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Finding your story in a time of uncertainty

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 35 total)
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    Shaheda – perhaps you could post a link to your paper on death and dying and end-of-life care in our Share Your Work Corner?


      Here is a clip from a documentary that describes a teachers journey with her students back in the 1970’s in a rural southern school immersed in poverty. She movingly tells what she found when going back to see how their lives turned out. What she did was use photography as a vehicle of discovery for her students to find out what their dreams were and then go about using this knowledge to unlock their vision of their own futures. She wrote a book chronicling her experiences using her students pictures to reveal their inner worlds and the documentary then ends with a showing of their work. This is yet another way of finding and telling one’s story:



      It appears this thread is in sync with the gestalt of the times. I stumbled across this article in Vox today about the increase in people journaling to help with anxiety during the pandemic. Here’s a brief excerpt:

      Journaling isn’t just a fun hobby — it’s a mechanism that’s frequently incorporated in therapy. It can be an important tool to explore inner conflicts, rant in a safe way, or figure out a difficult decision, says clinical psychologist Andrea Medaris. ‘During pandemic, I think maybe the most useful thing about journaling is that it helps create a narrative, a sense that life continues and that it is moving forward, even in a time of stuckness. It’s very easy to feel that time has paused, so making something that shows the progression from yesterday to today to tomorrow can bring a sense of hope and momentum.’ “


        Stephen; how kind of you to spot this and recommend it for this topic. I was stunned at the timing because I was recently looking at Patrick Slaughter’s book you brought up before and after reading your post just now went ahead and put my order in. What synchronistic moment I think for your idea about this; and after perusing the table of contents on Amazon it seems to be the perfect companion to compliment the subject. I will leave the link below for any others who want to check it out. Btw; you mentioned an online video chat when you posted that; were you able to participate?

        This article you brought is a great idea for reviving this topic and your thoughtfulness is definitely appreciated! Here is the link:


        James and Stephen and Everyone,

        Please forgive my absence from the Forum. I know we do not have to feel pressured to hurry and respond to things here and that it can unfold, over time, as Stephen says. But I never meant to be so absent to all the vital conversations going on. I had a lot of computer work to do and after I would get my work done I would feel computer overload or sensory overload with the light on the screen on my eyes. The only media I have been on lately has been quick facebook visits where I was not reading any loner articles or forums or pages. feeling eye strain and shoulder/arm strain. The anniversary forums on dance were wonderful and I had not been back here since until now. I think this topic of writing and journaling and getting inside oneself to then let things out in self-expression is a great reminder in these times of this pandemic, as James says. And I think it so wonderful that Stephen brought up how keeping a journal or diary is not just a fun hobby (with implications to some people when people think of that as being perhaps somehow self-indulgent also as if those who journal should be more “actively” doing something more “important” or pressing with their time (unless one is a professional writer writing for a magazine or newspaper, or who writes books, etc.) as if those who are “not writers” may as well not keep a journal. But unless a person slept in late and is running late for work, what is more pressing than something that needs to be expressed? When expression is repressed, it can become depression. Depression presses down and into the skin beyond the skin-deep layers of being. I think it is a wonderful idea that people write or find whatever kind of expression they find wanting to arise out of them–journals, poetry, song lyrics, musical melodies, drawing, painting–and oh the loveliness of sketchbooks with both doodles and journal notes!–or dancing or singing–any form of expression. What is nice about writing is that we can “talk” to someone else we are “writing to,” so to speak. I also like how Stephen brought up how therapuetic a journal can be. I did not yet get to the pages James suggested in the Art of Living book. Thank you both of you and for the sources pertaining to the ideas you provide here.

        For people who think/say “I can’t write!” there is an exercise that writing teachers often use called ballooning. It is a rather well-used exercise for what is called the “pre-writing” stage; it is a good way to get comfortable writing out one’s thoughts or thinking them out first before stringing sentences together. Make a balloon in the center of a page, and put a word or topic in it such “this pandemic” and then draw lines out from it, and then at the end of each short line drawn out from the balloon, write another word/idea that comes out of that word and then circle that one too. Then you can blurt out more that comes to mind about each of those subtopics by making more lines going out to more balloons…Pretty soon, there are circles/ovals all over the page and it looks like some kind of big bang creation on paper. Then if you want you can write a paragraph, a few paragraphs or even a whole bunch of pages out of those immediate thoughts. It is fun for people who are visual thinkers too. It is one form of brainstorming. It isn’t important in a journal that you write the best sentences or use correct spelling and this or that…just that you write. It is a fun exercise for people who say, “I can’t write” and also fun for people who write all the time. You can also draw an umbrella and the thoughts are the lines pouring down from it into raindrops, and each drop is a new thought. Writing students often think they cannot write; but I believe that if you can sit down with a friend over a cup of coffee or tea at a coffee table and express an idea or a story, that you can write. Or, in short, if you can talk, you can write. Again it doesn’t have to be formal–if it’s a private journal, no one else will mind (!) except you! so you may as well get over any imperfections!


        haha, I meant “not longer articles,” not “not loner articles!” I guess that was a Campbellian slip? A Jungian slip? So many people feel like loners these days with the pandemic.

        I know how people say a virus has no conscience and means no harm, but just is, but sometimes (now and then) it just feels like there is something almost sinister to it all when I cannot hug my granddaughter! One minute I feel strong about it (and optimistic and take it in stride) and the next I feel sad and less optimistic (especially with the Covid case #s growing again). I think we are “allowed” to feel strong and sad at the same time–?

        It seems too we are all called to be heroes to this pandemic story in one way or another–even if we are not out there on the front lines as medical people or as food servers or grocery clerks, many of us find ourselves championing our families, kids, grandkids, significant others, or parents in nursing homes, and our wonderful animal friends in our household living with us.




        This strikes such a common chord with me, Stephen, when you write:

        “Looking back, I notice those early unsuccessful efforts exhibit two common characteristics:

        First, I would try to detail exactly what happened during the day – the order and times in which events occurred, who said what to whom, etc. – an impossible journalistic task. It had taken me all day to live it; writing it all down would take another day – hence I found the process time-consuming and impossibly overwhelming. No matter how enthusiastic I was at first, my efforts faded and entries soon dribbled away to nothing.”

        I have often had the same thing happen or this same feeling–so overwhelmed by the amount of information that yes time consuming and how to get all the details down. I then worry about what my writing might lack is if it needs to be full in order to read it a year later and understand it, let alone remember what I meant by it at all or what the circumstances really were. I often do this when I want to write a journal entry or a blog entry and end up not writing or posting it. Sometimes I will simply write down the general idea like” I had a dream last night I want to write down later.” Often, later never comes from that point on with that. The same sort of thing is going on with me with a writing project I have going on now–this one is not a journal, not about me, but about the characters. But what you wrote here just gave me a gift of understanding something: If I worry about not getting the right or enough details as I write (or feel apprehension about the daunting task of organizing the details of the material) I make it about me when what I really want and what the characters want is for it to be about the characters! I guess the advice here for this type of circumstance would be to make it about the characters and get out of the way! (Insert smile emoji!) Or, if it is writing about the day’s events: what I gather from your words here, Stephen, is to again make it about the subject matter and get out of one’s own way–for instance, if writing about a dream, make it about the dream and not what you (here I mean general you, as in anyone) are superimposing over the dream–unless analysis is what you are after but then you can always go back and analyze later and step out of the way of the dream for a minute and  “give” it its own life it already has.  (Here I am also thinking about the forum discussions we’ve had on dreams and Hillman’s theories on animal dreams. And I see here too that if I were worried too much about organizing this material in my response that I would never have written this parenthetical comment!) I just came into this forum just now because I just read something from Campbell that made me think of this forum topic, so I came here to share it. It is about writer’s block–all the things that block us, whatever they are, we can all get over our blocks perhaps if we consider what Campbell expressed:

        Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.”

        ― Joseph Campbell, A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

        Thank you Stephen, and thank you, James, for this topic on writing during this pandemic.

        Wishing blessings to all,




        I have seen this book on social media and have been wanting to order this book–I so appreciate this reminder! Plotting my personal myth is one of my big writing goals in this lifetime as it is for many others I know. This looks like a great book.



        The quote you share from A Joseph Campbell Companion on writer’s block (re “cutting off one’s head”) is key. Though I know Joe is talking about writing in general here, this really speaks to my experience when journaling.

        At it’s best, journaling is more than just keeping a diary. It’s a dialog with the deeper Self – and “I” have to get out of the way for the words to flow . . .


          Hey everyone; it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this thread but I wanted to include a short clip on Dennis Patrick Slattery’s book that may line up with what is currently being discussed concerning the process of writing one’s personal myth. For me Diane Osbon’s book: “Reflections on the Art of Living – A Joseph Campbell Companion”; has been crucial in my journey for it was written in 1991; but: “Riting Myth Mythic Writing”; was written in 2012; and deals more with the actual writing process of one’s myth than the other which for me deals more with understanding how to incorporate “Joseph’s themes” into one’s life.

          I’ve been spending some time on Slattery’s website listed earlier; which has quite a bit of material concerning his own process including some fascinating posts on his Painting and Pottery; (one of which has some pieces on Carl Jung’s: “Red Book”. I bring this up because although writing is still the main focus of this thread; Marianne’s quote earlier about incorporating “all” the arts lies at the heart and soul of the inner: “sacred space”; which Joseph felt was critical for human well being in modern life. You could say hobby or craft is one aspect; and indeed Jung’s process of: “Play” is one of the avenues this inner expression begins to take place. But Slattery approaches this idea in a very unique way which the clip talks about:


          Hi James and Everyone,

          That is a great reminder, James, that the “sacred space” Campbell suggested we each find can be in any of the arts and not just in writing. And that sacred space can be not just the hour in which we write, paint, draw, sculpt, dance, choreograph, or make music, but in the artwork itself. The sacred space can be both the time spent on a poem or being within the poem (the thoughts or sense of place) as it is being written. Or, same with a song: being within the song one is composing or playing on an instrument and feeling within that space and timing of the song.


            Marianne; thank you so very much for beautifully articulating what I was trying to get at. And combined with Stephen’s point:

            The quote you share from A Joseph Campbell Companion on writer’s block (re “cutting off one’s head”) is key. Though I know Joe is talking about writing in general here, this really speaks to my experience when journaling.
            At it’s best, journaling is more than just keeping a diary. It’s a dialog with the deeper Self – and “I” have to get out of the way for the words to flow . . .”

            –within this engagement with the deeper self what type of form or medium can have a great deal to do with how this is accomplished for it is the connection point of how the deeper self can express itself that is often the key that helps to unlock the doorway for this to happen.

            For instance it may find it’s voice through another pathway such as the visual or musical to express what it’s trying to communicate and can inform you in that way instead of through words. (On the other hand); the internal process of putting something into words may be a cathartic mechanism or means by which the deeper self can better make itself heard. All of these forms are windows or doorways into this vast and potent realm of inner experience; and like a cocoon in which the deeper self has been enclosed through the alchemy of these processes may be able to emerge as the: “butterfly or moth from the larva” which it has been struggling to accomplish this task; (i.e. the “chrysalis” process is a term often used by therapists to describe the individual’s struggle toward wholeness).

            Indeed many of the artworks over the centuries have been the intimate conduits that awaken these dimensions and aspects in others. As a matter of fact Joseph talks about Marianne’s referral in the part in: “The Power of Myth” where he specifically describes finding a room and setting aside time each day to perform this exercise to evoke this aspect of the deeper self and emphasizes it is: “holy time” critical to having an inward life. (I think it is interesting to note that this aspect of the individual experience is often referred to as “self-expression”.) But the important point I think Joseph is making is we all need to develop some form of this aspect of ourselves in the living of our lives because it informs and expresses deeper dimensions of ourselves that long to be heard; and if this is not addressed we are going to have problems that will only get worse. The line in the Gnostic Gospels Joseph quoted at one point in the series seems to come to mind: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (The point being if you are not listening to what this deeper part of you is trying to say you are in trouble.)


              Btw; speaking of the term “Chrysalis”; here is a truly magnificent piece written by Jean Shinoda Bolen on this topic that for me was a real game changer in helping me to connect so many of these Jungian concepts together into a single coherent whole. This piece was introduced to me along with several other participants in discussion thread concerning “individuation” by JCF Jungian moderator Cindy Bias several years ago. (Thank you Cindy wherever you are!)




              Thanks for the link to Jean Shinoda Bolen’s piece on liminality, which is such a useful concept – one that rings true with experience (where one is neither one or the other, but inhabits the In-Between).

              This was at Mythic Journeys in Atlanta in 2004; I was able to to attend the same event the next (and last) time it was held, in 2006, and what an experience! The Hyatt-Regency in Atlanta was simply a mansion of myth! I met so many people there for the first time that I’ve come to know and love over the years. The event began with a plenary session – seeing so many hundreds of people gathered in one large space because of a deep and abiding love of myth (and of Joseph Campbell) was so liberating and re-affirming (after years of all of us thinking “I guess I’m the only one in my town”). There were so many luminaries there (whether speaking to the crowds, in panel discussions, individual lectures, workshops, or performances).

              There would be a ceremony at 9 a.m. to start the day, followed by “the Big Story” – a myth shared to set the tone for the day’s theme. Then morning workshops to choose from, lunch, afternoon workshops to choose from, dinner, and evening plenary session that was generally a performance for everyone (and other, smaller performances – one was a Neil Gaiman radio play staged live), and Dionysian revelry with drinking and dancing into the evening in one or more of the hotel bars (Emerald Rose performing in the larger one – a dynamic, energetic band grounded in Celtic myth). I recall seeing two nine-foot tall centaurs wandering about the first evening; when I ran into them again the next morning on my way to breakfast, I realized it wasn’t the absinthe that was to blame (several talented actors had been hired to don realistic mythic costumes, but the centaurs were truly the most impressive). And then there were the “after-parties” in hotel rooms into the wee hours of the morning, and stumbling into my hotel room (shared with Martin Weyers from Germany and Phil Spartalis from Australia) to catch a few hours sleep before getting up and doing it all over again.

              I had the opportunity to meet Jean Shinoda Bolen and attend a workshop she led on “Illness as a Soul Journey.” Such a tiny woman (well under five feet tall), such a large presence!

              I also attended a lecture by David Abram (author of The Spell of the Sensuous, and the person who, at Lynn Kaufmann’s request, got the very shy George Lucas and Joseph Campbell talking to one another the first time they met, at an event called “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space” in tandem with the release of the book of the same name, by performing a magic trick that required them to hold each other’s hands), entitled “The Storied Earth: Rejuvenating Oral Culture as an Ecological Imperative.”

              Alas, coordinating and funding a multi-day event with multiple performers, presenters, vendors, and over a thousand attendees is truly challenging (as I learned six years later, when I was a co-chair of the Symposium for the Study of Myth). I’m surprised the organizers were able to pull it off twice – but as an attendee, I enjoyed every minute.


                Thank you Stephen for sharing your insights and experiences of how those Mythic Journey seminars were kind of like a gathering of “mythic” eagles as it were; where for that brief moment people from all walks of life could come together and be inspired and re-energized by what one’s own “mythic journey” is really all about. I remember when I first joined the earlier version of CoaHO I would sometimes hear occasional references to this event and how awesome it was.

                This brings me to a particular moment I experienced recently that profoundly reminded me of how one’s own personal story represents as a gateway to understanding what the deeper meanings of one’s life are like no other; that one’s story is a gateway to understanding how one’s personal myth in terms relative to them alone and not the societal context out of which they may be enclosed defines the trajectory in which they come to realization. This idea of one’s own unique identity as a seed that if planted and nurtured can flower into something far beyond their imagination to comprehend because as Joseph Campbell reveals it puts you on a kind of track that has been waiting for you to discover and if followed will take you where your heart and soul tells you to go. But this transformational process is not without peril for these trials of their adventure are indeed important components that are responsible for these alchemical illuminations to take place. Mystics and spiritual advisors have understood this motif for centuries and act as helpful guides by providing insights on this voyage of self-discovery; but it is within the process itself the true meanings are revealed.

                As Joseph suggests the night sea journey of these quests often may come in many forms; often with battles that must be faced and dealt with as well as moments of deep reflection where self-examination reveals one’s inner demons may actually be the gatekeepers one is seeking for passage through to the other side of their portals that is calling to them. And that the veil that hides the spiritual grail they are seeking may actually be right in front of them.

                I was finishing a conversation and completing a task the other day when upon closing my computer down I noticed a movie playing in the background I had not seen before that caught my attention. It was a film done in 2007 called: “The Freedom Writers” about a high school English teacher named Erin Gruwell who found a way to help “at risk teens” from a poverty stricken neighborhood in Long Beach California find out who they were and that their stories had value in world that does not seem to care. One of the important mechanisms she employed was journal writing; and on this voyage of self-discovery they began to discover stories other than their own which helped to develop empathy for others suffering as well as the self -healing that needed to take place. A bestselling book came out of this experience and of course the movie that I mentioned which is very highly recommended. She went on to set up a Foundation that helps other teachers employ some of these techniques for establishing the meaningful dialogue that needs to take place for this to happen. I searched through lots of clips about her and the movie and came upon this lecture she gave about her experiences which should help provide more background on the: “The Freedom Writer’s Diaries”

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