Conscious Living

Be the hero of your life

Holy Grail

The forest represents the darkness, the unknown, the edge of your world. It takes a hero to go into the forest. The people in your community don’t know why you want to go; in fact, they try to pull you back, and ask you: “Why can’t you be happy with what you have here? But there’s this urge that exists within the brave-hearted to go and explore.

The noble thing to do in the collective is for each member to go into the forest at their own point. It’s dark and there is no path. If you go into the forest and there’s already a trail, it’s the one sure sign that you’re not on your path. That’s not going into the forest. That’s not initiation. You need to find your own path and that comes from the impulse within to go out and really discover who you are - beyond the narrow confines of how you’ve been conditioned and what you’ve been told to do. Go out and explore for yourself what your truth is, and how to master it, then share it with the world.

The Knights of the Round Table saw a vision of the Holy Grail and decide to go forward on a quest. They knew that the noblest thing to do as individuals seeking their own in the collective was to each go into the forest at their own point. Each knight entered the forest where it was darkest and there was no path. They could not follow other people. They had to go in by their own dark entry to the forest.

The Holy Grail is a metaphor for self-actualisation. You have to find the way to becoming the best, most powerful, version of yourself. You can’t do it as a group. The work is done by you and you alone, by going inside, going deep into your psyche. You have to enter the forest at its darkest point, meaning you have to look at the parts of yourself that might reveal things about you that you won’t like.

If you are having problems with the sermon you are being taught or are living by you can either surrender to victimhood or you can give your responsibility to someone else and say: “tell me what to do and I’ll do it,” or you can say: “I have a choice here and I’m responsible. “ What will you do?

What does it mean to be the hero of your own life?  It means being responsible for your own adventure.

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Change yourself, change the world

Carl Jung loved to tell the story of the Rain Maker, which he was told by Richard Wilhelm, the first man to translate the I-Ching and bring it into the western world.

Richard Wilhelm was in a remote Chinese village that was suffering from a most unusually prolonged drought. Everything had been done to put an end to it, and every kind of prayer and charm had been used, but all to no avail. So the elders of the village told Wilhelm that the only thing to do now was to send for a rainmaker from a distance. This interested him enormously and he was careful to be present when the rainmaker arrived. He came in a covered car, a small wizened old man. He got out of the car, sniffed the air in distaste, then asked for a cottage on the outskirts of the village. He made the condition that no one should disturb him and that his food should be put down outside the door. Nothing was heard of him for Fish Yin and Yang three days, then everyone woke up to a downpour of rain. It even snowed, which was unknown at that time of year. Wilhelm was greatly impressed and sought out the rainmaker, who had now come out of his seclusion. Wilhelm asked him in wonder: "So you can make rain?" The old man scoffed at the very idea and said: "of course he could not”. "But there was the most persistent drought until you came," Wilhelm retorted, "and then -- within three days… it rains?" "Oh," replied the old man, "that was something quite different. You see, I come from a region where everything is in order, it rains when it should and is fine when that is needed, and the people also are in order and in themselves. But that was not the case with the people here, they were all out of Tao and out of themselves. I was at once infected when I arrived, so I had to be quite alone until I was once more in Tao, and then naturally it rained!"

The idea that if one is in the “Tao” then one’s path in the external world is unencumbered, and, inversely, when one encounters a disturbance in the world, it is usually indicative of an inner disturbance. 

If we think psychologically, we are absolutely convinced that things quite naturally happen this way (such as the rainmaker’s ability to create rain). If we have the right attitude then the right things happen. We don’t make it right, it is just right, and we feel it has to happen in this way. It is just as if we were inside of things. If we feel right, that things must turn up, it fits in. It is only when we have a wrong attitude that we feel that things do not fit in, that they are strange. If someone says that in his surroundings the wrong things always happen, it is him who is wrong, he is not in Tao; if he was in Tao, he would feel that things are as they have to be. Sometimes we find ourselves in a valley of darkness, dark things happen, but dark things belong there, they are what must happen then; they are nonetheless in Tao.

Taoist ethics are concerned less with doing good acts than becoming a good person who lives in harmony with all things and people.

If we want to live well we should take all our decisions in the context of the Tao, trying to see what will fit best with the natural order of things.

Taoists thus always do what is required by events and their context, but they only do what is required, no more.

But what is required may be a lot less than modern Westerners think. From the perspective of classical Taoism, Western humanism makes the mistake of assuming that the ability to intervene in life's events translates into a moral duty to do so.

Humans are indeed capable of intervening in life's events, but the evidence of life, which humans constantly ignore, is that such intervention is destructive to all involved and that we therefore have a moral duty to refrain from taking such actions.

So, in theory at least, Taoists tend not to initiate action - but wait for events to make action necessary - and avoid letting their own desires and compulsions push them into doing things. Good behaviour is an essential part not only of self-improvement but of improving the world as a whole.

The Taoist ideal is for a person to take action by changing themselves, and thus becoming an example of the good life to others.

They should develop themselves so that they live their life in complete harmony with the universe. So the philosophy is not to do good things, but to become a good person.

Changing oneself in that way will make the world a better place because as a person behaves well towards other people and the world, the community will respond by becoming better itself.

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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.

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Therapy in an unbalanced world


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.

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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.

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The High-Potential Human

We have created an inert, packaged, world that we think we can control and live in like a bubble. As I sit and read the news about humans herding to beaches, damaging the environment, and each other, I realise how a large proportion of the population doesn’t see Nature as a ‘living other’ but as a resource to be used. I call these humans ‘low potential’ because they are the ones that Nature wants to eliminate. The natural world is suffering and I believe the coronavirus is Nature’s way of bringing the earth back into balance.

Human NatureThe low-potential type of human lives in a world of entities devoid of life, consciousness, and interiority. Their relationship with Nature is that of resources to be used, of exploitation, of humans using entities that have the status of inanimate objects. Our whole culture is rooted in this self-evident truth, with humans acting on an inert environment that is essentially silent. There is no point asking Nature what it wants – Nature does not speak or have intelligence or interiority or consciousness when addressed by a self-willed human. This is reflected in our cultural practices and in the way we conduct our lives on a daily basis.

Sometimes humans are in between high and low-potential, perhaps in a period of metamorphosing to the higher level, often after a glimpse of true consciousness. During this in-between stage they might believe, personally and passionately that nature is alive, a living other etc. they might go camping, spend time in nature, or practice mindfulness, but when they go shopping for food that belief may play no part in their practices or conduct: animals now are conveniently packaged food items, trees are packaging and labels – all disassociated with the sense of a living ‘other’. Compare this modern-day food gathering behaviour with former times when food gathering was clustered around a core meaning of living Nature who made a claim on us and the way we lived. There were practices such as ritual preparations, addressing the animal with respect, and atonement rituals after killing the animal, in order to make sure a delicate balance between life and death was maintained. They grew their own crops, made their own food. They took from Nature only what they needed.

The predicament we are in today is that for many people their day-to-day lives only involve a connection to dead resources and there is nothing to remind them of the essential human beings they are at their core. Low-potential humans unconsciously live their lives on auto-pilot, identifying with their thought processes and emotions, reactions, desires, and emotions. This is most people’s normal state. They are run by the egoic mind, and not consciously aware. It’s not a state of acute pain or unhappiness, but of an underlying unease, discontent, boredom, or nervousness.

Low-potential humans are the product of the environment they live in – dead. It’s impossible to stick to positive habits in a negative environment. We constantly fill our lives with highly engineered versions of reality that are more attractive to unconscious minds than the natural world our ancestors lived in.  They are self-willed but they are only one kind of human being and the world appears as it does only to this kind of human. But, as long as they dominate our cultural practices, belief systems, and understanding of ourselves, then the world will correspondingly only appear how it does, i.e. as comprising entities that are ‘dead’, silent, and have no voice, unable to make any claim on our existence. When the low-potential human seeks, for example, to ‘save the world’, they can only conceive of right action in terms, once again, of imposing their will upon an unresponsive, disenchanted, object-filled world. Standing2

So, how do you become a high-potential human? To start with stop thinking about your environment as filled with objects – start thinking about it as filled with relationships. Think in terms of the way you interact with the spaces around you. Eat fresh food (grown locally or grown and/or harvested yourself, if possible), think about where things have come from, and feel gratitude for what you have. Only take what you need. If you look at, say, a houseplant, ask it what it needs and wait for the answer (this might sound silly but if you start to look at the houseplant in this way you will remember to water it and you will notice when it needs extra feed). Touch a tree and feel its life and energy. Practice mindfulness and gratitude. Open your eyes and your consciousness to the beauty around you. Who needs television when you have birds to watch?

The High-Potential Human is a new breed of human that is emerging in response to Nature’s need for balance. They are in a minority at the moment but as their influence grows and these spiritual and mindful humans, who respect Nature, culture, and creativity, will start to dominate our culture. The truth is we can all be high-potential humans if we learn to become more consciously aware, quieten our minds, and stop negative beliefs from holding us back.

We are moving toward a new way of living on an earth full of life and goodness.  And, as you continue your journey, remember, that beneath all those shadows and weight, you are a radiant, beautiful soul, and the earth awaits what you will bring.

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Everything you need is within you...


The day you are born a seed is planted. The seed is your unique gift to the world. It wants to grow, transform itself, and reach its full potential. It has a natural energy that you can tap into. It is up to you to make the seed thrive, to express your uniqueness and share your gift with the world. 

You have a destiny to fulfil. And, the stronger your drive to achieve your full potential the more likely you are to succeed.

AcornFailure to thrive usually means you have succumbed to an opposing force - social pressures to conform, family misguidedly directing you to their choice of career path. You end up choosing a career path that isn’t what you truly want. Your heart won’t be in it and you become increasingly less engaged. You start to see pleasure as something that is obtained outside work.

You have a voice within that emanates from your individuality and it calls you to a particular form of work or career. If you learn to listen you will develop a sense of your vocation. You will see it as a journey with twists and turns rather than a straight line. Some side routes will pull you more than others and eventually you will find a particular field, niche, or opportunity that suits you perfectly. It will feel right. And, because you are doing what you love you will learn more quickly and more deeply. You will have a sense of purpose and direction. 

In order to truly thrive you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it.

But what if you have someone in your life that constantly holds you back and stunts your growth? Don’t be with them, don’t make them the centre point of your life. If you stay with them you will be a cowering creature who is just a shadow of the person you really are.

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Becoming conscious and easing anxiety


“See, how cruel the whites look,” said Hopi elder, Mountain Lake. He was speaking to Carl Jung who visited the Pueblos of Taos, New Mexico in 1925. “Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think Indian Artthat they are mad.”

Carl Jung asked the elder why he thought the whites were all mad.

“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.

“Why of course. What do you think with?” Jung asked in surprise.

“We think here,” Mountain Lake said, indicating his heart.

This undercurrent of constant unease started long before Western industrial civilisation. It was there in the time of Jesus, and the time of Buddha, and long before that. “Why are you always anxious?” jesus asked his disciples. “Can anxious thought add a single day to your life?” Buddha, echoed this by teaching that the root of all suffering is to be found in our constant wanting and craving.

Resistance to consciousness is a collective dysfunction – a behaviour pattern developed over generations in our families – and it is intrinsically connected to our loss of awareness and forms the basis of our dehumanised, unconscious industrial civilisation. Freud also recognised the existence of this undercurrent of unease and he wrote about it in his book Civilisation and its discontents, but he did not recognise the true root of the unease and failed to notice that freedom from it is possible. This collective dysfunction has created a very unhappy civilisation that has become a threat not only to itself but also to all life on the planet.

Freedom from this unease is possible by becoming more conscious - or individuated - which I will cover in future posts.

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There is nothing with which we are not linked

We are all rooted in deep, invisible ground…somehow connected with animals, trees, mountains, meadows, and running water. We should draw from this a sense of security and the conviction that here is solid ground on which we stand.

LinkedGradually, we can learn to welcome moments that both move and stimulate us. And welcome too, all the different feelings and moods, happy or painful, which arise from them and follow in their wake.Once the bustle of life dies down we are left just with the thoughts and feelings inside us. If we pause, listen, watch, and feel, we can really enjoy those moments. We can start to understand that our feelings and moods and intuition are the beating heart of our link with the world. We can breathe more deeply and know that our mind has really begun to exist.

These tiny, almost insignificant, moments can change us. They are a silent metamorphosis, fragments of existence, like feathers of life drifting down from the sky. They are moments that can thrill and transform us.

Jung understood the importance of our connection with the earth. He said: “At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons. There is nothing with which I am not linked.” MDR P225.

In nature, nothing is isolated. If we have lost our connection with Nature, we have lost our connection with ourselves.

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This is a time to slow down and reflect


The pandemic is creating change by forcing us to slow down and spend more time in personal reflection.

We didn’t heed the warnings about our unsustainable lifestyles and we caused Nature to reach a tipping point whereby it sought to regain balance.

With more quiet time it is a time for personal reflection, stillness, and gratitude. We have the opportunity to take a step back and think about who we are, both as individuals and as a society. Stone

We knew our old lifestyles were unsustainable but habits of mind don’t change easily.

And, as our frenzied lifestyles come to a stop we can find it hard to sit quietly in a chair for ten minutes. Many of us will remain slaves to our smartphones and will check the news every few minutes and look for updates on Facebook.

We are entering an era of slowness and quiet. We can let our minds wander and think about what they want to think about. We have time to consider where we are going and what we believe in and what it is that we really want.

Carl Jung did his most creative thinking and writing when he took time away from his busy practice in Zurich and spent time at his country house in Bollingen, Switzerland.

As Nature comes back into balance so must we. We need to restore our inner-selves, the part of us that imagines, dreams, and explores. We need to answer our soul when it asks, ”Who am I?” and “What is important to me?” We need a slowness. Self-reflection should not be something we just do now, during the crisis, and then forget about it. It should be an ongoing part of a life lived deliberately.

For years to come we will be trying to rebuild our broken world, but a slower, more creative lifestyle, can help put the pieces back together.

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 ❤️