Friday, October 31, 2014

Engagement with Home


In Good Stories this week, we moved ahead into the second half of our major textbook, Bryan Boyd’s Origin of Stories. Part 4 focuses on The Odyssey with a particular look at the goal of the story and the obstacles along the way. Boyd’s analysis of Odysseus’ goal and tasks serves as a model for us individually to design our final digital media productions.
         Odysseus’ goal is portrayed around his persistent drive for going home. Even in reflecting on our discussion yesterday, my being vibrates in the resonance of that theme. While it’s different for me from the way my college-student collaborators, some forty years younger, must feel it, I still believe “going home” strikes an eternally resonant chord. Perhaps you, too, hear ET in the background, with that plaintive cry; or we may sound further back to S&G’s Homeward Bound (“home where my love lies waiting/silently for me…” full lyrics shown here ).  Or, like the look I saw in the eyes of yesterday’s classroom, our gaze homeward may move even beyond the horizon of time.
         Of course, any of us who have tried to find the place of childhood, knows the disappointment of growing up, of disillusion, of finding clay-footed places and people, even ourselves. For me, there’s been poignancy in realizing that the Texas of my youth has morphed into a mismatch with my “mature years.”


"Yesterdays" 

Anson TX 1953ish            &                      Oct 30 2014 

And, yet now, I’m wondering about a meaning of home that expresses an engagement, where that warmth and recognition of belonging comes more in the fidelity forged between the inner landscape and the outer connection.
         Home has been explained as something that moves with a person. To some extent, I get that; but I also experience the embrace of the place we are now stewarding.


          Tending to the inner counts, like I’m doing now in drafting this post while sitting, pre-dawn, in front of our softly-burning wood stove, with its warm orange flames, sipping freshly brewed coffee; and yet inner space tended by meditation and reflection cannot be sundered from my gratitude for the falling leaves and more for those yet clinging with moving shades of yellow, gold, and red. Our love of those trees as well as the berry bushes, the barn, the bird-feeder when snow makes foraging nigh impossible—these bits of mindfulness make home, too.
         Yesterday, my thirty-something daughter and I shared a few hours, and among other things we talked about a location for her new home as her place in Colorado sells. Lauren has just returned from a week in Costa Rica where her employer is developing a site. She doesn’t feel that’s the place. She works out of San Francisco mostly but that’s not home to her either, neither is London where she’ll likely be next week. Australia looks interesting, she says, along with the hobbit side of New Zealand.
         Longing, the on-and-off focus of Good Stories, goes hand in glove with the goal of going home.

         My daughter’s voyage toward home, with an inner journey at least as rich as her world tour, seems foreign to mine.  And I don’t expect my college students, a decade younger than Lauren, will construct a meaning of home the way either of us do. And yet, going home still makes for a common goal, so that given all our differences we can hold together while we each and in our companionship imagine or way home.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lived Experience

Mixed images from http://youtu.be/dniv130P_vA

Lived Experience

Human being vibrates, ever reaching
Into an unknown
Seeks further meaning
Peace

Increasingly aware of the numinous
Tastes eternity
Feels balanced motion
Loving

Never to be sated but simply left
A bit less lonely
Appeased by beauty

Loved.

         The term of the day, for me—but first a Dis-Claimer (a dis on myself actually). I’ve learned not to expect to be on the earlybird timetable for coining a phrase or even picking it up when it’s hot. So this term won’t be new for most anyone else. I know. OK. I know Van Manen’s Researching Lived Experience was published a quarter century ago.  And from von Franz over a half-century ago in her commentary on Apuleius and his protagonist Lucius in the Golden Ass: “Lucius thus represents the principle of consciousness or the possibility of becoming conscious through lived life experience” (p. 30).
         So I’m slow, but I still want to know, why “lived” as a part of the experience?  Do we have many unlived experiences? Or partially lived ones? Hmmm. While it may be argued as semantically wasteful, I’m thinking that to tack on “lived” to “experience” pushes me toward increased consciousness. And that sets up the advance into quantum consciousness.  Now with that connection I’ve got a good reason for plumbing the phrase.
         When I look again and more closely into van Manen for his purpose of putting “lived” in combination with “experience,” I’m concluding that he seems concerned that the bare term “experience” has been compromised by our scientific bias. Probing pure experience gets lost in analysis. The first explanation I find in Researching Lived Experience comes on page 9: Phenomenology “differs from almost every other science in that it attempts to gain insightful descriptions of the way we experience the world pre-reflectively, without taxonomizing, classifying, or abstracting it.”  A few lines later, “Consciousness is the only access human beings have to the world. Or rather, it is by virtue of being conscious that we are already related to the world.”
         In a way, engagement with “lived experience” cycles me back, in that unending tour around the ancient tower of one’s destiny, into the “sense born-with” and through the theme of resonance. Phenomenology, in the Heidegger track (in addition to epistemology's how do we know?), elevates ontology: why/how is a person here? Might it be that engaging and re-entering experience with deepened insight marries the individual with his and her indwelling gift. Von Franz talks of this as our daimon or the individual genius: “each individual had his idios daimon—his own specific daimon…the Greek word which Apuleius translates quite adequately in Latin as ‘genius.’ From the Jungian point of view, one could say that it is the preconscious form of individuality…The genius made one genialis—sparkling with spirit and life” (pp. 14-15).
         Lived experience pulses with a two-way dynamic with its striving for both X (more presence in the immediate moment, the way an artist works/plays) and Y (increased dedication to representation and reflection on the experience). The dynamic carries a vibrant commitment to returning with more wholeness, holiness, like a marriage between X and Y. The opening lines of this blog reach toward that kind of pulsing dynamic gained through lived experience.
         A gift of this past weekend came in our hometown’s studio tour as we watched and talked with artists.  Creation happens as an intense, yet playful, search with a gaze into the artistic act, the phenomenon, for glimmers from beyond, and with an eagerness to re-enter. Quantum multiplicity glistens in the artists’ eyes with reflections picked up in my camera lens and mixed in this video:

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Reality of Transformations

What is real? 

To muddle about in the question of “what is real?” here are some considerations:
A. How is Photo 1 real when the image is adjusted in iPhoto (as shown in the adjust window)?

B. How is Photo 2, taken a minute later from a few strides south, more or less real when the image is left unadjusted?


C. How, if at all, can both Photo 1 and Photo 2 be real?

D. How is or is not Van Gogh’s haystack real? Moses’ burning bush?

Perhaps the real comes in transformations. Rumi says that “there never was in the world a treasure without a snake” (Mathnawi, II, 1862, Nicholson’s trans.). And, a few lines later, perhaps in relation to the above photographs, “Do thou the same thing that the sun of the east does with our hypocrisy and craft and thieving and dissimulation.”


For seven weeks, I’ve been practicing an approach to hermeneutical phenomenology (see also my next paragraph) by bringing my sense of Good Stories to the arena. (A recent blog elaborated this, including: “I intentionally carry the development of Good Stories in my body, my heart, and my imagination…to the riding experience.”)  During and following the ride, I’m attending for an essence that I bring into more articulate form by writing the blog and then take the textualized lived-experience/s forward with a continued sense and presence to the next class session and then back to the arena and so on. I wonder if doing this with my craft makes a similar thing to what the sun of the east does?

Van Manen says: “in its most basic form lived experience involves our immediate, pre-reflective consciousness of life: a reflexive or self-given awareness which is, as awareness, unaware of itself” (p. 35, Researching Lived Experience). On the next page, he adds: “The aim of phenomenology is to transform lived experience into a textual expression of its essence—in such a way that the effect of the text is at once a reflexive re-living and a reflective appropriation of something meaningful: a notion by which a reader is powerfully animated in his or her own lived experience.”

When being observed, as teachers are, and even more so when feeling judged, we may become even further distracted and distanced from lived experience.  One reason I ride relates to the consequences around losing and gaining presence; I lean into the vibrancy felt in increasing it. Stunning is the extent to which what is accessible to consciousness goes unseen, inarticulate, like angels unasked.

Concerning the significance of the transformation of consciousness, Jung writes in his foreword to Aion: “My reader should never forget, however, that I am not making a confession of faith or writing a tendentious tract, but am simply considering how certain things could be understood from the standpoint of our modern consciousness—things which I deem it valuable to understand, and which are obviously in danger of being swallowed up in the abyss of incomprehension and oblivion; things, finally, whose understanding would do much to remedy our philosophic disorientation by shedding light on the psychic background and the secret chambers of the soul. The essence of this book was built up gradually, in the course of many years, in countless conversations with people of all ages and all walks of life; with people who in the confusion and uprootedness of our society were likely to lose all contact with the meaning of European culture and to fall into that state of suggestibility which is the occasion and cause of the Utopian mass-psychoses of our time.”

Rumi says, “Don’t be the rider who gallops all night/And never sees the horse that is beneath him” (p. 236, Translated by Robert Bly in The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy. Ecco, 1995.).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Destiny Directions


           Each of us would like to know which way to go. What major is the right one? What are the exact directions for the next project? At this crossroad, which road leads home or to success or happiness?
            For better and worse, each individual has a distinct fingerprint, DNA, gift, purpose, and destiny. The truth, then, does not come packaged in a uniform prescription or a computerized program that has never entered the individual’s evolving mind, heart, and soul. And there’s multiplicity—so while each person is individual, we also share history, love, and futures. Our destinies today invite us, maybe even command us, to cooperate in advancing peace and justice. And simultaneously the order says be true to the unique whorl that marks individually the distinct reasons for being here.
            Since we don’t have one right way and because the intention is to discern destiny, the projects in Good Stories diverge, as it were, into the woods. The scent of a good pathway depends on picking up the vibrations that resonate with inner sense as it longs for the source. The design of a good project hinges on good tracking. 
           Some trackers find the way by retracing old ground picking up more subtle cues. Others race ahead with support from guides and travel through history, cultures, and fascinations with people and places across time. Destiny often demands building character and feel by enduring tasks and engaging obstacles.
            Keep in mind our ruler archetypes. Arthur had to go alone on hands and knees through the thorny bracken. The chief Kanu stayed in place, grieved, and blessed the unwanted by commissioning them into the quest. And the sister claimed the golden water by plugging her ears against threats and enticements.
            Also note that the guide has many appearances and can change form. After being tantalized by the Maiden Tsar, Ivan needed direction from the scary Baba Yaga and the kindly grandmother. Teig, thrust from his comfort zone, depended on the old man and later the black-haired damsel. The sister who yearned for the Golden Water showed courtesy to the devout woman and asked permission for a strategic ploy from the haystack hermit before relying on advice from the Talking Bird.
            What kind of task and obstacle calls to you from the stories? Often listeners to Good Stories resonate with little Coot whose dive succeeded even though the treasure appeared initially only as a speck of mud but turned into the generative matter. We’ll soon meet Tatterhood, an unlikely combatant as she takes on the trolls and witches of the world. And we’ll enter the trials of Psyche, remembering that her name means “soul” and her connection is to Love.
            So you have to choose: Do you need to amplify the old ground in order to amp up your feel for what is resonant? Are you drawn more to explore the fascinating folks and travel into history or futures for models that give hints for your own? Do you want to study guides and/or tasks that point the way and build character.

         Mostly listen to your heartbeat and follow the longing.

    


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Transformation from the Ugliest


Remember in the story of Arthur (Marriage of Gawaine & Ragnell) that the ruler returned to the hunt. We discussed how the fundamental role of Ruler focuses on providing order and manifesting justice. For the ruler to return to the archetypal role of hunter suggests that order and justice in the realm is not being satisfied. The ruler anticipates what is needed for civilization to adapt to new possibilities and is willing to go hunting with the search party when the time is ready.
         An archetypal hunt aims at the unknown; typical images include the forest primeval and the ocean depths. Ivan’s search for the Beloved ventured there toward the place “beyond the thrice ninth sea.” Hunters intend to bring back the treasure needed for the good of the realm. The “realm” includes both the full development of the individual, of consciousness, and of society.
         Our Good Stories aim at advancing into needed levels of peace and justice. We believe that’s good work.  It’s what story and art are for. And it’s our destiny!
         Imagine yourself into a story, like Arthur’s, that does this. Part of you fills the role of ruler giving order to your life, searching out your destiny, advancing peace and justice. What question might you find in your hunt? Arthur’s life depended on entering the question: What does a woman want most in all the world? What does the claim on your life demand that you search out?
         Don’t be surprised if the quest enters nonsense, trouble, and deception. King Arthur stands as the prime exemplar of the sovereign ruler with the Round Table at the cutting edge of civilization, chivalry, righting wrong. And still the idea that woman and the feminine could be equally sovereign appeared as the ugliest creature ever seen.
         I think it still does. Deep levels of caring (tending the “other” in the ditch, health care for everyone, respect for “illegals”) are perennially pictured and repeatedly appear as something ugly. Our task is to participate in transforming the “beast” into the beauty. The edge of civilization and consciousness continuously roils, an exigence in urgent need of realization.
         Remember how the strangers to Kanu’s village were first seen as undesirables. Even the chief could not spell out how their nature would advance the good of the community, but their positive contribution was anticipated. And they did the unthinkable (although they got big-headed about it) in returning the treasure to the village. As in most Good Stories, the treasure is textured in the journey: the diamond for the community involved the realization that “ugly” strangers turn out to be the major contributors to the advance of civilization.
         Apply this to your own quest. How might it be that the direction you must take will likely lead you into what looks like the ugliest creature? Connect a part of yourself that looks undesirable (like Jack’s bumbling about or the Lazy Man’s apparent inferiority in contrast with Mr. Industry). Remember the special capacity of Jung’s “inferior function” that draws forth the vitality needed if we are to engage the big questions.
         You might begin by preparing the resonant images from the stories. Put yourself into the picture with one of those ugly creatures, like a Shrek-ish character. You might return to the stranger with whom you made resonance in Kanu’s village. What unexpected characteristic offers a link enabling you to adventure further into your destiny? While we often can’t see the far-off destination, we can identify challenges in stories that build the character to move further in the process.
         Another way into this journey comes in the sense of longing. The Kuan Yin story starts with an “ugliest creature” although we might not initially recognize the ugliness. Their community was known only for racing on swift horses and shooting arrows. Something vital was missing and no one knew it until the FisherMaiden came. This figure (like the Maiden Tsar, even like Ragnell, and also similar to Teig’s loss of basket-making supplies) brings awareness of a need, a desire, a longing.
         Now, as you’ve heard me say in many stories, what takes a day in Storyland might mean a decade in Everyday. So don’t expect that the sense of longing will show us the destination with a few clicks of the computer. We can, however, play around the points of resonance, and digital media production offers a terrific field to do this.
         Let’s engage the archetypal figure of ruler and amplify around it, picking up clues about qualities shown in the story. How does Arthur relate to the task? For example, he crawls through the thorny bracken on his hands and knees, and he takes on the trouble alone. But then Knight Gawaine (like a secondary function within us) confronts the ruler about the need to share the task.
         Arthur, in the traumatic manner (also shown in Ivan’s confrontation with the “tutor”), has to discern between rules: the old law told him to follow Gromer’s demand that he tell no one (in other words, BE HEROIC—do it alone!) and the new law that’s trying to emerge, saying “Cooperate, please.”

         Again, the texture of the story tells the nature of the answer to the life-or-death question. The ruler has to trust in the relationship, and so does the knight. The Native American teaching sounds the answer: all-my-relations. All the characters in the story participate in the passion of the advancing culture. For example, the ruler has to suffer letting go of control, just as the beloved (Ragnell) has to endure being treated as something ugly, and the protagonist (Gawaine) has to give up illusions of superficial beauty. The challenge calls for kinship taking precedence over control, both within our individual development and in social structures. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Distilling Distraction: Contain the Longing


Usually the atmosphere surrounding the telling of Teig, “The One Without a Story,” fills with fun: the exuberance of fiddle playing, speaking with tongues, the magical surgeon’s touch, and the flights of fantasy. This time, however, the classroom during our fifth week together stayed heavier, with tired-out eyes, bodies willing to work but giving more sighs than laughter. Perhaps I should have anticipated this based on my ride a day earlier when Leg’cy was unusually sluggish. On campus, the initial spurt of the semester winds down and other activities, like rush, create distractions.
         Well, the theme of containment does carry the element of endurance. For Teig, the basket maker, to take the next step in a life’s career requires going past fun and on into matters that require just holding on, that demand persisting until transformation happens. If you were to fill in the blank, what would you write after this stem? Hold your ________________ .
         When I asked my wife, she immediately said, “hold your horses!” I was shocked she got that one and I didn’t. My first response was “hold your temper!” and we both got “hold your tongue!” I also seemed to recall something like “hold on to your pocketbook.”
         Early promptings from parents and others emphasize the theme of holding with guidance to control our anger and manage our money wisely.  For example, the deferral of immediate gratification allows us to turn an impulsive wish for ice cream into a more authentic purchase or investment. Finding the pearl of great price may depend on patient waiting; time is required for sand to polish the raw desire down to the true, the authentic, the perfectly rounded pearl.
         We know what happens when we don’t hold our temper, but what about when we do? Anger sometimes gives way to the deeper truth of sadness, and the endurance of grief works the desire for something lost or perhaps never fully had. A hydroelectric system includes a holding system, especially featuring the dam, and a release where the rush transforms the movement into electrical power.
          I wonder about this act of containing and about the process of transformation. Does holding always lead to change? One thing comes to mind that we are asked to hold that doesn’t seem to transform: the longing. The dimension of longing, of yearning, reminds me of the David Wilcox song “Break in the Cup.”
I cannot make you happy
I'm learning love and money never do
But I can pour myself out 'til I'm empty
Trying to be just who you'd want me to
I encourage you to follow the link and listen to the whole song, several times, to take in the progression of longing that Wilcox tells.
         The containment of longing also provides the tending of the field of resonance. I believe we are given that resonant magnetic connection with destiny, as we have explored in Good Stories; but, like any gift or talent or garden, it requires care. Antonio Machado’s poem teaches this. Without consulting my notes, Machado’s Spanish along with Robert Bly’s translation into English comes back into my memory this way:
Llamó a mi corazón, un claro día,
con un perfume de jazmín, el viento.
The wind one brilliant day called to my soul
with the aroma of jasmine.
In exchange for this jasmine odor,
I’ll take the roses of your garden.
No tengo rosas, all the flowers of my garden are gone.
Then I’ll take your dried-up stems, the waters of your fountain,
and your dusty petals.
Y el viento huyó—and the wind left.
Mi corazón sangraba—my heart broke and I wept.
Alma! I called to my soul.
What have I done with the garden given to my trust!


         The longing each person is given makes for a sacred gift connecting with the source. The resonant core needs tending, like a garden. One particular story comes to my mind to take us further as we explore with care this theme of longing and to guide our embodiment of our destiny. The Kuan Yin story tells of a culture that is possessed by distraction and how a visitation leads to love. Transformation of the superficial state requires memorization, understanding, and actualization or embodied living. This is gardening our lives and stewardship of the pearl of longing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Continuous Re-creation of Our Course: the Way of Destiny


         For this week’s consultation about Good Stories, Leg’cy and the other two horses in their paddock were out of sight, over the hill. They were at the far end with Legacy grazing farthest away, and my heart warmed to see her walk right past the herd all the way to where I waited, freely allowing me to put on the halter. I even gave her one of the quarter-size healthy treats that I usually reserve for a reward at the end of our ride. I wonder if we as teachers appreciate our students when they “leave the herd” and take the risk of following our lead.
         After stretching out in the arena, we worked almost the entire time at the trot with many bends and changing directions. This felt good because not that long ago we were just trotting straight lines because turns took us off-balance. While I’d wanted to keep working on the canter as we had in recent rides, I decided to stay with the trot because it was going so nicely. Just about that moment when I was feeling good with “being” rather than doing more, Leg’cy seemed to want to shift to the canter. So I went along with it. Isn’t it interesting that her initiative showed up when I’d accepted the goodness of what she was already doing?
         She had probably picked up the wrong lead for the canter. After a few strides, we dropped back to trot, down to walk, and then picked up the canter again, more smoothly, but perhaps still in wrong lead. Because we best close on a good note, we returned to the trot, treasuring the light touch and the lift of power. In reviewing the ride, I felt satisfied overall with our increased balance, taking the curves; in a word, I attributed the improvements, including her initiative, to better collection.
         So what’s the take-away, if any, for Good Stories? Perhaps I should first say something about why I’m looking for a connection between my riding and my teaching. I’ve come to experience engagement with horses, particularly this one with whom I have a special relationship, as a magnificent response chamber. This capacity has been widely recognized in horse-human activity, for example in therapeutic riding and personal development clinics. We know that it’s easier to see a person’s hidden conditions (physical, cognitive, and emotional) through the display offered when the person is with a horse. A horse mirrors and magnifies, although the information often goes unnoted.
         So when I intentionally carry the development of Good Stories in my body, my heart, and my imagination, I do expect to receive insight and direction from quality time spent with Legacy. The display still requires dedicated decoding. To articulate the riding experience, I spend time reflecting and writing it out; talking about the experience also helps.
         Although I won’t elaborate in this post, I’ll acknowledge that my understanding of the riding-teaching connection is getting support from a variety of readings. Of particular value currently, Max van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenology has helped with his explanations on the dynamic between experience and reflection, including the vital role of writing. Also, I just re-read Robert Johnson’s Ecstasy for his elaboration of Jung’s four functions, especially related to the source of vitality and enthusiasm. Effective teaching owes more to the teacher who appropriately carries passion into the classroom than anything else.
         How might this week’s ride transfer to our class? What would “collection” mean in Good Stories?  For our course, I re-create the curriculum continuously, looking for the best fit for where we are and what comes next. Riding helps me trust in moving by feel rather than by rigid adherence to the plan.
         In wondering about our next story and in listening to the experience of our ride, “One Without a Story” comes to mind: Is this story the best fit for developing our sense of our destinies? “One Without a Story” begins with the protagonist already enjoying mastery in the profession of basket making, but destiny careens ahead into a land full of scares and surprises.
         The basket offers one of those prime images for containment. It’s similar to collection in that it signifies an ability to hold. When we’re shaping our destinies in a quantum age, of crucial importance is the capacity to hold uncertainty and paradox until a resolution presents.
         It might seem strange for a story to begin at the end, for the main character to have already a finished career. We usually start off with the youth just setting out. “One Without a Story” shifts so that we wonder about feeling “finished.” You mean that’s not really the end? In our class, we’ve been focusing on the unfinished.  The Nonsense Tales spotlight the underdeveloped character, such as the one labeled Lazy.
         These two dimensions, the finished and the undeveloped, allow our narratives to open discussion of development needed to progress in our destiny. Persons and cultures can easily get stuck with a presumption of being done at times when the work of destiny needs a different perspective to move ahead. C.G. Jung gives a model of four functions with special attention on the dominant and the inferior, and wholeness requires developing all four aspects of the personality.

         So, thanks to Leg’cy, I sense a good next story and a rich space of exploration for our rides in and out of the classroom this week.