depth v. growth

In my yoga class, last week I spoke about ‘depth versus growth’.

At some point I read something, or heard something, that originated in the words of James Hillman (a Jungian analyst, author, scholar). It was the idea of ‘depth versus growth’. That single phrase ‘depth versus growth’ has been bouncing around my psyche for a while now, informing my work as a therapist, and inspiring my own self-reflective process. Last week, in a gesture of spontaneity, the words made an appearance (uttered from my mouth) as I lead people into Savasana. I didn’t know that they would make an appearance, and I was left with a sense of refreshing curiosity in my inner dialogue … an ‘isn’t that interesting that those words surfaced today.”

Now this begins to be my interpretation of these words (and I am just beginning to play with grasping them): In the word ‘growth’ there is an implication that we are seeking an end. That there is a linear forward movement towards something. We could play with how that perspective, changes a process. When we are seeking something, it takes us out of the here and now and we potentially miss things. It reminds me of the Joseph Campbell quote, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Can we mourn this ‘goal’ of growth? Or perhaps it becomes about re-framing our perspective on the concept?

VERSUS Depth. What if the ‘answer’ already exists within us? If we were to peel back the layers (in a yogic framework we can reference the Koshas), what is at the center? What if it is not about seeking something outside of us, but rather finding what already exists within us? In going deep we are bound to confront darkness. Can that be okay? Is the hero prepared to journey to the underworld?  As therapist and teacher, to be the guide, there is a necessity of having comfort in that space.  The guide must know the path.

James Hillman expands upon this in the Acorn Myth, and there is much more to this concept than I am summarizing (and assigning my own interpretation). In short it is about ‘growing down versus growing up’. I believe that this has a beautiful overlap with yoga (big picture). In our culture (especially yoga culture) there is this overwhelming ‘self-growth’ movement.  I believe that this movement/focus counters, and minimizes, what I see as the true essence of the practice.

“Until the culture recognizes the legitimacy of growing down, each person in the culture struggles blindly to make sense of the darkness that the soul requires to deepen into life.”

— James Hillman


2 thoughts on “depth v. growth

  1. Kevin says:

    Interesting. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this subject lately and how I need to view growth in a different way. Looking increasingly inward, it’s a challenge but I’m trying. Thank you for this writing.


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