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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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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How well do you know yourself?

I’ve collected some rocks ready to paint. It would be easy to determine the average weight of these stones and get an average weight of, let’s say 200 grams. But this tells me very little about the real nature of each individual rock and it’s unlikely any one rock actually weighs 200 grams. With stones, as with people, it is not the universal and regular that characterise the individual, but rather the unique. As I listen to the news about the coronavirus I realise that we too can be regarded as a comparative unit, as an abstract picture of “a man” from which all individual features have been removed. But to understand an individual human being we much lay aside all scientific knowledge of the “average man” and discard all Memoriestheories in order to adopt a completely new and unprejudiced attitude.

We must approach the task of understanding with a free and open mind. Whereas knowledge of mankind or insight into human character or behaviour, pre-supposes all sorts of knowledge about humans in general, understanding ourselves as an individual, with all our flaws and unique qualities requires us to turn a blind eye to scientific knowledge. If the psychologist wants to classify his patient scientifically but also to understand him as a human being he has an internal conflict of duty between knowledge and understanding. He cannot take an either/or stance but needs a kind of two-way thinking doing one thing while not losing sight of the other.

Do you ‘follow the crowd’ behaving in a certain way so as to ‘fit in’ and so losing sight of the “I” or individual that you truly are? (You might not realise you are doing it). In school we are taught conformity: “This is how you do it”. We were trained to do repetitive work in factories, in a system designed for the industrial age, a system designed to produce a lot of people who act the same, think the same, and look the same.

What most of us call “self-knowledge” is actually very limited knowledge. Most of it is dependent on social factors, of what goes on in the human psyche. We often come up with the prejudice that such and such a thing “never happens in our family” or “with us” or with our friends and acquaintances. And we also have equally illusory assumptions about alleged qualities we believe we have which merely serve to cover up the true facts of the case.

Your ego is the centre of your field of consciousness, Think of it as your manager, organising your thoughts, feelings, senses, and intuition, and regulating access to your memory. It is the part that links your inner and outer worlds together, forming how you relate to that which is external to you.

People often think they know themselves well, but, in truth, they are confusing “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities. Our ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious (which is huge) and its contents. People tend to measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social circle knows of himself, not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them deep in their unconscious. As with his body, although he lives in it and with it constantly, the average person knows very little about it.

Our unconscious mind is far bigger than our conscious mind and is immune to conscious criticism and control. We are defenceless and open to all kinds of influences and psychic infections. As with all dangers, we can guard against the risk of psychic infection only when we know what is attacking us, and how, and from where and when the attack will come.

Self-knowledge is a matter of knowing individual facts. Theories are not much use, they are often statistical, or an ideal average, so ignoring all the exceptions at either end of the scale and just providing an abstract mean. The mean can be quite valid though it doesn’t necessarily exist in reality.

It’s like when we look at a tree and say, “That is an oak tree”, or “That is a pine tree”. The naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and you actually seeing the tree.

It is all but impossible to describe the new awareness that comes when words, and our desire to understand and control, are abandoned and we have the courage to open our minds. We are so much more than we think we are. It might be a good idea, if, like the White Queen, we practiced believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast, for we are called on to believe what to many people is impossible. But, instead of rejoicing in this glorious "impossible" which gives meaning and dignity to our lives, we try to domesticate our lives/Nature/the Universe, to make everything comprehensible to our finite minds.

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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.

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Rebuilding our broken world


We have been living in a world that has been getting more and more out of balance.

In rebuilding our broken world, we will have the chance to choose a less hurried life, but habits of mind and lifestyle do not change easily. Without noticing, we are in danger of slowly slipping back into the routines of our lives. We will again become accustomed to being in a noisy city or workplace, and we could soon forget how nurturing it feels to find a quiet place and a time of silence.

A powerful force had to strike to awaken us from our slumber. And now we have been struck we have a chance to take a step back and notice how we have been living too fast, how we lost the connection with our inner selves and chased instead speed, efficiency, money, hyper-connectivity, and "progress". The moment we choose consciousness rather than the tired out collective consciousness is when we start to think for ourselves. It's when we stop our lives unfolding according to someone else’s plan. It’s a transformative moment. It’s when we get to choose the life that’s ours and ours alone.

For many of us now, at home, alone, time and space have opened up in our minds. Daily routines have been interrupted as we enter an unstructured, free-floating, beckoning time. We have been freed from the prison of our time-driven lives. There is something to be regained, something subtle, delicate even, and that is the restoration of our inner selves. In the stillness and the slowness, we can take the time to listen to our inner selves and to the breathing of our spirit. 

For years we will be rebuilding our broken world. Maybe a slower lifestyle will help us put the pieces back together in the right places this time. Perhaps a more contemplative, deliberate way of living can become permanent.

In rebuilding our broken world we will have the chance to choose a less hurried life.

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The power our past has on our relationships


Like it or not, your past relationships seep into your present ones.

Therapists often find that patients will project on them their own past relationships, particularly those with parents, much like projecting a movie on a blank screen. The therapeutic process then is in part about unraveling all these past relationships and distortions.

Although this is common knowledge for therapists the phenomenon is not limited to the therapy setting. It is something that happens frequently (possibly every time) in our personal relationships. It is particularly common in that critical first-impression early stage of a relationship. Our impressions of others are never neutral but always filtered through the lens of other relationships, both past, and present, that have had an impact on our lives. We can and do transfer onto the other person an aspect of our own psychology.

Transference is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon but to simplify it, your new date might remind you of your ex in the way he seems to dominate the conversation, or your work colleague reminds you of the girl at school who bullied you. Sometimes the triggers may be more subtle - the new date has eyes like your father or his tone of voice reminds you of your brother; or your neighbour has the same sarcastic sense of humour as someone else you used to know.

Often these impressions, the contrasts, and comparisons are not fully conscious but they are powerful and form the basis for our initial attraction (or lack of). Our history of relationships is stored symbolically in our unconscious and influences us without us realising it.

Understanding its effect can give us a clue of why we get certain problems in relationships.

Do you find that you’re always attracted to narcissists or turned off by people who seem too nice or too passive? Are you always intimidated by people in authority?

We see and judge people through the filter of transference.  We are triggered both positively and negatively by our past relationships. We're moving beyond sexual chemistry and emotionally making assumptions, over-emphasising and likely distorting at least one aspect of the other's personality. This can blind us from seeing the real person beneath. He might seem, for example, to be non-judgmental and supportive compared to your ex, only for you to realise later that this stance is a cover for his being very passive and indecisive. Similarly, her assertiveness, which you initially found attractive, blinds you from seeing how controlling she can be.

So how can you stop repeating past mistakes? If you find yourself always getting involved with narcissists and always winding up getting hurt, you are just re-injuring that old wound, rather than healing it. Similarly, that strong and automatic attraction to the laid-back man or assertive woman tells you something that you may need.

This is important information. By seeing and understanding these patterns, you can make them conscious, rather than unconscious or semi-conscious choices.

You can actively and directly work on your past by getting some closure with your past relationships: You can have an adult conversation with your ex or with a parent about past grievances, or if this is not possible, you could write a letter to get these old feelings out on a page and out of your head. You don’t have to post it.

You could also consider therapy. As Jung Said, “Medical treatment of the transference gives the patient a priceless opportunity to withdraw his projections, to make good his losses, and to integrate his personality”. Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 420.

Transference is a natural psychological process, sometimes for the good and other times for the bad. You can’t control or prevent it. However, by becoming conscious of your transference patterns, you can learn a lot about your unconscious psyche: how it operates, what attracts it, and what repels it. You can come to understand your relationships on a much deeper and psychological level. Through becoming conscious of your transference patterns you have the opportunity to be more self-aware and in a better position to give the gift of your soul to others.

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Active imagination and the journey to wholeness

Active Imagination

Characters in our dreams can be seen as a meeting between our everyday waking Self, and parts of our Self normally outside consciousness.

The unconscious mind is vast and it functions much faster than the conscious mind. It isn’t controlled by the ego, and, very often, it has very different perceptions about our experience and lives than does the waking mind.

In dreams there is an encounter between the waking ego, or, at least a subset of it that we can call the 'dream ego' and the unconscious mind.

What do these characters in our dreams want?

That’s often the biggest and most important question to ask of characters who appear in our dreams.

We can expect that they want something different from the ego.  The dream is acting as a corrective on the perspective and attitude of the ego.  We need to incorporate part of that perspective into consciousness.

We must take dreams seriously, but combine them with the awareness of our ego.  We need to connect the ego’s perspective with the perspective of the unconscious mind presented in dreams.

Dreams lead us to meet the unknown or forgotten parts of ourselves.  The dream bids us to take a certain crucial kind of responsibility, by finding an attitude that takes the ego seriously but also considers the deeper self.  This is a fundamental part of the journey to wholeness.

One of the very striking aspects of the meaning of dreams is the on-going dialogue between the conscious and unconscious minds.  If we start to understand and have dialogue with our dreams, we often find that subsequent dreams reflect our understanding and actions.  Often the encounter with the 'other me' in dreams is only one of a series of connected dreams. The dialogue goes on, as we take in more of the perspective of the unconscious mind.  As we practice conversing with our unconscious with time we become more and more attuned to the meaning of that dialogue.

The things we see in our dreams are not signs that represent one specific idea, but rather fluid images to which we ascribe meaning based on our individual experiences. Dreams may reveal truths, philosophical revelations, illusions, fantasies, memoires, plans, irrational experiences or even prophetic visions.

The images in our dreams are ultimately representations of our own unconscious. Although they come from our individual minds, many images are manifestations of universal archetypes that represent unconscious attitudes hidden to our conscious selves. 

In his last major work, written when he was 81, titled Mysterium Coniunctionis, The Mystery of Conjunction, or unification, the bringing together of opposites (CW 14, paragraph 706), Jung gives a careful description of active imagination and dreams. He sees active imagination as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious. The following are five direct quotes from the long paragraph in Mysterium Coniunctionis simplifying it to five suggested steps that we can follow in our own active imagination.

Five steps to active imagination:

  1. “Choose a dream or some other fantasy-image and concentrate on it by simply catching hold of it and looking at it…”
  2. “You then fix this image in the mind. Usually it will alter as the mere fact of contemplating it animates it…”
  3. “A chain of fantasy ideas develops and gradually takes on a dramatic character… At first it consists of projected figures and these images are observed like scenes in the theatre…”
  4. “If the observer understands that his own drama is being performed on this inner stage…he will take part in the play instead of just sitting in a theatre…”
  5. “Fix the whole procedure in writing at the time of occurrence for you then have ocular evidence that will effectively counteract tendency to self-deception…”

To simplify, the five steps are:

  1. Choose a dream or other fantasy image.
  2. Fix it in your mind.
  3. Watch it take on a dramatic character
  4. Take part in the play
  5. Write it down

To do this effectively you must be in a meditative state. Your conscious mind needs to be relaxed, and ready to let you enter the inner world of your imagination. Sit quietly and let go of your worries, thoughts, and preoccupations. Once you are in this state, choose an image, hold onto it, watch it take life. Put it on the stage of your imagination. Take part in the play and then write down what happened. It is important to write it down because this helps us remember and learn from the experience.

When we speak to our images, they surprise us. And when we write it down, we are writing a story, the story of our encounter with our soul.

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Using Active Imagination to reprogram the unconscious


I had left the comfort of my home. It was a dark night and, when I looked to where I had come from, the warm light shining from the windows tempted me back into my comfort zone. When I looked the other way it was dark and nothing could be seen other than the darkness. A man drives up in his car and starts verbally abusing me. Afraid, I hide behind an oil tank. I nervously glance both ways – to the house (my comfort zone) and into the darkness (the unknown). I am dreaming and before I can decide which way to run I wake up.

Using a technique called ‘active imagination’ I meditate and go back into the dream. I ask myself, “Why are you hiding from him? Why are you letting him have power over you?” I stand up and look directly at the man and ask him what he wants and why he thinks he has the right to talk to me like that. His face changes, he doesn’t know what to say, and he drives away. I realise that standing up to him took away his power.

The unconscious manifests itself through a language of symbols. It is not only in our involuntary or compulsive behaviour that we can see the unconscious. There are two natural pathways that we can go down to bridge the gap between our conscious and unconscious minds – one is by dreams and the other is through the imagination. Both are highly developed channels that have developed so that the unconscious and conscious levels may speak to one another and work together.

Active imagination is not a ‘visualisation’ technique in which someone imagines something with a goal in mind. Active imagination has a different relationship with the unconscious, one based on recognition of its reality and power. In active imagination, you go to your unconscious to find out what is there and to learn what it has to offer to the conscious mind. The unconscious mind is not something to be manipulated to suit the purposes of the conscious mind, but an equal partner to engage in dialogue that leads to a fuller maturity.

In my dream, the man was my animus – the blueprint in my unconscious for how I could expect the typical man in my life to treat me. This was set in my unconscious mind by my narcissistic father and reinforced with the narcissistic relationships that followed. I had been programmed early on to believe that it was normal for men to treat me badly. Bringing this unconscious belief into my conscious awareness helped me to reprogram my unconscious and instruct it that this behaviour is not acceptable and something I will no longer tolerate.

"In each of us is another whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he sees us from the way we see ourselves." Carl Jung.

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Understanding the power of the unconscious mind

Understanding the power of the unconscious mind

Julie got into her car as usual and drove the five miles to her workplace. Along the way she was playing out in her mind a conversation she’d had the day before with a friend. She then started planning the evening meal and where she would stop to get some shopping on her way home. A myriad of other things went through her mind and soon she pulled up in her work car park and pulled into a space.

With her conscious mind totally occupied she had driven along busy roads, a dual-carriageway, and through several sets of traffic lights. She signalled properly and drove safely at all times. Once she had pulled up in the car park she came to her senses and realised that she couldn’t remember a single thing about her journey. She asked herself, “How could I drive this far and not remember anything about getting here? Where was my mind? Who was driving while I was daydreaming?” But this had happened many times before so she didn’t give it much thought.

Later, during her lunch break, she watched a colleague go into a rage because someone had left the milk out on the side instead of putting it back in the fridge. Julie was astonished at his behaviour. She wondered what had come over him because his behaviour was well out of proportion with the issue.

Later, when her colleague reflected on his behaviour he felt embarrassed and realised he would have to apologise. He asked himself, “Where did that behaviour come from? I don’t know what came over me.” He realised that the anger came from a place that had nothing to do with someone leaving the milk out.  But where did it come from? He didn’t know, so after apologising, he didn’t give it much thought.

We all feel the presence of the unconscious in our lives, during the ebb and flow of everyday life. We experience the unconscious as it acts in us and through us, working alongside the conscious mind. It will take over the control of our car when our conscious mind wanders off someplace else. We’ve all felt that experience of being on ‘autopilot’. The conscious mind drifts off and the unconscious mind simply takes over whatever we are doing. It stops us at red lights, puts the indicator on, brakes, and gets us to our destination. It keeps us safe until the conscious mind comes back to the here-and-now. It may not be the safest way to drive but it is a good safety net, a built-in back-up system that we all take for granted.

I remember many times sitting in class at university with my unconscious mind keeping me sitting there and looking like I was paying attention while my conscious mind wandered off for a walk through the woods. My conscious mind would suddenly be brought back to attention when the lecturer said my name, and I would feel very embarrassed if it was obvious I hadn’t heard a word they had said.

Sometimes the unconscious invades our conscious mind in an attempt to express itself – through the imagination and the use of symbol charged images. We also experience the unconscious through a sudden charge of emotion – such as irrational anger or a feeling of euphoria – that suddenly invades the conscious mind and takes it over. This flood of emotion makes no sense to the conscious mind because that’s not where it originated from. Julie’s work colleague for example, couldn’t explain where his anger came from. He felt that it came from somewhere outside him, that he wasn’t ‘himself’ for a few moments. But this uncontrolled anger did come from within him, a place within that he couldn’t visualise with his conscious mind. It came from his unconscious.

The unconscious is an incredible place, a universe of unseen energies, forces, forms, even distinct personalities that live within us. It has a complete life of its own running in parallel to our ordinary everyday lives. It is the secret source of much of our thought, feeling, and behaviour. It influences us in ways that are all the more powerful because they are unsuspected. We all have had the experience of doing something unconsciously when our minds were ‘someplace else,’ then being surprised at what we had done. Sometimes it startles us, “Where did that come from?!” we ask ourselves.

As we develop more understanding and become more sensitive to the surges of energy from the unconscious, we learn to ask, “What part of me believes that?” and “What was it that made me behave in that way?” We can also ask “Why does this subject set off such an intense reaction in that unseen part of myself?”

So, next time you think “I just wasn’t being myself” understand that “myself” also includes your unconscious. We all have hidden parts of ourselves that have strong feelings and want to express them. Unless we choose to do inner work and try to understand them they will stay hidden from our conscious view.

Sometimes these hidden personalities are not very likeable and can embarrass us when they show themselves. At other times we wake up to strengths and qualities within ourselves that we never knew were there. We sometimes draw on hidden resources we didn’t know we had, and find talents and qualities that we didn’t know we were capable of. We still have the startled reaction, “I am a different person than I thought I was. I have qualities, both positive and negative, that I didn’t realise were a part of “Me.”

We are all so much more than the “I” of whom we are aware.

Our conscious minds can focus only on a small part of our total being at any one time. Despite our attempts to understand ourselves better, only a tiny portion of the huge energy system can be incorporated into the conscious mind or function at the conscious level.

Therefore we have to learn how to go to the unconscious and become receptive to its messages: It is the only way to find the unknown parts of ourselves.

"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." Carl Jung.

I will look deeper into this in the next few posts, looking particularly at symbols and active imagination and how they can be utilised to help us understand our unconscious better.

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Living my life as a journey


Occasionally, I let stress overtake me, but then I notice that I stop being a creator and I lose sight of my hopes for a better future. I go into survival mode, inside a primitive emotional state that causes the ‘fight or flight’ response. These are the times I recalibrate. I stop and take the time to recognise the thoughts that are triggering the stress reaction. I can then shift the way I think and redirect my energy into a new field of energy filled with possibility.

Sometimes I simply look out of the window. Then I try to live my day as a journey. When a flower bud has burst into flower, or when a cloud beckons, I feel gratitude and write that into my journal.

We all face challenges at times, but if we stay focused on what matters we will find the light in the darkness.

It is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us that matters.

Count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of awareness of darkness... as the contrast between what we have and how it could be worse is vital to appreciate anything, including our life, and so be happy and grateful.” Carl Jung.

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 ❤️