Saturday, August 1, 2009

Can You Be Happy Anywhere?

As I study the research on happiness (for my training workshops), one idea dominates: happiness is a state of mind. This probably sounds overly obvious (in the abstract) but applying this to my daily life is a struggle.
We all have dreams and goals. These are vital to life. But if dreams slip into "when _____ happens, I'll be happy," it's time to question these thoughts.
Lately I've become obsessed (again) with living on Lake Michigan. I long to move north-some quiet beaches in Wisconsin are the most peaceful and spiritual places I know. Since I believe in the power of intention, and prayer, and hard work, I approach this desire with energy and optimism. But even with my best creative thinking, I can't find a way to make this dream happen soon.
Today I've felt a shriller inner voice pleading, "Come on God, I really want this! I'll pray so hard you'll have to make this happen!" (Here I'm like my puppy who begs and begs until I give her what she wants).
But then I remember happiness research. If I got the home on Lake Michigan, would it really make me happier? I find a deep inner peacefulness at the lake but isn't there a way to create that peacefulness anywhere? Happiness research says yes. Our thoughts, not our circumstances create happiness. Certain daily disciplines, (like meditating and practicing gratitude can even change the brain toward a happier state).
Can I really create the same peaceful feelings in my urban backyard as those that envelop me when I sit on an empty beach, listening to the waves? I will try. And even now, as I shift from the desperate need for something in the future to the quiet acceptance of the Now, I know greater peace.
I'm a passionate person with many goals and desires. It is a challenge to balance my enthusiasms and ambitions with an acceptance of Life's limits. Today I make a new goal--to keep practicing both gratitude and acceptance of the limits of today. © 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

System Restore

Had to take our computer in last week and do a "system restore." The techs remove everything from the hard drive and restore the original settings. It's up to me to try to replace all the software and gadgets I had added to my desktop over the years.

Seems like I've been doing a system restore on my soul also. Several years ago many of my established roles "crashed" and I was forced to start my life again, from scratch. I've been rebuilding ever since. The goal is to rebuild myself (or my computer) more intelligently. To use my hard-won knowledge to create a higher functioning system.

When I turned on my "restored" computer yesterday, my desktop was eerily empty. I still don't know where many of the files are hidden. There seems to be much work ahead and it is my least favorite activity. For me, working with technology can often feel like "one step forward, two steps back." But I know this isn't really true. Slowly, I fight the waves of Life's inertia and hack away. Using mysterious software and hardware, I work to create messages of meaning. Miraculously, I build a blog. I build a website.

Rebuilding my computer or myself will take time. But I know that eventually good work comes. Sometimes there are faster solutions (I could have simply bought a new computer). But despite the frustrations of growth, I now trust Life's methods. Progress requires my tenacity and hard work, and my trust and patience. Having these, I find great beauty in working within Life's flow and making slow but steady progress.
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Blind But Now I See

How can I be so blind to my own personality?

I am almost 50 years old and yet it was only yesterday that I more fully saw and understood the “gold” in my shadow.

I’m feisty. Competitive. Ambitious. Painfully honest (sometimes). These qualities give me tremendous drive and passion. They also can seem “not very nice.” Especially for a woman.

Yesterday I “got it.” How I’ve “split off” those “not good” parts of myself. How much more powerful would I have functioned, as a theatre director/producer, if I had embraced these traits, instead of driving them underground?

How do we discover the truth about our own nature?

For me, it has been the willingness to keep an open mind, to watch outer events, and to pray for guidance. I’m fascinated and overwhelmed by how God, the Unconsious, the High Self (whatever name you use), eventually brings the hidden to light.

All mysteries are slowly revealed. All oppositions ultimately transform themselves into (unforeseen) solutions.© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holding the Question

I have a recurring dilemma. I want to be part of a church I've been attending, but parts of it scare me. Voices in my head give arguments for staying and leaving. These debates rattle around my mind like billiard balls. I hate the daily distraction. Should I stay or should I go? Why can't I make a decision? Of course, even inaction is a decision. My resolve has been to wait and see. I call this, "Holding the Question." To embrace these opposing forces is hard work. My hope (and belief?) is if I can withstand the pull of these opposites inside me, a new greater wisdom (and solution) will be born from this tension.

I'll keep you posted.

© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
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Friday, May 15, 2009

What is Your Unique Contribution to the World?

I hear a lot about the need to “brand” myself—to create a clear, crisp, lean message/image of who I am and what I do. I can despair as I attempt this. I feel too quirky, too idiosyncratic to make myself easily understood. My wide range of passions, talents, and attributes don’t fit together in any conventional way. Will I ever be able to create something that resonates in the marketplace?

Lately, I’m comforted with new thoughts. If the world seeks to put us in a box, our own originality will always defy this. Great artists and thinkers can resist the crush toward conformity by either creating work that is easily accessible (bestsellers and blockbusters) or creating work that won’t be appreciated for a very long time. I may not be talented enough to do either type of great work, but at least I know that my eccentricity isn’t the problem.

If we give ourselves the chance to fully blossom, we will develop wonderfully novel personalities. Since we are always under pressure to conform, it may take decades to develop our unique character. But adults who follow their passions and talents will create a singular template that is a gift to the world. I am realizing that my own gifts may only be seen or appreciated by a few (hopefully). But this is important (despite our culture’s worship of fame and acclaim).

As children, we come into the world in a certain time, place, and circumstance. But as soon as we’re planted in our immediate environment (family, neighborhood, school), we begin to have an utterly unique experience of life. Even identical twins see the world through their own solitary lens.

This idea consoles me. We will each, like the drawing above, start out with peers and siblings but life’s events and our particular temperament will twist and bend us. We will develop an utterly novel perspective on life. Can we cherish our originality instead of denying our rare and beautiful gifts? Can we develop ourselves fully instead of trying to be like everyone else?

What is my unique contribution to the world?

© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Changing our Patterns

I had a strange dream this morning. I was helping a new employee who had just been hired in our department. We worked comfortably together but then, at the end of the workday (as can happen in dreams), I suddenly realized that this new worker was actually a former colleague. How did I not recognize her?

In “real life” (a Jungian has to put this phrase in quotes), my former co-worker, “Cathy,” had caused great disruption and chaos in our department. She had felt like an adversary to many of us. But since I had no recollection of this in my dream, we began our “first” day at work together with ease and collegiality. My dream-state-temporary-amnesia allowed me to treat Cathy with warmth. If I had recognized her, our interaction would have been much different.

How many conflicts could be averted if we had selective amnesia with our rivals or foes? Our conversations would then be free of the tiny microexpressions and unconscious vocal tones that send out defensive messages (despite our best intentions). The problem is, our brain scrutinizes our environment for threats and then sears these threat-memories deep into our mind-- for our protection. Our brain doesn’t want us to have amnesia precisely because we would then be more vulnerable to dangers around us.

Emotional Intelligence theories and techniques help us understand our brain’s design. We can then, depending on our circumstances, work to utilize or circumvent our evolutionary programming.

While we can never have complete amnesia about past events, we can at least be conscious of our feelings. These can give us a clue to the unconscious signals we are probably sending. That is why self-fulfilling prophecies work. If I come into a conversation anticipating the worst--my expectations are likely to be fulfilled because of the signals I’ve sent.

Even if we can’t control our unconscious nonverbal behaviors, we can try to compensate for them. If I were to meet with Cathy today, I could emphasize listening, eye contact, smiles, and a gentle tone of voice to counteract other signals I may inadvertently send. Then we might have the same easy relating that we had in my dream.

Destructive patterns of interacting are very hard to change since both parties become stuck in patterns of aggressive or defensive signals. Still, knowing our feelings can help us break these patterns and create new exchanges with our coworkers. © Lewis-Barr 2009
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Stories of:
the wise person submitting to the will God
the wounded healer
God incarnating in the world
are ubiquitous. (The Jesus story has all three motifs.) Here are Jungian expressions of these ideas from Marie-Louise von Franz in Puer Aeternus.

“Eliade tells a story about a very successful reindeer hunger, a provider of food and therefore a big man in his tribe, who has no thought of becoming a shaman. However, he gets a nervous disease which keeps him from going hunting, and then he discovers that as soon as he learns to drum like a shaman, his disease disappears….he cures himself. But once he is cured, he has had enough of being a shaman and goes back to hunting. Then the illness gets him again. In the end he sullenly puts up with it and becomes a healer since it is the only way he can keep himself fit. Against his wish and his will, reindeer hunting is finished for him forever….”

and

“When the Self and the ego come together and get in touch with each other, who is wounded? ….both are wounded…these two entities cannot meet without damaging each other. …the Self is damaged in that instead of being a potential wholeness it becomes a partial reality…it becomes real within the individuated person, in the realizing actions and words of the person. That is a restriction for the Self and its possibilities. The ego is wounded because something greater breaks into its life. Which is why Dr. Jung says that it means tremendous suffering to get in touch with the process of individuation…we are robbed of the capacity for arranging our own lives according to our own wishes.”
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sophie and the Bone.

A local merchant likes to give my small terrier a large bone when we visit. Sophie takes it in her mouth and carries it like a prize. Why doesn’t she eat it on the spot? Maybe she wants to have it at home in one of her private spaces? Or is it too big for her to break?

We continue our walk but now Sophie doesn’t stop to smell her favorite bushes or trail behind to look for squirrels. She seems in a daze, heading home, bone in mouth. But I’m not ready to head home. It is a beautiful day and I want a longer walk. Sophie lives to walk, but this time she keeps trying to head home.

“Sophie, let’s keep going!” I coax. “Why don’t you eat your bone?” Sophie looks at me blankly, waiting.

“Come on, girl; give it to me…..” Sophie is drooling on the treat clenched in her teeth.

“Is it too big for you? Isn’t it a bother to keep it clenched like that?” \

Sophie stares blankly.
“Come on, give it to me.” I tug. “Sophie, drop it.” She tugs back.

“Come on, Sophie, give me the bone.”

Finally, her jaw tired, she releases. I take the treat and break it in half. Now she will eat it with gusto.

Satisfied, my puppy gallops forward, released from her trance. She sniffs trees and follows squirrels. I must cajole her to keep up.

Sophie is easier to walk when she has a bone in her mouth. She doesn’t pull, she doesn’t lag, and she walks distractedly, without passion. But I want Sophie to enjoy her greatest pleasure (a walk), so I break her bone and get her to eat it.

What do I hold onto instead of relishing? How do my preoccupations keep me from the wonders all around? © Lewis-Barr 2009
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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Inner World

I sit. I wait. I recharge.

But instead of basking in the sunshine like Wall-e (in his namesake movie), I bask in silence. I sit and wait. New ideas will flow in-eventually. I know this process well.

But this morning, after a hectic week, my recharging will take longer and I'm slow to access new insights. My psyche is “processing” the week but I can't yet hear my intuitive voice. Vast stores of information are hidden from me, just outside my consciousness.

So I sit. I wait. My mind wanders or sits blank. I'm “sharpening my saw,” (a la Stephen Covey). It feels great and I know this “idle” time will pay large dividends in future creativity and insights.

I stare at a beautiful pine tree. I am here, now. The tree speaks of strength and patience and the spring approaching. I notice the branches waving in the wind and the gray sky. I hear my chimes and birds. I feel grateful for this moment as I draw near my soul.

How do you recharge?
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Changing Your Mind

I’ve been reading books on brain science for years. Some of my favorites include: The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Healing the Hardware of the Soul, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, and Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain among others.

One lesson I’ve extracted from research is that neural pathways in the brain build up through repetition. These become our perceptions, ideas, and beliefs about reality. We see what we expect to see. We experience what we expect to experience. The good news is that we can extinguish negative perceptions (such as irrational anxiety) through cognitive exercises. This isn’t easy work and it does require persistence and focus but my books tell me it can be achieved. I’ve been experimenting on myself lately with some success.

It is ironic--since I am a trainer/presenter—that for years I’ve suffered anxiety over public presentations or other teaching events that are important to me. (While I know a certain degree of anxiety/excitement before speaking is normal, I would prefer less of the former and more of the latter.) I’ve used a variety of methods to manage this internal unrest and I’ve had many great teaching/training experiences. Even so, I can still sense that my brain-computer seems programmed to link “excitement over presenting” to “something will go wrong foreboding.”

Through research into my past, I’ve discerned how this glitch developed in my psyche. That knowledge is helping me “talk back” to the disturbing thoughts that rise to consciousness. But there is another level of pre-conscious thought that will increase my heart rate as a presentation approaches. Can I get to the root of this apprehension?

I’ve been experimenting with meditation, visualization, and hypnotherapy techniques. My goal is to create a new synaptic pathway. Instead of “excitement over presenting” leading to “something will go wrong fear,” I want to link “excitement over presenting” to a very positive memory that creates calm in my body. I’ve been using memories of sitting on a private balcony on a cruise ship sailing Caribbean waters. Each time I think of my presentation, I try to conjure up memories of the smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and tactile sensations of that week. My body has been relaxing. I think I’m beginning to extinguish my former associations and replace them with this new link.

While our minds and bodies naturally seek health and wellness, sometimes our physical or psychological systems can get stuck in dis-ease. We can use pills to fight our backaches or counteract anxiety and sometimes these are necessary. But medicine can also mask our symptoms without approaching the root of the problem.

Have you ever used visualization to change your performance or your perceptions?

© Lewis-Barr 2009
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Power of Church

I have found a new church. Is it a good omen that this scares me half to death? (Aside: writers aren’t supposed to use such clich├ęs but I’ve journaled this phrase twice this morning. What does it mean? I’m not scared to a full death but “half to death.” I’m scared just enough for my ego to be moved (by fear) from psychological center-stage to the side. Now my habitual, unconscious habits and dynamics can overtake me in this vulnerable state, or, if I’m wise, I can yield to the brilliance of my Higher Self.)

But back to this church. It is a radically inclusive community but I’m still afraid I don’t belong. That I will be judged. This terror comes, not from the community itself, but from my own deep woundedness. But perhaps my terror of judgment is actually a projection of my own judgment of Christians and Christianity. Is that why I felt so comfortable (yet unfulfilled) with the Unitarians? We shared an anger towards right-wing Christianity. Have those feelings morphed in me to include all Christians? One of Jung’s many gifts to me has been his writings on the toxic nature of normative Christianity. The tragedy of our modern age is that so many of us (in the West) have become estranged from our mythological home (Christianity). It is an excruciating existential trauma.

But what I’m really exploring this morning is my own fear. Fear of judgment, fear of my own prophetic gifts. Fear of stepping into my own power. Fear of the power of the church to transform me. © Lewis-Barr 2009
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Nudge from my Higher Self?

What does it mean when I go unconscious (“unc” as hubby says) and “forget” something? We brought our car into the shop last night. Both Rick and I didn’t make the connection that I was working today and would need the car. My schedule is very flexible so there wasn’t a big problem but I wonder: what is my unconscious doing, or trying to tell me in this event? Just like lost car keys or paperwork, my ego couldn’t access the vital information even as Rick and I discussed our week. Instead of an “aha, I can’t bring in the car and go to work with it” moment, my ego “was kept” in the dark by another part of me. This caused me some inconvenience. Instead of a simple flow into work or staying home, I was disjointed, thinking I was going to work and then needing to regroup, make phone calls and stay home.

Is this all specifically symbolic or is my Greater Self just nudging my little self and saying, “You think you’re in the driver’s seat but you’re just a passenger that sometimes helps navigate the ship.

How do you understand these everyday hiccups and mishaps? © Lewis-Barr 2009
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Story of the "Cracked Pot."

I heard this lovely story over the weekend. It is a wonderful reminder that our flaws are often the source of our greatest gifts. If we can be honest with ourselves and accept our less than perfect traits, we may also come to realize that even our shortcomings can lead to beauty and distinction.

A water-bearer carries two large pots on a yoke across his shoulders up the hill from the river to his master's house each day. One has a crack and leaks half its water out each day before arriving at the house. The other pot is perfect and always delivers a full portion of water after the long walk from the river.

Finally, after years of arriving half-empty and feeling guilty, the cracked pot apologizes to the water-bearer. He is miserable and says, "I'm sorry that I couldn't accomplish what the perfect pot did."

The water-bearer says, "Why are you apologizing?"
"After all this time, I still only deliver half my load of water. I make more work for you because of my flaw."

The man smiled and told the pot. "Take note of all the lovely flowers growing on the side of the path where I carried you. The flowers grew so lovely because of the water you leaked. There are no flowers on the perfect pot's side."

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Waking Up

In my recent post, I wrote of the delay between the beginning of a feeling or thought and our conscious awareness of it. Ironically, I was about to have that “realization-emerges-from-the-darkness” experience myself.

I was in a foul mood last week. Unfortunately, my hubby Rick was also in a bad mood. This led to some testy moments. As the evening wore on, we both retreated with a journal and began to write (one more connection with last week’s post). We both began tracking back through our day, trying to determine what triggered us. I knew I was upset with my cousin. But why? I didn't know. My anger was hot but I couldn't tell you the why of it. Finally, unable to determine a trigger, I thought, “We just don't get along, that's that.” I let my anger cool and had a satisfying end of the evening with Rick.

The next morning, while walking Sophie (my “aha” moments usually happen when I'm walking or taking a shower), I “suddenly” realized that I was angry about an email from my cousin. My message to him expressed some sadness and he had responded with several jokes. Click. That was it! The insight snapped into place. I had felt ridiculed. Now, what to do about it?

But first, a few other thoughts. Without this insight, I had no responsible course of action. I was angry--but why? Without a why, I could only be angry. Second, in the paragraph above, I put suddenly in quotes because I wanted to show that another part of me had known all along. Only the “I” of me, my ego-self, was out of the loop and suddenly understood. The rest of me already knew--and was reacting.

Now, what to do. My choices: do nothing or say something. I decided to let my cousin know that I had been expressing sadness in the email (maybe he didn't know this) and I wasn't happy with his response. This was, at least, the beginning of our dialogue. I still felt a lack of trust between us (based on our history) but I could at least share my perceptions with him. He could examine his reactions (or not). A true reconciliation could develop (or not). In this moment, I’m simply grateful I realized the message of my feelings.
© Lewis-Barr 2009
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Friday, March 6, 2009

Research Says--Some Anger Good for You.

I’ve been writing about anger lately and was sent a terrific article on the subject. Confirmed my bias. Would I post it if it didn’t? Subtitled—“Repressing emotions leads to unhappiness, says Harvard psychologist,” you can read the entire article here.

The article says that while uncontrolled anger is never beneficial (for the giver or receiver), balanced expressions of anger can strengthen relationships, provide focus, and keep us healthier.

To live healthy, honest lives, we must find ways to acknowledge (even honor) all parts of ourselves. © Lewis-Barr 2009
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Monday, March 2, 2009

Healthy vs. Neurotic Suffering

I'm in the midst of a mid-life renaissance. After years of frantic feelings, dashed dreams, and mystifying mishaps from without and within, I finally feel "in flow." This does not mean that life is easy. I struggle against my fears every day. But I sense a difference between the old struggle and this one. My previous life was filled with a "flaying around." I was constantly striving to achieve against endless obstacles. Today, I still have goals but they seem given, not chosen. When I finally surrendered my cherished dreams (to win the Pulitzer or become a famous theatre director), I was reborn to a new life, without my Ego's agendas. Suddenly, instead of throwing myself against metaphorical brick walls, new doorways opened. I felt like a teenager, suddenly awash in thrilling challenges that tested my abilities.


Before, my mind obsessively circled my fears. Today, I still suffer from fear but now, instead of constant worrying, I step into the rapids and let both fear and excitement wash over me. Instead of trying to control the waves--I'm riding them. Now, each moment both lingers and rushes past filled with millions of fresh and intoxicating ideas. I feel pulled toward a mysterious destiny that I still don't understand-- but trust more and more. I find that the great Taoist sayings are true: more gets done when we surrender and let ourselves be carried by our unique Fate.
How do you deal with worry and fear?
© Lewis-Barr 2009
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Friday, February 27, 2009

More Thoughts on Anger

In my previous post, I asserted the importance of acknowledging anger as vital to our health and central to self-knowledge (emotional literacy). But it is complicated. How do I honor my anger but still create more compassion in myself and in the world? Until recently, these felt like mutually exclusive mindsets. I'm only now beginning to reconcile my internal split--between the positives and negatives of my Midwestern upbringing. I'm relearning a spirituality without succumbing to a little-girl piety. My piousness may have looked good to my neighbors but it also repressed and distorted my true spirit.

With time, I gain more perspective on the pendulum swings of my inner journey. If I was the overly sweet girl who lacked basic self-knowledge and assertiveness, I grew into a tough woman who lost track of the tenderness in myself (for more on this, see my recent review of the movie “Wall-e). I see this same split or swing in others. The challenge is to both allow anger while not becoming overwhelmed or obsessed by it. An Olympian task! Still, to live fulfilling lives where we nurture ourselves and others, we must learn to walk this razor-edge.© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Anger--The Great Taboo

While I’ve never lived in another country, I have lived for long periods in the Midwest and California. As I moved from one region to another, I felt a seismic shift between two cultures that seemed radically different in their approach to emotions. Were my encounters atypical? Perhaps. Still, as I contemplate my 20-year study of the “inner life,” I’m fascinated by the differences I found—especially regarding anger.

At 26, I left the Midwest (and the Catholic Church) and moved to California. I began a 10-year odyssey, exploring theatre arts, psychology, and “consciousness studies” in Berkeley, San Francisco, and other mind-bending communities. I was surrounded by groups who explored their emotions without dodging the great taboo—anger. With talented professionals and earnest friends, I intrepidly began to explore my own inner minefield--sore spots, wounds, (complexes for the Freudian/Jungians out there) and springs of anger.

When I returned to the Midwest I, felt immediately disoriented. My family and friends seemed to have a radically different set of norms. While I had painstakingly learned to identify my feelings and gently admit them to others—now even the slightest acknowledgement of anger seemed to threaten my companions. All my hard-won inner knowledge and commitment to honest communication was suddenly destroying a fragile emotional ecosystem I no longer understood (or appreciated).

I’ve been back in the Midwest for 12 years now, longer than the time I spent in exotic California. I continue to explore my own inner landscape and the taboo of anger. In my workshops, it seems to be the emotion that most haunts my participants, especially the women. When I discovered the field of emotional intelligence, I was grateful for its validation of my own beliefs—that anger was a necessary emotion that should be examined, not repressed.

Have you experienced cultural differences regarding comfort with different emotions?
© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Finally saw "Wall-e." Wow!

I finally saw the movie “Wall-e.” (Spoiler alert—discussion of movie themes follow.) It is a fabulous meditation on learning to love and balance our work (our "directive") with love. Why was I so affected by the struggles of two robots? Both characters felt deeply true to me—both expressed a deep archetypal dimension of modern life.

The bumbling, trembling Wall-e reminds me that heroes can be (and often are) afraid. His example calls me to act courageously (writing a revealing blog post) despite my own terror. Wall-e’s selflessness and generosity also inspired me. No matter the circumstance, this tender hero would introduce himself and learn the name of each character he meets. Could I also spread more love into the world through simple kindness and attention to others?

Eve is a tough-minded probe: she shoots first and asks questions later. I’m struck by the familiar archetype and irony of it--the sleek, efficient, working woman in charge of finding/restoring life is a sterile machine without any warmth herself. How familiar to me! I see myself and many other modern women--cut off from our natural tenderness. We serve our directives and nothing else—our machine-like precision focused on an ideal of house, family, and job. Like Eve, I have a powerful dedication to my vocation that can sometimes overwhelm other parts of my life. How fortunate that Wall-e pursues her. As I watched Eve soften and discover love, I felt myself soften.

Wall-e and Eve are both wonderful and flawed—just like all real people. Eve will probably always be a workaholic but Wall-e loves her despite (or maybe because of) this trait. One of the most moving moments of the movie is when Wall-e insists that Eve continue her work, despite his great need for her help. He is acting from principle, seeking the greatest good for the world, but he is also loving Eve in a remarkable way. He is supporting her to follow her own powerful instincts—to be her true self. That’s love.

In Wall-e, both characters refuse conformity and fight for their own unique paths in their work and in love. I’m reminded to do the same.

What movie has inspired you?

© Lewis-Barr 2008
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Better Selves

I watched the inauguration today with over one hundred college students gathered around a small television on campus. Although we were euphoric, I was still surprised by the spontaneous applause. We weren’t at a live event and yet we clapped to the tv throughout the ceremony. There was even a prolonged applause at the end of Obama’s acceptance speech. We obviously weren’t clapping for the speaker, we were clapping for ourselves. We needed to express our gratitude and jubilation.

Experiencing and watching the intense emotions of today, I’m reminded that the “King” archetype is a symbol of the Self. Is that why millions of us are awestruck by this President? In addition to his archetypal effect, President Obama is brilliant at helping us feel good about ourSelves, and calling us to be our best Selves. Is this why much of the country is completely infatuated with him?

Lewis-Barr 2009
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Friday, January 9, 2009

Sitting on the deck of a cruise ship

Woke this morning with a dream of being on a cruise. It was the 2nd or 3rd day and I was savoring the moment in the most profound way. When I woke, I wondered how I could do that same, deep relishing of the present—the feeling I have when on vacation-- in my daily life. Part of the challenge is that I am always striving, which pulls me out of that sacred savoring.

Is it the effect of the dream that all morning I’ve felt like I’m on a cruise? Very strange and wonderful. I’m not closing my eyes, so I do see the snowy streets out the window, but over that scene I’m looking at rolling waves and endless blue. It is quite fantastic to take that kind of vacation today and to relearn peace and contentment. © Lewis-Barr 2009
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

States of consciousness

I’ve been undergoing some hypnotherapy. In practicing some of the techniques, I’m learning more about states of consciousness.

Imagine a continuum with your unconscious mind on one side and your conscious mind on the other. Imagine that your ego—i.e. your consciousness of yourself is in the center of the continuum. The end of each continuum might look like this:

Less/no ego-----------------------------------------------------------ego dominated

Here’s how my different states of consciousness might line up along the continuum:

--Hypnosis/dream state drugs meditation workinginflow dailythoughts worries--

I’ve tried to place meditation in the middle because while I’ve experienced it mostly with an “I” (ego) consciousness, I’ve also had moments that transcended my own ego. Now, working with hypnosis, I’m learning to let go of my thinking and go “under” my thinking. I know many meditation teachers talk about this but I never needed or wanted to really go to a place of “no mind.” For me, meditation was a prayerful (even ecstatic) experience of God in my heart. I used a mantra to keep me focused but I had thoughts and many emotional and even body experiences. Tonight’s practice of self-hypnosis was different. I had a profound (and surprising) experience of “no mind.” I watched my thoughts come and go but I wasn’t the thoughts. But even though I was experiencing no-mind I was also using a mantra of a positive suggestion. My goal was to plant a positive thought in the virgin soil of my unconscious mind. But who plants the thought—if not me?

In my deeply relaxed state, this paradox was immaterial.

Another enigma: even as I experienced a place deeper than my mind, I couldn’t will (or even expect) my active and searching mind to shut down completely. I was, after all, curious about this experience and trying to make note of it for later. My mind was also making periodic reminders about other issues of the day. But this time I didn’t run with the thoughts. I trusted that I could let them go without losing them. I returned to my positive mantra and a place beyond me.

This was different from my wonderful experience of prayer/meditation-- a refuge of rejuvenation, insight, revelation, inspiration, and peace. Tonight was what I’d heard Buddhists talk about.

For many months now I’ve been meditating upon slowly waking up. It has been a wonderful gift to have that time to shift very slowly from unconsciousness to consciousness. Sometimes I will remember a dream and work on it. Sometimes I will have a spontaneous realization about my life. Often times I will just sit in a kind of half-sleep stupor and eventually do some writing as my consciousness comes to the fore.

Yesterday I decided to try self-hypnosis in the morning just as I awoke. What better time to do the programming, yes? But a strange thing happened. When I tried to do the positive mantra (I skipped the preliminary relaxation process thinking that, half asleep, I hardly needed it) I felt unable. The direction was wrong. What I’ve enjoyed so much in the mornings is the sacred experience of gradually linking unconsciousness to consciousness. Of hearing God’s voice through the darkness of what is “not ego.” Is it one experience to start with ego and descend into no-mind and another to come from no-mind into mind? Seems to me that these two directions are complementary but different. And they don’t seem interchangeable.

These experiments show me the mystical marriage of mind and no-mind. I have felt the sacred harmony of their union. Simply living in one frame or the other doesn’t work. Of course we all know that-- but my experiences of hypnosis, meditation and Jung, are changing me experientially, not theoretically.
© Lewis-Barr 2009
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