I’ve always been interested in the fascinating world of psychology, and more recently, in the practice of mindfulness as well. That’s why I’m presenting you with this special guest post today to talk about mindful thinking, and to celebrate the release of Stanley’s new book. I love to learn through stories, so I’m definitely intrigued! – Anne
Conscious Writing: The Mindfulness of the Unseen in Parables
by Stanley Siegel
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 sense.
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.
Stanley’s book is set to $2.99 only for the first week of the book’s release and will increase to $4.99 after next Saturday.
About the Author
Stanley Siegel is a psychotherapist, author, lecturer, and former Director of Education and Senior Faculty member of New York’s renowned Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. With nearly 40 years of experience in the field of psychology, Stanley has developed a bold and unconventional approach to psychotherapy that has led to his previous book, Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life. Stanley has taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Adelphi University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Additionally, he was the founding director of the Family Studies Center in Huntington, NY, and has served as a consultant to hospitals and mental health centers throughout the country.
The creator and writer of the “Families” column for Newsday, Stanley also co-authored two popular books: The Patient Who Cured His Therapist and Other Unconventional Stories of Therapy, and Uncharted Lives: Understanding the Life Passages of Gay Men, both of which have been translated into 6 languages. His books serve as the basis for workshops around the country. Stanley has served as the review editor for two professional marital therapy journals, and his work with couples and families is the subject of two educational videos.
Stanley’s lifelong interest in art has included a period during the mid-1990s as the Dance Editor for Showbusiness, in which he reviewed and reported on the dance scene in New York City. Stanley created the popular sex column Intelligent Lust for Psychology Today magazine, which is now featured in Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, for which he is Editor-in-Chief. It also appears regularly throughout the Middle East in the FitNStyle magazine.
* Note from Anne: If you are, like me, a non-native English speaker and have no clue as to what a parable is: A parable is a simple story used to illustrate moral/spiritual lessons or principles featuring human characters. If you already knew this: jeez, I need to upgrade my English vocabulary!