Best Slowly: Eighty-Five

Best Slowly:   The Guardians at the Gate


Jumping Mouse, awe-struck, slowly circled the immense being.  He had lost all understanding.  It’s the feeling humans have when an Angel pays a visit.

And then he came to the eye, which was looking directly into him and seeing with a vision much greater than his own.   He felt penetrated to the core.

With great respect and humility, Jumping Mouse asked, “What are you?”

The great being spoke with a voice like distant thunder, “I am Buffalo.”

I can feel myself speeding up; the story suddenly builds momentum. Now the interior realm is truly entered.   The outer reality gives way to an older, deeper, inner dimension of consciousness.  No more mice.

Barbara Hannah’s book on active imagination starts out with this insight from von Franz: “If we look inward, the ‘other’ looks at us too, but with a strange faraway eye.”

Robert Bly says, “That experience of being looked back at sobers us up immediately.   If, as human beings, we have any doubts about the existence of the interior soul, we give up those doubts instantly.”

He goes on to say that the awareness of this hidden one inside us, “is a proper aim for all initiation.”

We need to have our belief taken away.   In one of the short stories I’ve written, a young man follows a wounded deer into a forbidden part of the forest.  When he looks into a pool, someone else is looking back at him.

It’s my retake on the myth of Narcissus.  Instead of falling in love with his own reflection, he sees the other and she’s the reason he won’t leave the pool.

To call her an unconscious complex misses the mark.   She is not just Anima and she would turn and vanish if called that.

There are always guardians at the gate.  Sometimes it’s a dragon that guards the way into the dream world, and sometimes there’s a maze that must be entered.   The cost of admission is high.

Myths can be deceptive.   Often the secret to the crossing is a gift:  a piece of bread or meat, a few coins.   But it’s not that simple.   We need to open the story.

Buffalo speaks, “I am dying and the only thing that can make me whole is the eye of a mouse.”   Who saw that one coming?

Jumping Mouse jumps at this, and says, “I am a mouse.  You can take my eye.”  This is an act of deep significance.

Now Buffalo responds,  “I will lead you across the prairie to the Sacred Mountains, for I know your vision and your quest.”

What just happened?   It’s far too easy to reduce these inner beings to abstract concepts and ideas.   They’re real and they’re living.   They are also autonomous and have their own free will.

Once again, when the inner one looks back and sees us, it’s not just our face that’s seen;  it’s the secrets in our heart.   If this doesn’t bother you, it should.







Best Slowly: Eighty-Four

Best Slowly: Tests of Departure


The Old Mouse makes it clear: It’s the point of no return.  After this, he can’t turn back.   This isn’t the first time he’s had to depart, and it won’t be his last.   The separation stage is constantly reweaving.

First, Mouse had to pay attention to the Roaring.   It became the separation from his old life and it led to the River.   He was initiated with a gift of Medicine Power.   Still innocent and very foolish, he could hardly wait to return with his Name.

The second separation was from the Village, where he’s singled out as strange. The departure this time is marked with a cut.  The rites have to wound us.   It’s how we’re opened up.

Now the Old Mouse takes a swipe and lets him know, it’s a last chance offer, from here he is headed into danger and death. This leaves its mark, but the call to adventure is stronger.  It’s been another test of departure.

Now what? He knows the direction, and he’s prepared to cross the prairie as best he can.   He’s just a mouse, but he knows how to run and hide.   He sees the spots in the sky, and knows what they mean.   He is careful and strategic not to get caught.

The Hero Journey this story patterns, reiterates over time.   There are many callings, many departures, and many initiations.   Some are marked with visions, and some cut like a knife.   They brand us either way.

Remember the Japanese saying: The nail that sticks up will get pounded down.   Sometimes it’s a vision that pops the nail up.   And sometimes it’s the pounding that releases the nail.  Don’t think the pounding ended when Chyako dropped her kimono, and moved to a tipi in the mountains near Durango.

When the nail was finally out of the floorboard and free of the old, she entered the chaos of the new.   She didn’t speak the language and had no words to understand much of what she experienced.

She had gone to an all-girl school in Japan, where everyone wore a uniform.   Now she was living in that most chaotic of places, a college dormitory.   Anything could happen and did.

We’ve been together more than twenty years and I’ve watched her make many painful and joyous departures.   She wants to live her own life and has a vision of what that feels like.

We learned, yesterday, that the Navajo described well-being, as a meandering feeling.  Imagine that.

Jumping Mouse was determined now, he only thought of reaching the Sacred Mountains.   There was nothing stopping him, except for the danger all around.

But he found abundant food.  There’s an inner secret here:  The deeper we go, the richer the food.  It kept him going.

One night, he came to a large chokecherry bush.  He decided to spend the night and after feasting on the cherries, began to explore.

He had never seen anything like this.  Whatever it was, it was breathing.


Best Slowly: Eighty-Three

Best Slowly:  The Pressure Test


No one got to dream group by accident.   I made sure of that.   I didn’t advertize and built a number of obstacles into the process.   It wasn’t for everyone, and just to be sure, I often pressure tested candidates by pushing them in the water.

Sometimes they were mad at me and left in a huff.   Sometimes they would ask me why, and I might ask in turn, “Don’t you know?”  I was looking for a willingness to go beyond defenses, to neither shut-down nor attack.

Some had heard a roaring in their ears and others had seen a vision.   I liked to hear the stories of how they found us.

James Hollis wrote, “At this late date it is your defenses, not your wound, that cause the problem and arrest your journey.”   Therapy is often about learning to slow down reactivity, and to open the gaps between stimulus and response.

When I met Robert Bly, he told me that students had become too passive, they listened to their teachers like the television.   They didn’t expect someone to jump out from behind the screen and confront them.    When he did, it scared them half to death.

Therapists do that, too.   Students are used to no one listening and when they find someone who does, it’s a surprise.  They don’t expect to be seen, much less heard.

When Jumping Mouse arrived at that large stand of sage and met the Old Mouse, I can easily imagine the scene.   I’m guessing our Jumping Mouse wasn’t the first young fool to arrive.

The concept of freedom as it’s used in politics and education is largely bankrupt.   It turns out Orwell was right, the language has been corrupted.  I could write for pages on this one, but in this story, Jumping Mouse is learning there’s a world of difference between the words and what they mean.

When I lived with David in graduate school, he was the Old Mouse. Not only was he extremely wealthy, he had a wealth of experience and knowledge.   He’d recently been to Russia and we smoked Cuban cigars and drank the finest vodka.

He lived on a lake, and we often watched the sunset from the dock.   That’s where he told me stories and asked about my dreams.   I was very open with him.

Jumping Mouse had never seen such an abundance of seeds and shelter. The Old Mouse had a home that allowed him to live in the open, but it was also a fortress of safety from predators.  Not even Coyote could enter.

“Jumping Mouse, I have seen the River and a great many things besides.   But this dream you have of the Sacred Mountains, it’s not real.  You are not the first and none of them returned.”

He pleaded with Jumping Mouse to stay.  He would be safe and there was much he could learn.  It was similar to the village and Jumping Mouse knew, again, what he must do.


Best Slowly: Eighty-Two

Best Slowly: On Beyond


“We do not think with our heads or hearts, we think with our tongues, for we live in words.”   Jung

I remember reading about the psychological reality of narratives, the stories we tell ourselves. If we believe something is true, it will be in terms of its perceptual consequences.  And this story-making function goes on whether we are consciously aware or not.

This happens at the individual and collective levels. Sometimes the social body will believe the most far-fetched of stories.  The enemy has weapons of mass destruction.   Our safety is at stake.

I remember Chyako watching the news during this period and pointing to a missile on a wagon being pulled through the streets of Baghdad. “Is that what America fears?”   It did look ridiculous.  What could I say?

When Jumping Mouse is choosing not to stay with the group, I think about the decision-story he’s living.   He knows what he has seen and felt, even if they don’t.   It’s a bit of a mind-fuck to live this way.  The sting of shame is strong.

I quoted Jean Houston yesterday, and had taken the soulmaking idea from her chapter on the Sacred Wound.  It’s also where I was given language for the archetype of betrayal.

In many of the myths, the story begins when someone is unjustly punished or accused. Now what happens?   This will also get the dreams cooking.

James Hillman suggests we have a number of stylized ways to respond.   The most common one is revenge:  It’s the eye for an eye, you hurt me so I hurt you.   It wasn’t the WMDs that took us to war, it was revenge.

There’s also denial, the sour grapes defense, “I didn’t want it anyway.” There’s cynicism and devaluation, the psychology of disappointment.   And there’s self-betrayal, where we deny our experience altogether.  It can lead to a life of quiet desperation.   If betrayal tips towards paranoia, watch out.

But Jumping Mouse is going to go on beyond.   This is what the hero journey looks like.   We need to find ways to go beyond betrayal to redemption, which transforms the smaller story into the larger.   There’s a thousand versions.

Jumping Mouse has come to the Edge.  His mind voice screams at him, “You’re a fool and you’re going to prove it.”   He knows he could die. As he moves on beyond the boundary, every cloud is Eagle, every shadow Coyote.    His mind plays tricks on him.

He has come to the test of fear and could still turn back. We know what he has to do.  This journey is symbolic of a whole life and the way of individuation. While there might be no clear explanations to these existential mysteries, there are stories.

The open prairie is as exposed as a horizontal cliff.   Jumping Mouse is running bush to brush, when he comes upon a magnificent sage.    He finds some shelter, but discovers an Old Mouse living there.   The Old Mouse seems to know him.




Best Slowly: Eighty-One

Best Slowly:  Soulmaking


The inner side seems to exaggerate. It’s one of the reasons dreams are hard to understand.   If there is a difference between the reality in dreams and mundane life, it’s this:  The smallest gesture can have the most meaning.  We’ve lost our symbolic sensitivity and have been numbed by the numbers.

Listen to this story.   She told me, when they broke up, they didn’t fight.   He just walked out and said, “Later.”   Then he got in his car.   There was no orchestra playing.   You should have heard the dreams.

When we’re betrayed, it’s not by the person or what they might have done, it’s by Love itself. This betrayal has symbolic fuel.   Every love begins with an innocent vision of pure happiness and bliss, but this is before the betrayal and journey.

This happens with Life and not just Love.  Betrayal has archetypal consequences.

Of course, sometimes, what is huge on the collective level, can tragically fail to move us. How else could we watch the evening news and then eat dinner?   I was thinking of a bumper sticker this morning:  If Trump Doesn’t Wake You, Nothing Will.

Stories, like movies, are able to compress a life-time into a couple of hours. The great let-down Jumping Mouse experiences in the Village, only takes a couple of sentences to explain.   It can take twenty years or more in life.

Pat Conroy wrote a powerful prologue to My Losing Season:  “Winning is wonderful in every aspect, but the darker music of loss resonates on deeper, richer plains…  Winning shapes the soul of bad movies and novels and lives.   It is the subject of thousands of insufferably bad books, and is often a sworn enemy of art…   Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted but clear-eyed in its understanding that life is more dilemma than gain…  Though I learned some things from the games we won that year, I learned much, much more from loss.”

We want to say, this can’t be true, but we live in a world where a handful of people own most of the wealth.   And what might be called the Tower of Babel in the stories, is the Tower of Trump in this one.  Can’t they hear the babel roaring in their ears?

Jumping Mouse, like all of us, has a dream and a vision. In the story, it involves the Sacred Mountains.  Others don’t respond as we want them to, so the question becomes:  How do we deal with it?

Before he “jumps” again, as his name implies he will, he has to suffer the loss of his expectations and innocent beliefs.   It’s a time when he could easily dismiss, devalue, deny and even destroy himself and others.  But that’s not what happens.

Jean Houston writes, “As seed making begins with the wounding of the ovum by the sperm, so does soulmaking begin with wounding of the psyche by the Larger Story.”

Jumping Mouse is about to take a journey.  Outward is inward.





Best Slowly: Eighty

Best Slowly: The Mark


Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the massman will mock it right away.
From The Holy Longing by Goethe, Bly translation

With every initiation comes a cut.   It’s one of those easily forgotten secrets.   At birth, the umbilical cord that connects to the mother is cut.   The second wounding is no less painful.

Try to picture the scene.  Jumping Mouse comes roaring back into the Village, he can hardly wait to tell everyone about the River and Frog, and the Medicine Power.

If you know the story of Joseph, you’ll hear the theme.   When he naively tells the dream of how his brothers will bow down to him, he gets thrown in a pit.  The next thing you know, he’s in Egypt.

Jumping for joy, Mouse is as innocent as he’s foolish, and the other mice jump all over him.   This is what needs to happen.   Initiation is about the end of innocence, and the ones who shame him feel perfectly justified in doing so.

CS Lewis understood this psychology of shame; he had a similar experience.   When he converted to Christianity, Oxford could not tolerate his “supernatural” beliefs.   It was bad enough that he literally believed in Christ, but he had the nerve to talk about it.

It’s exactly what Jumping Mouse was doing. He thought they would be excited, and he got the cold shoulder and worse.   They completely turned their backs on him.  That was the cut that severed the cord.

Not only did they think he was crazy, they wouldn’t call him Jumping Mouse.   Who did he think he was?   Not only does a prophet not have honor in his native land, he’s laughed at.

Even his friends said he was full of himself and should be ashamed.   The roar from the silence was deafening.

I can imagine the demons in his MindVoice were screaming.  They were attracted by the dark vacuum left in the wake of the silence.  He picked himself apart, but couldn’t forget the vision that impregnated his soul.

The story, as written, only hints at the pain of this shunning and rejection.  Since this is the territory in the soul where I’ve worked for the last forty years, I understand it well.

The mice, seeing Jumping Mouse is wet, don’t know about the River. They believe that Coyote has spit him out.   The Trickster doesn’t even want him.

It’s not the vision of the Sacred Mountains that starts him on his journey.   He would have liked to stay, but now it’s clear what he has to do.  The vision quest is born.

When Jung taught active imagination, he talked about the Numen.   If you stare at a statue long enough, and with intent, sometimes it opens an eye.  It’s the nod from the god.   He suggests we do this with dreams and stories.

Just now, when I looked at Jumping Mouse, I noticed a shock of white fur.  Like Cain, he now bears the Mark.



Best Slowly: Seventy-Nine

Best Slowly:  Seed Into Seed


“My goal is to create a therapy of ideas, to try to bring in new ideas so that we can see the same old patterns differently.”   James Hillman

In most versions of the story, Medicine and Power are linked together. It changes the meaning of both of them.  Medicine Power is like an insemination, it’s the sperm to the egg, the seed to the seed.   This starts the second birth growth growing.

All kinds of things are coming together to form this new body.   It’s a creative process, like two people finding each other and falling in love.   The vision of the Sacred Mountains points to a higher form of love-making.

If you are interested in the factual story, you should probably go on-line and read it. Better still, find a copy of Seven Arrows.   Then you’ll get the vision from Storm himself, who was a master teacher and story-teller.

The story I’m telling is very different. While Frog is about to say, “Mouse, you have a new name,” which is the Medicine Power he gives him, there are many ways to hear this.

I’m still listening and trying to understand.   It’s not about the name, Jumping Mouse, it’s about Medicine Power.   What is that?

I think this passage came from Autobiography of a Face, but I could be wrong.  “We have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things.  Society is no help.   It tells us again and again that we can most be ourselves by acting and looking like someone else, only to leave our original faces behind to turn into ghosts, that will inevitably resent and haunt us.   The dead know they are dead only after being offered that most irrefutable truth:  they can no longer see themselves in the mirror.”

Not only did Mouse need to see the Sacred Mountains, which was his calling, but he needed an affirmation.   Unlike society, Frog understood we need help becoming ourselves. The moment of initiation is the beginning, not the end.

Now this passage from Kundera comes to mind:   “Before roads and paths have disappeared from the landscape, they had disappeared from the human soul:  man stopped wanting to walk…  What’s more, he no longer saw his own life as a road, but as a highway:  a line that led from one point to another…  Time became a mere obstacle to life, an obstacle that had to be overcome by ever greater speeds.”

How did we come to lose the language of the soul?   I was thinking about my time at the college and the direction education has taken.   It’s on a highway, that’s for sure, but what is the vision and where is it headed?

The school seems to think it’s a business, and the vision is mostly economic.   I remember analyzing dreams at the public high school, years ago, and this image kept showing up.   The students didn’t dream of a school, it was a processing plant.