Have you ever circled
The staircase of our dreams
Into our Father's eye
And stood aglow with innocence?
For you must now
Be my go between
This widowed, aged shell
And God's delicate woven Time.
But never deny,
My blood that flowed.
Stand tall within your Father's eye.
Annie II (Aíne Nevar)
When we feel that we can no longer hold it all together, when stress, loss, or tragedy appear, those are the times that creativity springs forth in abundance. When we open ourselves up and know how to work with difficult, seemingly chaotic energies, the times of disillusionment and confusion become the most fertile fields of our creativity. If we know how to nourish our imagination and tap into the resources of the unconscious, we garner vast psychological capabilities that give guidance and meaning to our lives, which originate in the passions and fluid playfulness we experienced as children.
Creativity neglects the impervious and unscathed, and lavishly bears witness through the weak and broken, to those who are lost and vulnerable and open to surprise. She has found me many times because, let's be completely honest, I am often disoriented, confused, and choking on an inner chaos that resists definition. These states of cognitive impairment and emotional turmoil are most vivid when there is a psychological-spiritual crisis that is calling me onward in my heroic mythic journey. Always accompanied by a mental haze, it's like being in two or more worlds simultaneously, each one having its own unique language. Clumsily traversing these worlds, I experience restlessness, insomnia, and self-doubt, and I continue to be increasingly ill at heart until the will of creativity emerges from deep within my psyche. In these sacred moments, I am set free to be everything or nothing at all.
The above poem, Stand Tall, is an example of one of those times of fertile confusion, though not my first. It was written in 1972 when I was at a crossroads in my young life. Just twenty years old, sitting in meditation, my consciousness rose up and up upon a spiral staircase of light. I found myself face to face with an older woman, a woman in her late sixties, perhaps early seventies, a woman that I recognized clearly as an older version of myself. Without thought or reflection, the short, but powerful poem was recorded on the paper in front of me. I was disoriented afterward, unclear as to who or where I was and, as I frequently did following these timeless moments, took a long walk in nature. I see now that nature was my way of safely grounding myself.
By age twenty-eight I had read most of Carl Jung's works in my search for an explanation of my experience. Frequently disheartened, definitely restless, I hungered for insight and self-knowledge, certainly for the many unexplained psychological patterns of self-sabotage, as well as a suspiciously forgotten childhood, but also for an understanding of this creative process that I experienced, yet resisted. Jung's own personal journey and writings provided comfort and encouragement.
After parting ways with Sigmund Freud, Jung describes a period of confusion and uncertainty. He states, "It would be no exaggeration to call it a state of disorientation." Alone, ostracized by the intellectual community, abandoned by many of his so-called friends, Jung questions everything. Jung began having visions and hearing voices. He reviewed his own life, but could find nothing of pathological consequence and no indication of psychoses or schizophrenia. He writes, "But this retrospection led to nothing but a fresh acknowledgement of my own ignorance. I said to myself, 'Since I know nothing at all, I shall simply do whatever occurs to me'." Becoming curious about who he really was and his own personal myth, Jung then has a pivotal memory of when he was around age ten or eleven. He writes:
"At that time I had had a spell of playing passionately with building blocks. I distinctly recalled how I had built little houses and castles, using bottles to form the sides of gates and vaults. Somewhat later I had used ordinary stones, with mud for mortar. These structures had fascinated me for a long time. To my astonishment, this memory was accompanied by a good deal of emotion. 'Aha.' I said to myself. 'There is still life in these things. The small boy is still around, and possesses a creative life which I lack. But how can I make my way to it?' For as a grown man it seemed impossible to me that I should be able to bridge the distance from the present back to my eleventh year." (from "Confrontation with the Unconscious" in Memories, Dreams, Reflections; emphasis added)
Yet he did just that: through working creatively with stones, constructing and interacting with his hand-made villages and people, Jung was able to clarify his thoughts, use his fantasies through active engagement of the imagination, and discover his own personal myth. In short, he resurrected his "child-spirit" - that part of us that imagines, dreams, and engages playfully with nature in an instinctive dance of inner harmony.
When the seasons of death cross over your fields, and you are torn apart like a corpse in a Tibetan sky burial, stand tall in spirit amid the fields of your own fertile confusion. Abandon your worries and surrender to play, pick up some stones, arrange them and talk with them. Freely indulge your creativity. Allow your dreams, visions, and withered passions to open wide the inner doorways to your own mythic journey.
And stand tall for there is still life in these bones and stones!