Magical Creature Metaphors of Resurrection: Phoenix and Butterfly

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“Up from the ashes” depicts the magical Phoenix bird that dies and is reborn from its own ashes, completing a cycle of birth-death-rebirth over and over again.  The magical Butterfly as well, though a real being, literally dies to its earth-crawling caterpillar form to be fully redesigned and reborn in the chrysalis, emerging as a beautiful, delicate winged being.

Being capable of flight in their mature form is a common denominator of the Phoenix and the Butterfly. As archetypal metaphors, they thereby represent the primordial IDEALIST in us all; we are each of us capable of essential transformations of our own form and/or consciousness. 

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The Phoenix transforms from an AIR archetype into a FIRE archetype and then re-emerges as an AIR element archetype again. The Butterfly transforms from an EARTH element archetype to an AIR archetype form.  AIR as an archetypal element connotes liberation, spiritual freedom and a spirit of adventure. As such, the archetypal transformations of Phoenix and Butterfly are also ALCHEMICAL; they have a MYSTICAL  aspect of Ascension and Enlightenment.

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images are from pixabay.com

When have YOU, or how MIGHT you, emulate the mystical Phoenix or Butterfly?

Reflecting on this question to provide an example from my own life, I can relate to the Phoenix metaphor in several aspects. I figuratively died to my early, formative life experience in New York state in 1979 to Go West, to Phoenix, to undergo the transformation of graduate school in a new career major, Anthropology. I might even say that then the later graduation from graduate school with my PhD and relocating to Colorado to conduct my career as a professor for the next 25 years was another Ascension, another death and rebirth so I could apply (give back to life) as a professor all I had been learning up til then. Now then, I have saved the Caterpillar to Butterfly metaphor for the next, huge transformation of my identity as I retire and relocate back to New York state this summer.  I will emerge from the chrysallis of Academe to a life of greater freedom and opportunity for creative expression as an Author, with my book, Your Life Path–see right panel–being published this March and at least two more in the Life Paths series to complete and publish after that.

I invite and welcome YOUR comments and Story!

Follow Your Mystic Guide

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This year at Life Paths for Better Endings we are conjoining twelve universal archetypal figures with twelve positive, goal-affirming Life Metaphors. This month we are focusing on The MYSTIC archetype in connection with the metaphor, Life is an Epic Journey. For our third week of the month, we bring these two ideas together, and it is natural to recognize that since life is an Epic Journey, the Mystic serves as a Guide.

I am very familiar with this fortuitous awareness of being able to follow a mystic Guide, as on my own spiritual path I recognize an Inner Master who appears often in my dreams and contemplations to offer his amazing, loving guidance, insight and protection. For me, acceptance of this inner guidance has been a major blessing in my life. I am deeply grateful to have discovered that life is so much more than outer appearances and that there are other-dimensional guides available always, for everyone, at any time.  While I work in a very worldly job outwardly as a professor, I feel extremely fortunate that this sphere has not confined my awareness or limited my perceptions of spiritual realities, and I will not deny nor apologize for my acknowledgement of the wonderful experiences this spiritual awareness has afforded me, time and time again.

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The Mystic Guide—however else it may appear to you—is available as an archetypal persona that is a part of your Self and that you can call upon for clarity and direction whenever you are wondering what your next step could be.  Allow me to share an example.

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When I was an undergrad in college many years ago in Buffalo, New York, I was on a quite successful intercollegiate fencing team. The last college tournament I participated in was a nationals qualifying event during my senior year of college. Our team had placed 9th of over 125 universities (by two touches we would have been 7th) the previous year, but two of that team had graduated, and two less experienced, junior varsity teammates had joined me and my friend Ro (we had been the strongest fencers at that previous nationals, placing highly ourselves as well). Our coach, Denny, became overly aggressive in trying to force our younger teammates to step up beyond their level of skill, and he was also becoming overly forceful and aggressive with these teammates at meets. So at this last event, I did well as did my friend Ro; the rest competed as well as they could yet came up short of our coach’s demands. I found myself at that tournament at Ohio State University cheering on every good ‘touch’, whether by a teammate or by an opponent or by myself. I congratulated if an opponent won a bout as much as if a teammate did. Something was turning in me; my sense of competitiveness shifted to an appreciation of the sheer beauty of fencing as an art and of the endeavors and talents of each individual.

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When we left that event, I sat in the back of the team van for the long ride home to Buffalo from Columbus, Ohio. I had recently discovered the practice of mantra singing, and for nearly the entirety of that road trip, I closed my eyes and chanted a single word: IS.  I sang that word as a mantra over and over: Is-is-is-is-is-is-isssss! I was contemplating existence itself, or ISness. And something amazing happened inwardly: I found myself in a round, high, turret like room with library shelves and books all around me, many stories deep, and a dome at the top. I was seated at a round table in the center, and all I had to do to get a book was to think of that and one of the books would come to me. ALL of the books in that round library were about the same subject: Language. I absorbed book after book, studying the titles, drinking in the immensity of the topic; its breadth and depth. All the while listening inwardly to:  IS-IS-IS-IS-IS-IS…

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When we arrived back at our gym at the university in Buffalo, I approached Denny and announced to him that I was quitting the team from that moment forward. I took my own fencing equipment with me, and left. (My friend Ro did the same some weeks later.) But from the deep contemplation experience, I had found my next step in my own journey. That next week I started studying language intensively at the college library, and the next year I entered a graduate program in Linguistics at SUNY Buffalo; this has been the basis of my career foundation ever since.

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It was something within me which I can now recognize as my inner Mystic Guide that set me to singing IS that day and showed me my inner passion for language that would become central to my life’s journey.  Something shifted inwardly while at the tournament that day, and this subtle shift in consciousness allowed me to be open to the inner direction of this mystical calling.

You and I only need, ever, to be willing to Listen and Learn!

How Will You Get There?

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This week we are contemplating the ensemble of “Big” life questions: Where are you Now? Where are you going? And for today through Saturday:

HOW WILL YOU GET THERE?

On Thursday I asked ‘What is your Shangri-La?’; that spiritual destination you aim to return to or arrive at in order to best fulfill your sense of personal Mission in this life. Then I had a significant dream Monday night that really supports my motivation to communicate about the principle intrinsic to our question this week:

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I was co-teaching to a large class of students. One woman I had been talking with individually addressed the class with her profound answer to a question we had been discussing. Then I went to address the full class with that same question. But as dreams go, a shift occurred, and as I approached to speak, I saw the students were being assembled by some beings in white coats or uniforms , down and off to the right a ways. They were being assembled in a circular formation around something red in the center. I addressed the class anyway, figuring somehow they would be able to hear and sensing this was a very important question for them. I asked them:

“What is your purpose here? Not ‘What is your purpose HERE’, but ‘What is your PURPOSE Here?”

Now then, that dream became prophetic the next day. I was preparing for a large class I am co-teaching which involves conducting mainly college seniors through a full life mapping rites of passage cycle. I was already going to share the dream, as it is of such obvious relevance!  While prepping for the class, I was reading “Confrontation with the Unconscious” by Carl Jung (in Joan Chodorow’s Jung on Active Imagination), and I was also reading in Jung’s The Red Book, both of which were assigned for the class. You who appreciate Jung will appreciate what happened next as “synchronicity”: The very image from my dream of the students being assembled by white clad agencies in a circular formation around a red center is almost identical to a dream that Carl Jung himself had that revealed to him the importance of the integrated Self as an archetypal CENTER of consciousness! Jung dreamed of a town set up in a circular fashion (with milky white colors) with an island in the middle, and on the island was a magnolia tree with “reddish leaves”!

So in my dream I dreamed Jung’s dream within my wider dream, and it was about helping the students to orient around the concept of the Integrated (both conscious and unconscious, unified) Self/ soul and to answer: “What is your PURPOSE Here?”

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Wow! So now for this blog post, let’s take this one further step to consider how the question being posed in my dream (and Jung’s archetypal image of wholeness at the center of Selfhood) pertains to: “How will you get There?”

Knowing your PURPOSE orients you to your GOAL. The CENTER, which is Self or Soul, IS the Goal.  (as stated in Jung’s words re. his dream: “There is nowhere to go beyond this Center”!

How then will you approach the center of your divine Self? One way or another, it is through integrating outer and inner, conscious and unconscious domains of consciousness.

Through the class I am teaching this semester an image has come through:

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Do you see? This shows our conscious awareness, or the “outer” reality itself, as being like a film AROUND all that which is in the dynamism of the Unconscious, or “inner”. We live outwardly as if this were the sum of reality, but we are only surface dwellers in that light. We must go within, make a Descent, find a way to maintain connection with the content of our unconscious awareness.

That is how we can get There…

I welcome your insights and stories!

A Portal to Other Dimensions

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Blogging has been a great blessing to me in and of itself. I thank all of you who are reading these posts. They have become for me a new kind of journaling as a conversation with Self and Spirit (including the spirit in You). This year’s process of combining positive life metaphors with monthly archetypal profiles and dialogues has been truly alchemical for me already, as conducting these blog posts engages me in deeper connections with my own archetypal inner assembly.

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This week’s pairing of the metaphor Life is But a Dream with the archetypal orientation of Teacher has opened a portal to a profound realization for me, so I hope some of you will also apply the techniques to arrive at your own realizations.  What I have realized this week is how the recognition of “life is a dream” provides access to other dimensional levels of awareness!

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Here’s an example. Last Saturday night after putting up the blog about The Learner–where I dialogued with Rumi as an inner Teacher–I had a dream in which I was simply petting my cat in bed, yet when I looked I saw that the cat I was petting was neither Loki nor Emily (my living cats), but it was Arthur, my cat friend that I lost to dental surgery a few months ago. Not just that, but this form of Arthur that I was petting was a little lion cub! His hair was bristly to the touch and he had a short mane forming. The reason this is significant is because I had ‘felt’ after Arthur passed that he may have been in this life here to protect his petite sister Emily, and that he was meant to go on after this life to become a lion in the veld. Arthur, you see, never seemed to me to be fully happy as a domesticated house cat; he was always more the loner type of feline, except for his dinner tidbits and delightful brushings that he could not resist!

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So perhaps Arthur came back within my dream state for some loving attention that he remembers from me as he is “now” in a wild lion embodiment.  Never mind about dimensions or time frames being simultaneous since time is an Illusion.  My personal insight is that because I recognize that this waking life is as much a ‘dream’ as is the substance of a nightly or daydream, this very awareness opens a portal BETWEEN these alter-dimensions. That is, there is less of a divide and rather a continuum of consciousness that you can shift between, seamlessly.

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I am grateful. Arthur, you are welcome in my universe of consciousness, any time!

I welcome YOUR insights and stories!

There Is No Box! A Concept I Live By, by Denise Naughton

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A few years ago a friend of mine, Jay, and I were putting together a talk about some ‘spiritual laws of life’. In order to do the talk well, we decided we should experience at least one of the laws we would talk about very consciously by working with them inwardly. Both of us chose two laws and began doing the work. My two spiritual laws were the ‘law of imperfection’, and the ‘law of progressive continuation’. Both of these principles were in harmony with one another because both imply there is always another step to take—which can be frustrating in one way, but so freeing in another.

Of course we all want a rest, but that rest is always up to us. Let’s say I’ve climbed this mountain, and I’m sitting on the peak to enjoy the accomplishment and the view—literally and metaphorically. Though I’ve never climbed mountains, my brother does, and I’ve read his stories.  The reality is, one can’t sit on the peak for too long—the lack of oxygen, weather moving in, or the need to get off that peak to move on to the next one propels your journey onward.

My grandmother used to say to me that she’d never been bored a day in her life, and she said that almost to the day she passed away. The first time I heard her say that, I decided I would never be bored either. However, I’ve always felt that a constant striving for something better also becomes boring. It can become a sense of restlessness without contentment, without loving the moment of accomplishment.  If I’m always looking outward, then I’m not developing inwardly, and that’s where the real relationship with life begins.

With this workshop, Jay and I wanted to each share a personal statement that came from our deep understanding of the spiritual laws we had been working with. My friend’s statement was that, “Each doorway brings me into a higher state of consciousness.”  I, on the other hand, wasn’t getting anything that excited me, though I could hear the excitement in Jay’s voice over his phrase. It made life sing for him.

How the image of a box came to mind I really don’t remember. I thought about the phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’ as being relevant to the laws of imperfection and progressive continuation, but that phrase bothered me. Somehow it was still a form of containment. Then I realized that what I was aiming for had nothing to do with thinking. It had everything to do with being, which can only be experienced inwardly by the individual, so that even writing about it takes away from the sensation.

Jay and I talked about my dilemma over the phone, and he said he knew without a doubt that I would find the right phrase. I hung up with huge doubts, and walked into another room. In that moment I said, “There is no box,” and with those words my world changed. I actually felt everything line up for me inwardly and suddenly I was standing at the edge of a new world filled with brilliant light and a sound current that I cannot describe. I knew I had found the right phrase. Where else this phrase would take me I didn’t know, but I was ready for the adventure.

I did a great deal of work with that phrase, “There is no box”.  I created workshop exercises around it, and I took it into a daily contemplation. Where it took me initially was turning a talk into a workshop, and with my personal experience and Jay’s we were able to work with other people, helping them to develop their own personal phrase that came from deeply contemplating upon spiritual laws they chose to work with. After doing the workshop three times in Colorado, we were invited to Australia to share it there too, and we received many compliments on how this workshop helped people to move forward in their own quest to take another step.

What I love most about this story is that ever so often someone will come up to me now and say, “There is no box!” Usually it’s when I’ve boxed myself in with fear, and doubt, or an image of what I think something should be rather than what it can be. Having no box takes away limitations and brings nothing but possibilities.

Denise Naughton is an author, a public speaker, and an ABD Ph.D. Candidate at Union College. She is completing her dissertation on Jungian archetypes related to stock characters in Australian film.

Better Endings…or Better Character?

Re-Blog of Guest Blog (I feel this one is so appropriate to our topic of Fictional Better Endings that I want to re-post it for anyone who may have missed it in our thread.-LW)

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I do not believe it is fruitful to play ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ about past choices in the pursuit of hindsight identification of a better ending. I believe that every person does the best they can, based upon who they are at that specific time and within that set of circumstances, which will never exist in that precise combination again.

Of course, we would make different choices now – – the ‘bad endings’ of our past have made us into the wiser person we are today.

So what is the key to creating a life of better endings?

If you have studied creative fiction, you understand “action always follows character.” In other words, the choices and outcomes of a story are not laid out artificially: they organically flow from a character’s set of fears, passions, insecurities, personality and history.

You don’t find apples on a peach tree. Who you are determines what you do and what follows.

Our character is a stew of ideas and reactions steeped in conditioning from childhood, ethnicity and culture and personal aversions and preferences, wrapped in the ego or persona we have chosen to build and present to the world around us. It changes with time, but we can make conscious changes so it does not hinder future choices and actions.

When I meditate, I become aware of some of the internal, automatic themes of my thinking that color my choices and behavior. Unfortunately, they are not all positive; many are defensive (the role of the ego). But once I am conscious of them, I can choose to not act out of them. Over time, they may weaken from disuse; I may even succeed at replacing them with more positive ones.

The truth is I will always have an ego whining about the world, and it can lead me down a less happy path. But I am not powerless before it. I can work consciously to build a kinder, more aware and honest character. Will I still make poor choices? Yes, since I am not perfect and life appears to be a school of learning in which we can learn from our unhappy endings. With sincere effort to become wiser and more compassionate, I will make wiser and more compassionate choices.

Gandhi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Create a better character within you and better endings from your reactions and choices will follow outside of you, as day follows night . . . naturally.

Rebekah Shardy is a geriatric social worker, hospice manager, author of “98 Things a Woman Should Do in Her Lifetime,” (Andrews McMeel, 2003) and recipient of three short fiction awards.

To Better Understand Our Place and Meaning in the World, by Corinne M. Harmon

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“What does ‘better endings’ mean to me?” Better endings is a perception, the mystery of our consciousness to design our reality into imagined, creative conclusions to better understand our place and meaning in the world. In the space of choice, we pick our path of the greatest or least resistance to what is presented to us. Better endings is a deep knowing that everything is in Divine Order; that what is, is what is for our Highest good even in the darkest of times, the despair of perceived bitter endings. The phrase, bitter/ sweet reflects the understanding of the duality of our experiences and better endings is just the other side of the coin of bitter endings.

In the expression of karmic energy patterns, all endings are better endings in the sense that they fulfill the commitments of the infinite journeys of All souls, all for the the forward progression of creation, ever expanding, ever fulfilled in Its expression.

Dr. Corinne Harmon is a professor of Leadership in Education with a background in Educational Administration and Special Education. She is also a practicing Life Coach in the Colorado Springs/ Denver area. She hosts spiritual retreats and wellness programs.