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Don Laird

The Sounds of Silence

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Culturally, spiritually and psychologically we live in a paradox. We retreat from our call-to-being by crafting stylish diversions. All neatly self-manufactured to conveniently bypass the chaotic backwoods of our lives rather than direct us on a path through the Terra Incognita. Yet, we crave something more beyond our smartly planned objectives. “Be still and know that I am God,” the Christian Psalm tells us. Stillness, tranquility, peacefulness, calm and concentration; the Buddhists call it Samatha.

Our raison d’être for exploring the geography of psyche is to discover deeper and lasting meaning, direction and rationale through an evident lack of meaning, direction and rationale in our world.  Consequently, occupation, career, acquisitiveness, and changing technology and systems are now endemic throughout our collective and personal unconscious. Taking the time to work through a crisis, even a relatively minor one, requires us to concede that our bridges are not so stylish, not so sturdy, and not so safe. The map plainly illustrates that monsters of yore have been replaced with meaninglessness, steady bi-product of lives left unquestioned and existential anxiety unchecked. Sadly, our egos are not well-versed in plotting an effective course, and anxiety swells while we further devise elevated, objective methods to escape the natural world lingering below.

This increased anxiety results in a further distancing from our creative selves, while we force as much activity and noise into our psyche in a self-medicating attempt to obscure the call. Reality television, smart devices, texting, instant messaging, music and movies on demand, are now directly accessible in packages that are engaging on the surface, but are highly symptomatic of our creative insolvency. These diversions, void of personal meaning and substance, nurture our digressions and weaken our creative and psychological vigor.

Simply put, we’ve become bored with our lives.

Therapists have an obligation to be familiar with the creative influence of stillness and the empowerment of silence as an art, not a technique. In recent years, our profession has demanded we circumvent the prickly subject of being still; a quiet mind is metaphorically viewed as a “devil’s playground,” and most empirical validated therapies heed this adage.

Stay distracted, rate your feelings on a arbitrary scale of 1-10 , complete the therapeutic homework and your symptoms will decrease. However, the wellspring of an individual’s malaise remains unattended like a super-sized, hyperactive child running amok in a jungle-gym of smoke and mirrors. The inexhaustible revisions in textbooks, the pretentiousness of clinical research and statistics, the departmental and administrative meetings, and the suggestion that we as therapists somehow provide helpful and informed solutions for others, exhibits the inane, magical thinking that plagues our human sciences. Positive thoughts will explain away pain, while CBT workbooks will change behaviors.

Let us never lose sight of what Toto revealed behind the curtain.

Within the context of the creative process, our ability to integrate psyche is possible if executed with care, compassion and understanding. Just as a tree is an arrangement of numerous substances that compose its treeness, imagination and vision tend to present as multifaceted essentials. There are many roots to the same tree all moving in different directions, but sharing common qualities. The same could be said for the creative process, be it writing, painting, sculpting, or composing music. The cohesive bond shared between artist and expression is a silent channel of communication that is open, deep and provides connectivity to the psyche in a creative style.

It is our creative and artistic endeavors that become the conduit for change, and it’s here that the spiritual essence of an individual-in-the-world can be called forth. Psyche is always with us.

Exploring the crossroads of creativity and psyche reawakens our conception and understanding of both. The most prized gift we can give the other is our creative presence. This presence need not be spoken in any language other than that of the artist’s silence. When our presence is attentive it blooms within us and others, crafting an otherwise ordinary encounter into a rich tapestry on a weaver’s endless loom.

In good health,
Don

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All the Pretty Things

By Aurora Starr

Let’s be clear. I am well aware of my name. It’s Aurora Starr and, yes, I live in California. My parents were and still are crystal-loving, chakra-checking, tribal-drumming, planet-charting, sage-burning, New Agers who own just about every Windham Hill collection ever produced. The irony of it all is not lost on me.

Yet, call it what you will, a striving to rebel against my parents or other authority figures, but more accurately perhaps a blatant indifference for those who claim there is more to a sunset than the beauty of a sunset. I believe in good science, philosophy, love, kittens, The Beatles, great sex and experiential learning. It’s complicated (but not really), as it should be. So to say I have a hard time relating with the New Age set is not far off the mark. Not that they are bad people. Quite the opposite, they mean well. They are productive and, for the most part, trustworthy. Just like some of my Christian and Buddhist friends and acquaintances, they want good things to come to those who believe, meditate, pray and do unto others, etc. These are also things that I can adhere to or even incorporate into my daily routine. So what’s the problem?

Sorry, not sorry.

My friend’s New Age Train pulled out of the station a few years ago following her spiritual awakening. Since then, I have been exposed to lots of patchouli oil and other exotic scents from afar… lots. I quickly learned that my enchanted friend and her belongings will now and forever smell like some ancient temple in Upper Mesopotamia. Her very presence would probably remind you of Stevie Nicks’ public persona circa 1979, minus the Wild Turkey and cocaine.

I learned my first lesson in crystal ethics from her. NEVER, EVER, touch someone else’s crystal pendant (pendulum). You will strip the mineral of its magical cleansing powers. My friend recoiled in disbelief as I reached for her pendulum, “Oh, that’s so pretty.” Sounds benign, right?  I thought so, too, until I was quickly schooled in crystal etiquette.

It is imperative for you to believe that crystals are indeed magical and that they hold healing properties. She has crystals all throughout her apartment, so many, many pretty crystals.  Her ever expanding collection has made her life similar to Doris “the cat lady” who used to live above me. Oh Doris, good times. My friend makes me hold selected crystals (NEVER, EVER the pendulum) and asks me if I can feel their “life energy.” She insists that if I would “just relax, I would feel it.” I still don’t feel it, but I smile politely and repeat my original thought that they are certainly “pretty.” They can still be pretty, right?

Then it is time for us to go out for the evening. We had plans, but never mind this; the universe had plans for us, also. Our night out had become contingent on astrological charts. Somehow our friendship hinges on whether the tarot produces a death card or three swords or some other mystical combination. Consulting cards is not a way of planning a night of fun. It sounds like playing it safe and running away from personal responsibility. It is also akin to What Would Jesus Do? “He would have tacos, he would definitely have tacos. Now can we leave, please?

So we finally arrive at a lovely, local eatery. A waifish and shy young girl takes our drink order and probably wishes she had been assigned to another section for that evening. She is immediately questioned by my friend about which menu items are vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free, and caffeine-free. I can’t say I blame my friend. Hey, being spiritually-aware often means you are body-aware. Healthy body, health mind, healthy spirit, I get it. Unfortunately, so does the timid waitress counting the minutes until her shift ends.

And another thing…

So to all my enlightened friends, and I have many of them (Remember the whole I live in California thing?), I wish you lots of peace and love, but you are not Native Americans, Aztecs, Mayans, Druids, or some Eastern Mystics. Different time, different history, different culture and different race. You live in Emory. You are white. Appropriating or picking rituals without having first-hand experience of the culture or the intended meaning behind those symbols is just wrong at best, disrespectful at worst.

You don’t own it. You never could. We can all agree that Eric Clapton is a kick-ass guitar player and a remarkable artist and performer, but is he a Blues Guitar God as many have suggested (including my Dad)? No, because he didn’t live it. He grew up in England for Christ Sake. Mr. Clapton did indeed experience his share of hardships – alcoholism, drug addiction and personal tragedy. However, he was never a Black musician in an oppressive and often brutal society ruled by an equally oppressive set of laws and government. See the difference?

There is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation. Mr. Clapton likely knows this, but I doubt many of his fans do. Now, this blog isn’t about a Black and White thing. That’s for another day, but do you get the point or is it just me, and how the hell did Eric Clapton get pulled into this?

It’s me, not you. No, really, it’s you and that’s okay.

My charmed friend also believes everything is a sign, and she’ll live her life following these psychic inklings, often against better judgment. She is indeed a handful, but I regularly cross the threshold into her world of magic and healing and genuinely enjoy our time together. There’s a place at the table for all, at least there should be. If her beliefs bother me so much, why don’t I just walk away? Well, that’s just rude and maybe, just maybe, the door to my mind needs to have its hinges oiled from time to time.

Shine bright,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, not a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. However, if you are easily offended then Aurora’s blog may not be for you.