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IN FOCUS: CAROLINE MYSS
Caroline Myss is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense, urbane Chicagoan who has become one of the better known authors and speakers in the health and human development field. Though she co-founded the alternatinve health publisher, Stillpoint, in the early ‘80s, she had 'no desire to meet any healers myself. I refused to meditate. I developed an absolute aversion to wind chimes, New Age music, and conversations on the bendfits of organic gardening. I smoked while drinking coffee by the gallon.'
But, she gradually discovered she was a 'medical intuitive', who could 'see' people's physical and spiritual condition with no other information than their names and ages. Through giving workshops and healing sessions, she found that many people would go on exploring their wounds—from abusive relationships, dysfunctional families, addictions, or chronic illness—well beyond their need to 'get over it, and get on.' She termed this 'woundology,' and tells her audiences to not 'waste time by thinking like a victim. Feeling vicitimized only adds to the illness, and should it become a full-time state of mind, would qualify as an illness in itself' Needless to say, Caroline Myss is controversial, but her prescription of ‘tough love' cuts through to the core of what we need to do for our spiritual , emotional and physical health—live fully in the moment.We interviewed Caroline over the phone last month, to hear directly from her where her interests are now.
by Michael Bertrand
I know you've got couple of new books coming out but we're wondering what you're thinking about now, where you're going now?
I have a real interest in exploring the passion that we have for consciousness and why we're so terrified of it, terrified of the very thing we're so desperately seeking. I'll tell you, inevitably, inevitably, when I'm at a workshop now, and I'll say to my students, 'Why are you after this thing called consciousness and what do you think it is?', they'll give me peace, tranquility, knowing—these kind of vague terms
Essentially what they're saying is, 'I don't want to worry about life on the planet any more and I think this is the way to guarantee me a nice bank account and a good romance and the end to all my problems.' That's really what they're saying.
Now, I'd say to them, 'So, what are you willing to give up to get that goal?' Here is where their body language changes. They begin to almost fold in half, to do anything to avoid actually answering the question, because deep in their gut, they know that if they offer an answer, some part of their life is going to change.
So, I'm absolutely intrigued with this fear/attraction relationship we have to this thing called consciousness.
Plus I'm very interested in furthering the skill of medical intuition into an actual licensed skill. So, I guess I'd have to say I have more than one interest clicking. I'm also very interested in getting some program in energetic anatomy into high schools and colleges.
Why is the mystical experience so much a phenomena right now or why are so many people seeming to have experiences and perhaps not knowing what to do with them?
I tell my students to look at it this way: the exit of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959 and Vatican II in '63 may appear to be totally unrelated events, but the fact is, from an archetypal symbolic level, what they signaled was the release of two profound mystical traditions into the mainstream.
The stringent rules that said to stay away from here unless you're ordained or under vows were gone, because everybody under vows was leaving. Simultaneously we had the beginning of the psychedelic age, which meant we were determined to find a way to crack into our interiors. They did it through centuries of internal discipline. We didn't know how to do that so we took drugs. Then in the next decade we began to be introduced to this notion of spirituality and internal discipline and the need for that.
I think what we've done is developed a real attraction for the mystical experience while at the same time truly not understanding it. I believe we have confused deep psychological challenges with mystical ones and they are not the same. As a consequence I think we've crossed wires, using therapy as the means of treating spiritual challenges and you don't treat spiritual challenges with therapy-that's preposterous.
I'm absolutely intrigued with this fear/attraction relationship we have to this thing called consciousness.
But, we don't have spiritual directors any more. We can't recognize the difference in our culture, because there are few who can, between what's truly a mystical crisis and what is a psychological and archetypal crisis, shall we say. We've called everything the Dark Night of the Soul when in fact that term is used so casually that you'll probably meet in your entire life only five people who are having a genuine dark night by the classical mystical definition. Most of these people are simply depressed. They think a dark night emerges because they lost a job. Well, what would their father have called it? He was just upset when he lost his job. A dark night is not triggered because you get a divorce. That's not what triggers a dark night.
So, my point is that we are in a very interesting crossroads in that I'm really interested in sort of a clarification of what's genuinely moving inside of us, and what true mysticism is within a contemporary culture
On your tape you're talking about us doing a lot of 'mystical' work but without the context of a monastery or old tradition to be aligned with.
Precisely. I think that in doing that kind of different work and accessing the mystical disciplines I think what people really don't realize is there's an immaturity about it. That's a strong word to use, but it's the one I mean. They go at it as if it were a weekend seminar, as if you can tamper with mysticism, do it on Friday and Saturday but go back to work on Monday. I have no words to tell you how preposterous I think this is. I think we have a lot of maturing to do when it comes to truly understanding mysticism. I think an interest in spirituality should not be confused with the true mystical experience.
Of course, most of us do have to go back to work on Monday, and in the context of a society in which there is a spiritual interest, people don't perhaps know how to carry that on.
That's very, very true. But at the same time, I think because this profound spiritual awakening has grown up alongside the yuppie culture, a very spoiled, get rich young culture where you can have everything right away-that yuppie attitude coupled with the fantastic quick wealth of the '80s have sort of overlapped in a real interesting way, giving birth to the notion that what you want spiritually can either be bought or had very rapidly.
Those are very serious illusions. Now, simultaneously, we have the question of what do you do with somebody who is pursuing a very serious spiritual discipline and has to support himself. You see, that is exactly the model we have to create, because we're saying we don't want to be in monasteries any more. We want to take spirituality into the mainstream so we're the one's who are beginning to carve that model, just like we're beginning to carve the model of partnership and dismantle the model of marriage.
So if I had to go down any level to say where's my next primary interest, it's in this archetypal dimension and exploring global events from that perception as well as understanding how an individual manages his or her energy within this situation.
I'm doing a book called Sacred Contracts, the agreements we make before we incarnate and the material on that is your archetypal contract. I've been gathering that from doing readings since 1989 when I began to see a wheel of archetypal images surrounding the people I was reading. I realized that I was looking at their archetypal chart.
One of the things you've talked a lot about in your book is how are we going to be present. It's a big concern of mine too, because I see how often I'm not present and how difficult it actually is to be present, here.
How are we going to get our focus into present time? Here again, what we are talking about is a constant, constant, constant discipline, isn't it? It becomes your discipline. Every time you are aware of yourself slipping you call your spirit back, you call your attention back, call your focus back. It is a constant discipline. It's as simple as that. You make it your discipline.
It's quite an elegant spiritual discipline and a very healthy one, because you live it every moment of the day. You're constantly calling your spirit back. And, it helps so much because it makes you aware of how easily you negotiate the presence of your spirit in your body, how easily something can take it out.
The other day I was coming back on the airplane and somebody stepped in front of a person as everybody was exiting the plane, cut someone off, and the person who was cut off verbally pulled out a knife. For something as simple as that, an action as simple as that, this person probably lost his spirit for 48 hours through being angry and wanting to belt that guy.
When an event like that happens do you really think that person has the strength and stamina to pull his spirit back. Do people really think and expect that a person who has that severe a lack of control over his spirit could command his spirit to heal the body? No.
This is what we have to understand-we're a long way from being able to 'create our own reality' and heal our body with visualization. The rare people who can do it qualify for a book contract, because we are so unaccustomed to this incredible discipline of saying, 'Wait a minute here, this situation is causing me to get angry and judge and I'm not going to let that happen. I'm going to take a deep breath and the answer is no, I'm not responding to this.'
That becomes a living discipline and it's hard, but that's how you do it. When students tell me that they meditate, I'll ask them where. They'll say they have this quiet room and this music and incense and candles. I ask if that helps and when they say yes I tell them that if you have to make your external environment do the meditating for you by making it so peaceful and tranquil then you don't know what you're doing. If you really want to learn meditation you put yourself on the busiest street corner you can, surrounded by the worst noises on the planet and then tell your spirit not to hear it. Now you're meditating.
Tough to do, though.
Isn't it? Is anything simple?
Well, that's what we all like to think, that it's simple.
That's precisely the spoiled western attitude we've got to change, because it's not.
Much of your work is looking at the chakras and their relationships and using them symbolically and actually. Is so much of this being present connected with the fifth chakra, with the will?
It's connected with all of it. It's not just using your will, it's the manner in which you understand power and how you understand what is positive for your health and what is not. It's connected to how seriously you take this discipline. It's connected to all those things.
Your will, in fact, I would say, is the caboose on the train, because if you have your values in order in this area then you will use your will always and constantly to get your focus in the right place. You'll always use your will to choose exactly what you need to choose, which is to have your focus and energy back in present time.
For so many people that work represents, 'it's just too hard'. What else I understand now is that people know that this work is going to change their lives, and the only change they want is positive, so they'll deliberately jam the circuits because they don't want any of the dramatic-not negative, but dramatic consequences of following a spiritual life. They don't want to have to change.
Whenever I ask them questions about what part of themselves do they feel need the most change, they will always answer in the vaguest of terms. They know if they say anything more substantial, their lives will change. We are born inherently knowing that if we become clear about some aspect of our lives our lives will change. It's as simple as that.
So, they'll always say, 'No, I don't know yet or I'm not sure'. They're just shopping for consciousness but they really don't want to make an investment.
What exactly do people want when they develop this desire to be conscious? What are they really looking for? The fact is it's curiosity or they're looking for therapeutic treatment. They think spirituality will be their way to heal their past and to guarantee that it never happens again. None of this is the real spirituality.
Spirituality takes you into yourself, not protects you. It causes your life to change in that its role is to make you see the illusions you've created as substitutes for God power. So, how can it not take you deeply into your fears? It's exactly where you belong, not to use it as a way to get them out your fears.
Understanding of what is spirituality is completely upside down in our culture because it grew up alongside of this yuppie culture.
There's a quote of yours saying, 'There's nothing easy about becoming conscious.' Of course there are many people in this culture that are going to especially Buddhist or other eastern disciplines and taking them up in a fairly rigorous.
Oh, sure. There will always be those on the outside, shall we say, who take on the discipline as perfume. But the more common will be the eau de toilette version and the cologne. The perfume beings will always exist, but let's face it: perfume is rare because it's so expensive.
A lot of your work is talking about how we must move beyond our sense of being wounded.
And don't be caught in what you call Āewoundology' which has, of course, raised a lot of ...
Fire. Yes. But, you know, the majority of support I have about this is so phenomenal. I can fill three boxes-and they're big-not to mention all the phone calls and comments from people in the workshops who said, 'Thank God, because I finally knew what I was doing wrong.'
Here again, as I've said to so many people in my workshops, the time has come for us to stop using spirituality as a therapy session and begin to believe that we have backbones instead of wishbones. We need very much to challenge the nonsense that spirituality is a way into an easy life instead of what it really is. I'm just calling for a level of maturity.
The other mythology is that it means we're always going to be happy once we're conscious.
And that's not going to happen?
It's nonsense, this notion that we'll never have any more problems. A lot of people are disappointed in their spiritual tradition so they jump from this one to this one to this one because they're not instantly happy. In my opinion the time has come for a very different level of maturity to kick in to the western understanding of spirituality and spiritual experiences.
You know, we're all screaming and yelling about changing this world and making it a better place, about making it more spiritual and more conscious. Well, you can't do that by not walking into the world you want to change. You've got to become the banker who decides to take consciousness into banking and the teacher who takes it into the classroom.
It's nonsense, this notion that we'll never have any more problems.
We've got to jump into the problem now. We've got to live it, be in there, instead of living in these little communities that I have seen repeatedly fall flat on their faces, because while they start with the attitude that they have been created for service to humanity, they inevitably end up with the attitude that the outside world is the enemy, and their job is to create a wall of separation between those on the outside and those on the inside.
When that happens they immediately go into this juvenile, child-like attitude that this is their home and they should be protected there and taken care of. These adults, who are 30, 40 and 50 years old disintegrate into these over-age children who no longer know what it is to learn a living and develop a tremendous fear of the outside world—and this it the world they were going to help heal? You see the paradox.
So, we're living here on this planet and presumably it's a school.
Sure, I'd look at it that way.
And it's not perfect and we're not going to be perfect in it necessarily.
That's right, but I don't think perfection is the goal. The illusion comes in that perfection is the goal. It's not. How do I put this? I think the goal is far more along the lines of seeing clearly, with a deep, deep profound sense of appreciation for all life and all the forms that it comes in and all the experiences of life. So we don't sit back and say only painless experiences are good, only things I understand are worth knowing. I think it's the capacity to view all that is as one.
What we've done is we take that truth and we are still dealing with it at the biological level. We're still trying to actually see each other as one, so we're still working through racism and ethnicity and the difference in cultures and country boundaries. We haven't even begun to chip that down other than to talk about it. Much less really coping with the all is one and understanding the connection between the energy of a tree and the energy of traffic. We haven't even begun to tamper in that world.
But it's quite obvious that we're entering the vibrational energetic mode. We have e-mail. E-mail is energy mail for god's sake and we're calling this next age from a technical point of view the Information Age. Information is energy.
So, it's begun. The Aquarian Age has even penetrated the technical end of life. We're well on our way and there's no turning back.
Courtesy of Banyen Books and Sound.