Tag Archives: meditation

From Pencils to Cosmic Love

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What better day than St. Valentines to explore Assagioli’s thoughts on Love from a psychosynthetic point of view? But first we have to start with pencils…

In his dialogs with Bruno Caldironi, Assagioli described the process of reflective mediation. This type of meditation is a synthesis of many elements, most notably attention and concentration. The idea is to consciously direct your thoughts to an idea, problem, or concept and note how your thoughts connect, interpenetrate, and link themselves together into a new understanding.

In Assagioli’s careful didactic way, he first gave the simple example of how you might meditate on a pencil.  You might begin like this:

“What’s a pencil? It’s for writing. It’s of wood. It has lead inside…”

After five minutes, you might feel quite finished with these questions, but try to push yourself further by asking:

“Where did the wood come from? What kind of wood might it be? Where does wood come from? From trees…”

4-black-and-white-pencils-blink-imagesAnd then from there, slowly, consider everything regarding trees…  And then the lead…

“What is lead? Graphite? Where do you find graphite? How is it produced? It’s a special state of carbon. What is carbon? What are the different states of carbon? A diamond is also a carbon state. What’s the difference? …”

And so forth… But you’re not finished yet:

“Lead… when was it invented? What are different ways of writing? The computer, a brush, pen, fountain pen, ballpoint pen. What are the differences? Why still use a pencil? What advantage does it have? You can erase a pencil mark. And so, why erase it? What do you write upon? …” And so forth…

Assagioli’s Thoughts on Love

Now let’s take the concept of Love. Here’s what Assagioli said about Love:*

“Before talking about love, and most of all before falling in love, a person ought to meditate for six months on what love is…”

dante paradise assagioli

Assagioli’s note of the final stanza from Dante’s Divine Comedy: “L’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stelle.” (“The love that moves the sun and the other stars.”)

Calidroni immediately interrupted him exclaiming, “But, Professor, they will probably never fall in love again!” Assagioli replied:

“Yes, they will probably fall in love, but in a totally different way. They will fall in love in a better way. Because they will fall in love knowing how to fall in love.

The reflection on love can bring a celebration of love. Absolute Eros… individual reflection of ‘The love that can move the sun and other stars’. My loving is no more than a microcosmic reflection of this great universal force.

You can meditate on various kinds of love, on the different proportions of the different types of love. You need to clearly distinguish sex, passion, tender sentiment, aesthetic appreciation, the communion of the soul, collaboration, commonality of interests, the family, the children. In the love for one person there are all these components, or there ought to be.

And you need to observe the moment in which you fall in love, when you feel attracted to a person, in what percentage are all these various elements present. At the beginning you observe how much happens spontaneously, then the I-consciousness can regulate it, control some of these elements, favoring some of them, in an attempt to bring harmony between the various components.

You could, therefore, meditate on love in general, on this cosmic force, on how it appears in us, in all our emotional relationships, not only towards another individual, but also with regard to all the rest (love of country, love of beauty…), identifying what elements are in play. This meditation is in a vital sense, a reflective meditation.

Dante_e_Beatrice_XIV_century

Assagioli suggests that men refer to Dante’s Beatrice as a symbol of the Ideal Woman.

Assagioli continues to offer us some good advice about how to be in relationship, especially when we find ourselves newly attracted to another person:

When we are attracted to another person, the feeling ‘I’ feels a spontaneous and irrational attraction, or the sexual impulse feels a physical attraction for certain physical merits, but at the same time, there can be contrasting reactions at different levels to the same person, that is, towards that complex of elements that we call Mary or Joan.

woman puzzelIn fact Mary doesn’t exist but a mass of aspects — for example, a beautiful body, an attractive sensation, a deficient mentality, an overbearing and egotistical attitude, bad breath – towards which you can have different and contrasting reactions. From here comes the difficulty of the relationships. You need to watch as a spectator to see what attracts you and what repels you in that person and balance it all out.

If the results are positive, then you need to generously accept the person’s deficiencies. If the negative parts prevail, then it will be better to say no and conquer the feelings of attraction. Defects are in everybody. Nobody is perfect.”

Reference

Caldironi, B. (2004). L’uomo a tre dimensioni: Colloqui con Roberto Assagioli [The man of three dimensions: Conversations with Roberto Assagioli]. L. Oretti (Ed.). Ravenna, Italy: Edizioni del Girasole. (Note that this translation from the Italian into English is mine.)

The Power of Symbols

010296 Greetings from Fay Pomerance

Painting of a Rose of Sharon, Lily of the Valley by Fay Pomerance (1912-2001) in Assagioli’s Archives in the folder labelled “Symbols”.

Symbols are constantly appearing in our lives and are often used in an unconscious way. They are powerful tools that can help us to develop personally and spiritually. Assagioli wrote that there are certain symbols that have a specific psychosynthetic integrating value, and therefore need to be brought more consciously into our everyday lives.

Symbols – like the animals and other images that appear in our dreams – are accumulators, transformers, and conductors of psychological energies. Assagioli wrote:

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Tuning into Spiritual Airways

PrayerflagsOn September 20th, those of us who have been touched by Roberto Assagioli’s vision are celebrating the first World Day of Psychosynthesis. The day is meant to establish a spiritual connection between everyone who is generating and working with psychosynthesis concepts and techniques. Each of us is encouraged to take time during the day to reflect on how psychosynthesis is a living, evolving idea that can be successfully applied through many formats and in various contexts.

Ultimately, psychosynthesis allows us to integrate all our human dimensions – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – into a harmonious and synthesized whole so we can fully express ourselves and live life creatively. Beyond our individual psychosynthesis, Assagioli also urges us to seek personal and spiritual synthesis within couples, groups, and even nations.

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Accepting Acceptance

Reconcilation2It may seem strange, but often the first step we need to take towards making any inner or outer change is acceptance. Usually we are stuck in some way because we are not willing to accept the reality of our situation, our limitations, past failings, or the consequences of what we think we desire. Too often we see acceptance as passive and weak. But if this is so, why is acceptance so hard to do?

Active acceptance is actually a very positive higher quality that requires a strong and skillful will. Recently, I had a woman come to see me who was struggling with her relationship with her younger sister. While growing up as the eldest daughter in a large family of nine children, Ann (not her real name) often played the role of mother to her siblings. This was especially true with her sister Liz who was 10 years younger.

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Dark Days before Christmas

Light in the darknessIn northern Europe the days are growing shorter. Except for the oak trees with their withered sienna-brown leaves, most of the trees are bare against a bleak landscape and gray skies laden with cold, damp winds. The Dutch have a saying for this time of year: De donkere dagen voor Kerstmis. The dark days before Christmas. Indeed, every day is shorter and the nights seem to stretch out like a long, endless dream.

We are in the season of Advent, which mark the days before Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival. We freely use the word advent to simply mean “to come into being.”  This is the time of year that we await the arrival of light when the Earth will once again begin to tilt towards our sun. The days can then slowly “come into being,” promising their full splendor of sunshine and warmth at the summer solstice. For Christians, this is the time during which they await the birth of Jesus, when the Divine comes into being.

Darkness Inside

For most of us, these days are more than just physically dark. We can also become lost and overwhelmed in all the expectations of the season. The shopping, planning, cooking, baking, wrapping, cards, music, school plays, church concerts. The running and stress, travel and traffic, not to mention all the money worries.

Typically, we are expected to spend time with our families, with the idea that everyone should be happily singing songs around a piano or opening perfect presents or eating gourmet meals. But our reality may actually lead us to feeling only more lonely and unsatisfied. Under pressure by the media and our own unreal expectations, many of us become depressed this time of year and some of us may even feel suicidal.

Assagioli's notes on polarities.

Assagioli’s notes on polarities.

Darker still are the constant reminders, between the tinsel and flashing lights, of the pain and suffering in the world. Not to mention, of course, our own pain and suffering. How can we possibly feel Joy? The entire season can feel like a sham. Bah Humbug! Where is the Higher Self in all this tragic mess?

Balancing Darkness with Light

Simon and Garfunkel once recorded a song called 7:00 News/Silent Night,” in which the familiar carol is quietly and beautiful sung. At first dimly, then more clearly and loudly, we simultaneously hear the voice of a newscaster dispassionately announcing the kind of violent and terrible news we are all too familiar with. Even though, at the end, the voice of the announcer seems to overwhelm the song, the tender voices unceasingly sing – they are not even faintly shaken.

One could experience this song as another symbol of despair – the submergence once again of peace and joy in the harsh violence of our day. But when listened to in its wholeness, the song expresses the reality that light does shine in the darkness. If we tune into the song of peace, we will be able to hear its still small voice singing clearly under the din of the crowd.

Light and dark. Joy and hatred. These are two of the many polarities that exist in the world. Our job is to learn to live with their tension in order to transform and synthesize their energies into a higher reality. Assagioli says that this process is analogous to a chemical combination when two elements are absorbed into a higher unity endowed with qualities different from what each individual element has.

Transforming Opposites into a Synthesis

The idea is to balance these opposites, hold their creative tension, and give space for a completely new and higher entity to be born. You do this by first being with the violent darkness but not identify with it. Then be with the joyful light and not identify with it either. Finally, we need to be with all that is and hold an objective understanding of the tensions between them in order to creatively seek wholeness.

Assagioli insisted that the mid-way point between two opposites is not static inside us, but rather in “a state of continuous oscillation.” We can actually experience this oscillation between Darkness and Light when we listen to the song “7:00 News/Silent Night.”

Once we can hold onto this mid-way point, then psychosynthesis can occur. It is a wise person who can play with opposites and watch with awe as they awaken and manifest into a complete formed higher quality.

So during these dark days before Christmas, practice hanging on and letting go. Hang onto the dark, and then let it go. Then hang onto the light, and let it go. Try to stand in the mid-way point by expressing Human Affection during this season. Then wait quietly and patiently for the advent of Spiritual Love that is quietly, calming, and ceaselessly singing in the world’s chaos.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Nola

Nola the White Rhino (1974-2015)

Nola the White Rhino (1974-2015)

Perhaps you have already read the obituary for Nola the White Rhino (41) who recently died at the San Diego Zoo. She had arthritis and a painful bacterial infection, was a major park attraction and loved having her back scratched. Today only three white rhinos remain in the world.

The climate change conference in Paris has opened and millions of people across the globe are marching for a cleaner environment and protection for the animals and plants that share our home with us. I don’t need to reiterate all the reasons why we need to quickly transform our energy consumption into lives that gently walk on this planet. Unless we change along with the climate, our world is headed to become a silent and empty place. Like all animals on this planet, Nola has something unique to teach us about being more fully human.

Saint Francis preaching to the birds.

Saint Francis preaching to the birds.

Saint Francis of Assisi understood that by loving creatures, great and small, we learn more about God’s love for all of creation, including ourselves. The ascetic and mystic lived in the 13th century with a small group of like-minded followers, and together they were dedicated to helping lepers, the poor, and outcasts. They built themselves huts of branches and twigs to sleep in, wandered in pairs over the Umbrian countryside, dressed in the ordinary cloths of the peasants, and worked in the fields to earn their daily bread.

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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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