On Becoming Real
Perhaps nothing provides as much fulfillment in life as finding and sustaining a successful love relationship and pursuing what you believe you were meant to do. For me this happened simultaneously; it all began with re-finding myself, or what I call becoming real. I started to lose my way when I gave up my dream to be an actress when I was about twenty. Instead I pursued a career that was more about making money and being in relationship with the type of guy who was from that world.
To be “real” is another way of saying, to be “you,” absent the mask or what Jungian psychology calls the persona. From this place of being more real or authentic, you can more consciously choose a relationship and a career that is not based on unconscious projections of that which you think someone wants you to be, or fear of not being able to attain what you truly want. It is from this place of being authentically “you” that I believe we can experience what I call real love and finding your calling. This can be viewed as a shift from what, in psychology, we call the ego’s perspective, to that of the Self which, in Jungian psychology, is the archetype of wholeness. It is from this place that could even include a vision of the world where we all see ourselves as connected.
When we get on the path of wholeness, sometimes we often find extra help or, what Jung called, synchronicities: meaningful coincidences. There is a mythical story of how Cupid and Psyche met where being together involved the completion of tasks performed by Psyche. Aphrodite assigned her these tasks so she could prove herself worthy of Cupid’s love. To do this, Psyche had to overcome the seemingly impossible tasks set before her that always involved the assistance of mysterious helpers who enabled her to overcome fear, to persevere, to get done what seemed impossible, and ultimately to trust. In some ways this can also be true on the path of becoming real.
Shortly after my divorce in 2000, I experienced two transformational encounters that served to help me on my path toward wholeness. My tasks included learning to function more responsibly, helping me to have the courage to live up to my responsibilities and take on the role of being the sole breadwinner. I had to learn to embrace hard work, to take care of my children, to be a mother and a father, and try to find what I imagined was true love. Like many people whose relationships do not work out, I had fallen in love with a projection…. that someone thinks you want them to be. The man I married who never told me or perhaps buried his true passion to be a carpenter, not an accountant.
My First Encounter: Meeting the Voice of Wisdom
The first encounter transpired when I decided to go to the Green Valley Spa I’d read about in Vogue. Once there I heard everyone talking about a ‘treatment’ offered with an indigenous healer, a woman named Gwen. This transformational experience was scheduled over the course of three days. It began with a confession or identification of the pattern from which you want release; at that point it was unsatisfying relationships with men and my inability to feel. I came to realize I had shut down my feelings at an early age to protect myself from being hurt.
On the second day, in a mock sweat lodge, she explained, you sweat out what you need to release to let go of the pattern(s). Finally, on the third day you are cleared to start bringing in what you want. What transpired for me on that third day was remarkable. I was lying on a massage table with an elaborate grid of stones Gwen had placed on my body, my hands holding two huge pyramidal shaped generator crystals. Suddenly I started dialoguing with something that seemed like a voice of wisdom. Jung called this phenomenon an active imagination. It seemed like a loving presence that I saw as my Inner Voice of Wisdom. The first question I asked it was “Where have you been?” We all have voices inside our heads, thoughts, some are generative and some negative. This one was different. During that experience, I asked the Voice why I wasn’t finding love again. I was told I needed to be patient. The Voice said I was changing at such a rapid rate. I had to work on myself first, which included growing up the little girl inside in order to get more in touch with the real me. It said, unless I wanted to be married and divorced several times, I had to wait, be patient, sort out potential relationships as I sorted out myself. The right relationship would show up in due time. So, I waited and tried my best to do what was suggested. Seven years, as it turned out. During which I was called upon to perform my tasks that were designed to make me more responsible so I could ultimately take responsibility for myself. During this time, I grew my business of life coaching, which I had started and found that working with other people also helped me be more empathetic. I began to drop my persona adaptation, become more transparent, genuine, comfortable in my own skin, more real. Only then was I ready to take the next step.
The Second Encounter: Meeting the Self
I found myself getting interested in meditation and studied with Jon Kabat Zinn, who developed mindfulness meditation. Meditation is the process that leads to the experience of what is called pure awareness. Transformation Meditation is based more on mantras and breathing. It was developed by Sherrie Wade, a former therapist and who now lived in India in an ashram in Kulu, India (a.k.a. The Valley of the Gods). Sherrie developed what she calls Doubt Free Meditation, a course that included audio recordings and a book. I started doing the practice and found it helped me to access the meditative state, which is another way of saying a state of pure awareness or what she called “the Knower or experiencer of thoughts.” The best way to describe it is a space of focused awareness that transcends thoughts. Shortly after she sent me an invitation to meet Brijendra who also resides in the same ashram as Sherrie along with their guru, Swami Shayam. Brijendra met Swamiji in Canada in 1971 and followed him to India where he still resides. I was told Brijendra who comes to the United States every six years. I was fortunate. This was one of those years.
I traveled to a remote town in Vermont at a venue in someone’s private home. When I walked in, I saw Brijendra seated in the living room on a bench elevated from his students. He was dressed in flowing white robes, with long white hair and a full beard. He looked like the archetype of the quintessential Senex, the wizard. I was immediately entranced and drawn to his clear penetrating blue eyes. When you looked into his eyes I felt I was looking into a deep boundless space of “no man.” Despite how unappealing it might sound to be “no man,” in transformation meditation, this means someone who has shed the artificial persona or mask, the armor the ego wears to cover and hide its wounds and sees everything as a manifestation of the Self. This is what deep meditation feels like; what the Yogis call our authentic self. This is similar to the Jungian Self, except it does not call for an obliteration of the ego but one that is strengthened instead by being in alignment with the Self. The goal of both is the same, to shed the persona, the mask of a personality we wear to hide our wound(s), to take back projections and to become authentic again…in other words, real.
The weekend of learning meditation with Brijendra ended with a personal invitation to be initiated into the mantra given to him by his Guru Swami Shayam. This included instructions into the personal meditation practice that he had developed over twenty-five years. Initiation is an ancient practice: a way for the Guru to raise the student up to the same level of consciousness as the Guru. He taught me his breathing practice, the pranayama, which I still use to this day to enter meditation. He explained to me that an initiation is a sacred process that transfers the praaan of the Guru, the life-force energy, or power of life to the recipient. The mantra was given to me in Sanskrit and translates to: “I am peace, bliss, and eternal I am the Self.” When you say the mantra to yourself in Sanskrit, the sound of the words imbues you with the meaning on an unconscious level.
We began by doing the breathing exercises together. Then the initiation began with him repeating the mantra out loud and then whispering it into my ear. I remember, when he did that, feeling otherworldly. It felt like I could hear his voice inside me merging with my own as I repeated the mantra silently to myself. It felt like I was floating, and no longer just me. It’s hard to describe the peaceful state they call pure awareness where there is no sensory experience and no thoughts. When we were done, Brijendra explained the gift also came with a warning: “You know you cannot force this on people.” Force? What did he mean by that? “People have to be ready to receive it,” he explained. These were his parting words: “Dearest Skyler, Meditate, meditate, meditate and light the world with your knowledge of the true Self, filling your own Self everywhere with awareness of their own love and joy. I You One. You will see, it’s all unfolding perfectly.”
I found my meditation practice went much deeper as a result of this experience. It was easier to let go of my thoughts and just rest, float in this peaceful state. The meditation practice served as both a source of comfort, protection, and a way to expand my consciousness. I began to understand and see what Brijendra meant in terms of how life is unfolding perfectly. Perhaps what we experience is fated, designed to help us learn from them. Just like a protagonist in a story, we are meant to grow from our trials and tribulations; or as Jung said, to individuate, and to follow our calling, which is another way of saying become real. This is also the message in the book The Alchemist: pursue your dreams, your ‘Personal Legend’ by following what your true heart desires. And that is what started to unfold.
Shortly after this, I met the love of my life on a dating site. He was an ex-banker, now on a similar path as I was pursuing what he believed to be his calling as a producer and writer. He encouraged and helped me reconnect with what was at the heart of my original desire to be an actress, my love of story. Writing stories and helping others to find their voice is what I now consider to be my calling. That is what becoming more real helped me to do. I remain eternally grateful for the gift of my inner voice of wisdom and the meditation practice Brijenda gave to me which I still practice to this day. Perhaps when we engage in meditation, we can begin to see that we are all One. I often wonder what kind of a world would this be if we all saw it that way? Perhaps that is what becoming real means.
Skyler Fontana earned her Ph.D. in Jungian and Archetypal Psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently an MFA candidate at Antioch University. She has given workshops that help writers find, develop and navigate the creative process in order to write powerful stories. She has been a guest teacher at Pacifica Graduate Institute and lectures on the subject depth psychology for writers. She also assists her Joe Fontana, a producer on finding and developing stories. She has also founded the Skyler Madison Wellness Center in New York where she developed, trained, and advised motivational life change coaching programs that used coaching, hypnotherapy, and meditation.