibility for ourselves, we discover that there is much we do not control related to how other people operate. We must have the bravery to proceed into the unknown which makes us vulnerable. By being brave, strong, kind, and humble, and valuing the wellness of one’s self and others, we proceed into the unknown.

I have discovered that my rigidity and control issues are born from an inherent distrust of people engendered from some old forgotten traumas. When I drink or lash out or get angry, I give those traumas in the past power over my present life. When I choose not to let those past traumas have power in the present, it looks like patience, like simplicity, like being happy to have a job and a family and roof over my head and expressing appreciation for that every day through care, forgiveness, gratitude, cooperation, a shedding of ego, going with the flow.

I’m grateful for being far enough out of my madness to see the sad person clinging to her dying ego as a woman of the past. I’m grateful to be able to communicate the madness and the wellness to leave a record for anyone who might find it helpful and I’m grateful every day for all of the blessings this life has bestowed on me.

The less I drink, the more I see the obsessive compulsive thoughts that led to so many arguments as brain damage from alcohol. A clear connection my addiction didn’t want me to see. Happiness finds her way into my heart. Summer light bleeds in through the blinds in the morning, reminding me of my grandparents’ house, the place I felt safest as a girl, a home where love is known.

I started with the thoughts first at a very basic level.

Instead of I can’t say I can.

Instead of I won’t say I will.

Instead of should I say I do.

I can I am I will I choose I love I receive I enjoy.

Try it for a day. Write down your limiting thoughts and then write down the best possible alternative. How many leaps of imagination does it take for you to get from where you are now to the person who thinks about the best possible outcome?

Don’t know?

Start now.

Six months ago we were down to our last dollar. I was out of my mind, a smoker, an alcoholic, and so depressed I couldn’t hold down a job. Now we eat healthy food, I run daily, I’ve been at the same job for a few months and am starting to write professionally. We are moving into a bigger place to make room for a bigger life. The daily arguments are gone.

If you ask me, I’d say the first step to recovery is to believe that what you are doing isn’t working so there’s probably another way and it’s probably going to be uncomfortable, but taking action that isn’t habitual means having some faith in the unknown–specifically one’s own unknown latent capabilities in the face of the unknown. Belief is maybe one of the most powerful tools available to a human being. Science and rationality don’t have to limit one’s ability to believe. If anything, combined with belief, a rational mind can inform the creation of a healthy, stable person from a seriously unhealthy, unstable one.

I’ve decided that even though I’ve changed the purpose and intention of this site a few times, overcoming black-and-white thinking remains the core concept of many of these posts and has been a running theme in my life since I was very little. My parents are polar opposites. My sister and I are polar opposites. My moods are polar opposites.

Some string of consciousness runs through all of these states. I can’t help but think some stream of consciousness runs through every human being, connecting us all. I imagine we can feel one another in tune like birds can in flight. My favorite versions of this theory involve some kind of all-consciousness moving through organic individuals to experience itself. My favorite method to this madness is to turn it all inwards and love it into something beautiful.

This year I hit some lows I didn’t know I had in me until I just bottomed out. Ego death is like floating through space.

When I surfaced, I was a woman ready for a family and some hard work and leisure time. My goals are things like going to work peacefully, keeping my house clean, my family healthy and happy. Home cooked meals, plants, candles, hand soap, and warm towels are things I’m starting to relish again. Walks in the afternoon marked by patches of gnats in rays of yellow sun, flowers spurting their pungent scents, and young families out with their dogs and their kids in strollers or on bicycles with ice cream cones from the shop around the corner and flowers, flowers everywhere, call me to join the ranks.

I am learning to cooperate with others by chilling out. How I came to be the uptight, hot-headed mess I was, I’m not sure, but she was someone I needed to learn. She taught me to assert my boundaries and desires. I think this is how the archetypes work. We embody certain traits to work through each archetype and take with us from these personality/ego identities the useful traits while shedding the old, which may or may not become useful once again in the future. For now, what needs away falls away.

This falls in line with the “ring of fire” solar eclipse this Saturday, June 20th. Solar eclipses mark the shedding of the old in some pagan traditions. In my wiccan practices, they mean a parting with the shadow, a transmutation of those manifestations of our suppressed desires into healthy creative outlets. Whatever negative patterns you are clinging to, now is the time to let them go.

Be blessed. Be brave. All my love humans. We stand together.