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 world 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 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 senses.
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 sense 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 of those stories, bringing the lessons of each parable to life in a practical way based on strategies I learned as a psychotherapist 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 mind 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.
This is the exact process I used in my new book, The Secret Wisdom of Ancient Parables: Living Life Positively, which was published today and is currently available on Amazon here. For years, I collected parables whenever I was told one or came across them in texts. In this first collection, I’ve chosen a dozen from different traditions and organized them around their life lessons, such as self-acceptance, how to stop negative thinking, learning to let go, finding gratitude and much more. Each parable is accompanied by an illustration especially created to visualize the lesson. And each has a commentary and exercises to help readers achieve the lesson in their own life. I encourage you to carefully read each parable yourself to see what hidden details buried deep within each story you can unearth.