It was lovely to interview Diane Hamilton for the Jung Society of Utah blog, where this post originally appeared.
Diane Musho Hamilton is a gifted mediator, facilitator, and teacher of Zen and Integral Spirituality. In her late 20s and early 30s, she trained to become a professional mediator. “My professional life was really structured around working with people in conflict. Whenever you are working conflicts, you’re encounter sets of polarities. Resolving conflict has to do with seeing how a polarity or set of opposites, actually contains commonalities and common interests. The mediator’s job is to help find them so that people are no longer in that opposition to each other.”
Through regularly experiencing the opposites in people in conflict, she began to look at the oppositions within herself. For example, “I could see a side of myself that was more receptive and a side of myself that was more active and catalytic. Of course, I preferred one side to the other, as we often do. But over time, I began to recognize that opposites have both up and down sides, and I tried to see both.” According to Diane, practicing with polarities creates a flexibility in the mind.
With that kind of flexibility, we can start to being open to the kind of feedback that we get from the world around us. We aren’t so attached to our ideas of good and bad, particularly in ourselves. This leads to much more relaxation in our self-image, and we can, maybe for the first time, hear what works for people and what doesn’t. Diane recalled one of her meditation teachers saying, “Be yourself, the world will give you feedback.” She believes that we are in an enormous feedback loop with reality, and if we want to open our hearts to include more of what is true rather than less of what is true, polarity work can be a practice in compassion.
This compassion begins with ourselves, in making room for the parts of ourselves that we might prefer not to identify with. “There is the Jungian idea that everything that is ‘out there’ is also ‘in here’, Diane said. “To the extent that we really know what is ‘in here,’ we can better work with what’s ‘out there.’” This includes working with our shadow, or “the parts of our identity that we don’t want to bring into the light, as Jung would put it.” These shadow aspects “that we don’t want to see as “I” are very rich and important parts of identity to bring forward,” Diane said. “This way, “We don’t get stuck seeing only ourselves idealized or good or always seeing the upside of ourselves.”
Jung himself engaged in a deep process of inner work. “He got very interested in the operations of the unconscious, and the Red Book was really Jung’s brave investigation into the unsavory parts of his mind.” Diane said. “Once Jung saw the creative capacity of his dark side, he realized it was basically endless, and the mind itself would always be spinning these possibilities.” Jung found that “the mind in its very structure creates opposites–you and me, this and that, here and there—that’s the way our mind works.” At that point, he was introduced to a Taoist book called, The Secret of the Golden Flower, where he relinquished the content of mind into the pure light of his own awareness.
Shadow work involves owning parts of ourselves we’d rather not identify with, and meditation introduces us to the part of ourselves that is beyond identity altogether. Diane said. “So, it’s both a matter of looking into our identity and including more, which creates compassion and creates more flexibility in the mind, and also seeing that all identity, at one level, is just completely fabricated. Identity is something we can always look at, play with, and drop as much as possible.”
To illustrate this point, she shared the following poem by Hafiz:
So much from God
That I can no longer
A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
a Buddhist, a Jew.
The Truth has shared so much of Itself
That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even a pure
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
Of every concept and image
my mind has ever known.
“Identity itself has a zero point,” Diane said. “However, we tend to be enculturated into our egocentric identity, our ethnocentric identity, our world-centric identity, but those identities are actually creative and shifting all the time. They are not solid, but we tend to relate to them that way. The zero point, beyond opposites and identity, can be reached through spiritual practices such as sitting meditation. As long as there are opposites in the mind, there is tension in the body. Without those opposites, there’s peace,” Diane said. “Stillness and silence open up a domain in which the mind is empty, and as the Tibetans like to say, luminous and blissful. It’s simply about discovering the peacefulness beyond opposites, which sitting meditation supports. That’s why Zen has been so important to me.”
As part of her program, Diane plans to include a group exercise in exploring opposites. “I’m hoping both to share some information, to provide an experience of the opposites, and help people touch into that zero point, so they can have an embodied experience of what I’m talking about. So, a little bit of theory, a little bit of experience, a little bit of reflection.”
Experiencing that zero point of stillness and peace allows for a more heart-centered life. “Part of Zen practice and Jung’s work is about creating a heart and a mind that can include the opposites of this existence,” Diane said. “What’s is so important about spiritual practice and psychological work is that they create an opening to include more of our experience. But we begin to see that the mind doesn’t seem to handle those opposites very well, but the heart does. The heart’s job is to be able to include the things in life that we don’t want to include. That is what we mean by being whole-hearted.”
Don’t miss this illuminating evening with Diane Hamilton!
Date: Friday, September 14th
Time: 7:00-8:30pm (mingle time before and after, doors open at 6:15)
Location: Saltair Room, University of Utah
Cost: free (please become a member)
Includes 1 free CE