Solstice

Solstice

That summer night, one June ago…
I was a fool.
Lost in enchantment
and talk of dreams in the firelight.
Smoke and mirrors.
Loving in absence
as the days grew shorter;
the shadows longer,
darker,
and colder.

Until the light returned.
Reflected back at me across the table
in talk of far away places,
plans and goals;
and in laughter.
As business became personal
but only for me.

Here in the light of a new June—
Clarity.
Mourning the loss of what never was,
missing the friend I thought I knew.
And now I remain:
both here and gone,
again and still the Fool.
Always
Walking the spiral alone
as the nights grow long once more.

© Amanda Butler

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African Wisdom Traditions and Individuation

African Wisdom Traditions and Individuation

(It was an honor and a delight to write the following post with my dear friend Pamela Thompson for the Jung Society of Utah blog.)

“The process of individuation is founded on the instinctive urge of every living creature to reach its own totality and fulfillment.”
– C.G. Jung

What does it mean to become who you truly are and live an authentic life? Carl Jung created the term individuation, describing it as a process in which one becomes aware of one’s true, inner self. Jung believed that: “Man is not a machine that can be remodeled for quite other purposes as occasion demands, in the hope that it will go on functioning as regularly as before but in a quite different way. He carries his whole history with him; in his very structure is written the history of mankind.”

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“Each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived.” – James Hillman

In our Western way of thinking about our individual purpose relevant to society’s notions of success, we have gravely limited ourselves, dismissive of the indigenous cultures which we deem as ignorant or primitive; without sophisticated means to solve and correct a perceived unwanted malady. We see ourselves more as machines, that we can “remodel ourselves as occasion demands” and function as a means to satisfy a superficial conformity. Even if we are not aware of this as our fundamental belief, it can manifest through the everyday choices we make against the irrational and imperfections that would in reality, guide us to a more authentic path. We accept society’s “glowing” images as “normal” and believe from the norms of popular culture that what we need is to avoid our darker sides by covering them up and hiding behind a superficial facade of success and perfection; living a life free from the shadows of misfortune, grief and suffering. But as we turn against the genuine calls of healing experiences and avoid coming into our authentic gifts and purpose by fearing to look into the darkness of our own shadows, we do so at our own peril.

When Carl Jung stated, “Man is not a machine that can be remodeled for quite other purposes as occasion demands,” it is clear that he did not believe in hiding our shadows, but rather owning them despite fear and judgement. Yet if we are not to strive for the perfection of “the Machine” that would strip us clean of our imperfect humanness and exploit us for society’s gain, what then is our true purpose? How can we creatively discover our true nature and how can we see our suffering and our shadows in new ways?

Many African wisdom traditions teach that an individual can find totality and fulfillment through their community. According to Dr. Malidoma Somé, a West African shaman of the Dagara tribe, “the community exists, in part, to safeguard the purpose of each person within it and to awaken the memory of that purpose by recognizing the unique gifts each individual brings to this world.”

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Just as the oak tree’s destiny is contained within the tiny acorn, each person is born with a unique purpose, and it is our mission in life to fulfill that purpose.

This type of inter-subjective life is well established in African cosmology, where the universe is seen as a series of interactions and interconnections, a vision that is especially applicable in understanding the relationship between the individual and the community. This network of forces shows that people do not live in isolation; one individual needs another to continue to exist. Humans need other humans to be truly human, and the community can be seen as facilitating our individuation.

So it is through relating with others that we see ourselves as we truly are, and come to realize our own unique gifts and purpose. Rather than remodeling ourselves to conform to society’s demands, with the love and support of a community we can learn to integrate our shadows, withdraw our projections, and live an authentic life in line with our purpose.

Learn more about this perspective on individuation from African shaman Malidoma Somé in the Jung Society of Utah Season Finale! Malidoma will discuss “Gift and Purpose” on June 24th at at Publik Coffee House, 975 S West Temple, from 7:00pm until 9:00pm.

Come early to get connected with your community in this celebration, and also to enjoy free tarot readings, music, and more!

~Pamela Thompson and Amanda Butler

Finding Presence Through Meditative Movement

RemedyWave®, created by Shannon Simonelli, is a type of ecstatic, free form dance facilitated in a supportive environment.

“The class is an outgrowth of a lot of different kinds of training that I’ve had. I have a PhD in Imaginal Psychology and Creative Arts Therapy, which is very much about experientially-based work,” Shannon said. “I’ve studied over 1500 hours of authentic movement, which is a very body-based, meditative journey related to getting in touch with your inner imagery and inner truths in the body, and how that relates to your psychology and I am trained in 5Rhythms Movement Therapy and have dance therapy training.”

The dance portion of the class lasts for 90 minutes. Each class has a theme, allowing dancers to explore concepts such as “light and heavy” through movement. Participants can then discuss their experience and insights during the 30 minutes of sharing that follows.

I walked into the class feeling upset after a difficult day at work, and worried that I’d be too tired to get through it. However, I was pleasantly surprised that I had enough energy to keep dancing, and within the first half hour I was feeling much better.

During the class, I discovered that it was easier for me to be present, rather than obsessing over things that were bothering me. It was a relief to let go, follow the music, and do whatever felt good. I felt free and peaceful, knowing that it was safe to be authentic, which was a pleasant change of pace for me.

According to Shannon, my experience is common among those who attend the class. “People start to build the ability to be more present in the moment in their daily life. They feel a greater sense of connection with their authentic self, and to the courage to really be that. People feel more in their bodies, they feel more willing and able to take risks. It’s very healing and very fortifying.”

No dance training is necessary to join the class. “The class is more about what’s true for you, what feels good in the body, what you’re discovering within the directive of the evening,” Shannon said. “I’m interested in what awakens in you and what that means for you in your life.”

“New movers come every week, it’s a safe environment to try something new, and new movers are supported and welcomed,” Shannon said. “We enjoy having new people join us and the group is growing all the time.”

Join RemedyWave at Vitalize Studio Mill Creek 3474 South 2300 East Studio #12, SLC 7:30 pm.