2011 January

Archive for January, 2011

31 Jan 2011

Screwy Rabbit, Remind Us Again What is Important!

1 Comment Humor, Self Development and Transformation, Technology and Change

Well, it’s the Chinese Year of the Rabbit this week.

Feb 3, 2011 marks Xin Mao, the new year for the lunar calendar which is designated by one of twelve animals each year. Perhaps not as exciting at first glance as the dragon or tiger, the rabbit holds a very significant place in the cycle of Chinese totems. One of the essential qualities of the rabbit ion Chinese folklore is its ability to act quickly and nimbly in the face of a challenge and avert disaster. The hare is the epitome of the escape artist.

While I’m not Chinese and really don’t observe the Chinese New Year, I like to think I am an “observer” of life. I find it very meaningful that in this age of computers, cyberspace and smart phones that almost half the planet will recognize a rabbit as part of their consciousness this week. While most of us may not live in nature the way we once did, there still exists remnants of our totemic past, fragments of our connection with nature and our animal cousins that call us back to something bigger than high speed internet service.

There are endless lessons to be learned from nature. We design products based on ergonomics, the “fit” between people, our stuff and our environments. We look to sharks for answers to cancer because they don’t get cancer. We call our operating systems Snow Leopard or Panther based on our projected beliefs as to these animals strengths and agility. We call our cars Mustangs and Pintos based on our feelings when we witness animals running wild and free. So, why not name every year something bold and exciting like the dragon?

Symbolically, rabbits are skittish creatures. As often as a rabbit eats, a rabbit listens for danger. Rabbits are gentle creatures who like to eat, sleep and have a lot of sex. It’s hard to argue with that. On the other hand, rabbits tend to be generally fear based. Afraid of tragedy, rabbits like to have fun but are always worried that their fun will be taken away. Because they fear something will happen, they create a life of anxiety, sprinkled with moments of pleasure. What an interesting notion for our planet to consider for an entire year!

Every time I allow myself to worry about the “what if’s” in life, I create an inability to live in the present moment. In so doing, I project to the world the message that I am afraid and in so doing, I create more fear in my life and for those around me. What a profound message for all of us.

So, Happy New Year, once again! Remember our beloved rabbit this week and each week hereafter as we breathe into her deep message: that which we resist, persists. Whatever we run away from, chases after us.

28 Jan 2011

Dog Bless You

4 Comments Humor, Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

My dog, Chaco, turns 15 years old next week. I know there is a popular notion that dog years are actually measured in multiples of human years so that relatively speaking, 15 is akin to a Methusaleh experience. Personally, 15 is a long enough time as it is; I don’t need to multiply him by anything in order to appreciate how much I love him.

15 years ago, I was a 25 year old man with a Masters from Harvard and not a pot to piss in. No, really, I lived in a 9 ft. trailer in the middle of the New Mexican desert. I had no electricity, no heat and well, no toilet. Studying with shamans has historically never been a cake walk so I didn’t expect much regarding accommodations.

As the warmer breezes of spring rolled through the valley I drove to the local post office of the nearest town to send a letter ( remember the post office? ). There was a big red pick-up truck in the parking lot with big, fluffy, yapping, yellow puppies in the bed. The owner explained that “their bitch had been knocked up again by that damned Shepherd” and they simply couldn’t afford to feed the puppies anymore. The next step was death by drowning. Drowning?!?

It is said that we choose our relationships and our teachers choose us. The little, scrawny runt sat trembling at the back of the truck and peed a good sized puddle the second I looked at him. “I’ll take the little pisser, please.”

Chaco was not named for his chocolate dark complexion as many have assumed through the years. He was named for Chaco Canyon, the center of the turquoise trade in the Americas one thousand years ago and the namesake of the ancestors that would become today’s Navajo Nation.

He was afraid of his own shadow. He cried for weeks and screamed bloody murder every time I tried to pick his little body up and cradle him in my arms. Folks were convinced I was beating him due to the terrible noises he evoked on a regular basis. It took six months for a vet to realize he had a urinary tract infection that was beyond infected.

Chaco has now spent the better part of fifteen tremendous years with me and as an old timer with a fairly relaxed urethra, he has taken up peeing freely again. Living in a home with an incontinent canine has its challenges, especially now that we live upstairs in a brick building in one of the largest cities in the country. At the same time, there is something very familiar about the dynamic I am experiencing with my dear old dog.

The impulse to get irritated, frustrated and resentful each time the floor is wet or another rug is sent to be laundered is a mindful reminder about what it means to commit to another being. Maybe I chose the peeing runt who trembled at the back of the truck because I like challenges. Maybe, I figured he was the least likely to get adopted before being tossed into the river. Then again, maybe, just maybe, Chaco chose me because I had some things to learn and he was just the one to teach me.

27 Jan 2011

My PsychCentral Interview on Dream Analysis

1 Comment DREAMS, Self Development and Transformation

Margarita Tartakovsky interviews me here on some basic tools and tips when it comes to dream interpretation and analysis for today’s PsychCentral:

When people think about analyzing their dreams, they usually think of psychics with crystal balls, dream dictionaries, or lying on a couch while a Freud-like psychologist tells them precisely what their dreams connote (and it sounds a lot like cigars and sex).

But dream analysis is none of these things. And it’s actually a valuable way to better understand yourself.

Below, clinical psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber explains why we dream, why analysis is important and how to start interpreting your dreams.

Why We Dream

“Dreaming is non-essential when it comes to survival as a body but is essential with regard to our development and evolution as metaphysical beings,” according to Sumber, who studied global dream mythology at Harvard University and Jungian dream interpretation at the Jung Institute in Zurich.

Dreaming is the communication between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind, helping people create wholeness, he says. “Dreams are the bridge that allows movement back and forth between what we think we know and what we really know.”

Dreams let us play out painful or puzzling emotions or experiences in a safe place. “Dreams also allow us to process information or events that may be painful or confusing in an environment that is at once emotionally real but physically unreal.”

“Dream analysis is a key component in the process of becoming whole as a person,” Sumber explains. Dreams reveal a person’s “deepest desires and deepest wounds.” So analyzing your dreams helps you gain a deeper understanding of yourself.

How To Analyze Your Dreams

One of the biggest myths about dream analysis is that there’s a set of stringent rules people need to follow. But every person is unique, so there are no formulas or prescriptions.

Dreams “can only be understood in the larger context of the individual’s unfolding and self-discovery,” Sumber says. However, there are several guidelines that can help you see your dreams more thoughtfully and dig deeper into their meaning.

Record your dreams. This is the first and most important step in analyzing your dreams, Sumber said. “Taking notes, even a few sentences that encapsulate the dream, literally draws the content of the unconscious out into the realm of the concrete.”

Think you don’t dream or can’t remember your dreams? He suggests simply keeping a journal by your bed, and writing “No dream to record” every morning. “Within two weeks of this process, the person will begin to remember their dreams.” (In fact, “you might open the floodgates!”)

Identify how you were feeling in the dream. For example, Sumber suggests asking yourself: “Was I scared, angry, remorseful, etc.? Do I still feel those feelings the morning after? How comfortable am I feeling these feelings?”

C.G. Jung referred to dreams as “feeling-toned complex of ideas.” In other words, according to Sumber, “We are always being called by our unconscious self to feel into our ideas, thoughts and actions so as to gain a deeper sense of who we are and where we are going in our lives.”

Identify recurring thoughts in your dreams and daily life. Sumber gives these examples of recurring thoughts: “They are going to kill me.” “I don’t understand.” Or “I’m not going to make it.” Next, ask yourself if you’ve had these thoughts throughout the day. If so, in what situations have you had these thoughts?

Consider all the elements of a dream. You can show up in your dreams in various ways. Many times, “we can find ourselves, our personalities, in many elements of a dream, even if there is a clear distinction between us and another character in the dream.”

You can ask yourselves these questions, Sumber said: “What is it like to be the villain in the dream? What is it like to be the aggressor, or be passive?”

Put down the dream dictionaries. You’ve probably come across dream dictionaries that feature specific meanings for objects. As Sumber notes, while there may be some universal meaning for these symbols, the key is to figure out what the dream means to you.

“While there may be a trace of collective meaning for certain universal symbols that do have some bearing on our internal analysis and growth, I am far more interested in where the dreamer goes with the symbol and what the dreamer connects to as a result of the dream.”

So, even though there may be some universal elements, symbols have different meanings for different people. “I believe we are all unique and carry very personal histories that impact the symbols, objects, tastes and smells that we associate with a particular dream story or event.”

Remember you’re the expert! “There are no experts other than yourself when it comes to your own psyche so don’t stop trusting your own inner guide to your unconscious,” Sumber says.

He adds that, “therapists need to place aside all of their information, tools and associations for universal symbols and dream interpretation with each new client and treat each person as a unique, new world to be discovered.”

You can learn a lot from even the most mundane dreams. You may be thinking that your dreams just aren’t fascinating, flashy or profound enough to explore. But even dreaming about having oatmeal for breakfast can yield thoughtful results, Sumber believes.

As examples, he lists the following questions you can ask:

“Am I alone with my oatmeal? Am I inside or on a veranda with a gentle breeze? Are the oats organic? Overcooked? Is there a horse nearby? How do I feel about the oats? What do oats typically symbolize for me? Are there any memories that I can tie to eating oatmeal? When was the first time I remember eating oatmeal for breakfast? How did my mother make oatmeal and do I make it the same way as an adult?”

“There is always something to learn about [yourself] in a dream,” Sumber says.

Some of my favorite dream resources:

* Memories, Dreams and Reflections, C.G. Jung
* Dream Psychology, Maurice Nicoll
* An Illustrated Encycolpaedia of Traditional Symbols, J.C. Cooper
* The Wilderness of Dreams, Kelly Bulkeley
* Dreambody, Arnold Mindell
* Dreams, C.G. Jung

26 Jan 2011

On Prehistoric Stress Monsters…

No Comments Humor, Self Development and Transformation, Technology and Change

Are you stressed?

It seems like stress has become a way of life for so many of us, simply a “given” in much the same way as paying for bags on an airplane or basic cable television. Has it always been this way? Have we always been anxious, throughout the ages?

I like to fantasize about what daily life was like at different periods of history in different parts of the world. We have a tendency in our moment in the human record to project our own experiences back into the past onto our predecessors. For example, there are few reconstructed images I have seen of “prehistoric, ” a fascinating concept in and of itself, man where the hairy, unshaven fella wasn’t chasing or being chased by a Woolly Mammoth or menacing dinosaur ( yes I have heard they didn’t exist at the same time ).

Talk about stressful! Have you seen Jurassic Park? I know it was all just on one little island but if those velociraptors lived on my block I guarantee I would carry pepper spray.

I think back to the days of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Zealots and Sanhedrin, Romans and Right-wingers. Roaming prophets spoke about the end of days and it must have been hard to change the channel because they were right there, screaming and shouting while you slaughtered your goat. Wait, what if my soul really doesn’t go anywhere when I die? It seems like it might have been pretty relaxing, just living out in the desert with one’s family and a little extra wine with dinner until I consider the various marauders, armies and general kooks looking for something or another.

No public assistance programs for tough times or local security forces for the kooks. I imagine the “good old days” had a possibility of becoming terribly frightening very quickly. Not exactly stress-free.

I think about the ways technology and industrialization have made certain challenges much easier and peaceful the past few hundred years. I suppose common folks just made peace with bowel elimination in cities and villages a thousand years ago…until another plague was unleashed. I have a romantic notion of the early American pioneers, setting out from the muddy streets of New York with the intention to work the land and live life under the stars. Create one’s own destiny… what a wonderful banner to soar above our log cabin in the woods. Until the real native stewards of the neighborhood got fed up with the concept of “manifest destiny….”and murdered us. How’s that for anxiety and stress?

I wonder if there has truly ever been a time in our history when there was not a relationship to anxiety or stress. So, perhaps the lugubrious suggestions we like to make about how life is more challenging today than it was for our grandparents isn’t so accurate? I hear quite often that all this technology has added so much stress to our lives that perhaps it isn’t worth it!?! Really? No one is forcing us to spend an hour a day on Facebook or keep up with the spam folder but it sure is nice to be able to Google a topical solution for psoriasis, YouTube a video on how to perform CPR or use my smart phone to call AAA when my car is stuck in a ravine.

There is no doubt in my mind that life today has its unique share of stressors and strains. At the same time, I firmly believe that each generation is faced with a relative drop-down menu of anxiety manifestors befitting the day, era and location. At least we can post an updated status to our friends when we are feeling overwhelmed.

24 Jan 2011

Note to Dreamers: Know Thyself if Thyself Wants to Change The World While You Sleep

4 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

A person who understands a dream knows him or herself and even understands themselves better. There is also a profound connection made between analyst and analysand when a therapist is able to to work with a client’s dream to the point of deep clarity and some degree of resolution. The process is meaningful and the result itself can be potentially transformative.

Analyzing a dream to the point of being able to USE its content and specialized meaning raises our individual experience to the realm of personal mythology. When I dream and choose to take the time and energy to reveal its onion-like layers in my psyche, I make a statement to myself and others that I care about my place in the world. In fact, the process serves to connect me on a conscious level with other people who also care to know themselves.

The process of dream analysis itself becomes a template for future self-inquiry and uncovering. It establishes a healthy working relationship between one’s unconscious and conscious selves, unifying parts to raise the whole.

So many of us say to ourselves, I want to make a difference in the world; I want to change the world in some way and make it a better place…Yet, in order to change the world I must feel a connection with other folks inhabiting the planet, otherwise it can be so abstract a desire that it becomes meaningless. Delving deeper into my unconscious self and creating a personal mythology effectively draws upon the wisdom of the collective unconscious and in so doing bridges the space between us in our waking life. That’s how we change the world by changing ourselves.