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July 2020

Like mother, like daughter, like daughter...

Art by Jane Redfern

When I was a child I always felt like I was on my own and no one 'had my back'. My dad was very controlling and wanted everything doing his way. I realise now that my mother as the co-dependant was controlling too - making us children behave in such a way so as not to trigger his temper (though she didn’t realise she was doing it at the time). I was bullied all through school but if anything was ever said my mother always seemed to take the other person's side. I remember looking at her once, in the kitchen, wearing her apron doing the washing up, and I thought to myself, "At least she looks like a real mum," Both my parents had high-pressure jobs and worked long hours and I spent a lot of time alone.

A few months ago there was an incident in a car park. My daughters wanted to go shopping and I was going to wait in the car. My youngest daughter opened her door a few inches and said that there was a strange woman in the next car glaring at her. She didn’t want to get out of the car and they both just sat there waiting for her to go. The woman then, not realising I was sitting there, or that my other daughter was in the back (we have blackout windows in the back), got out of her car and started blaming my youngest daughter for banging her car with the door. She was surprised to see me and I got out of the car and told her how ridiculous it was because my daughter hadn’t even got out of the car and I had been there all the time. I pointed out to her that there were no marks on her car either and was very assertive when talking to her. When I got back in the car my daughters both said that they hadn’t thought I’d stand up for them and I’d really surprised them by standing up to this woman (this was the new me though – in the past I wouldn’t have stood up to her).

Recently, my mother had a lot of problems with some men doing some building work at her house and I had to go and speak to them. I was very firm with them and told them their behaviour was unprofessional and unacceptable. My eldest daughter came with me and recorded the conversation. After my mum had listened to what had been said, she said that she had been worried about me talking to them because she thought I wouldn’t stand up for her and that I’d let them manipulate me and try and get her to agree with what they wanted to do. I was really surprised and after giving it some thought I went to see her a couple of days later and told her how I’d felt as a child. She admitted that she’d always worried about not wanting to upset people and would take the side of the other person because she was afraid they’d be angry with her or wouldn't like her if she didn’t agree. I realised that I had been the same in the past. The old me would have let the builders manipulate me, and she was right, I would have tried to get her to comply so as not to annoy them or make them think badly of me.

Following this, I spoke to my daughters and asked them if they had ever felt that I had taken someone else’s side instead of defending them. Of course, they said yes, and gave me some examples of instances where I hadn’t defended them because I hadn’t wanted to upset the other person. I told them I was sorry and we discussed it and talked about what had happened with my mum and the builders too.

It was very strange recognising my mum’s behaviour in my actions. In the past I was just totally unaware I was doing it, the same as my mum had been unaware of how her behaviour had affected me.

It made me think about how some of our actions can be completely unconscious and yet be so easily seen and witnessed (and felt) by others. It’s a pattern that is very hard to break; the main challenge is to make ourselves aware that we are doing it.

This pattern of behaviour is called transference - basically, I expected other people to react like my dad did and so I would act in a way so as not to trigger their temper. It also led me into disastrous relationships with narcissists.

It's like we wear a mask when we put ourselves out in the world. It’s our defence and buffer zone that we create against the cruel world and people. It's the persona, a mask that hides our intimate inner self, protecting us from hurt. Sometimes we wear the mask for so long it fuses itself to us and it is very difficult to remove. For me, a head injury in a car crash caused the mask to crack and loosen. I still presented the fake me (the people-pleaser) to the world for quite some time, but at more and more regular intervals I heard the muffled voice of the ‘real me’ (the Self) trying to make itself heard from underneath the mask.

After this incident and the conversations that followed so much seemed to fall into place. I had been surprised by my mum's response. I thought she would deny her part in it and blame it all on my dad, but she didn't. I was surprised at my daughters' response too because I was just totally unaware of what I'd been doing and the damage it was causing. It was certainly good to talk it through and bring everyone's awareness to it.

I will still have a mask because I know the persona (mask) serves us as our personality, the social adaptation that we as individuals must make to society as a whole (i.e. when I was a nurse I wore the uniform and acted in a way expected of me as a professional). But when we wear a mask, it is all right so long as we don’t forget the real self within. We must be able to remove the mask and be true to our Self. In the past the persona or mask no longer served me, I served the mask. Now the mask serves me.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

The story of your life (Joseph Campbell’s 17 Stages of The Hero’s Journey)

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 “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own most innermost being and reality so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Joseph Campbell.

The hero’s journey contains 17 interconnected stages. They mirror three main phases of departure, initiation, and return.  When people see themselves confronted with unbridgeable problems, they often have the feeling they are the only ones who have to deal with these special problems. However, in various contexts, other people have experienced similar problems and challenges. People can identify with the hero’s journey since it shows them that overcoming challenges is an important part of life. And, while performing the hero’s journey, change and transformation happen.

Campbell believed that a good life is one hero journey after another. “Over and over again you are called to the realm of adventure; you are called to new horizons.”

The human search for the ultimate spiritual meaning in life parallels all legends of heroes “who must travel to an unknown world and do battle with the powers of darkness in order to return with the gift of knowledge.” (Joseph Campbell). The hero’s journey isn’t just for classical heroes, but for all of us. It is, essentially, a path of maturation that all evolving humans follow. The journey is a 17-step path that recurs in the mythology of the world and guided many cultures throughout human history.

According to Campbell’s definition, “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Anyone can become a hero, on purpose, or even accidentally. But it involves a painful transition that is a prerequisite to greatness.

The hero’s journey is ultimately about transformation, and we can all be the heroes of our own story, no matter where we find ourselves today.  

The 17 steps of the hero’s journey are:

  1. The Call to Adventure

The hero starts in the ordinary world and gets a call, sometimes from another person, sometimes of the person’s own volition. Sometimes we can stumble upon the adventure as a result of a blunder like Dorothy did when she was swept up in a tornado in the Wizard of Oz. The call to adventure is about getting the hero out of their comfort zone and confronting them with a challenge or problem they can’t ignore.

Throughout our own lives, we feel that necessity to answer the call and improve ourselves.

  1. Refusal of the Call

The hero may refuse to pay attention to the call because of fear, indifference, insecurity, or a sense of inadequacy.  To follow the call of adventure it would mean to step out of our comfort zone and to meet our own weaknesses and uncertainties. In many cases, this leads to a denial of the call. The initial enthusiasm fades. For me, it took years to muster up the courage.

  1. Supernatural Aid

The hero has decided to go on an adventure but they’re not quite ready. Enter the mentor – someone who will help the hero and provide practical advice and training. Cinderella had her fairy Godmother. Dorothy had Glenda, the good witch of the North. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a storybook character. It can be a parent or friend giving support. Surrounding yourself with people who have the mindset you seek can be life-transforming as well. I was fortunate to have good friends.

  1. The Crossing of the First Threshold 

The hero is ready – and committed – to the journey. You overcome yourself and cross the threshold to the new world. This is the point where you actually cross into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of your world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where there aren’t any rules and limits. From this point on there’s no turning back. The day I drove away from my old life was terrifying but wonderful at the same time.

  1. The Belly of the Whale

The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows a willingness to undergo a metamorphosis. This is the biggest test of all – when the hero hits rock bottom. They must confront their biggest fear. If they survive they will emerge transformed. It wasn't easy and I didn't know where I was going beyond the first two days.

  1. The Road of Trials

Once the hero accepts the call, they must face tasks and trial after trial, facing them alone, or with others. The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Dragons have now to be slain, and bad witches overcome. Challenges have to be overcome over and over again.

Each person experiences this stage differently.  Our trials and fears and challenges present themselves in different forms depending on our individual traumas, perceptions, experiences, and emotional triggers.  Whatever your ‘dark hour’ is, as the hero, if you endure it, you emerge a changed person.  Like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, you’ll find yourself transformed and with new capabilities. I found that I could do far more than I imagined possible.

  1. The Meeting with the Goddess

You meet allies, which complement you and make you whole. You complement each other in your strengths and weaknesses. In classical myths, it’s mostly someone from the opposite sex (a goddess or a god), which makes one whole.

  1. Woman as Temptress

This step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. 'Woman' is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life.

This offers the hero short-term relief or gratification but giving in to this urge would cause the mission to fail and prove the hero unworthy.

  1. Atonement

We are waiting for external approval while wanting to make our own way. It’s the point at which we experience atonement and learn to trust ourselves. As a result, we acknowledge our own role and take responsibility for our life.

  1. Apotheosis

Apotheosis is the highest point of a person’s personal development. It really means “to make divine” or is the recognition of the divinity of one’s Self. While achieving our goals we become aware that we carry divine potential in us. Nothing seems impossible.

  1. The Ultimate Boon

The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step.

In the Wizard of Oz the scarecrow wanted intelligence, the lion wanted courage, and the tin woodman wanted compassion.

I wanted freedom.

  1. Refusal of the Return

Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to share his knowledge with his fellow man.

Even though we’ve discovered something new we may still have doubts that we have to deal with. Our minds keep telling us there are other obstacles to be overcome.

  1. The Magic Flight

This is the point in the Hero’s Journey where they must get out alive, often requiring the help of individuals they met along the way.  Glenda, the good witch of the North gave Dorothy magic slippers; Obi Wan Kenobi gave Luke Skywalker the lightsaber; Dumbo had a feather. External circumstances or internal motives force us to return to our daily lives.

  1. Rescue From Without

The hero is rescued from a final plight from an unexpected source. The rescuer may be someone who had previously abandoned the hero or even someone the hero does not know. In mythic stories, this intervention may come from a god.

  1. The Crossing of the Return Threshold

The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into our lives, and to share the wisdom with the rest of the world.

  1. Master of Two Worlds

For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. If the hero has had to reach inside to discover his inner resources he must still realize that there is an outer world to be lived. But you can live in both worlds more fully now.

  1. Freedom to Live

Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of failure, which in turn is the freedom to live. Freedom to live is the stage of the hero’s journey in which the hero has found a balance between his internal and external worlds and he no longer fears death. I feel invincible.

It is now time to give back and be of value and service to others.  The Quest has changed the hero, and he/she has outgrown their old self.  Things will never be the same again.  This is the end but also the beginning.  This last part is available to all of us.  You can be that new you looking back at the journey you’ve been on, and going back to your “old life” with the lessons, changes, and wisdom you’ve gained. I hope that my story will inspire others to take their own journey.

When you accept the challenge, you’ll come back as a new person. A greater version of your self awaits you.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Therapy in an unbalanced world

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We see suffering as something we have to bear. We do our best to avoid it, but at times it is inevitable. You suffer, I suffer, and for an endless list of reasons. Then society rushes in with all its fixes, all its sanitising cures.

But what kind of ‘fix’ is possible in a world which is itself suffering and out of balance?

We tend to accept without questioning concepts that seem innocent and self-evident. We attach ourselves to beliefs we picked up as a child from our parents. And when we seek ‘therapy’ we don’t really know what we are seeking. Just the word ‘therapy’ conjures up ideas of psychotherapy, physiotherapy, ecotherapy – all different ways that we can be helped to get better.

In his wonderful book Catafalque,  Peter Kingsley says that this is not how things used to be. “Originally, therapeia in ancient Greek meant caring. And when you go back in time as far as you can, you come to one very specific and constant expression: therapeia theôn, caring for the gods and serving them, doing what humans ought to do to make sure the gods are all right.” 20200719_145104

But then, Kingsley says,  something interesting happens. Plato comes along and focuses his thoughts on therapeia theôn, caring for the gods, and he basically argues “Care for the gods? Why on earth should we care for the gods when they are so much more powerful than us?” Once he had said this there was no going back. The unconscious attitude then developed of “Let’s make sure the divine takes good care of us. But, as for finding what, in reality, the divine might possibly need: Let it look after itself.” This attitude continues today as we treat the earth as if we think it is there just for our benefit, and in our absent-mindedness and self-absorption, we fail to recognise that we should be taking some responsibility for caring in return. It never for a moment occurs to us that the divine/nature/earth might be suffering, aching from our neglect.

Rationality, spirituality, therapy of every kind – the truth nowadays is very simple: They are all about me, me, and me.

It’s time for us to move away from being a society that shops for nice clothes and lives for acquiring expensive things, yet rarely invests in creating a better Self. Nature has had enough of this superficial behaviour and expects us to start taking better care of the earth and other living beings.

As Kingsley says, “The one tiny technicality we forget is this: that whenever we take everything for ourselves we end up with absolutely nothing. First, we have to know how to care for the gods [Nature] if the gods are going to care for us.”

In ancient Greek, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target. So we sin because we miss the point of human existence. We live unskilfully, blindly, and thus we suffer and cause suffering. Stripped of its cultural baggage and misinterpretations the term ‘to sin’ points to the dysfunction inherent in the human condition. Over the years humans have suffered more at the hands of each other than through natural disasters.

Most ancient religions and spiritual traditions share the common insight that the ‘normal’ human mind is marred by a fundamental defect. But, as more people become aware of this, there comes the possibility of a radical transformation in human consciousness or enlightenment.

The greatest achievement of humanity is not its works of art or its technological and scientific advances, but the recognition of its own dysfunction, its own madness.

There exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else. We are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Life isn't as serious as the mind makes it out to be...

What we choose to think, say, and do today, at this moment, creates our tomorrow. The power is in the present moment. This is the moment when we begin to make changes. We can start to let old beliefs and feelings go.

The smallest beginning will make a difference. Life

Think about what you were like as a tiny baby. You knew how important you were, you felt like you were the centre of the universe. You weren’t afraid to ask for what you wanted and you openly expressed your feelings. You loved yourself and that is the truth of your being. All the negativity you took on as you grew up was learned and can be unlearned.

How often have we said or thought, “That’s just the way I am.” What we are really saying is that it is what we believe to be true for us. And these beliefs are often passed down in families, from generation to generation.

Usually what we believe is just someone else’s opinion that we’ve accepted and incorporated into our own belief system.

If we are taught as a child that we are not worthy of money, we grow up thinking we are not worthy of receiving money, and everything we see and hear that reinforces that belief we will accept as true for us. If we are taught that it is dangerous to go in the woods alone, that we can’t trust people, or that we are no good at maths, all those things become part of our belief system. However, if we were taught that the world is a safe and happy place then we would believe that and we would see things that reinforce that belief. Life experiences mirror our beliefs. Whatever we send out mentally and verbally will come back to us in like form.

The way to control your life is to control your thoughts and to drop limiting beliefs.

Be willing to change your beliefs and thoughts and watch your life change.

No one thinks in your mind but you.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Our golden Buddha within

The person we become is sculpted by culturally defined principles and we gradually develop a self-image that may not reflect what we really are or want to be.

Many years ago in Thailand, there was a temple with a huge Golden Buddha. Word came to this village that an army was about to invade, so they covered the Golden Buddha with mud and concrete so it looked like a stone Buddha and the invading army would perceive no value in it. IMG_20200820_174509_427 (1)

Sure enough, the army rolled in and passed by the stone Buddha and had no reason to plunder it. For many years, the army occupied the village with this temple and Buddha. And there came a time where nobody remembered that the Buddha was golden.
 
And then one day, a young monk was meditating at the base of the Buddha, and a little piece of stone had chipped off revealing the gold underneath. The monk excitedly told the other monks and they started hammering at the statue until they unearthed the Golden Buddha.

The metaphor is that we are like that Buddha. Each of us is golden by nature. We are born golden, born knowing we are worthy and connected to our bliss. But then we grow up and we’re told to go to school, how to dress, how to act, what we ‘should’ do in every situation, so
then by the age of about six or seven we are pushed into predictable outcomes and predictable patterns of behaviour. There is no creativity.

The world that we think is real is just an illusion. The reality is that we are all full of potential.

One day you might have a wake-up call. If you’re not paying attention it might come in the form of a sledgehammer. If you’re paying attention it might be more like a feather duster.

When everything is wrong in your life – maybe you are overweight, in a relationship you don’t want, a job you hate, have addictions – that’s the sort of time you are most ripe for a sledgehammer blow from the universe.

My sledgehammer blow came three years ago in the form of a car crash. I was knocked out and as I came round I had a vision and could see the golden person under the stone exterior. The bang on my head cracked my armour.

I’m the hero of my own life now, not the victim of my life.

How about you? Once you see a little gold, are you willing to keep chipping off the stone casing that surrounds you?

The unfortunate thing is that many people live a whole lifetime without uncasing their golden Buddha.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️

Who are you really?

Many of us are so identified with the voice in our head (our ego) and the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and emotions, that the voice of our Self is almost completely drowned out.

You think that you are the thinker, but the thinking is your ego which is conditioned by your past, your upbringing, your culture, and your family background. The ego gives you repetitive and persistent thSilenceoughts, emotions, and reactive patterns that you identify with as “me and my story”. It gives you habitual roles that you perform without knowing it, and collective identities such as nationality, religion, race, social class, job, or political allegiance. It also carries beliefs about appearance, concepts of success and failure, and what you are good or bad at.

When you live day-to-day through the mind-made ego comprised of thought and emotion, your identity base is precarious because thoughts and emotions are so fleeting. Every ego is continuously struggling for survival, trying to protect and enlarge itself. The ego “I”
survive without the conceptual “other”.

People who live in their ego-mind struggle to be alone.

One egoic pattern is the compulsive habit of fault-finding and complaining about others. The ego thinks that when it criticises another it will feel bigger and superior. It is one of the ego’s favourite strategies for strengthening itself. Every complaint is a little story your mind makes up that you completely believe in.  It is habitual and unconscious. This is not the sort of complaining, say, in a restaurant when your soup is cold. The ego, though, is the one who loves to feel personally offended by the cold soup and is going to make the most of it. The ego enjoys making someone wrong. The ego often doesn’t want change so that it can go on complaining.

So how do you become more conscious? See if you can notice the voice in your head, perhaps in the very moment, it complains about something or someone, and recognise it for what it is: the voice of the ego, a conditioned mind-pattern, a thought. And whenever you notice that voice, you will realise that you are not the voice, but the one who is aware of it: the Self.

Please support my work by visiting my shop at Jane Redfern Art or by making a donation through Paypal With much love and appreciation. Thank you ❤️