AI images – water people – week #5

A collection of water people, an undersea dream by me and Midjourney.

What would this represent in a dream? Being completely at home in the watery world of the emotions?

I love to explore AI images as I would a dream. The AI and I dream up images together, and they resonate with something in me. I can explore them as I would a dream. In this case, these water people seem to evoke a wish in me to be completely at home in the watery world of the emotions. How would it be to be as comfortable with my emotions as these people are in the water?

See more of my AI explorations here: https://www.instagram.com/chrysopoeia_ai_art

Stranger Things & the shadow

I love Stranger Things.

Like many others, I love it for its 80s nostalgia and for being more 80s than the 80s were. I love it for the characters which often are more stereotypical than their inspiration. I love it for the dialogue. I love it for bringing Kate Bush back on the charts and introducing her to new generations.

And as with any story – whether it’s fiction, mythology, or about others or the world – we can explore it as a dream. We can use it as a mirror for ourselves.

What I see in Stranger Things is a group of nerds and outsiders, much as myself at that age. (A part of me wishes I had found the type of community back then that they have, which is perhaps also why I enjoy watching it.) They don’t quite fit in. Some of them are bullied.

And I see the upside-down as one of many representations of what Jung called the shadow. The parts of all of us that don’t fit into our conscious or desired identity. The parts we sometimes push aside or even deny. The parts of us that may take on the form of monsters since they are exiled and we are unfamiliar with them.

In this case, we can take it even more literally and see it as the shadow we tend to create for ourselves if we feel like an outsider, if we are bullied (or bully), and so on. We may experience a mix of emotions and painful beliefs and identities — pain, loneliness, self-criticism, blame, bitterness, anger, sadness, victimhood, and so on. And since these may be painful and confusing to us, we may partially exile these experiences and parts of ourselves. We may also attack the sides of ourselves we feel are responsible for us being outsiders, so these become partially exiled. When these experiences and parts of us are exiled, they tend to take on the form of monsters to us. They go into our shadow. They don’t fit into our conscious or desired self image. And they can look, to us, as the upside-down.

Stranger Things operates from a classic good vs evil duality, at least so far. But it does also have some healing qualities. It shows healing and supportive friendships, which mirror how we can be friends with ourselves. (Even as we may also battle other sides of us.) The new season gives us more understanding of how the upside-down may have been created, and with understanding comes a less adversarial relationship. (Although they’ll still need to protect themselves and their world.)

How could Stranger Things reflect an even more mature process and way of relating to our shadow?

I am not sure, there are several options. In Star Wars, we got the back story of Darth Vader so we could understand him better and find empathy with the person he used to be. We learned that the hero (Luke) and villain (Darth Vader) were as closely connected as two people can be. And the villain was redeemed before his death.

In Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver by Michael Ende, the main characters capture the evil and dangerous dragon. Instead of killing her, they put her in a cage so she couldn’t do more harm. And that allowed her to transform into a golden wisdom dragon for the benefit of everyone.

Stranger Things does hint at intimate connections between the main hero (Eleven) and Vecna and perhaps the upside-down itself. If that theme is continued, it reflects the intimate connection between the two. They are both parts of each of us. And if we create a “good” identity for ourselves that excludes certain things in us, then what’s excluded is often transformed into apparent monsters. (This also goes for excluding discomfort and pain. What we exclude tends to take on the form of monsters to us.)

It’s also possible that One (Vecna) could be redeemed. In terms of contemporary storytelling, that could be seen as a bit naive and sentimental. (Unless it’s well done with realism and grittiness, which they probably could pull off.) But in terms of mythology and reflecting inner processes, it would give us another image in popular culture that shows how we can find redemption for parts of us in the shadow.

And it’s possible that Eleven somehow, through facing her past and the uncomfortable sides of herself, could redeem herself and the upside-down. It could bring about a transformation of her and the upside-down. Again, if the story was to reflect a healthy and deep inner transformation, something like that would happen.

Note: I am writing this after having seen the first release (this first seven episodes) of the fourth season.

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From fundamentalist to agnostic to taking the stories as mirrors

I listened to a podcast with someone who went from Christian fundamentalist to agnostic to taking the Jesus stories as a mirror.

It’s a nice illustration of some of the ways we can relate to religion and spiritual stories and mythology in general.

Do we take it as literal truth? If we do, we inevitably come up against logical inconsistencies. And by holding anything as any full, final, or absolute truth, we take a position not aligned with reality and this is inherently filled with conflicts, a need to defend and prop up our position, and discomfort.

Do we still think of it as a literal truth or not and say: I don’t know. I take an agnostic view.

Do we see the stories as useful metaphors for our life? As saying something universal about humans and ourselves?

Or do we go one step further and see the stories and mythologies as we would a dream? Do we see it all as reflecting parts and dynamics of ourselves? Here, it doesn’t matter so much if Jesus – or other religious figures – were historical persons or not, or whether or not the stories actually happened. What’s important is what they can show us about ourselves and our own process.

For instance, we can see Jesus as an image of the clarity and love we all have in us and ultimately are. Or the wholeness of our human self when it’s more healed and we are conscious of more of it. Or someone who lives from noticing his nature as capacity and what his world happens within and as.

We can see the virgin birth as an image of how the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. Our world – including this human self – is born from nothing, from virgin territory.

We can see the death & resurrection as the death of our beliefs and the resurrection on the other side of these beliefs. This can happen in smaller (and still significant) ways when we see through old beliefs and identifications and find a less limited and more receptive way of being on the other side. And it can happen in a more dramatic way when our identity as something within content of experience falls away and we find ourselves as capacity and what the world, to us, happens within and as.

We can see Judas as the dynamic in us abandoning truth, clarity, and love for the benefit of reactivity to fear and unquestioned stories.

And so on. Any story within religion and mythology can be explored in this way.

Two of my favorite books on this topic are Resurrecting Jesus by Adyashanti and The Jesus Mysteries by Tim Freke and Peter Gandy.

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Contractions and dreams

I woke up this morning, having dreamt a man was about to kill me. The man was big, strong, heavily armed, and unyielding.

Obviously, that’s a part of me. It’s another part living from unloved fear and unexamined scary stories.

Unloved fear, unexamined stories, identifications, emotional issues, hangups, trauma, those are all names for the same dynamics.

Yet another name is contraction. This man in the dream is a contraction in me. A part of me that has contracted because of unloved fear, unexamined stories, and so on.

I can explore contractions showing up in dreams as I explore any other contraction.

After waking up, I took time with this man and the contraction he represents.

I noticed the physical sensations associated with him. (Very faint.)

I welcome the sensations and him. I notice all of it is already allowed, and join in with the allowing.

I allow it to get as big as it wants.

I thank it for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. (The contraction is here to protect me and comes from care for me, it’s confused love.)

I am curious about its needs and wants, and the lack it comes from. I give it love. Am a safe harbor for it. See it. Notice which one(s) resonates the most with the contraction.

I notice its nature and rest in that noticing.

I invite it to notice its own nature and rest in and as it.

What’s the function of dreams?

I tend to approach anything from several angles, including dreams. It helps me find the validity or usefulness of each approach, and it helps keep my mind open.

So what’s the function of dreams? They may help us process information and charged issues. They may bring our attention to processes in us right on the edge of being conscious. They may compensate for our conscious orientation and attitude. They may train us for situations we can encounter in waking life.

And, as a recent Guardian article suggests, they may help us get used to new and unfamiliar experiences. Dreams are often new and unfamiliar to us, so we get training in processing these types of situations.

I suspect there is some validity and usefulness to each of these views, and many more.

In any case, dreams are an expression of the creativity of the mind, and they show us certain characteristics of the mind.

Everything in a dream represents parts of our psyche, so by returning to the dream after we wake up, we can interact and dialog with these parts of us and get to know them, how they experience us and their world, and the dynamics between them and in our relationship with them. (Active Imagination.)

And, if we take it that way, they are a reminder that just like dreams, our waking life happens within and as consciousness. Dreams happen within and as what we are, as does our waking life. We can use the nature of dreams to find our own true nature.

Headphone adventures: approaching life situations as symbolic or as if a dream

Over the last several months, I have had an adventure relating to headphones. I wanted to buy noice cancelling headphones (for travel and neighborhood noise) and do it outside of Norway since the price is lower.

The first was going to be delivered to my partner when she did a Vortex class in Wakefield. The delivery people didn’t deliver it since they “thought the hotel was closed on Mondays” (!) and there was no time for re-delivery before she left the hotel. (April 2019.)

The second – which I got when I was in London – was defective (pulsing in one ear) and I had to return it after coming back to Norway. (November 2019.)

The third was one I actually bought in Norway but it was the wrong – and inferior – model so I again returned it. (January 2020.)

The fourth got delivered to the wrong address in London and was signed for (!) and received by someone I have no idea who is. At least someone out there now has a nice pair of headphones and they didn’t have to pay for it. (February 2020.)

At this point, I knew I had to take the symbolism in this more seriously. If life is trying to show me something, what is it? What can I learn from all this?

What I first saw was my contraction around it. I have sound sensitivity (typical for CFS) and also misophonia, and although it’s much better than it was, I still sometimes get stressed from noise. My approach to the whole situation – and getting noise cancelling headphones – was contracted and fear-based.

How can I approach noise in general with more ease? (I have already worked on this but there is further to go.) And how can I approach the headphone situation differently?

When the last pair of headphones were delivered to someone I don’t know who is, I got into a stressful pattern of thinking and feeling – some mix of hopelessness, victim, and related beliefs, identities, and emotional issues. I noticed this and the addictive tendency in it.

The whole process seems to have put me in a place where I was finally ready to hold it all more lightly. To let it go more fully. And to take a more genuine approach of playfulness and adventure.

I decided to order another pair more as an experiment. This time too, something went “wrong”. When I went on the website to order, they didn’t have any new ones in stock and there was no indication they would get more in. So I ordered the one pair of used headphones listed. The following day, I got the message they had cancelled my order since “the product was unavailable”.

This only strengthened the shift that had already happened in me. From this new place, I went back to the website, ordered another set (they were now suddenly available), received it without problems, and enjoyed using them on the flight back to Norway. (The flight was very enjoyable, partly because of the comfort from the headphones.)

Not everything in life needs to be taken as a symbol or as if it’s in a dream. But when there is a pattern like this, it can be helpful to approach it in that way. If life wants to show me something, what can it be? If this was a dream, what would it mean? If I am supposed to learn something from this – to grow, heal, mature – what would it be? How would I be different in this situation? How can I implement it? What issues – emotional issues, beliefs, identifications – stops me from making this shift?

I also noticed that this ongoing situation felt like a series of synchronicities. Perhaps not in a strict sense, but what happened seemed to follow a similar dynamic. It was as if life wanted me to see something through a series of unusual events. (So far, when I have ordered something online, it usually goes without a hitch.)

The depth of popular culture

Some folks see popular culture as inevitably shallow. But is that true? And is it true that shallow is bad?

First, is shallow bad? No. There is nothing inherent in life telling us what we should be into. There are no requirements.

Many have stressful and busy lives and need something undemanding to help them relax and switch gears. Nothing wrong in that. (Although we can question a society that sets us up for such busy and sometimes stressful lives.) At one time or another, easy pop culture serves a helpful function to us.

And for most of us, it’s just one part of a much more varied cultural diet.

Is it true that pop-culture is shallow?

Yes, it’s perhaps true in a conventional and limited sense. There may be less soul and more formulas in much of what we find in pop-culture.

It’s easy to find exceptions. There is often depth to aspects of what we find in pop-culture. Something surprising, moving, or something that gives us an insight into ourselves or the lives of others. And some of what we find in pop-culture obviously has more depth, richness, and complexity to it, for example, stories rich in archetypes like Star Wars (original trilogy) and Pan’s Labyrinth.

It also depends on what we define as popular culture. Bach is quite popular. Is that pop culture? Chopin was a pop-culture superstar in his time.

And it depends on how readily available something is to us. When we have to put more effort and intention into finding something, it can seem more sophisticated, for instance when we are into the pop-culture of another time or culture.

Finally, we bring the depth to it.

When I watch movies, including the most mainstream Hollywood movies, I often look for archetypes and archetypal dynamics.

I take it as I would a dream, see the different parts of the story as parts of me, and find it in me.

I notice what I react to and look for the beliefs or emotional issues it triggered in me.

I notice what I am fascinated by and find what the fascination is about and then see if I can find that in myself.

So when it comes down to it, if we see something as shallow, we can only blame ourselves. We take a shallow approach to it.

We bring the richness or the shallow to it.

A personal note: In my late teens and early twenties, I had judgments about pop culture and went deep into more “high” and “sophisticated” art, music, books and movies. There was nothing wrong with this, and it was very rewarding and I still enjoy that type of culture. But it also came from insecurity. I wanted to be “better” and more sophisticated. I didn’t feel good enough as I was. Now, fortunately, I feel more free to enjoy all of it.

If we have ideas about high or low culture, or one thing being better than the other, it’s a reminder to take a look at ourselves. Where in me does it come from? Do I try to create an identity for myself to feel better about myself? How would it be to enjoy it all independent of labels?