James Hollis: A Summons to a Deeper Life

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February 27, 2018

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James Hollis is a licensed Jungian analyst and the author of many books on personal development and the search for meaning. His works include What Matters Most, Why Good People Do Bad Things, and Through the Dark Wood. With Sounds True, he has published Living an Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with James about what it means to “grow up” in a contemporary society that infantilizes its citizens. They talk about how to recognize the summons of our deep psyche and the steps we must take in order to answer it. James explains that the greatest obstacles to attaining spiritual maturity are fear and lethargy, and describes the inevitable periods of darkness that we will encounter along the way. Finally, James and Tami discuss why it’s important to our development that we choose meaning over happiness. (67 minutes)

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JAMES HOLLIS, PhD, is a Jungian analyst, a former director of the Jung Society of Washington, DC, and a professor of Jungian Studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston. He is a bestselling author whose 15 books include Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, The Eden Project, What Matters Most, and Living an Examined Life. He lives with his wife, Jill, in Washington, DC. For more, visit jameshollis.net.

Author photo; Oxana Holtmann 

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interview with James Hollis:
A Summons to a Deeper Life »

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James Hollis: The Goal of Life Is Meaning, Not Happine...

Dr. James Hollis is a Jungian analyst, a former executive director of the Jung Society of Washington, DC, and a professor of Jungian studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston. He is the author of 16 books including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, Living an Examined Life, and, most recently, Living Between Worlds. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Hollis about his latest work and the increasing sense of importance for many people around living more meaningful lives. They also discuss how to find resilience during difficult times, how our souls let us know when we’re not on the right path, the difference between “meaning” and “purpose,” and more.

James Hollis: A Summons to a Deeper Life

James Hollis is a licensed Jungian analyst and the author of many books on personal development and the search for meaning. His works include What Matters Most, Why Good People Do Bad Things, and Through the Dark Wood. With Sounds True, he has published Living an Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with James about what it means to “grow up” in a contemporary society that infantilizes its citizens. They talk about how to recognize the summons of our deep psyche and the steps we must take in order to answer it. James explains that the greatest obstacles to attaining spiritual maturity are fear and lethargy, and describes the inevitable periods of darkness that we will encounter along the way. Finally, James and Tami discuss why it’s important to our development that we choose meaning over happiness. (67 minutes)

Our Journey into Deeper Mystery – with James Hol...

James Hollis, PhD, is a graduate of Zürich’s Jung Institute, a licensed Jungian analyst practicing in Houston, Texas, and author of 13 books, including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life and What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life and the Sounds True audio learning program Through the Dark Wood: Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

Here, Dr. Hollis invites us to discern directly what a “spiritual life” is for us personally, opening ourselves to the mystery of our time here as a human being. At the end of our life, shares Hollis, we want to be able to say we’ve been here, that it mattered, that we lived our journey and not someone else’s, and that we’ve touched the deepest part of who we are.

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Standing Together, and Stepping Up

Dear Sounds True friends and community,

While holding a mirror to our own organizational accountability, Sounds True unequivocally stands in solidarity with the Black community, the family of George Floyd, and the many others who have been victims of police brutality and ongoing racial injustice.

We stand with and for our Black employees, our Black authors and colleagues, our Black customers, and all of the protestors and social change activists—past, present, and future— who are working to put an end to racism in every corner of our society.

And we are committed to not just stand in solidarity but to step up.

Since George Floyd’s murder, we have been having many in-depth discussions among the 125-person staff at Sounds True about the most meaningful actions we can take as a transformational learning company to help educate ourselves and our community and contribute to the dismantling of racism.

We have been asking ourselves questions such as:

  • How can we best use our platform to better amplify the voices of wisdom teachers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)?
  • What’s in our Shadow, as individuals and as an organization? What unconscious areas must now be brought into awareness?
  • And how do we actively address these areas so that we can evolve as an organization and be a force of genuine service in the world?

The answers to these questions are not simple, quick, or easy. It has taken me a while to write this email to you, our beloved customers and Sounds True community, because we have felt as a team the need to listen carefully and look deeply within in order to lay out an action plan moving forward that will contribute to meaningful and substantive change.

Anything less falls short of what I believe this moment is asking of us.

We also want to learn and evolve in partnership with you. We are learning and growing together as a community, and it has been important for us to create a moving-forward action plan that invites engagement from our entire audience.

With arms wide open, I invite you to witness, support, and step up with us in the following ways:

  • Over the next two years, Sounds True will be undergoing an in-depth Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training in the workplace. This training initiative has been in development for over a year, and will be provided by TMI Consulting, led by Dr. Tiffany Jana. Dr. Jana is coauthor of the books Overcoming BiasErasing Institutional Bias, and Subtle Acts of Exclusion. As part of the training, we will be uncovering how unconscious bias, microaggressions, and micro-acts of exclusion show up in the workplace, in our personal lives, and even in our products. The training also includes a thorough audit of Sounds True’s hiring practices, HR policies, marketing materials, and more.
  • Sounds True also wants to include our customers, authors, and partner businesses in the introductory phase of this training process that we will be embarking upon. With that in mind, we are hosting a three-part webinar series on “Healing Racism” with Dr. Jana, beginning on Wednesday, June 24, at 8:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm PT. The series is free, and we are inviting our customers, authors, and business associates to join the Sounds True staff for this online training and to walk this part of our journey together. As someone on our email list, you will be receiving all of the details in future emails.
  • It is clear to us at Sounds True that we need to publish and otherwise amplify the voices of more authors and presenters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. If you have ideas about new BIPOC authors you would like to see published at Sounds True or included in our summits and online offerings, please write to us at acquisitions@soundstrue.com.
  • The Sounds True Foundation, formed in 2018, is increasing its efforts to raise scholarship funds for BIPOC students to attend our Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program and become trained as mindfulness teachers who will bring this practice to diverse communities all over the world. We will be hosting a virtual fundraiser on June 30 for this initiative and will be emailing you with more details.

As I mentioned, working to dismantle and heal racism—in ourselves, in our organization, and in our world—is not a flash-in-the-pan effort at Sounds True. This is a long-haul commitment to the creation of a different world that is just, kind, and equitable. And we have a heckuva road to travel with you to get there.

And we are committed. We don’t want to simply talk about spiritual awakening. We want to embody it … as individuals, as a company, and as a force in the world. Humbly and boldly, we are going to give everything we have and invite you to do the same. This is the time for us to step up, together.

With love on the journey,

Tami Simon

Founder and Publisher, Sounds True

James Hollis: The Goal of Life Is Meaning, Not Happine...

Dr. James Hollis is a Jungian analyst, a former executive director of the Jung Society of Washington, DC, and a professor of Jungian studies for Saybrook University of San Francisco/Houston. He is the author of 16 books including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, Living an Examined Life, and, most recently, Living Between Worlds. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Hollis about his latest work and the increasing sense of importance for many people around living more meaningful lives. They also discuss how to find resilience during difficult times, how our souls let us know when we’re not on the right path, the difference between “meaning” and “purpose,” and more.

The Power of Mapping Your Emotions

It’s in everyone’s best interest to learn to remove the emotional blinders and identify emotions accurately, both the uncomfortable and the upbeat ones. After all, unpleasant emotions are normal and natural, a fundamental part of being human. Emotions fluctuate on a daily basis, often several times in a given day. If you didn’t experience negative feelings now and then, the positive ones wouldn’t be as noteworthy or joyful; your emotional life would likely be unnaturally narrow. You would also be deprived of the opportunity to glean important insights into yourself. Feelings, both the good and the bad, are silent messages, alerting you to pay attention to something in your personal or professional life, in your behavior, or in the world around you.

Instead of separating emotions into categories such as good or bad, positive or negative, happy or sad, it’s better to view all your emotions as useful information, as “evolutionarily evolved responses that are uniquely appropriate to specific situations,” says Karla McLaren, MEd, author of The Language of Emotions. “When you stop valencing, you’ll learn to empathically respond to what’s actually going on—and you’ll learn how to observe emotions without demonizing them or glorifying them.”

Being able to recognize and express what you’re feeling helps you better understand yourself (leading to greater self-knowledge); validate your emotions and tend to your own emotional needs; and take steps to address those feelings directly by communicating and responding to them effectively. Having emotional self-awareness can motivate you to make healthy changes in your life, take action to improve the world around you, and become more psychologically resilient—that is, better able to cope with crises and rebound from setbacks.

Learning to Unpack Your Emotions

For some people, engaging in free association can clear the cobwebs from their minds, almost like opening the cellar door to a musty basement and letting in light and fresh air. To do this, you might take a break and consider how you’re feeling about what you’re doing, reading, seeing, or thinking every few hours throughout the day. If a general word comes to mind—such as stressed, anxious, or angry—dig deeper and ask yourself what other emotions you might be feeling (maybe fear or annoyance) along with it. If you do this out loud in unedited, private moments, you might find yourself blurting out what you’re really thinking or feeling, revealing the emotions that are taking a lot of energy to keep inside. This is really about unpacking your suitcase of feelings, or untangling the knot of emotions that is taking up space inside you.

When you think about this in the abstract, it can be hard to pinpoint how you’re feeling. You may just see a swirling mass of a feeling quality such as “dread” or “foreboding” rather than recognizing the specific emotions you feel. To get to the root of your feelings, spend five minutes looking at the word cloud below—no more than five so that you don’t have time to filter your responses—and choose the emotions that resonate with your mood-state lately.

If reviewing these words evokes other feelings for you or if words or phrases that apply to you were not on this word cloud, jot these down in the blank word cloud that follows. Give yourself another five minutes to think about your recent state of mind and jot down phrases, images, or words that occur to you. This is your opportunity to personalize it without any limits or restrictions. If you feel stymied or draw a blank initially, think about your recent responses to current events or situations in your personal life or on the world stage. Try to be as honest as you can by focusing on how you’re really feeling when no one is watching—free-associate without judging, censoring, or revising what you write down.

Once you’ve finished your list, look at the order of the words you wrote down: Did they progress from all negative to increasingly hopeful? Do they portray an internal tension or friction in going back and forth between various feelings? If all the words are positive, consider the possibility that you may be in some degree of denial, focusing only on the window dressing rather than the emotions that lie beneath the surface. Also, consider this: Is there a pattern of shallow, visceral reactions that came out initially, followed by more complex thoughts and feelings? If so, think about whether you’re giving yourself enough time in your life to reflect. If you came out with highly intellectualized words or phrases first, it might suggest that you put on a bit of a facade when engaging with the world, and you might benefit from striving for a deeper engagement or familiarity with your emotions.

This is an excerpt from Emotional Inflammation: Discover Your Triggers and Reclaim Your Equilibrium During Anxious Times by Lise Van Susteren, MD, and Stacey Colino.

Buy your copy of Emotional Inflammation at your favorite bookseller!
Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop

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