Ram Dass: Archetype of “Highs”?

Ram Dass recently died at the age of 88 in December, 2019. It caused many of us to remember his work and his influence on us boomers.  The “okay bomber” phrase, might be “okay Ram Dass”.  But I think there is much to celebrate in Ram Dass’ teachings.

Many peoram-dass-e1567577410497ple know his life story.  Richard Alpert was a Stanford PhD in psychology and became a professor and therapist at Harvard. He wrote a book about child development.  At Harvard, Richard Alpert met Timothy and began experimenting with LSD, hence my proposition that Ram Dass might be an archetype of highs.

I was drawn to Ram Dass during graduate school, as I was getting my PhD in psychology and child development and practicing yoga.  I had spontaneous “highs” from yoga practice without LSD or other hallucinogens.  Ram Dass’ book, The Only Dance There Is, spoke to me in many ways. It documented what “highs” were like, feelings of bliss, timelessness and interconnection with other life, and the loss of ego boundaries. With LSD there were hallucinations, but I was not so interested in that hallucinations. I was interested in changes in consciousness which I had experienced through yoga practice, contacting human potential.

LSD for Ram Dass was a way to open the inner world to love as a state of consciousness.  He saw that this individual work was a way to change group consciousness as well.  Similar to the Beatles’ spiritual teacher, Maharishi’s ideas. Maharishi, the Transcendental Meditation guru,a  said that if 10% of people in a city meditated that crime would decrease.   An unverified claim, but notable to show that Ram Dass, and other spiritual teachers of the time, were interested in a bigger picture than “highs”.

Ram Dass went to India because he realized that the highs he found through LSD wouldn’t last, as he would always come down. He wanted something more sustainable, a true transformation of consciousness.  He found his teacher Maharajji who gave him the new name, no longer Robert Albert.  Now called Ram Dass, he reported that the yogic breathing practice of pranayama created the same changes in consciousness as LSD.  He also said there were another means to change consciousness including “right action” and “karma yoga”, Buddhist and Hindu concepts of acting in service to others.  In my work with storytelling, I have found telling stories and listening to stories also changes consciousness. Joseph Campbell the wizard of stories, says that the hero in stories goes through “process of self-annihilation, and undergoes a metamorphosis” (pg 77).

Michael Pollan in a 2019 book, How to Change Your Mind, has rekindled public interest in psychedelics making a case for psychological healing and ways to expand consciousness including a method to move beyond an ego-restricted perception of reality.  In his own experience of taking azzies, a nickname for Psilocybe azurescens, a psychedelic mushroom, Pollan says, “I had “a drug experience”.  The psilocybin in the mushroom unlocked 5-hydroxytryptamine 2-A receptors in my brain…waking dream, interesting and pleasurable.” (Pg. 135).   He details research and many people’s experience with hallucinogenics. But he is not only interested in “highs”, Pollan says that his experience was not magical or divine, but a new slant on reality.

Ram Dass’ initial interest in highs mutated to an interest in altering and sustaining a changed consciousness, that of love.  He says, “The only thing you have to offer to another human being, ever, is your own state of being…. But everything you do…. You’re only manifesting of how evolved in consciousness you are.” (Pg. 6)

So the point of Ram Dass’ early psychedelic experiences, and even possibly Pollan’s interest in the same, may not be about the highs, but changing human consciousness for healing and opening the potential of love and service to the self and other. Ram Dass changed his journey from the highs of psychedelics to the meditative practice of pranayama.  For me, I’ve moved from yoga to Zen meditation to storytelling.  The point isn’t to create “highs”, but finding ways to move human consciousness to the energy of love and service to others through a sustainable practice. And truly, Ram Dass is not the archetype of highs, but the archetype of the transformation of consciousness.

Ram Dass, (1974). The only dance there is. Anchor Press

Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces. Yogi Impressions.

Pollan, M. (2018).  How to change your mind.  Penguin Books.

Jane Fonda: Archetype of Women’s Liberation?

Liberation is setting someone free, and an archetype is an energy pattern that emanates a given characteristic. Jane Fonda might seem an odd choice as an archetype of women’s liberation. She predates the surge of Women’s Liberation, marked by the publication of MS magazine in 1971. One might think Gloria Steinem one of the founders of MS magazine would be a better choice.  But I like Jane Fonda as an archetype because she is complicated.  Women’s liberation is complicated.

When I was 12 in 1960, I saw Jane Fonda in the move, Tall Story, I was transfixed, I wanted to be like her.  At 12, I hadn’t yet questioned the societal feminine stereotype of sexual objectification.  Jane projected that stereotype but there was something else, a strength that emanated resiliency. Her own life story has been complicated as she was vilified for seemingly supporting the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, and at the same she has set up a non-profit to empower young women in their health choices.

Like Jane, my path to women’s liberation has been complicated.  In the 70s, I found my voice with MS magazine.  One of the first issues was “why do women shave their legs”.  Seeing that, I thought, right, why?  Growing up my brother seemed to have liberation, and I wanted that as well. The feminists of the 70s were all about ripping up the patriarchy.  We would hiss when speakers would use the words “mankind” or “he” in their talks. But we also wanted to be sexy, and mothers, and loving wives and have careers.

Jane Fonda has been married three times, and so have I.  My sister says I ruin family pictures, with different husbands.  I’ve always questioned my choices, which don’t seem to jive with my desire to be a loving partner and a good mother.  But in thinking about women’s liberation I realized part of my protesting the patriarchy was trying to figure out how to be free within a marriage. I wasn’t able to successfully navigate this and I felt I was living a dissonance. But now I’ve forgiven myself. I’ve realized I, like Jane, was seeking liberation.

I know the current generation of feminists are figuring this out, to find liberation in their own way within marriage. It will remain complicated but they will do a better job. They know more.

In Oct 2019 at 82 Jane was arrested three times for civil disobedience protesting for climate change.  She is now working on setting the Earth free from human pollution and continues to emanate resiliency in finding new ways to stand up for liberation.  I’ve been resilient as well, and I hope even though the feminists of the 70s didn’t solve how to integrate women’s competing roles, that we can at least pass on our resiliency.

 

Cinderlad and Cycling Hills

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I just returned from Quebec from a trip with Discovery Bicycle Tours.  This was one of the best cycling experiences of my life, and the story of Cinderlad from my childhood got me up quite a few steep hills. The tour was in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.  We started about 15 miles south of the Canada in the town of Montgomery Center, Vermont.  A tiny town with just a few buildings, but two hip bicycle shops, telling me we were in the right place to begin. In less than an hour we were in the hills, lakes, vineyards and the maple forests flaming in reds, yellows and oranges of Canada. Threading disarming inns, and luscious wine tasting rooms, were hills and more hills.  Even though slow, I am a strong and steady climber, living at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona. I cycle up 2,000 feet to Snow Bowl a few times a summer. These climbs spice up my longer 35 and 40 mile trips out to Lake Mary where my eyes dance with the Osprey fishing.  But it is still a challenge to do miles of hills each day.

I was motivated this year to do the extra loops, sometimes with steep hills. The maple splendor, l’erable spectaculaire, was so awesome that I couldn’t quite grasp it.  I relied on my summer training, but also the story of Cinderlad to help me get up the hills.  Cinderlad says in this story, “if it doesn’t get much worse, I  can manage to stand it.”

Let me explain how this came in handy. Cinderella’s story is woven into Western society’s zeitgeist, but there is a similar Italian fairy tale, with a different slant.  In this story there is a farmer with three sons.  The youngest sits in the cinders in the evenings, hence the name, and only has rags to wear. He is relentlessly bullied by his two arrogant older brothers, and Cinderlad’s hardworking father who has lost his grip after the death of his wife, doesn’t seem to notice.

Life has a miserable routine for Cinderlad. He labors all day making up for the work his brothers shirk, and is berated each evening by them. He finds protection buried in the cinders of the hearth each night.  Things change on St. John the Baptist’s Day, falling on June 24 each year, It is what Joseph Campbell’s deems a “call to adventure.” There is a great horrible sounds in the night, and the next day all the family’s grain has been chomped down to a nub. This creates dire straits for the family, struggling without a crop for year.  The next year, the elder, dandy son brags, “I’ll go out on St. John the Baptist’s night and slay whatever creature there is.”  But in the middle of the night, he comes screaming home, his hair one end in fright.  This repeats the next year, as well, with the next older son.

The family is becoming destitute, and the fourth year, Cinderlad steps up, not bragging, but with quiet determination. His brothers scoff.  Undaunted, Cinderlad goes out into the middle of the fields to a small hut. At midnight the noise begins, and the earth shakes.  At that point, he says to himself, “if it doesn’t get much worse, I can manage to stand it.”  After his words there is a sudden dead, still calm.  Cinderlad comes out of the hut, and remarkably standing there is a study horse with a knight’s bronze armor hanging from the saddle.  Cinderlad goes back in the hut, and the earth shattering noise begins again.  This happens a total of three times that night, and as Cinderlad stays with his post all night, he is rewarded, with a total of three horses, yes three, with three suits of armor, one bronze, one silver, one gold.   The grain is saved, and Cinderlad’s life explodes into glory. He wins the hand of kingdom’s princess in a competition with the horses and suits armor, defying expectations and leaving his brothers in the dust.

Cinderlad’s example of steadfastness helped me get up those hills in Quebec.  I know some climbing techniques such as paying attention to the breath, inhaling and exhaling, saving the legs by gearing down, rolling down the shoulders, relaxing the upper body, counting a rhythm, “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.”  But really I wanted to be like Cinderlad, I wanted to stay with the moment, a beautiful hill in a startling beautiful place, and I did say Cinderlad’s quote to myself, “If it doesn’t get any worse, I can manage to stand it.”    Maybe a cognitive psychologist might minimize this as merely self-talk, or a positive psychologist might judge this as negative and counterproductive. But what I call it is a way to stay present time and a way to steady myself amidst difficulty to keep going for a goal. Being steadfast.  I did it, I got to the top of many hills.  I felt beauty inside and out.

 

Archetypal Imagery Coaching for Wisdom

I recently did a webinar for Fielding Graduate University’s Evidence Based Coaching program on how coaches could use Archetypal Imagery to prompt clients to contact their deep wisdom.  It seemed to work really well. Participants liked it. These were my topics…

  • defining archetypes,
  • leading imagery,
  • picking an archetype, and
  • using an archetype to find wisdom for daily life.

I started with a story to show how the mind is full, flooded with perceptions, reactive from buried emotions, worries and more.  Because of this, coaches’ clients can’t connect their deep wisdom.  I often use the story of the six blind man and the elephant to emphasize this. In the story, there are six blind men. They are asked to feel what’s in front of them and say what it is.  One by one, they say the following after feeling:

the side, a “wall”;

the tusk, a “spear”;

the ears, “fan”;

the tail, a “rope”

the trunk, a “snake”;

the leg, a “tree”.

Not one could perceive the essence of the elephant.

In day to day life, coaching clients only perceive a small portion of reality.  However, coaches can help clients contact their deep wisdom so they can see clearly. Archetypal imagery can do this.

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An archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a given characteristic. Usually one recognizes an archetype right away.  The characteristic just pops out right away. For example, the Greek goddess Gaia conveys PROTECTION.  In Gaia’s story she protects life even when her mate, Ouranos, tells her to kill their deformed children the one-eyed cyclops, or when her son, Cronos, wants her to kill his son Zeus because of the prophecy that Zeus will take over Cronos’ throne.

In its quest for stability, the ego keeps consciousness tied up with a busy mind. But the ego likes archetypes since they are part of a natural psychodynamic for organizing personality. Visualizing an archetype quiets the ego to open the mind to deep wisdom.  Wisdom is lifeability, or making one’s life work. Coaches can help their clients gain this lifeability to solve problems.

It is not complicated to help coaching clients find an archetype, since it can happen in a playful and intuitive way. I have an archetype quiz on my blog, quizzes in my book, and cards available. Also, a 13-minute pod cast on the front page of my web site leads a person on an imagery exercise to find an archetype.

It is particularly powerful to image an archetype.  Imagery is a magical way to relax the mind. One participant at my webinar asked, “What do you do with clients who think imagery isn’t the thing for them?”    I think sharing data on its physiological effects is the way to encourage a client to try it.  According Martin Rossman M.D

“Whether it’s for relaxation, problem-solving, healing, or self-development, learning to use your imagination skillfully can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make with your time.”

After choosing an archetype a client can work with it.  Psychologists like me call this amplifying an archetype. Coachees can draw it, find stories about it and tell the coach its main characteristic.

Then, the coach can prompt the client to imagine a current stressful incident. The coach asks the client to tell about the incident in detail, telling about perceptual details of the scene, describing the scene blow by blow.  Eventually the coach prompts the client to find the main feeling that the scene evokes in the body.  After the feeling is named, then the scene is repeated, this time the client is asked to bring in the archetype.  What would happen in the scene, if the person embodied that archetype’s characteristic?  How would things change?  The coach then  has the client check in with their body again and see  what has happened to the feeling in the body?  What insight emerged? What wisdom did the client bring to the situation?

figure 6.49To show how this might work, I had the webinar participants pretend that their archetype was “The World.”  Its main characteristic is fulfillment.  I asked the participants to imagine a recent stressful situation in detail.  Then I asked them to imagine that they embodied this characteristic -fulfillment. What might they do differently, or how might they shift their perception? What might they do in a similar situation the next time?

Archetypal imagery can be a powerful tool for coaches to help clients contact their deep wisdom for transformation.

Resources:

Imagery Quiz & Finding an Archetype & Relaxation Imagery Podcasts

Annabelle’s 60 min webinar on Using Archetypal Imagery for Accessing Deep Wisdom with Coaching Clients

 

Archetype Quiz: Insight About a Concern

Click below….

Check out the new simpler, smarter, more helpful archetype quiz!

inside_4-3020Archetypes are energy patterns in the collective unconscious that humans align with to organize their personalities.  When discovered, an archetype can release energy and create numinous clarity!  Focus on a current concern, read the statements, find the one that has resonance today, click and you will see an archetype and its characteristic.  Nurture that characteristic for the day, print the coloring page if you want to color a little to strengthen the  embodiment. Make the characteristic your own.   Bring new insight to the concern….

A few of the 27 statements… go to the page to see the rest… get your archetype of the day!

I feel things before they happen.

It feels like a new day.

I am able to right wrongs.

I can get the financial and legal resources I need.

I feel equilibrium.

Things are going my way.

I feel deeply connected to spirit.

 

 

Wisdom & Archetypes

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Thomas Aquinas, 13th century theologian, said that wisdom could be defined as lifeability or making one’s life work. Often, this means figuring out how to map and face life’s adversity.  Unfortunately, this can happen frequently, issues to solve in one’s life that is.  However, there is hope. Even though negativity happens in life, there is way of fostering wisdom to roll with the punches, and come out adept at making one’s life work.  Visualizing archetypes is a tool to develop such wisdom.

Archetypes are the main characters in cultural stories. These archetypes embody a characteristic that can help solve our current issues. Stories show tried and true patterns of lifeability.

Usually the mind is full of worries, or sensations but visualizing an archetype quiets the mind and helps a person embody the characteristic of an archetype. This is important since the archetypes in stories hold characteristics of human wisdom built over centuries to create lifeability.

An archetype from a story may demonstrate this.  There is a Yoruba story, called “The Children”.  The Yoruba are a group of people in Western Africa, and many African Americans in the U.S. can trace their descent there.  The main character in this story is an older woman, representing the archetype of an elder.  Of course, elders embody wisdom.  In this story, the people in the village often helped the elder, fixing her house and bringing her food.  But they got tired of this, and decided they didn’t need to do it anymore.  The next year, many of their children became sick, and they realized that they had forgotten about the elder and her knowledge.  The people didn’t know what to do, but they decided to ask the elder for help.  They went to her house and asked for help, and she showed them how to make an herbal remedy. The children then became well.  They would never again forget to visit her, and clean her house, and fix leaks, and make her food.  They realized that it was essential to give respect to the elder, for the health of the community.  One of the elder’s characteristic was knowledge from experience Embodying this characteristic can people reflect and bring their experience to bear on life’s ups and downs.

I’ve chosen the archetype of a tree to represent the knowledge of the elder.  Just for a moment, try out the technique of visualizing an archetype. Think about a magnificent tree you have seen and maybe even touched, that represents knowledge to you. Now visualize that tree. In your mind’s eye, look at it carefully, the color of the leaves and the trunk.  Reach out in the visualization and touch the trunk. Look up at sky above it, and notice its color and if there are clouds. Can you hear the leaves rustling in the wind? What word comes to you for the characteristic you would give this tree?  Now imagine that you embody that characteristic, it is in your bones and courses through your blood. If you had that characteristic how might your face something important in your life, how you could create lifeability for yourself?

 

Solstice Stars

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 The star archetype is about self-healing. I’ve chosen it as the archetype for Winter Solstice, the longest night of year, when the stars are very bright in the very dark night sky.  I live in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is officially designed a “dark” city meaning that ambient light from street lamps, for example, are reduced

Flagstaff is home to the Lowell Observatory, where astronomers discovered Pluto.  Too bad Pluto is no longer a planet, but in Flagstaff we don’t believe this   Here on Winter Solstice night the Milky Way is a brilliant spray of diamonds.  I sit in awe and realize what a gift my life is. I’m thankful I can perceive this beauty. The Dalai Lama said, “you don’t realize what a gift it is to have a life.”  I do realize that, this gift of life, on Winter Solstice when I sit in the dark with the brilliance of the stars in my eyes.

Recall that an archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a primary characteristic, and in this case the primary characteristic of a star may be different to different people.  That is, one thing I love about archetypes, people bring their uniqueness and their deep self gives the meaning that is needed at the present time. For me the star is about being quiet and realizing the beauty in the universe. The long night encourages rest and reflection to sense this beauty.

I often have a solstice party or ceremony with my friends or family.  We sit in the dark, and if inside a house, we turn off all the lights, unplugging appliances, stopping the low hum of routers or refrigerators. We sit; we sense the dark.  I often ask people what they like about the dark, and there are so many answers: quiet, rest, being invisible, heightened senses, hearing the pulse of the universe, sensing magic….

I think the star works.  I enjoy the dark and rejoice in the paradox. This paradox that when people sit in the dark, they then can see the light a little brighter.