Loliness

It is the hardest, most lonely, most painful feeling in the world – and it is one I had never expected.  I left the job market at age 50 or 51 to care for my parents, both of whom were disabled and who could not have stayed in their own home without my caregiving.  Naturally, I had to leave behind all the friends I had made at work and in the other offices in that area.  As I got into the routine of full time caregiving, I realized that I would have very little time to spend with friends, even on the telephone.  So, the situation required that I pare down my friends to only the closest 4, most of whom had been my friends for 30 years or more.  Even then, I had very little time to talk with them, and getting together with them usually involved seeing one another in the hospital, either when they came to visit one of my parents, when I went to visit them, and on 2 occasions, when they came to visit me when I was hospitalized.  Truly, as an only child and with no other family support, my parents became my entire world, with the exception of one or two events a year.  My parents and I had a very close relationship, and I adored them, even had great fun with them to the end of their lives, so not having time for any friends didn’t feel like a terrible deprivation.

I took care of my parents in this manner for the last 14 years of their lives.  My father died in 2004.  The GREAT shock came to me one year later when my very best friend (aside from my mother) died, too.  After that, and for the next 5 years, my mother was my entire life, and she needed almost all of my attention, as she became more ill and increasingly disabled.  My dear and beloved mother died in 2009, just 8 days before her 90th birthday, and just before Christmas.  I was so devastated that I was not able to function much at all for the next year.  No time of my life has ever been harder and more lonely.

My experience of being completely alone and having no friends hit me like a ton of bricks at the funeral home.  In between the death of my father and the death of my mother, ALL of the only friends I had kept in contact with during my years of caregiving, died.   As I sat in the chapel at my mother’s funeral, I looked around and realized that I was completely alone on this planet.  For a very long time, I felt as though some alien ship had dropped me off on this planet, knowing no one and having no family, saying, “Now, Go.  Make a life.”  Where?  How to begin?  I was 63 years old, and for the very first time in my life, I had nobody.  That deeply affected me in ways no one can imagine unless s/he has experienced it.  When you’re younger, you naturally meet people and make friends at school, at work, at church, among your children’s friends, at volunteer or other social activities, and other such involvements.  Those avenues were all closed to me at that age.  From having lifted my parents, who are MUCH larger and heavier than my tiny 94-lb. frame, I injured my vertebrae, resulting in constant pain from advanced degenerative disc disease.  I’ve also developed other health issues, which limit my activities to one degree or another.  Because of my constant neck, head, shoulder, and upper arm pain, I can’t attend college or other classes or even volunteer for charities I’d like, because I simply can’t be counted on to show up.  I never know when my pain will be so debilitating that I can’t get up, so anything with a schedule is not a reasonable option for me.

Although my legs are still good for the most part, I can go hiking, and I have met some people there.  But, we don’t really get together to do anything outside of talking with one another on the hiking trails.  My life, which was once very active, overly busy, and involved, has become very lonely.  I spend every single holiday and special day alone.  No one ever thinks of inviting a person with no family to join them for a holiday celebration.  It is as though we are the forgotten of society.  (My parents and I always invited at least one person, who was all alone, to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and other special days  with us.  When we barbequed, we always invited at least one such person, so that person wouldn’t have to endure another day alone.  It seems that we have become such an insular society that no one does that any more.  That makes it even more lonely for me, and my holidays all seem quite desolate.  I volunteer every year to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the poor at a local church, but that is the only holiday experience I’ve had since my mother died 5 years ago.  I do that even if I’m in bad pain, simply so I won’t have to be alone again, but I get SO MUCH joy out of my work there, that it keeps me going for months.  (I do not belong to a church, because my beliefs don’t include those kinds of things any longer, but I love people, and so I thrive on serving them when and where I can.  The place doesn’t matter, even if I don’t agree with the precepts underlying it.)  Last year,  I had to take more pain pills than usual and Celebrex, which is dangerous to me, just to make it through the day, serving others at Thanksgiving.

I reconnected with an old friend from high school through an online service, whom I hadn’t seen since 1964, trying to reach out to establish new connections.  That friend was not the person she was in high school, and she betrayed me – even while I was helping her financially by paying her winter heating bill, sending her money for food, car repairs, and every other thing you can imagine, including buying her cat some extremely expensive cat food, which she said was “the ONLY kind he would eat”.  I ended that “friendship” after 2 years, because it was only a one-way relationship.  When I was flat on my back ill for months, she never offered to help me or even come to my home and visit with me.  Although I long to be useful to others, NOBODY wants to be used, and that is what was happening.  I’m not sorry that I put an end to it, because no friend at all is better than one who uses you and betrays you.  So, I invested 2 years and a lot of money in a person who didn’t deserve it, and I’m right back where I was after my mother died.

All of my holidays and special days consist in me spending large parts of my day at my parents’ and grandparents’ graveside, where I place the big, beautiful wreaths I’ve made for each holiday, birthday, anniversary, etc., and I sit on their graves, talking to them as if they were still here, sometimes, even pleading for their help.  They are still the very best that life had to offer me, and I miss them tremendously, especially when I’m facing difficulties or on the days when everybody seems to have a place to go but me.

Being entirely alone in this world means also feeling vulnerable to everything.   So many people – just as I once did – count on, even sometimes take for granted, the emotional, social, and financial support they get from their loved ones, family and friends.  When you no longer have any kind of support, you feel even more alone, vulnerable, and you begin to feel that there is no place in this world for you.  Every holiday, in particular, brings those painful feelings in a loud, unrelenting roar, and they are further punctuated by seeing cheerful families gather around each other for any occasion.   A person’s aloneness takes on a whole new and devastating feel to it when the holidays arrive with all the pomp and circumstance society gives it, and when your birthday comes, but there is no one remaining to even remember.

I hope I have clarified what it feels like to have no friends, no family, no one.  I also hope that anyone reading my comment will take into consideration the things I’ve shared and will include in their activities someone who is alone .  In the blink of an eye, my situation could become yours, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be left alone on holidays and other important days.  A funeral, in particular, is an extraordinarily lonely place to be when the few people who attend include people like your mother’s physical therapist and her hairdresser.   Life sometimes just slaps you in the face HARD, and that is one of those times.  Even though I was an only child, I had always had a lot of friends until circumstances required something else from me.  I never in my wildest nightmares imagined that I would be 68 years old and be completely alone.  Please don’t take for granted what and whom you have in your life.  I always appreciated my family and friends, but not to the greatest degree they merited.  Cherish those you love, and include those who are alone.  It is within your power to make another person’s life a life, rather than a mere, lonely existence.

Janice Palesch answering What does it feel like to have no friends? in Quora

Transformation

CAMPBELL: If you realize what the real problem is — losing yourself, giving yourself to some higher end, or to another — you realize that this itself is the ultimate trial. When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.

And what all the myths have to deal with is transformations of consciousness of one kind or another. You have been thinking one way, you now have to think a different way.

MOYERS: How is consciousness transformed?

CAMPBELL: Either by the trials themselves or by illuminating revelations. Trials and revelations are what it’s all about.

Joseph Campbell, Bill D. Moyers, Betty S. Flowers in The power of Myth

What is a disease?

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What is in a name? What is a disease, exactly? Diseases seem real and specific to those who have them or fear they have them because, as patients, we understand diseases according to what they do to us and how they make us feel. This is logical, after all: What we feel is all we know. In my body, multiple sclerosis was causing degeneration in my spinal cord, and I could feel the results: a slow loss of mobility, brain fog, and episodes of horrific pain.

Although MS 1 looks like a particular condition on the outside, at the cellular level MS is not so different from other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus; chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease; and even from mood disorders like depression, autism, and schizophrenia. My biochemistry was malfunctioning, and in my case these dysfunctional processes began in the cells in my brain and spinal cord. But that root cause—cellular dysfunction—has everything in common with other diseases that have other names.

At the most basic level, scientists are discovering that nearly all of the chronic diseases that cause so much suffering and are steadily driving up the cost of health care all share mitochondrial dysfunction, excessive inflammation, high cortisol levels, and other markers of broken biochemistry. In a very real sense, we all have the same disease because all disease begins with ­broken, incorrect biochemistry and disordered communication within and between our cells. For health to return, the chemistry must revert to normal, and communication within and between our cells must be restored. This is true for every disease.

Whether you are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus or inflammatory bowel disease—or whether you are told your symptoms are “idiopathic” (meaning we don’t know what is causing them)—depends largely on how your disease looks on the outside. Inside, the distinction between these autoimmune diseases is, frankly, fairly arbitrary, although there are different ways to view, think about, and understand what is happening when cellular dysfunction gains a foothold. As a conventionally trained doctor, I learned one way; in my studies of functional medicine, I learned a different way. However, the fact remained that inside the body, health problems begin in the cells.

Terry Wahls M.D..in The Wahls Protocol

  1. Multiple sclerosis

Daedalus

MOYERS: You’re not against technology, are you?

CAMPBELL: Not at all. When Daedalus, who can be thought of as the master technician of most ancient Greece, put the wings he had made on his son Icarus, so that he might fly out of and escape from the Cretan labyrinth which he himself had invented, he said to him: “Fly the middle way. Don’t fly too high, or the sun will melt the wax on your wings, and you will fall. Don’t fly too low, or the tides of the sea will catch you.” Daedalus himself flew the middle way, but he watched his son become ecstatic and fly too high. The wax melted, and the boy fell into the sea. For some reason, people talk more about Icarus than about Daedalus, as though the wings themselves had been responsible for the young astronaut’s fall. But that is no case against industry and science. Poor Icarus fell into the water — but Daedalus, who flew the middle way, succeeded in getting to the other shore.

Joseph Campbell, Bill D. Moyers, Betty S. Flowers. in The Power Of Myth

Suddenly

autumn still lifeImage by Marilylle Soveran on flickr

I should say at this juncture that meditation is weird. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Not even Hugh Jackman. You sit upright (and, FYI, in mindfulness circles the verb “to sit” gains whole new levels of awed reverence, and probably a capital letter. “Did you Sit yet today?” the mindful will ask each other, meaning, “Have you meditated?”) in a position that is supposed to be relaxed yet alert, you pay attention to your breath, and you chant or stay silent, or, in the case of Headspace, listen to an ex-Buddhist monk surfer tell you a thing or two about the human condition. And, yeah, that is a weird thing to do. It’s nearly, but not quite, doing absolutely nothing, and who ever heard of such a thing? Particularly in this era of Tinder and WhatsApp and multi-channel television and hot-and-cold-running distraction? On top of being weird, it’s hard. Physically hard. I ached and also itched wildly when I started out. Even now, a year and a bit on, I have days when my back and shoulders – so used to either constant support, or the latitude to shift about at will – kick off in complaint.

And it’s emotionally hard. Meditation encourages you to observe your emotions, to hang out with them, to never avoid them or suppress them or run from them. And when what you’re feeling on a particular day is, I dunno, principally shame, or anxiety, or all-consuming sadness, or rage… Well, that’s an intense 20 minutes you’re looking at. I have cried a lot while meditating. I have sobbed. And then there are the days when you think, “This can’t really be doing anything, can it?” And the days when you think, “I’m doing it wrong. I must be the worst person in the world at meditating. Andy would be so disappointed in me!” And the days when you think, “BORING!”

And yet… in the midst of all that, every once in a while, you hit a sweet spot, which is when you find yourself feeling the way you do, say, three or four days into a holiday, when accumulated hours of lounging about doing nothing but reading novels or chatting idly finally make the myriad stresses of home and work seem distant to the point of irrelevance. Suddenly you are filled with the absolute knowledge that everything is all basically OK.

Polly Vernon

Mirrors

Four More Panels
Image by Sam Cox on flickr

I think Jung felt that, having become aware of the profundity and far reaches of the human psyche through his clinical work and his own experience, he had to work patiently over a considerable length of time in order to formulate responsibly this sublime vision of the human soul. He would not rush it, delayed publishing for years while he worked at building the structures that could support his thought in the intellectual community. As we try to grasp this vision in its full magnitude, we need to bear in mind that he elaborated it over a period of some
sixty years.

We should not be overly obsessed with exact consistency in a work this large and in one that is attuned to empirical reality.

A story is told of Jung by his students in Zurich. Once when he was criticized for being inconsistent on some point of theory, he responded:

I have my eye on the central fire, and put some mirrors around it to show it to others. Sometimes the edges of those mirrors leave gaps and don’t fit together exactly. I can’t help that. Look at what I’m trying to point to!


Murray Stein
in Jung´s Map of the Soul

Watching movies

It is possible for humans to remain conscious while suspending much of normal ego functioning. By will we can direct ourselves to be passive and inactive and simply to observe the world within or without, like a camera. Normally, though it is not possible to maintain a volitionally restrained observational consciousness for a great length of time, because the ego and the wider psyche usually become quickly engaged by what is being observed. When we watch a movie, for example, we may begin by simply observing and taking in the people and scenery. But we soon begin to identify with one character or another, and our emotions become activated. The ego readies itself to act, and if one has difficulty distinguishing between movie images and reality (another ego function) one may be tempted to engage in physical behavior. The body then becomes mobilizied, and the ego aims at and intends a particular course of action. Indeed, movies are structured so that viewers will take sides emotionally and support whatever a particular character is doing or feeling. Engaged in this way, the ego becomes activated as a center of wishing, hoping and perhaps even intending. It is conceivable that one would make a major life decision while watching a movie as a consequence of the feelings and thoughts generated in consciousness by these images. People have been known to leave a movie theatre and become violent or lustful as a direct result of the impact of the movie. The has become enlisted by emotion, identification, and desire, and uses its directive function and energy to act.

Murray Stein in Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction

The losing of the shadow

We do not like to look at the shadow-side of ourselves; therefore there are many people in our civilized society who have lost their shadow altogether, have lost the third dimension, and with it they have usually lost the body. The body is a most doubtful friend because it produces things we do not like: there are too many things about the personification of this shadow of the ego. Sometimes it forms the skeleton in the cupboard, and everybody naturally wants to get rid of such a thing.

Carl Gustav Jung in a conference in 1935

Chorten

According to the Zi Ji, there are one hundred and twenty different kinds of physically manifested chorten (Sanskrit: stupa) within the Yungdrung Bön tradition. The ritual preparation, dimensions, materials, and ornamentation are all defined in great detail. Each of these aspects has multiple meanings. The chorten physically represents the path to enlightenment from the base to the flame of wisdom of absolute reality at the very top.

NINE WAYS