Dialogue # 17: Compassion, Bliss, and the Quest for the Ground of Being

June 10, 2013

In this dialogue, Steven and I continue examining the role of compassion in the Spirit’s quest of a ground of being in the physical world.  Then we look at how a liberal education might aid this process or how a university might interfere with it.  We go on to talk about how  he shaman, the roshi, the teacher and the therapist go about their work.]

Spiritual Democracy in the Realms of Gold

H: Clark, let’s take a minute  to talk about turning these  dialogues we’ve been having into a book. I feel we’ve been developing a great theme as we interweave our two emphases, mine Spiritual Democracy and your thoughts that you put into your Realms of Gold manuscript. And they overlap beautifully.

M: I do agree. For me, going back and forth as we do, fills in the picture of how things are that’s been my focus throughout my life, even before I was consciously aware of it. But I think the way these dialogues work, they are indeed like a stage play. They may seem like friendly casual chats, but every one of them rises to a peak and comes to a point, just the way a play is structured. So I think this structure, a dialogue between two people about how the cosmos works –you, Steven, a Jungian therapist, and me, talking with you as I used to do with human souls who  would appear  in my college classes every semester. I do know thousands of them loved this process.

Melville’s Great Whale of a Novel and All the Barnacles

H: One thing we were touching on–and we circle back to this theme a few times–is what people really want to know about is the therapeutic nature of language, in terms of keeping a journal or taking an English course… I think what’s behind all this is compassion.

M: Well, I’d put it that people, their selves, their spirits, most assuredly do want the kind of  therapy that’s perhaps only available through language. But, my, yes, I’m glad you bring in compassion.  That’s a word I’ve  thought  a lot about, com-passion.   People confuse  that with pity–which is almost the polar opposite. You and I are well aware of the drive of the Spirit for a voice.

H: Because, you know, the language-shaper is really, in his or her deepest foundation, hoping the reader will really catch on. You’ve used that phrase a number of times in  our dialogues. And when a reader does catch on, then she realizes suddenly that this could actually change her life. So there’s a certain compassion the author has in writing a book, I think, toward the intended reader, because ultimately com-passion is suffering with. So, as you said earlier, about not wanting to be a slave, in some way there’s a labor of love. I think  that’s  part of this  ship that we’re all on, as Melville says in Moby Dick, “We all need to scratch each other’s backs.” We’re all slaves on the ship. And we’re wedded to our vocation, and in a sense that means work, and work always means some kind of suffering. And it means some kind of sacrifice. You and I could be out playing golf right now, but instead you’ve chosen to be here at 8 A. M. It takes  energy and effort and will to be here. But it also takes intelligence and it takes compassion.

M: I’d like to put in a few touches to the idea of com-passion, though. I’m resisting the word “suffer.” Maybe if we use it in the 16th century meaning, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” that would be fine. It does require effort, it does require sweat or at least full attention. Let’s take up the word “passion”, though. If we say “compassion,”  generally people do associate  it with the idea of suffering, but I think in com-passion, there’s a passion that’s being shared, not necessarily in the conventional sense of suffering. There’s a kind of joy involved. To me compassion is almost equal to love in the deepest, richest sense. Love doesn’t make it seem like hard work; you just do it. I have that scattered all over Realms of Gold. I guess I’d say that I don’t feel pain digging a ditch in my back yard. I don’t really mind that. I’m actually glad to have my shoulder to Sisyphus’s boulder.

It doesn’t matter whether  I get there or not. I’m going to just keep walking.

There’s a case of a rugby player whose plane went down in the Andes. Most of the people were killed, but a dozen or so weren’t and this one person, Nando Parrado and his friend Roberto Canessa chose to walk out for help. They weren’t even dressed for the extreme cold of 12,000 feet, only their sneakers and a light jacket. They did get out, and  did get  help, but Parrado said that what kept him going was his love for his father. He said to himself , It doesn’t matter whether  I get there or not. I’m going to just keep walking. And that’s what he did. But that’s com-passion, that deep love beyond mere affection. This is the ground of being really, functioning in a human being. I think of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, even Bobby Kennedy in his later years. They don’t feel like they’re cleaning up human excrement, wading through those foul smells, because they’re overcome by com-passion. It’s not at all like I feel sorry for you. It’s participating in this life up to your neck. How does that sound?

H: That sounds good.  I was thinking of the role of the psychotherapist being similar to that  of an English teacher, in the sense that a psychotherapist works out of compassion.

M: Yes. Well, whether it’s a teacher, a clerk at McDonalds, a social worker, a spouse, it has to begin with compassion. It can’t be faked and it can’t be done mechanically from a rule book. Com-passion, passion with.

H: People come to us because they need our help. They are suffering. Every student comes to the English teacher because she’s looking for help with language. She’s looking for help in being a better writer so she can get a degree, so she can get a job and work in the world, and maybe be a writer, maybe become a poet. So that work you’re doing is  really directed at the  foundation of her being. Evoking that is the main thing.

A Therapy of Health

M: Well, evoking is exactly the right word, yes. But let me add a little to the idea, at least regarding students who would arrive in my college English classes. I came to see the atmosphere in my classes and a kind of therapy of health. I didn’t think of those fellow human beings as ailing but rather as fellow adventurers, bright-eyed and alive. Yes, their spirits were yearning to be free, yes indeed. And college can be and should be what that’s all about.  So, if these young people were feeling confined, it was because they were under the yolk of practical people’s expectation of them. But I think, too, that at some level they all had a joyous anticipation of this Western-style rite of passage.

H: With joy, joyous participation. Compassion is about bliss, actually.

M: I think that’s exactly right.  You’d think the horrors some of the great martyrs suffered would  be without mitigation, insufferable agony. But as  someone  pointed out, when you see paintings of a saint in ecstasy, that’s that step beyond agony, the transformation into ecstasy.

You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping.
When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them to see.”
— From Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt, 1932

You’d think, this is terrible, but as someone pointed out, when you see a picture of a saint in ecstasy, that agony and ecstasy are almost identical. I said in one  of our  dialogues that  I think the ecstasy kicks in at a critical instant and transforms into pure, pure, timeless joy, a different dimension altogether. I do think that’s the case. But don’t ask me to test it out! [Laughs]

H: In those paintings, yes.

The Quest for the Ground of Being

M: In those paintings you see exquisite participation in the act of being, I think you could say. I wanted to add that we go to college so that we can take charge of our own language, or voice, as you would say. You want to take charge of your own vocation, which emerges through language.

H: That’s right. Through language, through the  act of speaking,  and  through  vocalization the Self emerges. Vocalism, as Whitman called it is the way to make this emergence happen.

M: I think, as I said, as I always say, everybody wants that. What art has to do is trick them into realizing that. That is, it comes over us when we’re doing something else.  All of a sudden you say Oh!

As I said, I don’t think kids come to Diablo Valley College wanting English. They come because they have to take it as a required subject. The institution itself thinks we have these kids in freshman English so they can write, so that they can become cogs in the wheel, to be able to write reports and stuff like that. Many teachers have forgotten the reason for a university in the first place, which is to look out at the world in a larger sense, to do what we’re talking about. The whole purpose of a higher education is to “know thyself.” That’s what  it’s about.  Everybody  now talks about it as if it’s to get a job.

H: To get started, everyone does need a vision. And that’s why Yeats said after you have a vision, you want another. And that’s it. I think the helpful thing about looking at these American poets and the English poets for models is that they all have a vision that’s their own. Every student who comes into an English class who reads that line will want to have a vision, will wonder about it, will wonder what he’s talking about.

The Shaman’s Art

M: You have to present it in such a way that he or she can’t help wondering about it. That’s where the shaman’s art—or the roshi’s or Jungian therapist’s or the English teacher’s at Diablo Valley College– comes in.

H: The psychotherapist is in the same boat. The patient hears about dream interpretation, about active imagination, about vocalism. They want to know how to do it. They want something practical. These dialogues you and I are having demonstrate one effective and uncomplicated way a way to engage the imagination through speech, even just a casual dialogue like the one we’re having right now.

A Dialogue with the Self

M: I want to throw this into our dialogue while we’re talking about it. In the classes I realized at some point that I never talked to students’ surface features. I always talked to their souls. We talked to each other via our souls. I noticed this really strongly when the kids would be having a party; they reverted to their superficial selves. In our classes we only talked to each other in that deeper sense, that authentic voice back and forth. That’s what’s so powerful.  I didn’t  know at the time that that’s what I was doing. It was just what I did.

H: It was a true dialogue.

M: Yeah. Exactly.

H: Most students have and I/thou relationship to their teachers. They are students and the  person up in front is the teacher. There’s never a kind of meeting halfway. What you were doing was evoking an I/Thou relationship with the soul and not just treating them as students. Actually you were talking to the teacher in them, too.

I/Thou = One.

M: It’s interesting that you bring that up, because I was looking at Buber’s I and Thou book, not reading it but thinking about the title. When that book came out years ago [1923], people got very interested in having dialogues about it. Now when I think about it, I think, That’s so obvious! You know, there isn’t any I/Thou. There’s just One.  This separation Buber was  talking about, this separation is so artificial to me now, there isn’t any separation whatsoever. It’s  absurd to even talk that way, because it’s a oneness that’s going back and forth.

H: Well, I think that’s what he was getting at.

M: Yes. He was. But the audience of his day was thinking, Wow! What do you mean!? I am separate. That guy over there is a different being altogether. That’s what he was fighting against, but that to me is absurd. I think the I/Thou is still a strong concept with most people.

H: Buber said you can have an I/Thou relationship to a dog. Or a tree.

M: Well, that’s where I go with this idea. But we have to wrap our senses around the tree to the point where our two entities merge. That’s it.

H: You know, I’m going to go out and fence those redwood trees, because I don’t want the goats eating them.

M: Let’s print it this way, Steven:

I’m going out and fence
those redwood trees
I don't want the goats
eating them.

If you want to be an environmentalist, you can start there.

H: Karl Staubach had something to say about trees.

M: Oh, yeah! He really does see them as fellow beings and not as lesser beings. That’s critically important. I see them that way, too, but not to the depth that he does. I still have  work  to do!  Well, sometimes I do feel that empathy. That Chief Seattle letter to Franklin Pierce that I put in my book Thinking about Thinking does bring me up close to what must be natural for Karl.

H: Whitman said those redwood trees had a soul in “Song of the Redwood Tree.” When the teamsters cut down that big tree in Mendocino and Whitman read about it…

M: There should have been a national mourning.

H: Yes, “A song to spiritual democracy,” and that’s the beauty of language. True compassion. Now, there’s compassion for you. Whitman’s compassion extended from Camden, New Jersey, all the way over to Mendocino, California. That’s how big his compassion was.

M: It can only reach out to that extent by getting to know, first, the birds, trees, shrubs and bugs  in your back yard. They are the envelope you walk around in.  That’s your exoskeleton, after all. You are made up of those elements.

H: Whitman never set foot in California. He never saw a redwood tree. He only got as far as the Rockies.

M: That’s pretty good for an Easterner. I knew guys in New England who never got beyond Massachusetts.

Miracles Everywhere, Everywhere

H: He certainly wrote a beauty when he penned that poem. And that was a vision. Like  Yeats  said, you want another, and there was another for Whitman. Whitman’s was so large that he saw miracles  everywhere.   I  mean,  everywhere!   Everything  was a miracle.    And I think you can develop that part of the brain.

M: There you go! I think you’re right.

H; I want to take my thought a little bit further about Whitman’s  compassion for the  redwood tree. I was working on my manuscript and tending the redwood trees out in the Park here  right next to our home.  I had a dream there was an enormous  redwood tree right outside my  window.  It was towering and the tree was speaking to me and it was thanking me for doing this work.

M: When was this?

H: It happened about two months ago. The tree had compassion toward me. I considered, Was this the soul of the redwood tree speaking to me?

M: Yep. That redwood tree in your dream was telling you that it shares life with you, that you and it are—scientifically and poetically—one life. We have to arrive at that shared passion. And I’d say com-passion is not too farfetched a word for that relationship. When we cross over to that level, we get our ecologist’s license.

“God Shed His Grace on Thee.”

H: I began to think that my ego, my perception of myself was being altered. You know, we think that our little acts, the things we do in life, as little acts of compassion. But that was a big act of compassion, for that big tree to have compassion toward me, and  thankful  praise for the  couple of little trees I planted. I think  that  these trees  have a consciousness of their own.  What  we did to these trees, butchering these trees in these hills, is heart breaking. That’s still here, just like the tragedy of what we did to the Indians, the grief of nature.

A tree doesn’t need to have a brain because a tree itself is a brain.

M: Let me just pause and think about that a little bit. I love the idea of the redwood conferring its grace on you. In Intelligence in Nature, Jeremy Narby says you can think of it this way: A tree doesn’t need to have a brain because a tree itself is a brain. Because if you are a brain . . .

H: Let me tell you, there’s a consciousness in that tree.

M: Yes. And if the tree itself is a brain, it doesn’t need a brain. A tree is an intelligent organism, just as your being is an intelligent being functioning on its own quite comfortably in the Earth, thank you very much. Your cells have intelligence all by themselves. They know exactly what to do. They don’t have to consult with a command center up in the skull.

H: Those trees know how to create water. They go up into the fog belt and they water their own roots.

M: And if a tree doesn’t like where it is, it can move over to where’s it’s nicer.

H: That’s what Karl Staubach said!

M: That’s true, that’s literally true. The walking palm tree really does: [Here’s a quote: “The tree slowly “walks” from shade to sunlight by growing new roots toward the light and allowing the old roots interfering with its wanderlust to die.”] You’ve seen trees lean in a certain direction. It’s the same thing.

H: And they create oxygen. This atmosphere we breathe, this beautiful air. What are we doing? Deforestation. Getting back to spiritual democracy, Humboldt was a great inspiration to Emerson and Whitman and Darwin and Muir. One thing Humboldt was very concerned about was deforestation in Ecuador and other parts of South America. This was in 1804. We’re  talking about the father of the ecology movement.

M: That was quite a vision, wasn’t it, to see the implications of deforestation. If you have a narrow view of your world, you might think, So what if we kill of a lot of trees in South America?

Gigantic Sky Rivers

[From the San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5/14, “The cutting of trees, the scientists say, is hindering the immense jungle’s ability to absorb carbon from the air—and to pull enough water through the tree roots to supply gigantic ‘sky rivers’ that move more moisture than the Amazon river itself.”]

H: We’re killing ourselves.

M: I think we probably are killing off the planet. But I think the universe would probably experience it like a kernel of corn not materializing. This planet is a speck, after all, in the scheme of things.

One thing about your work is that your patients actually seek you out and they actually pay you. So you have a highly motivated audience. Everybody who comes to you. You see them on-on-one, like Socrates.

H: Well, you could say college students are paying the school to educate them. And believe me, it’s expensive. I know of patients who are a hundred thousand dollars in debt!

M: Just think. When you came to Diablo Valley College, it was free.

H: It was free.

M: It could still be that way, but it’s those strange, practical brains we were talking about. They cannot envision the value of having that stranger be educated. They can’t see the  connection.  They don’t see their own self-interest being destroyed by creating these horrible hoops you have to go through. But as I said, I don’t think kids know they’re going to college because of what you and I think it’s all about. Now, I know that, yes, their souls demand to be liberated, but I don’t think kids do go to college, as a rule, with that kind of awareness. Where would they ever get it? They don’t get it in their schools.

H: I’m talking about my own experience, of course… I had the good fortune of ending up in your class.

M: You also had the good fortune of having two highly educated parents.

H: Yes, both taught foreign languages at DVC and then I met Katherine Taylor and William Everson.

M: Most kids come out of homes that don’t even read novels, or look at art, or anything that points towards the liberation of the human spirit.  They think  that what they’re feeling is an urge to have a good time, and that you do that by having a lot of loud music, all sorts of superficial stuff that doesn’t penetrate to the spirit but actually diverts them from that. Their instincts are right, of course. The Spirit does indeed want a place to have a good time, a wonder-full time, but that wonderful time is that place of gold vermilion at the heart of matter, the fire of the atom’s core.

H: Well, you’re right about my parents. My mother was reading Camus, she was reading Jung. You took her French class at DVC. She read Camus in French and English.

M: I wasn’t at that level!

H: Back to what you were saying. You know, you’re challenging my basic hypothesis that every student who took your class, every student who was there, was looking for a vision.

M: Well, challenging in that they were consciously looking for it.

H: Well, maybe not consciously.

M: There were a few people that maybe with a bit of background…

Looking for a Vision

H: I think everybody, at least in their unconscious, is looking for a vision.

A taste for beauty

M: Oh, my, yes! I’m sure we agree on that. Here’s the other thing that I think is true. Yes, every one of those people is looking for a vision, despite having lived through a superficial world that their parents were living and so forth, everything on the surface, nothing of the soul, nothing touching the heart of being. In my home I never heard my parents talk about anything, anything  at all, being beautiful. I should add, though, that that Scotch-Irish environment may have modeled for me a taste for beauty, my mother in her flower garden, my father in taking  us five kids  on hikes up in Chestnut Ridge just out our backyard on a Sunday afternoon. My sense of nature must surely have been nurtured in that household.

H: And that brings us back to compassion. I wanted to ask you a question. I was looking on Wikipedia trying to find more on the background of the word…

M: When were you doing that?

H: Yesterday.

M: Because I’ve just been thinking about that word.

H: That’s interesting, because as we’ve been saying, there is a Field, and I think at times in these dialogues we seem to be receptive to the activation of this Field.

M: Yes.

H: Well, I was thinking about blue whales just this week, and you think blue whales are interesting.

M: That’s very interesting!

Leaps of Shadow into Light

H: I was thinking that there must be a reason why the Buddha, when he was asked by his disciple, what is the teaching of the Dhamapada, what is the basic teaching? He said it can all be summed up in one word, compassion. So that’s interesting. When you think about a person like that, a person who’s been enlightened, and who sees the world in a particular way, like Walt Whitman did–because I think he’s the American Buddha.

What we’re talking about, that part of the brain, the neuro anatomy being that developed, that it “leaps out of shadow into light,” some kind of light that transcends that negative part of the brain that you were talking about, that suddenly compassion encompasses everything. Buddha had compassion for everything.

M: That’s well put. Yes, some go so far that they wouldn’t step on an ant, and so forth, because they have that com-passion. We go ahead and eat meat, but some Indians did thank the deer who provided them with that meat. That’s the key, isn’t it? To have this enveloping com-passion so that you know what you’re doing when you eat anything, anything at all, when you’re making love, when you’re typing a transcript! So I think to say I would never step on an ant is stupid, but when you step on him, you have to realize what you’re doing. You realize the chain of life that’s involved. This walking around with awareness is a key.

H: Some kids these days live in places where they have gates around their houses. They live in downtown, here in Oakland, and it’s a war zone down there.

M: It sure is. I drive through there.

H: A few have no contact with nature. Yet here’s Joaquin Miller Park right here. It’s  only  a couple of miles from their homes. They could come up and be in nature and sit under a redwood tree. When I grew up we were always barefoot. We were always running through the fields. We had as much nature as you could possibly want.

M: I know.

H: The way to school was…

M: A walk through the park!

H: I saw monarch butterflies every year–transformed out of these wonderful chrysalises, caterpillars that had been an egg. I remember watching the whole process. Beautiful!

M: Back to the practicality of what we’re talking about, we have to do some stage magic to trick people into this way of perceiving or of experiencing whatever’s going on right now. It’s not necessarily a trick so much as catching their eye.

H: Well, a little bit of the Trickster is O.K.  The Native Americans  really valued the Trickster as a divinity. I think it’s a part of it, but “catching the eye,” follow that up. That may be the larger part. How do you catch the eye of a student?

Running to Nature’s God

M: Here’s an example. You learn how to participate in the established order—how to invite your soul into the midst of a marketplace environment. You don’t mess with that.  But within that, you go ahead and work on your vocation. Anyway  I have a friend  is  a very good Catholic.  He  runs to church a lot.

H: He runs to church?

M: I’m just joking about that.

H: Well, that’s an interesting way to put it because I have a quote here from Meister Eckhart. I think we all want to run into Nature’s God.

M: I see your point.

H: I was just reading a sermon of Eckhart’s. He said we all want to run into peace.

M: What did he mean by that? Do you have the piece handy?

Eckhart, the Master Craftsman

H: It’s quite amazing actually. Meister Eckhart certainly isn’t the Catholic Church, but people do find peace in the Church—many are magnificent, really—and whatever you find peace in, that’s where God is. Because that’s one of the experiences one has when one is in God. And God’s  inside of us. That’s where Eckhart comes in. He was a master craftsman of German vernacular language and a master poet.

The Ebullient Spirit

M: It sounds to me, from how you describe his sermons, like he didn’t craft them so much as generate them on the spot? As though it came bubbling out of him.

H: That’s a good metaphor for it. He does speak of it as bubbling. That’s one of the synonyms for ebullient, ebullience.

M: Oh, yes. Well, there are a lot of words like that, directly inspired, for example.  When you trace them back to their roots, you get the poetic power of such words. I think last time we talked about what Jung said in his introduction to Suzuki’s book, that it would be difficult to practice Buddhism in our Western world  because we  weren’t  prepared for it, but I argued that the information has always been in the Christian world. If you read scriptures the way I think you could, Zen Buddhism was in my Sunday School class. The teachers didn’t know it, but that’s what I was getting out of it. It’s the oneness, it’s all that Zen and Buddha embody.

Beyond Knowledge — Love, Compassion

H: You were absolutely right on. Jung, of course, says that. Who did he quote in that essay but Eckhart? Let me read you this. “To know what the soul is? One needs supernatural knowledge. …We know a little about this but not very much. What the soul is in its ground no one knows. What one can know about it must be supernatural. It must be from grace. That is where God  works compassion. I say that beyond these two, knowledge and love, beyond these, there is compassion. In the highest and purest acts that God works, God works compassion.” Now, that’s pure Buddhism right there.

M: Yes. Do you think Eckhart was using the word God metaphorically?

H: I’d have to think about that.

M: The Christians annoy me with the idea of a personal type of God.

H: Well, that’s why Eckhart distinguished between God and the Godhead.

M: Ah. OK.

Leaving God for God

H: The Godhead is nothing. It’s the transcendent dimension beyond God. He says, “My highest prayer will be leaving God for God.” By that he means God for the Godhead.

M: Yes. That’s their vital distinction.

H: Atman for Anatman.

M: Earlier, you used a synonym for satori. What was it?

H: Oh, Ananda.

Illuminating Our Facts

M: OK. And Ananda is bliss. In passing, I should tell you, when people hear about the things I’m interested in, say, “Oh, let me bring you this  . . .” And I think, No, don’t bring me  anything else. I don’t need  it.  This is not  helping.  All I need to do is sit down and  explore this.  I have plenty of material. Plenty of material. What happens a lot with our dialogue is that this is an enriching of what we’re doing.

H: You said something last time that I wanted to ask you about. You were talking about looking  at my face, or looking at me and seeing sunlight. Then you talked about seeing sunlight in all  your students’ faces. What do you mean by sunlight?

M: I mean the concept first. Sort of like the concept of God, I guess. You start with the concept that I know you are sunlight. I know that you are. That’s what you’re made up of physically.

H: That’s the part I wanted to know more about. How am I made up physically of sunlight? I know it’s true that these plants couldn’t exist without sunlight.

From Concept to Pure Energy

M: Well, there are several levels of that idea. The Earth is literally a piece of the Sun, literally, every bit of it is sun-stuff. The so-called elements.  What you really are is energy.  That, I think, is a concept that we can all grasp, although we may  not sense it consciously.  So I can start there. I can see you as a concept. But then when I relax a little, I see you as pure energy. That’s not a mystical thing. But it feels mystical sometimes when I see people sitting in McDonalds. Don’t  take it too deeply, but sometimes I sense it pretty strongly.

H: What do you sense?

 Bundles of Sunlight Sitting Around Sipping Coffee

A little bundle of the universe , sitting around

I sense that this old guy eating his muffin and enjoying it, some old lady with all her rings, sitting looking out at the Bay, I realize, I realize, what they are. These manifestations, these little bundles of the universe sitting around, I realize that.

M: Well, I sense that this old guy eating his muffin and enjoying it, some old lady with all her rings, sitting looking out at the Bay, I realize, I realize, what they are. These manifestations, these little bundles of the universe sitting around, I realize that.

H: If that’s true, and I do think you’re right, because we started focusing our dialogues after you asked me to read McTaggart’s The Field. And of course there we’re talking about energy  and light. The whole book starts with light. Why then is more than half of the brain operating in this negative field that you were talking about earlier? What’s going on? Why are human beings so preoccupied with negative thinking patterns?

M: Uhhh. That’s good! [Laughs]

H: These plants I don’t think have any negative thinking patterns.

M: Oh, I think they do.

H: Do they? Tell me about that.

M: It’s what you said. The negative is where the stuff isn’t.

H: They know where not to go.

M: They know what’s not there.

H: Why are human beings so out of touch with knowing what’s good for them?

M: Ummm.

H: That’s a big question.

M: Well, I’ll have to ponder that a little. Why are we so screwed up? [Laughs] We seem to be the most screwed up of any aspect of our universe.

H: Robinson Jeffers said that civilization had taken a wrong turn somewhere.

M: A goodly portion of it, yes. It’s like people who want to go to war all the time. People in Bush’s administration had those kinds of brains. They couldn’t envision anything else. I have to fall into the universe in order to escape from this delusion.

Yes, I think compassion would be the capacity for inclusion of that as part of myself.

H: Absolutely.

M: And of course this can’t be faked. It truly has to be a change in me.

H: And that’s the running into peace. Go in peace. It’s about going into a quiet, silent, meditative place where you can find your center again. And letting go is key. Let go of any external fights that are keeping us from being at one.

[A short break]

Active Imagination

H: Lori and a colleague are doing some teaching on active imagination in analysis. By that she means the practical application of it in the psychotherapy process. For example, a patient comes in, has had a dream, and wants to do some kind  of exploration about the meaning of the  dream. So she starts with an image–because that’s all we can ever start with. The students meditate on  the image. You allow the image to unfold, either through the use of expressive arts, such as drawing with pastels or with colored pencils, or maybe sand play. Or movement, where she brings the image into movement so that one becomes the image. One embodies the image to move, and one is the image. Or one vocalizes it. One writes. One allows it to have a voice.

M: That’s exactly what I was trying to do, not necessarily conscious of it, but always trying  to get people into catching on to what they’re actually doing.

What you’re describing reminds me of what we were saying earlier about wrapping the senses around the facts, but here it’s wrapping them around the image. So how long did they talk?

H: Each about three hours.

M: Wow!

H: We had breaks, and  we  had exercises.

M: So it was a well-worked up presentation.

H: Oh, yes, and it was participatory. We went out in the garden and we did different movements. And it was really wonderful. In a sense you were using forms of active imagination in your class.


Author: Clark McKowen

I taught English at Diablo Valley College in the Bay Area for over thirty years and probably taught over 20,000 students during that time. II'm still interested in how beings of any species learn and why, and I write books and articles about these things. My 2000 book of haiku, Ligonier Sightings, is an appreciation of the Chestnut Ridge area of Southwestern Pennsylvania, where I grew up. All of my books can be purchased on the internet. Most teachers say they love teaching, but I don't know what they mean by that. I loved being in a group -- under my guidance, to be sure -- and getting so absorbed in exploring an idea that we didn't care whether school kept or not. That's the kind of teaching I love. I love seeing a bunch of people's eyes light up. I love the feeling of discovery of any sort. I love enlightenment. That's what more or less gets me up in the morning, -- and I suppose is involved, one way or another, in everyhing you will find on this website and in just about everything I do, including building redwood decks or going to the dog park with our Boston terrier Gracie.

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