Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hibernation Time?

I've lived in Tucson now for 5 1/2 years, but this feels like the first year in which I have become accustomed to what passes for seasons here in the Sonoran Desert.

Ever since I returned from the IFS conference a couple of weeks ago, things have felt off. Part of that is certainly a result of doing about two months worth of therapy in a three-day weekend. As much as I enjoyed the process, I'm not sure I'd recommend that kind of immersion in shadow stuff for most people. Next time I'll try to find a better balance between theoretical stuff and experiential stuff.

Aside from all that, I feel the pull to crawl into my cave that I used to feel this time of year in Seattle. October in Seattle is beautiful -- the days get short, the fog and rain get more frequent, and the trees are amazing shades of yellow, orange, and red. I used to always want to pull the shades, curl up on the couch with a blanket, a book, and some hot coffee, and withdraw from the world.

The seasons don't have such dramatic changes here. The days get shorter, but rather than rain, we get a lesser intensity of sunlight. Fall is the dry season following the summer monsoons, and we won't get much rain again until winter. It's taken me more than five years to tune into the subtlety of the seasons in the desert, but this year it is happening.

For the last week -- partly from emotional fatigue, and partly from pushing myself harder at the gym -- I have been very tired. In fact, yesterday, I slept most of the day. I'm not sick, I'm getting a fair amount of sleep at night, I'm not depressed, and I don't feel over-trained. But I want to sleep, a lot.

Even more, however, I want to eat. It feels like I need to fatten up for the winter. I don't keep junk in my house, so if I overeat I'm getting too much chicken, or too much tuna, black beans and curry, or too much cottage cheese. Or, the best, too much peanut butter. I'm always hungry, and it feels insatiable.

I feel like a bear getting ready for hibernation.

Permit me to get all mythical/magical in my thinking. I've done a lot of shamanic journeying in my life, and there are always two animals that act as my guides. One is the raven, which I've written about before. The other is a bear, a large brown bear. Sometimes he is my father (a symbolic father, not literal) and sometimes he is a guide in some other way.

In shamanic symbolism, a shaman with a bear as a primary guide is generally a healer as opposed to a psychpomp or a technician of ecstasy (to use Eliade's term). Although, in Jungian psychology, the psychopomp and healer go together in form of the shaman:

[T]he psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man (or woman), or sometimes as a helpful animal. In some cultures acting as a psychopompos was also one of the functions of a shaman. This could include not only accompanying the soul of the dead, but also vice versa: to help at birth, to introduce the newborn's soul to the world (p. 36 of [1]).

I would add that the therapist/psychopomp must also be able to guide a client into the realm of the soul, safely, and help them acclimate to the energies and experiences such a "soul reclamation" entails. Many people live their whole lives without any access to the soul, so that to come into contact with it, in therapy or otherwise, can be experienced as an hierophany, which may involve fear and rejection.

I tend toward an integral shamanism, what I have termed meta-shamanism. So I have no problem with thinking about dynamic processes within the psyche in terms of animal guides and shamanic realities -- or using words like soul to denote deeper, non-rational elements of experience. If I was rewriting that post, I'd place less emphasis on the Spiral Dynamics aspect and more on the experiential elements of mystic insights at different levels of awareness. The symbolic qualities of different worldviews are highly useful as metaphors in dealing with the mysteries of the mind.

Be that as it may, it feels to me like the bear element in my psyche is becoming more active, especially as I become more prepared to take up the next stage of my life as a therapist.

But for now, the bear wants to hibernate. It wants to fatten up, sleep, withdraw from the world and all its responsibilities, and generally prepare for the darkness of winter (which never really comes here in Tucson). It feels like a powerful, primal urge.

Unfortunately, this is one of my busy seasons, so I don't get to hibernate. In the next few weeks my workload will increase quite a bit, and it will be tough to maintain some of the downtime I've enjoyed the last couple of months.

But I feel I need to honor what feels like a biological drive -- knowing full-well there are some psychological elements involved that are fall-out from the IFS trip. So as much as possible, I will be in hibernation mode for a while, at least until it plays out in my psyche. It won't change my blogging much, but I might try to sleep more and blog less in the mornings.

Ah, autumn. . . .


Unknown said...

Sleep!? Nonsense. There are worlds to conquer. Be on the lookout for a replacement animal guide: A gazelle or a roadrunner.

Unknown said...

Nice post
Peace ~ John