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An Ongoing Series

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Clear Bead

Rumi writes:

The clear bead at the center changes everything.
There are no edges to my loving now.

I've heard it said there's a window that opens
from one mind to another,

but if there's no wall, there's no need
for fitting the window, or the latch.

Cultivating emptiness seems to be exactly the opposite of what most endeavors in the world encourage us to do. We try to fill ourselves up with so many things that our minds burst and our bodies go numb. We desperately try to be someone. Sincerely. We try desperately and sincerely to be someone. For the greater good, we say, this desperation and striving serves.

If we have nice things, things that are coveted by the many, we feel somehow that we are doing a good job at being a success. Again, Rumi speaks:

Someone who goes with half a loaf of bread
to a small place that fits like a nest around him,

someone who wants no more, who's not himself
longed for by anyone else,

He is a letter to everyone. You open it.
It says,

Truly living and cultivating emptiness require authenticity, a willingness to drop masks and pretense. They demand true courage and humility, simplicity and an open heart. Cultivating emptiness requires living from the clear bead of the heart. If there are walls around our heart, if our minds are jammed tight with what we are told is important to know, how are we ever able to open our hearts and minds to the other? How can we ever follow the movement of soul?

I wonder how different training programs in the psychoanalytic world would be if these principles were not only taught, but followed, if they were present not only in content but also in the day to day process of teaching and learning.

Clear beads are not generally encouraged, especially within endeavors involving power, prestige and a sense of elitism, like psychoanalytic institutes. Usually, the more you have the better it is. In my professional world this would mean more analysands, more articles published, more books written, more lectures slated. Always more. I'm not saying that these things are bad. That's not it. But without a deep sense of consciousness about what drives us to these things, we tend to mistake having them for a sense of worth and meaning and accomplishment. We tend to put them between us and the other, creating a wall, a window, and a latch.

I wonder what the practice of analysis would be without the assumed power, prestige and elitism that accompany the profession.

I have heard repeatedly from others about the lack of genuine loving kindness, the lack of heart, in the process of personal exchange within the institutional psychoanalytic setting. Indeed, I have seen this myself. I do not believe this way of acting is intentional, necessarily, but perhaps the lack of awareness about the nature of our interpersonal exchange is even more insidious and damaging than outright intention.

If it is not intentional then what are we doing?

As Otto Kernberg has said here when writing about psychoanalytic institutions, it is not enough to bring our grief "to the hour," meaning it is not enough to take to one's analyst the wounds received from abuse of power and lack of sensitivity within the hierarchical structure. As long as the problem is treated solely as the individual's "shadow", this lack of true loving kindness and the inability to act from a place that is void of the will to personal power remains. As long as all players do not examine themselves openly and with ruthless honesty, genuine creative life suffers. The place and importance of process is denied. In a relatively self-contained hierarchical system it is easy for this to happen.

It is clear that these kinds of concerns are not exclusive to any one profession or group. I think we are all, individually and collectively, struggling to find the answers to these problems - to the loss of soul, the loss of our humanity.

I've perhaps rambled too much here. Cast the net into too diverse waters. But none of this is supposed to be perfectly, logically stated. The observations are merely musings, my way to open a path of dialogue about these concerns. Even if there is no public exchange here on this page, perhaps the ideas themselves will spark something in someone and help turn the energy around, somewhere, some way.

I realize it can feel uncomfortable to say anything in such an open forum. I have already heard from several people in private exchange. And I thank you for that.

It is the kind of response that helps keep the clear bead of the heart intact.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked and suffered hard and long to withdraw unconscious allegiance to collective norms and consumerism values. Imagine my shock when after training at a psychoanalytical institute, I found myself a consumer of the soul. How hard it has been to face the shame of this unconscious lust to colonize these mysterious, wild, and sacred inscapes. Yet, She waits for me, receives me, forgives me, and shows me how to be in the dark beauty of not knowing, not owning. My native soul begins to heal and my European soul begins to understand. The barriers between begin to dissolve. Atonement.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think it's probably true for many of us that when we entered our respective training programs there was a great sense of idealism fueling our endeavors. In spite of any unconscious allegiance to status, importance, and other unsavory shadow elements, there was a sincere feeling of being called and of wanting to be a servant of the soul. I don't think anyone can get through the rigors of training without this feeling.

Something seems to have happened, however. The times have changed, soul-needs are shifting (though they do in large part remain eternal and timeless). I don't think institutions and their training programs can serve or sustain the greater call of the soul, either individual or collective, if we don't somehow adjust to the shifts that are happening.

Within the community we are addressing here in these reflections, it seems important to create a new space in a new way to explore these concerns. It seems to me that we need to more fully embody those things which tend to get marginalized. Other cultures, other communities, other training programs have done this for years. Why not Jungians?

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Methinks we are taught or the culture of the training/institutions implies that we must shield one another from our suffering, from our passion. Any wonder there is a void of compassion. Isn't compassion an invitation to share suffering? Wonder if we would, could find the courage, the heart, to join one another in the suffering, not as a concept, but as a dark, fecund, infectious, human experience.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, how I do agree with you.

From my perspective, you have named something very essential when you say "...we are taught...we must shield one another from our suffering, from our passion" within the process of though this is only for "the hour", as if our humanity in visceral form was inferior and therefore something apart, too "contaminated" to include as a way to relate to each other in a training program. Of course, this only seems to encourage a debasement of these very vital dimensions of life. I sense there is a great deal of unacknowledged shame and shaming that is experienced as a result.

Your observations are at the heart of what I perceive to be a needed change.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a myth for our times, and perhaps for these emerging issues, I recently enjoyed the movie "Lars and the Real Girl", written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Craig Gilespie. I won't spoil the movie for you, but I will say, this movie is the finest example I have ever seen of the self regulating and self healing mechanisms in the psyche. It reminds us that love is the true healer and the best we can do for one another is to support the natural process (however unnatural it seems). A healing community is able to give space for the suffering. I experienced that those who watched the movie with me in that darkened cinema, suffered and healed together what was the illusion of the screen and what was real and wounded in all of us. Give yourself an experience of healing community and see "Lars and the Real Girl".

5:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for this! Someone else had told me about this movie as a must-see. It's not here in ZH as far as I can tell, but it might come out later on DVD. I'll check into it more.

I want to express my gratitude for giving in such genuine ways to this dialogue. It makes the thing stay least for now. Many people are reticent to say anything in public, even anonymously. Others have not yet figured out that if you click on "comments" you will find all these little treasures...ahhh, Jungians! Our vision can be strong, our techno-skills weak!

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! The dialogue, the sharing, the holding it with an other does keep it alive... for now. I wonder if the reticence to speak in public is a symptom of the very thing we are discussing... what if I am seen and known in my suffering, in the suffering that is formative and not summative? Dare I risk this? Well, as I discover that my suffering is the essence of my truth, speaking from it no longer seems as risky as denying it. I appreciate you and this blog as an movement toward a 'tribe' that can help incubate emerging vision born of our truths rather than a collective that merely challenges or lauds over processed ways of seeing. Whether the time is ripe for this type of emergent discussion remains to be seen. I trust it, appreciate it, am moved by it. Like you, I too welcome silent or silenced voices to speak. Or if they are speaking, to speak out loud. To speak together here.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There may be a sense that speaking out in these ways does little to change anything, and therefore the reticence to contribute - this, in addition to what you say above about sharing one's suffering. (Another reason may be the "techo-factor" of not being able to make posts, etc.) My sense is that if there were a live forum where people could exchange face to face, participation would be more forthcoming. I will write at least one or two more things, and then see where it goes from there.

Once again, thank you for bringing yourself to this mutual questioning. It is deeply appreciated.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This type of discussion is closer to what my indigenous elders facilitate, called 'Speaking into the Fire'. A circle forms around a fire and each person speaks in turn, no eye contact, no dialogue, no comment. Yet, as the fire holds all that is spoken, as the energy moves from person to person, the individual monologues become something more - a tribalogue. When the sacred sage is added to the fire at the conclusion of the ritual, and the strawberries and spring water passed and shared, one feels as if something important has changed, shifted, begun...

2:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes, this is a form that I have thought would facilitate a deeper shift in how we question what we are about.

It reminds me of the time I was living in Taos and was invited by the Native American Church to participate in a night-long ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, at sunrise, I was approached by one of the long-time participants. He had been told that I was a Jungian and he asked me if I knew that Jung himself had been to one of their ceremonies when he came to visit Taos in the 1920's.

I can't help but feel that Jung's life and his work were deeply affected by what he saw in Taos, that he must have experienced something in those encounters that informed his vision and his way of perceiving the nature of the psyche. Maybe something of what Jung saw influenced the fact that he was initially against institutionalizing his work.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Methinks some of what he saw was "the so-called natural mind which says absolutely straight and ruthless things". (Vision Seminars, Book One). Perhaps, the trick we need to hone for collective situations, is to know these 'straight and ruthless things' and express them with relatedness, compassion, love.

3:38 AM  

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