Depression Resulting From Spiritual Distress

Depression Resulting From Spiritual Distress
©Jane A. Simington, PHD

 

Depression short

Some time ago I supported a young man seeking help for depression. His response to my initial questions inquiring about the origin of his depression was, “When I started that meaningless job.” His reply caused me to ponder if, since finding meaning in our lives and in what we do, is a major spiritual need; and since finding meaning is closely associated with the spiritual need of feeling that our life’s purpose is being fulfilled, I suspected that the cause of his depression was rooted in these unfulfilled spiritual needs. As a way to determine how to help him begin to live a more meaningful and purposeful life, I asked, “What would you like to be doing?” He replied, “I am a musician, and a very good one, but there is no money to be made as a musician, so I work as a mechanic.” His answer moved us away from an exploration of how to manage his emotional responses. It led us into considerable dialogue around spirituality, the spiritual needs and how when our spiritual needs are unmet, the feelings of spiritual distress surface. These intense discussions allowed him to describe the soul pain he experienced each day while doing a job that was unfulfilling; and therefore opened the doorway for a treatment plan for his depression that included helping him meet his unmet spiritual needs. This meant enabling him to identify numerous ways in which he could use his musical gifts and talents in volunteer efforts as well as in monetary ways. Within a year, he was receiving income from playing in one orchestra and two bands, and he was regularly volunteering and sharing his musical gifts at a rehabilitation hospital. His love for his work at the rehabilitation centre led him to a university program in music therapy. His mood lifted and other treatment approaches were gradually decreased and soon were no longer required.

While it is necessary to acknowledge that depression can cause serious difficulties in people’s lives resulting from a neurochemical imbalance that may require medication, it is also valuable to recognize that thoughts and attitudes affect the neurochemical balance. The troubling thoughts of those who are experiencing the soul pain that results from their intense inner search for the spiritual meaning in their experiences and the constant mental and soulful struggles of attempting to find and fulfill the purpose for their lives can also alter the neurochemical balance. This knowledge should direct helpers to inquire as to the origin of the depression; to listen for indications of the spiritual distress that results when someone is attempting to live with unmet spiritual needs; and, to gain knowledge of spirituality and the skills to apply strategies to meet, not only the emotional needs, but to also address the spiritual concerns of people seeking help from depression.

Time for Positive Change

A Time for Positive Change
©Jane A. Simington, PhD.

fiery nine
Welcome to 2016! In numerology, the energy expression of a year is determined by adding the numbers and reducing that number to a single digit. In doing so, we recognize that the energy of the 8 which was sustained during 2015, has increased to the level of 9 for 2016.

The 9 denotes the end of a cycle, and offers energy to support positive changes in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives to help us complete a cycle, and allow us to move to a higher level in each of these aspects of our lives. The 9 not only supports our efforts for personal change, it is also the number of Global Consciousness and thus asks each of us to change in ways that allow us to become more humanitarian. The 9 symbolizes our abilities to offer healing and compassion to the world at large. Pictorially the number represents a generous reservoir with a downward spout for giving, as compared to the 6 which has an upward spout for receiving. Numerologists teach that any year bearing the 9 energy moves rapidly and recommend that we do not hesitate in our efforts, but immediately begin using this supportive energy to make the changes that will allow us to be more physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually whole and complete and, to then take further advantage of that energy to bring more healing and compassion into our immediate and global environments. Based on the symbolic meanings of the energies being projected to us during this coming year, and if you are able to release what is no longer working for you, expect one or more of the following during the next twelve months:
An almost uncontrollable desire to rid of things and possessions that no longer serve you.
A need to search for spiritual truths resulting in a tremendous amount of spiritual growth.
Major relationship shifts resulting for a release of emotional and spiritual energies, including karmic energies.
Involvement in a humanitarian project.
Invitations to offer healing services in a community or country other than your own.
Remember that for the next twelve months, each of us is under the influence of the 9 energy. Share this esoteric knowledge with your grief and trauma clients and expect to witness rapid progress in the emotional and spiritual healing they are able to achieve as they allow themselves to be in sync with the energies of change being ushered into our world during these interesting times.

Honoring Darkness Prepares Us to Welcome the Returning Light

©Jane A. Simington, PHD. 2015

As the winter solstice approaches we are once again reminded of how the seasonal changes in nature mirror the cyclic rhythms within our own lives. When we pause to examine our interconnections in the web of all existence we acknowledge that times of darkness fall upon every life. As the light fades and cold settles in we recognize that each of us experiences times of darkness and isolation.16426_882031781829415_5278592370910128062_n

As the world around us lies mostly dormant, if we allow ourselves to seize the opportunity, we settle in and re-centre. As we do so we become aware that this time of stillness allows us to amass energy for our next great movement forward. Being thus connected with the seasonal changes in our own lives, as mirrored by the cyclic changes in nature, we bless the darkness knowing that the balancing messages of the Winter Solstice promise that it is always darkest just before daybreak, and that very soon a door will open through which the returning light will stream.

Winter Solstice celebrations are a meaningful way to gather with like-minded friends to honor the spirit of darkness and the spirit of returning light. The following ideas for a Winter Solstice ceremony acknowledge what has been gained from our times of inner darkness so as to find the new seeds to plant during the times when the sun returns to our outer and inner worlds.

Honoring the Darkness
Allow some time at the beginning of the celebration for participants to sit in almost total darkness as a way to allow them to ponder the dark times they have experienced during the past year. After this time of stillness invite them to reflect on and perhaps journal what they have gained from their darkest time/s. The following questions can help in their reflections and in the acknowledgement of the gifts and abilities resulting from that darkness.

1) How has your darkest experience of this year changed your life?
2) What strengths do you now have that you did not have before that experience?
3) How has that experience influenced what you view as important?

Honoring the Light
After each participant has responded to one or more of the reflective questions, pass a jar of seeds. Have each pick two seeds and reflect on the following question:

1) What new seeds are you now able to plant when the sun returns, as a result of having that dark experience?

As each responds, invite that person to light a candle representing the return of light into their inner and outer worlds. As each candle is lit, ponder the increasing brightness each light brings into the darkness.

As a parting gift, you might offer some of the evergreens and pinecones used to decorate your ceremonial centre. A small Rosemary plant can also be a meaningful parting gift since they were known to our ancestors as the “herb of the sun,” and were included in early solstice celebrations. To close your solstice celebration, a prayer of thanksgiving for the cyclic teachings of nature will allow each one present to ponder how year after year, nature generously repeats her cycle.

As a gentle mother, Nature annually reminds us of our interconnections and of our constant potential for renewal and regeneration. As we begin our winter celebrations, many of which are rooted in early solstice ceremonies, may each of us receive the blessings of both the Darkness and the Returning Light.

As Life Ended He Knew He Had Done the Best He Could

Jane A. Simington

Developmental theorist Eric Erickson1 described our final developmental task as being the need to review our lifeto determine if the gods are pleased. In doing a life review, we sort through the various aspects of our life and conclude either with believing we have done the best we could, or determining there are things we need to make right within our self or in our relationships.

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Some time ago, my husband called me for help with the frightening visions that were being experienced by his dying father. As my father-in-law’s life was drawing to a close he began having visions of uniformed soldiers walking around his bed. Each time he described the experiences, he concluded these were the soldiers killed during WWII battles because of the orders he, as their commander, had given.
My father-in-law described that over the years he had often thought about these men, wondered how their families managed their grief and how they had survived without the son, husband or father who had been killed. He mentioned that he had often pondered what the dying soldiers thoughts were of him. Had they blamed him? Had they cursed him? As he reviewed this time of his life and these circumstances, he indicated that over the years, and especially now as he was examining the various aspects of his life, he thought a lot about some of the choices he felt were required of him during the war years.

As my husband and I listened to his testimony, I became aware it was likely that my father-in-law’s feelings about his fears and regrets had become embodied. Embodiment of emotion is not uncommon both during dying and during grief. Known as personification, it is a process in which inanimate abstractions or feelings become endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form.
Acknowledging that part of bringing a satisfactory closure to his life required allowing him to share these deep emotions, and to describe in more detail some of the life events he was now reviewing, his son and I listened attentively.
Over the next days we became aware that in relating some of his experiences, most of which he had rarely spoken of, the visions of the soldiers moving around his bed seemed to lessen and become less terrifying for him. Following one such vision, when he described the uniformed figures and how threaten he felt by them, I asked if it was possible these were soldiers from the unit he had commanded, and that they were coming to welcome him to the other side where he would again be in comradeship with them? My father-in-law was able to accept this reframing of his visions, and through it, alter his own interpretation.

My father-in-law’s remaining days appeared to be peaceful, and since he never again spoke of the soldiers, my husband concluded his father had completed reviewing that aspect of his life and was now able to rest peacefully believing he had done the best he could.

Reminiscence, an important aspect of the life review, is activated by many things including visits, photographs and song. These things naturally stir memories that when stirred can be explored. Happy memories can be re-lived and re-enjoyed, and ways can be found to release the emotional load attached to the difficult ones. In many cases, it is the sharing of a difficult memory with a trusted person that allows for the release of the emotion attached to that memory.

Robin Butler2 described life review as a human need to balance the good in life against the negative. The goal, when assisting another during life review, is to have the person recognize that while their life was made up of both positive and less than positive events, the good outweighed the negative. Circular questions, such as “Tell me what happened after that,” followed by “And then what happened?” and again followed by “And then what happened?” are valuable when helping the person acknowledge the positive outcomes that flowed from what was initially viewed as a negative experience.
It is also important to help a person who is examining past choices recognize we often judge past events based on today’s standards. There is great value in helping the person view events within the context of the circumstances when their choices were made, and then to assist in helping to reframe perceptions of those past circumstances so the person is able to acknowledge that the best possible choices were made.

References

1).Erickson, E. H. Childhood and Society. New York: WW Norton.
2).Butler, R. N. Aging and Mental Health: Positive Psychosocial and Biomedical Approaches. . St. Louis: Mosby.

Threads of Gratefulness Woven within the Fabric of Life

©Jane A. Simington, PHD., October, 2014

“It is not a matter of brain damage; it is a matter of life or death.” Bill signed the consent; I was unconscious. The fall had fractured my skull and thrust my brain forward crashing it against the frontal portion of my cranium.

Post surgery, during moments of semi-consciousness, I became increasingly aware of my inability to see. Each time I slipped back into unconsciousness I begged three large Beings of Light to open my eyes. Weeks later, Bill told me that my failed attempts to force my swollen eyes open had caused me to become more and more agitated, to the point of where I was pulling out life supporting chest tubes.

jane gratitude centre 1

Those events occurred three years ago. While it took months to heal the many symptoms caused by a brain injury and the psychological effects of the trauma, today I am grateful for life and for a body and brain that function well. Every time I run along the lakeside, I recall the days when I had to be aware of the exact placement of each of my feet so as to ensure I would not fall. I am grateful to have regained balance. Each time I answer a student’s question, I breathe a silent “thank you,” knowing that both my long and short term memory are once again intact. I am thankful for my sight and hearing, especially because the location of the damage to my skull and brain makes the retaining of those senses a miraculous gift. I am grateful for my husband Bill who held and stroked me for three days and nights, assuring me he was there, and knowing his touch and reassurance were the only things that would calm my anxiety enough to keep me from pulling out tubes, and keep me from causing permanent damage to my eyes from my attempts to force them open.

As a nurse, when I worked with an unconscious patient I always believed that an unconscious person could hear what was being said to them. While I have little recall of most of my unconscious days, I do have some memory of Bill’s supporting words and because of my experience I will continue to encourage people to speak in loving and caring ways to those who are unconscious and to those who are dying.

I am grateful for what my time in the realm of the unconscious taught me about the Spirit World. For much of my life I had a belief in Spiritual Helpers. That belief has been substantiated and has become a knowing for I witnessed and was cared for by Spiritual Helpers when in a state of unconsciousness and I witnessed them once again after I gained consciousness. I now know, not just believe, that I have help and support from a spiritual realm.

October is the month when we pause to take stock of our abundance, and in turn give thanks for all we have received. I share my experiences and the gifts I garnered from those experiences trusting they will inspire you to reexamine your own difficult life events. When you do so, I encourage you to recognize and share with others all the golden threads of gratefulness that because of those events, are now beautiful parts of the wonderful fabric of your life story.

 

Summer Fire Ceremonies Heal and Transform

 Jane A. Simington PHD (2014)

     What is it about the camp fire that mesmerizes? What is stirred within? What dormant memories are awakened?
     Fire on most of the great Medicine Wheels of the world is the element associated with the South. Sacred teachings connected with the South are about summer; about growth and productivity. These reflections from nature, the sun-filled days and the long evenings of summer sunlight, are metaphoric reminders that the energies of summer also provide us with opportunities for growth in productive and fruitful ways.
TRC fire ceremony 013     The Hawaiian Goddess Pele is a summertime Goddess. As the Volcano Goddess, Pele prompts us to recall the power of the fire within us and how it can sometimes take a major eruption before our fire can burst forth in all its fullness. As a Fire Goddess, Pele reminds us that the ashes from fire eruptions create new soil, fertile for new growth.

     Ancient teachings such as those of the Medicine Wheel and of Goddess lore remind us that the fire energy that penetrates all living things, even the burning core deep within the earth, also burns within us . We are a part of the Life Force of the Creator and of all that has been created.
     And yet, as William James noted, “Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.”1
     The long evenings of summertime offer many opportunities for gatherings around a fire. Campfires can, with a few minor adjustments, be used as ceremonial fires for healing and transformational purposes. During Fire ceremonies the Spirit of the Fire is called upon to burn away that which is no longer providing the rich fuel needed to turn our glowing embers into full blown flames.
     When I conduct a Fire Ceremony, I begin by having each participant write a letter to the Fire Spirit naming the things they are requesting to be burned away. As the fire is lit, an offering of tobacco or other medicine considered sacred by the group members is offered. Members of the group are then invited to hang a colored ribbon in a nearby tree in each of the directions. A red ribbon is hung in the South to represent fire. As this ribbon is hung we pray that the fire burns away what is no longer of growth potential. Next, a blue ribbon is hung in the West. As the blue ribbon is hung we pray for healing, since the West on most Medicine Wheels represents the place of healing. A white ribbon is then placed in the North and as it is hung we pray for strength and endurance. A yellow ribbon is used to represents the East. As the yellow ribbon is hung we pray that the element of air, which correlates with the East, blows newness into our lives.
     Following the hanging of the colored ribbons, to the beat of the drum and the rhythm of rattles, one by one we approach the fire, offering our letters. As the papers burn and the smoke ascends, we pray that our Creator take from us what is no longer working and in exchange provide us with what we need to support our new growth in the most successful and abundant ways
     Each time I conclude a fire ceremony I am reminded of the words of De Chardin. “Someday when we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. 2

References
1). James, W. (1958). Varieties of Religious Experiences. NY: New American Library.

2). De Chardin, P. T. (1984) On Love and Happiness. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Celebrating Magic: Welcoming New Beginnings

January brings a fresh new year, a blank canvas waiting for creation, a phenomenal opportunity for investing in new opportunities.

The ancient Romans dedicated New Year’s Day to Janus, the God of gates, doors, and beginnings. Janus had two faces, allowing him to look both backwards into the old year and forwards into the new one. His image reminds us that at the beginning of a new year we have an ideal time for both reflection and creation.reflection

Reflecting on the past year

As I reflect on the year that is ending I find great value in pondering how some of the events that have occurred in 2013 have impacted me both personally and professionally. The following reflection questions have helped me gain deeper insights into the overall significance of these events. I hope they also help you process more completely the impact on your life of some of the happenings of 2103.

1) What are the two most significant events that touched my life during the past year?

2) How did each of these events impact my life, both positively and less than positively?

3) What short term and long term learning did I glean from each event?

4) What images, emotions, and learning do I want to incorporate into my life and bring into the New Year?

5) What images and emotions do I want to release and leave behind as I enter this New Year?

I have found great value in taking the time to reflect on the above questions and to then journal my reflections. When I decided which images, emotions and learning I wanted to retain I began to create a collage on which I placed pictures to depict them. For the images and emotions I did not want to retain I wrote a detailed letter describing the reasons I did not what these aspects to be a part of my life in the New Year. This letter was burned in a simple fire ceremony. As the letter burned I prayed “May the Fire Spirit burn from me these unwanted images and emotions. As the smoke of this burning ascends to Creator may I receive in exchange a powerful blessing that will open many new doors.”

For one of the more difficult emotions attached to a disconcerting image I found it necessary to do a cord cutting exercise. For this I used the cord cutting imagery from my CD Releasing Ties, but during this imagery instead of cutting ties with a relationship I chose instead to name the emotions and images I wished to release.

The above exercises provided me a sense of completion and a feeling of closure to all that had been in the year that is ending. I share my experiences trusting that you too will find them beneficial. If you are a group facilitator you might also like to use these activities in a group setting.

Creating Opportunities for the New Year

Once the activities for bringing closure to the old year are completed it is time to begin the process of creating the new. Here are some suggestions of activities to help each of us step into new opportunities.

1)      Take a daily walk and purposefully walk into the East. On the Great Medicine Wheels of the World, East is considered the direction of new beginnings. Many people, on a healing journey, find that each time they begin an outdoor walk they are instinctively drawn to walk in an easterly direction. This was true in my own life during a time of great healing and I now pay attention to this soul urging each time I have a need to ponder what is next in my life.

2)      Increase the use of the color yellow. Yellow is associated with the East and therefore with dawn, with clarity, illumination and with new beginnings. Add yellow clothing to your ward robe; use this color in decorating and in creative activities. When someone I am working with begins to use a lot of yellow I know they are ready to step more fully into a new beginning.

3)      Complete a collage depicting everything you want to bring into your life in the coming year. Once you have completed the collage mark it off in twelve equal portions. These divisions will represent the coming months. Place the completed collage where you view it each day. At the end of each month review your progress. I find the act of reviewing my monthly progress to be very motivating. If I have successfully completed what is set out for that month I reward myself in some small way. If I have not achieved that goal I write a few short term goals to help me move more steadily in that direction. This year I am using the collage I began last week. That collage contains images representing what I want to bring along from the past year. On the remainder of the collage I will paste pictures to represent all that I want to accomplish in 2014.

4)      Pay attention to the guidance being offered in your dreams. Dream symbols of death can inform us that something must die before the new can come to life. Symbols of death most frequently announce that a change is happening or needs to happen.  Dream symbols of keys, gates and door often announce that we must use a particular key of knowledge or wisdom to unlock the doors and gates that open to new places and new opportunities. Many of these dream symbols have folklore and ancient practices attached to them to remind us of their symbolic messages. One such story is of the door.

In medieval England the New Year began with a custom called ‘first footing.’ At the moment January 1st began people waited behind their doors for a visitor who carried a piece of coal, some bread, some money and some greenery. The coal symbolized that the house would always be warm, the bread that there would be enough food. The money symbolized there would be enough wealth to meet the needs, and the gift of greenery was symbolic of a long and peace-filled life. The visitor would then take a pan of ashes from the house, to signifying departure of the old year.

5) Create a symbolic ritual or ceremony to depicting the ending of the old in your life and the welcoming of new opportunities. I like the symbolism and symbolic actions done in the practice of ‘first footing.’ Our souls long for symbolic food such as this. I have on occasions found that externalize my desires in a ceremonial way increases the chances of achieving the goal.

6) Many astrologers believe the best time to begin a project is at the times of a new moon. The first New Moon of 2014 occurs on January 1. Resolutions made at this time can receive a dynamic boost and since there are several planets in Capricorn the resolution will be provided a stable structure to ensure manifestation. A second New Moon occurs on January 30, giving us another opportunity to get our projects off to a great start.

7) Embrace the magic of the New Year and acknowledge that there is a power available now for you to harness. The universe awaits your decisions and when your choices are made and you commit to those choices the universe will support you and provide you with all the resources you need to make your miracles happen.

The month of January is definitely about launching the new. It is about planting seeds that will soon become seedlings, then bud and bloom so we can reap a grand harvest by this coming autumn. May 2014, be our best year yet.

 

Living Life on Purpose: Gaining Independence From Burnout

©Jane A. Simington, PHD. March, 2013

Living-on-purposeIt has been a long and for some, a difficult winter. This is the time of the year when many feel overwhelmed and at the edge of burnout. I share this article, hoping it will help you regain your footing on the earth. I wish you speed as you reclaim your purpose in life.

BURNOUT can be described as an erosion of the soul, a feeling that regardless of what a person does, they cannot make a difference in their workplace. Burnout is often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, a loss of motivation, and a sense of mismatch between what is being required and what the person is capable of. This is why burnout is recognized more as a situation of being off-purpose than of feeling overworked.

LIVING LIFE ON PURPOSE is increasingly becoming an important factor in peoples’ lives. This is especially true for those who have moved through a difficult life experience. Crisis has a way of driving people inward, there to discover the truer meaning for their lives. When this occurs, being involved in meaningful activities is an intensely important part of living. Since meaning and purpose are major spiritual needs, when the requirements of the job do not meet this end, the sense of soul erosion is heightened.

Burnout most commonly occurs for people who care deeply about their jobs and truly want to make a difference, yet are unable to do so because there is something about the job that interferes with this desire. Regardless of the cause, a person on the verge of burnout feels a sense of inner conflict between what is required of them and their own creative ideas and abilities. The conflict blocks their creativity and keeps the person from doing the best they can. Burnout and all its manifesting behaviors can become a way to self-preserve and justify one’s actions. Continue reading

The Winter Solstice: A Time for Inner Reflection

© Dr. Jane Simington Ph.D., December 2012

 

The winter solstice occurs when the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky. This usually takes place on December 21 to 22 and creates, in the Northern hemisphere, the longest night of the year because the hours of darkness on that day are greater than they are at any other time of the year.

While interpretation of the ever-increasing darkness surrounding these days varied from culture to culture, the physical remains in archaeological sites such as Stonehenge in England, and Newgrange in Ireland indicate that the winter solstice was acknowledged. The primary axes of both these monuments are aligned with a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise in Newgrange, and the winter solstice sunset in Stonehenge.  Some believe that these exact alignments indicate a belief by these ancient peoples that during the winter solstice the earth is more closely aligned with cosmic forces and that prayers and offerings made during these hours are more likely to be received and responded to than if made at other times of the year. Evidence also indicates that these and most other cultures in the Northern hemisphere held ceremonies in recognition of the event. Common to most cultures were rituals appealing for the rebirth of the sun gods because during the winter months when the sun did not provide warmth and light for the growth of grains, starvation was common.

solsticetreeCeremonies honoring the return of the sun after the longest night continued into ancient Greek and Romans times. The festivals most commonly occurred on the night of December 24 and December 25. Christmas, the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus the “Son of God,” is also observed on December 25. Many celebrations attributed to Christmas eve and Christmas day are rooted in the ceremonies and festivals held during the winter solstice, including the advent preparation of letting go of the old so that the new can be birthed.

As the longest night approaches we are once again reminded that the cyclical rhythms of nature, are also within us and affects us deeply. The fading light causes us to acknowledge that darkness touches every life. Each of us experiences times of metaphoric coldness, yet when we allow ourselves to seize the opportunity, we settle in and re-centre. As we do, we become aware that this dormant time allows us to amass energy for our next great movement forward. Being thus connected with the seasonal changes in our own lives, as mirrored by the cyclic changes in nature, we bless the darkness knowing that it is always darkest just before daybreak, and that very soon a door will open through which the returning light will stream.