Tag Archive for somatic

Epigenetics, Ancestors, and Living Your Calling


Jungian analyst, Robert Johnson’s work on “Living your Unlived Life” has been deeply inspirational to Heather Beck, author of Take the Leap: Do What You Love 15 Minutes a Day and Create the Life of Your Dreams. Beck is also earning a Ph.D. in the Somatic Studies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Beck has recently become interested in epigenetics, the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in the DNA sequence*. She believes that we are born “fully locked and loaded” with gifts that we ourselves have determined before our birth. However, the moment we are born, our lives are prone to social enculturation from parents, family, communities, religious organizations, governments, and schools.

These enculturations have a way of taking us off our pathway, at times limiting us to the projections of what others want for us rather lives to truly unfold and to express our own unique genius.

Examining the patterns that are running rampant in our lives, sometimes through the generations, offers us opportunities to learn about ourselves, identify limiting beliefs, and break those patterns that no longer serve us—opening us to insights about our true path in life…

Listen to my latest audio interview, “Epigenetics, Ancestors, and Living Your Calling” with Heather Beck, or read a detailed summary article here on Pacifica Post

Holding the Opposites, Grounding in Earth to Cope with Difficult Times

When we are not grounded, not connected to our roots, terrible psychic issues occur, which lead to feelings of intense fear and anxiety suggests Jungian analyst Judith Harris, in her book Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection. She quotes C. G. Jung, who, in his complex work, Mysterium Coniunctionus, establishes that the element of earth holds the exact central point between the tensions of two opposites.

Grounding oneself in the earth results in feeling held by the Great Mother, rendering one nourished, nurtured, and whole. The center is the eternal, Harris states, and all that is contained within it is represented by the archetype of the Self, which contains the totality of the psyche. The center implies stillness, and in the stillness there is space for something new to emerge. When we connect to the sacred center, the earth, “the deep-seated origins that existed thousands of years before us brings healing at a profound mystical level” (Harris, p. 76).

“He who is rooted in the soil endures,” wrote Jung (1927). “Alienation from the unconscious and from its historical conditions spells rootlessness. That is the danger that lies in wait for the conqueror of foreign lands, and for every individual who, through one-sided allegiance to any kind of -ism, loses touch with the dark, maternal, earthy ground of his being. (Jung, 1927, p. 103).

According to Jung, when we go “down” (the direction of earth), we connect with the collective unconscious which includes the past: we go back in time, and in so doing, we touch all the unfulfilled lives that have been lived before us, allowing them to be lived out; redeeming them. This alignment with the center, the earth, the archetype of the Great Mother allows us to discover the miracle of creativity (in Harris, 2001).

Man facing coming night storm

Judith Harris reminds us that when sufficient energy moving in one direction accumulates, it will always ultimately be reversed in order to prevent one-sidedness. When torn between the opposites, chaos results, and we are literally torn in two—unable to stand, to move, to bear the confusion—while still being drawn further into the chaos. The age-old motif of descent, or “dark night of the soul,” carries with it the theme of a quest, an initiation, a purification that will lead to liberation, renewal, and rebirth.

When times seem dark, there is little we can do but to hold the tension, the grief, and the pain. We must be willing to be still and grounded enough in order to witness the fall of night, the darkness that makes its cold nest all around us, cutting us off from home. There can be no regeneration until we can do so. Until we all are willing to reconnect with our roots in Mother Earth, to take on the darkness and embrace it, we will continue to colonize others, to disregard the spirit and inspirited that surrounds us, and to suffer. Sometimes symbolic death can occur in the process, but in dying, new life occurs. When the Gorgon, Medusa, of Greek myth was decapitated by Perseus, it is said that her blood gave birth to the Pegasus, the winged white horse who represents poetry and creativity.

Somewhere within me, as I write these words, I have the sudden felt understanding this underlying eternal tenet: that in holding the tension of the opposites, a miracle occurs. The transcendent solution that arises is tangible; real. If I can just be aware and still myself in that center between the opposites of any seemingly hopeless or stressful situation… If I can just feel my feet on the ground and hold the tension, even in the midst of two end points that don’t appear they can ever be reconciled… If I can ground myself down into the earth, I can actually be present enough to behold the process taking place.

It seems like few of us in our fast-paced (often overwhelming and sometimes frightening) contemporary culture are willing to embrace the dark earth; the deep, devouring feminine that insists we surrender and be purified. Collectively, we tend to mill about our daily lives with their myriad of responsibilities, activities, and worries, disconnected, lost, homeless, fearful, and alone. Where do we begin?

It begins with the individual taking root and making a stand even in the midst of fear, anxiety, and despair. Rather than fleeing into panic, distress, or anger, or trying to distract ourselves, we must each learn take on that dark night, to stop the frantic buzzing of useless wings and allow the night to wash over us, silent and still as we embrace it; as it engulfs us and devours us. We must hold the tension; trusting that something bigger exists, releasing the attachment to the notion that we will ever see the hive again, but knowing that the earth is so much bigger.


Harris, J. (2001). Jung and yoga: The psyche-body connection. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Jung, C. G. (1927). “Mind and Earth” (1927). In Collected Works Vol. 10: Civilization in Transition.

Image, Language, and the Lived Body in the Depth Psychology of the Self

Cave art at Chauvet, France

Cave art at Chauvet, France

In 1994 in the Ardeche region of France, three explorers pulled rocks away from a tiny opening at the base of a cliff and opened the door to another world. Inside the deepest recesses of what turned out to be a 1300-foot long cave were remarkable images of animals painted there by humans living 30,000 years ago (Herzog, 2010). The images are remarkable in their style and beauty, virtually perfectly preserved in the near airtight conditions of the cave. Lions, bears, bison, reindeer, mammoth, rhinoceroses and other beings line the walls in almost three-dimensional form, many captured in dynamic action–hooves raised, mouths, open, legs bent midstride–as if they were living beings.

In fact, a variety of images appear on rock walls of canyons, on high cliffs, and in the deepest reaches of caves in Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Most of these, especially the Paleolithic rock art images traced in the depths of the caves at Lascaux, Les Trois Freres, Chauvet, Niaux, Cosquer, and others scattered through France and Spain, are an enigma. Questions abound as to the reason for the paintings as well as their placement deep inside the earth. Since the authors of these images are long gone, and writing emerged only around 5,000 years ago (Shlain, 1998), these incredible visuals are clues to an existence our ancestors left us in the only language they knew.

Today, it is easy to take language for granted. The majority of the civilized world both reads and writes, allowing communication in very specific topic and form.  But what is it to “have language”–be linguistic creatures? What would life be like if we did not? In contemporary culture, it’s hard to imagine life without newspapers, email, blogs, Facebook, and even Twitter–which limits its user to 140 characters per transmission. As Lacan asserts, language is “the primary form in which the human subject experiences the human-ness of Society” (Bailly, 2009, p. 66). But what boundary was crossed once we acquired language–both individually and historically as a species? Are there other ways to think besides in languages?

In The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind, and Ecology, Robert Bringhurst (2008) answers the question with a definitive, “Yes!” to the latter–stating that “language is what something becomes when you think in it” (p. 165). For most of us, that means “words.” Words are the elements that make up language. Language is so common to most of us, we take it completely for granted. But Bringhurst widens the arena, offering up that the forest thinks in trees along with associated flora, fauna, funghi, and all elements we typically envision of as making up a forest. When I “think” about thinking, I realize I can engage different modalities as varying as dance, mathematics, or colors–all a far cry from the words we traditionally think of as “language”. Certainly, autistic animal scientist and author Temple Grandin (2006) clearly states her perspective in the first sentence of her first book. “I think in pictures,” Grandin begins, “Words are a second language to me” (p. 3). It seems our Paleolithic ancestors from the heyday of Chauvet cave would agree.

Images, like words, have powerful creative force. They can be representational or reproductive, documenting and valuing the moment that was captured. They may be cosmogenic–that is, religious dimensions or icons that make the sacred manifest. Images may also be poetic, correlating with productive imagination, poetry and theory, having effect on a deeper aspect of being.

Bulgarian-born philosopher Julia Kristeva (2002) adds a crucial fourth dimension. According to her, images may also besemiotic. She deliberately extends the range of image from visual to polysensory, referring to any way in which the lived body gets involved in the experience. While Lacan (2002) suggests one draws the fragmented body together in a mirror, Kristeva suggests wholeness of the body and the senses is something that is persistently sustained–not only accessible to pre-linguistic infants who are linked to a world through the senses, but also beyond. This sensorial emergent, though broadsided, confiscated–colonized perhaps–by the acquisition of language with its stifling rules and syntax, continues into adulthood. The procession entails a creative (though loving) struggle between the forces of semiosis– the larger imago, the felt sense, the embodiment of consciousness or knowing in a fashion we each can relate to bodily–and the symbolic linear machinations of speech and language. According to Kristeva, this identity gap created by the two opposing forces may be negotiated by “bringing the body back into language and bringing language back into the body” (p. xxii).

In our fast-paced culture, we don’t always think about our body, tending to separate words–whether those we read or type or those we speak–from the whole of us that is manufacturing those words. It may well behoove us to bring the body and words back together so we can be more authentically in touch with what we are saying and to say more about what we are in touch with. This kind of opening to self can only serve to bring us closer to conscious awareness about our thoughts and actions and how we communicate them to others. Many depth practitioners integrate somatic work, movement therapy, breathwork, or other body-based practices to help us access what’s “below the surface” of our everyday experience. Check out some of the gifted somatic oriented therapists and practitioners on Depth Psychology List.


Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world’s first comprehensive online community for depth psychology, and hosts a regular podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name. She recently founded www.DepthPsychologyList.com, a free online database to find or list depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners. She holds Masters degrees in Psychology and Depth Psychology, and is a Ph.D. candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.