Labour Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer for so many of us here in the Northern Hemisphere. (I note this because my blog stats show many readers from the south, which astounds and delights me!) Here in Alberta, we’ve had a remarkably warm summer. As I posted last time, to sip my morning coffee outside watching the sunrise (OK, some days wrapped in my Pendleton blanket!) and eat al fresco three meals a day for most of July and August has been a long awaited first in many years. I’ve spent many lovely hours sitting in outside in my deck chair reading…
…Ruth Reichl. The last reigning editor of the now deceased Gourmet Magazine, and former food critic for the New York and LA Times, Reichl has authored several memoirs, and a recent fiction, each about my favourite reading subject, food. Not so much recipes, as the personal connections and memories food conjures, and where it comes from, its history, how it’s prepared and tastes. OMG the descriptions of taste! To develop a palate such as that of Reichl and other of my esteemed food writers, M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, Laurie Colwin, and Gina Mallet, would be a vocation worth pursuing. I devoured and savoured every word of every book Reichl wrote, in the early days of July as I designed this new website. (Seeing two delicious films, Chef and the glorious adaptation of the novel, The One Hundred Foot Journey complemented my reading about food. Could I ever get enough?)
…Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux. Loaded on my Kindle, this was my travelling volume, but because I knew it’d be a regular “go to” reference, I just bought a hard copy. Based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, LaLoux has written an accessible, practical “guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness.” He researched twelve, cross sector pioneer organizations from around the world, who successfully operate on breakthrough principles of purpose driven, self-organization, and self-management. Using 45 criteria, including organizational processes and structures, human resources (recruiting, training, evaluation, compensation), cultural infrastructure elements of communication, office spaces, interpersonal relationships, and leadership, what becomes evident is the emergence of a new coherent organizational model, which he calls TEAL. I’m jazzed as we apply this book to work we’re doing for the next generation of The Circle Way.
…Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair. I’ve had this on my shelf for several years and turned to it instead of re-reading my dog-eared copy of her Dance of The Dissident Daughter because I needed to paddle around in some beautifully written women’s fiction, instead of diving deep in process. I came back to shore refreshed.
… Again, The Power of Collective Wisdom and the trap of collective folly, to design my online book study of the same. This 6- week course will be available globally from mid October to late November. I’d love to have you join the class of educational leaders to add spice to conversation!
…Finally, the profoundly wise Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by James Hollis, PhD. A friend introduced me to and offered to loan me her borrowed copies of several of Hollis’ now out of print manuscripts. I declined, again steering away from the deep dive into deep process, but days later found myself at the local library compelled to explore the stacks. I just noticed the cover endorsement: “Nourishing…Like a master chef, James Hollis knows that good food for the soul cannot be ordered to go.” Hmmm…apparently Reichl was the appetizer, and this was definitely the main course and then some for my summer reading feast.
Hollis writes a “no holds barred” provocative examination of the shifting agenda and purpose of the second half of life in which he intends to, and does, “stir thought, trouble sleep and provide some wider perspective” based on the tenets of Jung and depth psychology.
This book spoke truth to me, in part due to my clinical training based on psychodynamic theory, and personal therapy aligned with Jungian psychology. It passed Hollis’ test of resonance, which he describes as being “critical to our capacity to gather a spirituality that brings deepened connection and meaning into our lives.” (200) Taking time this summer to ponder more fully the significance of my own illness, Hollis states unequivocally:
“…We are obliged to thank our symptoms, for they catch our attention, compel seriousness, and offer profound clues as to the deep will or intentionality of our own psyche. In the end we will only be transformed when we can recognize and accept the fact that there is a will within each of us, quite outside the range of conscious control, a will which knows what is right for us, which is repeatedly reporting to us via our bodies, emotions, and dreams, and is incessantly encouraging our healing and wholeness. We are called to keep this appointment with the inner life, and many of us never do. Fortunately, this insistent invitation comes to us again and again.” (21)
I just read this book, and feel deeply affirmed in regard to my personal journey and how this has become manifest in my work, website and new tagline: attending to the inner live, to live and lead with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity.
There is much more in this volume, and if I’ve piqued your curiosity and stirred your soul, I recommend you seek out the book. However, what I really felt compelled to write here, my PSA (public service announcement) of sorts, is how he describes depression and its treatment, particularly in light of the current and much needed conversation.
Hollis instructs us to recognize that the word “depression” is being indiscriminately used to describe different causes, states of being and levels of meaning. It’s been reduced to a “one size fits all” approach to treatment which most often means a prescription rather than delving into the more time consuming, hence costly, exploration of its symbolic meaning. He clarifies three types of depression:
Biologically based depression that typically appears across family histories, which is most successfully treated with anti-depressant medication combined with short term, often cognitive-based, therapy.
Reactive depression, appropriate to a significant loss in our lives and tends to vary in intensity and duration in proportion to the amount of energy we invested in who or what was lost.
“The child going off to college, the end of a relationship, downsizing at work or retirement – all can occasion a reactive depression, as the psychic energy that was once invested externally loses its object or container and reverts to the personal psyche…Grieving is an honest affirmation of the value of the original investment of energy. No grief, no true investment occurred.” (73)
He reminds us that even in reactive depression there is a task that awaits us,
“namely the invitation, indeed the necessity, to examine where we may have been over-invested in the lost other, where it was carrying too much for us. When that energy returns to us, it is ours to carry, and ours to invest in ways that serve the development agenda our souls always wish from us.” (73)
In his professional experience, medications confuse and may obscure this exploration.
Intrapsychic, or dysthymic depression, suffered by each of us at some time over the course of our lives, is the reaction of the psyche to the impact upon our souls, of our culture and to the choices we’ve made in living our lives.
“No matter how successful we have been in the outer world, judged by standards external to us, if we are not living in accord with the intent of our soul, depression is likely to follow. The more I try to do what ‘I’ wish to do, and the less it is what the soul intends, the more depressed I will become.” (224)
To have the courage to inquire into and heed the response of the question, “What, then, is the summons of my soul?” is the way through.
This may not pass your “resonance test.” But if it does, may Hollis’ words, and those of aligned authors, like Parker Palmer, bring courage, clarity and compassion to we who suffer depression, and help us find our way through to living in accordance with the soul’s agenda.