Category: Casual Anthropology

Symbols of Spirituality: Bean Bag

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You’re just hanging out in your body for a limited time. You are perfect just the way you are. You are exactly where you are meant to be. Enjoy the experience.

Bean_bag_chairs 

Oh that icon of pop culture, the bean bag. I chose it because no uptight person would ever choose to sit in one. It's a symbol of hanging out & relaxing.

And I thought the image of a body suit on a hanger was a little disturbing.

Synchronicity, Symbolism & Giant Stone People

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I recently experienced one of those moments when it seems that a glimpse of the grand design is revealed, even if only for a second, in seemingly insignificant ways. It happens to me every now and then, and yet it still surprises and excites me, and inspires me to believe that there is a purpose and a synchronicity in operation beyond what I am able to see and understand.

I was at the doctor’s office, and since I expected to wait for over an hour if not two, I brought some books to read that can be expected to have a fair amount of overlap.  “Man and His Symbols”—an exploration of Carl Jung’s work with the subconscious, and “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers”—which is based on Joseph Campbell’s study of the Hero's Journey in “Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

Jung’s colleague, ML von Franz, explained that the Self is often symbolized by stone—perhaps because they are complete, unchanging and lasting. “Many people cannot refrain from picking up stones of a slightly unusual color or shape and keeping them, without knowing why they do this. It is as if the stones held a living mystery that fascinates them. Men have collected stones since the beginning of time….”

Buddha-galVihara She says that this is why practically all civilizations have the urge to erect stone monuments to local saints or heroes, on the site of important or religious events, or to express an otherwise inexpressible experience. From the alchemist’s Philosopher’s Stone to the Ka’aba in Mecca, from huge stone Buddhas to Mount Rushmore, people are moved to create and identify with stone monuments.

Then I read in The Writer’s Journey: “the Statue of Liberty is a recurring symbol of the immigrant dream, a lighthouse beckoning the newcomer… The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the people of America , is a colossal example of the ancient practice of sending statues of gods and goddesses from a founding city to its colonies to connect them by a psychic thread, a religious tie. …”

More giant stone people!

This particular passage I was reading was a mythical analysis of the film “Titanic” and the ideas of the time in which it was set. Moments later, as I pondered the synchronicity of the ideas, I could hear Celine Dion singing the theme from Titanic over the waiting room TV. Weird!

Or is it just that I was in that moment, at the right place, at the right time, and I was open to all that it could bring? I think perhaps I was.

Written exclusively for symbolicthemes.com

Symbols of Spirituality: Bicycle (or anything that can be ridden or driven)

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 Zippo_BicycleLife is like riding around town. Because there are no wrong choices, there is nothing wrong with any of us. We are just taking different turns, experiencing different roads and different scenery.

We can always choose to turn another direction. And we can always choose to enjoy the ride.

  I chose a bicycle because of the sense of ease I had from childhood memories. Also because these were originally written for a 14-year-old boy. Bicycles offer the ability to really get a sense of the things you're passing, but it can work for a car, horse, whatever. See?

Symbols of Spirituality: Play Dough! (or just Clay)

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Plato-playdoh We’re life-sculptors squishing and shaping the raw energy to make our lives into works of art.

The material is there, we only have to do our part to shape it into a form we like.

 

<— Check it out! Plato out of Play-Doh!

Symbols of Spirituality: Movie Shoot

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Movie slateLife is like making a movie. When you make a mistake, it’s a miss-take, and you just take it again.

Re-shoot the scene. Take 2!

If you've ever noticed that life seems to keep bringing you the same situations in different disguises, it's because the Universe is giving you another chance to try again. Try a different approach this time!

Symbols of Spirituality: Video Games!

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What? Video Games? Why not?  Everything in the outer world was created from the inner world, and everything we see outside reflects our inside back to us. It's all in how we choose to look at it.

Videogame We’re on a journey, a spiritual adventure, and there is no wrong choice.

Like in a video game, we can either make it to the next level of challenges, or we can stay on the same level. It’s up to us what we want to experience.

 

<— Going old school with Donkey Kong!

Symbols of Spirituality : Costumes

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Sumo_Suits We are energy, or spirit, experiencing life in a physical body (what James Ray calls “a meat suit”) in the physical world.

(<—-Sumo costumes)

In Medieval times, European Royal Courts hosted masquerade balls in which people attended in mask and costume as part of elaborate allegorical pageants, allowing them to connect to religious or cultural traditions through the ritual. Think of Mardi Gras – costumes and revelry to celebrate Fat Tuesday, before serious stuff like Ash Wednesday and Lent kick in.

Symbols of Spirituality: Pool Game

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Th_pool%20break-pfLife is like a pool game. We can choose whether we want to have a positive experience or a more challenging one.

But remember, every choice bumps against other energies and sets other events into motion.

Everything we do has a result (also known as a consequence—the next thing in a sequence.)

 

Why “Symbolic Themes”?

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A friend of mine once asked me “Why Symbolic Themes?”

I told him that it’s how my mind works. I see thematic patterns in the symbols around me, and I use it to guide me through life. But I’ve just found further justification for my choice of blog names in a book called “Man and His Symbols” edited by eminent psychologist, Carl Jung.

It’s a book that explains Jung’s philosophy in laypeople’s terms so that non-academics can play along at home. Basically, Jung believed that our subconscious communicates with us in the language of symbols and archetypes that have appealed to people throughout history. He also believed that by paying attention to our dreams, and our responses to the symbols we encounter around us, we can interpret the intuitive guidance we have within us.

Here’s the quote that made me think I was on the right track with the name for this blog that I had already chosen, years ago:

“…the great writers are able to transcend the differences of time and place and express themes that are universal. We respond because these themes are fundamentally symbolic.”

I love to talk about those universal similarities that transcend time and place! (And I aspire to be a great writer someday too). All great artists transcend time and place when their work touches something in their audience that resonates within them.

What led me to read "Man and His Symbols" was a quest to find where my work and chosen area of study fits in the world. I found some Masters Degree courses in Transpersonal Psychology, and though I can't take them the way I want to right now, I found that Jung is at the bottom of it all. So I decided to educate myself. Many of his ideas are already so familiar to me, but I learned them from people who built upon his work, like Joseph Campbell and Carolyn Myss

Here’s the description from the back of MY book, Echoes Across Time:

Backofbook

“Mara is a woman on a mission… to follow the unraveling trail of meaning behind her symbolic dreams while trying to save her best friend from self-destruction.

Part spiritual adventure, part feminist fairy tale, this modern-day myth takes you through a mystical series of events from America to India, and on to Sri Lanka spanning four generations.

Along the way it offers metaphorical explanations for simple mysteries of our lives that make up our identities. From seemingly inexplicable friendships to exotic mixed ancestry, Mara finds the purpose behind it all. Ultimately the tale offers insight into how each of our souls has at least one connection that echoes across time.”

So though I chose the name Symbolic Themes for my work years ago, and wrote a book based on the things that fascinate me, I’m feeling pretty good about myself because without really knowing it, I have fallen very nicely within the framework of Jungian thinking! I may even be channeling Carl Gustav Jung himself! 

Economy and Environment Conspire to Change Us for the Better

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It seems to me that the environment and the economy are conspiring to force us to change…for the better.

One man from Hong Kong told me the air has been so clear lately…because so many factories have closed down in China.

An ethnography professor studying the effects of You Tube on society (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU) says that people are reaching out for connection and community, but that we’ve all become such individuals, it is increasingly difficult to find.

The environment has been encouraging us to grow our own vegetables, ride our bicycles, use solar power, and recycle. And the economy may be forcing us to do this by sharing expenses and resources by moving in with family members or friends.

Our choice of Barack Obama as our new president shows that we as a nation (and as a global village, if all the Obama parties thrown in Sri Lanka are any indication) feel the old ways no longer serve us and we’re ready to step together into a new era.

As humans, we generally resist change. We don’t love it. It scares us. We like routine…at least until it bores us. But we can learn from the popularity of “What the Bleep” and “The Secret” that we affect our reality, and the world around us, with our thoughts and our choices. So let’s not move forward with fear, but with the excitement of someone about to embark upon an exciting journey.

Let’s see the economic shift as a way to bring us together, and to be creative about finding more meaningful, connected and sustainable ways of accomplishing our goals.

Let’s see the environment as a beloved part of us that we must learn to nurture and appreciate again, like our own inner child.

Let’s make “Follow Your Bliss”– Joseph Campbell’s advice after years of studying the world’s religions and mythologies—the basis for our choices. And where our bliss truly comes from may be overlooked sources such as an abundance of time, connections with people, and a return to the earth and environment (whether that means going to the park or the beach, starting a garden, or camping in a foreign landscape).

Another thing we can do as we move into this new phase is to really consider the cliche “making the world a better place” with our every move. We can buy products that were made ethically, and environmentally, that support indigenous communities or give a portion to charity. We can take volunteer vacations that help improve others’ horizons while expanding our own.

As the New Year approaches, perhaps we can make our resolutions about taking less and giving more, appreciating all that we’ve got and all that we can share, and making conscious choices that support our ideals, thereby creating a 2009 that we can all be proud of.

May your new year be one of abundance, joy and pure bliss!