I first came across the iceberg as a metaphor for the mind during grad school in the 90’s. It was also around this time that the movie Titanic was released making it all the more potent as fresh in my mind was Jack and Rose watching the Titanic crash into the iceberg sending shards of ice across the deck of the ship.
This metaphor of the mind (first postulated by Freud) explains that only a small part of the mind, some estimate just 5-10%, is above the surface. The bulk majority of the mind is unconscious, meaning that the majority of our decisions, how we perceive the world, and what we believe comes from a place deep below the surface.
I shared this iceberg image with my students on Monday night, and the looks of panic on people’s faces were palpable. I get it. It’s overwhelming to contemplate that so much of our lives are dictated by something beyond our conscious control. I too have this weird fear about the unconscious and all that I don’t know about myself. What if there is really dark and horrible things that get revealed if I dive down to open Pandora’s box?
One of the classic teachings of yoga in the Bhagavad Gita is that the purpose of yoga is to make the unconscious conscious. Carl Jung said the same thing. Since the beginning of time, yogis, saints, and those on the spiritual path have deliberately waded into the unconscious mind to understand themselves better and then to understand the larger mysteries of the Universe.
Yet we too often believe the unconscious just contains all the dark repressed memories and shadows we can’t possibly face. We fail to remember that the unconscious is also where our wisdom lives. There is a ton of positive stuff in the dark recesses of our psyche, including according to the yoga tradition, a clear vision of your personal blueprint to live a full and contented life. We call the unconscious mind in yoga the Vijnanamaya Kosha, which is translated to mean the wisdom body. Our wisdom, guidance, clarity, and answers are there!
So how do we begin to make contact with the unconscious mind and the deep reservoir of wisdom it contains? I’ve come up with an acronym: Don’t MISS a DAY.
All spiritual traditions agree upon one thing and this is the power of SILENCE. It is imperative to get the mind to slow down enough to actually have access to the unconscious and wise mind.
Meditation is not about forcing your mind to be quiet; rather it’s a process to rediscover the quietness that is already there. Behind the screen of all this internal dialogue is the silence of pure awareness – a silence not disturbed by thoughts of past or concerns of future.
In meditation we begin to experience “gap” between thoughts. Slipping into this gap helps you recognize that your essential self is not the perpetual traffic of thoughts that fill your mind, but rather the silent witness to your thoughts, words, and actions.
Meditation helps us connect to the wise mind by clearing the body of stress and tension and helping release emotional and mental turbulence from the mind so that we have a more unimpeded path to the higher states of awareness and wisdom.
For meditation timers and guided meditations, I recommend downloading the free app “Insight Timer” or the app “Headspace”.
Intuition has been called the “long lost juice of life”. Intuition is a direct link to a more receptive, all knowing state of being. But it requires that we shift away from our linear, busybody, analytical, busy mind. This requires that we clear away the clutter and stress from our tissues, our energy field to access it.
We all have access to it! Some believe only a few people have the gift (like the Long Island Psychic), but we all can tune into this deeper wisdom. It’s a little like singing. Everyone can sing! Sure there are people who can belt it out like Beyonce, but all of us can do it.
There is great science now that shows that bodies are very intuitive and can sense danger long before our mind catches up. Check out some of that science here.
So how do we increase our intuitive abilities? Meditation will without a doubt make you more tuned in. We also need to understand that intuition is a gut sense, and it is quick. What silences our intuition is our need for certainty, and looking to others for guidance. There is nothing like asking your friend “What do you think?” or “Should I do it?” to silence intuition. Finally, if you continuously ignore intuition, it will become more quiet. So, once we get a strong “hit” we must follow through on the information.
The unconscious mind works in symbols. And symbols surround us all the time. The wise mind wants to guide and help…but it speaks a different language and that is the language of symbols.
Start to become aware of things that keep popping up in your life. Numbers, images, people, movies, animals. For years the number 33 kept showing up in my life. Everytime I’d check my iPhone for the time, it would be 11:33 or 4:33. Cars driving by me on the interstate would have the number 33 in the license plate…it was everywhere! The number 33 is a called a master number and symbolizes compassion, inspiration, and bravery. It also represents an opening of the heart which leads to increased creativity, something that has been brewing in my life for the past couple years. Everytime I see a 33 now it reminds to keep my heart open and stay connected to my creativity.
Great resources for understanding symbolism is “A Little Bit of Symbols” by Harry Reed. If you are connected to the animal world, the book “Animal Speak” or the website www.whats-your-sign.com explain the symbolism and energy of animals. Finally, just googling “what is the symbolism of ____” often starts to give you some ideas that may help you better understand why certain symbols keep showing up in your life.
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist, actually coined the term synchronicity, or ordered behavior through time, as early as the 1920s and published a paper on this topic in 1952. He had conversations with Albert Einstein about synchronicity and its possible relationship to the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Jung was fascinated by the possibility that life was not a series of random events but was an expression of a deeper order. He also believed that synchronistic events had the power to shake a person out of their narrow focus and help them see the “big picture” leading to spiritual awakening.
Stay awake to the people that cross your path, the chance run-ins, the coincidences, and lucky encounters all as guidance and information from the unconscious mind.
Everyone dreams. We’ve all had the experience of waking up from a dream that was so vivid it almost feels real. Many of us have recurring dreams, or a specific dream for childhood that we can still remember. While some say dreams are just the brains way of working out events that happened during the day, others believe dreams are our direct link to our unconscious and wise mind. This latter view purports that dreams are filled with symbolisms and guidance about what is currently happening in your life, how you feel about, and possible solutions for how to navigate it.
I was always interested in dreams and even had several “dream dictionaries” sitting on my shelf. But it wasn’t until my “universal smackdown” and a desperate need to understand my life that guided me to Cathy Pagano, a Jungian dream analyst that I started working with weekly on the telephone.
For the past 3 years I record my dreams in a journal. I don’t remember them every morning, but seem to average about 4 dreams a week. I send her the dreams the night before our session, and then when we talk I am consistently amazed and blown away by how my dreams give very clear guidance about my life. Of course Cathy’s vast knowledge of symbolism and myth help decode the dreams as at first glance they seem meaningless. This experience has been one of the most transformative and eye opening experiences in my life.
Here is a great article recently featured in Huffington post on dreams (Cathy was one of the experts interviewed), as well as Cathy’s website if you’d like one of your dreams analyzed.
Archetypes of impersonal patterns of consciousness contained in our unconscious mind. While there are in infinite number of them, we tend to have several archtypes that really resonate. It’s believed that we are born with a life assignment and specific archetypal energy to support that. Knowing our personal archetypal patterns can help us understand better who we are and the forces that drive us. (Of course none of us arrive here on earth knowing who we are….it takes a lifetime and probably more.)
Common archtypes that we all know are the advocate, the rebel, the artist, the athelete, the caregiver, the intellectual, the king/queen, the spiritual seeker, the visionary.
I read Carolyn Myss’s book “Sacred Contracts” at the period of my life between graduate school and venturing into my career. I distinctly remember reading it while on vacation and voraciously taking notes about the archetypal patterns that defined who I was. I could identify pretty quickly the ones that matched (spiritual seeker, intellectual, visionary), but remember how shocked and a little embarrassed I was when the description of the queen archetype fit me to a tee. Yes, I do have a knack for picking out the most expensive piece of clothing on any store rack, but this archtype goes deeper. It is an energy that requires benevolence, generosity, learning to be responsible for the well-being of others, empowering others and making a difference in people’s lives, and being willing to put your work out into the world. I re-read often the chapter on the queen for reminders of both the shadow and strength of this archetype and how best to tune into the positive qualities.
Yoga Nidra means “yogic sleep” and is the deepest state of rest possible (complete effortlessness) combined with awareness. It is an ingenious methodology for renewing the body, mind, and subtle realms (the unconscious mind). It’s been said the yoga nidra helps unravel the unconscious mind.
Although hard to measure, it has been taught by yogic sages that an hour of yoga nidra is equivalent to 2-3 hours of normal sleep. This is because yoga nidra helps us access theta waves (which we experience during deep sleep). It definitely is a technique to prepare your for deep and restful sleep. And, if you struggle from insomnia, doing yoga nidra is a great way to feel more rested and refreshed even if you didn’t get the shut eye you hoped for.
It’s essential to practice yoga nidra with a recording. Click here for my recording. There are also many great yoga nidra recordings on the insight timer app.
Carl Jung said that until we make our unconscious conscious it will direct our life, and we will just call it fate. So this work of diving into the deeper parts of who we are is not only interesting and provocative, but may just be our saving grace. Dive in….