I’m busy this week. And about a thousand miles away from summer’s dance of laziness.
It’s good, though. A different kind of dance. If July and August were a slow, languid waltz, then September is shaping up to be a peppy, energizing quick step.
But I’m lucky. I love my work and when fall rolls around and life intensifies, it feels good to stretch into it. It’s a reminder of the natural ebb and flow: the tide may go out, but it always comes back in again.
And this week, as so often happens in my work, the tide is carrying a theme back to shore. A similar story that’s showing up every day.
A story about the tension between dreaming and awakening.
Truth be told, this is a story that plays out for most of us, throughout our lives, even though we’re not always aware of it.
And I’m guessing you know that I’m not talking about going to bed at night to sleep and dream and then awaken. No, I’m talking about a deeper story. But it sounds kind of cryptic, doesn’t it? So I’ll let a quote from Carl Jung say it in another way:
YOUR VISION WILL BECOME CLEAR ONLY WHEN YOU LOOK INTO YOUR HEART; WHO LOOKS OUTSIDE, DREAMS. WHO LOOKS INSIDE, AWAKES.
Hmm. That’s still a little cryptic, isn’t it? So you might be wondering, what, exactly, is his point?
In a nutshell, he’s talking about the tension between ego and soul.
Ego is the conscious part of the psyche that resides “outside.” Its job is to plan, organize, analyze, focus, take care of things, manage, strive, achieve, and help us make our way in the world. And that’s important. Without ego, we would be shivering masses of jello, inert and unable to function.
Soul, on the other hand, is the unconscious part of the psyche that resides “inside.” And it’s much harder to put into words. In fact, my pen has just stopped writing. Because writing, you see, is mostly an act of ego consciousness. And my ego struggles to form words to express something that’s so different from it.
But since I’m actually writing by hand today rather than typing on a computer, I have a better chance of describing soul for you. Especially if I pause, close my eyes, shift into free writing, and invite soul to speak:
I am soul. A cave filled with wonder. Darkness with shafts of light. A small, trickling stream. Sparkling, silver, stillness. As you wander through me I welcome you. I ask you to stop, to be, to imagine, to look into the deepest recesses.
OK. That’s what soul wanted to say today. Tomorrow it might be different. But soul will always speak to us in the same way: through riddles, metaphors, symbols, poetry, art, ritual, and imagination. If we’re willing to step into that and translate it, then the awakening process is well under way.
And we’ve opened the door to embracing the tension between ego and soul.
But that’s hard. It requires slowing down, letting go of some control, making time to enter a rather mysterious world. Perhaps most difficult of all, though: it may require stepping back from putting our dreams into action. At least for a little while.
I know. Why on earth would we want to do that? Shouldn’t we always dream big? And go for our dreams, all out?
Well. Yes. Sort of.
But I think Jung is trying to tell us that putting our dreams into action in the outside world is often driven mostly by ego. Ego’s good at that. It wants to make things concrete. It wants to run ahead. Yet there is a dark side to all that striving, wanting, dreaming, doing, running. We risk living only half a life, following the twists and turns of ego, relinquishing the deeper wisdom of heart and soul.
It’s tricky business, though, looking inside to awaken soul. Because soul might say:
No, I don’t think so. That dream of yours pretty much shuts me out.
Or: I’m tired of doing, I need to play for a while.
Or: Yes, this dream feels deep and authentic and soulful.
Or: This dream isn’t meant for the world to see. It’s about your relationship with me.
Or: That’s cool, but there’s more here than meets the eye. So spend some time with me before you go running off again.
And let’s face it, we don’t always want to listen to that, do we? Or I should say, ego doesn’t always want to listen.
So the eternal tug of war between ego and soul, dreaming and awakening, continues. It’s complicated. Far from simple. But worth mucking around in, don’t you think?
In fact, how about you muck around with me in the comments today and we talk about this?
How have soul and ego come into conflict in your own life?
Have you ever put a dream into action that seemed right at the time but turned out to neglect the voice of soul?
What’s soul trying to tell you these days?