Sunday, January 31, 2016

James Hillman: Harmony With Our Deep Self

Quotes by James Hillman

Psychology is ultimately mythology, the study of the stories of the soul.

Our life is psychological, and the purpose of life is to make psyche of it, to find connections between life and soul.

The capacity for people to kid themselves is huge. Living on illusions or delusions, and the re-establishing of these illusions or delusions requires a big effort to keep them from being seen through. But a very old idea is at work behind our current state of affairs: enantiodromia, or the Greek notion of things turning into their opposite.

We can't change anything until we get some fresh ideas, until we begin to see things differently.

An individual's harmony with his or her 'own deep self' requires not merely a journey to the interior but a harmonizing with the environmental world.

Until the culture recognizes the legitimacy of growing down, each person in the culture struggles blindly to make sense of the darkness that the soul requires to deepen into life.

It's important to ask yourself, How am I useful to others? What do people want from me? That may very well reveal what you are here for.

Attention is the cardinal psychological virtue. On it depends perhaps the other cardinal virtues, for there can hardly be faith nor hope nor love for anything unless it first receives attention.

The character truest to itself becomes eccentric rather than immovably centered, as Emerson defined the noble character of the hero. At the edge, the certainty of borders gives way. We are more subject to invasions, less able to mobilize defenses, less sure of who we really are, even as we may be perceived by others as a person of character. The dislocation of self from center to indefinite edge merges us more with the world, so that we can feel blest by everything.

Open your heart, your gaze, to the visitations of angels, even if the gifts they bring may not be centeredness and balance but eccentricity and a wholly unfamiliar sense of pleasure called joy.

You don't know what you're going to get into when you follow your bliss.

Your life is not predestined, as in Calvinist thought, where everything is written down in the book of life long before your birth and is inescapable. There are choices, accidents, hints and wrong paths, and the ego you, or whatever you call yourself, is a factor in all this. But there is still this other factor that keeps calling. At some moment, people turn, in despair or when they are unable to go any longer on a certain route, and this inner voice says, "Where have you been? I've been waiting for you to turn to me for a long time."

- James Hillman

James Hillman: The High Cost of Materialism

Of course, a culture as manically and massively materialistic as ours creates materialistic behavior in its people, especially in those people who've been subjected to nothing but the destruction of imagination that this culture calls education, the destruction of autonomy it calls work, and the destruction of activity it calls entertainment.

- James Hillman 

James Hillman: The Final Years Have a Very Important Purpose

These are amazing times in which we live. The role for each of us who are growing into Elderhood is significant. My deep and ongoing prayer is that we are finding our path, our creativity and voice and imagination, our courageous Self and soulful purpose, our unique expression of how it is that we are here to make a positive difference in the world. No act is too small. Every act rooted in love matters. And our grandchildren and the children yet unborn, and the children of all of the species of all time, are all looking to us now to step into our place in the family of things and claim our part in leaving the world a better place. Another world is truly possible. It is up to us. Then, when we are at the doorway passing from this world to the next we will be able to answer with a resounding Yes! to the question: "Did we love well? Were we kind? Did we become who we are?"
Namaste ~ Molly

Anytime you’re gonna grow, you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you’re hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.

The easy path of aging is to become a thick-skinned, unbudging curmudgeon, a battle-ax. To grow soft and sweet is the harder way.

Aging is no accident. It is necessary to the human condition, intended by the soul. We become more characteristic of who we are simply by lasting into later years; the older we become, the more our true natures emerge. Thus the final years have a very important purpose: the fulfillment and confirmation of one’s character.

- James Hillman

Thomas Moore: Planting New Seeds

There is no way to re-enchant our lives 
in a disenchanted culture except by becoming 
renegades from that culture and planting 
the seeds for a new one.
- Thomas Moore

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mary Oliver: The Journey

The Journey 
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
- Mary Oliver

On This Anniversary: Remembering John & the Gifts of Our Hearts

For John 
With Love & Gratitude

It was 38 years ago today that my brother died. Monday, January 30th, 1978 will always be with me. My grandfather had called me the Saturday before to let me know that John was missing again. Each time my brother went "missing," I knew in my deepest heart that he was off somewhere trying to get up enough courage or despair or desperation to commit suicide. 

I tried to numb out. What could I do? Here I was 2,500 miles away in Oregon while my twin was off alone somewhere near our mother's home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. I had been haunted with this bone gnawing trauma that John would die, especially since our father's death two years earlier. And since last seeing my brother on the psychiatric ward of Cottage Hospital in Grosse Pointe on my first visit back to Michigan in May 1977. That is when John told me, "I know I need to get away from Mom. And I know I can't." That's when I knew I would never see my brother again.

But I wanted to be wrong. I ached with hope that I could be wrong. So this time when Super (my grandfather) called to say that John was missing again, I determined that I would not go crazy like I usually did with fear and my utter powerlessness to save my brother. I wanted to save John. I ached to save him. I hated my powerlessness. So I waited and tried to not think about it and actually noticed that, indeed, this time I was not as overcome with paralyzing fear as I normally was. Maybe I was wrong.

Then came the call on that Monday night. 

My brother had died that morning shortly before he was discovered by motel staff when he did not check out. He left two suicide notes. We learned later that John had checked into the motel room on Friday night. He'd paid for three nights lodging. And John had spent the next three days downing vodka and Valium and calling the suicide crisis line and writing poetry. John wrote:

If Only

I love to be loved.
I need to be loved.
And I am angry when
I am not loved.
And when I am angry
I am not loved.
If only I weren't angry
About not being loved,
Maybe I could find the 
love that I need.

- John Strong

We were two months short of turning 27 when my twin ended his life. Three years earlier, in the summer of '75, I had headed West with our sons' father and our first Golden Retriever pup. After a month on the road camping and exploring where we might want to land, our money ran out.  And, gratefully, it was here in the Pacific Northwest, where I have lived ever since. Today I understand that a deep and soulful wisdom propelled me to leave Michigan because, more than anything else, I needed to save myself. I knew that my family was going down. And I got off the suicide ship - one in which the rules were don't talk, don't trust, don't feel, don't be - and embarked on a different path, one where I learned to live.

It took five years after John's death, and over seven years after my father's, before I set foot on the deeper journey into my heart that would save my life. Physically removing myself from that which was so toxic and wounding was not enough. Because wherever I went, there I was. Something was wrong. Staying disassociated and addicted and detached from my heart and my life was not working. And now I was a young mother desperate to not inflict on my children the suffering my brother and I had endured.  Never did I know back in the beginning in 1983 how hard it would be to open to the love that I need and that John never knew.

 Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers 
within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi

Life can be both so hard and so amazing beyond our wildest dreams. John's death could have killed me, too. Not necessarily my physical body, but my mind, my heart, my spirit, my soul. I could have continued the downward spiral into a kind of living death, one in which I was cut off from knowing the beauty, strength, value, and love within myself and within all of us. It is part of the Great Mystery that I sought that doorway through the depths of my wounds, a doorway I did not even know existed. Yet it was there, and I found it.

All is impermanent. Even that which appears can never, ever change. A therapist who met my mother in 1985 told me that Nancy is compelled to push away love. I was 99.9% positive that that would never change.  Yet, our mother, who suffered tragically from a mental illness that kept her stuck in hell, a hell which sucked all around her into its darkness, found her own doorway through and out beginning at age 86. Miracles happen. They truly do. Especially as we seek to see and know and befriend the obstacles we build within ourselves against love. 

And this is what I'm left with today in the wake of my twin brother's tragic life and death - this passion for love. And because I have met and befriended my own shadow, my own wounds and darkness, and claim their gifts in an ongoing way, I understand in my deepest heart what is possible. And what keeps us stuck. I understand that there is a way through and out, and I understand the courage and vulnerability and support and passion for living wholeheartedly that makes love possible. This is the work I've done and continue to do for my children and grandson, for myself and for John, for my mother and father, for all my ancestors and for all the generations to follow, and for all who my life might touch. A powerful cycle is being broken and one even greater is born and flourishing and evolving. Fear keeps us cut off from caring. Love opens us to an experience of caring that has no bounds.

And so can it be for each of us individually and collectively. We live in times that are often deeply lacking in compassion, courage, curiosity, kindness, connection, empathy, understanding, and love. We hold up John Wayne and others who personify "rugged individualism" and authoritarianism and a deep disrespect and disregard for the well-being of anyone who is not within our very small, familiar, and limited circle of caring. We worship at the altar of wealth and cling to the American Dream, as long as we perceive that we are the ones benefiting or having the potential to benefit. At the same time, we often end up justifying, consciously or unconsciously, our turning away from the suffering of others, oblivious to the deeper truth that suffering anywhere is also our suffering. Of course, to the degree that we have unknowingly built those barriers around our hearts is the degree that we have unlearned the experience of what Thích Nhất Hạnh refers to as our Interbeing.

For many years I had no idea that someday I would find gifts buried in all the trauma of my brother's life and death. I just wanted to save myself and my children. I fiercely did not want what happened to John and me to happen to our sons. I wanted to heal, but I also didn't want it to take long or to be hard. I had no idea what I was in for back in 1983. I had no concept or experience with process or bigger picture or the great struggle it can be to simply become oneself.

Today I understand that sometimes it takes something so horrific to shake us awake from the dream of the false selves and images and belief systems that we have built around our hearts and minds and the way we live our lives. Sometimes we simply don't recognize how far off we have gotten from a path of heart and instead unknowingly rooted ourselves in one which feeds fear and anger, separation and shame, us versus the Other. And so often today it has become normalized to be exclusive rather than inclusive, with large numbers of us not recognizing the profound cost to all of being a part of a culture of Me rather than We. 

Which brings to mind that my mother's severe narcissism did not just emerge out of nothingness. And nor did the narcissism and violence and disconnection that permeates American society today. Sometimes, perhaps often, the journey of healing and awakening starts with one small but heart shattering piece of what evolves into a much larger experience. And then we are given a thread to follow which expands our awareness and our inner and outer worlds. And gradually our connections and what we understand and see and value grows and grows, opening us up to the experience of vast vistas that were previously completely out of view.

All is impermanent. The therapist who first told me that I was going to need support to make that journey from my head to my heart totally freaked me out. Scared me to death. It felt like I might die. And, indeed, much did gradually fall away and die, such as all the armor I had built around my heart. Layer after layer after layer continues to open to this day. I can SEE! I can experience my beauty and wounds and fears and courage. And yours. And I can hold us all with great tenderness and caring. And love. I can love today. Truly love. And allow my heart to break open again and again and again. In that breaking, great nourishment and understanding and compassion and wisdom grows and grows. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude! 

We can make the choice to take that journey that is such a long one for so many of us from our heads to our hearts. We can do this individually and together. As we heal ourselves, we heal the generations before us and the generations to follow. And the ripples that are created in this process are vast and beyond our knowing.

I weep today with missing my brother. The sadness does not go away, but it is transformed beyond anything I could have imagined when I first began to heal my broken heart. And it feels as though John has been with me this whole way on this miraculous and profound journey of learning to open my heart to love. So my greatest thanks goes to my brother. Sometimes it feels as though it is John who first pushed me through the doorway of my heart. And his. And yours.

 Namaste ~ Molly

Our greatest strength lies in the gentleness and tenderness of our heart. 
~ Rumi

At the gravesides of John Ward Strong and John Ward Strong, Jr., Pine Lake Cemetery, Bloomfield Township, Michigan
 A photo I took in our yard of Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva or Goddess of Compassion

Christian Nestell Bovee: Transforming Fear

We fear things in proportion to 
our ignorance of them.

- Christian Nestell Bovee

Thank you to my friend Linda Neale for this quote.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thomas Moore: The Depths of Loveliness

It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves 
that we miss the depths of the loveliness, 
beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy 
that lie at our core.
- Thomas Moore

What Kind of Democracy Is Too Cowardly to Examine Its Own Soul​​?​

2015.28.1 bf koehler(Photo: Mike Andrews)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When I want to believe that the US is a democracy — indeed, to feel so deeply this is so that my soul trembles — I turn to Martin Luther King, who gave his life for it.
He cried out for something so much more than a process: a game of winners and losers. He reached for humanity’s deepest yearning, for the connectedness of all people, for the transcendence of hatred and the demonization of “the other.” He spoke — half a century ago — the words that those in power couldn’t bear to hear, because his truths cut too deep and disrupted too much business as usual.
But what else is a democracy than that?
“Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. . . .”
Uh oh. This ain’t politics as usual. This is King standing in the oval office, staring directly into the eyes of LBJ, declaring that civil rights legislation isn’t a political favor but merely the beginning of a nation’s moral atonement.
“If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam.”
These words were part of the stunning address King delivered — on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before his assassination — at Riverside Church in New York City. To read these words today, in the context of the 2016 presidential race and the mainstream media’s inevitable focus on stats and trivia rather than big issues, is to realize how utterly relevant this man and the movement he helped awaken remain today. To read King’s words in 2016 is to rip this man out of a sentimentalized sainthood and to bring him back to living relevance.
What he had to say to the political leaders of the time must not be reduced to a few phrases carved in granite; they must be heard anew, in all their disturbing fullness. I say this not because his “day” recently passed and I’m somewhat tardily “remembering” him, but because the 2016 presidential race needs King’s presence — his uncompromised wisdom — standing tough against the media and political status quo that is now trying desperately to mute the unapproved voices spurting forth in this campaign and pulling the electorate’s attention away from the approved, mainstream candidates they’re supposed to choose between.
Paul Krugman, for instance, representing the liberal wing of the status quo, came out for compromise and Hillary the other day, dismissing Bernie Sanders not out of a specific disagreement with any of his positions but because of a contempt for the “contingent of idealistic voters eager to believe that a sufficiently high-minded leader can conjure up the better angels of America’s nature and persuade the broad public to support a radical overhaul of our institutions.”
This is how to make sure that a self-proclaimed democracy is really a faux-democracy, flawed, perhaps, but plugging along in the right direction and basically healthy, with its biggest threat not unrestrained militarism or unregulated corporate capitalism but . . . oh, universal health care. See, that’s radical.
I have yet to hear the status-quo media call the poisoning of the Flint, Mich., water supply, or the daily police shootings of young men or women of color — or the multi-trillion-dollar failure known as the war on terror — “radical,” but a candidate who wants to give a serious push for policies of social betterment (and calls himself a socialist) is radical. He’s purveying false hope, disrespecting the sacred act of political compromise and dangerously trying to establish, or re-establish, the precedent that the public should get what it needs, even if those needs override the quietly laid plans of the nation’s military-industrial consensus.
Indeed, that consensus is never asked to compromise or, good God, subjected to public scrutiny — except, of course, by radicals.
This brings me back to King’s Riverside Church speech, which had the audacity to be visionary, to challenge the United States at its deepest levels of being — which is something that ought to happen during a presidential race. King looked directly at the hell we were inflicting on Vietnam and called not simply for an end to that war but an examination of the national soul.
“This,” he said, “I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”
The war King was crying out against ended eight years after that 1967 speech, but the poison did not disappear from the country’s soul. There was no atonement, no real change, only, ultimately, a retrenching and regrouping of the military-industrial consensus. Thus, King’s words remain as urgent and prescient today as when he first uttered them.
“The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. . . .
“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”
Would that Bernie Sanders spoke with such radicalism — or drew such a clear connection between social deprivation and militarism.
Beyond that, however, I must ask, in light of the words of Martin Luther King, what kind of democracy is too terrified, and too cowardly, to examine its own soul and reach toward values that are bigger than its short-term interests? And why do we not have a media rooted in these values and committed to holding politicians accountable to them?
Robert Koehler is an award—winning, Chicago—based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book,Courage Grows Strong at the Wound(Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.comor visit his website at

Marion Woodman: A Life Truly Lived

A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, 
burns away what is no longer relevant, 
gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, 
we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth.
- Marion Woodman

Clarissa Pinkola Estés: To Stand Up and Show Your Soul

If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman, don't worry, there is still time

To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.

Anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world. Anything. You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity, can cause to be set in motion...Mend the part of the world that is within your reach.

- Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Author Women Who Run With the Wolves

Clarissa Pinkola Estés: We Are Like the Starry Night

With the wild nature as ally and teacher we see not through 
two eyes but through the many eyes of intuition. With intuition 
we are like the starry night, we gaze at the world 
through a thousand eyes. The wild woman is fluent in the 
language of dreams, images, passion, and poetry.
- Clarissa Pinkola Estés