Leading 5-day workshops over 9 years at Esalen® Institute in Big Sur was always an experience to remember. I often utilized transformational themes that led participants into uncharted waters of reflection and life change. The retreats were incredible experiences and many of you who read my blog were there with me! Granted, the beauty of Esalen made a major contribution to the dynamic experience. Today’s post shares a theme from one of my workshops.
One of my favorite resources is Jungian analyst, Dr. James Hillman. His book The Soul’s Code is provocative in that he feels we all have and must discover our calling, what he calls “that essential mystery at the heart of each human life.” (pg 6) Hillman suggests that many psychological treatment perspectives perpetuate a stasis in clients’ lives, that is, if therapy repetitively spins and reinforces – like a broken record – the problematic narrative of one’s history. I agree that an over-emphasis on our historic travails may create a ‘victimized’ narrative that may diminish a sense of personal efficacy and responsibility in creating a meaningful present life. Identifying with a limiting narrative stifles one’s innate potential. An over-emphasis on our childhood experiences without a balanced focus on an adult transformational perspective results in a constricted and regressed perspective. Finding personal meaning and unlocking the code of one’s destiny elevates and refines our life, enabling its full potential to unfold. Of course, it is essential that we understand cognitively and emotionally how we became who we are now and do the work to unravel our non-adaptive defenses – and that is substantial work. That very broken character style and patterning clouds discovery of who we are and how we want to live. As we drop our defensive character style, we must propel ourselves forward with newly discovered self-knowledge – to find and live our calling.
Hillman asks us “… to resurrect the unaccountable twists that turned your boat around in the eddies and shallows of meaninglessness, bringing you back to feelings of destiny. For that is what is lost in so many lives, and what must be recovered: a sense of personal calling, that there is a reason I am alive.” (pg 4)
He also states “…you and I and every single person is born with a defining image … We each embody our own idea, in the language of Plato and Plotinus. And this form, this idea, this image does not tolerate too much straying. The theory also attributes to this innate image an angelic or daimonic intention, as if it were a spark of consciousness; and, moreover, holds that it has our interest at heart because it chose us for its reasons.”(pgs 11-12)
Transformation is the process of realizing our self; our essential human task cultivated from the varied gifts we have been given. We must find what lights us up, what ignites our passion and what we want to contribute to our interbeing community. This is not an inflated ideal – if whatever our current role or job or activity are, we commit to do it responsibly, with sincerity, satisfaction and connection, then we are making a contribution to self and others. This idea includes venturing out to explore the deeper urges inside that speak to us; to fly out of our comfort zones to be more of what we potentially are. We are worth more than just living to survive or survive well. We must transcend the limited version of how we view our self. Murray Stein, another Jungian, states this concept beautifully, from his book Transformation, Emergence of the Self. “… transformation leads people to become more deeply and completely who they are and have always potentially been. Change to the new, paradoxically, is change to the very old. Transformation is realization, revelation, and emergence, not self- improvement, change for the better, or becoming a more ideal person. The transforming person is someone who realizes the inherent self to the maximum extent possible and in turn influences others to do the same.” (pg xxiv)
Can we allow ourselves to run free, with firm, strong legs toward the essence of who we are – embodying our creativity, our aliveness and our true interests so that we can appreciate our lives? It takes courage to stand on our feet, not as an adult child but rather as the potent force we are and can be. We need to find the deep waters of the self, our depth rather than the shallows that smack us around with our superficial and meaningless values.
Shake off the shackles and stand firm in yourself. You will then be liberated to take responsibility for YOUR life.