Dan Keusal's e-newsletter
Winter 2018-2019 edition:
"The Power of a Symbol"
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What if this New Year, instead of making resolutions or setting goals or intentions, you put a symbol at the center of your life? This newsletter explores the power of such a symbol. There's also a quote about the relationship between experience and wisdom, a song that affirms that things are going to get brighter, and another of my photos. In the midst of these long months of winter, may you find something here that lights your way, inspires you, and brings you quiet, renewed hope.
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Reflections: “The Power of a Symbol"
(To listen to a recording of Dan Keusal reading this essay, click here).
If you lived in a drought-stricken village, and were given only a limited ration of water, why would you regularly donate some of that ration to water a tree in the center of the village?
That question is part of the storyline in an old episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and it may teach us something about the power of a symbol, and about a different way to enter into another new year.
In the episode (“The Inner Light”), a bureaucrat from the central government comes for his regular, perfunctory visit to the village.
Seeing the thriving tree, he asks one of the villagers “Perhaps you can explain to me, when crops are dying all over, how this tree is flourishing?”
The villager explains: “This tree is our symbol, our affirmation of life. Everyone in this town gives part of their water rations to keep it alive. We've learned…that hope is a powerful weapon against anything. Even drought.”
What if this New Year, instead of making resolutions, or setting goals or intentions, you put a symbol at the center of your life?
In my office, on a table just a few feet away from where clients sit, there is a candle holder. Before each session, I light a candle as a symbol of what might take place during the session: spark, presence, light, warmth, burning away, insight, inspiration.
When the session is over, I blow out the candle, watch the wick turn from flame to ember to smoke, and then watch as the smoke rises. I do this in the spirit of a story I once heard about an old Native American tradition. The tradition believes that the smoke rising from the ceremonial pipe that is lit during their gatherings carries their deliberations and discernments up to “The Above Ones.”
The best moments come when we discover the symbols that arise naturally from our own psyches, from our own lives. A client of mine drew a picture of an image from one of her dreams, took a photo of that drawing, and then put the photo on the screen of her cell phone, so that every time she turned on her phone, she was reminded of what the image from that dream symbolized, what it was calling her to do, and who it was calling her to become.
C.G. Jung knew that such images, such symbols, arise naturally and have the power to change our lives: “There is no difference in principle between organic and psychic growth. As a plant produces its flower, so the psyche creates its symbol. Every dream is evidence of this process.”
What symbols are arising from your psyche, from your life, as this new year begins? Put one of those symbols in a place where you’ll see it regularly. Spend a moment each day with this symbol, reflect on what it means: what it affirms, and what it asks of you. Then watch and celebrate the impact this has…on how your new year unfolds.
Resources For A Life Of Depth And Meaning:
(quote): "A wise man once told me that while experience leads to wisdom, a lack of wisdom tends to lead to experience. And of course 'experience' does not automatically equate with growth. Experience must be digested honestly and humbly before it can metamorphose into true wisdom." ~Steven Forrest.
(song/video) "Ooh, Child" (MILCK). Connie Lim (who performs as MILCK) co-wrote "Quiet," which became a rallying anthem for the Women's March two years ago (NPR recently looked at the then-and-now appeal of "Quiet" in its "American Anthem" series). With this cover of the 1970s song "Ooh, Child," MILCK kindles hope in a manner that is quieter but still powerful in its promise: "Ohh, child / Things are gonna get easier / Ohh, child things'll get brighter."
(photo): "Evergreen Branch, Snow" (Dan Keusal). Click on the photo to view it on my web site, and download a copy for your own enjoyment.