Journeys of a Pregnant Virgin
Thursday, January 03, 2008
No pastels in Delhi, Part Two
I originally wrote this entry in longhand on December 4th. (My impressions of Delhi were quite different when we returned at the end of our trip, a month later.)
Here I am - in India. Halfway through my five weeks of travel, and what a time we have had. As always, there has been the challenge of trying to take in the outer world and still not lose my sense of the inner, and while I know I've been dreaming, I have not remembered much, so that I feel a little out of touch with the inner realm at this time.
I hardly even know where to begin. From the moment our plane descended into Delhi in the eerie darkness of early morning with heavy fog and smog utterly enveloping us, I knew we were in another world. As we found our driver with "Miss Marlene" on his sign and emerged out of the airport, it was as if we'd entered a scene in Dante's Inferno. Even at 5 am, we drove into the thickest smog I have ever experienced. A dry and desolate landscape stretched out on both sides of the road and against the dusty trees, ghostlike skeletal figures moved in the grey dawn, spectral somehow, as if marking our entry into another realm. A few thin women in coloured saris, but mostly men in shabby western shirts and Indian tunics in greyed tones, as if they'd permanently absorbed the smog in the environment and were gradually turning black.
But it was the smell that assaulted me most powerfully. The acrid, almost stinging smell of endless small roadside fires, which was to haunt our four days in Delhi. There was no escaping it, not even in our guesthouse where, if anything, it seemed especially strong, filling my nostrils and throat as I was awakened at 2 am each morning by male voices chanting in the temple next door. A heavy and relentless smell, reeking of burning dung, diesel, and overcrowded humanity spilling everywhere into the streets. Of course I had heard from friends and read in India guide books of the overwhelming assault of the senses greeting the traveller to India, but nothing could have prepared me for that powerful stench of smoke which seemed timeless, as if holding both the flame and ashes of India's thousands of years of civilization and the greedy fuel consumption of an industrial India hurtling into the twenty first century - while on every corner, a small Hindu altar summoned the faithful.
Transported into another world, it felt like, a wholly other time and place, one with a rich and mythic tradition that we westerners can only envy and behold, but never really step into. A timeless dimension, and to say it is full of paradox is a weak cliche in the face of such enormous polarities. Everything in India is over the top - extravagant and extreme in relation to our carefully modulated and measured western mentality and perception: wealth and poverty (the richest men in the world are two Indian brothers); blinding opulence and staggering degradation; extremes of beauty and ugliness, those beautiful dark faces with their glowing eyes and the hardship and suffering engraved in their deep facial furrows, the spontaneous and openhearted warmth and a guile born no doubt in response to years of foreign exploitation and tourist greed.
India contains them all, these mind-bending, heart-wrenching, soul-twisting paradoxes. In the midst of everpresent heaps of dung and garbage, the wild, bold beauty of the women's saris in their unapologetic hues of electric pink and fuchsia, green, blue and turquoise, red and yellow, and the most beautiful orange I have ever seen. There are no pastels in Delhi, but every shade of brilliant colour under the hot desert sun.
And then the touts - interesting etymology - the peddlars and merchants everywhere in the dusty dirty streets, often in impossibly white and ironed clothes - shouting in our faces, "Come to my shop, Madam! Only twenty rupees, Madam, very cheap!" A massive confusion of sensory images of all kinds. (I recall that one seasoned traveller advised me, "If you must fly into Delhi, get out as fast as you can!")
Varanasi, labelled by a friend as "Very Nasty," holiest city of the Ganges, proved a disappointment. Rather than watch the world created anew at sunrise from a boat as the guidebooks suggest and as many tourist groups did, we walked across the Ghats at dawn, forever besieged by groups of children, tattered scraps of humanity sent out in the dark of morning to begin the day's begging. We felt like voyeurs at a religious ritual we simply could not understand, at once besieged by tourist-wise beggars standing in our path, tugging on our clothes, haunting any possibility of a moment's view of the Ganges.
What to write about. Food. Clothes. Customs. Sights. Weather. Conversations and unexpected encounters. Emotions. Impressions. A fresh sense of the good fortune, privilege, and abundance that we take for granted in Canada. How can I imagine a desert village only an hour or two by bumpy road out of Delhi where a woman stares blankly at a coloured pencil we offer her daughter as if not sure what it is for. Finally the little girl accepts it but without any glimmer of recognition of what it might be. Continually thrown back and forth between old and new, tribal and urban life in India.
(This was as far as I got in the "midway blog" so I will end here. Over the next days, I hope to write a reflective entry from my retrospective inner gaze as I gradually settle back into my life at home in the early days of a new year.)
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
No pastels in Delhi
I have been to India, and back. I had hoped to write here from time to time and allow my friends to share a bit of the journey, but that simply did not work out. Internet access proved to be sporadic and generally expensive. When it was not expensive it was outdoors in dark corners full of mosquitoes. About halfway through my five weeks I realized I would not be writing blogs in India, but I did handwrite one which I want to post here after the fact. And since I've never posted from my mercurial desktop computer before, I will write several short blogs rather than a single long one. I don't want to risk losing material.
December 23rd was the date of my return and I am only now beginning to feel like myself again. Travel back was gruelling with two ten hour flights (starting at 3 am in Delhi) separated by a ten hour layover at Heathrow Airport. With the thirteen and a half hour time difference, that means about 55 hours without sleep, except for a couple of hours during the first flight. No doubt that contributed to the heavy cold that is just beginning to abate now. But I think I only understood yesterday how liminal I have been feeling since my return, as if part of me has been hovering over the Arabian Sea and only gradually drifting homeward. During our New Year's Eve walk on the beach we encountered an Indian lady in traditional dress and I felt like throwing my arms around her as if I'd been homesick for the look of Hindu women. Maybe I have been! Several nights before my return I dreamed that I saw a young Indian man in Canada and enthusiastically told him that I had just returned from India and that I loved the country.
(I think I will pause here and post, just to be sure this is working!)
Saturday, June 23, 2007
On Thursday I had my last exam, in Fundamentals of Jungian Psychology, and afterward I felt fully relaxed for the first time since I arrived in Zurich at the end of April. Yesterday was one of the sweetest and most peaceful days I have had in a while. I decided to do only what I wanted to, and what I wanted, it turned out, was a long talk with a close friend in Vancouver and then solitude, a long walk (which was somewhat thwarted by a second day of dark torrential downpours) and time to reimmerse myself in all three essays I've written in Zurich, with thoughts of where I might go from here in my writing. Another long talk with Steve, and Marianne had invited an old friend for dinner. We had a lovely meal together and good conversation. I am ongoingly grateful for the way I have been accepted into the heart of this home, and the new friendships have added something lovely and unexpected to my time in Zurich.
Now I'm counting down to my departure next Wednesday, with a lecture this morning still remaining, and mostly sorting, packing, and cleaning ahead in the next few days. My time at ISAP has been characterized by a very clear sense of "one semester at a time" and each time I've left Zurich at the end of term there has been a question in the background about whether and when I'll return. But this time it's serious. I truly don't know, which makes packing a challenge. Do I bring everything home, or leave my usual two boxes in storage?
My time here has been rich and deep in so many ways. But it may have run its course. I am hoping that my unconscious will show me the direction over the next couple of months, either through my dreams or through a growing sense of inner clarity concerning my next step. At 53 (and with a friend in hospital here after repeat cancer surgery) I am very aware of the preciousness of time, and there is so much living yet to be done. I don't feel I can really say more about this right now, but only that my dreams (for which I have growing appreciation, respect, and even love) seem to be pointing toward reserves of creative vitality and potential which I am very eager to bring into reality. Whatever form that may take, and wherever that may happen. I can say that the excessive rules and regulations of this Jungian institution and collective (quite antithetical to Jung's philosophy) have mobilized a kind of compensatory passion for freedom and self-expression that may prove to be one of the gifts of ISAP for me. I am usually simmering several ideas and projects at any given time but this seems to be a particularly fertile stretch and one of the tasks of my summer will be to get a felt sense of what is foremost and what will have to wait.
As usual my exam preparation has yielded many provocative and beautiful quotes. For example, Jung describes the "scintilla, the soul-spark, the little wisp of divine light that never burns more brightly than when it has to struggle against the invading darkness." I find this a beautiful image of the soul's passion to live its truth despite all the external and sometimes internal odds!
In another passage Jung writes of "Gideon's dew," or "the moisture that heralds the return of the soul," and describes intuition as the part of us that "revels in the garden of magical possibilities as if they were real." Which, in a sense, they are, of course. It is only the literal, rational mind that fails to apprehend that garden and robs our imaginal realm of its reality. I hadn't really thought of Jung's writing as poetic before, but the intense immersion of exam preparation has yielded many metaphors and turns of phrase that delight with their suggestiveness.
And with that, my friends, I leave you for now. If time permits I will sign off before heading home on Wednesday; otherwise, thank you for dropping by, be well during this first week of summer, and don't forget to step into the garden of magical possibilities sometime soon!
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Sunday morning musings
The sun is shining and it promises to be a very warm early summer day in Zurich. I will be indoors for a six hour movement workshop today, but I'll enjoy the 45 minute walk down the hill and along the water's edge to get to the beautiful mansion where it takes place. Meanwhile I want to write a few lines here and say that I have completed the first four of my five Propideutikum (mid-training) exams and all is well. I am happy to report that I have enjoyed the process of preparing and then engaging in lively discussion of the four topics, although half an hour is a very short amount of time to delve into the material concerned.
I see more clearly now that the exams really are as much an initiation process as an objective assessment of one's knowledge of Jungian theory. Since the Ethnology and Comparative Religion exams consisted of short discussions of two essays I'd written beforehand - "The Role of Song in Contemporary European Roma/Gypsy Culture," and "Dark Sisters: Kali and the Black Madonna," respectively - these were not strictly "exams" as such, but still the ritual exam date and time were established and the formalities observed. All things considered it was not a stressful process but I am also glad it is now done. I have ten days to prepare for the last exam in this round and the reading, consisting mostly of Jung, will be stimulating.
Already I am seeing Zurich through the eyes of one preparing to leave again, and realizing what a bond I have developed with this beautiful city of lilacs and roses. As I return home to Vancouver with all I love there, I know Zurich is a soul-home for me, something I have not felt anywhere else except in Vancouver. My life is far simpler and easier here in many ways, but it is also Steve-less, which I can only take for so long. Still it's nice to know that while some of my friends dream of affording a pied a terre in Zurich, I can return anytime to my sweet little room on Hochstrasse at a more than reasonable rent and with good company to boot.
My reward after passing all four exams with flying colours was to begin reading another of James Hillman's books, THE THOUGHT OF THE HEART AND THE SOUL OF THE WORLD. No longer a "Christian" in the old sense that I grew up with, I have no desire to be any kind of "---ian" again; whether Jung-ian, Woodman-ian, or Hillman-ian. Indeed, to claim (other than with humour) identity with any of these is counter-intuitive altogether. But it doesn't mean I don't resonate passionately with their writing and soul-essences, and Hillman, newest to me, continues to delight and amaze me with the eros and poetry of his writing. Here are excerpts of my current reading, straight from my journal (minus the beautiful fuchsia and dark green shades of ink) as the Sunday churchbells chime in the distance...
"The whole endeavor of retrieving projections - that major enterprise of analytical practice - could become irrelevant once the theory of the heart were to shift from its personalistic basis. We would then recognize much of what we call projection to be an attempt by the psyche to experience things beyond ourselves as imaginal presences, an attempt to restore both heart and image to things."
"Confessional psychology misses the fact that I am already revealed in my 'Selbstdarstellung.' Revelation already given with existence - not a task. Every move we make, phrase we utter, is confession of our heart because it reveals our images. Heart is manifest in the fantasies displayed in my life, not only concealed in my depths."
"How is it possible that beauty has played such a central and obvious part in the history of the soul and its thoughts, and yet is absent in modern psychology? ... If beauty is not given full place in our work with psyche, then the soul's essential realization cannot occur.... If beauty is inherent and essential to soul, then beauty appears wherever soul appears. That revelation of soul's essence, the actual showing forth of Aphrodite in psyche, her smile, is called in mortal language 'beauty'."
And - I think the recognition and celebration of our own souls' essential beauty is a good place to close for now. Thank you for stopping by.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Here I am, on a very wet, grey Zurich Friday afternoon, cozy in my little room. John Denver is singing in the background with his beautiful joyous voice and those straight-from-the-heart lyrics..."You fill up my senses like a night in the forest...like a walk in the rain..." I'd hoped the sun would shine today so I could march right up the Zurichberg and rid my body of some of the adrenalin it has been pumping all week in preparation for my Ethnology exam yesterday afternoon and then the Dream exam this morning.
So this is Propideuticum process. Two exams down, six to go. Three more this semester and then we'll see. The exams were pleasant enough but actually a bit anticlimactic. I had prepared very thoroughly and enthusiastically and there's only so much that can be discussed in half an hour. For the first exam I'd written a paper on the role of song in contemporary European Roma/Gypsy culture, and we really did not delve very deeply into the topic, though I'd reread all of my source material in preparation. That was a little disappointing, to be sure. But I'm glad the first two are behind me and I have the weekend to prepare for the next one on Tuesday morning.
After six weeks of fairly focussed time, I decided finally to see Sarah Polley's film, "Away From Her" this afternoon. The film itself is moving, with a radiant and heartbreaking performance from a beautiful older Julie Christie, but after fifteen minutes of ear shattering mindless commercials to begin, and a totally senseless fifteen minute intermission in the middle of a 100 minute movie (having paid $20 for a 2 pm matinee), I was so disgusted that I may never see another movie in Zurich again. It's not an upbeat movie either but it is truthful, poignant, and bittersweet, with some very lyrical moments.
I feel fired with all kinds of creative inspirations (likely a reaction to all the rules and regulations of ISAP) and look forward to developing some of them when I get back to Vancouver at the end of June. I do think that the clash and tension between my freedom-loving gypsy soul and the most highly regulation-infested training program I have ever been involved with has generated quite an intensity of creative energy. Perhaps that is not a bad thing to take away with me from Zurich.
Here are some lovely and atypically un-Jungian quotes I've stumbled across lately.
"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap!" Cynthia Heimel
"To live content with small means. To seek elegance rather than luxury.... listen to stars and birds and babes and sages with an open heart. To study hard, think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions. Never hurry. In a word, to let the spiritual, the unbidden and the unconscious rise up through the common. This is my symphony." William Henry Channing
Last not least! I like this one.
"Imagination is intelligence with an erection." Victor Hugo
Now, I think this is probably true for women - getting that animus working for us (I think I just went Jungian). But what is it for men, I wonder? Maybe the well-lubricated and moistened feminine intelligence of the anima?!
And with that, I will close for now. Wish me luck for the next three exams - I'll be back.
Meanwhile, let's all risk that leap!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
It has been such a long time since I last wrote here that I imagine my friends have given up on me! But here I am, back in Zurich since April 20th, and feeling free enough at last to write a few lines. I arrived to a preview of summer, with temperatures in the low and mid 70s and lilac in full bloom everywhere, their enchanting scent wafting through the streets as I walked. Marianne and Nic (landlady and partner) flew to Morocco for a week the morning after I arrived so I was able to settle in quietly and begin working on my Comparative Religion paper in earnest. And that, dear Reader, is what I have been doing these three weeks.
I wrote on Kali and the Black Madonna and their shared essence as "Dark Sisters" in their respective mythologies and also to each other. And to me, of course. A bit shocked about just how much I didn't know about Hinduism (and how much there was to know!) I immersed myself and read as much as I could. But I've got four other exams to study for and the first is on May 31st, so I had to call a halt to the reading and writing and submitted the paper, all forty pages of it, to my examining Reader yesterday. But decided before I plunge into Dreams and Fairy Tales, I want at least to announce my presence in Zurich for my fourth semester now.
As with the Gypsy Symbol paper, I was surprised again how much I enjoyed doing both the research and writing of this paper, even though I see its shortcomings and know it could be much better if I had more time. But it IS an essay, not an article (yet) and there will be time to edit and improve it later if I want to. As usual, it provided an opportunity to weave in many beautiful quotes from other people's writing and I will share just a few here for your enjoyment. Starting with the simple statement from Jung that "The secret is that only that which can destroy itself is fully alive." Now there is something to contemplate!
Here are a few more - some may be familiar to you. I won't comment much but just share the quotes themselves.
First from Marion Woodman, writing about the dark goddess: "This goddess may take many forms [in our dreams]. Usually she is black or oriental or simply dark. She may appear as a proud gypsy, a dancer in a tavern, a sacred prostitute, a Mary Magdalene. Always she is outside the collective value system of the dreamer's conscious world...and carries immense potential for new life."
Here is a beautiful statement that I also keep coming back to, from David Kinsley, scholar of Hinduism: "To ignore death, to pretend that one is physically immortal, to pretend that one's ego is the center of things, is to provoke Kali's mocking laughter.... To accept one's mortality is to be able to act superfluously, to let go, to be able to sing, dance, and shout." (I love the notion of acting superfluously!)
And from James Hillman, writing about the "etymon" or hidden truth of a name buried in its roots: "The search for the roots of words, the etymological fantasy, is one of the basic rituals of the imaginative tradition because it seeks to recover an image within a word.... In their names are their souls."
Meister Eckhart: "The ground of the soul is dark."
Finally, a long one. A poem by Pablo Neruda which expresses the longing for darkness so beautifully that it redeems the sadness itself for me.
Sadness, I need
your black wing.
So much honey in the topaz
each ray smiling
in the wide fields
and all an abundant light about me,
all an electric whir in the high air.
And so give me your black wing,
I need sometimes to have the sapphire
extinguished and to have
the angled mesh of the rain fall,
the weeping of the earth….Now I am missing
the black light.
Give me your slow blood,
Spread over me your fearful wing!
Into my care
give back the key
of the closed door,
the ruined door.
For a moment, for
a short lifetime,
remove my light and leave me
to feel myself
trembling in the web
receiving into my being
I hope, one of these months, to get a simple website up and running and then I can post the entire essay for anyone interested in this "Dark" topic. Meanwhile, I hope you have enjoyed these brief quotes.
With four exams taking place between May 31st and June 7th and then another on June 21st, I won't be writing here often but I will certainly be back at some time in the next few weeks, lest anyone is still checking in on me! Meanwhile, thanks for not giving up, and all the best until next time.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
It is a beautiful early Spring day in Zurich and I have just returned from the Hauptbahnhof where I purchased a large bag to hold some of the things I want to leave in storage for the next two months. On Wednesday morning I'll return to Vancouver for seven or eight weeks before coming back for the summer semester (and five exams) in the middle of April. It has been a very busy time as I've lined up examiners and scheduled the famous "Vorbesprechung" which each of them (one more to go, tomorrow afternoon), wherein they tell me what they will want me to know for the exam. So far I have been pleasantly surprised that there appears to be some regard for what holds particular interest for me, as well. I'm looking forward to writing the Ethnology and Comparative Religion essays that will constitute the basis of those two exams, and have begun to delve into some of the relevant materials, which are also related at some deep level to the Gypsy symbol paper. But more on that later.
While walking down the many steps and stairs toward the Limmat river this morning I thought again, as I so often do, how much I love this beautiful city. There is a calm gentility here that reflects both the conservative nature of the country and its historically neutral position in the heart of the European landscape. (Not that the Swiss don't have their own shadow traits, of which the lingering suppression of women's rights and their treatment of the Roma are only two examples). But I am grateful to have these months here with the natural beauty so essential to my soul in abundant evidence all around me.
Indeed, I am in liminal space yet again - one foot in Zurich and the other almost out the door as I pack up my little room and prepare to fly home to Vancouver. The Gypsy loves it. Hestia in me just wants to dwell solidly on the earth, tend the inner hearth, and cook soup. Maybe even sew another gypsy skirt. It has been many years since I created the last one, after all, and the Gypsy now has other colours in her soul.
I don't know if I'll manage that in Vancouver this time. My mother will undergo the first of two knee replacement surgeries on the very day I fly home and will require some care. I am scheduled to teach three courses as well, and Ursula and I have our weekend workshop for the Jung Society at the end of March. And of course I want lots of time with Steve - at the same time as I write those two papers and see a few friends. It sounds a little overwhelming in fact, but not impossible, I hope.
Yesterday a new friend at ISAP passed on this lovely poem by Rumi, and it is here that I will close for now. Perhaps its generosity will touch you as it does me.
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we're lying.
If we say No, we don't see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.
How Rumi's words glide effortlessly past the rational evaluation of my intellect and flow directly into my heart and bodysoul. This poem itself is a mighty kindness.
Until next time, probably in April, I imagine, best wishes to all who visit here. Meanwhile, as the need arises, may we all be met by "Miraculous beings come running to help..."