by Ann T. Johnston
As you begin the New Year, you may be asking yourself many questions about your life and life direction, trying to do things differently. You may think you know exactly who you are and exactly where you are trying to go and you may be succeeding. But if you are reading this, it is also possible you are still searching for answers, possibly even a new road map. So, if your life direction and goals are not yet defined, you might consider asking yourself this: What is your true story?
By this I mean, what is the truth about your life and your soul’s purpose? Do you trust yourself, your intuitions, your deepest beliefs? Are you willing to follow your heart, and, if so, how deeply will you reach inside yourself to find your passion? How far are you willing to travel beyond the limits of your conditioned beliefs to express your soul’s true potential?
Every human being has a story -- a myth of her own -- and in every distortion of one’s personality, one can discern the elements of this story.” This is a quote from Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and grandfather of modern day spiritual (transpersonal) psychology who has been a great source of inspiration in my life. Jung taught that our stories are our most valuable possession and the significance of our stories must be grasped if true healing or change is to occur. For Jung, symptoms of dis-ease (body, mind or spirit) occur only because a person’s story has been interrupted and is now trying to be fulfilled. Stated differently, our symptoms help us decipher our “code”-- the universal energy patterns in the collective unconscious he called archetypes -- which, once identified, help us understand the meaning of our life’s experiences and the purpose of our lives.
I was first introduced to these concepts in 1986. I learned that “healing” really meant to “make whole” or “holy” and that the process of becoming whole was symbolized by “finding the Holy Grail within our Selves” -- the vessel where all our human contradictions and suffering could be contained and transformed. I also learned that only using self-help programs or therapy limited to restoring the shattered fragments of the human personality (ego) would never be enough to heal or make one whole. Rather, it was necessary to discover the larger pattern of wholeness that the soul of the sufferer was seeking to restore.
It was here that I was introduced to the archetype of the Self. Jung defined the Self as the organizing principle of the human psyche and the very core of our nature. Synonymous with what most people call the soul, it is the literal “blueprint” for each human being because it guides each of us to our truest potential and to our completion as human souls.
If you haven’t read about or experienced this in your own life it may seem like incredible, heady stuff, but consider this. Our loss of soul – what Jung saw as the main cause of our individual and cultural estrangement—can only be solved by connecting with the Self. Everything we need to experience the rapture of being alive is already contained within this blueprint. It only needs to be “awakened and accessed for this rapture to be felt.”
It was easy for me to accept this truth because I had hit an ugly bottom through an addiction to alcohol, and I was desperately searching for meaning. In the course of my seeking, I was lead first to Innerworks Counseling and Suzanne Harrill (I endearingly call her my “spiritual mom”) who taught me that my very first therapeutic task was to learn to unconditionally love and accept myself. She explained that self-love is part of the spiritual path, because it is our soul’s true work and absolutely essential to further growth. She further explained that on some level I couldn’t possible understand, my soul had chosen the path I was walking. With great relief, I discovered that the invisible world of the soul had meaning and was accessible to help heal the wounded parts of me. Thus began a life-long journey to grow and evolve beyond the cultural heritage that heretofore had defined my reality.
A few years later, I was introduced to exciting new theories of healing and growth in addiction recovery that reached far beyond healing the personality (the home of the ego) and explored the essence of who we truly are – our Higher Self/Soul, teaching us how to live more fully from this dimension. In Transformers: The Artists of Self-Creation and Awakening in Time: The Journey from Codependence to Co-Creation, author and transpersonal therapist Jacqueline Small reinforced the earlier teachings, outlining the crucial difference between our personality and our essence, and leading me step-by-step to a realization of my higher potential.
Imagine the joy I felt when I learned that the greatest healer resided within me -- my Higher Self – and all I had to do was align myself with and attune to her! This led me to contemplative practices such as journal writing and meditation and to an exploration of the chakras (the energy centers of the subtle body through which life force flows). Although it first took years of mainstream 12 step recovery, self-esteem building and therapy to discard old belief systems, break dysfunctional patterns of relating and heal deep childhood wounds, I eventually discovered that the model of the chakra system and the energy body was an ideal method to transition from healing one’s personal biography to the evolution of higher consciousness.
One of the best books I have read recently is Deepak Chopra’s New York Time’s bestseller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. In it he posits that everything the soul does is translated into a process in the body, so you cannot have a body without also having a soul (i.e., “each of us is a soul made flesh”). To heal ourselves and our world, the severed connection between body, mind and soul must be restored.
Chopra continues that with proper awareness and alignment your soul can take over the function of an ideal treating physician or therapist because it stands at the intersection of your body/mind and universal healing forces. So the key is simply to expand your awareness and open yourself up. This is hopeful, happy and liberating stuff!
Because of breakthroughs in quantum physics, we are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that our bodies and the majority of our world are comprised of invisible patterns of energy and that this invisible dimension is far more expansive, causal (and real) than the denser molecules we can see. In fact, the entire premise of Chopra’s fascinating book is that you can bring healing to any aspect of your life by shifting an unhealthy energy state into a healthy one.
Five years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I learned this powerful lesson firsthand. Rather than destroy healthy cells in my body with chemotherapy and radiation in the name of preventing recurrence, the diseased tissue was surgically removed and I set about the life-enhancing process of shifting my awareness and changing my consciousness (including new forms of healthy nutrition and other self-care) so that the distorted energy patterns which gave rise to this toxicity could not be repeated.
Simultaneously I also began a quest to establish a deeper, truer connection with my spiritual nature, including a daily commitment to spiritual practices such as meditation and the regular use of energy healing techniques (acupuncture, reiki and reflexology). Happily I can report, that with proper maintenance of mind, body and spirit, I remain disease-free. Chopra might describe this process as “surrendering to a state of grace” (and I know it is my job to maintain this state).
This was not the only serendipitous result I have received! Somewhere along the way, my body became an open energy channel and the chakras in my hands spontaneously began emitting heat and light. Suddenly, I was able to access palpable and unexplained healing frequencies and spiritual energy and pass them on to heal myself and others!
Fast forward a few more years, and now, among my more recognizable worldly credentials (I have been a licensed but not always practicing attorney for more than thirty years), I hold a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies, I am a certified Reiki Master, Axiatonal Alignment practitioner and spiritual teacher. I am also the founding Director and President of the Ignite Your Light Coalition, a non-profit educational organization devoted to teaching this paradigm of evolving consciousness and the energy healing methods described here.
Which brings me now to the newest version of my own true story.
My journey home to Self has been a decades-long process of understanding, accepting, loving and integrating all the contradictions and the seemingly opposite parts of myself. The highs have been high and the lows even lower, marked by a dramatic and painful mid-life fall from grace. Along the way I have been blessed by the wisdom of many healers who have each helped me understand the meaning of my journey from the unique perspective of my soul’s commitment to its evolution. They have helped me “read the code” embedded in each symptom or event and use it to transform my consciousness.
One of the methods I use to this date is the Tarot. I learned how to utilize symbols to understand the invisible patterns of energy Jung called archetypes when I met and began to work with Veronica Goodchild, a therapist trained in Jungian analysis. My work with Suzanne had enabled my first major breakthrough—how to learn to love oneself. Veronica enabled my second major breakthrough—how to literally communicate with one’s soul (and become one’s own true therapist).
Unlike most traditional counselors, Veronica was spiritual, sensitive and deeply attuned to the invisible reality of archetypal energy from the collective unconscious (what I now call the sub-atomic reality known in quantum physics as “waves”). In the course of eighteen groundbreaking months, I became conversant with ritual and symbols through the work of renowned cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien—The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols.
Significantly, Arrien takes Tarot out of the “fortune-telling” context and elevates it to a fine art of energetic communication with the invisible forces that shape our physical reality and can be worked with intentionally to transform consciousness. Wow! This is very, very powerful stuff!
I have since used this and other spiritual systems to guide my life in times of struggle and this system has brought amazing clarity without fail. It has also helped me to know and own the highest qualities of both my human personality and my soul’s essence and to integrate the energies of both. This process of integration is the true heart of my story.
There is a pivotal section in The Tarot Handbook that contains the methodology of how to find out the Life-Time symbols of your personality and your soul. Once you do this, you are able to discover the energetic patterns imprinted in your consciousness at birth. These become “grist for the mill”, as Ram Dass would say, for your soul’s conscious evolution. If you are too busy being an ambitious professional climbing the corporate ladder, you might miss the value of this experience altogether! But if you are forced by your soul (as I was) to slow down and re-examine your entire life and life direction, this material can provide an amazingly transformative lifetime gift!
After years of working with Tarot symbolism, I have come to appreciate that these symbols provide the road map I had previously sought “out there.” In other words, it is an inside job. Transforming one’s life first requires transforming one’s personal consciousness and that requires knowledge of the unique soul qualities that make you “you!”
In my case, I have learned that I carry the energy of a wise consultant and negotiator who can see the big picture holistically and diagnose appropriate solutions (the archetype of the “Aeon”). This is the symbol of my personality. I also carry the energy of the visionary who has learned to trust herself and her vision and to use her intuition to bring situations, people or projects back into balance (the archetype of the “High Priestess”). She is the symbol of my soul.
Persons carrying this energy are very tenacious and are able to go long distances, persevering until they find the inevitable oasis within and without. They are also energetically androgynous, meaning they are comprised in equal measure of both soft, magnetic “yin” energy and assertive, dynamic “yang” energy. I have often felt “split” between these two energetic qualities, struggling to bring them together within myself in increasingly higher and more evolved ways. Without fail, each time I have doubted what to do next, my soul/spirit has furnished the direction. All I have ever had to do was be willing to go within and listen for the answer.
Thus, admittedly, I am a paradoxical figure – both a tenacious advocate and a teacher of transformation with a mystical bent. Rather than deny any of my gifts, I am learning how to joyfully integrate them and find higher and wider applications. I recently represented a friend in a hotly contested guardianship dispute involving her deeply divided family of origin (which brought to the surface the family’s unhealed wounds). Doing so allowed me to be both a strong and tenacious advocate and a soft and insightful mediator of differences. While the outcome felt like magic, it was not. It was simply the marriage of the divine masculine and feminine energies within my individual psyche -- the reconciliation of opposites -- the coveted goal for this healer. During a presentation in Russia years ago, I named this process “Freeing the Human Spirit through the Reconciliation of Opposites.” Having learned how to do this for myself, I can now teach others. My soul is awake and at peace and I am reminded of Deepak Chopra’s message:
“To the extent [we] wake up [our] own soul, humankind also wakes up the world’s soul… and a wave of healing begins to sweep over us, a small wave at first, but one that could swell beyond all expectations in a single generation”.
If you want to be a part of this collective wave, we hope you will join us! Please visit our website at www.ignitemylight.org where you will find a description of an upcoming webinar expanding on the principles described here.
Ann and Jerry Johnston were married in Houston shortly after completing couples counseling with Suzanne. She nicknamed them “the cosmic kids” because they met in Mexico on vacation when Ann lived in Houston and Jerry lived in California. Both had hit bottom in their lives and were seeking change. Prior to their marriage in 1987, Jerry traveled weekly to Houston to visit Ann and to participate in Suzanne’s couples group. Suzanne later visited Ann & Jerry in Mystic, Ct where she held a self-esteem building workshop for women in recovery. Ann & Jerry attribute the strength of their marriage in large part to the solid communication skills and inner child healing they were introduced to by Suzanne. Ann now utilizes Suzanne’s work in the groups she leads on St. Simons Island, Georgia.