NON-ESSENTIAL ME

tied hands
My thoughts have focussed quite intently on this word ESSENTIAL over the last while. When lockdown closed in on all of us we were constantly reminded of what is essential and what is non-essential. As countries recover from the alleged waves of the pandemic, the lockdown severity is decreased in accordance with the essential nature of services.
(Some would consider that very debatable but that is another matter.)

Prior to the lockdown in South Africa, I was in hospital for surgery and had first hand experience to remind me of the vital role of medical staff. Whenever I heard about frontline staff I thought about the many traumatic sights and sounds I experienced during those eventful five days in hospital. A week after I was discharged the lockdown began. My admiration for medical service providers during my personal experience was reinforced in the context of the covid-19 pandemic.

There was however a shadow side to all this admiration. I began to feel less and less “essential”. I could not save lives. I could not even cook a pot of food for myself let alone contribute to relief efforts struggling to cope with a hunger crisis resulting “from no, work no pay”. My non-essential existence was reinforced with every message that only essential services are required. Childhood experiences have tuned my psychic antenna to search for messages of worthlessness. These had become vital cues to my survival. Many people share those experiences and for those who don’t, there are sufficient messages from modern society fear-mongering us to question our worth. We spend a lifetime trying to prove that our existence matters. Most of that effort is to prove our worth to ourselves. We hope that our skills, money, status will save us from the doom of being worthless.

As I sunk further into feelings of worthlessness, my efforts to validate my existence included thoughts of learning some essential skill at least. These thoughts were involuntary and intrusive. They arose from the unconscious processes over which I have no control. They found their way into my dreams demanding attention. I had a series of such dreams one night in which there were various scenes from the pandemic. In all these scenes there was a common thread – I could not make a contribution no matter how hard I tried. In one scene I was unable to wash the dishes. If I shared these thoughts with friends they will shower me with ideas and reminders that I matter and that I have some contribution to make. I could write an essay on all the wonderful things I have done in the world to argue my worth. I could also write an essay deliberating on what essential really means in a given context. I am not going to do any of that. Instead of dressing up an old wound to make myself feel better, I am going to walk toward this dreaded mirror and face the fear-feeding boggarts like Potter did.

I am going spend time embracing a part of myself I have rejected my entire life. I am going to welcome the part of me that I have fought so hard to banish. I am going to spend this lockdown period with my non-essential self who can’t save lives or cook a pot of food right now. I am going to ask her to forgive me for a lifetime of exile. I am going to forgive her for the silent ways in which she tormented me. I suspect fibromyalgia was one such way given its ruthless way of triggering thoughts of worthlessness. She and I will share stories and find a way to bring the fragments together and form a whole.

I will eventually cook a pot of food for a relief effort and I will sew face masks again. I will use all the skills I have gained over the last 50 years. When I do these things, my non-essential self and I will work together. We will have times when we are of great and admirable service and we will have times when we have nothing to offer anyone. In the productive times she will not be a rejected part of myself. In the idol times she will guide me. Instead of the harsh judgement and questions of self-worth, there will be gifts of wisdom from a part of myself I will have access to. This is what is meant by the Jungian term of integration and wholeness.

I am non-essential as much as I am essential. As the outer-world continues to remind me of my non-essential part, I accept the invitation and pull up a chair at the great mirror. I know this part of myself and now it is time to bring her home from the exile. Though she is not me, she is part of me and without her I cannot be whole.

Michelene Dianne Benson

Sophia and the Chalice

april scs symbols

Clear blue skies and ancient mountain slopes

Despairing I search them tapping on elusive windows of hope

Another doctor, another hospital another encounter with fear and fate

Anxiety and trepidation mount in another waiting room

 

A tower rises boldly above the maze of medical buildings

In plain sight guiding like a beacon and I hear it speak

I know my journey will end there

But there are mountains to cross and miles to cover

In the dark of night I see the tower and the clear blue skies

Wearily I consider the mountains and the miles

Those that are behind me and those that are yet before me

Helplessly, I surrender to this journey

 

Searching for solace, my hands begin to craft

A full moon is rising in this dark night of the soul

Sacred Sanskrit symbols burning into the wood grain

Burning, scarring,  gaining meaning and significance

 

The windows of hope fly open and grace finds me longing

I pass by the tower reverently  lifting up mine eyes to this hill again

I see her – The Lady with the Lamp

Her voice that guided me over mountains and across many miles

 

Her lamp shines bright even amidst the clear blue skies

A solitary guidance through that Dark Night of The Soul

Sophia!

Endless, timeless holy, fount of wisdom – Sophia!

 

Sophia I called out

Sophia I learned to trust

In her bosom I rested my weary being

Sophia, her voice channelled, “You are here now!”

 

Chalice Divine, I call thee Blessed!

Chalice of life, sacred source of my blood, vessel of creation

Life and death danced harmoniously within your walls

Mother moon directing our seasons of living  and our seasons dying

 

Blessed are you Sophia

Blessed are the sacred words of the wise ones

Blessed are you chalice of creation

Blessed are you in your living and in your dying

 

Divine you must be for in your dying there is great living

Creativity flows again, a life blood through my being

The ancient one who guards the cross roads welcomes me mischievously

Adventure awaits, new mountains and new miles

 

She, who leaves gift offerings to remind me she is my companion

She, who changes form and is not confined

The one who is creation herself

This is the new season of my becoming

 

I am the creation

I am  life in all my changing forms

I am the mountains and the blue skies

I am the tower that beckons

I am the blood

I am the divine  chalice

I am the sacred words of the wise ones

I am beloved Sophia

I am the lamp that shines brightly

I am the formless ancient one at the crossroads

I am the roads and I am the traveller

On this thanksgiving …

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for knowing the truth of the thanksgiving practice

Thankful for those who have spoken up and spoken out and refused to participate in the lies and myths that aimed to cover up genocide

Thankful to know that beneath the lavish festivities lies the shame of our brutality and perpetual cruelty fueled by greed

Thankful to the warriors who took up arms or a word of peace to find solutions and protect their families

Thankful to the mothers who sang the lullabies of hope and truth to the children while the plagues “sent by god” consumed a people and another people gave thanks

Thankful to the medicine women who searched tirelessly to find the herbs and potions to ward off the foreign killers

Thankful for my own anger to the religious masquerade of giving thanks to the god who wiped out those we called savages so that we could take their land and live our dreams

Thankful for my sadness and despair for those in self destructive lifestyles as a result of their rituals and practices destroyed in the name of Christianity

Thankful for the original practice of thanksgiving to the Great Spirit by the first peoples of America

Thankful for the extension of Love and Grace by the first peoples of America to the pilgrims

Thankful for the deep wisdom of the ancestors – the children, the great chiefs and wise women.  A wisdom that survived the genocide and has been preserved throughout the years

Thankful for the women who visit me in my dreams and tell the stories of that time

Thankful for the eagles who remind me of my connection and oneness with the first peoples of America

Thankful to the men and women currently working hard to re-member the traditions and rituals that were plundered and continue to be  plundered through systematic violence

Thankful for the awareness that a voice unheard, silenced or banished will always find expression

Thankful that thanksgiving posts are not limited to turkeys and table decor – some tell the stories that demand to be heard

Thankful for the awareness that we are both our light and our darkness, our shadow and our light, our festivities and our fatalities, our celebrations and our failures, our thanksgiving bounty and thanksgiving brutality, our pride and our shame, our American dream and our American nightmare

Thankful to the Great Spirit who guides us toward healing and truth …

AHO

Escaping the laundry for a little soul space – step into your peace

writing deskI flew in this morning after taking my youngest to school.  The mental note I made last night was “You have to start with the laundry early in the morning!”  It was accompanied by reinforcement admonishments to stay off the blog, avoid watching You tube lectures and be sure to apply all the time management rules to avoid distractions.  Well, I have only one response which I pinch from the youth … LOL – Laugh out Loud!  Here I am on the blog and much like a rebellious teenager on social media networking when they are suppose to be studying, I am feeling mischievous and somewhat rebellious. A most wonderful way to access the creative side!

The craziest part of this post is that I have no idea what I am going to write about. I have no great insight and no deep struggle I am working through.  It is just a very average time between the week that has gone and the weekend ahead.  Without my obvious promptings I myself am wondering – why am I being summoned here in what feels like a free writing exercise with no clear goal at all?  The question is even more intriguing because there are days when I have a collection of apparently meaningful prompts and I just never get to blog it.

I do not have to think too much about it though.  I know what calls me here and as the awareness comes to light I realise what the intention for this post is.  What called me to the writing desk is not a prompting of a subject or question but a prompting of my soul for a little space and a time to be.  In the time between the week that has gone by and the weekend that is to come (and the laundry that awaits) there was a deep yearning to be.  The many obligations of the week had me running from pillar to post.  I am sure you can identify with that.  The weekend will be filled with family time and the pressures of pre-exam preparation for the children.  I celebrate with deep gratitude the change of pace of the weekend and the blessings of joy and fellowship it brings as family and friends gather in our home.  For the empath, creative, spiritualist, highly sensitive person this can also be quite a hair raising time.  A time of so much merriment that makes us forget about the need for solitude to maintain our sense of equilibrium.

The beckoning to the writing desk which overlooks my garden-bird sanctuary is an intuitive call of the soul to come away for just a little while.  A time to sit in silence and observe the turtle doves at the birdbath.  A time to create and allow the voice inside a moment of expression.  A time to step into my picture of bliss and my imaginings of what peacefulness looks and feels like.  This is it! This is what it feels like for me .. ahhh! Taking this moment in the time between to be still and create is a moment of deep rest for me.  Perhaps for you it does not involve writing but painting.  For another there may not be a bird sanctuary but a meditation with Tibetan singing bowls. What matters most is that we hear the beckoning of the creative, intuitive, inner self to come away and to step into the picture of what peacefulness looks like and feels like.

We may not have all the resources or the finances to create that picture.  My writing desk looks nothing like the beautiful cover picture of this post.  That is my dream.  The desk I actually use is aaphrodite and sparrows makeshift structure of loose boards on two stacker draw units.  The garden and the birds are real but it was created from odd bits I collected at the garden refuse dump.  The birds, well I think they come for the seeds and to manifest my deep desire for their presence.  With Aphrodite being one of my archetypes it follows that I have sparrows to entertain me.  (Sparrows were considered to be the favourite pet of the Goddess)

I share this with you because I am aware that most of us do not always fill our peaceful spaces and creative areas with things that are meaningful to us.  Most often we’ve seen the interior decorating trend which is nothing but someone’s imagining of what beautiful could be or worse – what we are told to accept as beautiful.  Deeply connected to the teachings of Carl Jung I realise how much my archetypes play a role in my life and so my spaces are filled with things that speak to those aspects of my grandest self.  Question: Who represents the grandest version of yourself? Tip: Try to imagine mythological, fantasy and timeless heroes and heroines.  These will help you discover your archetypes.  They are not idols and we do not worship them.  I don’t believe Aphrodite ever existed but her character and her stories embody some of the grand imaginings of men and women.  My other archetypes include the Wise Woman like Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas and so the theme song Colours of the Wind conjures up a very grand version of me.  For good measure, I have a male archetype of the Alchemist too.  These characters inspire me and bring out the best of the best of me.  Who does that for you?  My places of inspiration are filled with things that inspire my soul rather than suit the fashion trend.

A memory of the waiting laundry just flitted through  … LOL!

It helps to have your your picture to be at least somewhat attainable so that you can step into elements of it if not all of it.  If peaceful soul time is to be sailing into the sunset on a magnificent cruise ship it may be a little hard to step into it.  I have a theory that when the picture is truly a desire of the soul and not the ego (with all its demands) we will find it quite easy to create the picture. Distinguish between the picture that will support the soul’s desires and the picture that feeds the cravings of the ego.  Creating an attainable picture enables you to have easy access to physical spaces that are aligned to the emotional and spiritual spaces you desire to experience.  They act as portals that can instantaneously transport you to realms in which your soul can find the relief, restoration,and expression it is calling for.  I just ended up on a magical trip remembering my grandest self as a Goddess of Love and Beauty, a Wise Woman who can paint with all the colours of the wind and an Alchemist with the Midas touch.  All this because a makeshift desk and a bird sanctuary, created from discarded treasures, provide me with a portal to a realm where I can step into peace. Just like the Wardrobe in Narnia allows the children to step into a timeless world where they experience themselves as kings and queens with unlimited potential, so our peaceful spaces act as portals to realms that enable us to do the same.

At some point we find the wardrobe again. We look back at the world of the soul with a smile and come back to the here and now with joy in our hearts.  With this joy in my heart, I close this post, giving thanks for the portal and the moments in the timeless world of the soul.  I am smiling as I leave to go do the laundry …

path

The language of the world – An alchemist moment

In loving memory of Brother Dan, who first taught me of the Urim and the Thummim and spent many Sabbaths teaching me about Avram’s encounter with Melchizedek at Mamre – Ahava

Caught between my fear that the motorists behind me would, in their rush hour impatience, not appreciate my holding up the traffic and my compelling realisation that this Egyptian Goose needed to get his family across the road, I had no idea of the blessing awaiting me.  With  a long stretched neck it had a funny way of beckoning from the pavement curb.  The six little goslings were pecking at the ground around their mother as little goslings are meant to do early in the morning.  I have seen them every morning and every afternoon that I cross the Princess Vlei (lake) at Roscommon Road.  Every morning and every afternoon they do what geese do.  But this particular morning the father goose had a definite sort of mission as he stood looking at the oncoming traffic.  His family seemed unperturbed continuing to peck in the gritty path as if trusting that he had it sorted.  I thought perhaps he wanted to cross the road and get his family to the other side.  With no cars behind me I stopped – it was after all a pedestrian crossing!  I hoped and prayed quite unrealistically, with all fingers crossed that there would not be another car behind me for a while at least.   I did not at that moment have any idea of how to stop the oncoming traffic in the other lane. But if a person desires a thing enough the universe conspires right?

It was then … in the moments to follow that I had an Alchemist moment.  Motorists unable to hear one another in the rush hour traffic, a father goose needing to take his family across a bridge, six busy little goslings and a mother goose, all … in the midst of a strange silence …  heard the Language of the World. I saw the need of the goose, the woman in the oncoming lane saw my need, the motorist behind me saw my daughter’s need through the windscreen, the Goose trusted all of us to know his need, the goslings knew instinctively where to go and the Gander waddled some steps behind her family nodding elegantly to the left and to the right as she acknowledged us, It seemed as though she understood the needs of human egos and obliged most gracefully.

Being present to the present I received the omen as I crossed the water … in the midst of great danger one can trust when one knows the Language of the World. Normally that road bend seems busy but this morning it all seemed a little calmer and I somehow I think I  was not the only one present to the omen.

I also think that before reading the Alchemist I might have missed this completely attributing it all to my love for animals.  After reading the Alchemist, I have a language for things I always believed in and I feel incredibly blessed.   I realise now that all that happened in all that time was that I knew my omens and I trust I still do. This morning they came as a family of geese – Egyptian Geese and a stream of motorists who used the Language of the World.  I don’t know what they will be tomorrow.  I have though the shalom that the Urim and the Thummim are with me.

Perhaps you will not have Egyptian Geese when your omen arrives.  Perhaps it may not involve elements of danger and many motorists but “All is written by the same hand” or as they say in Egypt, “Muktab” …

May you be present to your omen …

First published in 2012

Unto each their own unique journey

The journey of life is a very unique one indeed.  Our life stories are filled with intricate details, adventures, personalities, circumstances and histories.  The purpose and the meaning of our lives is viewed through all of these to create even more unique flavour to the journey.  There are so many people we can relate to as they share experiences, thoughts and feelings very similar to our own.  Then there are those who we listen to with absolute puzzlement and we wonder how this person operates and where they come from.

In the self development and transformation journey, we each have our own unique course to chart.  Perhaps the most important starting point is willingness to take any journey at all.  Whether we are willing or not life continues to happen all around us and we get swept along by the force of life.  The willing traveller chooses to be part of plotting the course and greets each adventure with intrigue. They see the events of the past, the present and the future as being uniquely designed to bring about every experience, opportunity, failure, loss, joy and sorrow that was required for the growth, healing and transformation of their soul.

The unique course has its own pace, content, duration and intensity.  No journey is more than or less than another.  A journey is only more than or less than itself – meaning, the choices we make will determine how much we enable and participate in a  journey or how much we disable, retard and disembark from a journey.  In honest reflection, most of us can say whether we are participating in our journey or whether we have disembarked and look on with yearning to the horizons of where we might have been, could have loved, should have known.

There is no template course to follow.  No tried and tested sorrow-proof map.  There is no straight line to the treasure because even the treasure is unique.  The answers that provide one with salvation offer another no great help at all.  The insight of one counts for naught to another.  Unto each is their own unique journey…

A different kind of wise

“In the dark night of the soul you need not give up your intelligence, but you may have to change your idea of what it means to be wise in the conduct of your life. You may have to adopt a different kind of knowing, one is suited to the darkness and not in conflict with it. You need special vision for your dark night because the ordinary ways of thinking may not work. Seeing in the emotional dark is a special talent that might draw out resources you never knew you had.”
Thomas Moore – Dark Nights of The Soul!

Inspired by being uninspired – uncovering fate

On a blog called the Times Between it would make sense to write about feeling uninspired. Just like the times that are between events can seem pretty flat, so the feeling of being uninspired can leave one feeling somewhat deflated. As I reflected on the feeling of being uninspired I asked myself a Jungian type of question. What is this bringing up for me? What does it bring up for all of us when we feel uninspired and think we have nothing to write about, no thoughts to capture and nothing of interest to share in our online journals. I no sooner asked these questions when I could feel the beginnings of a stirring happening and dashed to my writing area. Please join me and let’s see what happens here …zen garden What does the period of non-inspiration look and feel like? For me, there are physical signs like the fact that my writing desk has become a storage area for things I am meaning to pack away. Other physical signs include busyness and focus on the beckoning of the outside world. Psychologically, it means that I am preoccupied with doubt and self-limiting beliefs. Each of us have our own set of self-limiting beliefs that operate during the periods of low or no inspiration. Those beliefs are part of a very complex framework which we cannot delve into here. They include everything from our relationship with our parents (primordial relationships) to the purpose and intention for which we created our blog (conscious choices we make) in the first place. In my case, I enjoy writing and use it as a tool for self development and engaging with my creative, intuitive self. I choose to blog it or make it public because I am a social being who enjoys connection with others. Sharing my writings have proved helpful for others from the feedback I get and this satisfies the teacher and counsellor aspects of my makeup. I am Jung at Heart – meaning that my psyche or soul finds much of its answers through the teaching of Carl G Jung. These teachings reveal that we are often driven to do things and not to do things by forces that we are unaware of. That is a scary thought right. A famous quote by Carl Jung says;

“Until you make the unconscious, conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”

With this context in mind, I look at the alleged fate that I have nothing to write about and nothing valuable to say. I take a deeper look and my alleged fate that I have no time and my desk is a mess. I consider the alleged fate that I am wasting my time with writing while I should be earning money. I am willing to consider my alleged fate that “I am too bloody deep and complicated for my own good” and that people will never understand what I am on about. Shooo – that is a big one and now I am having a “felt sense” that I might have stumbled onto something. But now let me pause and be sure you are taking this journey with me as any proper Zen Garden Hostess would do. Have you thought about some of your alleged fates? What do you make up about your world during the moments of low inspiration? What alleged fates have you used to conclude that the world and life is happening to you? Take a breath …………… and another nice deep breath in and out ………………. Ahhhhhhhh!   Now see what comes up. zen meditate Now, are you willing to look a little deeper and consider the possibility that you are happening to your life. Those forces, thoughts, beliefs, memories in the unconscious are playing out a movie and you are are calling it low inspiration. Nice deep breath – ahhhhhhhhhhh.

This is what comes up for me – My desk is in a mess and become a storage area because in my unconscious I have a belief that I am taking up too much space. The space I am using can be used for something more useful, more constructive, more valuable and definitely more than anything I have to offer. I have no time because I really feel guilty about having the time and the space to write, when there are women older than I am walking the streets looking for work. (Some martyr archetype playing out there I guess). I think that I am wasting my time because I have an old memory that “time is money” from a father who was known to have the Midas Touch. In many ways my Alchemist Archetype is (in Jungian terms) a compensation response pattern to my father’s focus on material wealth. Ooooooo -another insight that just popped up. I am really writing this as its happening and I am starting to feel a bit vulnerable now which is an indicator that I have entered the shadow. Enter Dori – Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! My thought that I am too much, too deep, too complicated is a very old wounding which we know will keep replaying itself throughout the soul’s journey. It is rooted in the inability to unconditionally love oneself and that, as we all know, is a life long journey. We only ever reach pit stops along the way with many dark nights of the soul in between. To the extent that we are willing to engage our illusive and most often insidious shadow, we will engage the process of understanding and accepting of our Self.

How did you do? Make any discoveries about your alleged fates which you invent during your low periods? I would love to hear about it – leave a comment if you are comfortable with that. Thank you for taking the journey with me and being present as I unpacked my alleged fate to discover just how much I have created it. Things are not going to change magically and I am guaranteed of low inspiration days in the future. On those days however, I will be conscious of what is going on in my unconscious and I will not be calling it fate and playing the victim. The awareness will be enough to shift my perception.

Much blessing and love,

Michelene

Crossing Over

CROSSING OVER | Michelene Dianne Benson

Our path is filled with ups and downs
Alternating with smiles and frowns
Lonely dungeons with no hope in sight
Then suddenly we ascend in triumphant flight

Crossing over demands our trust
Moving forward a scary must
Stepping stones we carefully tread
The risk whispers with a voice of dread

Greeted on the other side
Love and gratitude in our hearts abide
Looking back we learn once more
The dungeon was but a needed door.

Artwork | Evgeni Dinev Photography

First published 30 October 2013