Talking to the enlightened master Inside you

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Learning to use active imagination can be a game-changer for inner growth

by James Eke

from Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #129


You might think talking to an imaginary friend is not necessarily the best way for an adult to live life but as a tool in our training toolbox, psychological genius Carl Jung’s process of active imagination can literally change your life. Or at least, active imagination is a powerful tool for training and development if you learn to use it right.

The best part of it is that you’ve likely done this before back when you were a kid and your imagination brought to life conversations that few of us adults even think about on a day to day basis but were key elements of the universe we lived in when we were small.

Now you might think to yourself, are you suggesting that I have an imaginary friend-like conversation as part of my training?

Pretty much.

What we have to remember is that the levels to our minds are a much deeper ocean than we understand – even those of us who have spent decades or likely even a lifetime meditating only really are aware or understand a bucket or two of that ocean, some people, the Einsteins of the mind – people like Jung or Dogen – they might have a bucket or two more of understanding but that extra insight is worth listening to and hoisting aboard. The insights that Jung received through active imagination revolutionized not just psychology but how we view the mind.

When we are actively integrating active imagination into our toolbox of techniques the important thing to remember that just like a physical workout or working on your Jiu-Jitsu positions, if you don’t work at it, active imagination’s actual potential for you won’t be realized. It will be like that person who says they want to learn to meditate, tries it a time or two and then says they ‘can’t meditate’ or ‘can’t find the time’ or simply don’t get the point.

Active imagination is a tool to help you to tap into the collective unconscious which is a place in our deepest depths of the mind that is likely inherited from our ancestors and isn’t shaped by our personal experience or egos – it is a place of memory and impulses that is not just common to all of us but which the individual isn’t even aware of in our walkabout life. We can get in touch with this through our dreams and interpretation of them but we can also get there with active imagination.

The practice of active imagination is to plumb the collective unconscious for contact with archetypes and allow for a non-forced conversation with aspects of these archetypes. There are lots of different archetypes, the father, mother, wise old person, trickster, hero and others. These archetypes can blend with each other or take on different faces. The important thing with this training tool is to not force it but to make it something somewhat similar to meditation where you are watching thoughts arise without attachment to them and with active imagination, using the same tack and see what the conversation brings.

Ever one to go back to Star Wars analogies, I like to think of it is our chance to take part in actual conversations with our own versions of Jedi Force Ghosts. Heck, for that matter, have a conversation with Yoda about your training. See what he says and what he suggests.

What I’ve found is that it is easiest to allow this form of training to evolve in an organic sort of way. Sort of just reach out into that ocean of the mind we were talking about and allow some suggestions about who to speak to and what you’ll usually find is something – or someone – will come to mind. It could be someone from a dream, maybe a grandparent, maybe a classical archetype, a religious one, a Buddhist Bodhisattva, or some Jedi master for that matter.

The thing is, the thing you are talking to in your active imagination meditation is not actually an entity like we think about. It is a process that is helping you to translate in a way the knowledge and memory that is transmitting out of that collective unconscious. A collective unconscious that speaks in a bit of a different language of sorts so that conversing with an archetype figure allows for some of that innate wisdom and knowledge that is under the surface of that ocean to come out in a way that you can understand it better.

What you might find in these conversations my surprise you. Maybe you’ll get a different outlook. Maybe you will get some advice to live in a more conscious and compassionate manner. Maybe you might even find that talking to what is really just an aspect of yourself you haven’t noticed before will give you the ability to see life in a way that you haven’t before that is more real, more healthy, and more present.

What I have found in my life and my training is that it is far greater to have multiple ways or a number of tools that I have to access to both examine my life and not just help with my training but help to navigate this life and who I am.

Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living and what we need to understand is that training and living itself are one and the same massive ocean – we are all standing on the beach looking out. Sunset is on the way and it is our choice how far out we want to wade into that ocean and explore it and find its potential and undiscovered amazingness. I for one want to learn as much as I can. How about you?

Listen to the full podcast episode here

Tap Into The True Potential Of Human Nature

One of the best things we can do is start to recognize that everything human is natural

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

By James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #123

You might think you train for a whole lot of reasons.

Maybe you think you want to get into shape.

Maybe you think you want to learn to defend yourself.

Maybe you want to find an outlet from the stress of daily life.

Maybe you want something more.

But maybe you have a feeling that something is missing. Missing from your life and missing from all of our lives.

Here is the thing, there is something missing and it is long overdue that we as a society start to recognize that it is missing.

Whatever it is that drew you to training – and likely to this podcast for that matter – is the simple fact that you feel that loss that lingers on the fringe of your awareness. That missing thing.

Some people choose to look the other way when it comes to this feeling. Some people fill their life with the need to entertain themselves so that they won’t have to think about any of it – and likely none of the things that we talk about here.

That’s ok. Just like your dog doesn’t care about the bills being paid, there are some people who don’t quite see what the priorities are, or should be, in living a life.

Most people never quite grasp even the smallest glimpse of what their lives really are, what truly it is all about or what they can do to actually see their lives for the first time. They think they are normal. That life is mundane. They don’t stop to think about the simple fact that they shouldn’t even exist and that by existing they have tremendous potential to change, well, everything – and already do so in their own blind following the blind way, changing everything without any concept of what they are doing or if it was for good or not.

Humans have been on a trajectory away from their true nature for a while now.

There is a disconnect between who we are and what we are as human beings.

This disconnect separates us from our potential. It separates us from our nature. It separates us from our past and all the things that our ancestors – who were all very smart and capable – knew to be true. The stories they told, the beliefs they had, they all told of something more. 

This more is a vast ocean. Most of us at best conceive of a bucket or two of water, some lucky ones who do the work, maybe a few more. But what is there waiting is much more expansive, its depths and the realizations to be drawn from them far beyond the understanding of most.

It isn’t that people don’t want to see what is actually there. It is more like they have been living life believing they are using their eyes but only one day realize they have never opened them and even then can only see a small portion of what is around them.

You can only blame society, cultural concepts, technology or the rise of social media so much. When it comes down to it, most people are content with the life they believe themselves to be living. Content to just stumble around. Content to not see. Content to not understand. Content to live in the dark.

This path isn’t for everyone. It is hard to come to terms with seeing how much delusion and illusion we both live in and create.

It is equally difficult for people to see how much potential they have to be the animal, the demon, the thief, the murderer – just as it is their potential to be far more and far greater than any of that.

Most of the time we aren’t even aware of what our place is in this world. We aren’t aware of who we are. We aren’t aware of why we do what we do. We aren’t even aware of what we are actually aware of and what we have completely lost touch with.

There are moments though. Maybe you are outside on a summer’s night and look up and realize that you haven’t ever seen a sunset as beautiful as what is above you and you feel something inside of you like a whisper. Or maybe you watch a hummingbird hovering in front of you and can’t believe how you have never noticed the beauty that is all around you all the time.

When we are training properly, when we actually learn how to meditate and find stillness, when we are able to turn off the chattering monkey that holds sway between our ears and causes us to be impulsive, to lash out, to be reactive and judgemental – in those moments we find a feeling of unity, calm and interconnection.

This interconnection is actually what training should be all about. A lack of training is chaos and disharmony. Train in whatever you want; be it meditation or jiu-jitsu or anything else physical or metaphysical and your prime focus needs to be in seeking union, harmony, instead of isolation.

We’ve all been there feeling alone. Feeling isolated. This actually has its basis in our deluded view of our lives. The reality of our lives is the opposite.

So how do we start to see this connection or better yet, truly understand it and make it integral to your life and your training?

Stillness. That simple.

Stillness.

Now stillness – and I mean true cultivation and acceptance of actual stillness without any judgement, interior monologue, fantasy or monkey mind swaying from the trees of the mind is a tough thing to do. You’ll think you have it, you will be sure of it, only months or years later will look back from more time practicing and realize that you didn’t have it at all.

Stillness means starting to see the perceptions as perceptions, not necessarily what is there. It means opening yourself up to sensory input in a non-judgemental and non-thinking standpoint.

It means simply being there. In the moment. Feeling it fully. No critical thought, no judgemental thought, no grasping. Just stillness.

When we begin to touch this place we find there is no room for judgement, no room for living in the past, no room for dreaming of the future, no home for an inflated self-image.

There have been times in my life where I thought it would be easier to train and live in the woods or in some remote place where life was somehow easier and more natural. Of course you could do this, lots of people now and in history have retreated from society but it is unnecessary when you start to train yourself to tap into the fact that everything human is natural. What we need to learn to do is to figure out how to live in this world in a more sane way. Our training needs to be about living in this universe but through the filter of what is real, not bound to all the fake and false views; being part of society but not necessarily buying into the aspects that would take your true humanity from you.

Each of us already has everything we need, we just have to find it.

When we start to do that we realize that the training is in everything we do. It is not just done on the mats or on a zafu. It is in how we brush our teeth, walk down the street, water the garden, feed the chickens, file that report or help a customer. The training is the way and the way is the training – it is our lives.

It is an ongoing process. One that will show you just how perfectly imperfect we all are and why our core of training needs to be in cultivation of compassion for ourselves and for all things which in the end are all part of us as well.

So right now, slow down, breathe, feel the energy within you and around you. Start to see what is there. Start to actually see who and what you are.

Listen to the full podcast episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast

In this podcast episode we talk about Alan Watts’ book The Meaning Of Happiness: The Quest For Freedom Of Spirit In Modern Psychology And The Wisdom Of The East. Get a copy here

The transformation of the Hero’s Journey

Growth and change grows from adversity

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by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #122


It isn’t every day that you hear of ordinary people who go on to do extraordinary things.

The story of Joe Medicine Crow and his incredible transformation from just some guy working in the shipyards to answering the call and not just going to war but knowingly offering himself up complete with war paint and eagle feather beneath his uniform to achieve the requirements of the Crow War Chief are nothing short of the Hero’s Journey.

And while Joe Medicine Crow I personally think should be a household name and I can’t honestly understand for the life of me how there isn’t some blockbuster Hollywood movie about him, the Hero’s Journey is something of importance for anyone who is serious about transforming their lives or training in a way that is unlike the depths that most dive down to.

From my own view, I see the Hero’s Journey as an inner alchemical process where a person feels or is given what is called the ‘call’ then through what most people who write on this sort of thing they receive or find supernatural aid, break through a threshold which starts the transformation process. Here is where the waters get choppy, the person on the Hero’s Journey is generally challenged, tempted, often fails and hits rock bottom where they enter the abyss. The abyss is the place of pass or fail, they suffer and push through death to rebirth and then transform. After the transformation that can be radical as in the case of Joe Medicine Crow, there is atonement and the return from the unknown back to the world. The person who takes part in the Hero’s Journey, whether in myth or in real life is never the same – they are different. They are like the Padawan who undergoes the trials to become a full Jedi Knight. They are the young private who becomes the Crow War Chief.

It is possible for you listening to this to go through your own Hero’s Journey. I’ll caution you though, you might not like it.

Walking a certain path and dedicating yourself to it means that you are telling the universe you not only want to be different but you are up to the task. I myself have found that the when you do this the powers that be are going to help you get there but it will be through exactly this process. What you get on the other side of it is a completely different you. This in itself isn’t so special, every moment that passes changes us but sometimes these trials of death and rebirth are radical and you are left, through this alchemical process with something that no longer seems like what there was before it.

This is what growth and change is all about.

Most people these days don’t understand the true power of training. They don’t listen to the words of the old masters. They don’t believe in what our ancestors knew as fact.

Transformation is there for all of us. We just have to open ourselves to it, do the work, fail, learn and continue on.

Most of you listening to this are already on this path, especially if you are serious about your training.

This doesn’t mean that your own Hero’s Journey is going to be anything like the amazing story of Joe Medicine Crow – it doesn’t have to be, it will be your own. What you need to do though is listen to his story and dig into it and truly understand it and what it means.

The thing about Zen or martial arts or any worthwhile path is realizing that you yourself need to open yourself up to change, you yourself need to do the work that is required and you yourself are faced with decisions in your life that will make all the difference and whether you pass or fail the tests and trials that come your way you will be given the change to stand back up, dust yourself off and continue on, do better, be stronger and become someone far greater than you even realized that you could become.

It starts right now. It is fueled with bravery, courage, stillness and calm.

Treat yourself and all others with kindness and compassion.

And just imagine all the amazing things you can do. You just have to take this one step and then continue along the path.

It is a path that will change everything. But only you have the choice. Joe Medicine Crow didn’t have to do any of the things that he did. He could have just been the greyman as a private in the war – but imagine a world without people like him. Imagine a life without the inspiration of others who are lights in the darkness.

We don’t need to do things in the level of some epic Hero, our transformative process can be much smaller and more personal. What it will be though, and this I can guarantee will be something that at the other end you will look back on and say, well, that was tough at times but I am so glad it happened and I am not the same as where I was when this all started.

That is the amazing thing about both life and training in a real way with a conscious understanding at breaking through the chains that would otherwise bind us, training in a way that pushes us through delusion, training in a way that is about everything that our ancestors knew well and understood. It makes it all worthwhile.

It isn’t for the faint hearted though. It probably isn’t for everyone. But then again there is a reason there are heroes and all the rest of us mortals who look at their examples and strive simply to do them proud.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST EPISODE AT WARRIOR’S WAY PODCAST

How To Find True Freedom

…And How Not To Be Like A Dog Chasing Hornets, Getting Stung And Then Chasing More Hornets

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by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode #118


We are creatures of choice. Perhaps that is one of our defining features. Humans make choices. Of course just as in the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the apple, sometimes we make good ones and sometimes the choices we make are less so – all choices have consequences though.

This seems like common-sense but how many of you have made a decision to do something, or not do something, and then afterwards you felt like kicking your own butt around the block a few times – or more than a few times.

We all make choices — every moment actually. Some choices you are going to decide are good. Some you will decide were stupid. Some you’ll not even think about.

Regardless of the fact that I have been training for decades, I can honestly say that it has taken me all this time – now in my 50s – to truly see how the decisions we make or fail to, each and every single thing we do actually, has consequences.

In Buddhism we call this Karma. What it is though is cause and effect. Every breath you take causes an effect, every action you make causes an effect. Think about that for a second or two – everything you do as a living and breathing thing sends out ripples that change everything.

It isn’t just the so called bad choices — everything we do sends out ripples. Everything changes everything. Forever.

I am first to admit I have made a lot of ridiculous choices in this life. And I’m not naïve – so have you, so has everyone, so has my dog for that matter. My dog loves chasing hornets, she will leap and bite at them in the backyard for hours if I let her and yes, those same hornets will sometimes sting her and in pure dog form, a few seconds later she will be right back at it, snapping and jumping and running.

How often are you and I like that? Virtually mindlessly doing things that make no sense to anyone watching?

Maybe you engage in gossip without thinking about it.

Maybe you drink too much.

Maybe you do any other shopping list of things that someday you are going to look back on and be like, ‘hmm, interesting, why on Earth didn’t I know better?’

I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about any of it.

For one, what is in the past is in the past. Learn from it and move on. The second is that we are all just simple and flawed human beings doing are best to get by. Sometimes we are like my dog chasing hornets not realizing what is going to happen next – the thing is though, we need to train ourselves to be better, and most importantly, to learn from our mistakes.

This goes for everything we do.

I’ve been involved in the martial arts for about 40 years and in that time I’ve met so many people who want to believe their own hype and act like training in the martial arts makes them into some sort of big screen superhero. They walk around like they are imbued with super powers; invincible, better than anyone else. Of course this is ridiculous. Actually beyond ridiculous.

Do you think that the belt that someone has given to you makes you any different than anyone else? It is ludicrous. Does the fact that you train in whatever martial art make you unbeatable – they also thought the Titanic was unsinkable.

I’ve known people who are stellar martial artists who have been killed. I’ve known people who were certain they were a cut above everyone else brought to their knees by life. I’ve known people who you’d think were ok thanks to their training who took their own lives.

I myself have been through my own share of usually naively self-created life drama.

These days though, I have taken a different path.

I first off try to do as little harm as possible. This means a lot of different things. I am a vegetarian, I try my hardest not to speak against others or gossip, I make cultivation of compassion my central training, I try my best to think first and act second, I remind myself about a thousand times a day that right now is all I have so don’t fear the future and don’t live in the past, I remind myself as well throughout my day that everything is impermanent and try to grasp what that means. Added to this I aim myself down a road where I try very hard to not be angry, not be selfish, not be cruel, not be critical.

Of course this is all very, very, very difficult.

The difference though is that if I don’t try to steer myself down this path. To understand that this is the Way. That I will realize I’m just like baby shark-dog snapping at hornets that bite back and then bite back at them because they are biting at me.

Nobody said training is easy.

To be honest, the world is full of people who give it all half an effort. And by that, I’m not talking about just training, I’m talking about life.

When all is said and done though, I think most of us want to leave this world a better place for having been in it. We can be mindless or we can be mindful.

We can be unkind or we can be kind. We can be uncompassionate or we can be compassionate.

I know the choice I’m making.

I pass and I fail all the time. The thing is, I learn from it now like never before.

My aim in this life is to be, as I’ve said before, a light in the darkness. Sometimes that light will hopefully be blazing bright and sometimes a subtle glow but light in the darkness is far better than simply bringing more darkness.

What are you going to do?

What are you doing today?

You can sit and meditate. You can kick and punch and choke people out. This is all well and good but ask yourself, what use is any of it if you are mean, cruel, angry, judgemental, selfish and cold?

Instead, how about you make your central aspect of training to be about more than something superficial. How about you make your training about being a light in the darkness.

Imagine if everyone decided today to leave the past and all those dumb choices behind them and made the present something far greater?

What are you going to do?

Listen to the full podcast episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast

This week we talk about author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. Pick up her book Real Change here.

I’m Not Scared To Re-enter Society, I’m Just Not Sure I Want To

How we can re-adjust to a ‘New normal’ In a Post-Covid world

Photo by Ryanniel Masucol on Pexels.com

by James Eke

From Warrior’s Way Podcast episode 113

I don’t know about you, but I am reminded daily by how much the pandemic has changed me.

I don’t think for a second I am the same person I was when this all started if I really examine who I am right now, what has happened since the start of this crazy train we’ve been riding and everything I’ve done to fill the spaces within that.

Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t been all puppies and rainbows. This thing has been hard. If you have spent the time wisely though I think it has also had huge potential.

I’m not saying by any stretch that this gong-show has been good. It has been a dystopic brutal horror that has made untold millions suffer and millions die. The rest of us have also seen our lives we thought we had completely rear-ended and changed – likely forever in one way or another.

That said, I myself have used a lot of discipline and purposefully used this long year and a half plus to deepen my meditation, to work on my fitness in new ways, to develop my martial arts and training and to create in big and small ways.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and reality that before all of this never would have dawned on me.

I’ve filled my days with a structure I don’t know that I had in the same way before this. More time working on my Zen and in a different and deeper way than ever. Focused time on fitness, spending time daily on full-body strength workouts, running or cycling and yoga five days of the week. Due to all the things I’ve had to come up with teaching online classes and social distanced in person, I’ve created so much new material that I’m actually blown away with for creative development of different aspects of martial arts and movement that has been now added to what I train and what I’ll be teaching. This includes some completely new ways of training that I’m really excited to be starting to teach now to my students.

All of this and I’ve also learned how to play the violin – and I’ve gotten pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

I’ve also found that I spent more time outside of all of this just being.

I noticed the cherry blossoms this spring like never before. I feel a kinship to the hummingbird the visits me every day outside of my home office window. I walk the dogs and feel appreciation for just being able to do exactly what I am doing in being outside, walking. My relationship feels better than ever and I look forward to all the little moments of sitting watching a movie or sitting outside having a tea like I don’t remember ever feeling before.

When it comes to the students who have stuck it out through this daunting time with me and each other I feel inspired by them. I feel immense gratitude for having people who are there for each other and me. For those who dropped along the way for whatever reason, I hope they are doing well and still getting things done.

My son Khaelys has been a key player in keeping interest up for the online training I’ve been doing and recently set up a Discord page for us to use for our online training and discussions about everything and anything and I feel like we are really on to something there with using technology not as something to use to fill space when we are bored but using it as its potential was from the start – for something that helps us, fosters growth, support and a future we have dreamt of for a long time into our present. I’m still trying to figure out how we can keep using the technology as things change and move through this because honestly, why lose something that works.

All of this is exciting.

What does the future hold? Change. That is it. Life is impermanent that means that it always has been. Everything changes and we cannot think for a second that we can hold onto anything. This isn’t something to stress about though this is something that we can use to understand how amazing this moment you are in right now is. It is something to make you realize how special everything that is in your life is. It is something to make you realize that you can do amazing things if you set yourself up to do so and to grow and to help others to grow.

I’ll tell you something. People talk about wanting to go back to how things were but honestly, there was a lot that wasn’t so golden. The way things were before wasn’t so great. Before this most of us just went through life with blinders on. We consumed. We dreamed. We didn’t live. People acted indifferent to people. People lived in a world of greed, selfishness and utter delusion.

Of course some of this won’t just go away. I’m not living in some fantasy that the world will finally become the place it could be. There will still be people who don’t care about anything other than themselves. There probably always will be.

The pandemic though forced us all – or many of us at least – to hit the brakes. To see how grateful we need to be for having a life at all. You missed Jiu-Jitsu or going to the movies or travel? Well good. That means that there were and are things in your life that you should be more grateful for and express that gratitude for. This means that we need to learn to judge less and be kind more. We need to be less petty and more compassionate. We need to see our lives for what they are – these things that somehow out of the infinite cosmos somehow beat all the odds and managed to exist.

You are here. I am here.

The question that remains is what are you going to do with that?

Sure. You can go back to living a shallow life. Spend it filled up because you think you need to be distracted. This is your life though. Who knows what comes next?

Become friends with that hummingbird. Talk to that crow. Eat a carrot and be grateful to the farmer who grew it and the worker who picked it and the driver who transported it and yeah, to the sun for shining and the earth for nurturing it all so you can be alive.

Training means that we examine our lives. Never before in a hundred years have we been sent to our rooms by life and told to think about what we have done.

We have a choice now as the door starts to slowly open to a new day.

What are you going to do from here?

What kind of life do you want?

What is important?

For me, I think I am just at the start of something bigger than I could ever have expected. I feel like my whole life has brought me to right now as I’m sitting here right now. As I’m sitting here I’m laying the foundation for what comes next.

If you are listening to this podcast you have made it too. I bet if you examine your life since COVID first hit you will see the changes that have come in your life. It is easy to see them all as negative but honestly, pick yourself up and look with new eyes. See what really happened. The profound lessons learned, the person you are now compared to that other one – if you are like me you’ll probably wish you could go back in time, especially during the hardest, bleakest days and say, ‘hey, you just wait, this is going to be ok, just be kind, just be compassionate, just be light in the darkness and support others to be that way.’

Remember the human cost of all of this. Never forget it. But be like the phoenix that is going to rise from the ashes and become something greater.

Going on from here is going to take a bit of courage, more compassion and more understanding. You don’t need to go back to the so called old way of doing things. Your old normal life is gone. I’m saying that you should let it go. There wasn’t nothing all that special about it – we can all do better.

I know I am sure going to try, otherwise this whole experience has been a waste of a very valuable lesson – a lesson that can make our whole world better.

Listen to this full episode at Warrior’s Way Podcast