Entries Tagged as "Spirituality"

Memorials/Denkmals that work

I’ve recently had the pleasure of traveling with a group of international friends (an Australian couple, INTJ & ESTJ; a Dutch woman ENTJ; and a German ESTJ with an ESFP British wife – the Brexit discussion was lively); plus my American sweetie ENFP and me, an ESTJ.  Yes, we had some diversity! 

In Berlin, we went to a number of memorials (called Denkmal – denk means think and mal means time in German) and then we compared our reactions.

A very effective memorial for all of us was the Reichstag, now also functioning as the Capitol. When its burnt shell was captured by the Russians in 1945, many soldiers wrote their names and messages in Russian on the walls.  A recent renovation uncovered those and a guide tracked down as many of the soldiers as possible and wrote a book about their lives. 

The French contributed a memorial to democracy in that building.  They looked for what made each elected Member of Parliament equal, and it was the rectangular mailbox!  They recreated hundreds of those mailboxes stacking them up like in a post office and inscribed each with the name of a democratically elected Member of Parliament up to the year 1938.  That included Hitler and Goebbels by the way!  Their particular mailboxes are often punched in by those visiting the memorial. 

The dome of the building has been resurrected in glass and offers stunning views of Berlin and a history lesson as you walk up.  You are reminded of the past and how some things must never happen again and how others need to happen again and again. 

From the dome, you could see in the distance the Holocaust memorial that looked like a Jewish cemetery with its irregular stones of varying heights.  However, upon actually visiting that memorial…well it was disappointing for all of us.  

It is made up of granite, casket-sized and shaped rectangles of varying heights, arrayed in a pattern reminiscent of farmer’s fields. While there are small signs saying not to run as you walk between the structures or to climb on them, many people ignored that. It became a playground for so many – the antithesis of the events it is there to memorialize. 

Our group had many ideas of how to change it, such as surround the area with glass walls topped by depictions of barbed wire with only a few entry points.  The names of the concentration camps could be etched in the glass along with the numbers of people who perished in each.  The reverent and somber mood was not there and it should have been!

We also went to the Jewish Museum in Berlin.  The entry to the museum is quite confusing unless one stops to really pay attention.  You begin by walking down stairs to a central hallway with three angled halls going off from it.  Each angled hall represents a thread of Jewish experience – continuity, diaspora, or the holocaust. The only one of us who fully appreciated it was the ENTJ, in part because she was so well steeped in history and the facts, and in part because she quickly understands symbolism.   She could draw upon both her Intuition and her Sensing. The rest of us missed it.

And we went to the Berlin Wall Memorial.  That one worked for all of us.  This Denkmal was blocks long at a place in the city where the actual border cut across an apartment building, a church and a cemetery plus gardens and streets.  The stories of each and of the wall were laid out in storyboards along with videos and interviews with people who lived it.  The names of those who had died while crossing were also included.  Very powerful.  Even though there were large grassy fields that one could play on, no one did.  It was clearly recognized as a memorial and treated as such.

For all of us, the memorials that worked created a mood of reverence, the opportunity to go in-depth and learn more intellectually about the events and simply to experience the pull of raw emotions.  

Have you experienced a memorial that worked for you? Why?



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Christmas Gifts Differing

Christmas is over and it’s my favorite time of the season, when the house is empty and I get to sit back and look at my tree, remember all the good food and gifts, and think about all of the people we celebrated with. I’m an Introvert, so I have the most fun when I’m reflecting on social occasions.

The very first thing I remember about the people this Christmas was the smiles. People’s smiles are the most beautiful thing about them. They are what sunshine is to nature, what lights are to the Christmas tree. And when I think of the standout smiles that greeted me this season, I realize they were mostly on the faces of the extraverts. What would Christmas be without the happy smiles of the confident extraverts, at the front door, across the table, across the room? That’s the gift they give to me that I treasure the most.

Then I remember the quiet people, who glow rather than gleam, who aren’t vying for attention or center stage, but are happy to sit back and enjoy the people-show. They bring a bit of peace to these get-togethers. They’re like the fires in the background that make the room feel cozy and warm. Most of the quiet watchers in my world are Introverts, and that’s the gift they give me that I treasure the most.

The Sensing types…where do I begin? Christmas is an amazing opportunity for them to express their talents in making things pleasing to the senses. This year, my Sensing daughter gave me six outfits that fit me perfectly and make me look better than I ever have. A Sensing friend cooked a meal that tasted like the best thing in life, another decorated their home in a way that captured the very essence of the Christmas spirit, and another did gift wrapping that was so beautiful it was a gift in itself. For all of the tastes, sights, smells, sounds and textures of Christmas, I thank the Ss for their amazing gifts. 

The Intuitives, well, they gave some “out of the box” gifts that were really a hit. One N gave a gift that was so funny we were all laughing to tears. (I can’t describe it because it’s tasteless.) Another gave us several packets of seeds taken from the favorite flowers in his garden, with pictures on the packets of his kids holding the flowers. How did he think of that? For most of my Christmas experiences of the unique and the unusual, I thank the Ns.

The gifts of the Ts at Christmas are a little harder to recall, but then I start to remember that while all of the hugging, wild exclaiming and present opening was going on, there were some pretty wry and witty comments being uttered in the background. You know what I mean. Some of the Ts in my life provided a little saltiness to balance out the excesses of sugar at Christmas, and for the chuckles they gave me, I thank them.

Christmas is about expressing our love for the people in our lives, and no one does that better than the Fs. I especially love how most Fs receive gifts. They don’t have to remind themselves that it’s the thought that counts; they are genuinely grateful for the time, money, thought and work that someone put into trying to please them, even if it’s a gift they won’t get much use out of. They know how to make you feel as if you are the best gift-giver in the world, and for that, and all of the other honest expressions of warmth and kindness, I thank the Fs.  

Christmas is an organizational challenge for everyone, even Js, but it’s wonderful to see some of the events that they put together. Whether entertaining at home, bringing gifts and food to someone else’s party, or arranging a get-together in a restaurant, there are a lot of to-do lists involved, and it’s the Js who amaze me with their ability to bring together a large amount of people, places, food and gifts to make a memorable get-together. For most of the well-orchestrated events that I attended this season, I thank the Js. 

Then, for all of the people who so good-naturedly went along with all of the planning that the Js did, I thank the Ps. Also, I thank them for showing up unexpected, or calling and inviting us to meet them at an impromptu get together. They threw me off my guard, but I had so much fun with them that I doubt that planning could have made it better. For those delightful surprises, I thank the Ps.

To all of the types that made my Christmas great, thank you for your Christmas gifts differing. 


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Your Own Kind of Meditation

I often read about the benefits of meditation, or hear my friends praise it. They talk about how it quiets the inner voices that are constantly chattering in their heads.

In the woodsI think I’ve been practicing my own kind of meditation lately. The voices that are chattering in my head are usually about the past or the future, so to quiet them, I try to focus on the present. I simply ask myself the question, “What do I see?” Then I try to describe in words everything around me. If I’m walking in the woods I name the shape and color of the clouds (that’s really challenging), the leaves, the tree bark, and the path I’m walking on. If I’m standing in a line, I describe the features and clothing on the people around me, or the view out the window. If I’m driving, I describe the brake lights on the cars ahead of me, the road signs, or the buildings I pass. It’s amazing what I learn about the world when I simply use my senses to observe it.

Or I shut my eyes and ask myself, “What do you hear?” and suddenly become aware of the cicadas, birds, airplanes and soft breezes. While my eyes are shut, I might ask myself, “What do you feel?” and realize that I’m sitting at an angle that hurts my back, or that a glass of water would be nice right now.

If you’re a dominant intuitive, like me, it’s fun to suddenly notice the details in the world around you. It’s like going on a vacation, without ever leaving the place you’re in. It must be the way a dominant sensing type, my opposite, feels when they sit down and reflect on yesterdays or make plans for tomorrows.

I guess I’m suggesting that you don’t have to empty your mind to get relief from the chattering in your mind. You can fill it with something completely new. If your dominant function is thinking, you can ask yourself, “What are my feelings right now?” and try to find the words that accurately describe your emotional state. If your dominant function is feeling, you might try counting things (“how many American cars are in this parking lot?”), pricing things (“what do I spend on lattes a year?”), or giving things numerical rankings (“on a scale from 1 to 10, how would I rate this meal?”).

We usually think of our least preferred functions as the source of all our problems, but they’re also a source of energy and refreshment. It’s nice to know that we all have an unexplored wonderland inside us, waiting for those days when we feel we’ve had enough of our usual way of thinking, and want to experience something completely new.



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Wellsprings of Desire

I was walking the dogs today around the lake near our house. The trees have been dark and bare for the last four months, but today when I looked out over the lake, there was a cloud of bright green going from one side of the woods to the other, caused by the new leaves on the poplars. Right below it, there was a cloud of soft pink from the flowers of the red maples. It was an absolutely beautiful sight, and took my breath away.

On the walk back to the car, I was looking forward to getting home, where I could sit down at my computer and write about that strong feeling of joy. Strong feelings motivate us to act, either to add something to our lives or subtract something, and I love the whole process of figuring out what they are telling me, and the best way to act on them. The almost painful joy in that spring day was telling me to shake off my winter routine and start getting out of the house more.
Everyone has feelings and everyone has to figure out what they mean, but because I’m an NF, I have a strong desire to think about feelings. I love that desire to think about my feelings, simply because it is a desire. I’m being pulled to do something, instead of having to push. Unlike many other things, I don’t have to put it on my to-do list. I don’t have to feel guilty because I put it off. I don’t have to disguise it as something else in order to get it done.
It’s so wonderful to have something that you always want to do, and have always wanted to do since you were a kid. If you took everything away from me, all of my people and possessions, I’d still look forward to analyzing the feeling of having nothing, and figuring out the best way to deal with it. This never-failing wellspring of desire is the greatest joy that I get in life. It’s also the truest description of who I am and what I am supposed to do with my life. I am a person who is supposed to pay attention to feelings.
If you know your wellspring of desire, it seems, you know a lot. You know what brings you joy, but you also know the way in which you will bring others joy. If you know your wellspring of desire, you may be emboldened to set more time aside for your desire, to take it from a hobby to a job, from a job to a career, from a career to a movement. You may stop treating it as a foolish indulgence that no one is interested in, and start taking it seriously as the reason you are on this earth.
We all need help in believing in ourselves. We’re such inherently self-doubting creatures that we need something strong to ally ourselves with. When I was young I had an inkling of the fact that I liked to think about my feelings and try to understand them, but I heard the voices of society saying, “That’s self-indulgent. That’s a useless way to spend your time.” It wasn’t until I found the type theory that I had permission to take that desire seriously. In type theory, the NF desire to understand the guidance of feelings is one of the essentials for human survival, as important as being practical or objective. It leads to inspiring and helping other people to make good decisions, live in harmony with others, and make the most of their lives. I grew up the day I found the type theory. I stopped playing with my desires, and had the courage to begin working with them. How can you thank someone enough for giving you that?
I used to love it when my SF kids were little, to watch what they would do when there was nothing to do…when the friends were gone, the homework was done, and there was nothing on TV. My ISFJ daughter would usually end up doing something different with her hair, painting her nails a new color, baking a dessert, or trying on outfits. My ESFJ son would be outside shooting baskets, riding his bike, or planning a day of sports and games where he could “invite all our friends over.” It’s as if their senses and their bodies were calling to them, the same way my feelings call to me, saying, “Pay attention to me, discover my secrets, learn my lessons, share me.”

My son had an ST friend who used to spend a lot of time with us. He got a kick out of watching me type on my computer because he wanted to be able to move his fingers over a machine that quickly. When I showed him how to run the fax machine and copier in my office, he asked to do it over and over again. When our clock was broken, he figured out what was wrong and fixed it. He sat on his computer and experimented with it for hours, learning all of the things it could do. He didn’t just ride a bike, he figured out everything you could do with a bike. It’s as if tools and machines were calling to him, saying, “Pay attention to me, discover my secrets, learn my lessons, share me.”

And my NT husband, in those rare moments when he’s not working as a management consultant, is reading up on management theory, composing his own management theories, and trying to find elegant structures to hold together all of the management theories in the universe. It’s as if the laws of the universe call to him, saying, “Pay attention to me, discover my secrets, learn my lessons, share me.”

Do you notice that little surge of desire inside of you, like a spring coming up out of the ground, calling you to that part of life that is yours to attend to? Isn’t it wonderful that you have that? It’s the one true thing about you, the one thing you can count on to always be there and to give your life direction. Don’t you just love it?


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The Royal Marriage: Opposites Make the World Go Round – and Are a Key to Growth

This blog originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

Caught some of the news coverage earlier this summer on the royal wedding – Prince William and Kate Middleton – and I’m sure I’m not the only one!  A sense of anticipation, a lot of pageantry, an enormous range of feelings – including expectation and excitement.  And now William and Kate have begun to settle into the realities of the marriage and what it means.

OK, stay with me here because this may seem like a ninety-degree turn. On a seemingly unrelated topic, something else happened this summer that mattered a great to a large number of people. Some of us are aware there’s a fairly popular movie series came to an end this summer. Some might call it a rousing conclusion.  Others, the culmination of a movie phenomenon.

Harry Potter of course!

What do the royal marriage and Harry Potter have in common? British, yes certainly. Lots of fans, yes.  What else?  There are many good answers here, but I’m looking at a specific commonality.

It’s alchemy.

In alchemy, the conjunction of opposites – the union of seemingly separate elements to give birth to and reveal a higher form – is often referred to as the royal marriage. This marriage is of fundamental concern to alchemists because it is a key to transformation – to personal and social evolution.

Nicolas Flamel was a famous historical alchemist (Isaac Newton was another) who played a passing fictional part in the first Harry Potter book and movie; Flamel had created the philosopher’s stone. (The book’s original title – under which it was released in the U.K. - is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.) In alchemy the philosopher’s stone is a substance said to be able to turn base metals into gold, and is also purportedly able to confer youth and extended life on those who partake of it.

In a previous blog, I referred to the psychological processes of Thinking and Feeling. Specifically I wrote about the phenomenon of tough-minded females and warm-hearted males.

Interestingly, Jung – on whose work that model of psychological types is based – was very interested in alchemy as a process that described the stages of personal individuation. For Jung, the quest for the evolution of one’s psyche could be understood through such metaphors as the conjunction of opposites (e.g., Thinking and Feeling) to yield the philosopher’s stone.

Jung – using an alchemical metaphor – often referred to marriage as the crucible of consciousness.

I’ll say.

Those of us in committed relationships have decidedly experienced the sense of being in a crucible as we work to understand and negotiate differences between our partners and ourselves.  “He doesn’t know a stranger. I like my time alone.“ (Extraversion-Introversion). “I’m grounded and she’s imaginative” (Sensing-Intuition). “She’s tough-minded. I’m warm-hearted” (Thinking-Feeling).  Or, “He’s organized and I’m adaptable” (Judging-Perceiving).

A successful relationship requires a space in which such differences can be “held” – where something new and higher can emerge as a result of the union of the complementary opposites. Two people (two psyches) are thrown together and the heat is turned up. The crucible – the holding space – contains the process of transformation.

But why oh why do these transformative “opportunities” so often emerge at bedtime? I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s felt the urge to shut down just to stop dealing with “the issue.” It’s late and I’m tired.  It’s at those times I especially want to go unconscious, but it doesn’t have to be bedtime to feel as though I want to jump out of the crucible.

And that’s the rub of all this. You can’t simply go unconscious. Not if you want to transform the relationship and yourself into something different – something new and higher. You can’t simply cover your head with a pillow just because it’s an uncomfortable conversation.

A marriage of opposites means something comes out of the crucible that is different - more - than the two separate elements that went in. The two people that went in to the crucible both come out changed. The Thinking type has learned the importance of Feeling and has more access to it - hopefully. The Feeling type has acquired – if the work has been done – more access to Thinking.

Why stay in the crucible?  Why put up with the pain and discomfort of all this, well, work?

Because inside we know there is something deeper and higher in us that is served by staying in the crucible. In fact, we already are this deeper and higher thing. The lead and the gold.

The royal marriage - between two people and within one’s self - serves something more than the couple or the individual. Whom does the grail serve?  The land.

The grail - that’s another story!

Now back to the complementary opposites that compose psychological type: Extraversion-Introversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving.

Jung believed that in the process of personal development, we first specialize and then we generalize. It’s natural and necessary to start early in life as – say – an Extravert, with Intuition, Thinking and Perceiving. In specializing, we develop confidence and competence in being who we are naturally inclined to be. 

In this specialization, it is all too easy to believe – from the stance of Extraversion - that Introversion is a little less good somehow. Or vice versa from the stance of Introversion. When Extraverts and Introverts are partners, the real work lies in finding a space where the value of both can be appreciated.

We continue the process of development throughout life as we generalize. We attempt to reintegrate the complementary opposites we earlier pushed aside – e.g., Introversion, Sensing, Feeing and Judging. The royal marriage, the work in the crucible, can then – possibly - happen.

The royal marriage can occur between partners (e.g., one is Thinking and one is Feeling) to yield a higher form – a stronger, more enlightened relationship.  That alchemical marriage also happens within individuals (often as a result of bumping up against people who are different from you of course). Continuing with Extraversion-Introversion as our example, the royal marriage within the individual would mean learning to honor the reality and importance of both our outer and our inner lives.

On our paths to personal evolution, we are asked –over and over – to find the meaning and gift in the seeming opposites. Extraversion-Introversion. Sun-Moon. Head-Heart. Heaven-Earth. Yin-Yang. We must hold the opposites in the crucible of ourselves and learn to be comfortable with the discomfort of their seemingly competing needs. Out of that can arise the philosopher’s stone.  We grow. Magic not only becomes possible but has already happened.

Here’s another pairing. Work-Play. Sometimes you have to take a break from the work. And just play.   Does that mean it’s ok to cover my head with a pillow sometimes? Sweetie I’m tired.

I wish William and Kate a life of love and transformation.  A life and marriage that yields the philosopher’s stone for them - individually, as a couple, and for the land.

Oh and that movie was pretty darn good too!

Magic. Lead into gold. For sure.

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