With Father in the Motherland

Photograph by Michelle Engberg While taken in Arizona and not Sri Lanka, this picture captures the spirit of my relationship with Dad-- joyful, and with a subtle darkness... 

Photograph by Michelle Engberg

While taken in Arizona and not Sri Lanka, this picture captures the spirit of my relationship with Dad-- joyful, and with a subtle darkness... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 

I recently traveled to Sri Lanka, my father’s country. Our first father-daughter vacation, I’d planned it to give me time to bond with Dad, as the man he was. We were thousands of miles from my mother and her stories of him as her ex-husband, as my father, and as the spiritual incarnation of her own father. These narratives have enrooted in my life the archetype of the Sky Father. Transcending her (our) personal pain, the Sky Father has become a primary archetype since the patriarchy pervaded Western culture and much of the globe. Whether violent or passive in his personality, he can implode into silence. Surrounding his silence is his kingdom of unspoken knowledge, wisdom, and emotion. Within his kingdom, the Sky Father is unreachable. We experience him as our intangible witness, whose existence we know in his power over us, and in our longing for him. 

The Sky Father, in his immortal and human forms, is defined by the absence of the Feminine. I would describe the Feminine as the quality of embodied love that is vital to the survival and thriving of human beings. It fills the yearning hollows of our bodies with recognition, holding, and touch. Through and beyond our open communication with one another, the Feminine allows us to flourish, to descend into our depths, and to revive ourselves and others. Through the stories of my mother, I've come to know not only the Sky Father, but also our vision of a man balanced in his Feminine energy. He’s a man who provides us his wild, joyful surge of love and protection, real as his own hands. In his presence, children ride laughing on their first bicycles. He imbues in others the courage to explore the world ethically and as they truly desire, in the natural exuberance of play. Powerfully at one with his community, this man celebrates the professional, civic, and personal triumphs of its members with both confidence and tenderness.

My expectation was that my father-daughter adventure would allow Dad to demonstrate the feminine aspect of his love. I believed that we would become closer in the proximity of his family and his motherland. There, he would be naturally inspired to envelop me in the stories that define him as he really is, and I would use them to heal my struggle with the Sky Father.

Photograph taken by Chandrika Gunatilaka Abeyagunawardena, edited by Michelle Engberg The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Photograph taken by Chandrika Gunatilaka Abeyagunawardena, edited by Michelle Engberg

The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Yet, within Sri Lanka’s green and intimate crevasses, I coveted my solitude.

What I realized, is that while bonding in the flesh with the ones we love is vital to our healing, healing requires more solitude than we often anticipate. We need the time to be alone with the past, present, and future of the archetypes that shape our lives personally and collectively. In confronting the experiences through which these archetypes live, we can then grieve and release the pain between us and what and whom we hold to be most vital.

So, I nestled, vibrant-- even in my hours alone-- between the water, the plants, the animals, and the human beings that merged in loving vastness. There, I became strong and attuned enough to the visions and the urgencies of my own being, in order to grieve through the Sky Father distancing Dad from me. This process, in turn, has freed me. I’m freer to strengthen my bond with my father, to become more receptive with and for the men I adore, and to embody the love, recognition, protection, and courage I've hungered for all my life.

Equipped with our desire to enter more authentic, fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others, we navigate through personal and collective pain, our own lived wisdom, and the wisdom of the human experience. We learn, balancing between our inner and outer worlds, to continually negotiate our life stories. In doing so, we recognize and transform our relationship patterns. While healing our most crucial bonds is a lifelong process, with commitment we evolve the competency and the freedom to know and love our men, women, and children wholly.

 

{C}1.  How can we learn to accept the Sky Father as he presents himself in the men we love with greater compassion?

{C}2. How can we learn to manage our expectations of how men, women, and children should relate, so that we can become clearer on the true nature of our relationships?

{C}3. What key patterns of behavior have structured your family, and how are you working to understand, leverage, and/or transform them?

 

For more information about human archetypes and how they shape, enrich, and complicate the psyche, I recommend the following books:

{C}1. Gods in Everyman by Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen

{C}2. Goddesses in Everywoman  by Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen

{C}3.  The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by C.G. Jung. While I haven’t personally read this work, Jung is credited for defining the Archetypes. I discuss in this entry the dark aspects of The Sky Father, a form of the Father Archetype, through my own limited interpretation and experience.     

{C}4.  The Power of Myth  by Joseph Campbell

 

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