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)


More thoughts on Authentic Voice (and writing)

Authentic Voice is that which longs for interconnectedness, looks toward growth and actualization (as opposed to purely “defense” needs and “elemental drives” such as eating, sleeping, finding shelter, having sex [Eisler, 190]), and is not “encased” by societies’ rigid hierarchical gender roles and stereotypes. It is not selfish or self-centered, but a recognition of “our essential interconnectedness with all humanity.” (Eisler, 190)

Authentic Voice is the one yearning for connection – love – and as such is the spiritual voice. Self-actualization cannot occur when living in fear or under suppression, and Authentic Voice cannot be heard in those states either. Love cannot be heard when there is “fear” of an “enemy” – within or without. “Hierarchies… require defensive habits of mind.” (Eisler, 190)

Authentic Voice is the suppressed “feminine” voice of the psyche – that which yearns for connection and affiliation with nature, others, and self – held down by fear in order to keep hierarchy in place. Releasing this “feminine” aspect through writing gives voice to the other half of our psyche and to our natural selves – our actualized self and helps bring us into balance.

So, like a mother does for her children, we write to vanquish the fear, to build self-confidence, to empower ourselves, so we can empower others (by realizing we are the same and not enemies). And to enter states of mind, i.e. whole, balanced, meditative states that increase “flow’ and feelings of connectedness. When we write we are fostering our own psychic growth towards actualization which in itself moves us “toward a different reality: the ‘peak experience’ consciousness of our essential interconnectedness with all of humanity” (Eisler, 190).

Writing allows us to tap into our own symbology, it uses both sides of the brain – this is whole “seeing.” It accesses body wisdom – the unconscious memories and collective unconscious. It balances the psyche, which fosters growth through creativity. Creativity is new ideas brought together in a “non-conventional” way to envision different forms of beauty that can initiate change. Creativity is insight – into self, into others, into new possibilities. Authentic Voice is our source of creativity and a path to self-actualization.

Source: Eisler, Riane Tennenhaus. The Chalice and the Blade : Our History, our Future. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995. Print.

Trust your pen

I have to share a beautiful experience that speaks to the power of the pen to tap into something deeper and older than we can explain.

This morning I was reading The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler. I won’t go into all the emotions this book arouses in me but I cannot emphasize strongly enough that EVERY woman in the world – and every man who was born from the body of a beautiful woman – should read this book. I’m sure I will touch on this some more in the future. However, the point is, as I sat here by the fire contemplating the repercussions of Eisler’s words, I suddenly realized what I had to do.

With my life.

Yeah, kind of a big deal.

Of course, I rushed to my journal to talk this epiphany through, to make sure I had heard my heart correctly. And yes, I had. My whole life, from the family and church I was born into, to the thesis I wrote as an undergrad, to writing a journal for the past 20-odd years, to teaching, to my Goddard Master’s degree program – all have led me to this place, right now. My eyes have been opened and I now have a responsibility to do something with the knowledge I have been given.

But here is the actual point of this post: As I put the period at the end of the final sentence of my journal entry, I wrote in big letters, SHALOM. That’s strange, I thought, why would I write a Hebrew word when the Hebrew Bible was what caused most of this trouble [i.e. the suppression of women] in the first place? So, I looked it up. Here’s what I read:

Shalom also means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full. (via http://www.therefinersfire.org/meaning_of_shalom.htm)

By speaking out about how and why we as a species became so unbalanced psychologically and spiritually, it is the point of my thesis work and my teaching to help others on their own quest for wholeness to feel “complete, perfect and full.”

Shalom, indeed.

So, trust your pen. Write what it wants to write. You know more than you know you know.

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.

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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.


When opportunity knocks… and hands you a gift

credit: Joanna Tebbs Young

Yesterday I received a card through the mail. Inside was a magnet that read: “When opportunity knocks don’t be the one who says, ‘Can somebody get that?'”

This gift was from Kay Adams, founder and director of the Center for Journal Therapy, and it represents a bigger gift which she gave me when she called out of the blue two weeks ago. And, ultimately, it turned out to be a far greater gift than I could have imagined.

Gift #1: Honor and Validation

Three days before the workshop was scheduled to begin, Kay called me to ask if I could substitute for her and teach “Writing Inner Wisdom: Spiritual Growth through Journal Writing” at Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA. Due to a family emergency she could not attend and wondered if I could take her place. What an honor! To be asked to teach in place of this brilliant woman, an inspirational and informative teacher, successful author, and compassionate counselor and facilitator was beyond any dream I had for myself. (However, I had dreamed of teaching at Kripalu, but as a possibility many years down the road…).  What validation of my own path!

Gift #2: A visit to Kripalu

I won’t go into the wonders of Kripalu here, that deserves a post all of its own (stay tuned). But suffice it to say: What a place! If the showers were hotter I might just go live there.

Gift #3: Connection

My weekend spent with 12 beautiful women, sitting in a circle, writing, listening, sharing, crying, laughing… connecting, was the gift I did not anticipate, but by far the most precious.  The serendipities and synchronicities that bought the 13 of us together in themselves were amazing (again, you’ll have to wait for that post) and I have no doubt that this weekend was given to me as part of my own journey of healing.

Gift #4: Belief

When Kay first called me, I couldn’t breathe as I choked on the deluge of inner critics screaming, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU’RE NOT CAPABLE!” But my Authentic Self knew I could. And Intuition knew this was the opportunity I had been (unknowingly) waiting for. I do believe that the passion and underlying self-belief in the work I do and the powerful benefits of this field has opened doors I didn’t know where there. So I answered the knock. Yes, I was afraid! Afraid of so many possible unknowns. But I didn’t say, “Can somebody get that?” And that was the gift I gave to myself.

Thank you, Kay, thank you, All. For a greater gift.

Prompt: It was a gift within a gift when…

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Julia Cameron on Morning Pages

 

Read an interview with me about how The Artist’s Way and Morning Pages changed my life at Creative Voyage

 

The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal

 

On a quest to find the truth

I’m sitting here in this hotel room and suddenly I’m struck dumb. No fighting children to break apart, no dinner to prepare, no responsibilities. I could write all night if I so wished. But nope, nothing. Too quiet, no time limit.

But I’m not here to write this blog post anyway.

Truth is, I came here for two nights alone to uncover something. It’s something I have long known was waiting for me but I have pushed it away – so far away and so long ago that I’m not even sure where to start looking (or what I’m looking for.) Years of therapy have not helped, rather only frustrated and alarmed me. Even my journal has not taken me where I have needed to go because I haven’t allowed myself to. I was not ready. I’m not sure I’m ready now. But I had to try and it had to be in place far away from my family, my home, my life, in order to come to terms with the past before I return to the present.

In her book, Journal to the Self, Kathleen Adams writes of a weekend after a devastating break-up where she went away by herself. She wrote for two days. She wrote and she wrote. And she cried, and screamed, and swore, on paper and out loud. And then she was done. She purged her sorrow by dealing with it head on. And then she was bored with it all and walked out of that place ready to move on.

That is my plan. I haven’t had a chance to do this until now. And now I’m here and I’m scared. Scared of what I might discover under the surface of my mind, but at the same time scared that I won’t be able to get there. While I don’t really want to know the truth of my past I know I must face it in order to live my life to the fullest. Whatever is hidden in my memories – stuffed away long ago for self-protection – is actually hurting me. While I do not truly understand some of my actions and reactions on a day to day basis, I do know that my Subconscious is seeing life through the lens of those memories. I must now align my Conscious and Subconscious eyes.

We hold all the answers inside. We have the inner wisdom we need to heal ourselves. Just as Jewelweed grows in close proximity to the Poison Ivy whose sting its leaves and juice sooth, so too our pain and its balm live side by side in our Subconscious.

So for the next day I will open my journal, my mind, and hopefully my memories. I hope I am prepared for what I will find there. If not, I must trust that I will get through it with the help of my journal.


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Jour du Journal: Interpreting the Universe

As I lay coughing and spluttering in my bed today, I read my friend’s email response to the cancellation of our weekend together (and this is why she and I are friends… birds of a feather…)

It seems like it’s one thing after another. Deepak Chopra wrote something like if it seems like there are too many obstacles, it’s the universe telling you something.

Yes, I do believe this, but I also know you can’t look at everything as a Sign. If you lived only by omens and “coincidences” you would be in constant flux and chaos. You have to be patient, watch for patterns, and those happenings that knock you over the head.

A way to determine the difference between life’s normal little snags and follies and real slaps of intuition is to write through it. Take an occurrence and interrogate it in your journal. Ask it what it means. See what you know… that you didn’t know you knew.

What do I need to understand about…