Transformation and Healing After Trauma, Loss and Grief

My Mythic Garden

A blog by author and trauma expert Gary W. Reece, Ph.D.

Welcome to My Mythic Garden

Welcome to my Mythic Garden

This is a place where I meditate, think, read, create and write. The concept came to me as I sat in my Bonsai Garden waiting for my portrait to be taken. The designer was asking questions about me, trying to get a grasp on who I am and why I was doing this. His probing questions led me to think about the very things I love and am passionate about. I discovered on reflection that I find myself very much at home in this garden. It is a peaceful place, one I created out of and is based on my inner dynamics: love of quiet, solitude and reflection. These are qualities I believe are essential for self-discovery and healing. I believe in the power of the inner journey which leads to centering and a deeper relationship with our essential self. By stopping our world and calming our minds, we become more aware. Through imagination, creativity, and exploring our deepest feelings, we become more alive. It is by noticing and questioning our fundamental beliefs we heal, grow, and become the authors and architects of an emerging self. All of these require tender nurturing: the loving touch of a gardener. This is the garden part of the process. I have been intrigued for years by myth, illusions, fantasy and those who stimulate that fallow part of my mind, one author in particular raised an intriguing question:

“What do we do when we no longer feel what our souls may find shelter beneath the umbrella of a single historical orthodoxy, which has already answered long ago—and to its satisfaction certain annoying perennial questions: What is the meaning of life? To what basic values shall we hold. . . .Our personal schizophrenia is echoed in the broken mythology of our culture. (Pg. 16, Stephen Larsen The Mythic Imagination.)

Why mythic garden? Because I have been fascinated by mythology and the ways people (often shattered) build their worlds into meaningful, coherent life narratives. In my journey, I discovered many essential ways mythology leads to healing. I believe we each have a unique life story and this is what connects us all: shared myths, beliefs, and symbols. I also have found that a coherent narrative is essential for a significant live experience. It is, I believe these shared moments of connecting which humanize us. (The shared narrative.)

Trident Maple

The process often begins with a crisis which launches our Hero’s Journey into the pathless way where we are left devoid of our old conventional mythology. The mythic part involves creating, evolving, and living a new personal mythology. The work of Joseph Campbell has been foundational to me as well as many others in my exploration in this arena. Through his inspiration I have discovered that it is this personal mythos which sustains, integrates, and gives coherent meaning to our personal narrative. It is what helps us to make sense of our lives and enables us to live with purpose and meaning. It is a process of discovery which I call the Hermeneutics of experiencing: this is a method of interpreting and working with our experience, including our dreams, fantasies, and our way of making sense of experience. I developed this when I was doing research for my doctoral dissertation: “The Dialectics of Identity.” In my research on crises of identity, I found most crises to be based in Anxiety and Despair. Anxiety is the basis of life, the fear of death, and our human existence. Despair is related to the quest for meaning and the experience of meaninglessness. In our crisis we find ourselves dealing with these fundamental dynamics. In my quest I often find unexpected jewels, which serve as a prism which gives me just a little different view on things. Here is one I found over 30 years ago, given to me by a friend.

The Prince and the Magician

Once upon a time there was a young prince who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses. He did not believe in islands, he did not believe in God. His father the king told him that such things did not exist. As there were no princesses or islands in his father’s domains, and no sign of God, the prince believed his father.

But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace and came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he was searching for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached him along the shore. “Are those real islands” asked the young prince. “of course they are real islands, “said the man in full evening dress.” “And those strange and troubling creatures?” “They are all genuine and authentic princesses.” “then God must also exist!” cried the prince. “I am god.” Replied the man in evening dress, with a bow. The young prince returned home as quickly as he could. “So you are back,” said his father, the king. “I have seen islands, I have seen princess, I have seen god.” Said the prince reproachfully. The King was unmoved. “Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God exist.” “I saw them!” “Tell me how was God dressed.” “God was in full evening dress.” “Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?” The prince remembered they had been. he king smiled. “That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived.”

At this the prince returned to the same land the next day and went to the same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full evening dress.

“My father, the king, has told me who you are,” said the prince indignantly. “You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands and real princesses, because you are a magician. The man on the shore smiled. “it is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father’s kingdom, there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under your father’s spell, so you cannot see them.” The prince pensively returned home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eye. “Father, is it true that you are not a real king; but only a magician?” The king smiled and rolled back his sleeves. “Yes my son, I‘m only a magician.” “Then the man on the other shore was God?”

The man on the other shore was another magician.” “I must know the truth, the truth beyond magic.” There is no truth beyond magic,’ said the king.

The prince was full of sadness. He said, “I will kill myself.” The king by magic caused death to appear. Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered. He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses. “Very well,” he said, “I can bear it.”

“You see my son,” said the king, “you too, now begin to be a magician.”

What does it take for all of us to become Magicians? That is the intriguing question, in order to live; I believe we must find ways to create myths to live by. But before we do that we must get out from under the sheltering umbrella of a conventional world view as well as out from under our father’s spell. Metaphorically, we bring magic to our lives and they become enchanted.

Joseph Campbell says that every generation must have new metaphors. This is my vision for this site. I invite you to stop and sample some of the things I have written, participate in dialogue with me and share your story. Perhaps as we meet we will establish a cyber community and become a place where I hope to connect with individuals who wish to increase their awareness, expand their boundaries, learn about themselves, and become better informed about the things which matter most, the whole spectrum of psychology as a way of understanding ourselves and life.

It is for me the most fascinating thing in the world: exploring the inner horizons of the human experience. My perennial questions are, who am I? How do I make sense out of my world and live with meaning and purpose? How do we recover from catastrophic experiences? What is the role of faith in the transformation process? How do we create community in this large, anonymous, indifferent world? Martin Heidegger says that man must live poetically. This is done, I have found, by creating new and more powerful, sustaining metaphors. Metaphors from the depths of our beings filled with emotion which help us to see the world differently.

My garden is an actual place I have been working on for 15 years, it is full of Bonsai Plants I have designed and cared for. I have included pictures of them in this site. This is where I relax, meditate, and enjoy moments of solitude. Caring for my plants has become part of a routine way of caring for me. I have found that Bonsai is a good metaphor for life. We create, design, water, care for and become engaged with the process of stillness and solitude. We focus on the essence of the tree (self), stripped of all artifice, standing out in its simplicity. In the words of the poet Blake: If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would behold everything as it is, infinite.

In this web site I hope you will share your stories. There will be a space for comments, guest bloggers, and discussion of relevant themes related to healing from trauma and other life wounds. You may also download my blogs, purchase my books and ask me questions which I will answer.

Leave a Reply