What I Learned from Leaving

I struggle to leave places. I don’t like it at all. To look at the stars one last time before closing my eyes or to stand at the shore looking out on the water before turning my back on it or to say “I love you” one more time before hanging up…it is torture. Even if I want to go where I am going, it is hard for me to leave and I really feel it intensely. So why ever leave? Especially if you are happy and content and love where you are? I don’t like it, but I have gotten better at it because I have realized some things. I leave because sometimes this is exactly what you need to shake things up and to appreciate where you have been.

It is exactly what you need to draw your attention and your senses to what it is that you love about where you are and to give yourself focused time to love it in the special way that you can only love something that is fleeting…longing as if it has already been taken from you or as if it is something you yearn for and have not yet found, while having an intense presence and focus in order to capture the well of emotion such that you can store its essence deep in the memory of your heart and body forever to recall at will and go back there.

It takes the Truth in the journey of life that everything is always changing, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, and it makes you conscious of that. Well, it does for me. I am not talking about running away from anything. It is exactly the opposite. I notice what exactly it is that I am sad to leave and it makes me run towards more of that in my life, both while I have it and in new situations.

A lot can happen when you leave. You realize where you came from and you wonder about where you are going. You maybe have fears. You maybe have hopes. You maybe have decisions to make. You have an approach, whether conscious or not, for letting go of what was and embracing what is and opening yourself to what could be. You have the opportunity to take what you learned, what you loved and to apply it in a different context and in doing so, integrate it into your life more fully.

Leaving does not have to be moving cities or countries. It can happen even when you go to travel for a holiday. It can happen when you move from one house to another, one neighborhood to another. It can happen when you leave your bed in the morning. It can happen when you get totally immersed into nature for a day and then cross the threshold back into civilization. It can happen in a relationship with someone you love deeply who is just not the one.

How would you live your life for the next month if you knew you were leaving to a new place at the end of it? Would your senses be on higher alert? What would your priorities be? Who would you want to spend time with and how? Where would you wander? What new things would you do that you’ve been wanting to do and haven’t gotten around to? Where are your favorite places you would go and what would you realize about why you appreciate them? What would you feel grateful for? What would you realize about what you have learned and experienced there?

I just left a magical place, where I have had six months living on a lake in the mountains of Patagonia, surrounded by stunning, pristine nature and warm, fun, authentic people. I feel that I lived more consciously during my time at the lake, as I was so aware that I was only there temporarily and wanted to take advantage of that. I think I am leaving there living my life more in this fashion, understanding more about the nature of a full and consciously lived life. Life too, is temporary.

I am so sad to leave, but it is sadness that is grounded in the deep happiness and gratitude for having been there and knowing that although I am leaving, it is forever a part of me.

Dream a Little Dream with Me

I want to focus specifically on dream work because it is something I am doing more frequently. I find it fascinating and extremely insightful. And, well, we all dream. Everyone dreams and that includes animals. Carl Jung proposes that this would not be the case if it did not serve an evolutionary purpose. (fun fact, if you google “how do we know that…” one of the top things google will guess that you are searching for is “how do we know that dogs dream”) For now, I’m asking you to trust me that they do. Our dreams must give us something to learn, to keep us alive and safe and to grow.

So they help us grow and they also help us discover new things. Every dream has some new information coming from the depths of our unconscious, trying to make itself known. In a recurring dream or a nightmare, it may be that the lesson is of deeper importance or greater urgency and the unconscious is trying that much harder to get your attention. This is what I have discovered to be true about dreams as I’ve learned more about how to work with them. I would be weary of any person or book that declares they will interpret your dreams. Rather, it is a process and a practice and there are ways to be in relationship with your dreams, to treat them as guides and teachers.

When you are in the sacred space of sleep, your ego is on break and your unconscious comes out to play in the dark. The unconscious is a world of symbols and archetypes, of emotions and questions and longings and infinite potential. This energy of the less tangible and less logic-based things in life uses people and symbols that we attach meaning to in our waking life, to create stories that we can use. These stories are our dreams.

Anyone with a broken heart or goal or desire that has not yet come to fruition can tell you that the internal, intangible world is very real and the brain, soul and heart aren’t always on the same page. So dreams can be a bridge between our unconscious and conscious selves that can keep us moving forward when we cross them.

In our waking life, we can look at the themes, the symbols, the archetypes, the emotions and the questions present in the dream to learn something and grow. Jung proposes that everything in the dream is a symbol that holds information about yourself. Each person in a dream is representing a facet of yourself…a quality you want to garner, a shadow quality you need to work with, a quality that will help you with your current life circumstances and so on.

It is common for people to have a dream about someone they just randomly saw the other day and say, “Well, obviously that person was in my dream as a coincidence of seeing them the other day.” Jung would argue otherwise on behalf of your unconscious. We potentially see hundreds, maybe thousands of people a day. Your unconscious seeks opportunities in the real world for synchronicity because those things can then grab your attention and be studied as symbols. It’s as if your unconscious is scanning your experiences for the right symbol to use and when it finds it, boom it edits it into your dreams so you have the opportunity to work with it.

So here are some primary things you can start doing:

Before you go to sleep, focus on your desire to remember your dreams.

When you do remember them, lay in bed and go over the dream again before moving.

Write the dream down and give it a title.

Describe the themes that you see in the dream.

Record the emotions and energy you felt.

Think about the questions that the dream is posing to you.

Identify the symbols in the dream and record what you associate with them.

Keep a journal of dreams and look at them in a series of 10 for patterns that occur.

In certain cases, you may want to draw your dream or move and act it out to dig deeper into the sensations and messages.

Keep asking yourself how this relates to your life experiences…What is familiar? When have you felt this before? How does this make you feel now? What new perspective is being introduced? What is the invitation from this dream?

This is plenty to start with. Other practices for getting in touch with your emotional and unconscious world within can also help.

First, acknowledging that this part of you is alive and working on your behalf all of the time. Focus intention, perhaps in meditation, through writing or wandering in nature, on your desire to notice and nurture your unconscious world. Also, while I don’t rely on dream dictionaries, there are a myriad of books out there that can help you to learn to work with your dreams.

Here are a few recommendations of books that have been helpful to me:

Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using Dreams to Tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious, by Jeremy Taylor

Dream Symbol Work: Unlocking the Energy from Dreams and Spiritual Experiences, by Patricia H Berne and Louis M. Savary

Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung

I also recommend seeking out dream groups, a dream practitioner or a therapist who offers dream work or deep imagery work, retreats and workshops. I learned so much about dreams from my vision quest and the month-long transformation retreat I did in the Amazon, in addition to my personal practice.

Dreams are personal. It can be so helpful to have someone guide you through the process and dream work in a group setting can be extremely powerful as well. I have made major life decisions based on dreams and gained many insights. I occasionally have lucid dreams and even literal dreams that have come true the next day. There is a whole world of possibility for those courageous enough to explore. Happy Dreaming!

Countdown to 2015 – 2 – Into the Dreamy Depths

I think it’s time to specifically call out the unconscious part of ourselves too and why we have it and what we can do with it. So as the countdown to 2015 nears its end, let’s take a look at what’s going on inside.

“Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

I think this is true and I think both are important as well as integrated. The unconscious is the part of the iceberg immersed in the ocean…the unseen, the feelings and emotions, the intangible. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling, woke up from a dream or had butterflies in your chest from falling in love, you’ve experienced the unconscious.

I’m going to write from a Jungian perspective because it is familiar territory and it resonates with me deeply. Jung identified both the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious.

The collective unconscious refers to the human template basically, what are the things the characteristics that all of us receive when we’re born, share with each other and contribute to in how we live our lives. The ability to think, feel, to breathe, our unique ability to analyze and be aware of ourselves as individuals and aware of our thoughts.

The personal unconscious refers to our unique experience of the collective unconscious. It is the culmination of our experiences, the influence of various cultures and communities we are born into, the season and time of day we first experience and the impact of all of this and more on how we individually express and manifest it all.

I think we can all agree that we are not just these static bodies made up of all this physical, tangible stuff and nothing more. Where does the change take place…not physical changes, but how we change as people over time? Where do our experiences go as we accumulate more of them? Where does the growth we experience in our lives occur, the learning? How do we evolve and apply ourselves and express ourselves? Where does creativity live? What does our conscience look like and how does it operate? Why do we seek new experiences and goals and dreams?

And so there is much we can learn if we are willing to dive into the depths of the intangible world within…we might call it our souls. What would it look like to acknowledge this and engage with this energy?

How do we do that? A number of ways.

The realm of the unconscious is that of symbols, where it plays around with ways to express itself and work its way into our consciousness. Symbols are containers for energy, meaning, information, values, emotions. They give us something physical and tangible to identify with so that we can then process all these unknowns with what we do know.

This is why storytelling is important and why we have cultural myths. This is what we experience in dreams. This is one way that nature is a mirror for us. This is something we can find in our own writing and art if we commit to a practice and then experience ourselves through our own creations.

Initially I wrote a whole section on dream work for this post, but there is just too much information there and if you’re like me, you get a bit antsy when a blog post just won’t end even if it is interesting. So expect a post on dream work sometime soon. (Follow this blog and you’ll get an email when it comes.)

For now, my recommendation would be to get curious about your unconscious world and search for some practices that most appeal to you for getting to know it.

Maybe it is sitting with some of the questions above. Maybe it is starting to journal, take nature walks, meditate, record dreams, read poetry or philosophy or a book about Carl Jung. If at all possible I think a long term, solo journey in nature is the most ideal way to dive into this stuff.

Might I suggest some topics to consider:

“Who am I?” ok maybe that is a bit intense. But what makes me, me? My values, qualities, talents, passions, personality?

How do I process information?

How do I express myself?

How do I want others to approach me?

What are my shadow qualities?

What triggers challenging emotions in me? How do I handle that when it happens?

When do I feel the happiest and most alive?

What was my childhood like?…both the things I loved to do for hours and also my defense mechanisms and strategies that I used as I discovered I was my own person?

What do I need to let go of in my life that doesn’t serve me anymore to make space for new?

What new things do I want to invite into that space?

..all territory of the unconscious and the soul.

To me, not befriending your unconscious is like not celebrating your birthday. Your unconscious is there and it is active whether you like it or not and it has a critical role to play. We all have the opportunity to get on board with that and have a conscious approach towards it and actually be grateful for the gifts that lie there. When we don’t, what resides there can often arise in ways that aren’t so comfortable.

“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” ~ Johnny Depp

With our birthdays, we’re turning older whether we like it or not. Aging is a reality. Celebrating your birthday is an opportunity to celebrate your life…holy shit, we’re alive! That’s pretty cool. To me, a birthday is a symbol of our life and an opportunity to check in with what we’re doing with it.

Ok, off my soap box. Happy birthday to everyone and happy exploring of your unconscious. This is just the tiniest of introductions to all things unconscious, but my hope is it was interesting in the least and a call to curiosity and action at the most.

Thank you for tuning in to this series of ten blogs posts on personal development practices for a fulfilling 2015. If you’re just arriving, welcome! Here’s where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

If you like what you are reading, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too. The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

I have 2 days left in my campaign, all or nothing! I will beg. I will. Please.

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.

Countdown to 2015 – 4 – Yours Truly

It’s the first day of 2015…Happy New Year!! It may seem odd that we’re still counting down to 2015 in this series of ten blogs when it is now 2015, but here’s the thing…we’re not seeking perfection and the idea is to be mindful every day of how we’re consciously living full lives. In this light, today’s blog is about Self Care.

But first…here’s what we’ve been through so far:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

So I thought today would be a good day to talk about self care because we’ve just been gifted a brand new year and how can we do great things and be good for anyone else if we’re not taking care of ourselves.

I actually believe that one of the more unselfish things to do in life is to take care of yourself and follow your dreams. This world could use people who are living fully and are truly embodying and sharing their authentic selves.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” ~ Mary Oliver

This is one of my favorite quotes. And then there’s Carl Jung. I’m completely obsessed with Carl Jung; the man was a genius. His contributions range from archetypes to dream work, synchronicity to individuation and so much more.

Last year I was encouraged to pick one word to focus on, one word to anchor my intentions to. The word that I picked was “Individuation”…which basically encompasses and celebrates that there will never be another me or another you ever again and the responsibility, opportunity and life journey that comes along with that is perhaps the meaning of life.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain

“Today you’re alive that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Self care can mean so many things so much so that what you really need to start with is a nap and a massage. Actually, I do count both of those as self care if that is what you need to do. To take it further I like to reflect on the state of my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. I’ve started adding cultural and social as categories too.

I meditate and/or journal on each of those areas periodically. What have I done to care for myself in each area? What new things am I trying or pursuing to grow in each of these areas? Do I feel balanced or am I scattered or pulled strongly towards one area now.

It now makes so much sense to me that when I started to shake things up emotionally and mentally with wanting a change, my spirituality grew stronger and my physical aspect made some noise. Most people I know who have made big life changes have had to care for something physically with their bodies.

I think each of these facets of our Selves are integrated and influence each other, for example something emotional manifesting in a physical way. So I like to notice what’s going on with me in these areas and also have practices for nurturing each aspect and for balancing them.

I have learned in this that physical touch is really important, especially for parents bonding with their babies, but for all of us throughout our lives. We can connect in many ways, but there is something very transformative, loving and necessary about human touch.

This could be going to get that massage, getting a hug from someone or even cuddling with an animal. Touch is calming, soothing and makes us feel seen, connected and loved. Everyone stop what you’re doing (as soon as you finish reading this) and go get a massage. This is your permission.

I think self care also includes taking a look at relationships. Who are the big players in your life? Where are you supported? What are the values you share with those in your lives? How do you let people know what they mean to you? How do you receive from and also tend to those special people in your life?

Here are just a few ideas in these areas (and of course these things can overlap):

Mental – meditation, listen to a podcast, read, write/ journal, study something

Emotional – laugh, cry, smile, listen to music, create something, dance

Physical – meet with a naturopath, go for a bike ride, take a bath with candles, nap

Spiritual – do yoga, perform a ritual, wander in nature, gratitude practice

Cultural – do something new, be creative, plan a trip, host a foreigner, go see live music

Social – meet someone new, write a letter, attend a conference, join a club

With all of this self care, soul work and personal development you are doing, it’s important to celebrate it. It is encouraging, fun and impactful to continued progress when we acknowledge our journey and accomplishments, reward ourselves and celebrate.

And now time for a restorative, self-care induced full night’s sleep. Thank you for tuning in to this series of blogs on personal development practices for an inspired and adventurous new year.

As I said, I think the greatest form of self care can be to go after your passions without restraint. I am currently running a kickstarter campaign based on pursuing my passions.

The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

If you like what you are reading, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too.

I have 4 days left in my campaign, all or nothing!

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.