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Showing posts from February, 2013

A Place to Heal

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Eric was head of the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) which sponsored my stay in South Africa.From the outset I knew there was something about Eric that I did not know; that very few people really knew. He was charming and unfailingly courteous, but something lurked behind his eyes. He smiled often but I had never heard him laugh.
There was an alert vigilance about Eric's manner; often when sitting down one of his legs would vibrate in a kind of compulsive action, that I would describe as controlled but highly agitated distress. There was something out of sync about Eric.  He was both present and elsewhere at the same time. In the midst of a crowd one could almost see him reach for that private space. The Orphan’s antennae had zoomed in on an outsider.  

Representatives of foreign governments made a beeline to Eric’s office for advice and wise counsel. He ran the largest most successful NGO in Southern Africa, and overseas money for development was channelled through his organi…

When Change is not Enough

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One particular experience during my South African sojourn seem to have reverberated down the years, the impact of which I cannot really verbalize. The experience and its aftermath unravelled my world view and left it floundering and adrift, while I struggle to get a handle on a new construct that remains beyond simple articulation.
It was the day of my first visit to that JohannesburgTownship (see Back to Africa). Afterwards I sat in the minibus taking us to the next stop on the day’s itinerary, feeling numb and quite sick. I had gone into another space and only vaguely aware of what was going on around me. Did I really see a man sauntering across the motorway just a little ahead of us? A voice asked what on earth was he doing. Our driver said 'they built a motorway through his ancestral land and he needs to get from one side to the other, what do you want him to do'? That made perfect sense to me.
Within half an hour we arrived for lunch at the home of a well-known anti-apar…

Predictions of a Sangoma

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Towards the end of of 1996 I was sitting in my office in Johannesburg talking with Rupi, a work colleague. She was telling me something of her family history, the circumstances which brought her ancestors from India to live in South Africa over 80 years ago; and about life for the Indian community under apartheid.
The conversation turned to her personal life and struggle as a young wife to conceive a child. To my surprise, this slight wisp of an Indian woman told me that she had consulted a Sangoma* (whom the Western world would call a witch doctor) about her apparent infertility. I stared hard at Rupi. 

The Sangoma told Rupi her first child, a son, would be born within two years and a daughter would follow soon after. She should stop worrying, relax and live her life. Her dreams would come true. By the time I met Rupi her daughter was about three years old. Did she actually consult a Sangoma about her inability to conceive? That seemed so improbable.


Rupi said she highly recommend…

Rock and Royality in South Africa

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I wonder how many people know that after World War II the South African government had offered Britain a substantial sum of money to aid efforts to rehabilitate the youth of this country, after the trauma of war.
Now about to embark on her first State visit to South Africa since 1947, following the end of apartheid, the British Head of State reciprocated the gesture.A sum of money from the King George Jubilee Trust was put towards the rehabilitation of South African youth, who had been displaced and severely disadvantaged by decades of living with apartheid.
The ABSA Group, the former Amalgamated Banks of South Africa, matched the British contribution and the Nation’s Trust in support of youth enterprise was born, backed by the UK-based Princes Trust.  An ABSA manager and I became 'managing trustees' for this joint British-South African project.
So there I was at KwaZulu Natal in April 1995 when the Royal cavalcade swept into the school at UmlaziTownship. On that day the heave…

Back to Africa

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Oscar Pistorius, the Olympics and Paralympics athlete known as Blade Runner, is back in court today for the second time since his girlfriend died at his home last week. As I watch and listen to the unfolding story of this tragic event, it brings back an assortment of memories of South Africa. It’s a desperately sad thing to live as if under siege, and many South Africans, in different ways, live like that. The physical, emotional and mental toll would be quite destructive to the individual and the society overall.
I first arrived in South Africa in July 1994, a time of tremendous hope, joy and optimism in that country. Nelson Mandela had been released after 27 years incarceration and had become President. A group of black Brits, including that iconic Member of Parliament, the late Bernie Grant, made a historic journey to the new democracy. Many of the group had picketed South Africa House in London and attended endless rallies against apartheid, and in a way this was a journey of thank…

To Eat or Not to Eat? That is the question

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For the last 10 days or so the UK news network has been filled with the horsemeat ‘scandal’.Now it has been found in pies destined for schools in the North of England. One newspaper even suggested that aged donkeys might also have been slaughtered for human consumption. It is suggested that the impetus for illegal meat stuff getting into the food chain comes from consumer demand for cheap food, especially in a recession. Apparently this demand paves the way for criminals to infiltrate the ever lengthening global food chain, and especially around processed foodstuff. Oh yeah, blame the consumer. 
But what’s the problem? A quick internet search reveals that Bute (or phenylbutazone) - an anti-inflammatory drug used for treating horses has also been used to treat some types of human arthritis in the UK (banned in the USA). However, Bute is no longer approved for meat animals as it can occasionally cause severe side effects, such as suppression of white blood cell production and a type…

When Dreams Come True

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we must die to one life before we can enter another {Anatole France}
In my last post I promised to decipher my dream about the missile hitting the house where I lived with my family - mother and twin brothers. The house was left basically uninhabitable but we all escaped unscathed. 

There was also a young girl staying with the family who was about to attend a nearby school, with which I seem to have a connection. 
The dream indicated that certain patterns in behaviour, responsible for much of the stress in my life were about to be reconstituted. Their day had come and gone.

In decoding the dream, it is necessary to say something about an aspect of my personality, an archetypal behaviour pattern that ran my life: the Orphan Child. An insight into her way of being is critical to understanding the dream.
Although we all have and express the many different aspects of the child archetype – Wounded, Eternal, Magical, Divine, Nature etc – the Orphan had totally dominated my life. She had become…

Dreaming the Future

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One important thing I have learnt over the years is to 'chillax' as my young ones would say...take a chill pill and go with the flow.  Simply respond, as opposed to reacting, to whatever is going on, and never from a place of agitation or fear, just acceptance of what is. I have my Buddhist monk teachers to thank for their constant entreaty to live with equanimity. Another teacher talked about responding to Life with poise and elegance. I like that. It stood me in good stead when the Destroyer archetype came to call, to tell me to fix up or ship out.It all began with a dream. But first let me tell you just a little about dreams from a personal perspective.
Dreams contain several layers and levels of meaning; they can be reflective of the past, present and future. While there may be universal – or archetypal – images in dreams, meaning belongs solely to the dreamer and reflects that soul's entanglements, longings and desires now, and from the past. Dreams are also predictive…

Symbolic Sight: A Global Perspective

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This post continues the theme of symbolic sight, but locates it at the global level.  Symbols are everywhere. Our world, language and dreams are filled with symbols, if only we could interpret them. In the world of myth and fairytale, an animal, place or object can all have symbolic meaning, but different individuals will attach varied and diverse interpretations to the same symbol depending on culture, and whether, and how it has relevance to their lives and/or experience.
While our left brain hemisphere is responsible for logic and linguistic structure, thinks digitally and in linear fashion, the right brain is responsible for the psyche’s world of images and dreams and is not subject to the left hemisphere’s sense of time. The right brain permits us to grasp the whole – the gestalt – on the basis of a mere part. It has the ability to instantly grasp complex relationships, patterns and structures in their entirety. According to Dethlefson and Dahlke, “Poetry and the speech of schizop…

A Perspective on the Shadow

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The world is a projection of our individual psyches, collected on a global screen {Marianne Williamson}
          As you may have gathered by now, I am fascinated by the  universality of human behaviour patterns. Generally we do not take much note of them. We remain largely unconscious of not only how we each add to and amplify the good in the collective, but also about our personal contribution to making the world turn in ways we don’t like.
    Look at the Clown. Did you not immediately conjure up an image? His attire and appearance speak a universal language. We do not need words; we can tell immediately who this is. But generally aspects of self do not ‘dress up’ in universally recognisable attire. They are hardly discernable, and in any event we are not inclined to ‘own’ them.  It’s much easier to label others, assign blame and find fault with them for our own words, actions, liability and flawed character. We disown our 'shadow' and project it 'out there'. When it…

Symbolic Sight: An Individual Experience

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In my last post (Reflections in a Global Mirror) I said that symbolic sight is the ability to discern the deeper significance of both extraordinary and mundane events. This is an example of how two very mundane occurrences in one individual's life had implications for the whole of humanity; it demonstrates when the use of symbolic sight or ‘seeing with the mind’s eye’ not only solved a particular problem but had a global impact.
          Ben Carson is an African-American neurosurgeon best known for his pioneering work in separating conjoined twins. Carson, who had hung around gangs and struggled during his early school years but excelled in higher education, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the USA. His auto-biography, Gifted Hands, is also available as a DVD.  
          In 1987 Carson made medical history by becoming the first surgeon to successfully separate German Siamese twins joined at the head. This type of operation had been done sev…