A Musical Interlude

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you…

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you…

As I explained in a previous post, etymologically, ‘weird’ means ‘fate’ and in the way I am speaking of it is also synonymous with the process of individuation; becoming one’s true and whole (unique) self. In this context, we might think of fate as a divine blueprint with which, to a certain extent, we can choose whether or not to align ourselves.

Last weekend Ian and I attended a tribute concert to Pete Seeger, which was also a fundraising concert for Project Watershed in Comox where we live part time. I was reminded that Pete Seeger, a social activist mostly in the forties, fifties and sixties, was blacklisted from performing on TV and radio programs in the U.S., and I learned that he then turned to entertaining children. I was amused to hear that some of the songs I knew off by heart were ones he sang to children, and were clearly subversive. I was a child when he made Little Boxes famous in 1963 (though he didn’t write it – a female activist named Malvina Reynolds did), and I seem to have received his message loud and clear.

Since the concert, that catchy little tune in particular has kept playing in my mind. I realize it is so fitting to what I have been writing about. Little Boxes was written about the new housing developments which were thrown up after the second world war. (As Ian puts it, we moved away from craftsmanship and individuality to efficient conformity and mass production.) But it also sums up a time (the fifties) of conformity (Pete himself learned what happened to those who didn’t conform in that era) and it also describes the kind of nightmarish reality which exists when conformity rules in any society and era.

I don’t wish to criticize anyone’s tastes, but it breaks my heart to witness all the forests in the Comox Valley that are being destroyed for “little box” housing developments (only the size of the houses has increased dramatically since the fifties and these are “big boxes” that all look just the same”) that are being built. The developments are often given names like Eagleview, or Creekside, etc., yet, there is no eagle in view because their trees and nests were destroyed, and creeks were covered for the houses and pavement. (I guess I get ranting privileges on here.)

You are probably familiar with the song. But if not, here are the lyrics of the first few verses and a link to Pete Seeger singing it:

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same.

There’s a green one and a pink one

and a blue one and a yellow one,

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky

and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses

all went to the university,

where they were put into boxes

and they came out all the same

Nature and Weird

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you

I believe in God but I spell it Nature. Frank Lloyd Wright

As I explained in a previous post, etymologically, ‘weird’ means ‘fate’ and in the way I am speaking of it is also synonymous with the process of individuation; becoming one’s true and whole (unique) self. In this context, we might think of fate as a divine blueprint with which, to a certain extent, we can choose whether or not to align ourselves.

Most of us love nature. It is hard to even imagine a person who doesn’t. But especially being married to a biologist, I am aware on a daily basis, how nature is a low priority for a large proportion of the population, and many choose profit or even an uninterrupted view over the well being of our birds, animals, trees, and plants. Still, many of us do care so deeply for nature that we put energy into nurturing it. We lovingly cultivate our gardens, even if that is a container on a balcony, and are willing to sign petitions and even take political action to protect our precious environment. What is much less common though, is the consideration for our own nature. In fact, even the most passionate environmentalist may be oblivious to the nature that is their own body and spiritual/psychic blueprint.

Yes, you are nature too, no less than a tree or a beetle or the stars in the sky. Humans though, are more challenged than other living things in regards to living in accordance with their nature. I could quote many theorists who tell us basically that cats know how to be cats, trees know how to be trees - each one is true to its own pattern, but we humans – well, it seems we are rather impaired in this regard .

By nature I mean more than biology, and what we see as nature in the outer domain. The word ‘nature’ also refers to a “force” as well as a template. Dylan Thomas describes a “force that through the green fuse drives the flower, (that) drives my green age”.1 (it also drives those of us who are past a ‘green age.’) Nature (capital N) is a power that enlivens and moves through us. Another poet, Wordsworth, described it as “a presence... of something far more deeply interfused...a motion and a spirit, that impels...and rolls through all things.”2 “All things” includes us.

We might think of this force of Nature as activating our inner nature, the unique blueprint of our being, our “soul’s code,” if you like, which is also our weird (fate). It is our pattern or template, with which we can choose to live in alignment - or not. There are consequences whether we do or don’t, but if we don’t, not only does Nature give us wake-up calls, we are likely to feel estranged from ourselves and all of life.

Countless studies have shown that being in nature heals us - sitting in nature (without our cell phones but just breathing the air and listening to the sounds, etc.) lowers our blood pressure, reduces stress, improves concentration and increases the cells that combat disease*. Being attuned to our own nature heals us too. Attuning to, and living in alignment with, our nature/ weird also helps us heal and thrive and live our potential.

It may come across that living our nature means that we stop considering other people. Perhaps it sounds like this is just about more western focus on the individual, in other words, on ‘Me’. But in fact, nature connects us with everything, making us part of the whole. We can’t not belong. What we do to the natural world we do to ourselves and vice versa. By attuning to nature and collaborating with it we are supporting all life on the planet. Perhaps the more we are conscious of this, the more we will be respectful and caring towards our own nature, and the more we will make all nature a priority.

1.The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower by Dylan Thomas

2. A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth

*See the video on Shinrin Yoku on at www.innisfreefarm.ca.

Fear of Weird


The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell us…

As I explained in a previous post, etymologically, ‘weird’ means ‘fate’ and in the way I am speaking of it is also synonymous with the process of individuation; becoming one’s true and whole (unique) self. In this context, we might think of fate as a divine blueprint with which, to a certain extent, we can choose whether or not to align ourselves.

In a recent post I wrote about making an appointment with ourselves at which we ask ourselves if we are living authentically. Are we living our own lives or trying to live up to the expectations of others, and so on... I would like to expand on that a little and look more closely at some of the fears which may be preventing us from living from our truest selves.

When you think of living your weird, you might feel yourself become anxious. Maybe you have no idea what that would look like. You might wonder if you would dress in odd ways or have mannerisms which people make fun of or maybe you fear that you would be so out of control you might wave your arms in the air and yell as you walk down the street.

In fact, those who do live from their truest self are likely to be more creative, but unless expressing yourself through clothing is of huge interest for you, (or have absolutely no concern for clothing at all) you will probably dress much the same as you do now. You will probably walk pretty much the same, though your body will probably be less tense and constricted. You might become more adventurous with your paint colours or art in your home, but only if interior design is an interest for you. In other words, you probably won’t appear that different from the outside. Carl Jung, who was one of the individuals most dedicated to living from his true self that I can think of, was outwardly just a guy in a suit (which was pretty standard attire for a male at in the first half of the last century). He was though, an amazing artist besides being a groundbreaking psychologist.

But me trying to convince you of this is not going to help much if you have anxieties about the opinions of others. And who doesn’t? It may help to think what would be the worst thing if you allowed yourself to be weird (more authentic)? (Taking a closer look at our fears and considering the worst possible scenario helps diffuse our fears, often completely.) A common fear is of appearing crazy or even being crazy. This seems to be a strong fear in North America in particular, probably having to do with the emphasis on being in control. (Maybe it is a chicken and egg kind of thing). I have had potential clients phone me for an appointment and try to assure me they are not crazy.

If looking or being crazy is a fear for you, ask yourself what crazy is exactly? What do you fear about being crazy? Perhaps you would scare people. Maybe people would laugh at you. Maybe you would become destructive. What would be the worst of these things? Sometimes people secretly would like to stick their tongue out or stamp their feet in public, etc. Is it possible you would secretly like to do the things you are afraid of?

Existentialist and Humanistic theorists often encourage clients (and all of us) to go out and be crazy. Try it out. See how it feels (as long as you don’t infringe on or cause harm to others). Make a fool of yourself, especially if that is your biggest fear. Feel the freedom. If people criticize you, just make sure you don’t turn against yourself. This isn’t about continuing with this behaviour but notice that it didn’t kill you. And also be aware if it gives you a little more space to be yourself. Sometimes just giving yourself permission to be crazy can make all the difference. And while I am on the topic, why do we assume crazy (whatever that means) is necessarily a bad thing? Our craziness may be” the best in us.”

Maybe your biggest fear about living your weird is that someone you love would reject you. In fact, when you live your weird you are a much more interesting person (and if they live theirs, you are likely to find them endlessly interesting.) But it is a risk. Maybe you will discover who loves you for yourself and who loves you because you are cooperating with their expectations. That doesn’t mean you have to love them less or cut yourself off from them. Maybe you will just need to develop patience and compassion for them while you carry on being yourself.

There are other common sorts of fears, like what if I just abandoned my job, or just stop doing anything at all? (One of the biggest fears clients have is of being “lazy” if they were just to be themselves). Another fear might be deciding to end a marriage. Or, what if I sold everything and took a trip around the world only to come back to nothing, or didn’t travel but just gave my money to the poor? What if I became really childish? What if I stopped wearing makeup or started wearing gobs of it, or what if I became one of those “soft” - or “tougher” kinds of men?

If you would like to live a more authentic life but something is holding you back, it is important to know what it is that is holding you back. It may be a very important part of you that has a need and something to say. Maybe a part of you really does want to get rid of a lot of stuff, or the opposite – perhaps you have a side of you that is a materialist. It doesn’t mean you have to switch identities suddenly. In fact, it’s not such a great idea to just swing to an opposite side. Better just to acknowledge there might be a part of you that is different from your usual identity. Listen to it. Hold it. Be aware of the inner conflict. Consider if there is room to integrate some of that into your life in some way. Maybe you can allow yourself to be a bit of a fashionista. Or if you are afraid of being lazy, ask yourself if you need to give yourself more rest.

Becoming aware of repressed aspects of ourselves is essential to living an authentic and healthy life. Through this process, dilemmas and inner conflicts occur, and they, too, are part of the process of becoming whole. Practicing discernment and working with these challenges are topics I will discuss in future posts.

Weird and Relationship

the breezes at dawn

the breezes at dawn

As I explained in a previous post, etymologically, ‘weird’ means ‘fate’ and in the way I am speaking of it is also synonymous with the process of individuation; becoming one’s true and whole (unique) self. In this context, we might think of fate as a divine blueprint with which, to a certain extent, we can choose whether or not to align ourselves.

So far it may have come across that if we live our weird, we will have to face being alone, because nobody will ‘get’ us. It is true, I think, that we must be prepared to go our own way even if that means being alone, but in fact, the opposite is more often what happens. By living in alignment with ourselves, we are more likely to connect with kindred spirits and also feel bonded, not only to the human race, but with all beings and life on the planet.

When we create ourselves and our lives according to some image, a facade, we attract others who respond to that facade. The relationship is more like image to image rather than soul to soul and eventually the facades crack. As we make the shift from observing and evaluating ourselves from the outside (and attempting to create ourselves as art) to experiencing ourselves from the inside and aligning with what is authentic for us, it is true that we may indeed lose some peoples’ favour. They may even try to change us back and in some cases the pressure can be strong. If there was a strong bond to begin with, the relationship may weather the shifts, but often individuals who begin to live more authentically do find themselves feeling alone for a period of time before they begin to connect with soul mates. Here I am using the term ‘mate’ as the English and Australians employ it – meaning friend or partner.

I do believe in soul mates – both as friends and as partners - as I experience both. In my life, I have also met potential soul mates but wasn’t ready for them. This was the case with my husband, Ian, who I met in 1977. I had been living in a smallish working class town and at twenty-one was feeling like I was dying. Some of my friends were marrying and having children and others were working and drinking in bars and at discos on the weekend. I knew I wasn’t ready for the former and I had become bored of the latter. I had an image in my mind how I wanted to look and how I wanted my life to be (I call it my ‘magazine image’) but I didn’t know how to get there. Fate stepped in.

I knew a couple of people who had been in a three month program at a growth centre on Cortes Island called Cold Mountain Institute. I was aware they did body work and something called Gestalt there and everyone hugged a lot, and those kinds of things weren’t in my ‘magazine image’ but I liked the people I knew who had gone through the program and they seemed to be more confident after. There was some quality they had that I wanted though I couldn’t quite name it. I see it now as authenticity. I needed to make a change and the only option I could see was Cold Mountain so I signed up.

It wasn’t long before Ian and I connected there and found ourselves in a relationship. I was attracted to his mysticism, his knowledge of nature, and how he could identify the stars and constellations. He was more than a year younger than me but had travelled through Great Britain on his bike and gone to a place called Findhorn where the people connected with nature spirits and grew enormous vegetables. He meditated and listened to Paul Horn and had read books like Autobiography of a Yogi, Be Here Now by Ram Dass, and Siddhartha and others by Herman Hesse. He wasn’t much into drinking or discos. He liked doing art and pottery and he had taken Art History courses. He worked as a builder and was competent and knowledgeable about all kinds of things to do with construction. Plus he was just a really kind and fun person and I loved and liked him. When the program was over we moved to Vancouver, where he was from. But neither he nor I nor my life in general was fitting my ‘magazine image’. We parted (Ian had his own reasons for returning to Cortes where he would live on and off for many years) and I remained in the city.

I didn’t know it but I had already begun my journey of weird. I was soon in a relationship with a jazz musician and spent a lot of time in jazz clubs over the next few years. I went to art school and began working in front of house theatre where I would continue working part time for two decades. I studied the works of Carl Jung. I got degrees in Psychology and Counselling Psychology and became a therapist while alongside, I studied the tarot, Qabala and astrology, as well as mythology and world spiritual traditions. I also became a writer.

My brother had stayed friends with Ian since the seventies and Ian and I ran into each other occasionally at parties,etc., over the years. By the time he and I reunited thirty-six years after we had parted, I had long abandoned my ‘magazine image’ and trying to sculpt a life from the outside. Now I was embodying my weird and we came together as soul mates.

At our wedding reception, my brother (who was Ian’s best man) talked about how my nephew had once commented on how we are well suited because we are both the same sort of weird.

Making an Appointment with Ourselves

The breezes at dawn

The breezes at dawn

As I explained in a previous post, etymologically, ‘weird’ means ‘fate’ and in the way I am speaking of it is also synonymous with the process of individuation; becoming one’s true and whole (unique) self. In this context, we might think of fate as a divine blueprint with which, to a certain extent, we can choose whether or not to align ourselves.

I ended my last post by suggesting that there are times in life when it becomes necessary to make an appointment with ourselves. I love this expression but can’t take credit for it. I came across it in a book by Jungian analyst, James Hollis, who wrote that at mid-life, we all need to make such an appointment.

An appointment with ourselves at mid-life makes a lot of sense. As younger adults, our energy is usually invested in establishing a foundation for life, whatever that may look like. Education, career building, families, and children, etc., are common priorities. We are still forming our ego identities as well as learning to establish intimate relationships and all of this takes a lot of focus and energy. At mid life, we catch a clearer glimpse of our mortality and death looms on the horizon. Our priorities may shift. Often the dilemma is “Do I really go for it and live my own life or do I try to please others and/or play it safe to avoid (inner or outer) criticism or conflict?” In other words, “do I live my ‘weird’ or not?”

But appointments with ourselves can be at other times throughout our lives. Certainly some of us can use more than one appointment. I even wonder if maybe regular ‘sessions’ with ourselves isn’t such a bad idea.

So what would such an appointment look like? I have some ideas and suggestions. First of all, we do what a skilled therapist would do for us - Listen. (Etymologically a therapist is ‘one who attends’.) We can ask ourselves, ‘How am I doing?’ ‘What is going well and what isn’t going so well in my life?’ Give some time for listening to the feelings. I don’t mean feelings in terms of ‘how do I feel (as in ‘think’) about that?’ Not opinions or trying to understand myself or other people, or evaluating, but instead a sinking into my body. How does it really feel living inside of my body at this time, in this moment? Is there a particular sensation that draws my attention? What is my energy like? Where is it primarily situated?

Something a skilled therapist might perceive is which of my values are truly my own and which ones I have taken on unquestioningly from parents or my culture. As both client and therapist of myself, I listen to whether I am watching myself from outside or experiencing myself from within. I might notice that I struggle with what others are thinking about me and I put energy into ‘mind-reading’ their thoughts about me. (Focusing on others’ perceptions disconnects me from my self.) As I listen more deeply, I might become aware that I am trying to get approval from certain individuals or impress them.

At this appointment with myself I can start to get a clearer sense of how much I am trying to create myself and my life as a work of art with others’ evaluation in mind, and how much of an effort I am making to be authentic. The truth is we can never be sure how others are evaluating us (and it isn’t our business anyway) and usually the real critic is in our heads. This can be even trickier to discern because the inner critic can be so insidious.

I might even realize I am not trying to please anyone but rather, am in reaction. In fact I am deliberately trying to be unique and even ‘weird’, or maybe just the opposite of others. Perhaps I have even developed a cynicism about others and have decided they are not worth the effort.

Whether I am living to please others or my inner critic or I am reacting and rebelling, I am not living from my true authentic self. I am not really living my nature. So this appointment gives me a chance to decide how much I want to. Living one’s Weird is not for everyone and it really is OK to choose not to embody our unique blueprint. There generally needs to be a sense of being summoned; a feeling of Necessity. For those who truly live their weird, there really is no choice. The other option would feel like a living death.