Musings from the field.

Walking the Talk

My so-called personality is a persona through which soul speaks.”

(Hillman in Re-Visioning Psychology)

James Hillman used to remind us that if you don’t think you’re talking to yourself--that there isn’t a constant stream of chatter in your mind and body (dreams of course carrying the largest cast of characters and their chatter, shouts, murmurs, and demands) --you’re kidding yourself. And part of his message regarding this substantially unconscious inner dialogue was to help us get real about all those inner figures and give them some space and time to express themselves in a more conscious way. Going on quest, creating some time and space to honor and uncover the true color and character of these figures is a great way to illuminate shadow figures that are either controlling your life unnecessarily or hiding too much energy and opportunity from your daily activity. Hillman and depth psychology help us to realize that personifying our inner lives can be a great tool for living more consciously and thus more in contact with the too easily dismissed life of soul. Hillman actually called this soul-making.

So in this context, that popular expression, walking the talk, meant to express the idea of living your truth, we can see might have another layer of meaning. Walking the talk here is a sort of airing your truth, giving it room to move, to be heard, and to be seen (and eventually either confronted or engaged with more honesty and awareness). We walk our talk, go on quest with our internal figures, our grumblers and celebrants, our belittling voices and our grandiose dreamers, under the sky, give them some fresh air, perhaps name them, play and explore the depth or shallowness of their character, introduce them to the earth under our feet, and see who and what shows up with these figures we have invited out of the closet and onto the trail. Walking the talk, here on quest in nature, opens and invites the depth and breadth of soul to the natural world.

In addition to personifying the unseen world of soul, when we walk the talk in this expanded meaning of that phrase, we honor the embodied nature of soul, we physicalize, place one foot in front of the other, as embodied soul characters, capable of both small and large steps, breath, voice, unexpected movements, and most importantly, an easy and natural engagement and relationship with the figures and beings of the natural world. My aggravated and meanest inner figure will have as unique and real a relationship to the sun as will my meek yet curious and childish self. Bringing curiosity, presence, creativity and most importantly faith in the reality of these soul figures, can help you bring consciousness to the range of movements, demands, and desires of these inner figures. Otherwise, without the benefit of this walking the talkers, the talkers will just as surely walk you! One of the oldest rules of a depth perspective states that if we don’t own our complexes, the complexes will own us. And most certainly, the more we leave the inner voices and figures to their own devices, the more unconscious and hidden they are, the more ruled by their hidden movements will be our actions, our thoughts, and our feelings. Walking, airing, introducing these figures of ourselves to the natural world allows us on the one hand to confront and limit their dominance of our lives and on the other hand it allows us to bring out and celebrate those that are otherwise too easily hidden or under appreciated.

Walking the talk in nature allows us to quest for more authenticity regarding the powers at play in our lives. The sooner we acknowledge our faith in these figures and their roles in our lives--that we are more Us than I--the sooner we can move towards wholeness and feel our energies and our efforts less divided. Walking in this context is: airing, honoring the truth of, introducing to the outer world, bringing into relationship, and earthing the complexes and complexity of our lives.

Walking outside with a question, and bringing some ceremony to those steps outward, is a quest. The quest always holds a question. The bare bones of a quest are a question and some movement or engagement with the world.

It is often a great relief in the midst of our busy lives to create some ceremony and space for the larger and sometimes unseen questions we otherwise ignore, forget or stuff down into the unconscious. Ahh, at last, here is an hour, a day, a weekend to strip myself of the daily accumulation of demands, directions, distractions and disassociations, to allow the bare elements of meaning and value in my life to take center stage! Oh and look, right outside my door here as I step through the threshold and into this new (and old) naturalness of being at the root of me, there are the bare and natural elements of nature to greet me on this journey. Sky, cloud, sun, star…ground, tree, bird, and flower…are all here to meet me at the threshold! There is some alliance, some coincidence and connection between my new embarkation in this way and the world outside the door. Is it a mirror? Do they, the wind, the rain, the leaves, have something to say to me about my life? Or do I perhaps have something to share with them? Regardless of the question or the answer, when you took that step across the threshold you entered a ritual, you created a ceremony for inner and outer communication.


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