by Stanley Siegel
Life is full of mysteries many of them emanating from what we, as humans, are incapable of seeing.
I watch my dog Max survey the word with his nose as we take our long walks around the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. A few blocks from our home, he finds his favorite wall to sniff where he will spend as much a time as I will allow him. I’ve come to see the wall as “Doggy Facebook.” It seems every dog in town pees on it, leaving their scent with its encoded biography of the dog’s life. I stand patiently as Max “reads” everyone’s contribution to the wall, applying his heightened sense of smell to make discoveries not visible to me by my limited sense.
It is by much the same method that I read and interpret parables. I “sniff” the story out, at first relying on logic to make sense of it at the rational level. I am as focused as Max, parsing the details of the narrative. But my logical mind can only take me so far. When it fails to comprehend a story’s paradoxes, the intuitive mind I’ve cultivated after 40 years of practice as a psychotherapist, takes over the job. My thoughts turn inward, sifting through all my relevant knowledge and experience. Like a search engine, I dig deep into my unconscious, accessing its database of archived stories that share similar themes. I compare the unassembled metaphors, symbols, and prescriptions expressed in the subtext of the parable with those in these other narratives.
Armed with this information, I stretch out on my living room couch, close my eyes and engage in the process of focused visualization before I write a single word. Parables have archetypal themes that transcend culture and time. Ancient, present and future conflate in an Einsteinian moment, Like Max, I use my sixth senses as I tap into what Carl Jung called the “Collective Unconscious,” my mind and spirit aligned, body at rest, I am at one with the universe. Interpretations flow to me in this state of relaxation.
Returning to the rational world, I construct exercises based on the most meaningful interpretation, bringing the lessons of each parable to life in practical ways based on strategies I learned as the practitioner and from my personal experiences with self-improvement. The practice of reading parables will change your mind and, subsequently, your life, perhaps even without your awareness. They will bypass the logic of your rational minds sinking deep into your unconscious. Like the wind, they sweep across the river of negativity, with enough power to change the direction of its current, giving you a new direction for life. The exercises, if followed, will further repoint your behavior.
Together these processes realign body, mind and spirit and allow for greater well-being as a writer and in your broader life.
About the Author
Stanley Siegel is a psychotherapist, author, lecturer, and former Director of Education and Senior Faculty member of New York’s renowned Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. With nearly 40 years of experience in the field of psychology, Stanley has developed a bold and unconventional approach to psychotherapy that has led to his most recent book, Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life. Stanley has taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Adelphi University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Additionally, he was the founding director of the Family Studies Center in Huntington, NY, and has served as a consultant to hospitals and mental health centers throughout the country. His newest book, The Secret Wisdom of Ancient Parable, is available now. You can follow Stanley Siegel on Twitter.
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