Making one’s way through the swamplands of the soul.
Yesterday we went for a late afternoon walk to explore a broken trail through the mangrove swamp that lays between the strip of habitation along the coastline and the mainland. The swamp is hundreds of miles long and up to two miles in width on the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula. This particular boardwalk was designed to allow “tourists” to see swamp life up close and personal. However, with few takers because people wanted sun, sand, surf and entertainment. The boardwalk is broken in so many places making for a somewhat dangerous adventure.
Wandering through swampland is something that few willingly risk. Wandering through the swamplands of one’s soul finds even fewer willing to take the adventure. It usually takes a crisis – a midlife crisis, a crisis of faith, or a traumatic event in one’s life to push one into daring to wander through a dark, dank, dangerous inner landscape. Think of the Odyssey and make it personal knowing that who you were before the journey through the swampland, will never reappear. Such a journey is a heroic journey of transformation.
Every truth you held close is questioned, and often exposed as a self-deceit. You have to strip away all preconceived notions in order to see clearly the self that lies hidden in the shadows of the swampland, a self that waits for ego to allow it to emerge into the light of day as a newborn emerges from the birth canal – naked and untainted in spite of the long period of gestation in a dark, damp place.
You’d think life would get easier as one gets older. As I am learning, if anything, it gets more and more complicated each day. It seems that just as I learn yet one more answer, a dozen more questions leap into existence to challenge my right to say I am becoming wiser as I get older. At this rate, by the time I am seventy-five I will effectively be a dunce. What a difference from my youth when I believed myself to be smarter than parents and everyone else that I knew at that time. Not only I believed that to be the truth, but so did all that knew me. And then began the painful process of growing up and growing with awareness that every single truth that I knew was a fiction.
It’s like wearing clothing. We see ourselves in one set of clothing and believe we have discovered the truth of who we are. Then with a change in fashions, we find another set of clothing that redefines who we are and we swell with pride at this new discovery. We wear costumes and uniforms to match our careers and social standing in our communities building a belief system that our uniqueness is somehow tied into those uniforms and costumes. Yet when we dare to look in the mirror, we know that these truths are lies, lies we have told ourselves.
We finally, perhaps, will look at our bodies and know that it has all been a foolish game. We are aghast at what we see and rush to diets, fitness regimes, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, get body waxes, and invest in a makeover of monumental dimensions hoping to convince ourselves and others that we are worth something. Yet, there is something that lurks beneath the skin that looks at us, challenges us to look back and recognize the shadow side of ourselves, shadows that are filled with as much light as with darkness. All else has been an illusion.
Sometimes a person just has to challenge the Creator.
Do we always have to accept the way things are? Do we not need to protest those things and actions that whisper to us that ‘this is wrong”? And, who are we exactly challenging, to whom are we protesting?
For so many, there is a believed clear answer – God. It is convenient to be able to place blame on either God or Satan. It takes the pressure off of ourselves and gives us a strange satisfaction in becoming a victim of others, of supernatural forces and beings. It absolves us of having to fix or to change that which first stirred up feelings of disquiet, disharmony within our souls.
All the problems in our collective life and in our personal lives are lain at the feet of others – neighbours, colleagues, spouses, enemies, politicians, religions, the economy, etc. We then wear a mantle of blamelessness leaving us to freely judge everyone around us. Yet, deep down we know better. We know that there are shadows within our very being that are stirring. We flee from these shadows and project our own darkness onto others. We fear the hidden beast, that dark shadow of soul that holds all the evil we deny exists within us. And in the process, we add to the collective shadow where evil roams freely and unchecked in the world.
Thoughts arising on a rock in the Caribbean Sea.
I am blessed in so many ways. To have this time in my life to simply be one with nature without always having to wear clothing is one of those blessings. To have a wife who accepts my need for moments such as this one in the photo to the left, is even more precious as a blessing. She was the photographer for today’s image.
Being retired gives me time to immerse myself into a life that is resurrected upon the ashes of my previous life, life before retirement. With this time filled with meditation, writing, walking, photography, depth psychology and most importantly, love; I dare to explore the fullness of the possibilities of “self” that have been buried in the shadow lands of the unconscious.
Within each of us is a shadow, that denied version of ourselves that refuses to be silenced.
This post came to my attention while I was meditating this morning. Sometimes it works that way. I acknowledge those things that appear in my mind and then let them go. If there is something that is worthy, in my opinion, in an idea or image, then I follow up on it after meditation.
I will be giving a presentation on the shadow to a group of folks interested in learning more about Jungian psychology next month. This image won’t be used in the presentation as I am addressing a non-naturist group in a public space. Because I want them to hear what I have to say rather than to react to my appearance or the images that I will use during the presentation, I will ensure that the images and my person don’t become a distraction, a focal point. But here, I can tell it like it is without worrying about offending anyone.
Of course, people coming here are not all naturists or nudists or whatever term one wants to use, and of course, some will be offended by what they see here or what they read here. That is their choice, the same as it was their choice to come to this page. Needless to say, where there is a sense of being offended, the shadow has made an appearance, the shadow that belongs to the person who feels offended. It really is that simple. What works us up, what offends us is more about ourselves than it is about who or what we blame. Something to think about.
Every morning I meditate with early morning sunshine filtering through the leaves of trees in our back yard. I sit at the entrance to our casita with door open so that the breezes as well as the occasional rays of sunshine can touch me. I meditate with a state of openness, not trying to force meditation into one direction or another. I meditate with my eyes opening slightly before gently resting as I get caught up in my breathing.
Breath in, breath out, pause – repeat. My eyes open not in search of anything, but simply to accept unquestioningly that which appears before my eyes, not judging, not valuing or devaluing. What is seen is simply just seen just like the breath going in and out is just breath.
A thought appears, and I notice its presence and simply let it go without trying to work out what that thought is trying to tell me. I learn to trust that if a thought is important it will return when I leave my meditation cushion. I have spent too many meditation hours following those rogue thoughts as they create so many fantasies of illusion, thoughts that work emotions to the point that any hope for peace had vanished leaving me drained. It has taken me years to get to a basic level of peacefulness while meditating, a peacefulness that curiously has seeped into my other hours of wakefulness.
Om mani padme hum.
An image of Tantric Yoga, the holy marriage of the masculine and feminine (not necessarily the male and the female).
My wife and I have tried to create a similar image in our garden a couple of evenings ago, with only a little success. We will definitely be revisiting this theme in order to get the image we are satisfied with for the poetry project. In my opinion the female needs to be as visible as the male rather than just half legs and arms. Of course, since we are in our sixties, the image won’t be about rippling, buff muscles. We definitely fit into the “normal” body types that show all the real signs of growing older. And, we like it that way. I guess we are comfortable with both our bodies at our age as well as our state of mind. And that, is the ultimate goal for everyone, a sense of being at peace with oneself and with one’s significant other.
Today is a cloudy day with a cool north wind blowing which makes it a good day to do something different rather than repeat the same beach walk. A photo walk around the fishing village became our focus with the intent to highlight the village in our posts and e-mails to those back home in Canada.
The poetry is coming along fairly well using this new format of taking photos first with them then becoming the inspiration for the words to follow. I have a sense that this is my best work yet. When the project is done, you will get to be the judge.