Caroline Myss doesn’t have a short answer for anything. OK. That may not be entirely true—not all the time anyway—but ask the acclaimed writer-speaker a question about life and our significance here, and Myss will most likely respond paragraphs at time.
Maybe it simply comes natural to Myss. Energized by what she calls spiritual “truths” and “knowledge, she can wax divine, ponder historic influences, write a string of bestsellers (“Anatomy of the Spirit,” “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can”) and jetset around the globe hosting seminars on spirituality with ease. Her latest book “Sacred Contracts, Awakening Your Diving Potential,” is now out in paperback. In it, Myss examines the four stages of what she calls the Sacred Contract—something she believes we all have—and their archetypical journeys. The book is a scrumptious literary morsel for soulsearchers or anybody remotely interested in their own spiritual growth. The bottom line—if there is one: Myss’s process teaches how to view one’s life—and the lives of others—symbolically. All this in an effort to manage our own personal power. But don’t listen to us. It’s best to listen to Myss. Here’s what she had to say to GT before her upcoming Santa Cruz appearance on Feb. 8.
Good Times: What’s been the most interesting feedback you’ve received on “Sacred Contracts”?
Caroline Myss: I have been really delighted that the feedback has been so positive, and the most common comment is how much the tool I have introduced has been such an eye opener for people, and that it continues to be something so fluid because archetypes are such a rich and terrific thing. I am somebody that likes people to investigate the wonderment of their lives. When you look at your archetypical patterns, there is such a rich opportunity to look at your own life, to be more courageous and have a sense of destiny.
GT: Your book talks about awakening the divine potential in each of us. You’ve always enjoyed writing about this subject. Why?
CM: You know what … it’s kind of like getting to the core of something. At first, I was interested in why people got sick and after a while—a few years of that—what became a more intriguing was that now that I knew a little bit of how emotions and psyche and history contributed and influenced health, I wanted to understand how they influenced the process of healing. That, to me, was such an eye opener because it shattered the assumption that people had, which is that everybody wants to be well and healthy. I know that sounds funny because, now, why would you want to be weak when you could be strong? Why would you want to be ill when you could be healthy? Why do people sacrifice their own well-being? Why would you use your illness as a way to manipulate another person? That was intriguing to me and as I pursued it, it evolved into another type of question: how come people struggle so much with fear of living their life? Why are we so frightened of life? Why are we so afraid to take risks? Why are we so afraid to make choices when we’re unhappy? What is wrong with us? Why are we so possessed with fear? When you ask that question, you hit people directly, but the fundamental question has to be: What reason am I here? People who can answer that by saying, I know it would be to not be afraid to live my life … then another area opens up and suddenly, if that fear isn’t there, it goes into, ‘then I would be doing everything right and then God wont punish me; then I will never get sick or depressed because I will be doing the right thing.’ It’s an element of primitive theology— it’s what controls so many people. These were questions I had to investigate. Then I finally got to the point where what I truly wanted to do was create some way that would help people reach even deeper into their life, to possibly make contact with the soul’s knowledge—that part which contains our life’s blueprint—and to understand ourselves at the level of our life’s purpose and know what would it take to get there. What you need to do is get beyond the point that your purpose is a ‘job’ and get much deeper and look at the process of spiritual soul integration. To ask, ‘what is your true purpose of life … ?’ That requires many many experiences in life—from relationships that are destined to be yours, from opportunities that are meant to come your way, to tasks you are meant to do on this earth, to challenges you are meant to have, to talents you have to have .. And to know that you have as much a contract with your talent as you do with God. I knew that there had to be a language a means to understand this.
GT: Somebody comes to you, they tell you, my life’s a mess, I’m unfocused, I’m unhappy, I smoke, I’m overweight, I know I should love my spouse, but I feel no joy inside. What do you think I should do?
CM: Well, you know, the first thing that a person has to admit it that they are never going to want to change habits that they like. It’s one thing if you put nails in your shoes and you say, ‘hey, I gotta give this up.’ That is really what you call the effortless effort, but to break away from a pattern that ultimately brings you endless pleasure? For someone who is an addict or drug addict, that is a pleasurable addiction. So to say, ‘from now on, you have to break away form the very thing that comforts you, that relaxes you,’ that is associated with some deep thoughts. The first thing you have to recognize is that you are never going to want to change these habits. The second thing is you have to say, ‘well, if that is never going to happen, at what point do I just decide I need to agree with myself to go through a very uncomfortable month of transition?’ What I have told people to do is think that they have had a vision that is a divine command—that for one month we want you to strip down to the bare basics and go through a cleansing. And people rephrase that and they say I am going through a cleansing, a releasing of toxins on an earth level—that there a process of initiation into a bigger level of consciousness. If you can do that, you are genuinely providing yourself with a template within that is very accurate because if can rephrase it into a spiritual dynamic that is intriguing, it becomes attractive.
GT: How much of the planet to feel is really self-aware?
CM: Are you kidding me? Did you hear the president’s speech last night? Come on! I mean, we still can’t get over an act of honesty. A kid returns a wallet and it’s ‘Oh my god, how enlightened,’ and the fact of the matter is, it’s not. Did you ever try to get of a plane before anybody else? No, I don’t think we are very enlightened. We love limiting it to doing a weekend spiritual conference but in the everyday part of our lives, in our day to day life … I mean, if I asked you how easy is it for you to stay empowered all day long and what cause you to loose power—could it be a huge thing or somebody just talking gossip about you? Here’s the truth, not the ‘true,’ but the ‘truth.’ The spiritual evolution of your life is in nobody’s hands but yours, and your contract with God is between you and God. There is not a person who has more control over your spirituality than you do. Now, if you and I went to a really nice spa and you were sitting down with me with a piña colada, and I asked you, ‘Isn’t this nice? Doesn’t this all make you feel good?’ And you say, ‘Oh yes Caroline, this makes me feel good, I feel enlightened!’ And then you get a phone call from work and you find out there has been a decision in the office, which was made without you—that the entire power control of the office has completely changed. You would be in a tailspin because that is how easy it is to get to you, and in spite of the fact that you told me three minutes ago that you believed that God is in control, you really don’t believe that—it’s not where you live, it’s not what you animate. It’s not what you know, or how much you know, it’s what you animate.
GT: Last time we spoke, you mentioned you love to teach, that you could teach pretty much anything. What about it do you love so much?
CM: Oh, wow! Why does Fred Astaire love to dance? I love to teach because I love knowledge. I absolutely love it. I love sharing knowledge with other people. Sometimes there isn’t a way to express what your heart loves to do so deeply. I Iove to see people get liberated from painful nonsense. It’s the same thing I loved in publishing and writing. I knew something was good when I read something and thought this person just articulated a whole system of thought that people need to read. That is a high unlike any other for me … it’s a way of empowering other people, of passing on power. To have them realize they have more within them. I really do think knowledge is power.
GT: Is there anything you would teach that you aren’t teaching now?
CM: Oh—history! Because I love it. Because I don’t know how you can understand anything at all without understanding how it came to be. Today we have this fierce conflict we are about to enter into and only a fool would think we will not enter into war. To understand what is happening now, you have to have a sense of Middle East history, you have to have a sense of the vision of the spiritual politics that birthed this country. We were formed by mystics who incarnated as politicians. We have been destined on a course of liberating the spirit since the time we were born. It’s addressed in the Declaration of Independence. We can be drawn into spiritual conflict—like it or not, good or bad, one way or another— because that is the makeup of the archetypes of our nation. That’s my next book in fact, “Sacred Contracts of America.” You cannot have a grasp of the full magnitude of what’s going on unless you understand the Muslim religion, their archetype of power, their fundamental view of theology, their feeling about the West, the reason why, within the Muslim mind, the Crusades and the violation of the Christian world, are as the real today as they were thousand of years ago, and it is a wound that has not been addressed. We say, ‘Oh that’s been a 100 years ago but that is how the western mind looks at things. That’s not how the Muslim mind works. If you don’t understand that, you have no idea of how the tribal mind works. Unless a person has a grasp of these two archetypes—it’s shadow and it’s light—they will never make sense of this conflict on a spiritual level. I think it’s going to be ugly on an earth level. It will be a bloodbath and there are other countries who hope this war will consume us—we, the 9/11 global police, are going to be engaged otherwise. It is a perfect opportunity for other nations to shake rattle and roll. This world is so primed for a war because this is how we have always released our aggressions. If we don’t understand why we love to kill —and people say, oh that is terrible to say, but look at what comes out of Hollywood. Trust me, there is a part of you that likes it because we are violent as a species, whether we are engaged in violence or simply have violent thoughts or emotions. Those thoughts have power, prayers have power. You can’t tell me that is not a psychic bullet—that if you have negative thought, that it doesn’t penetrate somehow
GT: What’s the biggest misconception about spiritual growth?
CM: That if you take a weekend seminar, you have spiritual growth just because you pay for it. That it (spirituality) is a mental thing. I don’t care how much you know, you have to act upon it.
GT: Freud or Jung?
GT: Incense or sage?
CM: I don’t like incense, so sage.
GT: Meat or veggies?
GT: Oprah or Dr. Phil?
GT: Best advice you’ve been given?
CM: There is nothing violence can accomplish that kindness can do better.
GT: Best advice you’ve given.
CM: Self esteem is your strongest power.
Caroline Myss will speak about her book “Sacred Contracts, Awakening Your Diving Potential” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 at Bookshop Santa Cruz.