Sansaku: Looking For Omens
If I spill some tea, like I just did, I pay attention to what was on my mind. I was planning. So what was I planning and how was that connected to spilling my tea?
The psychology I’ve practiced often depends upon omens. It’s not that I’m superstitious, but even science pays attention to when the unexpected happens. It’s given a little more attention, like when Trump won the election despite what all the pundits predicted.
If the Donald is ominous, which I believe he is, it’s time to ask, what were we thinking? Why has this happened right now and what does it mean?
Last year the turbo in our Subaru went bad, and when I thought about all of the omens and signs I’d missed, I felt like a fool. But I told Chyako, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk.” I wanted to put it behind me.
Chyako said, “That makes no sense whatsoever. It’s okay that you’re sad.” As soon as she said that, I heard the affirmation. It’s good to feel and to trust in the omens, and to let my intuition guide me.
Jung said that modern man was every bit as religious as ever, only now the gods had turned into disorders, diseases and symptoms. He went on to say that to worship a deity is honorable, but to serve a mania is detestable. I was surprised he didn’t say money.
Wall Street watches for omens like no other. And the market is a strange deity to worship. Jung often wrote about our choice of gods and who and what we served.
The ancients talked about the choices we make between the good, the beautiful, and the true. They understood that the good was the highest, since it was also most beautiful and true. And so they argued over what was good.
It’s no longer about serving the good, but the buying and selling of goods. But I’m digressing from the image.
The ancients looked to the stars and sky, and paid attention to the falling of a bird and especially a species. We tend to look for omens in the paper these days, and miss the cloud that suddenly appears out of nowhere and turns the room dark.
Ecologists says, “Choosing wrongly can threaten a species.” And looking at how we choose to treat the earth brings this home. But it’s really a complex statement, since it would be wrong to choose never to spill the tea. Our wisdom navigates by way of mistake and while free will is problematic, problems pave the way.
I think this why the ancients put such an emphasis on dreams and those omens Jung called synchronicity. Each morning I write down my dreams before I start reading the old journals. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered a similar dream on the same day some thirty years ago. I pay attention to that.
I recently explained sansaku as the way a philosopher walks, but you needed to imagine a person like Basho, the wandering haiku poet who would notice the sound of a frog, plopping into water. It’s how he found the ancient pool.
When I spilled the tea this morning, I was thinking about what I wanted to write today. And while I try not to spill, when I do, I go looking for omens.