Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Life's secret ingredient.

I have a stomachache. Despite decent ingredients, my stew today was a flop. How can I save the ample leftovers and convert them into something more edible? Should I add some layers of cheese? Cheese saves almost anything.

What is the secret missing ingredient in my own life? What will convert all my past endeavors and failures into a cohesive and meaningful whole?

Jungian work, meditation, surrender, exploring the Tao-- these are sources of my soul's nourishment. These practices help me begin to find flow, meaning, and cohesion.

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


This morning I had planned to get my yearly blood test at a lab 15 minutes from home. But I was resistant. My days away from the office are sacred and my routine is precious to me. I meditate, have breakfast, meditate some more and write. It is a peaceful, joyful time. The blood work would completely interrupt my morning. I had to go immediately because these tests required fasting. I couldn’t have my morning coffee until I fulfilled this duty.

It was also extremely cold. I dressed and started the car but my mind continued its debate. I didn’t want to leave the warm cocoon of my morning. Especially not to fight traffic and get stuck by a needle in my vein! Why did I have to do these stupid tests anyway? Maybe I could wait until spring when the roads were clearer and the temperature above freezing? My doctor wouldn’t know and I’m a very healthy person…..

In my mind, I could see my mother, shaking her head. I was being a big baby. Go do the test. It’s once a year and not such a big deal. You can meditate in the car on the way there and back. Get it done and over with.

In the end, I got in the car and took the test. My second voice was right, it wasn’t a big deal and the results were desirable. Still, my internal debate revealed my dedication to my inner child and her questioning.

My family has always been nervous about my commitment to questioning, “why?” I don’t accept most adult conventions at face value. Does that make me harder to control? Probably. Is that why I’ve been pressured (like most of us) to abolish my childlike openness and the question “why?”

Being an adult shouldn’t only emphasize being “responsible.” It should stress being response-able, that is, being able to respond to life’s changing circumstances. Ironically, when we become adults and stop asking “why” we hinder our response-abilty. Too often we become automatic in our actions and simply follow a herd mentality.

How many of us aren’t living the lives we desire? We say we are forced to race from one activity to the next, short on sleep and a stranger to our loved ones (and ourselves). What would happen if we asked “why?” Why do we need to do what we do? Then, after the adult gives a standard answer, “bills have to be paid,” or “it’s expected,” or “people will think I’m crazy if I don’t do that,” find the child in you and keep asking “why?” Why do you have to pay the bills (in that way)? Why is it expected (and who expects it)? Why do you believe others and what they say? It is only when we begin to question our assumptions about life that we can make choices from our heart.

Despite my family’s fears, I don’t always give into my desires. This morning, the parental voice made the most sense. But other times, when I follow my intuition and the needs of my sensual self, circumstances usually arrange themselves ideally. When I am in dialogue with both parts of myself, I can find the flow of life, instead of always fighting the currents.

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Words as Sacred

How do you frame the world in your mind? How do you organize your perceptions? I play with words-the sacramental vessels that create beauty and meaning for me. Others play with visual images, movement, or music. Some organize space or experience the mystical through numbers and formulas. For me, words are the units that create a Universe. (I'm reminded of the ancient Kabbalists who meditated on individual letters and saw these as sacred. Each letter represented an entry into an understanding of God.)

Words float in my mind, seeking order. The words themselves are numinous yet they also seek to be gathered together, to create tiny new worlds of meaning. Placing words in the "right" order is an incredible high-- and my duty.

Imagine each of us pursuing our own mystical medium. Whether vocation or avocation, witnessed alone or shared with others, such a practice would bring joy and healing to ourselves and the world.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I sit in the sun on a warm winter day, soaking up vitamin D and images of blue sky. After a hard work-week, I wait for my conscious and unconscious minds to reconnect-- like lovers who've been apart-these two just want to gaze upon each other, silently. I feel like a third party to this scene, wondering what is happening as I sit doing the "nothing" I've so desperately craved.

I sit while Mind wanders. Although I have many (mostly pleasant) chores that beckon, I ignore them. My most important task is to listen for my soul's voice. I've been too busy to hear its subtle message and now, like an athlete who's had to miss training for a week, I'm hungry to resume meditation.

How lucky to have unstructured time! But it isn't only luck; I've been determined to secure this. I'll downsize if necessary-- to preserve a healthy balance of work and rest. It's vital for my well-being and the discovery of my own genius. Stephen Covey agrees-- taking regular downtime is his Habit 7 - "Sharpening the Saw."

So I sit and let Mind wander. Today it seems that I will never get enough of this "do nothing" time. But I trust the process. My extremely demanding schedule--is that why I seem so starved for quiet? From experience, I know I'll eventually move from "ebb" to "flow." Then I'll have one of my "aha" moments and a seemingly new idea will burst forth.

Meanwhile, I trust and wait. Both Jungian psychology and current brain science suggest that much of our thinking and many of our perceptions happen below consciousness. So, even though I can't know what goes on in these hidden areas of my psyche, I can help myself by believing in what can't be seen or measured. I can help myself by resting and listening to the still, quiet voice inside.

© Lewis-Barr 2009
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Sunday, November 16, 2008


Two myths illumine my path this morning: the stories of the Hebrews wandering lost in the desert (how true that feels of my life!), and the image of a Grail knight lost in a tangled wood.

Today I wake from a dream (or, like one of those knights, an enchantment). These two mythic images give me hope that my longings and confusion will come to an end. I am, I suddenly see, on my own hero’s journey. Each bewildering detour is part of my own sacred labyrinth.

I've been practicing surrender. Is that why I see more clearly today? As I submit to my mysterious fate, I feel a peace, even in the midst of an excruciating loneliness.
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Power of Intention

Sophie wears me down with her focused intention. She wants some people food! She follows me from room to room. At the table, she follows me with her eyes. She is patient. She is vigilant. I forget that I’ve promised myself: I will not add additional treats to her already-doctored food. Her objective is working. Absentmindedly, I take my used plate and mix her dried food into the meat drippings. Sophie has trained me well. She reminds me of the power of tenacity. Sophie is determined and will cajole me until I take her on our daily walk, give her some people food, and tug on her toy. If I can’t (or won’t) accommodate her desires, she may give up momentarily, but she will resume her quest again and again and again. Sophie gets more of what she wants because of her dogged (pun!) persistence.

How much could I achieve if I was half as tenacious as Sophie? © Lewis-Barr 2008
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Conscious Endurance

Yesterday I gave a new training event in EI. Objectively it went very well. But not perfectly. As I collected my materials, I felt a great sense of relief but, if I was honest, I also felt deeply ashamed. I know I’m too hard on myself. I tried to distract myself from these feelings but my conversations with colleagues were filled with self-blame, excuses, and explanations. When I finally went for a walk, my rational mind offered another perspective and proclaimed me “innocent.” My mood improved but I still couldn’t shake a slight feeling of shame, crouched in the back of my mind. Now, the following morning, I try arguing with this old feeling, but it hunkers down. Is there anything more I can do, but endure this strange internal curse? Change takes time. Jung said that we aren’t cured of what ails us; we simply and eventually outgrow our neuroses.

Today I sit with this internal tormentor. I know she’s wrong about me. I can’t be perfect. But I still have to feel her quiet condemnations. I say “feel” because this programming is so deep within me that I only have a very vague sense of shame. Emotional literacy helps me here. If I didn’t recognize the source of this very indistinct mood, it would color all my behaviors and perceptions and I wouldn’t know what was happening. Now I understand: this is an irrational emotion that I must endure.

I am getting healthier—incrementally. I now question these feelings instead of simply living in them. But change takes time. How do you explain the “why” of suffering (“paying karmic debts,” “offering your suffering to Christ,” “building a strong character” etc.)? Whatever the reason for our seemingly intractable inner woes, conscious endurance seems to be a key for healing. I remind myself today that our culture’s promises of quick fixes aren’t true. Change takes time. Endure your inner world and the changes will come. © Lewis-Barr 2008
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Speed Reading and Eckhart Tolle.

I've just been introduced to Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth." Am I the last one to hear about these books?

They remind me of Byron Katie's work and also Ram Dass' "Be Here Now." I found both of those authors easier to digest but I'm intrigued by Tolle's books and the Buddhist ideas they revisit. I'm also fascinated by the Oprah-i-zation of "A New Earth" and the cult-like exuberance now surrounding it.

Yesterday I had a mini "aha" moment. I realized a connection between speed-reading and Tolle's ideas. I'm teaching a Time Management course next week and will mention the timesaving uses of speed-reading. I'm not an expert on SR but it has improved my reading rate. I learned that it is vitally important to give up the habit of hearing the words in your head as you read. Your eyes can scan far faster than your ability to articulate words in your mind. Since we learned to read by reading aloud to others, most of us now "sub-vocalize" when we read. If we scan the page without this vocalization, we fear that, since we didn't hear ourselves say the words, we didn't comprehend what we read.

This reminds me of Tolle's ideas. Letting go of "sub-vocalization" is like stopping our constant thinking and ego interruptions of our simple experiences of "being" in the world. We can trust a greater knowing, in our daily experience of the "now," and also when we read. Why not experiment and see if it works for you? Try letting your eyes glide quickly along the page. It may take a bit of practice (I'm constantly reminding myself to not say the words in my head) but soon you may comprehend as much (or more) than in your old reading style. Ironically, because subvocalizing slows down reading it actually encourages our concentration to wander. Trusting that we understand what we see allows us so concentrate more fully as our eyes glide along the page.

Speed-reading can be a mini experiment of letting go of the ego-mind. Try it and let me know what you think. Could save you a bit of time. © Lewis-Barr 2008
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Monday, April 7, 2008

Living the Unlived Life

Today I’m beginning an experiment. I’m moving (in my mind) to a sweet little house on a lake. I’ve always imagined that happier times will begin when my husband and I finally move to a small town on Lake Michigan. Many of my goals revolve around this dream as in, “I’ll work an extra job so we can move to the lake sooner.”

Aside from the view, what’s so special about living near this lake? I’d still be working part time. Even if I needed to work full-time, I’d be eager for this move. Why?

When I imagine walking the beach and staring into the water, I’m at peace. There is no rush. Deep thoughts surface and feed my writing. My rhythms slow down to match a gentle tide. When we live on the lake, I’ll finally let go of my striving (including the strivings of getting to the lake!).

I’m impatient to get to this idyllic part of my life. But this daydream requires selling a home, quitting jobs and moving. Rick isn’t ready. So today, I’m moving in my mind. I’m relocating to the lakeshore and all it represents. I can see the water. More importantly, I can practice the serenity I imagine.

This morning I’ll walk the beach and give myself time to be. It isn’t easy to hold the fantasy in my mind and keep it realistic. But the sound of the waves and the feel of the sand isn’t the most important gift of my move. I crave an attitude toward living. Let’s see if I can cultivate that new awareness. I’ll begin today. © Lewis-Barr 2008
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Educating Ellen

(I'm re-posting my original tale here. It's based on the old folk-tale, "Clever Elsie")

Ellen’s mother and father taught her how to be a very clever woman and educated her for a lifetime of success in business. She dressed perfectly and learned her lessons well. Then, after college graduation she went to interview at VIC—a very important company. During the interview the Boss, who wanted the cleverest secretary he could find, sent Ellen downstairs for coffee.

Ellen was a hard worker and happy to comply. She took the stairs because the elevator was too slow and then she got into a very long line at Starbucks. She waited and waited and began to daydream. If she got this job she could earn 60K in the first year (on the low end, she had researched the salaries)—certainly enough money to buy a condo within 2 years. Then, at the current rate of appreciation in her favorite suburb, she should be able to sell it at a handsome profit and buy a house. Ellen smiled. She’d get a huge yard and adopt a Golden Retriever from the local humane society. She’d name it Bubkus—and Ellen would hire a dog sitter to walk him during her long work day. Ellen would make sure that the dog sitter had all the contact info so that if anything ever happened to her while she was at work, if she had an accident, or (God forbid) got hit by a train or something, the sitter could take Bubkas to her sister Dana’s, where he’d be well cared for and could play with the little ones. If the sitter didn’t have that contact info, she wouldn’t know what to do and would just take Bubkus to the shelter and he’d be stuck in a cage all over again. Which would be horrible! Yes, a dog sitter is a must and contact info in place.

How long the line was! What if her potential new Boss blames her for this lost time? Then she won’t get the house and perhaps he’d tell all of the other CEOs of the important companies, and then she’d never get a good job and she’d have to live with her parents for the rest of her life. No guy would want to be with a woman who couldn’t find a job and lived with her parents so she’d be an old maid too. And her family wouldn’t allow her to adopt Bubkus so he’d still be in the cage at the shelter! How horrible.

Finally, she placed her coffee orders and hurried to the elevator. It was full and she had many floors to visit before getting to her Boss at the penthouse. She tried to focus back on the interview and thought about good questions and answers. Then, she had a clever idea.

Upon arriving at his office, the Boss did seem annoyed.

“You’re back.”

“Sorry. There was a very long line at the Starbucks.”

“Yes, that’s why I sent you. I hate that line.”

“You don’t want to make coffee here in the office?”

“Certainly not. Why should I if there’s a Starbucks downstairs!”

“I was thinking….”

“Yes, well, let’s finish this interview, I’m running late now and—“

Ellen took a deep breath. “I was thinking that if you sent your secretary (me) everyday to Starbucks, depending on the length of the line and when you’d send me, that could take, according to my calculations, anywhere from 5.8 minutes if there is no line to 14.7 minutes for a long line. If you average these times out to be 10.25 minutes a day that would make—if taking a week off (roughly) for holidays and a week off for vacation, then, counting 50 working weeks you would have lost 2,562 minutes in a year. Since I plan on staying at this firm for a long time you could extrapolate that to 12,812 minutes in 5 years and 25,620 minutes in 10 years and 51,240 minutes lost after 20 years. Since there are 420 minutes in a 7 hour day then in 20 years I would have wasted 122 full days of work!”

The Boss was smiling even though his eyes were glazing over. Ellen continued. “Now you want coffee and someone needs to get it. What I could do is bring work with me. I am able to read in the elevator, I could go through company emails on the ipod while I wait in line or read over your notes for the week.”

Of course, after this, the Boss hired Ellen on the spot. They worked well together for a long time. Then one day the Boss said to Ellen, “I need to go to a meeting, can you write me up an introduction and some anecdotes for the conference next week?”

“Of course.”

Ellen loved this kind of creative work but she wasn’t feeling very well. She had a headache. Maybe I should eat? Yes, food might help. She ordered some takeout and had it delivered while she brainstormed some ideas for her Boss. She ate the food but was still feeling sick. What do I need? Some vitamins? She had some in her purse and took them and continued with her notes but she still felt ill What should I do? Maybe a little nap would help me? She thought about it and it seemed like a good idea.
She grabbed a cushion from the lobby, laid it on the desk and put her head down. Soon she was in a deep sleep.

The Boss was anxious to see what Ellen had come up with so after his long meeting he rushed to his mailbox but nothing was there. He looked for Ellen in the copy room but she wasn’t there. Finally, he walked down to her office and found her asleep, snoring, and even drooling on her desk.

“I see,” said the Boss. He went to is office and came back with a video camera. He turned it on Ellen, plugged it into the corporate-wide video system and left.

As the next workday started, Ellen awoke to the sound of loud snoring. She was stiff and disheveled and it took her a long moment to realize where she was, or even who she was. Gradually her vision cleared and on the tv monitor above her desk she saw the image of a woman sleeping, snoring, and drooling. It appeared to be a tape on a loop that repeated itself every 15 minutes. Who was that? Who? What? Is that me? Ellen saw the video camera, now stopped, sitting in front of her desk. The sound of snoring was horrible. Ellen tried to turn off the monitor but the tv was too high and only her Boss had access to the controls.

Ellen awkwardly got up and tried to straighten up. She moved slowly down the hall and saw that all the monitors above all the desks in all the offices were showing the same horrible tape. Sounds of snoring filled the hallways. Ellen ran to her Boss’ office. What are you doing?

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said.

“But you--?”

“I don’t know what you’re babbling about and I’m busy. Get out.”

Ellen ran from the office and was never seen again.

At least, that is the original version of the story. The other secretaries at work heard that poor Ellen had gone crazy and was institutionalized. But perhaps that’s just the story the Boss wanted them to hear.

I heard a different ending from Ellen when I met her and her lawyer in the Bahamas.
© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Fractured Fairy Tale from You Tube

I'll be cutting back on my postings and working on some new stories. Hope to post them soon. In the meantime, here's a memory from childhood--a Fractured Fairy tale of "Rapunzel" on You Tube. This cartoon reworks the original story but it's fun.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Seen Your Shadow Lately?

Found a great article explaining the Jungian concept of Shadow. Here it is.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Thoreau for Today

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler;
solitude will not be solitude,
poverty will not be poverty,
nor weakness weakness.
Henry David Thoreau

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

How Much Do You Disclose?

Saturday Night Live recently featured several sketches with an overly sensitive hero, MacGruber, who tries to discuss his hurt feelings while defusing bombs. I've linked to three of them here. SNL sketches don't typically make me laugh, but these really worked for me. Is that because they hit close to home? Do I disclose too much? I value discussing my feelings and enjoy small groups that practice deep disclosure.

Of course, sometimes, it is ridiculous to share our many moods. But generally, don't we go too far in hiding our true selves? How can we safely share our thoughts and emotions? How can we deal with inevitable conflicts and create deeper connections?

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Capturing the Subtle in Michael Clayton

Have you seen the movie “Michael Clayton?” I think it's a terrific expression of the hero's journey. It also featured synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) that didn't feel trite or contrived. It's not easy for a writer to offer twists of fate that seem real enough to affect the character and audience. We've all had these uncanny events, but since they're embedded within the context of our life story, they can be hard to explain--and even harder to illustrate in a two hour film.

What mysterious chance-events have you had lately?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thoughts on "The Handless Maiden."

Mary wants to be a writer but she’s too afraid. Besides, she has a great job. Her father convinced her to study accounting.

Pam's father didn't face his own demons but pushed his excessive self-criticism outward-to toddler Pam. Whether reading the comics together, or driving to a family vacation, he bullied the spirited child. He told Pam her feelings didn't make sense. She grew to doubt her inner voice. As an adult, Pam finds it impossible to be assertive at work. Although she feels victimized by a co-worker, she never speaks up.

Cara's great love was acting but she went back to school for social work. She tried to repress her envy as she watched her friends’ triumphs. She was just as talented but had “bad luck.” She believed she “wasn’t meant to be an actress.” What Cara didn’t notice was that she’d always quit just when a plum role came her way. Then, after a few years away from the theatre, she'd venture back. When new success came, she'd quit again.

A woman's inability to reach for what she wants is a central theme of the powerful tale, “The Handless Maiden."

I think the story also talks about:
**How parents betray their children and psychologically maim them--(cutting off the daughter’s hands).

**The usefulness of grief and tears to heal us and protect us from negative spiraling--(crying on the stumps).

**The need for patience and finding ways to nurture oneself while healing--(eating pears in the garden).

**How, when we are tired, communication can become distorted and hurtful—(the devil changing the messages).

**The psyche’s ability to heal if one is patient--(the growth of the new hands).

I’m finding many other people also writing about this tale. Here are some posts.





What are your thoughts?
© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Handless Maiden or The Girl with the Silver Hands

Wanted to get back to a story today. Here's a classic that holds potent medicine.

It goes by several different titles including this Grimm version called "The Girl Without Hands."

See what you find in it. I'll post my thoughts tomorrow.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Who's Driving You?

Woke up this morning with an idea for a project. Since I’m an intuitive, these inspirations come fully formed--in a flash. In the past, I’ve had visions for new theatre scripts or ways to stage a play. Bringing these impressions to fruition is an incredible thrill.

Regrettably, my ego can get carried away after one of these brainstorms. My ambitious-self starts scheming and dreaming of the money and fame finally coming my way.

Then, eventually, another inner personality speaks up. This is my fearful, sensitive side that fights my egotism. This part cries that my ideas aren’t good, or I’m not ready--and no one cares anyway. Whereas one side puffed me up, the other dynamic begs me to quit. I seesaw between their alarms and demands. I berate myself and feel crazy.

As an intuitive artist, I’ve always listened to my hunches and valued guidance from within. Unfortunately, I never realized I was listening to more than one inner voice.

My Jungian reading has taught me that we all have multiple inner characters who ca
n “hijack” consciousness. When one of these dynamos overtakes us, it can feel like our own everyday ego. Since our ordinary consciousness is overwhelmed, we never realize what’s hit us.

Finally, I understood my erratic fluctuations! I also began to see others suffering from these these ego-hijacked moments.

Now that I understand these inner voices, I can fight my pattern of boomeranging between them. I’ll look for the wisdom in each voice and try to avoid their radical views.

Does all this seem too obvious? It’s always easy to see the dynamics in another person. Sadly, we’re often completely oblivious to our own blind spots and the “
complexes” that commandeer our personalities.

Whenever we do anything that feels “out of character,” surprises, or bewilders us, we have proof that this repressed part has taken over.

Can you remember such a time?
© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Koan

Two birds fly past.
They are needed somewhere.

--Robert Bly

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Listening for the Hunch

My work with dreams seems to be enhancing my intuition. It's hard to “prove” these hunches-they're fleeting and subtle. Still, I'll share an example from this morning to illustrate.

I needed to wake up early to go to a networking event. But I was uncharacteristically resistant. An inner voice insisted, “you don't need to get up this early.” I argued back, “if I show up late, I'll make a terrible impression.” This inner debate continued as my wake-up time approached. I forced myself up but still moved slowly through my morning routines. I left the house later than intended and caught some slower traffic.

I arrived at 7:35--five minutes past the start time for a continental breakfast. I knew most participants wouldn't arrive before 8am, but I'd wanted to show up extra early, impress my host, and have time to chat with her. Crud. Oh well. What could I do? I hoped that my relatively early appearance would suffice.

The presenter and one other networker were chatting when I arrived, but my host wasn't around. Great! Dodged that bullet. Our happy trio joked until the host appeared and announced that, due to a scheduling confusion, the event wouldn't begin until 9 am.

I smiled inwardly. While I hadn't arrived extra early, as I'd planned, I was early enough to chat and make a good impression. Even better, I now had an excuse not to stay for the actual program, which I'd seen the week before.

Sometimes we float with the flow. Nice!

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thoughts on "The Louse and The Flea."

"The Louse and The Flea" is a jaunty poem-story that has cheery rhythms set against a sad story of destruction. Why such a combination? For me, this weird tale functions like a pop song with somber lyrics. The infectious beat or melody keeps me entranced long enough to hear the challenging message. Tracy Chapman and Sting both use this technique.

And what is the message of this strange little ditty? I'm struck by the story's litany of hysterical reactions. Is this the chronology of a riot? From the smallest accident (the louse burning), a chaos builds. A tiny spark produces a devastating flood.

This possible interpretation can describe outer events or, per my bias, a picture of inner dynamics.

I wonder about the “insignificant” hot spots in my psyche. Do you see any tiny psychic burns that destructively accelerate in you?

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A short, odd, dream-like tale.

Here's an unusual Grimm tale. Not sure I'll be able to make any sense of it. See what you can do!

"The Louse and the Flea"

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More on "The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs."

There was a man who, because of his goodness, became a target. The powerful tried to destroy him, but he was lucky, and Fate kept him on a golden path.

He was fated to change the culture. Because of his skills, he was able to identify the root causes of huge problems. He could pluck goodness out of an evil situation.

This short sketch comes from my reading of “
The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs," a Grimm tale I posted yesterday.

Marie Louise Von Franz, in her books on fairy tales, frequently analyzes these stories that have an evil or aging king and a hero who must perform tasks. Von Franz was brilliant at analyzing every symbol—an undertaking far beyond my skills. Still, I can share a recurring theme she emphasized.

The King symbolizes an out-dated viewpoint in a culture. The hero represents a new kind of thinking that usurps this old consciousness. The manner (easy or hard) and ending (success or failure) of this revolution can illustrate what is happening in the deepest layers of a culture’s psychology.

In this story, the hero is helped by the Devil’s grandmother! She is both the source of the Devil and beyond Him. Is she Mother Nature? The hero is willing to visit a frightening place---the Devil’s home. But here he finds something beyond evil. He also gains an understanding of wickedness and the root causes of his community's problems.

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs

Today's story is much longer than previous tales we've read. See what you think of it.

"The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs."

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Continuing Thoughts on "The Singing Bone."

In “The Singing Bone,” an innocent son obtains protection and overcomes the ferocious boar. I interpret the boar as volatile and destructive emotions within one's pysche. Maturity (and the hero’s journey) involves learning to overcome emotional assaults from within. In this story, the hero achieves this growth but is finally destroyed by another damaging impulse from within.

What challenges do you (have you) skillfully overcome (the boar)?

What dynamics within your personality still manage to sabotage your goals or progress (the evil brother)?

Lately, I’ve heard some chilling (and true!) stories from friends and acquaintances. In one, a wife discovers that her physician husband has been poisoning her. In another, a mother blames her daughter’s therapist for reporting incest in the family. These events are terrible, but even worse, is the seemingly normal life that follows these crimes. After my colleague left her murderous husband, he continued to prosper and eventually remarry. The incestuous family pretends that the arrest never happened. They seem, from an outsider’s view, to be very close-knit, happy and “normal.” How is this possible? If you’re the victim (or friend), such scenes can make you doubt your own sanity.

This is where a morality tale, such as “The Singing Bone,” or Poe's Tell -Tale Heart can offer comfort. The destructive force wins, but only temporarily. This tale (like many of the Grimm fables) affirms that--even if it takes a long time--goodness and truth eventually triumph.

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brothers' Grimm--The Singing Bone

Today I’m reading “The Singing Bone.”

What do you notice about this story?

What does it mean to you?

I’ll share my thoughts tomorrow.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Squaring the Circle

I'm still tweaking this site to make it easier to read. In the meantime, here’s a great blog to visit—this artist creates a new mandala everyday. Jung was a great believer in the usefulness of mandalas (they are found worldwide) to visually represent psychic wholeness. When we create mandalas, we are symbolically working to mend the schisms in our own unconscious.
Seems to work with today's quote:

Dare to be naive.
- Buckminster Fuller

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Jungian Look at "The Secret"

Have you read "The Secret?"

I tried to get it from my public library (just for research). No dice. They had eight copies--all out. Same with my sister's library. On the bestseller list for 33 weeks, the book's popularity reveals....what? A gaping wound in our national psyche? Are we feeling so desperate and incomplete that we hunger for magical powers?

The Secret claims we can "attract" anything we want, through our thoughts. If that were true, I'd have won the Pulitzer Prize by now. Still, psychologists have proven that chipper attitudes can lead to happy results. Think "self-fulfilling prophecy." Even some brain scientists confirm: when we make hopeful statements to ourselves, we train our brains to look for those hoped-for events.

Just where ordinary (not supernatural) influence begins and ends is debatable. But, even if we can, through our thoughts (AND actions), create change, are we alone at Life's helm? "The Secret" tells me how to get what I want when I want it. But how do I reconcile my self-absorbed quests with a spiritual path?

For many years, I pursued a career in the theatre. In addition to hard work (as director, producer, or playwright), I also tried conjuring success through affirmations. I described in great detail all the awards and acclaim coming to me. Then, at the peak of these drills, one of my productions was panned in a local paper. Devastated, I blew out my candles, stopped affirmations, and waited to recover. I wasn't merely disheartened with my "create your own reality" program; I found myself reborn to a new and deep humility. If I believed in God, maybe it was time to surrender to Him (Her)? Maybe it was time to stop demanding my own will?

Meanwhile, I was also reading lots of Jungian psychology. These books said that my conscious will was only one piece of the puzzle. We create our circumstances, not through magic or mysticism, but through the unconscious behaviors and signals we constantly send out. Jungian therapists delve into the dreams, coincidences, and events of their clients, to understand these dynamics.

Yet, Jungians also believe we are not the sole drivers of our fate. There is a Reality, beyond our control and understanding--the "collective unconscious." Jungians don't need to speak of "God," but they do talk of yielding to the ‘Self': the God in us. So, we must accept responsibility for our actions (and even some outside events), while also adopting a healthy humility. We admit our small place in the universe.

What "The Secret" leaves out is this healthy humility. Following the book's premises, we're left isolated in our ego's tiny self-absorbed world.

For Jung, our waking consciousness (ego) is like a cork floating on the ocean. We cannot know this vast reality but we can acknowledge it. Instead of seeking to control our circumstances, we can follow the more difficult path---surrendering to a Greater Reality, while striving to live responsibly.
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I'm back!

Visited Wordpress and liked it very much but missed certain features of Blogger. Here’s some of what I wrote while I’ve been gone!

If you like experimental drama, check out the critically acclaimed series, "The Singing Detective." We are renting it through Netflix. Time magazine calls it a "daring dramatization of the subconscious." Like all mythic or fairy tale stories, it has plenty of bleak moments. But these are balanced by verbal wit, crazy purple prose, and fantastic musical production numbers. Highly recommended!

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Recipe for a healthy psyche

These ideas come from my own “Jungian experiment,” and the writings of Jung, Marie Louise Von Franz, James Hillman, and Robert A. Johnson, among others. Try your own experiment and let me know what happens.

1. Get enough sleep and wake up slowly.
If possible, arrange your schedule so you can go to bed early and wake up without an alarm. I’ve noticed that when I’m able to sleep until my body wakes up naturally, I remember more of my dreams.

Studies have shown REM (dreaming) sleep is vital to psychological health. When experiment subjects were allowed to get non-REM sleep but were disturbed during the REM sleep cycle, they suffered from aggression, anxiety, and poor concentration. Scientists are finding that sleep is not only vital for physical rest but helps us maintain our emotional well-being.

2. Record your dreams.
Marie Louise Von Franz, Robert A. Johnson, James Hillman (and other Jungians I’ve studied) all maintain that recording dreams is the key method for enhancing or maintaining our psychological health. MLVF maintains that even if the dreamer doesn’t understand the images, the act of recording dreams has a powerful effect. I’ve found this to be true.

Several years ago, I began to capture my dreams with a digital recorder tucked under my pillow. After whispering them into the recorder, I would write them out. A few dreams were easier to interpret, but most were impenetrable to me. Still, after a few months of this practice, I began to have unexpected insights into my personality. I began to see myself in a new (not always flattering) light.

While I still can’t see into all my blind spots, having greater awareness of my inner dynamics, helps me make better choices.

3. Give yourself time to daydream.
Jungians believe that the unconscious part of our personality reveals itself during creative activities or when we daydream. Using “down-time” to let my mind wander allows my worries, ambitions, or hidden wishes to emerge and reveal themselves. Blink and
similar books have documented that much of our inner life occurs outside our conscious awareness. Quiet meditation or other introspective moments can allow us to catch a glimpse of these inner workings.

4. Question your moods.
Similar to dreams and fantasies, moods can give us great clues to our inner world. Paying attention to the fluctuations of our feelings (especially after a dream or upon waking) provides more input. Even if I don’t know why I’m anxious, or depressed, noting my feelings is an important first step. Asking the question “why” will lead to an answer. (I’ve found this to be true.)* The answer may come through a dream, a fantasy image, or just a sudden understanding.

Moods are our psyche’s tool to give us information about our inner and outer world. I may not know why I’m angry until I eventually replay the swift events at work and realize I was subtly flogged by a passive aggressive co-worker. Part of me registered the jabs and felt angry before my conscious self realized what happened. In the same way that we watch physical symptoms for signs of illness, paying attention to moods helps us stay healthy. The psyche tells me what is nurturing and what is not. If I give myself what my psyche craves (within reason) I’ll be much happier.

An obvious example: I love gardening, but hate accounting. A job in accounting would be disastrous for me. I know this because of my inner reactions when faced with accounting. This seems obvious, yet most of us ignore at least some of our inner promptings. What moods do you ignore?

*(Asking a question of the unconscious has also worked for artists and inventors. There are many
stories of dreams providing the solution to a creative problem. Jungians believe that our unconscious can provide lots of info—about our inner and outer world).

5. Engage the imagery/personalities that emerge in your dreams.
Draw, sculpt, journal, dance. Jung and his disciples have emphasized that building a bridge between your unconscious and conscious mind requires a willingness to engage in the imagery of your dreams and daydreams. No matter how confusing, frightening, or bizarre, we should creatively express these inner realities in an outer form. Artistic talent isn’t necessary. The goal isn’t to create art but to consciously engage with these images (in a playful way).

Yesterday I had a dream about snakes. They were plush-toy-bloated, sleepy snakes in iridescent colors. Despite their harmless appearance, I was frightened because I had to crawl over them.

I couldn’t decipher a message. Still, the imagery was powerful and stayed with me through the morning. Instead of taking the time to draw the snakes (drawing dream images is recommended. Jung himself kept a notebook of dream drawings.) I googled a description of them and found several examples. I printed these pictures and put them throughout my house so I could walk over them.

Seems silly, yes? But experiment. You’ll be surprised at how, over time, working with your dreams can increase your self-knowledge.

Another tool for engaging with the unconscious is “
Active Imagination,” a technique of having a dialogue between two archetypal parts of oneself. It isn’t easy and should be approached with caution. (For people prone to psychotic breaks, this method could be dangerous. For some, the boundaries between unconscious and conscious imagery is too fragile and active imagination should only be tried with a professional.)

But, if I’m psychologically stable, I can try more formal dialogues or at least begin to acknowledge the characters that consistently emerge in my dreams and fantasies.

If I have a dark, dangerous figure who is always in my dreams I might name him. I might write out our inner conversation. I might draw a picture of him and ask him a question. I If I do this, a new dream or daydream will come to give me more information and our dialogue can continue.

I’ve found these ideas helpful. Maybe you will too? Experiment on yourself and watch. These practices take time but have been powerful for many seekers.
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

American Zen for Thursday

Direct your eye right inward, and you'll find
A thousand regions of your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them and be
Expert in home-cosmography.

Henry David Thoreau
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reflections on "The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean.

I’ve been re-reading, MLVF’s “Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales.” Like most of her books, this is a transcribed lecture filled with insights gleaned from decades of analytical work—both on herself and for her patients.

One chapter explored the Grimm tale, “
The Straw, the Coal and the Bean.” Some websites call this a “household tale.” Von Franz describes it as a Schwank –a joke-story. MLVF notes that this joke (like all humor) has many “dark” elements.

After admitting that she finds these stories the hardest to interpret, Von Franz dissects each image in the tale: the old woman, the act of cooking, the fire, the straw, coal, bean, bridge, tailor, and thread.

Does she ruin a joke with these “amplifications” and interpretation? MLVF admits that the joke itself (as the dream itself) is always better than any interpretation. Read the original (above) and see what you think. Do you want more info, or is the tale satisfying enough alone?

As you might have guessed, I’m always curious for more suggestions regarding symbols and images.

My favorite amplifications concern the bridge. According to Von Franz, the bridge links the unconscious to consciousness. She says that the straw has associations with pagan rituals and the underworld. It is an image linked to the unconscious. Like an unconscious impulse, the straw lacks self-knowledge—thinking it can build a bridge toward consciousness, when it cannot. The coal also lacks self-knowledge—it is hotheaded. Von Franz writes, “(the coal) becomes frightened at hearing her own opposite! Water and fire are the great opposites….if you get to the middle of the bridge that unites the opposites; you cannot cross it if you don’t know your own opposite. That is why you cannot be changed in analysis if you don’t know your own shadow, if you don’t know that all your ideals have a very seamy underside. Without that awareness, you can’t cross into new life. There’s no transition without a confrontation of the opposites.”

The image of the bursting bean is perfect, isn’t it? Why? It must be an archetypal image. It is provocative. In the movie, “Alien” it was a horrible sight, but here it is funny. A little bean popping open the way it would if cooked too long. Here, the bean laughs too hard. Any extreme can lead to a breaking apart.

The bean laughs at the misfortune of the others and so has great misfortune himself—then we mirror the story and laugh at the bean. It is charming--the tale ensures that you’ll recall it when eating a bean. Like all traditional tales (MLVF says this story is very ancient), The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean has many layers of possible meanings, including several cautions about how to live.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Reflections on the Academy Awards

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell spent their lives helping us comprehend the mythic world.

Movies (and the stars who make them) express that world.

Last night I, with about 43.5 million other Americans
(figure from Andrew Hearst’s blog), watched the Academy Awards. I was inspired, especially during the montages honoring past winners. Sure, these stars have an army of stylists and I’m always fascinated by their incredible gowns and jewelry. But it is the great heart of certain actors that moves me.

I’ve spent much of my life working with actors. If you’ve ever personally known performers (at any level of accomplishment), you know they belong to a unique stock. Their calling (for the greatest actors, there is always an artistic/religious-type calling to their work) requires the openness and curiosity of a child, and the ability to delve into and express all emotional states. Actors must be bigger than (daily) life.

Since most of us tremble when speaking in front of a few others (pollsters find that
public speaking is ranked more frightening than death) an actor’s ability to perform in front of millions is remarkable. That actresses during an Oscar telecast can gracefully cross the large stage in the highest heels and the longest gowns never ceases to amaze me. (I tremble for them everytime they cross the stage!)

I’m awed by the incredible talent of some actors, and by the enormous heart of others. Yes, it’s true that I don’t know these people. You think I’m simply imagining (a Jungian would say “
projecting”) their qualities? Perhaps. And it’s true that we all have a dark side (the Jungian Robert Johnson says the greater our creativity, the greater our dark counterpoint).

Still, when I watch certain acceptance speeches and see such grace, eloquence, and passion, I do sense a greatness of heart. Astonishing talent + a huge heart = a sublime actor who stirs hearts and souls. We become star-struck by this actor (or athlete—the Super Bowl and the Oscars are both wildly popular for the same reason). The elite actor/athlete expresses God-like talents. We see ourselves or what we hope to be. We see the ideal--what is possible for a human being to achieve.

We may gossip about their lives and criticize their fashion, but actors, through their exuberance and passion for life, bring us to the mythic realm. Watch this
replay of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s acceptance speech from 1997 (also replayed last night) for a sample. Try not to smile.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Zen for Sunday

All significant battles are waged within the self.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thoughts on "The Wolf and the Seven Kids"

Today I’ve been contemplating “The Wolf and the Seven Kids,” a grim Grimm tale with a happy ending. Based on my google research, this title seems to be a favorite for storytellers. I’ve found storytelling cue cards, several children’s books on the tale, and three different videos on YouTube. My favorite is a shadow-puppet version linked here.

I’m not finding a way to retell this tale--but I am contemplating it.

I’m stuck by the violence. I’m supposed to side with the little kid-goats but the image of mother-goat cutting into the wolf’s belly haunts me. Why doesn't the wolf wake up to this surgery? He is practically comatose from his greedy meal. What can this mean?

Does our excessive greediness put us to sleep? Does it prevent us from responding to the healthy spiritual calls inside and outside of us?

Like Jonah in the whale, the little kids resurrect after being swallowed. I am comforted that many of these fairy tales insist that Goodness is stronger than evil.(Capitalized word intended.) Even when it seems that innocence is destroyed; beauty, truth, and love do persevere under the surface. The mother goat believed this. She looked for signs of life and was fearless in confronting wickedness. Because of this, she was able to release the innocent kids trapped within the insatiable wolf.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Friday.

Instead of a story or koan today, I’m posting one juicy link,
Encyclopedia Mythica-- a fabulous mother lode of myths!
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

A new story for "Frau Trude"

Today's tale, “Frau Trude” is a change of pace. We've mostly been looking at happy endings-but not today!

I think the original fairy tale is more than a “mind your parents” cautionary fable. It speaks to the dangers of naïve and unbridled curiosity--a risk for all ages.

Jamie watched the shadows on the ceiling. Their movements depicted a battle between light and darkness. She was part of the story too. A valiant maiden, fighting for truth and freedom. Her parents (represented by the black smudge in the corner) were the cruel tyrants to be overthrown.

Jamie saw the entire saga playing simultaneously on the ceiling, in her mind, and in the cryptic lyrics pulsing through her ipod. She wanted to write it all down, but the mystical tale was moving too fast and she was very tired. She'd taken a higher dose of the shroom than before. Too much? She felt faint.

Eight hours later Jamie was ready for more. She'd be more careful this time to get the perfect dose so she could record the brilliant messages coming to her through the TV, the fish tank, the stars and most especially, the trees.

But when she went to find her stash (perhaps she'd just do the pot and save the mushrooms for another day) it was gone. Confiscated by her captors.

There was no use confronting them. They'd simply yell or lecture or threaten her. But what could they threaten? No prison was worse than this house. She'd warned them to leave her things alone. She'd warned them.

It was a Friday night and her tormentors were leaving. Perfect. She'd have a head start.

Jamie grabbed cash from her hiding places, and a duffle bag. She'd travel light. She couldn't hitch with a suitcase. Besides, she didn't need much. Just some more money.
A trip to the ATM proved lucrative. If she were frugal, she'd have enough for a month or more. She'd get a job with the fake ID Kira had provided.

In three days, she was in Berkeley. So poppin! If only she’d been born 30 years earlier. To be here during the summer of love? Epic!!!!

Her first evening in town, she found a party. Was she the youngest there? Hard to say. Most looked like college gowns but there were some townees--girls who looked 14. Jamie studied them. Could they tell she was in their grade? She tried to stand tall and stick out her chest. She told the group she was 17.

She was hungry for a hit of something-pot, speed, something. But this group, however friendly, ignored her less than subtle hints. Did they think she was a NARC?

Crap! Here she was in friggin Berkeley, CA and no drugs??? A Monday night and no way to get high? She'd have to ditch this party. It was too bad, the guys were cute and the vibe was awesome. Everyone was beautiful and sexy and fun. She was meeting film people and musicians.

An older woman (was she 35?) sat in the corner, surrounded by a harem of eager, young guys. Frat boys? She was telling them a story and they were screaming with laughter. Were they high?

Jamie inched closer and smiled. The woman, Trudy, beckoned her closer. Trudy's eyes sparkled and her smile was like a bank of camera flashes. She sent the male harem away and cuddled on the couch with Jamie, asking her questions.

Jamie felt like a princess, chosen by the Queen to have a visit. She told Trudy her new improved bio-much more glamorous than the real thing. They shared pizza and coke and finally Jamie steered their talk to drugs.

“Are you looking to get high tonight?” The Queen’s smile widened. Jamie wondered if perhaps Trudy had bleached her teeth once too often. The shocking white glow now appeared almost blue.

“Yes,” Jamie whispered, “do you have something I could buy?”

Trudy pulled Jamie closer. “I have something very special for you. A mixture very powerful…”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Are you sure?” Trudy sang this question and then laughed.

“I'm not afraid.”

“Good. I didn't think so.”

Jamie swallowed the large pill and then lay down on the couch, her head on Trudy's lap. The light in the room began to dance and conversations looped back on themselves. She'd hear the start of a joke, then the end, then the middle, then the start again. The room seemed broken up into fragments of time and space. Jamie laughed.

“Right… be…. be… back…. right…” Trudy’s words echoed as she moved off the couch. She moved off the couch again and again. Finally, Jamie stretched out and closed her eyes to enjoy the music. Then she felt a tickle near her face. She opened her eyes and saw an enormous cat sitting near her head. She pulled her arms over her face.

Jamie peeked out through her fingers. The cat was still there. It was planning to scratch her. Jamie wanted to scream but she was too relaxed. Her body wouldn't move.

She peeked again. Now there were two cats hovering over her, large and cartoon-like. Jamie swatted the air and one cat scratched her hand. She pulled back again and covered her face.

She listened to the punk playing in the background. She tried to breathe deeply and focus on the beat. “Trudy?” She murmured.

“Yes, dear. Yes, dear. Yes, dear.” Jamie heard Trudy's voice echoing. She peaked through her fingers to look. The two cats and now 20 other eyes were staring down at her.


“Yes, dear, nothing to worry about….”

The eyes gathered nearer. Jamie felt herself lifted and moved to another room. The eyes followed close by. Then the room became white light as Jamie's mind when dark. ©Lewis-Barr 2008
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Dark Side

Both fairy tales and Jungian psychology can emphasize the dark side of life. I’ve been working on an adaptation of "Frau Trude" yesterday and today (will post tomorrow)—a story steeped in harsh realities.

Also yesterday, the Chicago Tribune ran
“Happiness is overrated, author claims; savor the sorrow.” The article looked at the need to integrate sorrow into our lives. Here’s the the book discussed in the article.

If all goes to plan, I should have the new story tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’re in the mood for fairy tales or my adaptations of them, check out some of my previous posts, they’ll be categorized as ‘contemporary Brothers Grimm.” Here are three reader favorites:
“The Seven Ravens,” a longer three-part story, “The Sisters of Sundance,” and
Elf Magic.”
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Story and thoughts on "Mother Holle"

Barb majored in theatre in college. After graduation, she waitressed and auditioned, auditioned and waitressed. She got small roles but never broke through to the top tiers of local casting.

The years passed quickly. Barb continued to waitress. She got married, had children, and shelved her dreams, “until the kids were older.” Depression haunted her days.

At 39, feeling stuck, Barb took up playwriting. Perhaps this would be the vehicle for breakthrough. She wrote diligently and networked. She won some contests but never achieved commercial success.

Now, at 49, Barb tells me she’s “stuck.” She dreams of flying and freedom but daily life offers no such liberty. She’s been a good mom, a good wife, a good neighbor. She performs a litany of daily tasks and ignores her frustrations and envy. She tells me “it’s too late, my dreams are finished.”

Fairy tales often show a hero lost, or stuck in an impossible place, with an impossible task. Then, a friend emerges or a door opens. What door can open for Barb (or myself), stuck in similar ruts of middle age? Where will the breakthrough emerge? Will it come from plunging deeper into the mundane duties of daily life?

Today’s tale, “
Mother Holle,” is similar to “The Three Little Men in the Woods.” Both stories show heroines performing mundane tasks. We can see these tales as simply instructions to young girls—“be good, work hard, and good things will come to you,” But if MLVF is correct, these tales concern the psyche. The hard work of sweeping, cooking, or cleaning, is a metaphor of tending to our moods, feelings, and thoughts.

Today, I’ve thought of Barb as I journaled about my own regrets and yearnings. Like Barb, I long to burst through the requirements of daily life.

Today’s tale encourages me to keep working on my inner self and trust the process.
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Zen for Monday

If you cannot find the truth where you are,
where do you expect to find it?

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Video of Marie Louise Von Franz

I haven't been too successful finding new websites about MLVF, so I was happy to find this clip. It's an unusual chance to hear the great Jungian scholar and analyst (she died in 1998). In this interview she's talking about two complementary mythic systems: alchemy and Christianity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZMwmTItYJM Read more!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A story and comments on "The Three Little Men in the Woods"

Did you notice a theme last week? I was writing about holding silent and then jumped the gun on some blog posts. A synchronicity?

(If you don’t believe in
synchronicities, that’s ok, consider this an apophenia moment).

I’ve been reading “The Three Little Men in the Woods” and trying to find a modern parallel. Found one in my experience at work yesterday. Weird. Another synchronicity?

If you want to read the fairy tale first,
here it is.

Here’s my story.

I’ve spent most of my life in counter-cultural work (massage therapist, theatre director) or freelance, office-free positions (massage therapist, part-time college professor). My new job involves office work, and all the politics and personalities of a bureaucracy. Now, if I had to be in my windowless office full time, I’d be unhappy. But I’m blessed to be able to work half-time, and I find this new environment fascinating. I’m especially intrigued by the psychological/emotional churnings beneath serene surfaces.

When I walk through the corridors and cubicles of my new world, I visualize a minefield or the dark woods featured in many fairy tales. As a newbie, I cannot know of all the previous in-fighting or schemes between co-workers. My strategy is to listen well and watch for clues.

Perhaps it’s because of my previous travails, or my ego isn’t as involved in this work; whatever the reason, I have felt myself “centered” at work. When colleagues ignore a request or send me a cryptic email, I’ve been skillful at getting them to talk to me and express their fears. Because I’m generally happy and confident in this place, I can extend kindness. Without fail, when I offer a friendly response, I’ve seen my co-workers’ anger or defensiveness melt away.

Yesterday, however, I was the angry worker. “Betsy” was supposed to help me prepare some documents for publication. I had pressing deadlines and it seemed (to me) that she was passing the buck and doing little to help me. In the past, when faced with such bureaucratic tangles, I would trust that my colleagues were working with me. That trust in their good intentions brought out their best and together we maneuvered around obstacles.

But in this case, I deeply resented Betsy and her methods. I tried calling her but she wouldn’t answer her phone. My anxiety and anger increased and seeped into several emails we exchanged.

Before sending another frantic note, I called again. Betsy answered.

“I’m freaking out,” I said.

“You want to come down and look at the proofs I printed for you?” Betsy’s voice didn’t betray an emotion.

“No, I’m freaking out, can we just send them to the printer?”

“You don’t want to look at the proofs?” Betsy asked.

(This had been my passive-aggressive request—asking Betsy to quickly print another set of drafts for me.)

“No. They’re ok. I don’t want to take any more time.”

Betsy told me to email her the request.

“Ok, I’ll do that right now.”

I hung up. What had happened? Our contact had been brief but my impatience was palpable. I’d become possessed by some hysteric. Would I become the talk of the marketing department? Dana, my office-mate pursed her lips.

“You need to be careful to keep on their good side,” she murmured.

Crap. Have I screwed up this important contact? I was mortified but tried to stay positive. In the evening, I retold the saga to my hubby. This morning I read “The Three Little Men in the Woods.”

Like the hero in the story, I have had a cycle of good deeds. My kindnesses have produced more kindness in others and my mouth has been “dropping gold coins.” Feeling centered, I’ve been able to offer good judgment and well-timed words.

But there is another part of my psyche that got triggered by Betsy. Overtaken by the evil stepmother (my negative affect, or “complex”) my “Queen-self” is replaced by this other part of my personality. (Have you had this experience and wondered, “who was that person inhabiting my body?”)

Luckily, as in the story, the Queen isn’t completely gone, she’s regressed to an animal that swims in waters (the emotions). Claiming my own emotional reality (“I’m freaking out”) is the best I can do with a negative affect. Using “I” statements is often the only tool I have to get me across these rough waters.

Of course, Betsy didn’t see the Queen-in-me, just a frantic duck in the water, but that’s the best I could muster. And owning “my stuff” meant less harm to our relationship.

I thought of the encounter throughout the day. It wasn’t until later, in retelling the story, that I realized my own shadow connection to Betsy (we share a “lazy” quality that I hate). This is probably why she triggered me. Laboring at this new understanding is like waving a sword of discrimination over the duck. By working at self-knowledge, I can regain my regal center and communicate with more grace.

And what about the title? Who are the three little men? While Jung might not agree, I see them as symbols of the Higher Self—a Trinity-God within who sets in motion the rewards and punishments we internally seek.

The final image of the story is fierce and one that I’ve read in other tales. To be trapped in a small barrel filled with nails reminds me of being trapped in our own tiny perspectives and tortured by my own projections and complexes.
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Friday, February 15, 2008

Good Brain Food from C.G. Jung

I can't always comprehend Jung's writings but this quote is a good one for me to chew on and it concerns fairy tales.

"The concept of the archtype . . . is derived from the repeated observation that, for instance, the myths and fairytales of the world literature contain definite motifs which crop up everywhere. We meet the same motifs in the fantasies, dreams, deliria, and delusions of individuals living today. These types of images and associations are what I call archtypal ideas. The more vivid they are, the more they will be colored by particularly strong feeling-tones . . . They impress, influence, and fascinate us."

"This represents The Archtype exercising the principle of Syncronicity, an acausal connecting principle. All things are connected to one another. In physics these days utilizing the Membrane Theory they count eleven dimensions of space and time. All of these are connected on the sub-atomic level. Everything is connected to everything else. Touching the membrane of the universe here or there causes an equal effect somewhere..."

from "The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche" collected works 8, p. 213.C.G. Jung: Read more!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apology to Readers

Caught a grammar gaffe. Ouch! I get so excited to post that I sometimes hit the “publish” button and then see the mistake. (I do read my entries but my excitement sometimes overtakes my proofing skills. And you probably already know that I have gaps in my grammar knowledge.) But this was a bigger, more obvious boo-boo. Sorry!

Now I feel better. Been haunted for days.

Of course, the postings get corrected as soon as I catch the goof (today’s miss: a link I added after I published). But I realize that the published links float around in feeds and other places.

Sorry! Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa.

I can’t promise it won’t happen again but I guarantee I work hard on these posts!

Happy Valentines Day to you.
Read more!

Holding the Question--Musings for Today

The great challenge of writing is choosing what to express and what to leave out. When there’s so much action, within and outside of me, this is a daunting task. I’m always pulled in conflicting directions.

Been working on an idea previously mentioned, a story of maintaining silence when the psyche needs it. I’ve been struggling to describe this subtle non-happening. Nothing clicks. Then I realize I’m living a version of this tale.

I’ve been striving to carve out little moments of quiet—so I can hear myself think. I need clarity. How do I reconcile my contradictions? I’m living on two tracks: work-time in the corporate-training world, and spare-time in the mythic/Jungian/writing realm. I want to write about both but there isn’t enough time. And what do I want, two blogs???

So I’ve been sitting and listening and waiting.

I hold the question.

Answers always come when I wait for them. But if I short-circuit the process, I’m like the Fisherman in “The Gold Children," losing my inner wealth because I talked too soon.

I’ll be quiet now.
Read more!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chipmunks are singing—Reflections on a Warmer Day

Yesterday, all the messages in my Yahoo inbox disappeared. My other folders remained intact but the six--hundred inbox messages: gone.

Yahoo had no explanation. My friends were baffled. No one could explain why this had happened. But strange events always happen to me.

Daily life is a weird dream that I watch and walk through.

I was raised Catholic but now I’m a Jungian. I believe in sychronicities and symbolism and the mythic realm. How should I interpret my disappearing files? Something lost or obliterated within myself?

Or maybe I’m too attached to interpreting? I cross a parking lot and there is a dead bird, lying near my car. I never see dead birds, but there it is, a cardinal, stiff. Later, as I meditate at the edge of a small pond, a huge, blue heron settles down on the other side. He seems to be watching me.

I know. I think too much. It is my dubious calling. To record the dramas exploding under everyday life.

(Chipmunks are chirping now. And eating squash seeds I’ve left for them.)

I’ve done some writing and the Voice is satisfied. For now. I’ve wrestled with my angels or demons. (Are they the same?)

(The chipmunk’s jowls are bulging with seeds.)
Read more!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jungian 60137

Thought I'd share a longer article I've written for a local college magazine. It explores my recent "Jungian experiment," as well as dream analysis, and my interview with analyst Stephen Martz. Read more!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thoughts on Grimm’s “The Gold Children.”

If you read this fairy tale you’ll recognize a variation of “The Fish and the Fisherman.” Many of these stories have similar symbols and characters but then take a different path. What might the variations mean?

MLVF (hyperlinked here) has written that fairytales can be read as illustrations of a single psyche or an entire cultural (collective) mindset. But analyzing a culture is too hard for me. I’ll stay with a smaller project, thinking of the meanings for an individual.

The husband and wife are poor. But the psyche is fishing in the deep waters of the unconscious, looking for inner wealth. There is wealth in the unconscious life of this person, but he reveals his inner process too soon.

(What inner knowledge have I shared too soon? When have I talked too much? I know many people who don’t give themselves enough incubating time. Time at a window, sitting silent. How can one find inner riches without enough quiet time? )

After three false starts, the fish offers himself up. Some part of the unconscious is now ready to come to the surface and create--to birth beautiful ideas. Now the couple doesn’t have a superficially lavish life, as before, but they have more profound wealth--gifted children, beauty linked to the children, and a golden means of transport. (Transporation, a vehicle, takes us through our world. What moves us around? We might interpret this as our ideas, occupations, or our bodies.)

Now the story focuses on the children. They are gifted but, because of their wealth, have their own travails. I’m guessing, based on MLVF’s writings, that she would interpret the stag dream and the witch as “mother issues” in the boy’s psyche. He has done well at knowing when to show his inner wealth and when to protect himself (not throw pearls before swine) but there is a sinister element in his psyche that stalks him (even as he stalks the stag). The witch’s dog may be the boy’s own violent and unstable instincts around women.

Thankfully, there is another psychological element (or outside force?) that awakens and offers help. The spell is broken and the psyche thrives.

The idea of hiding one’s wealth (protecting the inner riches of the psyche) is repeated 4 times in this tale. How would that theme translate in a story for today? I’ll attempt that soon.
Read more!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Turned to Stone--thinking of themes in Queen Bee

I can feel overwhelmed with trying to tackle an adaptation of a new Grimm tale daily, (a quick view of this blog proves that this is my goal, not the reality)! So today, I thought I’d take a small piece of Queen Bee and write a story centered on it--the motif of characters turned to stone. I’ve found it in a good number of the Grimm stories such as The Two Brothers, Faithful John, and The Gold Children. This metaphor, describing the very real threat of losing our psychological suppleness (as we age) haunts me. How many of us, in “middle-age,” become cemented in our fears and outlook? As we experience the tumult and heartbreaks of life, do we expand or contract? Are we able to grow (often through surrendering our deepest held beliefs and desires) or do we get stuck? (We often think showing “responsibility” requires shutting down our desires and being stoic, but if we take the word apart respons--ibility is the ability to respond.)

I could write of a man who ignores the deeper callings of his soul. Then this soul, after many years, begins to atrophy and harden until no feeling-self is left. But that story isn’t working for me—probably because it is too bleak for my taste. Even the most violent fairy tales aren’t that oppressive! And the great Leo Tolstoy has already written this tale (albeit with a better ending). If you haven’t read (or are ready to revisit) the moving, The Death of Ivan Ilych, here it is. Read more!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Time to Surf

Instead of a story, I’ve been doing some surfing this morning…. Here are some sites worth checking out.

Found a wonderful article by Joseph Campbell (reprinted on various websites including the Gnostic-priest blog here).

In that same vein, the Joseph Campbell Mythology group has pages chock-full of info.

I'll also be spending time at Endicott Studios a site I discovered through SurLaLunefairytales.com

Another lively and dynamic site is Mythic Imagination Institute--check it out.

Happy Reading. Read more!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Queen Bee

I’m revisiting today’s story, “The Queen Bee,” one of the many “Simpleton” or “Dummling” tales in the Grimm collection. I’ve previously looked at how these tales illustrate a healthy psyche—a person in tune with their instincts (the animals in the stories). Today I’m thinking of a more basic theme of these exceedingly optimistic fairy-tales. The stories (at least those I’ve read so far) say, not merely, “trust your own instincts and internal drives” but also “you can trust the World Spirit-God-Nature-the Universe” (whatever label you use). If you live simply, naively, and with an open heart, life works out.

That’s a radical thought. And a reassuring one.

I often feel like a Dummling in my own life. My choices tend to be counter-cultural. I'm slow to adopt (or even understand) the latest in technology or fashion. In clothing (when I’m not putting on a corporate trainer persona) I can tend toward frumpy. I often shop resale and dress for comfort. I’ve never had fashionable nails so that I can work in my garden or give my hubby a massage. I walk everywhere. And most importantly, I follow my instincts regarding my work. Majoring in Drama wasn’t the shrewdest business choice. And what is this blog anyway? How could it possibly help me in my life? I’m a Dummling in this, naïve and trusting.

Read a Dummling tale today. Would that the world was full of Dummlings! Read more!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thinking about "The Three Feathers"

Been searching online all morning for an excerpt from Conor McPherson’s play, “Shining City.” Saw it recently at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. I was looking for a posting of the lengthy monologue from the show. It's a brilliant description of a man’s experience of falling in love (or at least lust) and it seems a perfect response to today’s story, “The Three Feathers.” In her writings, MLVF (see post below) describes one theme of this fairy tale as a man's "descent" to find his hidden feeling, “feminine” self. What's another (psychological) metaphor for this event? Falling in love.

But, try as I might to tackle this theme with a fresh tale, I can’t find the man’s viewpoint (at least this morning)of “falling in love.” Hence, my search for the dazzling (at least 30 minute) monologue. It expertly explores the confusion and euphoria of this “fall.”

Sorry, I can’t find it. If you’re curious, you’ll have to read or see the play. Or maybe you have another story of your own?

Also--just discovered the Internet Sacred Text archive. Have you seen it? Wow. Read more!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Seven Ravens

Today’s meditation is on The Seven Ravens (check out this cool site from National Geographic) from The Brothers Grimm. I had fun with the bird imagery…..

The O’Brien family produced seven sons in rapid succession. Each became a priest and rose in the hierarchy to become important clerics. The seven brothers, dressed in long black robes, analyzed and debated ecclesiastical law from their lofty posts in Vatican City.

Perched in this sublime world, the brothers rarely contacted their aging parents or their younger sister. Mary had disappointed them. Instead of earning a law degree, as they’d hoped, she’d dropped out of school and become a massage therapist. A massage therapist! How could she throw away her mind and become a new-age….yes, they would say it….prostitute!

They made excuses to avoid contact with her and many years passed.

Mary loved massage. She loved the way she felt when, focusing on a rock-like muscle, she felt it relax under her hand. Massage was movement—a dance of meditation—an exploration of time, space, and breath.

But the work was also unsteady and her money tight. Mary dreamed of visiting her brothers in Rome but such a trip seemed impossible.

Then, one afternoon, she received a call. She’d won a drum set from the “Starlight” raffle she’d entered. A heavenly gift! She quickly sold the set and bought airfare to Rome. But on her first day exploring Vatican City, Mary lost all of her little remaining cash. A pickpocket.

Mary sat at a café, disoriented. Should she go to the police? Call her family at home?

She noticed some young women in short skirts huddled near the street. Another woman was sitting on a bench, in distress. Mary walked over. The young hooker, Jolina, was in pain. Mary began to work on her shoulders and soon had worked on the entire group, earning enough money for food and lodging.

The next day Mary, with the help of her new friends, set up a small sign near a chair in the town square. “Backrubs: 1 euro for 1 minute.” She worked there all day, meeting tourists and locals in that glorious setting--until the police chased her away. For the next few days, as she searched for her brothers, Mary continued setting up her sign wherever she could--on more remote streets, or in hotel lobbies. She’d even visit hotel rooms. But this last choice was dangerous. Mary had to fight off several men who grabbed her. But through humor and quick thinking she was able to finish the massage without incident. But she was shaken. She’d have to find her brothers tomorrow or she’d go home. She couldn’t risk another disgusting encounter.

The next day Mary finally found the Papal Law Offices. She asked for her eldest brother—telling the clerk that she was there to provide glenohumeral joint (shoulder blade) therapy. She tried to sound official. This was the only anatomy she could remember. Remarkably, after a few minutes, she was escorted into a large conference room.

The first brother came in. He didn’t recognize Mary and was suspicious of her offer. But as soon as she began to work on his shoulders, he melted into a blissful mystic. He called his next brother who called the next, until Mary had refashioned each. They sat in a circle, eyes glazed. Their previous worries and duties had flown and they were now peaceful lumps of earth—happy in their current moment of no-thought.

Each in their own way felt a tiny rebirth to themselves. They resolved—they would not jump back into their “head-trips” and workaholic ways.

And then finally, they recognized their sister and her gift. They laughed and hugged and spoke for many hours, beginning a new journey of discovery. Read more!