Dan Keusal's e-newsletter
Winter 2015 - 2016 edition: "Just up the stairs..."
(Send me an email if you'd like me to send you a copy of the original email/newsletter.)
My first newsletter of this New Year explores the way life beckons, the way it calls to us, opens up new possibilities...even when we think we've reached an end point. There's also news of two new workshops I'll be offering in the weeks ahead. And you'll notice a change: I'm combining my former sections on quotes, poems, and other resources into one section, which I'm re-naming "Resources For A Life of Depth and Meaning."
My intention with all of this is to make the process of healing and growth accessible...while honoring the complexity and depth that gives life its richness and meaning. This process, this journey, is what Jung called "individuation," and helping you with yours is the heart and soul of my work. I hope you find something here that infuses your new year with inspiration, hope, and joy.
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Reflections: “Just up the stairs...”
Down the road and to the left,
it's never been any further
to find the thing that you never lost
On a weekend trip to Portland last Fall, my sweetheart and I spent a long afternoon in Powell's, The Rose City's famous bookstore that encompasses an entire city block. As we were getting ready to leave, she headed up a flight of stairs to use the restroom, then called down to me: "There's an entire section up here of Jungian Psychology books!" I felt a little mystified (or perhaps miffed) that I'd somehow missed that section during our five-hour marathon, but I was, at that point, too tired to care. I'd already meandered through many an aisle, pulled dozens of books from the shelves, read substantial portions of many of those, and now felt that this journey was at its end.
"No thanks!" I called up to her. She tucked her chin to her chest, raised her eyebrows, smiled, and stared down at me over the top of her glasses as if to say "Really?" Really. I gestured to her: "I'm done." She kept looking down at me, her smile and her eyes beckoning. I stared back, then smiled back...and then started the slow climb up the stairs.
While she was in the restroom, I scanned the shelves until I found myself pulling down one more book, one whose title I recognized but whose content I'd never explored. The book was written by an author I'd heard lecture several times, and whose work I knew and respected. The more I perused this volume, the more deeply I felt drawn in to it. I added the book to the stack under my arm, and my sweetheart and I headed toward the cashier.
In the weeks that followed, I made my way through that book, and found it to be both life-affirming and life-changing, one of those volumes that "named" things I'd long thought, but with a clarity I'd not yet achieved and a depth I'd not yet imagined: "Yes, this author is on the same page as me, but he is taking it--taking me--much, much further."
As I think back to how tired, how done, I felt as I stood there at the bottom of the stairs in Powell's, I realize that I was in good company. Jung himself was feeling tired at a turning point in his own life, a point that proved pivotal in the development of what would become Depth Psychology. In a moment recounted in The Red Book, Jung (using a process called Active Imagination) complains to his soul: "I am tired! Why do you not let me sleep?" His soul replies: "Now is no time to sleep...The great work begins...Everything is waiting for you."
Like Jung, I pushed beyond my weariness, beyond my resistance to one more thing, and kept moving forward. Allowing for the possibility that the journey was not yet over, that there was still something ahead for me, left me feeling opened, and in that opening I found exactly what I'd been looking for all afternoon in Powell's. Will that prove to be a key moment in my own small part of "the great work," the work to which you, and I, and everyone else are called to contribute? I imagine that depends on each of us staying open, and persisting.
The beckoning (a word whose root means "beacon" or "sign"), that which calls us onward in our journey, can come from anywhere: the eyes of a loved one smiling down from the top of a staircase, a radio interview we hear in the car, a painting or photo, a scene in a movie, a line from a song or a poem, something we read in the paper, or something we witness on the street...or...from a dream that comes in the middle of the night, one we're tempted to dismiss or allow to fade from consciousness in the morning light before we write it down. Often, such moments of beckoning are subtle, the signs barely perceptible, even though so much hangs in the balance.
The art of living, and the heart of Jungian psychotherapy, is in learning how to pay attention, how to see the signs, how to reflect deeply and discern the meaning of things, and how to then go out into the world and live from that meaning-full place. For me, that meant seeing a sign in the beckoning eyes of a loved one, discerning there the possibilities that lay just up the stairs, and then taking that next step.
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Resources For A Life Of Depth And Meaning:
(song/video): "Shed A Little Light." by The Maccabeats and Naturally7. A stellar, a capella version of James Taylor's classic anthem in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recorded in Washington D.C. at the Lincoln and King memorials. I was moved by this video the first time I saw it, and my love for it grows with each viewing. (poem) "Deciduous" by Elizabeth Austen. Austen is Washington State's Poet Laureate for 2014-2016, and she has been a tireless and eloquent advocate for poetry (traveling to every county in WA state!), an incarnation of the poetic sensibility itself, of poetry's power to transform, heal, and re-enchant everyday life. This poem was, according to Austen, originally written "sometime after September 11, 2001" and re-posted on her blog just after the bombings in Paris back in November. If you would like some help developing your own inner poet, Austen has generously created a series of five short videos that "combine a model poem with a writing activity [that] is intended to be useful for the poetry-curious and beginning writers alike." You can access the videos for free on the WA State Poet Laureate Web site.
(quote) "No one cares how much you know...until they know how much you care" (from a poster in a medical center waiting room).
(book) The Co-Parents' Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted, Resilient, and Resourceful Kids In A Two-Home Family from Little Ones To Young Adults (by Karen Bonnell and Kristin Little). The authors do a fine job of summarizing the value of their book, so I'll just quote them here: "Addressing parents' questions about the emotional impact of separation, conflict, grief and recovery, the authors skillfully provide a road map for all members of the family to safely navigate through separation/divorce and beyond. Parents discover through practical guidance how to move from angry/hurt partners to constructive, successful co-parents. The pages are chock-full of helpful strategies to resolve day-to-day issues in an easy-to use format. This book is here to answer questions, help parents co-parent and ensure kids thrive!" Bonnell has also co-authored, with family law attorney Felicia Malsby Soleil, The Parenting Plan Handbook. (image) "Half Moon, Winter Sky" (by Dan Keusal). I took this photo from an ordinary place (the parking lot of my office) and at an ordinary time (at 3:30 in the afternoon), both reminders to me that the extraordinary is often right there in front of us, and that there is beauty even in life's moments of bare simplicity. (click on the photo, or the link above, to download a larger version.)