In this and some of my upcoming blogs, I would like to introduce you to my new book Cracking Open: A Memoir of Struggling, Passages, and Transformations which will be published at the end of this month. This book is a memoir that began with my reflections in my journal in 1994. These journal reflections actually grew into a much greater story of re-membering, restoring, and transformation and became, for me, a deeper way of understanding of my own life. As you read this book, you will discover that my regular journaling changes at a certain point, and my Muse shifts me into writing the story of a major turning point in my adult life in 1972. That itself was a surprise! So, you can imagine my continued amazement when the context of the 1972 story that I was in the midst of writing about shifted yet again, and I found myself back in my admission interviews at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich in 1985 and writing about those experiences – all in this one journal. But I wrote as the story unfolded within me, and as a result, went from journaling about my current thoughts and experiences to writing a much more extensive story with scenes that shift almost like they do in dreams.
In my book, it becomes evident that it has taken me a long time to fully realize that failure and destruction are openings to transformation, even though I knew this in my head. Themes of failure, destruction, and creation underlie our lives. The major turning points in our experiences that are necessary to open us to a truly new future and to living the authentic potentials in our lives, to discover a new self, may depend upon an old self being shattered. And, the creation of one’s destiny may depend upon the world of a child being shattered.
We must go back to knowing ourselves during and through these periods – in our reflections, dreams, and journaling. We must go back and touch moments in our existence when we and life were whole, in kabbalistic lore, before the world-vessel was shattered and the divine sparks scattered. It is in our reflections and re-experiencing of these times that we can re-gather the sparks and move toward a greater sense of wholeness and future beyond the one we could previously have imagined.
In Cracking Open, I am sharing my efforts at recovering some of these sparks, and I will continue talking about these efforts in my next few blogs. In the summer of 1994 when I was writing in my journal, I was engaged in another period of transformation. This one wasn’t a period of crisis, but one of a new kind of opening to self-exploration, as this book reflects. This period in 1994 concluded with a dream that affirmed my decision to share the contents of my journals. Here is an excerpt from my new book, Cracking Open: A Memoir of Struggling, Passages, and Transformations, describing that dream and decision-making:
I had spent an evening rereading my midsummer journal entries and a story they had given birth to. I was debating with myself whether to share these reflections and their ensuing story with others. In other words, I was debating whether I should make them public. These reflections were personal and represented experiences that both shaped and became expressions of my soul. I felt extremely shy about exposing them to the eyes and voices of others, especially those close to me who might misunderstand or criticize them. But, as you can see, I have decided to share my work, and I made that decision before going to sleep that night. In fact, I recall wondering how my unconscious would respond to my decision.
Shortly after midnight, I awoke from a deeply experienced dream that was filled with symbols of inner tranquility, wisdom, and wholeness. As I sat in the dark, I saw the lake in front of the house where I grew up. There was no wind, and the surface of the lake was still. The image was beautiful, and in a strange way, it seemed to span almost my entire life. At the center of the lake—where the water was deepest and where, beneath its surface, springs fed its depth—was an ancient rowboat. Strong and heavy, the boat was made of a dark wood that had weathered many storms. Standing in the boat, as if rooted in it, was an immense monk. His cowl was pushed back, exposing silver hair above serene blue eyes. His countenance expressed at once the experience of age, great vitality, and peace. He stood calmly fishing in the deep water.
I know that I cannot repeat a single moment of my past. As a practicing Jungian analyst, I also know that self-understanding lies deep within the stories of my origins. I see self-knowledge as the key to my health and my ability to renew, or rather to help myself be re-created at critical junctures in my life. My life story, as it has unfolded since the events recorded in my 1994 journal, reflects my ongoing re-creation. In this span of time, my pursuit of life has been as dauntless as life’s pursuit of me, and we are not finished with each other yet.
Knowing and being known are definite needs that we all share. I hope sharing my journal reflections—the directions they led me into, along with the story they birthed—will be of some value to the people close to me. I hope that they will know me better and know themselves better and that we will come to know each other better. I also believe that they will experience a shock or two as well. I certainly did, as I discovered that, after all, it was not just the early traumas that formed the core of my life’s journey.
As I share some of these personal stories from my book with you in the upcoming blogs, I appreciate that you are joining me in this journey.
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris, Book Excerpts and Resources