This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
At a Psychosynthesis conference in Bordeaux today, I gave a talk which suggested a way of resolving the potential conflict or tension between the practice of psychotherapy and the practice of spiritual teaching. Here is the text of the talk and the exercise we followed afterwards, with some links and a translation in French:
In the Beginning was the Word…
Spiritual teachers and psychotherapists both use the spoken word to effect change. In this talk I explore the similarities and differences in these two ways of working with words, and suggest a third field of service that combines elements of both approaches.
Merlin with a rather enthusiastic student by Gustav Dore
Imagine the archetypal image of the sage with their disciple, the teacher brimming with wisdom, the young pupil wide-eyed and eager to learn. If they were druids, they would be seated beneath an oak tree. Together, through the process of talking and listening, the pupil, and the teacher often too, experiences insight, emotional support, and a growth in understanding and hopefully wisdom.
Now see the image of a psychotherapy client with their therapist. They’re probably indoors, rather than outdoors, the oak tree has become a potted plant, and the client may be lying on a sofa or sitting facing the therapist. What are these people doing? They too are talking and listening to each other. In some ways the outcomes and aims of their meeting are similar to those of the former couple, but in other ways they are different. Let’s explore the similarities and differences in these two contexts. Through doing this we might learn how to perform such tasks more effectively, avoid some of the difficulties that can occur when the two get confused, and even see whether in any way the two approaches can be creatively combined.
What are the similarities? Both aim to be of help to the recipient, with therapy focused on healing, and spiritual teaching focused on helping the pupil develop spiritually. Both these aims can be unpacked, with healing involving more than simply helping the client recover from wounding, and spiritual development encompassing a range of goals that will vary according to the spiritual discipline being taught. But both approaches aim to relieve suffering, though spiritual teaching includes a more ambitious goal.
Both approaches use the two key ingredients of speech and presence, the power of the word and focussed awareness. Both are working within an oral tradition – used in a loose sense of the term. At the heart of any oral tradition is the story, and the life-blood of both Psychotherapy and spiritual teaching is the story. But here is the difference within these two approaches: in spiritual teaching the story comes from the mouth of the teacher, in therapy from the mouth of the client. In spiritual teaching the stories are mythic, inspirational, often traditional and sometimes originating in a truly oral tradition, in the strictest sense of the term, meaning that these stories have been handed down across the generations from ‘mouth to ear’. In therapy the prima materia for the work is the story of the client’s life – not as a set of objective data, but as a subjective work of memory, part fact, part fiction. But even here we can see such a story as part of an oral tradition, if we broaden our understanding of that term. A client’s story has been handed down across the generations – strands coloured by the collective, trauma and triumph in the family line encoded consciously or unconsciously into the client’s story-line and hence into the way their life has unfolded. Read more
Regular followers of this Blog will remember my post a while back about Adele Nozedar’s beautiful The Secret Language of Birds Tarot http://philipcarrgomm.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/the-secret-language-of-birds/#respond
The wonderful Adele is also responsible for the creation of the country’s smallest art gallery: The Llanfrynach Telephone Box. From August, Adele was given permission to use the box as an art space for six months. Since that time there have been exhibitions by various artists such as,
‘The Magical Fishwishery Box’
Enter the box. Take a fish. Write your wish upon the fish. Attach your fish to the wires on the outside of the box. If at dusk the box lights up, then the magical fishwishery has granted your wish. If not, have another go.
Just recently the box was home to the work of Sarah Howcroft:
Sarah is a shamanic healer and teacher, wilderness educator, craftswoman and artist, living and working in the Brecon Beacons National Park. A few years ago she became very interested in the way indigenous peoples have, for many millennia, used body decoration to celebrate rites of passage, convey their intention, and create magic, and this interest led to her developing body art as a form of healing. People with many reasons for seeking healing have been re-inspired by seeing the colours and beauty of their own Spirit, and this exhibition is a celebration of the success and fun of this technique. Visit the phone box to enjoy Sarah’s amazing work, have a go at painting yourself whilst you’re there, and send her a picture using your phone! You can read more about Sarah’s work at www.shamanism-wales.co.uk.
The box continues to be a gallery until the end of January and is a magical use of a public space in the most unexpected of places!
I have been researching on and off the influence of the Life-reform movements that arose in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and recently gave a short talk on this for the Brighton White Nights event and a longer one for OBOD’s Samhain camp. I’ve been meaning to write it up, but haven’t had the time. Meanwhile the ‘Barefoot Anthropologist’ has managed to write a blog post about it, which interestingly links the subject to the ‘Occupy Everywhere’ movement. You can read it here:
Here is a link to a report by Sam Olukoya about a fantastic building experiment happening in Nigeria: a house built from used plastic bottles! Not only is it a fascinating attempt at using alternative building materials, the structure also has a certain beauty about it. Not only that, the sand-filled plastic bottles that form the walls, insulate from the sun’s heat, keeping the rooms cool – so it’s practical too! Here’s what Sam Olukoya has to say,
Nigeria’s first house built from discarded plastic bottles is proving a tourist attraction in the village of Yelwa.
Hundreds of people – including government officials and traditional leaders – have been coming to see how the walls are built in the round architectural shape popular in northern Nigeria.
The bottles, packed with sand, are placed on their side, one on top of the other and bound together with mud.
“The whole world should come and look at it”
“I wanted to see this building for myself as I was surprised to hear it was built from plastic bottles,” said Nuhu Dangote, a trader who travelled from the state capital, Kaduna, to see the house.
“They were saying it in the market that it looks like magic, that you will be amazed when you see it, that is why I have come here to feed my eyes.
“The whole world should come and look at it.”
The real beauty of the house is its outside wall as the round bottoms of the exposed bottles produce a lovely design.
But for those behind the project, its environmental benefits are what are most important.
Read more about the story here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14722179
Along the beach an arctic wind is whipping the waves into froth and stinging my face with sand. I head up to the cliffs to watch the foaming water in the collapsed blowhole called the Witch’s Cauldron, as it roars and slaps the gleaming black slate walls. Yes, Autumn has arrived, and with it the goddess whose broom will soon whisk everything clean and bare again.
The Celtic goddess of this season is old and fierce and takes no prisoners. Like Ceridwen, she boils away all the inessentials of life in her cauldron, leaving only the distillation of all that is precious and true. Three drops of Awen – the quintessence of our spiritual progress this year: so small and so hard-won.
Up on the hills above Cardigan Bay, I crouch within the bones of her stony torso at Pentre Ifan, the cromlech known as Ceridwen’s Womb. This is holy ground: framed by the pillar stones is Carn Ingli, the sacred Mount of Angels, while below, the dark and ancient woodland closes around the Druid’s Cave. An avenue of stones is thought to have once wound up to the cromlech, which back then would have been covered with earth, a rounded belly within which Druid neophytes, perhaps aided by an intoxicating brew, might have experienced initiation into her Mysteries.
In our world today we are being called to new ways of being, thinking and doing, as events on the planet are reaching a crisis point. The original meaning of the word ‘crisis’ is ‘opportunity’: At this season we have an opportunity to boil away all that is stagnant, overgrown and peripheral in our lives, distilling only what is important so that we may emerge from winter’s womb as one of the Cauldron-Born, ready for a new Spring.
Mara’s beautiful Blog can be found here: http://www.marafreeman.blogspot.com
…and her Website here http://www.chalicecentre.net/