By Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD
Many people put aside their dreams and instead set new priorities that are out of sync with their authentic selves; they do this to be practical and gain approval from others. In midlife or during crises, such as health problems, the loss of a job or loved one, the end of a marriage and so on, we often will awaken to how much we have restricted ourselves and compromised our values. Exploring themes of authenticity and transformation can make us feel frightened as we face truths about ourselves that we have tried to ignore. Yet, these themes can also lead us to breakthroughs and positive changes.
I was able to reclaim my mythopoetic self—my spiritual nature—and gain greater satisfaction as a result of doing inner work. I saw how I had repressed my desire to explore the realm of psychology and how the mind works. By tapping into the transformative power available to me, I became able to live more authentically.
If you are thinking about making changes in your life, you might want to reflect on the compromises that you have made. You can start by working with your unconscious and what it knows, making it conscious so that you can be honest with yourself about choices you have made and why. This work can be unsettling yet rewarding. Doing dreamwork, Jungian sand tray work, or taking shamanic journeys that allow you to access your unconscious and its beneficial insights and energies, can bring answers to questions such as:
What compromises have I made that I regret?
What are my deepest desires?
How could I live more authentically, in sync with those desires?
What do I need to let go of?
What do I need to bring in?
I once undertook a shamanic journey to engage the energy of a jaguar, an archetypal energy that Andean shamans recognize as a powerful ally for transformation. A shaman I know who was doing the work with me, entered “non-ordinary” reality, and as everyday awareness gave way, I entered a realm beyond the limitations of my senses. In my hand was a jaguar stone that the shaman had given me—a stone said to hold jaguar energy and carved with the face of this feline that roams the rainforest. Suddenly, the stone began to pulse and throb as if it were breathing.
“It’s alive! It’s alive!” I shouted to the shaman.
“Feed it! Feed it! Before it feeds on you!” he exclaimed.
Quickly he pressed my bottle filled with Florida water (used for blessings, ceremonies, and cleansings) into my other hand.
“Feed it! Hurry!” he cried. Knowing what he meant, I took some of the liquid into my mouth and sprayed it out in a mist toward the jaguar before it could devour me.
Instinctively, I knew the beast hungered for me as I had hungered for its essence—the alchemical potential I had yearned for as far back as I could remember. I waited, transfixed. Had my offering been accepted? Then the jaguar’s threat lifted like a fog and floated away into the night air. I felt the wet stone in my palm, sinister no more yet still alive, warm and breathing. My heart still pounded, but I realized the danger had passed.
Feed it. So simple.
My soul had craved nourishment, yet I had denied it again and again in the interests of practicality. Life was hard work and responsibility, not a poem or a mystery—that’s what I’d learned from my family and the Midwestern culture in which I’d been raised. Conforming to these values, I suppressed my yearnings for many years.
My experience with the shaman and the jaguar did not just offer me the insight to feed my soul before my longing for nourishment ate away at me, (making me even more restless and perhaps even causing me to develop an illness or disease); I believe this experience also offered me the elixir of jaguar energy. This energy fueled changes I made in my everyday life—changes that set me on a new, rewarding path to becoming a shamanic practitioner, integrating shamanism into my everyday life and work, and eventually, becoming an author and philanthropist. As an ally to me, the Jaguar has helped me to change the story of my life to be more satisfying, but it took quieting the activity of my conscious mind and engaging my unconscious to access this source of transformative power.
What might you be able to change in your life if you were to tap into your unconscious and explore the wisdom and energies for change? Presently, you might be underestimating the transformative power available to you and the insights available in your unconscious.
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist. He is the best-selling, award-winning author of Change Your Story, Change Your Life and Change the Story of Your Health. Visit www.CarlGreer.com.
This is an excerpt from The Necktie and the Jaguar: A Memoir to Help You Change Your Story and Find Fulfillment by Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD. Published by Chiron Publications ©2021 Chiron Publications. Reprinted with permission. Visit www.ChironPublications.com.