Tag Archives: carl jung

America’s Shadow: The Real Secret of Donald J. Trump


By Deepak Chopra, MD

There’s a powerful way to explain the rise of Donald Trump that most commentators have missed entirely or undervalued. The standard line describes Trump as a bizarre anomaly. Beginning as an improbable celebrity candidate, he has defied all the conventional rules of politics, which should have been fatal. Instead Trump has swept all before him on the Republican side. Possessing a “genius” for grabbing the limelight, he continues to dominate the scene in ways no previous politician ever has in modern times–so the conventional view goes.

But in reality Trump isn’t bizarre or anomalous. He stands for something universal, something right before our eyes. It’s an aspect of the human psyche that we feel embarrassed and ashamed of, which makes it our collective secret.  Going back a century in the field of depth psychology, the secret side of human nature acquired a special name: the shadow. Continue reading

The Line Between True Love and Worst Nightmare

Happy 2gether Part IIBy Rebeca Eigen

I started studying astrology in 1985. I quickly found out that astrology is unsurpassed in its ability to help a person understand himself or herself. Most people who read the simple horoscope columns have no idea just how detailed and complicated it is. The subject is so vast you could spend your whole lifetime studying it, and there is so much to it that although I needed an understanding of the basics, I eventually developed a passion for learning specifically about relationships.

The 7th house is the house that shows us who we are and what we can expect when we are in relationships. And here is where the trouble begins, because it is a very misunderstood house (area) within the psyches of all of us. Most of us are used to finding our partners out there somewhere instead of looking inside ourselves.

A couple came to me for a reading recently, and they wanted to know “What is our compatibility?” These two people were in their mid-to-late 30s and had both been married before, and I asked them each this question: “Are you the person for you?” Yes, I know it sounded strange, but this is the real question at the bottom of our relationship struggles that we need to ask ourselves.

The people we are extremely attracted to are mirroring the parts of ourselves that we are missing. The curious thing is we can be repulsed and attracted to the very same person. When we have a feeling that we are “in love,” when we have that kind of fascination or compulsion toward anyone, it’s a real clue that it is a projection of our own unconscious contents. There will be an erotic, magnetic feeling within us when we meet someone who can carry the projection of our Shadow, our Anima or Animus as described in the analytical psychology of Dr. Carl G. Jung.

The Shadow is in us all.

This is why the ancients believed this house was also the house of open enemies, because the partner becomes the enemy that we will polarize with. At first all is wonderful. You feel you have met your true “soul mate.” But eventually (and this has to occur for our own psychological growth), the couple will begin to polarize, find fault with each other and a crisis (which is also a turning point in the relationship) will occur. The relationship will start to deteriorate so that they can differentiate, as John Sanford explains in the book The Kingdom Within. Unknowingly, they are BOTH carrying unconscious psychological contents for each other.

When we are “in love“, no amount of logical reasoning can talk us out of it either. We have to go through it in order to develop an awareness of our whole Self. Jung explained that deep within us, the Self is guiding us to our own wholeness, which he called the process of individuation. The alchemists called this meeting, the divine marriage or the coniunctio. Because it can wake us up and help us see many things differently, falling in love can be a very transformative and wonderful experience.

Then why is it so scary?

Because it can just as easily turn around and become our worst nightmare. Just as quickly as a relationship begins, it can end. The original love can turn to hate. When relationships end that violently, you know that neither partner was able to get past his or her projections. Unless they are both willing to do some inner work, they will just go on to find other partners and it will repeat and a pattern of victim consciousness continues.

As Paul McCartney sings in the song that he and John Lennon wrote:

I’m looking through you.

What did I know?

I thought I knew you.

What did I know?

You don’t look different, but you have changed.

I’m looking through you.

You’re not the same.


Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right?

Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.

This experience in this song is archetypal because the Shadow side of us is unconscious. What’s interesting is that everyone else can see these parts of us and we can’t.

Inside us or outside of us, it is all the same — a reflection par excellence.

Whatever sign is on 7th-house cusp, whatever planets reside therein are a detailed picture of what we will develop in this lifetime with or without our intention or consent. So we might as well learn about this part of us and choose to develop it because then we can experience the more productive aspects of that energy.

I hear people with Mars (planet of action, male principle, directedness) in the 7th or ruler of the 7th telling me how violent their ex-husbands were, how they have attracted aggressive or angry partners. People with the Moon there tell me how needy and emotional their partners are, how dependent. Uranus … how unpredictable and detached, aloof. Saturn … how cold, unresponsive, limiting and critical. Jupiter … how opinionated, inflated, self-indulgent. These are simplistic descriptions, but an astrologer, knowing your 7th house, the aspects to your Venus and the ruler, has a very clear understanding of what your own specific needs are in relationships. We are all unique. Don’t feel something is wrong with you if you cannot live the cultural model of the white picket fence and the two-car garage. That may not be what your soul is requiring in this lifetime. So stop feeling guilty if you aren’t creating it.

Learn about yourself through your astrological chart so that you can make the conscious effort to be this part of you and learn to meet people — but only halfway. And that is the dance called Libra. So as Lee Ann Womack says in her song, “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance — I hope you’ll dance!”

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RebecaEigen-72-dpiRebeca Eigen, an astrologer for 25+ years and author of The Shadow Dance & the Astrological 7th House Workbook, specializes in relationships. Using your time, date, and place of birth, she uses the astrological birth chart to evoke the symbolic and help you become more aware of your total Self. Her study of the Shadow using Astrological tools has given her an invaluable awareness of the unconscious and the role it plays in the relationships that we attract into our lives. For more information, visit her Web site: www.shadowdance.com.

Is It Love or Is It Projection?

RequiebroBy Rebeca Eigen

There is something magical about the experience of “falling in love.” Psychologically it is their feeling function that gets activated when two lovers first meet. Emotions burst forth and sparks fly that ignite a passion and an unmistakable bliss. When you are with that person, you are “in heaven,” so to speak. And when you are away from them, you are longing for the next encounter. As the song says, “Suddenly life has new meaning to me,” and they are transported into the realms of the Gods (the archetypes). In our Western culture, our movies provide us plenty of examples of this experience — so much so that we all yearn for it.

We mistakenly call this love, and many find themselves searching for their other half, their “soul mate.” We believe that this is what will complete us and that this magic is what we feel to truly value another person. As you will see when you understand the nature of the “Anima” and “Animus,” this is only the beginning of an encounter with our unconscious.

It’s interesting that the word “soul” also means psyche. In the psychology of Dr. Carl G. Jung, he explains this phenomenon of projecting our Anima and Animus (the contrasexual soul images in our unconscious) onto each other. The psyche seeks wholeness, and a union of our inner opposites is what Jung called the process of individuation. When projection occurs, this process has begun as these contrasexual images are now out in the open. We will learn a lot about ourselves by the people we either extremely love or hate.

Often we will fall in love and get involved in some very unsuitable, destructive and soul-destroying relationships, but these, too, are showing us aspects of our shadow. In order to grow and be a whole person, we need to become aware of what is really happening. When someone is “into us”, we need to ask ourselves, “Is it love or is it just projection?” Two people won’t know until time gives them a chance to see who each other actually is — and this requires self-honesty and self-disclosure.

There is no other way to see these parts of us, so it’s inevitable that they will be projected. The intoxication and the intensity of the experience are clues that we are into a projection. Ordinary human beings do not evoke the instant passion that “love at first sight” evokes.

The Anima and Animus

A woman carries an image of her male counterpart that Jung called the “Animus.” This unconscious inner male is her God (soul) image that gets projected onto a man in the outer world. As inner and outer create a mirroring effect, she will know a lot about what shape her inner partner is in by the person upon whom the projection lands. The clue to knowing a projection has occurred is the feeling of intense fascination or obsession with a man whom she will feel is her ideal mate.

A man faces a similar dilemma. When a man projects his perfect God (soul) image onto a woman, she becomes the carrier of his “Anima.” His Anima acts as a muse to bridge the gap between his inner and outer worlds. She animates him from within.

When this happens to both people at the same time, we call this “falling in love.” They definitely fall. They fall into their own unconscious image as each projects part of himself or herself onto the other person evoking a feeling of fantasy and Eros. The erotic and sexual nature of the encounter is psychologically symbolic. It is each one wanting to merge with or penetrate into themselves.

As time goes on, it is inevitable that projections are going to fall off. They actually have to so that we can see who the other person actually is and relate to a real person instead of a God or Goddess (a symbiotic extension of oneself). When relationships reach this stage of familiarity, many people addicted to this kind of high start looking outside their primary marriage or partnership. Many relationships end and the alchemical process begins all over again with someone else. Some go on to marry the person with whom they feel they are “in love with,” and later become disillusioned when they realize that they have married a person who is not who they thought they were.

On the other hand, if they are both committed to their relationship, growing and becoming conscious, when the projections dissolve, there is an opportunity that arrives for both people. They can now discover and embrace their missing halves. This is not an easy task as it takes work and often involves a painful encounter with the Self. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, Jung says that an experience with the Self is always a defeat for the ego but that the death of the ego (the Self as you knew it) allows one to be reborn into one’s own wholeness as projections are taken back.

In taking back our projections, we can now see and accept our partners for who they are — not what we wanted them to be; not what we wish they would change into; not for what they can give us; but who they are. The love that can now grow between them is profound because it is REAL. Real love, unlike projection, is a willingness to see and support another person to be their own unique, separate self. This will untangle us from seeking in them the perfect parent-mirror image of ourselves, for as long as we are still seeking to be completed by another person, we will not allow them their own autonomy.

As love between them grows and expands to the entire cosmos, this kind of love gives each partner their freedom — the greatest gift of all. As the duet by Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion professes, LOVE will be the gift you give yourself.

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RebecaEigen-72-dpiRebeca Eigen, an astrologer for 25+ years and author of The Shadow Dance & the Astrological 7th House Workbook, specializes in relationships. Using your time, date, and place of birth, she uses the astrological birth chart to evoke the symbolic and help you become more aware of your total Self. Her study of the Shadow using Astrological tools has given her an invaluable awareness of the unconscious and the role it plays in the relationships that we attract into our lives. For more information, visit her Web site: www.shadowdance.com.

There Are No Accidents: Illuminate the Patterns That Hold You Back

SparkBy Rebeca Eigen

There are no accidents.

We’ve all said these words at one time or another in our lives, and I wonder how much we really believe them. When something occurs in the outer world as an ill-fated event, do we stop to understand the meaning or do we continue to play the victim and let life go on as usual?

Studying Carl Jung for many years and being especially fond of his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, I came to understand that the unconscious is always striving for wholeness and consciousness. It’s almost an irreverence and disrespect to the Universe when we ignore the feedback that it is giving us. As the Taoists say, when one lacks a sense of awe, there will be disaster.

Jung often said that the unconscious will work with you if you will work with it. If you choose to ignore it, then it will find a symbolic way to get your attention. Notice the events and relationship situations that you experience, and recognize their importance even to the minutest detail.

Glenn Perry, one of my favorite teachers, once said to me, “Who you’re with is where you’re at.” I never forgot this. Like is constantly attracting like. Usually there is an unconscious collusion between both parties from the very beginning and a dance that is destined to play itself out as situations and events will repeat.

Most of us attract people who are our opposites, which automatically creates problems. Opposites need each other to complete what is incomplete in themselves. And there it will be over and over, and we will experience firsthand that there are no accidents. We have created this “other” as an opportunity to learn to see our darker side, our “Shadow.”

You will know you are headed to healthier relationships when you begin to reflect on just what this opposite is doing in your life and what the Universe wants from you. And don’t be afraid of the term “darker side.” I know it sounds sinister and foreboding but “dark” just describes what is hidden from view or awareness. As we strive toward wholeness, we will be mysteriously drawn to only those people from whom we will learn about ourselves.

Opposites are not just about marriage partners; we all have relationships. Even if we are not married or in a significant relationship with the opposite sex or same sex, we will be experiencing relationships, and these, too, will act as messengers.

Let me give you an example. A woman came to me for a consultation (I will call her Mary), and she had a pattern of attracting men who were always somehow involved with someone else. They were either married, involved with another woman, or not really available. Mary would enter the relationship thinking this time it would be different, but as usual there was always this other woman in their lives.

And here is the repetitive clue: this “other woman” was usually someone who was rather sick in her outlook on life, alcoholic, escapist, or unable to differentiate and take any responsibility for her own behavior. As time passed Mary would see that her lover was addicted to this woman, regardless of how she treated him or behaved toward others. And finally she recognized that this was a pattern for herself to attract this same situation over and over.

Through honest introspection, Mary began to recognize a familiar theme. She had tried over and over again to get her mother to leave her alcoholic, abusive father. Her mother would not protect herself and more than that, she refused to acknowledge there was even a problem by pretending it didn’t exist. Every time some big fight would occur, it would all be swept under the rug. This was very frustrating to Mary watching all of this because she could clearly see even as a young child that this situation was unhealthy for her mother. But try as she might to get her mother to leave, she could not.

So Mary grew up with a distorted sense of her own worth because she could not get the love of a parent who could not give something away that she didn’t have for herself. We can love others only when we love ourselves. And the sins of the father, so to speak, get passed on to the children. Looking for love in all the wrong places, Mary continued a pattern that began long ago, a time she didn’t even remember because she was too young then to understand.

It always looks like an ill-fated event that brings it all to a head, but it’s a time bomb waiting to go off, as the situation has been there in the relationship from the very beginning. The unconscious is truly loving us to see who we really are. Even our dreams will warn us, but often we refuse to see until it hurts too much not to see, and that is when we do grow, and we do change. That is when the ball starts rolling in our favor, and it is always, as they say, the darkest before the dawn. Dawn is the time of illumination, the time of real love. Love of others and love of self go hand in hand.

The opposites occurring in this situation are actually only unconscious aspects of the Self. Each person in the triangle is the same. They cannot value themselves enough, but only because they don’t understand the pattern. Once the pattern and the truth emerge, each person has choices to make.

Make it a goal to be “real” with others who are willing to be “real” with you. Look at what is going on with yourself that is not chance anymore when it happens more than twice. The resulting awareness will be well worth the effort, and the synchronistic events will be clearly explaining what is next if we want to evolve. Because, as the saying goes, there are no accidents!

Photo credit: Wesley Eller

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RebecaEigen-72-dpiRebeca Eigen, an astrologer for 25+ years and author of The Shadow Dance & the Astrological 7th House Workbook, specializes in relationships. Using your time, date, and place of birth, she uses the astrological birth chart to evoke the symbolic and help you become more aware of your total Self. Her study of the Shadow using Astrological tools has given her an invaluable awareness of the unconscious and the role it plays in the relationships that we attract into our lives. For more information, visit her Web site: www.shadowdance.com.

What is Your “Unlived Life?” It’s Time to Start Living Whole-Heartedly

like a record...The happiest people I know have something in common: they are whole-hearted in how they engage in their lives…whole-hearted in relating with others, in work, in meditation, and in play. They have a capacity to give themselves thoroughly to the present moment.

Yet for many, it’s challenging to engage with this quality of presence. Take this personal ad for example. It says:

Free to a good home, beautiful 6-month old male kitten, orange and caramel tabby, playful, friendly, very affectionate, ideal for family with kids. OR handsome 32-year old husband, personable, funny, good job, but doesn’t like cats. He or the cat goes. Call Jennifer and decide which one you’d like.

How often do we find that in our relationships, rather than loving presence, we have an agenda for someone to change, to be different? How often do we find that our insecurities prevent us from being spontaneous, or whole-heartedly engaged with friends? You might think of one important relationship and ask yourself: “What is between me and feeling fully present when I’m with this person?” Notice the fears creeping in about falling short, the urge to get your needs met, the sense of “not enough time,” the wanting for your experience together to unfold a certain way! This same conditioning plays out in all aspects of living, and it is well grounded in our evolutionary wiring. We need to manage things, to feel in control. We try to avoid disappointments, to prevent things from going wrong.

While we have this strong conditioning, if it runs our life, we miss out. Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence, psychologically, on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parents.” Unlived life happens in the moments when we’re not whole-hearted, the moments when we’re busy scrambling to get somewhere else, or holding back to avoid what might be painful. Unlived life is the relationships where we really don’t allow ourselves to be intimate with each other, the emotion that we don’t let ourselves acknowledge. Unlived life is that passion we didn’t follow, the adventures we didn’t let ourselves go on. Unlived life, while it happens in an attempt to avoid suffering, actually leads to suffering.

What I’ve noticed in myself, and when I talk with others, is that in order to be completely whole-hearted, there is a need for giving up of control. By letting go of our usual ways of holding back and protecting ourselves, we free ourselves to express our full aliveness, creativity, and love.

If we experiment with this letting go of control—if we engage wholeheartedly with each other and in our activities—our sense of being enlarges. More and more we discover the innate curiosity and care that leads to giving ourselves fully to this moment, and then this one, and again…this one. Rather than racing to the finish line, we choose, with all our heart, to be here for our life.

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)

Enjoy this talk on The Compass of our Hearts-Part1

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

Synchronicity: The Magic of Souful Guidance

According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous. ― Deepak Chopra

When we begin to wake up and pay attention to the world around us and look for meaning, Spirit begins to play and present syncScreen-Shot-2013-03-01-at-2.00.54-PM-e1362367004409hronicities.

Synchronicity was a word coined by Carl Jung in the 1920′s. Jung was on a deep spiritual journey that took him into the realms of his inner workings in an unprecedented way. Some of the results are recorded in both writing and exquisite paintings and drawings in his “Red Book.” Jung used what he’d learned about himself in his psychotherapy practice. One day, a patient of his dreamed of a golden scarab. The next day, during the therapy session, an insect flew into the room. Jung caught it and discovered to his surprise that it was a golden scarab. Scarabs are a very rare presence in Switzerland. But the appearance of the insect which was considered sacred by Egyptians, brought a powerful affirmation to the patient and to Jung. It deepened the meaning of the symbol and brought it to cross the boundaries between waking consciousness and dream consciousness.

The word synchronicity relates to timing and being in sync or harmony with the spirit. More and more people who pay attention are noticing synchronistic experiences. These may appear as signs along the way to keep them headed in the right direction and offer deeper meaning. During a period when I dreamed of snakes, snakes also appeared in unusual places – like on a city sidewalk. This brought me to take the inner symbols and images more seriously and to pay attention to what they were trying to tell me.

Synchronistic events that bring together inner soul experiences with physical events in the world of waking consciousness can offer up deep meaning and guidance. Someone may mention that it would be good for you to explore labyrinths, for example, and then another friend unwittingly invites you to walk a labyrinth that she’s discovered in her neighborhood. A man at one of my workshops recently spoke of feeling a deep desire to go to Costa Rica to explore his indigenous roots. A few months later a friend of his who was unaware of his yearning offered him a job in that country.

To benefit from the play of synchronicity, stay attuned to the images, places and people that have an emotional connection for you. When we tune in to the Divine play, miracles can happen.


Debra Moffitt is the award winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life and “Garden of Bliss”. A visionary, dreamer and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices, writing and creativity in the U.S. and Europe. More at http://www.awakeintheworld.com and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/DebraMoffittAwakeintheWorld

Synchronicity: Six Ways to Tune into to Soul Signs

Synchronicity was a word coined by Carl Jung in the 1920’s. Jung was on a deep spiritual journey that took him into the realms of his inner workings in an unprecedented way. Jung used his dreams to explore his inner workings and he adapted what he’d learned about himself to his psychotherapy practice. On patient dreamed of a golden scarab. The next day during the therapy session a golden scarab flew into the room and Jung caught it. His surprise and delight are the hallmarks of synchronistic events. Scarabs are very rare in Switzerland. But the appearance of the insect which was considered sacred by Egyptians, brought a powerful affirmation to the patient and to Jung’s theories. It deepened the meaning of the symbol and brought it to cross the boundaries between waking consciousness and dream consciousness.

Synchronicity happens when we wake up and pay attention to the signs. Here are some keys for tuning in and interpreting.

1)    Take note of dreams. Dreams will often reveal powerful images that can offer up guidance. Learning what they mean to you will require some effort and play. In that creative play space, the mind and heart are open to understanding the deeper meanings.

2)    Notice things that hold an emotional charge. If you’re attracted to owls, for example, do they show up on cards at the coffee shop or on a walk in nature? A woman who loves butterflies finds them fluttering by in unusual places. To her they symbolize the power of transformation and rebirth.

3)    Some synchronistic events and symbols are warnings. They give us signs that we need to change jobs, move to a different place, or change a habit to keep from getting sick.

4)    Have a playful state of mind. When we play, we’re open and curious. Just look at kids. Make efforts to re-create that creative child’s mind in yourself through drawing, collage and doing things in a different way. Changing from the right hand to the left (or vice versa if you’re left handed) will bring the mind to function differently. It opens new pathways in the brain.

5)    Meditate. Schedule regular moments to simply be quiet and listen. In the silence miracles and new solutions can come in.

6)    Take a Different Path. Try driving or walking a different path. Listen to your heart and dare to go in a new direction that you’re unfamiliar with.

By being open to the Divine plays of the universe, amazing things will happen.  

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

It’s Your Life, So Follow Your Dreams

It was 1992.  Four years had lapsed since my daughter Katie’s diagnosis of a brain tumor.  She was now healthy and back working in New York City.  Because my maternal stress levels were greatly relaxed, my professional dreams began to reemerge. It was time to think about making them come true.  

Both my dreams and my interests had become undeniably centered on the concepts developed by psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung because I realized, in hindsight, I had been living an archetypal experience during the trauma of Katie’s illness.  I realized also that while I was not the first mother to have been frightened by her child’s cancer, I needed to discover some meaning in it all and quench my thirst for understanding my time of monumental stress.  I also had a burning desire to explore Jung’s concepts of archetypes, dreams, the anima, the animus, the collective unconscious, synchronicity, the shadow, complex theory and other topics he developed.  And, I wanted to study where Dr. Jung developed his theories.  Yes, my psychic pathways for studious wanderlust beckoned.  I had no doubt that I needed to honor this dream.

Down the stairs I came that night of awakening, eager to share this new revelation with my husband, St. Richard. "I’ve been called to Switzerland," I announced with an ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila swooning with awareness.  Responding with his normal sincerity and humor that I often write about, he said, "Tonight?"

Three days later I registered for my program of study dealing with the symbolic world and depth psychology. Ninety-one people from the world over would become my classmates at The Jung Institute.  The program I signed up for would be held in Kusnacht, Switzerland, right on Lake Zurich, Jung’s hometown for many years.  

Several months later, as a parent would attach little mittens, my husband handed me my passport and boarding pass, kissed me goodbye and said, "You’ll be all right."  I would I thought? I didn’t speak German, I’d never been away more than two days without him – never mind to Europe by myself – and what in God’s holy name was I doing?  When the plane soared into the night sky I quietly wiped away a few nervous tears.  

Hours later, looking out the window on the chain of Swiss Alps snaking across the earth below, I gasped at their beauty and magnificence.  Here in Switzerland I would begin a pilgrimage.  Here in Switzerland I would feed my spirit and share experiences with others who would teach me and whom I would teach.  Here in Switzerland I would learn first-hand the nature and importance of one of Jung’s most profound concepts: individuation which is to understand the psychological process that makes a person an individual.

On the last day of the program I rode the train with a small group of seven newly formed friends to see Jung’s summer cottage. There at Bollingen we held one another’s hands and sang "Amazing Grace" because each of us had come to Switzerland to find something extraordinary and each of us did: we found the miracle in the mystery.  We found the joy in personal pursuit.  We found the guaranteed blessing that is the ultimate reward whenever we take the time to follow our dream and Make Every Day Matter.

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP

Author of When Every Day Matters, Simple Abundance Press, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Publisher


STRESS Month: A Patchwork Approach to ‘Religious’ Experience

 A patchwork approach to "religious" experience:

I’ve been attending a series of lectures at the Hammer Museum in Westwood California around Carl Jung’s Red Book. The lectures are actually dialogues between an interesting person (e.g. actor, writer, artist, scholar, religious leader, etc) and a Jungian analyst or scholar around The Red Book and the process of inward investigation of mind (what the Red Book represents). All the events have been over-subscribed, standing room only, and a huge success. In the Q and A period following each Dialogue, a common question emerges "Why Now?"

For those not familiar with The Red Book, it’s Carl Jung’s personal journey into his mind. Created over a series of many years, he would meditate each evening and explore his mind, writing text and drawing images of what he experienced.

Why are people so curious in the Red Book and discussions around it? The consensus of presenters and audience members alike seems to be an endorsement of a societal ‘need’ or "thirst" for inward discovery. By inward discovery I mean a turning in toward oneself, a time for reflection and contemplation, for stillness in the busyness and doingness of life. In a culture focused on outward activities — science, technology, politics, media and entertainment — there is often too little attention (and value) paid toward inward such investigation. The Red Book provides an object for such discovery — by experiencing it through the eyes of its author.

It seems to me that that is what religions as institutions were designed to provide — a refuge or time set aside for contemplation, reflection or inward discovery, and a means of transcending oneself and connecting to something larger by whatever name that experience is designated.

But for many today, organized religions are not providing the experience described above; perhaps it is because there is too much attention directed toward the interpretation of ancient texts or to rules, dogma and doctrine that make such institutions not conducive to the contemplative experience itself. Or perhaps it is the division that arises from the contrast and compare that arises within various religions that makes their commonalities — as places for contemplative insight to be nurtured – less obvious.

I’ve been thinking that the beginnings of religions are rooted in the words of someone who has experienced a transcendent insight and who conveys this insight to others through words and actions, inspiring others to continue to build around the teachings until an institution forms in its wake. In many ways it is what happened to Carl Jung’s own "transcendent insight" and its integration into Jungian psychology and a following by now Jungian psychoanalysts.

While some institutions (and frameworks) emerging from such insights are fleeting; others last many millennia. The stories or parables or words used to describe such transcendent experiences and insights shift and change to meet the ears of new generations; when successful in such efforts, it is likely that the institution continues to grow. Jung’s work on dreams, the collective unconscious, synchronicity, and individuation are greeted eagerly by many in the 21st century unable to connect with other systems of inward study.

It’s likely also why meditation — as an experiential practice for investigating the mind and available without reference to any religious orientation — is 3000 + years old and emerging in medical settings across the country, as well as educational, political and business settings. Meditation is a powerful means for inward investigation of the mind if one is open and curious in the process. As Jung discovered on his own journey, it can be frightening at times and without a sense of unlimited ‘love of self’ (not a narcissistic love but rather self-compassion), it might even be a dangerous process.

I took a young man (about 30 years old) to one of the dialogues and we talked about it afterward. His take on it was that we each must find the best route to inward discovery and its integration into our day to day lives. He thought it quite obvious that we each may borrow a teaching from various religions, psychologies, or other systems and use whatever we find most useful for us on the way. I noted that his view may be somewhat atypical because at its core was a profound sense of trust in himself to know what to select and discard along the way. Many people don’t have such a strong sense of trust, something that emerges with self-compassion. But then I thought of my own three kids (now young adults) and noticed they have that strong sense of trust as well.

It made me wonder if the Red Book and other methods of inward study — like meditation — may be growing in popularity today because a new generation of youth — perhaps more self-compassionate and trusting — are choosing diversity (many tools, many approaches) to guide them on their life adventures (outward and inward). It is a patchwork approach to "religious" experience. In this case I define a "religious experience" as one of self-transcendence where one experiences a sense of connection to something larger than oneself (whether that something is called humanity, the evolutionary process, ultimate reality, Spirit or God).

(for free guided meditations, go to www.marc.ucla.edu and click on ‘Mindfulness Meditations’)



Mindfulness Meditation and Carl Jung’s Red Book

 The other night I attended one of the Red Book Dialogues at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, California. The Dialogues are a series of discussions between a celebrity (that night was Helen Hunt) and a psychoanalyst or Jungian scholar (that night was James Hillman) around The Red Book, Carl Jung’s personal journey into the mind. The Red Book is on display at the Hammer Museum through May.

At one point in the dialogue, Hillman and Hunt were pondering how ‘meditation’ may be similar or different to Jung’s process in the creation of the Red Book. While Helen is a long-time meditator (as well as funny, creative, and intelligent), she felt unable to make the comparison being neither a Meditation Teacher nor Jungian scholar. Hillman also felt meditation was beyond his scope of knowledge and at a loss for words to compare the two.

As the founder of MARC at UCLA (www.marc.ucla.edu) — a center dedicated to teaching meditation and disseminating the scientific research around it (and a sponsor of the evenings’ event), I didn’t offer my thoughts during the Q and A session about the topic; at the time, they were not quite clear to me how best to describe it. The next day I awoke with greater clarity and here’s my belated observation.

Let me preface this with noting that I am not a meditation teacher but rather a student of it and other tools for investigating the mind, including Jungian analysis.

1. There are many types of meditation; Hillman thought meditation was about ‘clearing the mind’ and while there are likely meditations designed for that purpose, many are not. At MARC we teach mindfulness meditation — a practice of being present with experience in a curious and open way . Mindfulness meditation is a means of exploring the mind (not clearing it) and in this way, there are parallels between Jung’s creation of the Red Book and mindfulness. One thing that may arise with practicing mindfulness meditation is that there is an increasing clarity of mind, a finer and finer ability to see the mind and understand the origins of one’s thoughts, feelings, and sensory experiences; perhaps in that way one could say it is in some way a ‘clearing’ of the mind, but not by a process designed to ’empty’ it.

Hunt described her meditation practice as 20 minutes or so a day of attending to her breath and then when her attention is pulled away from it (for a thought or feeling or sensory experience), noting that, and returning to the breath. It is this sort of practice that helps hone attention (both science and experience document this) and with time, the attention may become so stable and calm that one can begin to investigate the mind itself — the sorts of things Jung describes in his Red Book. The practice is such that the objects of attention can change — perhaps from a breath or body sensation to a thought or a feeling or the ‘meaning’ of the life and the mind itself.

The parallels to the process of writing the Red Book are many. I’ve heard that Carl Jung put himself into a transcendental state as he wrote his Red Book over the many years it took to do so. How he entered his meditative state is unclear (as far as I know) but he learned to explore his mind with in its process, and in that way, his exploration is not unlike an exploration of the mind that might arise using mindfulness meditation.

Hunt had read the Red Book and brought many quotations from it with her. In one she noted that Jung had said his journey would not have been possible without self-love; noting that brutal honesty in seeing our minds requires courage and kindness. As his Red Book so vividly displays, the characters of mind are diverse and uncovering the roots (potentials) for cruelty, evil, and other negative emotions requires a sense of self-love to allow their realization.

2. Mindfulness meditation — no matter how described — is only realized through a first person investigation. We offer free 30-minute guided meditation sessions at the Hammer Museum every Thursday over the lunch hour (12-1). Alternatively, we offer ongoing classes and workshops (fee based) at UCLA MARC (including on-line classes).

3. For a better description of the role of meditation in exploring the mind and its relationship to Carl Jung and the Red Book, you might want to come to the Hammer Museum for the last dialogue talk with Jack Kornfield (a leading mindfulness meditation teacher) and Katherine Sandford on May 28 at the Hammer.



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