Higher Living Reflections

Tilling One’s Inner Space

Metamorphosis can seem a complex, high-minded philosophical construct, but it is a simple one. The root morph means “change,” and the prefix meta, “more comprehensively.” Thus, metamorphosis means changing in a major way. Like a butterfly spreading its iridescent wings after transitioning from her larva and pupa stages.

Most have likely thought of the Vernal Equinox only in passing, a day generally four days after St. Patrick’s Day. But this upcoming first day of spring – on the 20th, btw – has special significance given the pandemic and resulting isolation and separation. While we are not over the pandemic, the growing light at the end of the tunnel can be likened to increasing daylight. Symbolic of Life and Hope. And Change.

An oft cited truism is “Change is a constant.” Despite that reality, some resist changing. They prefer stasis, like holding onto a magical childhood moment when everything seemed perfectly blissful, wanting it to last forever. But as it is with childhood fantasies, reality – life – gets in the way.

We are familiar with refrains about aging. “I’m too old to change.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” A favorite: “I like where I am.” That one is especially disconcerting given that after ripening, comes decline and decay.

How about an unquestionable one? To paraphrase Geoffrey Chaucer: “Time waits for no person.”

There are two ways to consider change. One is constancy, an ongoing evolutionary process. The other is cyclical: birth, death, rebirth. The Resurrection. The phoenix rising from its ashes.

In the second, death is an essential element. After all, one cannot be rebirthed if one is still alive and kicking. Nor can one’s attitude, behavior, or outlook change if she/he insists on holding onto old ways. Which means opting to be stuck, like Jay Gatsby, in the past. For in the next second, the present one becomes the past.

Alone time can be likened to an underworld. In her essay “Metamorphosis: Dreaming the New Songs,” Kristina Dryža, a regular C. J. Jung Society presenter, writes, “The underworld is the most fertile ground for our metamorphosis. Acting as an alchemical vessel, times of solitude and inner desolation invite us to explore what it is that must change in us and take another form.”

Given what we do oftentimes happens with others, solitude gives one space to work on personal renewal. For one to change, to grow, he/she must descend, endure an extended period of darkness. That can have life-altering consequences for it gives one space to shatter old ways to make way for new.

Here is a current truism: The old normal died in an ICU ward. There is no going back.

In You Can’t Go Home Again, Tom Wolfe writes, you cannot “go back home to your family, back home to your childhood . . . away from all the strife and conflict of the world . . . back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time.”

As we create our new normal, it is important to remember change is neutral, neither good nor bad. Each attaches her/his value to it to make it either.

Dryža continues, “So much depends on our capacity to relinquish harmful and obsolete patterns and behaviors, for we know that every attempt to deal with challenges in outmoded ways will, ultimately, fail us.”

Isolation can serve for us as the cold, dark wintry soil does for seeds. Like how gardeners and farmers prep the soil for fresh plantings, one needs to till his/her inner space – psychic ground – to allow light to penetrate, warm, and fertilize potentials.

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  • Mary Pat
    March 16, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    Ah, you witnessed my descent. Thank you for the tether. I was scrolling through some photos when I paused to note the lushness of my garden last spring. Where’s that lushness now? No mystery there.

  • Becky Cook
    March 16, 2021 at 1:41 pm

    I’m ready for the vernal equinox, new growth, renewed connections and a “new normal”… more grateful for all that we have.
    Thanks, Jerry!

  • Karen
    March 16, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    This one I had to print so that I can re-read it. At the end of January, I announced to family and friends that I was going to spend February “unplugged.” Limited social media, TV-worldly distractions so that I could spend time in what I refer to as “the interior world” – or as you define it, the underworld—spent my time reading, meditating, roaming around my house…just listening for and to that still, inner voice. I have to admit, I ended the month with more questions than answers with regard to the direction I am meant to move in–trying to trust and surrender in those times of inner desolation-trying not to give in to fear and doubt. I’m still exploring what in my life needs to change in order to rise from the ashes of last year. I know I’m not alone in this exploration. I sense the extreme challenges of 2020 have brought many to their proverbial spiritual knees., and prompted more soul searching than perhaps any time prior. Springtime is the season of rebirth and renewal….a time to cross the threshold from the dark night of the soul back into the light that is life. Perhaps the time is now at hand to, as you suggest, “shatter old ways to make way for new.” It’s time now to embrace the new normal; to till our own soil in order for that light to penetrate and help us grow in ways that heretofore, we could have never imagined. After all, none of us is the same person we were before Covid and lockdown; nor are we meant to be, could ever be, or even wish to be. Time to embrace our individual metamorphosis’ with grace and gratitude as we learn again how to take wing and fly bravely into this Brave New World. Birth. Death. Renewal. LIFE! Such beautiful insight, Jerry. Thank you!

  • Donna Taylor
    March 17, 2021 at 12:51 am

    Jerry, I like how you incorporate many differing and wide-ranging threads into your writings. Your background in mythology, literature and Jungian studies instantly make the connections accessible. There a a darkness to in the absence of the ordinary and special activities that provide joy – theater, movies, lunches with friends, etc. The lack of these activities can easily trigger pure escapism or provide the opportunity to learn something completely new and challenging. But solitude and just existing with oneself provides immediacy to that moment in time that will never come again. This past year has changed me in some silly ways. I watch an old movie and find myself wondering why the actors are not all wearing masks. The visuals of this time will be in our memories. I wonder how young children will remember – will it be like us remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis or the many assassinations when we were young? But those events did not happen over a year, defining a new normal, so it will be interesting to those who study psychology. Thank you again for your wide-ranging and unique thoughts!

  • Rick Posner
    March 20, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks Jerry! I like the reference to alchemy because it reminds us that only through some kind of “crucible” can we we start to show our true mettle (metal) for change.

  • Andrea Antico
    March 21, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    Jerry, YOU are at your best once more. Your thoughtful, evocative words about spring, birth and rebirth, childhood, the environment, your place (and our place in it) are better than any Sunday sermon I ever heard. Your website is a beautiful reflection of You and Colorado. My only criticism is the “Old” in your title. How about middle-aged, mythical, magical, mindful, mysterious, meditative, modern, mesmerizing, or metaphoric man of the mountains?