I spent this weekend with my teacher and fourteen others in a master dream class focused upon Jungian theory. We spent a lot of time pondering the path to becoming fully human. I was reminded once again that true spiritual work is always done with others. A religious solitary can only be a solitary when the connection with others is so deep that others no longer need be physically present. For the rest of us, the inner journey is best taken in company.
For hundreds of years, however, spirituality has been privatized to the point of absurdity. If spiritual practice is how I come to know myself and my relation to the universe, how can I do that without being in relation to that universe? To discover what is real and not just my imagination running through the woods requires others to be in on it. It is why religious communities insist upon being community. They are also failing because if there is not some great big cause behind which to hide, people have difficulty just sitting face to face. I know this because I meditate with children. Do it some time. They have an incredible effect upon one another.
Which brings me to the quote that has become one of my mantras, namely, Joseph Campbell's "Myths are public dreams and dreams are private myths." I have written often how important it is to understand the public myths which guide our lives, how history takes on new dimensions and textures when it is read as dream. What is less intuitive is how our private dreams intersect with this public world. What is the authority of a dream? Since childhood, we have been trained to keep our interiority to ourselves. "Do whatever you want," runs the Edwardian proverb, "as long as it does not scare the horses."
Christmas is painful, I think, because it compels us to deal with spiritual things in a public way. At this time of year, I cannot fully retreat into polite silence. But after decades of struggling with this, I know all the way to my bones that growth cannot happen if I keep who I am to myself.
Which brings me to my final point. Whatever your faith tradition or lack thereof, this is a season that calls upon us to love: to remember the poor, to consider what causes we choose to support, to acknowledge, in love, both our blessings and our failures.
Remember, dear ones, if the cosmos didn't think we were worth it, we wouldn't be here at all.