Spiritual Explorer’s map for experiential spirituality, unknown mind territories, and what (or who) exists there. Don’t leave ordinary consciousness without it!
Years ago when I started feeling the symptoms of the Dark Night of the Soul crushing down on me I tried to fight back. My thoughts were: “Well I am a psychologist, I should know what to do”. How immensely wrong I was. I was naked without knowing it, completely unprepared for the soul tsunami that was coming at me, blowing away all that I thought I knew and was.
I wanted to fight back but the landscape where I stood was new to me. There were no signs, or at least I couldn’t see them, to direct me and soothe my anxiety. My previous knowledge stopped working and new question emerge:
“How can I fight back if I don’t know this new landscape I’m in? “
That is when my search for a new map of reference of what I was going through began to take shape and intensify my curiosity: a Map for the Mind.
The Quest for a Map of the Mind
The exploration began from Freud’s early psychoanalytic maps, Shamanic maps of shamanic journey, till Jung’s map of the Psyche. It is this last one that I could always go back to, trace my progress and find meaning. As time went by it became a reliable reference which never let me down.
What I am going to propose you is for me to escort you through my personal vision of this map, including personal things that I learned on the way to become more whole and other insights that might be of interest for your journey.
I start from the assumption that every explorer needs a comprehensive map of the unknown territories she is about to explore. The Spiritual Explorer is no exception to this rule. Without a good map you can’t plan your journey, prepare for what you might find, or how to react, even create meaning out of the raw experience. Are you ready for this?
The Conscious and the Unconscious
This is the first big, huge, division on the map, the Conscious and the Unconscious.
The discovery of the Unconscious (by S. Freud) is one of the great discoveries of the XX century, on the same level of atomic energy and human genome.
”We have not understood yet that the discovery of the unconscious means an enormous spiritual task, which must be accomplished if we wish to preserve our civilization.”
– Carl Jung
Before we plunge into the realms of the Unconscious through Non Ordinary States of Consciousness, let us take a look and see how we can explore the Conscious.
The Mundane – The Realm of the Conscious
The Conscious is, for the majority of us, the everyday experience, the ordinary world. Even so, the Conscious is divided in two areas: the Masks / Persona and the Ego.
The Masks / Persona
The Masks are all the different Personas or personalities we use to social interface with others. For instance the way you speak to the bank manager differs from the way you speak to your lover. We speak quite differently, the tone of voice is different, and also the sentences we use, even the way we look at the other person, including the body posture, and the emotions that are aroused, and so on.
Using a computer comparison you could say that the Masks we use are kind of different apps, tailored to specific social ends, which enable us to connect and communicate effectively (to a certain degree) with other human beings. As you know the apps vary in quality, sophistication, efficiency and effectiveness.
The Masks are also used to project an image that we think favor us. A very glamorous life on Facebook or on Instagram can be the escape for a very ordinary life. Some of us go to great lengths in creating the so called avatars that are an idealized representation of themselves, but not the real thing. So, surprises do happen when you meet a Facebook in person, for the better or for the worst.
The Ego is the MPC (Master Control Program) everything has to be filtered, verified, approved (either we are aware of it or not). A good example of this is how the Ego filters the input information going in and out of the brain. We are only aware of a tiny percentage of what we call reality (which is the Consensus Reality, a learned protocol of filters that builds a coherent picture of what we are experiencing and is commonly accepted in a certain culture context).
Part of the Ego resides on the Conscious part of our map. The rest of the Ego is already part of the Unconscious. This dividing line is fluid, it can move up or down. Another thing is that communication is always present between the two parts – the Conscious and the Unconscious – although we might not be aware of it.
The part of the Ego that is part of the Unconscious, can hold information we don’t have access to, long forgotten memories, early experiences, even details of last month’s diner party. This part can also hold parts of our personal story, lived experiences, and information that are no longer in use. Some information in this area can be recalled some other don’t (which doesn’t mean that that information is lost).
How to Explore the Masks and the Ego?
Most of us, run daily lives on autopilot. What is autopilot? Well, you know, when you do things, respond to others without thinking or even being aware. Even the ongoing chat on your head runs most of the time in autopilot.
Have you noticed that you have pre existent templates in how to respond to others? What do you do when someone asks you “Good mooring. How are you?” Did you notice that besides the way you feel or the things that happen to you you respond the same way? Seldom people will go at lengths and respond “Last night I had an existential meltdown and was faced with the empty void that is my current life”.
Explore by Paying Attention
The point here is: PAY ATTENTION AND NOTICE (without judging). Pay attention how you speak to others, is it loud or very soft, fast or slow, do you interrupt others or you wait until they stop? What kind of recurring self talk happens in your mind, is the same subject, perhaps different subjects but the same emotion behind them? Do you pay attention how are you breathing? Do you smile or keep a poker face? And what are your emotional states, what are you feeling right now? Again, ALL THIS IS NON JUDGMENTAL. The point is just to be aware, or even increase your awareness.
The more you pay attention to what you feel, think and do, the more you know yourself, the more you know who you really are. What you are is OK and unique.
Explore by Slowing Down
Another technique to know more about our Conscious part is to Slowing down the rhythm at which you do things. Slowing down can be a fun way in how you go about your daily life, from the way you wash the dishes, to the way you kiss your lover or eat your favorite food. Slowing down we get more in tune with the senses and noticing things that we were not aware.
Exploring by Writing or Drawing – Captain’s Log
Like in every adventure you need a log of your explorations. Some write it in the form of a diary, an entry in you favorite app on your phone, or for the artistic inclined an art journal.
What is important is to take note of all the new experiences we got from Paying Attention and Slowing Down (again without judgement, the more descriptive the better).
One of the best and more productive ways of doing your “Captain’s Log” is to write it down in the third person, giving the impression that you are observing yourself doing the action, like a narrator of your own adventures. Doing it this way will give you an automatic reflection on what happened, and maybe a new comprehension and understanding of certain situation you were in.
The Spiritual Realm – The Realms of the Unconscious
It was S. Freud that discover the Unconscious but it was his student Carl Jung who gave a new dimensions to it. C. Jung came up with two levels of Unconscious:
- Personal Unconscious
- Collective Unconscious
Although these two levels are connected, they are distinct in relation to the content they carry. Let’s first explore the Personal Unconscious.
(to be continued next week)