Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Archetypes and Engineers

If you are a fan of the band Guster, you will appreciate the reference in the title of this blog. If not, just look up their album called Easy Wonderful and you'll figure it out. Mark Johnson and I have tickets to see Guster on July 8. That really doesn't have anything to do with this blog. I am just excited about the show. Guster is one of my favorite bands.

You might remember what happened to me the last time I went to see Guster. It was just over a year ago, when I was still in my yoga teacher training. The concert was on a Saturday night. The next morning I went into yoga class wearing my Guster tank top and I did my first headstand. If you'd like to read the whole story, click here. I wonder what the next Guster show will bring. If anything unusual happens, I will definitely let you know.

As I have mentioned a few times, Mark Johnson and I are reading a book by Deepak Chopra called The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence. Essentially, the book is a blueprint to finding your life's purpose. He believes that all beings are one with each other, and each of our souls is connected to the universal soul. If we are somehow able to tap into the infinite organizing power of the universe, we will be able to fulfill our true destiny.

There are many ways we can start to reach into our internal soul and, from there, begin to connect with the energy of the universe. Meditation is one of the foundational elements of his book. And it is something I have been practicing for over a year now. I have already seen glimmers of the potent effects of a regular meditation practice. I have had many unique experiences during my meditation that have given me clues about how to move forward in my life.

Another thing that Deepak recommends in his book is to identify and reach out to your archetypes for guidance. He says that archetypes are perennial themes that reside at the level of the collective, universal soul. These themes have existed forever and are passed down through the writings of ancient cultures, literature and by other means. We also see these archetypes played out in our modern-day life through movies, television and books.  

To make this concept more accessible, he provides some great examples. Think about Marilyn Monroe as the embodiment of Aphrodite, the goddess of sex and beauty. Or what about Robert Downey Jr. as Dionysus, the untamed, fun-loving spirit. The larger the personality, the stronger the individuals connection to a particular archetype. 

But you don't have to be a famous movie star or a powerful world leader to express your archetype. Anyone can do this. All it takes is a sense of curiosity and self-awareness, along with a little bit of exploration. There is an exercise in the book that walks you through some common archetypes and invites you to envision yourself as that archetype for a short time and then see how you feel.

Mark Johnson and I did this exercise together a few weeks ago. With each of the archetypes that were presented, we both closed our eyes and attempted to transform ourselves into that archetype as best we could. We both had varying reactions. Some of them felt interesting, but we felt more like an observer than an embodiment of the archetype. And some of them resonated more strongly. 

One of the archetypes was the Divine Mother. Deepak describes this archetype as the essential nurturing force, alive with life-giving energy. She is also the primordial creative force, giving birth to forms and phenomena. When I entered into the Divine Mother, I felt entwined with everything around me. I kept my eyes closed and turned my palms open to the sky and I could feel tulips growing out of my hands. (I know it may sound crazy, but that is what I felt.)

Deepak recommends that you choose more than one archetype. Preferably one male and one female to help you remain balanced. Once you identify your archetypes, the next step is to integrate them more fully into your life and place reminders of them in your home. Mark Johnson picked two different archetypes that he felt connected to. Then he bought statues of each archetype and placed them on a shelf in the bedroom. 

Meanwhile, I have been struggling with my chosen archetype. Based on the significance of archetypes in this book, it seems like a really big decision. What happens if I pick the wrong archetype? How can I know for sure if the Divine Mother is really my archetype? I have always felt a strong connection to Mother Nature. And many people see me as a compassionate, nurturing mother figure. But is that really enough? If this is really my destiny, why didn't I have any children?

We did some more research on the Divine Mother, who is known as Shakti in the Hindu culture. Shakti is the divine force, manifesting to destroy demonic forces and restore balance. Every God in Hinduism has his Shakti and without it, he has no power. So Shakti is the Mother Goddess, the source of all, the universal principle of energy, power or creativity.

After reading all about Shakti and her innate power, I felt a little overwhelmed. I am not sure if I am ready to draw upon all of that energy and invite her to express herself through me. It is hard to believe that I have the potential to tap into that sort of power. Maybe everyone feels tulips growing out of their hands when they embody the Divine Mother.

Over the next few days, I continued to think about my archetypes. One morning, I was in the shower and I remembered that we had an expert on Hindu gods and goddesses as a guest speaker at my yoga teacher training. I thought about her presentation and then I remembered Shiva. I always think of Shiva as a female, but it is actually a male. 

Shiva is one of the three powerful Gods of the Hindu trinity. Brahma is known as the Creator, Vishnu is the Preserver and Shiva is the Destroyer. But he is not merely focused on destruction for destruction's sake. Shiva's purpose is to destroy to create. Only through the destruction can something new come into being. During the training, I felt a strong connection to Shiva. I was fascinated by the idea of destroying to create.

I wondered if I should invoke both Shiva and Shakti as my archetypes - one male and one female. So Mark Johnson and I decided to research Shiva online. It turns out that Shiva is the male counterpart of Shakti. And Shakti is the female counterpart of Shiva. According to Hinduism, they are the divine parents. From time to time, they save creation from evil forces. Shiva represents the constitutive elements of the universe, all that exists. And Shakti is the dynamic potency that makes these elements come to life. One cannot exist without the other.

In searching for my archetypes, I have apparently stumbled into the Hindu equivalent of the Wonder Twin powers. Just in case I was doubting my connection to Shakti, the universe decided to give me another clue to keep me on my path. Or as Mark Johnson explained, "It's like you did a math problem two different ways and came up with the same answer."

The more I research these gods and goddesses, the more confusing it can become. There are so many stories and traditions associated with them. And so many different manifestations and qualities that they portray. Some representations are benevolent and compassionate, while others are more aggressive and violent. I guess that can be true of human beings as well.

It is clear that these particular archetypes are reaching out to me. The question is why. And what qualities are they trying to express through me. I found this description of Shakti and for now, it seems to be the one that resonates the most:
Shakti’s themes are protection, banishing and communication. The Tibetan supreme feminine power, Shakti does not stand by idle when we are in distress. She is an active, loving force for change. When called upon, Shakti manifests within us as intelligence, instinct, willpower, energy, action, and ultimately, magic. Shakti especially energizes communication skills, so that our words will be heard clearly and understood.
When I read that description, I can see aspects of myself in her. I may never completely understand all of the forms and expressions of these gods and goddesses. And maybe that's the whole point. I am always trying to figure things out and come up with the right answer. But some experiences are beyond logic and reason.

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