Authentic Voice Project: C is for Christ

I realized with discomfort that my last Authentic Voice Project post was in itself Inauthentic. I chose a safe word to explore. I shied away from tackling a true “trigger” word. I again silenced my voice out of fear of rocking the boat. I realized the hypocrisy of this and now I must fix it by writing about a “C” word is controversial (in some circles). But isn’t that what creates change? Controversy is just another word for “fear of change.” In this case it is me who needs change – transformation – towards self-acceptance and healing. It is the language that was etched into my cells and has caused me to deny my own potential, and it is, therefore, this internal language that must change. Authentic Voice knows my own truth.

C is for Christ

Society (i.e. Tradition) says (with slight alternations according to particular doctrines): Christ is the son of God who was born here on earth as Jesus of Nazareth, preached to the people of the Kingdom of Heaven, was crucified, rose to life and ascended to heaven. He died for our sins and is the mediator between humans and God and through whom we might one day also be with God.

I say: Christ, the divine, is a symbol. Spiritually, it is a symbol of our own divinity, psychologically it represents our personal individuation or actualization. It is a symbol of Self, the center, the highest aspect of our human-ness: “the inner image of god… which resides in every person.” (Jung)

Christ and Self both describe something beyond human or ego, something that is divine, spiritual, reconciling, and gives meaning. – Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Tao of Psychology

To be “Christ-like” is to symbolically “wake up Christ within” in order to engage ‘the deeper levels of the soul… to live our individual lives as fully, as authentically, and as obediently [i.e. true to our True Self] as Jesus lived his.” His death and resurrection are symbols of our repeated struggles to discover our unique potential by “crucifying” the myths we have been told and have told ourselves about ourselves (the “sin” of not recognizing our potential and/or purpose), and to arise anew. With each self-discovery we “ascend” towards our own divinity – i.e. be with God/Godde/Goddess/Spirit now and in every moment.

Instead of focusing on the horrific death of a man on a cross (symbol of Union of Opposites, i.e. Wholeness), I choose to see the Christ story as one of Life, Healing, and Wholeness: “discovering the meaning of one’s own unique, individual life and participating in life’s larger purposes… discovering one’s vocation and one’s own myth, that story which helps to make meaning out of the mystery of existence.” (Wright, Christ a Symbol of the Self) Jesus was human, and a beautiful one at that, who preached love and equality (but never called himself Christ), a deeply spiritual man who must have known that once one has experienced “the spirituality of the Self or inner Christ, it would have the power to heal.” (Bolen, Crossing to Avalon)

Prompt: What other religious/spiritual myths or symbols speak to you and your psychological growth towards Wholeness?

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Jung’s diagnosis of modern men and women was a spiritual malnutrition bought on by a starvation of symbols. He called for a recovery of the symbolic life which had been abandoned to a one-sided literal, rational approach to religious matters… Without a symbolic appreciation of Christ, or any other religious figure or leader, religious concerns are made small by literalism. This in turn is the spawning ground for fundamentalism which, in spiritual matters, is tantamount to the death of the soul. In addressing Christ as a symbol of the Self, Jung challenged the Church to recover its symbolic life. Failing to do that, the Church will remain a minor voice in speaking to the deep spiritual longings of modern men and women. Furthermore, it may unwittingly undermine the reconciliatory and peace-making processes it desires to promote in the world. (http://www.jungatlanta.com/ChristSelf.html)


The House of Disrepair: A Fairy Re- Tale

credit: Joanna Tebbs Young

This is a tale based on a recent dream which I worked with in my journal.

There once was a little girl who lived in her father’s big, old house. Although the little girl’s father was kindly and gave her all he thought she needed and wanted, he kept her in her room to protect her from the unpredictable and competitive world outside. The little girl’s bedroom was on the very tippy-top of the house where windows let in the warmth of the morning sun and the comforting glow of the full moon. It was a grand house but it was falling into disrepair and some of the windows in her room were broken. When the winter winds blew the little girl wrapped her arms around herself, and dreamed of spring and far away places.

One very late winter’s day as she was looking out across the fields in which she had never run, she noticed an eruption of purple in the snow. The first crocus of spring. She longed to touch it, to be near it, to connect to its strength and resiliency. The beauty of the sight pricked her heart with yearning. The tiny hole suddenly opened into a gaping wound. Grief and tears flooded her soul and flowed from her eyes. She cried as if she would empty herself. Tears filled the room. The floor beneath her feet began to bubble and soften. Large chunks began to fall below. Through the holes the little girl could see what lay beneath. A staircase – an abandoned stairwell.

As her tears continued to fall, a river of water cascaded down the stairs and the remaining floor gave way. Wading through the water, the little girl climbed down the stairs. There at the bottom stood a long-forgotten door. She lay her hand upon the door knob, rusty with disuse, and slowly turned it.  The door opened.

Bright sun reflected off the snow, momentarily blinding and disorienting the girl. But the light also dried her tears. She felt the wound in her heart slowly begin to close as she danced across the field towards the first bloom of spring.

An open letter to those who are human

C.P. Estes (author of Women Who Run With the Wolves) always addresses her readers as “Dear Brave Souls.” I do not know her exact reasoning for this but I can guess that she knows how much courage it takes to live in this world, to face the pains and heartbreaks, unknowns and setbacks. But even more than this, it takes a strong heart to live as a “wild” woman (or man), that is, one who steps out from behind the mask – our persona – shadow and all. It takes strength to live authentically, saying what we truly know, doing what we truly love, and loving how we need to be loved. So, taking a page from the book of the beautiful soul, Ms. Estes, I too shall address my readers so.

Dear Brave Souls:

I am not a psychologist but I am lucky enough to be human. I have my very own persona, ego, unconscious, authentic voice – and shadow. I have to live with myself on a daily basis and I know that I am far from perfect. But no one is! There is no such thing! I have biases, I make unjust judgements, I have anger, I have selfishness, and I also project the unwanted, uncomfortable, painful, most repressed parts of myself onto others. But I also have love and concern and hope and dreams. And I believe it is my responsibility while on this human-life quest for self-actualization – on the path of my potential – to choose love over judgement. And to be honest with and to myself. Every aspect of myself.

I doubt there is a soul in this beautiful but confusing world who does not have anger in their heart. Everyone of us have had experiences that hurt us deeply – tragically. We cannot compare one person’s pain to another. Each of us is a medley of our experiences which blend to make us the unique beings we are. Yes, we are angry, we feel rage sometimes, but these are the voices of our past. They are old recordings from our frightened egos which try to keep us safe from things no longer a threat. But our heart, our soul, knows the truth.

All emotions are messages. Anger is a particularly strong message. And those we are angry at, our mirrors. We must look at – and accept – our anger because, yes!, it is real and should not be denied or ignored. But look at it closely. Look in that mirror. There, peering back at us, are the dark parts of us we’d rather not know (and of which we may not even be aware). That is our Shadow. It tells us things about another person or event that have nothing to do with them. We are not angry with them, we are angry with ourselves. It is our own pain speaking.

Smile at those silly shadows because they are tricksters, making us believe in illusion. The reality is there can be no shadow if there is no light! 

So our Shadows are also there to teach – if we are willing to learn. We must listen to our Shadow – it is there in that scary place that we will also discover our Light. We cannot be whole until we can integrate the dark with the light (just think of the moon).

And we have tools* to help. We have the ability to listen to our true strength, our inner wisdom, our higher self, for it knows the truth. We have to listen hard and with an open mind – it may not tell us what we are used to hearing. But it is our own truth – our own healing truth. It is our truth that can take our rage and turn it to proactive outrage. It is our truth that can take our pain and turn it to strength and compassion.

We are all in this together – everyone of us. And we must forgive those who, like us, are also learning to listen to their truth and inner wisdom.

*One of these tools is to write. Expressive journaling – meaning, to write freely without thinking or editing – this accesses deeper wisdom and allows us to discover our own truth. Once we become aware – and accept – our own truth we live more authentically, and therefore, with more joy.

Prompt: One truth I know is…

Natural Wisdom – in verse

These poems were written by a participant in one of my recent workshops, Natural Wisdom: Writing as Spiritual Voice. They are Alphapoems written in response to prompts while listening to sounds from nature. As you will read, not all are directly related to nature, but this is an example of the wonder and power of expressive writing: If you open yourself to the writing process, what wants/needs to be expressed will be. The author remarked that she was not expecting these words to come out, “they just kinda did!”

Thank you for your generosity for sharing them with us!

Poems by Gwendoline James

THE STORM

Dark skies releasing themselves of pent-up heat,

Inspired by Thor;  continual rumblings then stomach-churning crashes.

Straight rain falling to earth with relentless power,

Threatening all beneath its touch without regard,

Analogy for washing clean, washing away,

Never heeding any demands to stop.

Clean, so clean, until it hits earth, rivers, fields, then mud and torrents and flood and devastation.

Eternal rain……… or so it seems at this moment.

MOTHER LOST

Gone before I knew you, like the

Wind, blowing through and leaving

Emptiness, which I

Never recognized until the need to know you became

Dominant  in my later life.

Open my heart to the memories I do not have.  I want to hear you

Laugh, cry, talk ……why did

Illness take you away so that I

Never knew you, felt your warmth, heard your voice, fed off your

Energy, which was all spent by the time you gave me life.

SIDMOUTH

Soothing my fears, calming my thoughts, in this

Idyllic place.

Damp seaweed gently sweeping between my toes, the

Mouth of the river opening itself into the

Ocean.  What powerful secrets lie

Under your white crests;  your dark teal depths reflecting the

Turmoil of my mind before I came to stand in awe at your edge

Happy for the seagulls overhead and for your cleansing, incessant water to wash over my feet and

recede again into itself.

— Gwendoline James

Burning Rage

This is a very personal post. It is the result of trauma that occurred because my voice was muted. I see this “dream” and the writing of it is as the whisper of my returning voice (a loud stage whisper, perhaps?). 

Rage, which is a socially unacceptable emotion, especially for women, is coming forward and yelling very loudly. By envisioning it (and other emotions) as tangibles, I am acknowledging it, and learning to accept it. I must integrate it so it no longer pins me down but lifts me into action – and voice. I also see it as my body starting to speak to me, and so become part of me, as I begin to notice its pains and tightness. My body and  my psyche (one in the same) are speaking up as they work towards healing and wholeness.

~~~~

I awoke with rage lying heavy on my chest like, what was it? A steel plate. Thick, heavy, reddish brown with rust, like what you see at construction sites, pinning me to my bed. Heavier, denser than anything I had experienced. Rage. Burning rage. It stretched from my neck to the bottom of my ribcage. I was shaking from the exertion of holding it there while trying to breathe. When I woke I was curled into the fetal position, and I could not move. Didn’t want to move. I knew I had to stay there, to acknowledge this plate of anger, this shield of rage. An impenetrable, metal protective shield over my heart.

“I feel you,” I told it. “What do you want me to know?”

As I focused on it I knew I must somehow destroy it. Release my heart and lungs from this burden I had carried for too long. But what can destroy an element as thick and strong as steel?

Fire. Only fire is capable of transforming steel to something malleable. In the half-world between sleep and waking, the image of a furnace slowly evolved. I tried to fit the metal plate into its ferocious red-orange mouth. But it would not go, it was too big. I forced the fire entrance larger and larger still until finally the metal began to disappear into its depth. As it did so the image began to shrink away, further and further into the blackness at the back of my mind. And then it was gone over the horizon of my conscious.

But the rage had not. As I watched, a small slit in the center of my chest peeled open, and as when a piece of wood slowly surfaces from the below the water or a rock begins to emerge from beneath the melting snow, another metal plate crested, pinning me still. This time I was able to summon up the furnace and feed the metal into it with more ease. The heavy rage was gone but lying in its place was a straw or hair mat thick and prickly with anxiety. A goat appeared and I offered it the mat. I cried with relief as I watched – and felt – it disappear.

My chest and my heart was visibly freed of weight. My more coherent mind yearned for my body to feel the difference. Still wrapped up into myself I pictured my heart lifting and opening with its new freedom, but I could not feel it. Then I noticed more pains around my body. First, it was my upper back. Rusty, red epaulettes fit over my shoulders like a piece of Roman armor. This metal was lighter than what had pinned my chest but I recognized it as the anger I hold there. In my trance state, I quickly removed them and flung them into the furnace.

Then immediately, my lower belly. This time it was a small, blue bowl. A Japanese soup bowl filled with spaghetti and meat. I knew this to be sadness. Despair. How to abolish this? I decided not to try to destroy it but to take it in. I would eat the meat and envision it filling my body with new energy. I pictured doing this once and then again. Then the bowl filled with popcorn. I flung the kernels out into the garden and allowed the animals – the rabbit, the woodchuck, the deer, the cats – to absorb my pain. My whole body sighed in release.

My lower back began to ping. I focused on it but nothing came to me. But I had to turn from it as a deeper, heavier pain dropped into my stomach. A rock. A boulder. A lump of sorrow and fear and worry and anger sitting directly under my ribs where the two sides of the cage join. I asked it what I must do but no answers appeared. No ideas arose as what can be done to destroy or absorb a thing as solid, as ancient, as grounded as a rock.

Still curled around the now even-denser obstruction in my belly, as if it was a growing child I needed to protect in my womb, I woke fully. In my mind’s eye it was so perfectly round and near the surface it seemed I could reach in and take it out. I would be able to hold it in my palm much like a grapefruit. The sensation of its presence was making me physically sick. I longed to pull it out and throw it far away.

I wanted to feel different when I left my bed. I wanted the sensation of weightlessness on my shoulders and light around my heart. I wanted to feel my breath fill the deepest corners of my body. I hoped joy had replaced the sadness in my belly. But instead I felt shaky. Like electric pulses were running through my veins. On edge. Tears. Like I had just experienced something physiologically disturbing; an operation, medication, an accident. Trauma.

As I write this the emotion is close to the surface. Typing the words and images brings the event, the sensations to life. It was not a dream. I really cried. Tears rolled down my face and into my pillow. I felt the shudder of physical release. I may not feel free right now – my shoulders are still tight, my chest heavy, my stomach jumpy – but I know I found, and will recognize soon, some healing in the images and symbols that my unconscious offered me. It was physical pain that I felt as I imagined my rage as a physical weight on my chest. My body hurts because my psyche is in pain. The symbol of the metal plate is the psyche’s way of communicating to me in terms I can understand. In my “dream” I burned my rage and it disappeared. I may still be feeling the trauma of lying so long under its weight, but I will heal.

My heart will lift and my breath will flow freely.

Prompt: Envision or write to your painful emotions as a “thing” which you can discard or transform into something more positive.


Trust the Process (pt 10): Hiding

My natural inclination is to introversion. I usually choose to be alone rather than in a crowd. However, at my first two Goddard College’s residencies for the Individualized Master’s program I went against my own grain. I squeezed in around full lunch tables, joined in conversations in lounges, and laughed over movie showings late (for me) at night – and had a great time doing so. But at this last residency I regressed a little to my former self. While I still joined lunch-time and workshop discussions, I quickly ran back to the silence of my own room to retire early or to brainstorm over My Question. I fell (fitfully) asleep to the laughter and discussion of my building-mates whose joviality was evidenced by the growing number of wine bottles in the recycling bin each morning. At breakfast I would listen to further laughter over inside jokes from the night before and I’d feel a tiny touch of jealousy. But my need to be alone found me frequently in the garden, folded into an Adirondack chair, notebook on lap. Thinking.

Too hard.

I would have to say the theme of this residency for me was Thinking. And trying not to. I’d get myself alone in my room and I’d start thinking, “what is it I need to be thinking about?” Then I’d remember that I am trying to Feel More, Sense More, so I’d say to myself “stop thinking!” which has the annoying effect of creating the exact opposite reaction. I’d start thinking about NOT thinking.

I didn’t write in my journal too much this residency, whereas in the precious two I wrote copiously as I tried to assimilate all that I was learning and experiencing. And feeling. This time I made a conscious effort to just feel what I was feeling. This required much alone time with not necessarily satisfactory results. Now home, and very much not alone (almost five-year old boys seem to need Something on a excruciatingly frequent basis) I am trying to consider all that I felt and feel now about the residency and my graduate “career” in general.

I am questioning now if going into hiding this residency was actually what I needed. Most of my a-ha! moments actually came to me during conversation or listening to others talking. I live in my head too much and plain old social-ness might have pulled me into my body – and my emotions – through laughter, silliness, togetherness, connection, friendship, conversation and mutual respect. If laughter is medicine I sure didn’t take mine while seriously mulling away in my cavern of a single room. Sometimes our “natural” inclination is a defense mechanism – to protect us from feeling too much – rather than a healing one. And what we resist the most is most likely exactly what we need.

Prompt: What are you resisting? What behaviors do you automatically resort to which might actually be furthering your lack of self-awareness and healing?

Trust the Process, pt. 8: I Am Matter

“Are those really concepts? Aren’t they aspects of a woman’s life?” (Referring to the Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother, Crone)

“What it means to be a woman? Don’t you mean what it IS to be a woman?”

“Don’t YOU matter?” … “Yes, I do matter. I matter. I AM matter.”

And so go conversations at Goddard College where I am studying for an Individualized Masters degree in Transformative Language Arts. We do not sit, inert and unthinking, attempting to sift through the rocks, pebbles and sand of a professor’s lecture searching for any valuable nuggets. And valuable to whom? The professor or you? At Goddard we are asked to be involved in a conversation, to really think (concept vs. aspect? When was the last time you analyzed the difference between those two concepts?), to think critically, and to find our own earth through which to sift.

You cannot think critically if you have no opinion, stance, or angle from which to critique. When you are just regurgitating established knowledge of the “experts” (in academics, politics, religion, etc.) without the added insight of personal experience or intuition, you are producing nothing but dust. So, you must first dig and sift through your own layers. At first this is uncomfortable, looking into aspects of yourself you have ignored or maybe didn’t even know were there. In fact, acknowledging your ignorances, your arrogances, your prejudices, your anger, your pain never feels fabulous, but it does get easier. Once you’ve accepted this is what must be done in order to become a better, wiser, more enlightened, inspired, authentic, loving, compassionate, empowered, comfortable-in-your-own-skin person, just like taking your medicine, it will help you heal and head towards your potential.

And the deeper you go into the personal the more you can understand and feel empathy for the universal. That is how we hippie-tree-hugging-meditating-yoga-types with our loving, bleeding-hearts go into the world better equipped with information that can heal others.

Yes, I matter. My own thoughts, ideas and feelings DO matter. They are important to me and as Kim Chernin writes in Reinventing Eve: Modern Women in Search of Herself:

I have seen the process of descent into the self lead back out into the world, to a concern with the suffering of others [and]…. far from being a lengthy wallow in self-absorption, turns out to be the passage through which one goes back, with a new vision or bolder service...

And Sue Monk Kidd in an interview said:

… seeking wholeness in oneself can serve the wholeness of others.

Yes, I matter. And I am matter: Earth. I am of this Earth, I am part of this Earth, as are you. All connected and we all matter. So a-sifting I will go, concepts and aspects, constructs and trans-disciplines and all, searching for the golden nuggets which will hopefully bring a little more understanding into the world.

P.S. I am also Mater: Mother. Mother Matter. Mother Earth…. don’t you just love playing with words?!

 

Prompt: Do YOU matter? Are you willing to dig to un-earth the potential of your authentic self.

 

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