Category Archives: Personal Journey

My personal meanderings into finding meaning

Once upon a time…

There was a time not that long ago, when I left Der Schweiz with a backpack and not much else. That tremendous sense of laughter and freedom… I can still taste that with my being.

Standing here at the top of the stairs, I am admiring the gurgling of the water in the fish pond, and vivid green of the urban oasis we built in the house. I’m thinking, this is what I’ve been wanting to build, a space for the community of like-minds, who all want to live life built on meaning and purpose. I am also thinking that here is the opposite moment of that ‘backpack’ moment  of the last that I saw of Switzerland. This is the re-entry into the social-economic scene of normal life.

This is the culmination of 7 years of  journeying the byways and highways of the inner landscape. Of searching for a new way to re-org all the myriad intentions, learnings and impulses to build a safe place for myself and others to explore the full human potential. We are calling it Gallery Helios, Centre for the Art of Mind-Body Wellness. Community. Art. Mind. Body. Wellness.

This is a business. I have shareholders. And fixed costs, but what a beautiful fixed cost, a house in the traditional Peranakan style with a modern interior, a staircase built to visually disappear at nightfall. 4500 square feet with skylights and an airwell. Standing here, I’m mulling over how this has come about.

The Healing Place

In meditation one day, I saw myself sitting in a pavilion on a high place looking over water. It was a space of healing and rehabilitation, a retreat in the mountain. It was simply called The Healing Place. It would also have a city-center Centre, from where the weary  (and the weird ) would find solace and re-charge, or start a deeper journey or climb higher heights. And so here we are, starting part 1.

Old Ghosts…

i saw one today. i hadn’t seen or thought of him in 11 years at least. Yet without looking i knew this was the old enemy and there appeared a bad taste in the mouth, and i felt like i had to wash my hands. The old feelings of despise and contempt rose up like bile, and took me completely by surprise.

So while i feel like i have done a lot of inner work, i realize that there is no room for complacency, and that i need to continually release all the projections of my  unlived, unacknowledged shadows. There are principle and ethics, and we naturally get angry when our values are violated. But i have the tools, thank goodness, to quickly deal with energy leakages such as this. The ego-self that we hold on to and protect… on this post i’m using “i” instead of “I”.

Well, i’m grateful i could practice what i preach today. And having dealt with it, now i think he just had the bad luck of being my projection of most of the things that rile me in the dog-eat-dog world…. and he really was doing the best he could, with the tools he had…

Metaphors, Archetypes, Religion

Of late I’m re-reading Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. In there he spoke of Christ. He didn’t call him, Jesus, he called him always Christ. Oscar was a protestant who had a classical education, and he read Christian texts in the original Greek. His Christ is a romantic figure, idealized, a deeply personal interpretation. Each act and twist to the Christ story steeped with nuances and symbolism. How often do we make heros, villians and gods of others, by projecting our internal movies on to external landscapes? The collective consciousness, Jung and Campbell, the metaphors and archetypes of art, history and religion; are they not all communicating the different facets of reality? How do we make sense of the ever shifting kaleidoscope of human experience ? Which are the chickens and which are the eggs?

The Hero’s Journey: Descending into the Underworld

Feeling Stuck?

In the archetypical journey of the hero, the first half of life is about individuation – building a self – birth, childhood, growth, education, striking out on life’s adventure to claim one’s stake on the world. The second part of life is about dismantling the self – being discontent with what was once desired, trying to find deeper meaning, departing into the wilderness / the enchanted forest / the underworld – pick your myth – to confront our deepest fear / retrieve the golden fleece / rescue the princess and hopefully, transcend into wisdom / ascend to the throne / enlightenment – again, pick your myth. 

Symptoms of having reached what pc people call the mid-life transition, others call it the mid-life crisis:

Middle-age gent in red ferrari installed with young blond in front seat

Successful corporate exec suddenly looses all sense of self – retrenched, identity-less, worthless, lost

Men and women living lives of quiet desperation – grinding to a halt.

Everything feels stuck, stagnated, stifling. Life becomes disenchanted, meaningless, directionless, demons come out and play with our fears. Our shadows overwhelm us. We loose faith in ourselves and the world. We escape into online games, tv, illness, dramatic love affairs…. Or we seek wisdom, solution, resolution.

Depression, despair, desperation, defeated. Welcome to the descent. It’s the opportunity to drop all your baggage.

Relishing in your drama? Losing yourself? Running away from the world?

Relishing in your drama? Losing yourself? Running away from the world?

 

 

It’s not a nice place to be. It will be hard. It will be painful. The danger is not the pain you will face, cos you are equal to that which you create. The danger is not that you won’t find the golden fleece cos that is pre-disposed to be found. 

The danger is you might get seduced by the wilderness / underworld / enchanted forest and wish to dwell there forever.

Themes: Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Collective Unconscious, Tarot and the Journey of the Hero

Musing about Self and Non-Self

In therapy, we very often use the process of integration to reconcile “conflicting” or “disowned” parts of ourselves. We tell our parts, “I welcome you back to my family of selves”. There may be a 3-year old self who was afraid, a 5-year old self who was angry. These are the selves who react to our lives and sometimes run it. So who do we mean when we say ‘I’, ‘my’, ‘me’, ‘mine’? How do we define our identity? Most of us introduce ourselves by our name, and immediately attach another label to it – tinker, tailor, soldier, spy… We are what we do? We think therefore we are? In the Buddha’s estimation,  to be or not to be is NOT the question.

According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the buddha introduced the concept of non-self as an antidote to the concept of self. It was that attachment to a “self” that caused people to live in the grips of the “I”. And if then we abandon the self and latch on to the non-self, well, then we have jumped from the pot into the fire. Self and non-self, attachment and aversion – tricky stuff. The over-inflated ego is a “self”. The over-afflicted ego is also a “self”. Perhaps to transcend both is where there is non-self?  

So one would never find the non-self by seeking it, neither could it be found if one never seeks it. So it is not able getting, finding, having. It’s about seeing, accepting, embracing. In the end self and non-self are just concepts, fingers pointing to the moon. If our eyes are glued to the fingers and we will never clearly see  the moon.