Meditation in Changzhou China
If anyone was to ask me how I became the way I am, what did I do to become the kind of person I am, I would have to honestly tell them that I haven’t got a clue. I just am. Yes, I know that I am changing, have changed and will continue to change as that is just life. I respond to events, ideas, emotions, interactions with others, the absences, the losses . . . the list is too long to try and name all the environmental, cultural and interpersonal factors that have had a role to play in my development.
In the process of being alive and changing, I have acquired a personal belief system that has a spiritual dimension. Someone recently asked why I don’t start up a new religion or new approach to psychology since I didn’t seem to fit into any of the boxes that currently exist. But of course that would be impossible as I am not the “leader” type in terms of doing the work in having others become followers. I do lead within the context of various groups and professions, but not in something as personal as spirituality. I can’t understand a religion or church as ever meeting my needs. I can’t accept that what works for me could be packaged and sold to others as solutions for their spiritual needs.
“When I examined the course of development in patients who quietly, and as if unconsciously, outgrew themselves, I saw that their fates had something in common. The new thing came to them from obscure possibilities either outside or inside themselves; they accepted it and grew with its help. . . . In no case was it conjured into existence intentionally or by conscious willing, but rather seemed to be borne along on the stream of time.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 13, paragraph 18)
Yes, unintentionally, unconsciously being carried along. It does matter what I consciously and intentionally do with my life and what presents itself to me as I make my way from birth to death, with that stuff which emerges and happens without my control, without my volition. And this only makes me think more about beingness. I basically have no choice other than to be myself, to be my self. Where I do have choice is in being more or less of that self that is there fully beneath the layers of consciousness. Not bringing anything up has me be in life more unconsciously than consciously. As I wrest things out of the darkness and in the process discover hidden aspects of myself, I appear to change to others when in fact I don’t undergo a change at all in terms of self. I just become more of my self.
Now this has me wondering about those things I have set aside, those choices I refuse to consider. Do I choose to not act because of fear of change, fear of what might be in store for me? Does one refuse that which comes up because one doesn’t want to disturb the status quo such as in terms of relationships? Of course I don’t have any answers, just questions and wonderings.
Morning sun trying desperately to break through a dense cover of cloud in ChangZhou, China
How appropriate after writing about depression to find this image on my way to classes early this morning. If there is a picture possible about what depression might look like, then, for me, this is it. The actual sky was dark, but not this dark and the sun was weaker than it appears here. Light plays tricks on a camera as it tries to cope with images taken of the direct sun, even a sun filtered by layers of clouds. The camera paints a darker scene with a stronger sun. I then think that perhaps even this is trying to tell me something for the camera doesn’t really lie when it shows me something that I thought was different. There is more than what I see, more than I understand about what I see.
I then think of my own experience with depression when I entered mid-life. The world I saw was much different than the world those around me at the time saw though we all saw the same scene. In depression I didn’t have full access to my mental capacity nor my senses. My range of vision was more like I was wearing blinders which cut off all peripheral scenes. The world had less depth, more two-dimensional. Even sound was muted. If I payed any attention, it was only to the bits of the world that mimicked my mood. But I didn’t see and note all of this at the time. I thought that the world had changed; I didn’t see it was not the world, but my self that had muffled and filtered. Depression is called abaissement du niveau mental for a reason.
Though my dreams were talking to me, though the natural world was talking to me, I was deaf. It was time for help and help came in the guise of a guide. That’s one of the important things that come to one when life ceases to have depth and meaning, a guide. A real guide will coax images, sensations and fantasies into existence, images that point back at the blockages of energy and in doing so, point to new ways of thinking, doing and being that are necessary so that the journey can continue.
As I went walking later in the day, after writing up the first part of this post, I saw that the day had become even more bleak, grayer and darker with thick air. It made me think of how depression is not limited to individual people but can often seize a community or a country. In small communities, a tragedy involving young people often steals the energy and vitality from the community. It is only after a period of grieving and healing that the community can again find a new way to go forward. In the modern world we see a bleakness descend over whole countries. We call it recession and depression and we dig in, bury our heads and wait for the darkness to pass. But like an individual, a guide is needed for the collective psyche, a guide that will invoke active imagination which will bring new possibilities and new hope.
Who will be our guide? What fantasies will our collective imagination produce? How do we get there from here?