Jean Houston: Possible Life Transformations

by Camille Pierce


Recently, I had the opportunity of experiencing one of Jean Houston's book signing/lectures in Santa Cruz, CA. To my delight, she was an emotionally compassionate and extremely intelligent woman. Currently, Jean is co-director of the Foundation for Mind Research, a past President of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, a consultant to UNICEF, and author of such books as The Mythic Life, The Possible Human, and The Search for the Beloved.

Ms. Houston represents what many might call a true mythic personality. A portion of a Chapter from her book, A Passion for the Possible: A Guide To Realizing Your True Potential called The Mythic Journey suggests an excellent way that each of us might become stronger in body, mind and spirit. She believes that each of us can courageously examine our accomplishments and fears. In A Passion for the Possible, Jean writes, "When we reframe our life story or enter consciously into myth's potent dramas, we find new metaphors for conflict and conciliation, we strengthen our personal shields, we discover power objects to protect us from, and we forge new bonds with glorious inner allies."

Perhaps, one of Jean Houston's most important statements in the book is, "The world within...has been called many things. Saint Teresa of Avila termed it the Interior Castle. Trappist monk and mystic, Thomas Merton spoke of the Seven-Storied Mountain. Psychologists talk about the personal and collective unconsciousness.... In the Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy calls it "our own backyard."

In the past couple months, I've had the pleasure of personally corresponding with Jean as she so delightfully terms, "on and off the cyberwaves!" I appreciated her comment that I'm a good example of a true mythic personality. At one point during Ms. Houston's Santa Cruz lecture, she asked the 200+ participants how many of them use a computer. A majority of hands went up, including mine. Many hands went down as she asked the audience if they utilized cyberspace more than 25 hours a week.

When she noticed my hand still raised, she walked over and personally asked me why I was there and where was my laptop?!? Naturally, I turned every shade of red imaginable!! She truly apologized for embarrassing me. However, I found her reaction to be an excellent example of the importance of healthy laughter and good natured humor to hopefully balance our often chaotic personal lives. She personally autographed my book with the words, "Be passionate. God, look up from the computer screen, sometimes!" She then drew a charming picture of her smiling face inside a computer screen.

Little time was spent discussing the personal difficulties she had to face while assisting First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with her book. In A Passion for the Possible, Jean commented that she "...found (her) porch and lawn covered with reporters and camera crews looking for news of something that never happened...A report that the First Lady and I had engaged in an imaginative exercise in which we reflected on what Eleanor Roosevelt (might have said)." Responses such as "Seance!" and Witchcraft!" tarnished the writer's reputation for many years. Yet, Jean Houston made a remarkable recovery from that very challenging incident.

It is my assumption that Ms. Houston is an excellent example of what might be termed a "wounded healer." A Passion for the Possible states, "At the time of wounding it is difficult and yet absolutely essential to look at what happened in fresh ways...Are we in a cauldron of pain or a chalice of opportunity?...Personal wounding opens us, as nothing else can, to the larger reality that we contain."

A recent New Age Journal article with Jean Houston and Marianne Williamson called Frontier Women, begins by asking its readers "How can we take action to create a more positive future? And what do we do if we're attacked for challenging the status quo?" Each of us has our own individual way of dealing with such a question. I, Camille Pierce, have had a seizure disorder most of my life and have experienced several life threatening situations. However, rather than view my disability as a "cauldron of pain," I choose, most of the time, to see it as a "chalice of opportunity."

Jean Houston writes, "Was Helen Keller disabled? Technically, yes. Essentially, no. She had rewoven the filaments of the senses that remained to her into a net that could catch the world and its creatures...Can we, like Helen, go deeper into that vast storehouse of alternative ways of knowing and bring back new ways of savoring the richness and glory of the physical world?" Personally, I believe that each of us has a wealth of untapped capabilities. Courage and the willingness to do self-exploration is, I believe, one of the most difficult challenges each of us can face.

When speaking of ways of developing visionary powers in A Passion for the Possible, Ms. Houston says, "Visualize with your inner eye a place that is nearby and familiar. Put in as many specific details as you can. Then go and look at the place and see how accurately you pictured it. Close your eyes and use your visual imagination to add new features to your inner picture."

I've found this exercise quite helpful. I thank Jean Houston for encouraging me to further tap my inner resources and, in some small way, notice that I am a creative, talented and special individual. About a year ago, I joined Joel Metzger's Online Noetic Network. I was particularly taken by some words on his web page, "Life holds a simple peace and a mighty power. The peace can anchor us from the inside and give clarity. The might can overpower chaos and resistence, both our own and that which is imposed. Our capacity for awareness is the door to enter this peace and power."

Together, Jean Houston and Howard Jerome wrote a song called, "You Are More!" Some of its lyrics are:

You are more than you pretend to be
You are more than what most eyes can see
You are more than all your history
Look inside and you will find
There's glory in your mind
Come be the kind of person you would be...

At the end of her book, A Passion for the Possible: A Guide To Realizing Your True Potential, one can find the following, "For further information concerning Jean Houston's seminars, books, and tapes please write to her at Box 3300, Pomona, New York 10970.

As Jean H. says in A Passion for the Possible, "let your mind give you a story, one you may already know or one that your mind discloses, and journey with it on the high road to adventure and transformation." It is my personal hope that eternal peace and harmony of body, mind and spirit be with each reader of this article as you take a mental and spiritual journey into unchartered waters in hope of finding new, hidden secrets of your personality.

Camille Pierce


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