Miracles in the Mind

An experience is in search of me. Last night I dreamed that I had my car washed. In reality, I don’t own a car. I also dreamed that I sat on the ground in a forest, in a meditative position, watching a tree grow. I felt it growing. I don’t want to drive again, which is strange to see in writing, although I haven’t sat in the driver’s seat since 2002, the year I moved from Seattle to Madrid. I’m afraid to count the years between then and now. The counting happens on its own. A tree grows on its own. I don’t control my mind. I experience it. What might it mean to me to be in the driver’s seat of my own inner experiences?

I imagine the opening sentence in the paragraph above appearing and disappearing in the surface of my mind, as if I were meditating in a forest and observing a tree experience its own natural process of growth. I pause before writing the next sentence. Silence becomes the pause, before noise in my mind returns and the pen moves again. Trees belong in a forest. My imagination has made the impossible possible: I sit on the ground, and the growth of a tree becomes a moment to moment visible experience.

More words that feel strange to see in writing come to me: this experience is experiencing me. I am being experienced by life in the forest. The mind is a miraculous place.

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Another Beginning in the Light of Day

Can this be my mind right now? Seconds stop. Time travels. I’m frustrated with person X, and with Y and Z. I’m uncertain whether or not I want to attend an upcoming lecture on myth sponsored by the local Jung society. Everything feels uncertain. The experience might be calmer if I were meditating. My decades of life on this planet feel as if time has decided that they’re unnecessary for future thought. I feel paralyzed, as if bodily and mental movements were no longer possible. I’m stuck in a dark tunnel. What if I never experience another beginning in the light of day?

The anxiety I feel in my body tells me that all of these mind movements are real. My imagination is real. I imagine myself as a fisherman of mysteries deep inside of me, most of which will probably never see the light of consciousness. I fish in my imagination because my pen keeps moving across the page, because of the images, feelings, and thoughts that never stop reminding me that I’m alive.

Fishing for the unknown within me becomes a moral activity. I feel as if I’m searching for the unborn inside of myself (or maybe it’s searching for me), whose birth must happen in consciousness.

The dark tunnel is behind me. There will always be anxiety in my future. Yet I’m experiencing another beginning, in the light of day.

Animal Intensity in a Reader

All afternoon while I worked on various things at my desk, I imagined deleting a sentence from my last post, “Holy Books in the Psychology Section,” in which I compared one of Carl Jung’s thick volumes to a dog needing a walk. I don’t have a dog. I haven’t walked one since I was in high school. I’m a cat person. Yet I felt that this particular sentence needed to be written.

I prepared myself an afternoon coffee. I returned to my desk. And I couldn’t focus on the editing work I must finish today. Instead, I imagined a black dog with a black hardcover of Jung’s writings on psychology and religion clenched between his teeth. I wash my hands before I touch one of my books, so it’s hard for me to focus on this image.

Evening has arrived and I’ve yet to delete the sentence mentioned above. I also haven’t finished my editing work. After I finished my afternoon coffee, I was able to focus on the editing again, and I thought I was almost done when I imagined the dog as a religious symbol. Along with a snake, it was guarding a sacred treasure (this image came to mind from what I read in a paragraph of Jung’s Symbols of Transformation). I thought: I don’t have time to connect with an inner dog. I must finish my day’s work.

My work is done. I’m going to have a glass of wine before I go to bed. The image of the black dog with Jung’s book clenched between his teeth feels important to my reading future. I picture myself clutching a volume of Jung and reading with what I imagine as animal intensity, as if my body were more involved in the reading than my mind.

Holy Books in the Psychology Section

(What follows is written in the form of a journal entry.)

There has been room for two psychological thinkers on my reading table during the past few days. I’m imagining one of them, who in reality died seven years ago, sending me an email, asking me to leave my desk on this sunny January afternoon and meet him at the nearby Elliott Bay Book Company in the Mythology section (I admit that I don’t know whether the store has such a section). “I have much to show you,” he writes. I wish I could take a break from work and walk to the bookstore. I’m curious to know where the books on mythology are kept.

Perhaps I will leave home soon and walk in nearby Volunteer Park. I imagine carrying a book with me, one of Carl Jung’s thick volumes, as if it were a dog needing a walk. These sentences feel creative. Jung is the other psychological thinker on my reading table. James Hillman is the first. The thought comes to me: the three of us will take a lot of walks together in my mind.

A decade ago, in November, I was in our flat in Madrid, where we were living, when suddenly I pictured myself writing at the dining room table instead of at my desk. I walked into my writing room, and with my journal and a pen, returned to the dining room. I sat down at the table and waited for an imaginative moment, which came soon enough. As if my journal were speaking to me, I knew that this form of writing, the work I did in my journal, would become my future narrative structure.

A memory in images from 2013 or 2014 comes to me. I think it was springtime. I had started to write and post fictional pieces of between two hundred and five hundred words on an online literary community, and I was frustrated. The piece I’d posted the day before was not being read. I started writing in my journal. The sentences were in charge, not me. I pictured myself standing alongside an indoor basketball court, watching the retired NBA player Chris Mullin shoot baskets. Everyone else had left. He wouldn’t stop practicing. The images seemed to say: Your writing hasn’t given up on you. Keep writing!

I’m attempting to imagine the me who, as a university freshman, dreamed of becoming a minister. Perhaps I didn’t become one because for me holy books are in the psychology section.

As I read Jung’s paper, “Psychotherapists or the Clergy” (in Volume 11 of his Collected Works), I picture myself no longer in psychoanalysis. I’m on my own, so to speak. Is that what I want? No, not yet. I still have much to learn about myself on the couch. 

I am imagining creating an experience, in the second half of my life, that feels meaningful to me. Is keeping my twelve-foot lapstrake rowboat in the water for six months a year creating an experience? For a decade, since students at a wooden boat school built it, I’ve kept the boat out of the water except during the weekends and vacations when I’ve used it. It’s time to make the boat more real to me. In other words, the image of it must be real inside of me.

I’ve returned to my desk after checking to see if we have mail today. I was hoping a book would be waiting for me. I know that the rest of this one is, the one I’m writing, inside of me.

 

Sadness in Truth

(What follows is written in the form of a journal entry.)

An imaginative experience happened inside of me this afternoon while I prepared myself a cheese sandwich for lunch. I wished I’d eaten earlier. It was two o’clock, and I’d spent more minutes than I was willing to count at my desk unable to imagine or think. I was in the kitchen, preparing the sandwich, glancing at the Olympic Mountains in the distance, when the thought came to me: there’s a better way to prepare for the conversation tomorrow that you don’t want to have. Imagine her. Before my thinking could interfere with the creative process, I found myself picturing her in the coffee shop where three of us will meet at noon to talk about a problem we’re trying to solve together. She was sad in my imagination, not angry or frustrated with me. I knew that this image of her, sipping coffee, spoke the truth. She didn’t want to criticize me.

The image seemed to speak emotional truth. Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet, so it’s possible that my recurring thoughts warning me of an uncomfortable conversation will be right. Yet the reading I’ve done today suggests I should listen to my imagination.

I have discovered or rediscovered the psychological thinker James Hillman, whose writings remind me that my mind is an imaginative place. Hillman was born in 1926 and died in 2011. In the late 1990s I read The Soul’s Code for a course in the master’s degree in psychology I was completing. For reasons that I don’t wish to try to imagine now, I didn’t remember much of the book after reading it. I remember thinking that I enjoyed it. Two images of me twenty years ago come to mind. In the first, I’m reading Hillman’s book. In the second, I throw it into the water. The second image is full of energy.

A reading journal has finally become a reality in my life. The notes I’ve been taking on Hillman’s writings have helped me return to Carl Jung’s Collected Works, which have been with me on my shelves for more years than I wish to count. I’m sad. Perhaps I’ll imagine my sadness. First I must walk to the kitchen to prepare myself a coffee.

Dreaming in the Rain

I must arrive at the bookstore before it closes. It feels like a matter of life and death. I don’t realize it’s raining until I’m on the sidewalk. There’s no time to take the elevator or run up four flights of stairs to grab an umbrella.

Somehow I know that the book I’m running to NonStop Books to buy has yet to be finished. I’m writing it. I imagine the bookseller with whom I spoke on the phone before I walked out the door without an umbrella. She said she was in a hurry, that she had much to read and write before I arrived in the rain. After speaking with me, she sits down and starts reading a book open on the table before her. She falls asleep. Somehow, I know that she does her most creative work while she’s asleep.

I run in the rain. I dream in it. The question of what I’m seeking seems lost in the rush. Then I realize I’m still, except in my dream.

Future in the Fire

I woke up this morning feeling closer to death than I did last night.

Out of all the sentences I have ever written, the one above seems the most alive.

A glance at my bookshelves confirms that this room hasn’t changed since I went to bed last night. All of the books, softcovers and hardcovers, will be here after my final breath.

“How many more years will we have together?” I ask the books aloud.

An inner voice responds: “I’m right here in front of you! Focus on me!” My eyes return to the desk, to my dream journal. I don’t have to open it to know that last night’s dream has been recorded inside.

When did I write it down? None of the dream’s images come to mind. Moments later, with a new sentence, they do.

A plant is on fire in front of me. Maybe it’s a single leaf. Fear makes my own motion an image for another dream. Motionless, I marvel at the growing flames.

There’s no caffeine in my system yet, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive. The following sentence comes to me as if it were a figure emerging from the darkness: My future is in the fire.