Category Archives: Moving Towards Joy

What You Put in Your Glass

Ramadan Lanterns. Photo by B. Simpson

Ramadan Lanterns. Photo by B. Simpson

Ramadan this year started on June 18th. In 2001, my husband and I were living in Giza, right in front of the pyramids. A few months after 9/11, Ramadan began and we were blessed with a special experience.

The days before Ramadan in Cairo are filled with anticipation. Paper and tinsel streamers appear across inner courtyards and wide roads. Lanterns and miniature mosques made of everything from crepe paper to recycled tin are hung and lit at night. Everyone waits for the sliver of moon to appear and to hear the official news announcing the start of the 30-day fast.

“Ten days eating. Ten days cake. Ten days new clothes. This is what they say about Ramadan,” Mr. Ashraf told us the night he drove my husband and I to his home for Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daylong fast.

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Meeting at the Well Spring – Part II

Assagioli’s archives – accumulators of energy

Roberto AssagioliThick blue boxes wait for us at various tables throughout the villa where Assagioli once lived, worked, and studied. Some of us move to rooms where he and his wife once slept, ate, or received guests. Windows are open and dry hot breezes waif in from the street and neighboring courtyard. At first, we buzz with excitement along with a touch of anxiety, dividing ourselves amongst the boxes like kids in a candy shop or at the school library.

Boxes labeled: “The Will—Italiano,” “Transpersonal Self—English,” “Writings of others,” “Handwritten Notes of Assagioli—English” call to us. Without much thought, I sit in front of the first free box I find, one labeled “Superconscious Material—English.” I unsnap the box’s clip, unwind the protective blue cover, and discover folders and folders of material.

Reverently I open each folder. Staring back through time are onion-skinned papers lined with typed quotations, handwritten notes, various pamphlets and letters all concerning superconscious material. Suddenly I stop shifting through these pages, frozen by a simple note of Assagioli’s: “The Will of God.” It is paper-clipped to a small book on prayer written by an American minister. The book’s margins are full of penciled notes. Double vertical lines run along the edge of a paragraph he once noted, some words in the text are underlined for emphasis. The Will of God. I shudder and cry.
It is all so much, so I stop, climb the stairs to the apartment where his principal collaborator, secretary, and the first president of the Institute of Psychosynthesis after his death, Ida Palombi, once lived with her cats. I sip black coffee, ease myself into a chair on the terrace and breathe in the room’s empty silence.
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Meeting at the Well Spring – Part I

Casentino ValleyThis is a two part series about my visit to Assagioli’s archives in 2007. In October, my husband, Dr. Kees den Biesen, and I will also spend a day at Casa Assagioli on our guided trip In Dante’s Footsteps: A Psychosynthesis Trip to Florence and the Casentino Valley. For more information, see PoeticPlaces.org.


Another scorching June afternoon in Italy. The bus descends the winding road down from Rocca di Papa onto the autostrada as we head north to Florence. We are thirty pilgrims on our way to Casa Assagioli, the home in Florence where the founder of Psychosynthesis Roberto Assagioli lived, worked, taught, and wrote. The first group to directly encounter Assagioli’s archives, we come from all over the world—Canada, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, France, Haiti, Spain, Poland, Ireland, the USA and, of course, Italy.

Our hosts are Alle Fonti della Psicosintesi, translated as “At the Well Spring of Psychosynthesis.” Since 2007, this international group has been sifting and sorting through the boxes of material that Assagioli accumulated during his lifetime. Initially gathered and examined after Assagioli’s death in 1974, his notes, international correspondence, appointments, articles, books, pamphlets, hand-written reflections, and scholarly assessments were later stored in the “Esoteric Room” of his house.

We about to spend the day visiting Assagioli’s house, study, and garden. In addition, we would have the unique opportunity to experience the archives ‘hands on.’ An afternoon would be devoted to our reading, studying, and perusing the cataloged files including original handwritten material by Assagioli.

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Spring Breath of God

With standing room only, the bus sped down the freeway on a bright warm morning. Once we turned onto the bollenstreek, long ribbons of intense blue, mauve, and white stretched to the near horizon. At the same time, the colours seemed to invade inside and pour over us. Fields of yellow daffodils blared spring’s final triumph over the particularly long winter. Every head on the bus turned and gazed. And then suddenly, quite spontaneously, everyone sighed together, “Aaahhhhhhhh.” A breath song of collective awe.

We were headed to Keukenhof Gardens, near the Dutch town of Lisse, famous for its variety of bulb flowers, especially tulips. I was feeling particularly triumphant because I had two Dutch people in tow. My husband had finally run out of excuses and decided to appease his American wife. Along with us was a friend who had actually lived near the gardens for the past 35 years and had never visited them before.

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Does Prayer Matter? Sending Help to Nepal

Prayer flags    earthquake Kathmandu. Photo by Luca Galuzzi. www.galuzzi.it

Prayer flags flying before the earthquake in Kathmandu. Photo by Luca Galuzzi. http://www.galuzzi.it

Immediately before dying by firing squad in Indonesia, eight men convicted of drug trafficking sang Amazing Grace. On the same day, across the globe in Baltimore, Maryland, a large crowd gathered in the riot-torn streets of their city to also sing Amazing Grace. I was moved to learn about these simultaneous events and particular struck by their media coverage on BBC news.

These past days, I have been praying for the Nepalese people caught under rubble, trenched by rain and hovering in makeshift tents in the middle of Kathmandu, fearful every time another aftershock unrattles their trust in the earth under their feet. Last Christmas a good friend who just returned from Nepal on business brought me a stream of colorful prayer flags. Since then, these prayer flags have hung across my terrace roof tagging along with the white grape vine that is just starting to burst with leaves.

I imagine my prayers leaping off my lips onto these colorful square pieces of cloth and then flying home to Nepal. In the Tibetan tradition, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, but rather the prayers are blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion to all.

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When Spirit and Matter Converge – Synchronicity

IMG_2149Most of us have experienced two or more events that seemed to converge in our lives in a peculiar and perhaps disturbing, yet wondrous way. For example, you might be thinking of someone you’ve lost touch with years ago, and suddenly she contacts you. Jung, along with the physicist Pauli, defined such instances as synchronistic events, a series of meaningful coincidences of events that go beyond the probability of them actually happening.

Jung and Assagioli had a long-term professional and friendly relationship that began in 1907 and lasted until Jung’s death in 1961. Assagioli acknowledges Jung’s term ‘synchronicity’ in his unpublished notes found in his archive. He mentions synchronicity as a way to understand the “correspondence between the date of the positions of the stars [astrology] and the psychological characteristics” of a person.[1]

Jung, along with the physicist Pauli,   developed the idea of synchronicity.

Jung, along with the physicist Pauli,developed the idea of synchronicity.

While counseling clients, I have often experienced synchronistic events and have come to understand them as spirit seeking matter. Many people believe that spirit and matter are dualistic in nature – that spirit is ‘higher’ than matter, which throughout various cultures and time has inevitably led humankind to identify matter with evil. From my own experience, I believe that spirit actually needs matter to express itself, and the two are best when joined together in a higher revelation of universal life meaning. Synchronicity is one form of that higher expression, as are symbols and symbolic thought. Continue reading

The Passion of Everyday

Women at the Tomb from a Syriac Gospel, Northern Iraq

For Western Christians around the world, this is Passion Week. (Eastern Christians celebrate next week.) Believers commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the Passover meal, his crucifixion, death and resurrection. In Spain, there are elaborate and nightlong processions of masked penitents heaving gigantic statues depicting the suffering of Jesus and Mary. When I was living in Italy, I once had a friend visiting me who, after a day of sightseeing in Rome, said quite candidly, “I’m tired of every time I go into a church, I have to look at statue of a man being tortured and nailed to a cross.”

What might we understand from this disturbing image that seems to simultaneously fascinate and repel? First of all, it’s important to see the complete picture of the Passion. The story does not end with the crucifixion, but actually starts there. The Passion is only complete with the resurrection, but we tend to ignore this essential part of the story, preferring to dwell on the murderous nature of Jesus’ death. Does this sound familiar? Isn’t this just what the media does? Burying the good news until it’s impossible to see?

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The Calendar is Round

A discarded ship container is recycled into a children's library.

A discarded ship container is recycled into a children’s library.

One of my friends in Japan emailed to wish me a happy birthday. “In Japan, turning 60 is a special birthday,” she wrote. “We call it “Calendar Round” or 還 暦  (kanreki).”

“More like Body Round!” I wrote back jokingly. But this idea of coming full circle intrigued me. Calendar Round comes from the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar dating back to 2000 B.C. This calendar has 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches. Since 60 is the first number that both 10 and 12 can divide, the cycle is considered complete after sixty years.

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Crossing the Threshold into Old Age

Threshold

We cross many thresholds throughout our lifetime.

Tomorrow I will turn 60. What a surprise to softly land at this decade of life after so many turbulent years! I’m afraid that I cannot take any credit for it happening. My arrival has come all by itself with God’s grace.

I am happy to be on the threshold of old age. One of my friends recently said, “Oh, you are entering the age of wisdom.”

“I don’t know about wisdom,” I replied, pointing to my grey hair. “But I am certainly entering the age of whitedom, wrinkledom, and forgetfulness!” I understand this birthday as the beginning of another part of my life which is about to unravel.

As Brigitte Bardot said, “It’s sad to grow old, but it’s nice to ripen.” Old age may be the time when your body starts to fail in strength, energy, and functionality. But it is also the time when the soul starts to ripen. In old age you finally have the time and perspective to weave the various threads of your life into a more comprehensive understanding of yourself. Old age is the time to harvest all your experiences into a synthesis of Joy.

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Playing with Dream Symbols

dreamsAssagioli wrote little about dreams or how to interpret them. Despite being a student of Freud’s and colleague of Jung’s, he felt that dreams reveal only a partial aspect of the human personality. He also believed that only part of the unconscious is able, or willing, to express itself through dreaming. He wrote that dreams that occur during the psychosynthesis process reveal the dreamer’s energetic forces, environment, and the inner world that birthed the dream.

In the last blog, I wrote about symbols and how we can consciously use them to further our personal and spiritual growth. We can also use the symbols that unconsciously appear to us in our dreams. Dreams are expressions of our life force, and the symbols that appear in them can be interpreted a multitude of ways from both a personal and collective perspective. Jung was once asked for advice from someone who had the idea of publishing a dictionary of symbols. His response was not to do it, since each symbol would require an entire book!

Jung’s general advice about how to look at a dream is:

“Treat every dream as though it were a totally unknown object. Look at it from all sides, take it in your hand, carry it about with you, let your imagination play around with it.”

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