In 2013 I attended a play called ‘The Stripper’ directed by a former Buddhist nun at the School of Drama, University of East Anglia. The play portrayed the true story of a young woman in her twenties who begun working as a stripper after meeting a charismatic man who had connections with strip clubs (they eventually married).
Being a stripper provided financial security and it fulfilled the young woman’s creative and material needs. Yet, the false eyelashes, wigs, alluring costumes and baring her body to strangers led to a disillusioning existence, which eventually became more and more empty. Her husband died in 1984, which opened a new chapter in her life.
She entered Jungian psychotherapy and it dawned on her that she was stripping away the delusory facade of her previous lifestyle and was learning to bare her soul instead of her body. She found the introspection and reflection of psychotherapy a powerful way of getting in touch with her feelings and finding deeper meaning in her life. She also studied healing and spiritual psychotherapy, which added a new dimension for her creative expression. During this time, her dream life and experience of archetypes were awakened, revealing the untapped potentialities percolating within her.
One dream she had around this time revealed a transcendental vision of a woman sitting in meditation, an image that was to become a future reality for her. Beginning to feel the need for spiritual depth she embarked on a search through Judaism – the religion of her ancestors, Christianity and Hinduism.
Around the same time she was also exploring her own spirituality through abstract painting on a BA Painting course, which helped her begin to see how “doing art is a spiritual practice”. She also made a trip to India and in 1993 she found her spiritual home – Tibetan Buddhism. In 2003 she started dreaming of being dressed in Buddhist robes and eventually she was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 2007.
This inspirational story is rich with symbolic parallels. First, she becomes a stripper and bares her body to the world. Second, she enters the private world of Jungian psychotherapy and art to bare her soul to herself, witnessed only by the analyst. Third, she discovers as a Buddhist that, “meditation is like peeling away layers of an onion, revealing the naked essence of my mind”. This woman’s life story reveals how a process of awakening and awareness opens new possibilities for deep healing and living with equanimity, loving-kindness and authenticity. This woman’s profound journey shows us how doing and being are intimately connected to the expression of our transformative potential.
The salutary lesson conveyed in this woman’s transformative story is that it reminds us that we all have opportunities to reflect on what we do in our everyday lives. It can inspire us to start questioning what kinds of lived experiences bring a deeper quality of meaning and satisfaction. The story reveals how our transformational potential is concerned with evolving and engaging our human purpose, in fact, it poses deep questions about what we are here to do in life.
Humanity is gradually being forced to confront bigger questions about human meaning. For example, in this time of global crisis we are all being called to do something different in the ways that we live, where our actions are more aligned with the containing eco-system to which we belong.
The Unselfish Spirit
In my book The Unselfish Spirit: Human Evolution in a Time of Global Crisis I discuss why doing is set to become central in our efforts to tackle the global ecological crisis. In the book I suggest that humanity needs to find a common purpose, a sense of togetherness, to start making a difference in our ways of living. I show how our daily occupational engagement can connect us to a deep seam of human potential, which can galvanise our abilities to live and act cooperatively and sustainably. It is through doing that humanity can explore new thresholds for living, where we can engage our transformative actions for the creation of an improved future.
In the book I argue that doing is the powerhouse of evolution. I connect my ideas to the work of Swiss psychologist CG Jung, whose theories of the collective unconscious and the archetypes can be applied to our everyday actions. When we discover that our everyday activities can help us access a deep seam of human potential, doing becomes a revelation.
Essentially, at an evolutionary level, we are primed to adapt and meet the challenges before us. When we become conscious of an archetype of doing within us, our actions can connect to the numinous (spirit), which transforms our ways of living.
The research and ideas presented in my book prompt us to question what life could be like if we saw the value of doing from a collective perspective (beyond self-interest). I champion the notion that doing is instrumental in the process of collective transformation, based on established patterns of human evolution: we do therefore we evolve.
Deep change starts when we act in accord with our deepest potential and work together to create an improved future. Such a proposition lies at the heart of our evolutionary legacy and is a viable next step for future survival and sustainability.
Dr Mick Collins is lecturer in occupational therapy at the University of East Anglia and author of ‘The Unselfish Spirit: Human Evolution in a Time of Global Crisis’.
Dr Collins’ book is available at: http://permanentpublications.co.uk/port/the-unselfish-spirit-human-evolution-in-a-time-of-global-crisis-by-mick-collins-phd/
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