Popular culture is built on the narrative of good and bad. Big and small. Black and white. It’s rare to see characters in our cultural stories who are somewhere in between; however, that is where most of us live.
Carl Jung taught that you are made up of personal complexes (your good, bad, and neutral life experiences) circling around the ego-self axis towards individuation, or the impulse to become more authentically you by discarding all the beliefs, feelings, actions that don’t fit any longer.
All of this occurs in the transcendent function, a psychic space in which you transform and expand your sense of yourself. As you become more uniquely you, you become more related to and connected with the collective of humanity.
He suggested not only do you possess a personal self (small self – the part of you aspiring to mature and grow emotionally), but that you are part of a larger field of consciousness commonly known as the “collective unconscious” and that you can and do tap into this field all the time. It occurs in heightened emotional states, like ruptures, encounters with the numinous, or a natural progression of the intra-psychic pressure to grow along emotional and spiritual lines.
When you tap into this field, you feel more fully connected to your authentic nature and to everyone and the world around you (the bigger self). Being in the world then feels more like you are part of the world. You go from feeling scared and alone in the ocean of life to understanding you are the sea, currents, air and sunlight.
Claude Levi-Strauss (French anthropologist and enthnologist) writes:
“A well ordered humanism does not begin with itself, but puts things back in their place. It puts the world before life, life before man, and the respect of others before love of self. This is the lesson that the people we call “savages” teach us: a lesson of modesty, decency and discretion in the face of a world that preceded our species and that will survive it.”
We moderns have created breath taking scientific and technological innovations, yet we’ve strayed and neglected an important life-sustaining truth from our indigenous ancestors and those societies that exist today: the belief in an animate world, a place where our sense of self moves from the “I” (small) to the “All” (big). Quantum physicists call this the quantum mind or self.
If you are (like me) a product of your culture, than here is the result:
Concern for self comes first, not last. Once you’ve handled your insecurities, then and only then, can you mindfully and respectively manage your relationships with others.
If you have a spiritual practice, you might take your sense of relatedness further and feel attuned with all animate life as you meditate or receive a sacred teaching.
Finally, if you’ve been successful managing your inner demons, feel lovingly connected to another person, and full of stillness from your spiritual practice, you might think about the planet, stars, and natural world that surrounds you every day.
See what I mean? We’ve got it backwards. At its worst, it can look like this (we’ve all gone here):
The way you inhabit your sense of self leaves you feeling super small, not at all aligned with your magnificence as part of the holism of life itself, and scared. You don’t put “things back in their place.” You put yourself and anything that can keep you safe in the center and focus on it. The consequence is that you live like a refugee in an ambivalent (or hostile, depending upon how victimized you feel) universe with no sense of your place in it.
Your bigger self is too big for this small perspective. Whether or not you feel it, you are as much a part of the natural world as the stars and sun. You have the capacity to feel as big as the universe itself.
So how do you get bigger?
The quantum mind or big self is not only you but also the collective energy field comprised of all human and non-human life. You are part of this hologram, and you retain the information of the whole, but in your ego (small self), you forget, literally losing access like a bridge that goes down.
To get bigger, you have to participate in the bigness around you.
Practice the perspective of paradox.
When someone or something upsets you, instead of the black and white thinking that dominates you when you feel upset (he is wrong, I am right), entertain the possibility that the situation is gray. You’re both right and both wrong. Make room for multiple possibilities, truths, and outcomes. This is the third space that Jung describes. When you hold the tension of opposing opinions inside yourself long enough, a third thing gets born, a new more authentic quantum you. Unhealthy conflict (black and white thinking and acting) leads to inner and outer war. Healthy conflict (multiple truths and possibilities) leads to a new yet-to-be imagined world.
Fill yourself up with awe and wonder.
Put the universe or world first. Go direct. What gives you the experience of awe or wonder? Sunset? Gazing at stars? An IMAX film featuring the grand canyon? Bathe in it frequently. Give thanks for it incessantly. Every human problem shrinks to its rightful size in the presence of grace.
Get in the pleasure zone.
The experience of pleasure puts you in the relaxation response in the body. This is the goal of western psychology and every spiritual practice since the dawn of time. When you are relaxed, connected to an inner stillness that is firing with your aliveness, you have entered the quantum field.
Just like Timothy Leary said, what turns you on, tunes you in. Go there, and often.
Yours in psyche and spirit,
p.s. We will be studying and practicing how to connect with the natural world on a daily basis in my upcoming Origins ecourse, co-taught with two-time Grammy winning Native American artist, Robert Mirabal. Enrollment opens on March 9th.