Feb 24, 2007, 09:25

By: Gabriel Rivera

Mulla Nasrudin was outside on his hands and knees below a lantern when a friend walked up "What are you doing, Mulla?" his friend asked. "I'm looking for my key. I've lost it." So his friend got down on his hands and knees too and they both searched for a long time in the dirt beneath the lantern. Finding nothing, his friend finally turned to him and asked, "Where exactly did you lose it?" Nasrudin replied, "I lost it in the house, but there is more light out here."
- Sufi

Dilemma stories are intended to evoke matters of the heart, mind and soul. They raise questions in search of answers we seek to find meaning to in a variety of ways. Much like Mulla and his friend I assist others who have found themselves under the light of their lanterns in search of the lost key that will allow access to that which already lies within.

Perhaps it is because the light feels familiar and gives us a sense of 'control,' which we search for answers within the framework of what it, provides. Not all things even in the light are what they appear to be. Searching for what lies within is the work of anyone willing to explore the inherent shadows of the human psyche caused by the light as well as the dark.

In my work with parents I have often heard them say; "We don't understand why this is happening to our family" as they go through a litany of positive attributes that would support an otherwise 'healthy' child.

Dilemmas act as a catalyst for unveiling the mysteries of our universe. They shake things loose in our orientations to life as we know it. They have no discretion for the timing of things, and often times create chaos and havoc in our otherwise routine lives. Matters of heart mind and soul are met with keeping one foot in the physical world and another in the metaphysical. Certainly quantitative measures can be useful in assessing an individual's family, medical, educational, and psychological history. It gives us a point of reference from which to start our search for the 'key'.

Proponents of the nature/nurture concept support the view that what lies outside of our house as we find ourselves in the light, is the belief that we come into the world empty, and are formed by the genetic inheritance we bring as it reacts to the environment.

The intrinsic value of heart and soul holds the belief that the key to what lies within, is that a "unique formed soul is within us from birth, shaping us as much as it is shaped"- James Hillman. Whether others judge this view as positive or negative, fact or myth does not matter. The conditions of the soul and the permanent change trying to occur are what matters. Unless the subsequent dilemmas we face become clear and the conditions of the soul perceived, the subsequent ordeals seem chaotic and meaningless or simply punishing.

When our lives get stuck or feel out of touch with a sense of inner meaning and outer purpose, we can search through our biography and memories and find those pieces of radical change that make us who we truly are. These events are often buried in the shadowy areas of the psyche, and when they are ignored, they drain a person's capacity to change in life. The times of radical change in a person's life require return visits, especially at transitions through other stages of life.

There are those who were abandoned in infancy or were severely abused in childhood that are looking for the garden, not the opening of the road to transition. They are not strongly enough connected to their deep self, to their family and to the human family, to be able to suffer the rigors of such insights. They need to be embraced in a "sense of home," and their psyche needs to be contained and healed before any transitions can occur.

The poet William Stafford reveals his view of this secret sense:

A Story That Could Be True:
If you were exchanged in the cradle and
your real mother died
without ever telling the story
then no one knows your name,
and somewhere in the world
your real father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.

He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
When the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand in the corner shivering.
The people who go by-
You wonder at their calm.

They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind.
"Who are you really, wanderer?"-
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
"Maybe I'm a king."

Each of us carries inside "a story that could be true," that will be more revealed as we stand under the light of our lanterns, in the rain and wind, robbed of our usual coverings. When all else is gone and there's nothing left to lose, then what is left and cannot be lost or thrown away is truly one's self. And what stays secret inside everyone is that somewhere he is a king, somehow she is a queen.

The Souls Code is a tribute to renowned psychologist and author James Hillman

About the Author: Gabriel Rivera has 32 years of experience in education and counseling in a variety of settings, including outreach counseling with gang members, and counseling, teaching and directing special needs programs in California and Oregon. Gabriel founded Trex, Inc. and The Ranch House, Inc. He also served on the Governor's Advisory Board for the Regulation of Outdoor Schools in Oregon. Gabriel currently lives in New York where he works with the physically and mentally disabled children.


Dotsy Zirkle

March 24, 2007 8:18 AM

This is a tremendous and wonderful way to approach so many aspects of life. For myself, as a parent who has ventured through several different programs with my children, the deeper sadness that prevails is given hope by this essay.

Thank you,


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