Becoming a Practical Mystic

An Interview with Jacquelyn Small
By Mary NurrieStearns


Jacquelyn Small is well known for her inspirational work in the areas of spiritual psychology and personal-planetary transformation. She is the founder and director of Eupsychia, an institute for healing and training, based in her hometown of Austin, Texas. Through Eupsychia workshops and intensives, Jacquelyn guides people undergoing transformational processes into their deeper selves, so that they heal old wounds and gain understanding of who they really are, bringing sacredness and a sense of purpose back into their lives. She is the author of many books on the transformational process, including her most recent book, Becoming a Practical Mystic.

Personal Transformation: In your latest book, you say that transformation, in its essence, is the process of discovering our true spiritual intention. What is a spiritual intention?

Jacquelyn Small: First of all, our perception of reality governs our lives, and human perception comes through lenses in many sizes and shapes. Some people have a broad view of life while others have a narrow view and are more focused on the concrete activities of getting through each day. With a broader view of life, people begin to recognize that we have the power to govern how our lives unfold by our willing intention.

We remember that we are part of a bigger story, a divine Plan for humanity and that we have "our part" to do to manifest this Plan while on earth. As Dr. Carl Jung said, "We are players in a divine world drama." This awareness enables us to make it through our troublesome conditions in life with more ease, with less attachment or reaction to the small stuff. We maintain a stronger sense of sacred purpose to life, which keeps us in a continual process of transformation. Without a sense of purpose in life you won't be able to work with the concept of spiritual intention.

PT: What do we really transform?

Jacquelyn: We transform our ability to bring forth our highest ideals and manifest them in the world, and that begins with how we think. For instance, we can begin each day with a positive thought for ourselves and for life, and an intention to carry forward the remembrance of what we want to manifest for that day. We need to carry forth into each day self-remembrance, to remember who we really are. Most of us get caught up in thinking that we are much less than we really are.

PT: What do you mean by self-remembrance?

Jacquelyn: Self-remembrance is remembering that we are both human and divine and already connected to the higher order that rules this universe. It is remembering that we are co-creators, a fragment of divine purpose that governs reality. To move into self-remembrance, most people need to go into a state of meditation or prayer. If we begin each day with remembering who we are, we enter a state of consciousness where we are prepared to take responsibility for how creative we actually are, realizing that everything that goes through our minds creates something. Obviously, if I think negatively, I see all the negative things in life and draw those things to myself. If I can enter a state of consciousness where I remember that I am a daughter of a Higher Power, and not my conditions, I can use that awareness to start out every day with a sense of purpose. Everybody has to decide what he or she wants his or her spiritual purpose to be. It can be as small as wanting to have the characteristics and qualities of a very good person, or as big as wanting to be a change agent for the world, a world server.

PT: As we engage in transformational work, we develop a relationship with something greater, a divine energy or guidance. Are you saying that we have the choice to fill our heads with thoughts of this?

Jacquelyn: Yes. However, we will not know this unless we practice self-remembrance every day, because we won't have the concept as a living experience. We don't remember that we are creative, even though we create all the time with the powers of our minds.

PT: A practice of self-remembrance activates this knowing?

Jacquelyn: A practice of self-remembrance activates spiritual intention because once we remember who we are, we discover that we have the solutions to life's great problems within us.

PT: In addition to realizing that the answers are within us, do we find that we are not alone, that there is help?

Jacquelyn: That is right. An enormous awakening is happening and many people are waking up to the consciousness of the mystic. Mystics are born, they are not created. People recognize themselves as mystics when they remember that all of their lives, they have known there is something more grand going on here than is obvious. Once we move into self-remembrance, or self-creative observation, we start to change our course. We focus on what we spiritually intend rather than letting life's conditions overrule us. When you start your day with prayer, meditation or invocation, your day unfolds with intention. Otherwise the outer circumstances will create your reality: You go to the grocery store, have an argument with somebody, lose your checkbook, return home, become frustrated because you are late for an appointment, and at day's end, you are worn out from how the day's conditions took you over. When, upon arising, you spend ten or fifteen minutes focusing on who you are, what you are here to do and be, remembering with compassion the state of the world and how you might have a part in making it a more loving place to be, you start your day in a state of compassion and high self regard.

PT: You mentioned invocation. What is the power of invocation?

Jacquelyn: Invocation is active rather than passive prayer. Instead of saying, "Dear God, I'm a helpless creature, please give me what I lack," it's a prayer that says "I am a co-creator and I am willing to take responsibility for what you send me as my job today."

PT: What do we invoke?

Jacquelyn: You invoke what you intend to be your spiritual purpose for the day. You have to invoke daily, because every day, divine ideals arrive in us that make some things seem more important than others. We have to remember that life is unfolding according to patterns that have been created by a higher order. The conditioning of our childhood years impacts how we react to those patterns. Divine ideals are always trying to pour into the human process, but we are wounded, and don't pick up these divine ideals and do them with clarity. For instance, a higher ideal might be for us to be compassionate. Yet the human condition has made it so that we are mostly from dysfunctional families. Our parents did not realize that we were divine little beings born in a human body. Most of us were treated as though we were just little human egos. We were supposed to live up to the family codes and carry forth what the family believed was the truth. The truth is, we are here to clean out the conditioning that is blocking us from being pure reflections of divine ideals that are trying to pour into the human process. Our wounds distort us and we often act out of selfishness, fear or ignorance instead.

PT: As we activate our mystical nature, we bring the sacred into our ordinary lives.

Jacquelyn: We bring the sacred into the ordinary by remembering, first of all, that we are sacred beings. Most people have forgotten. Mystics are born knowing that life is purposeful and that humans are both human and divine. In times past, mystics were considered to be impractical because they were dreamers, visionaries who could see the future and understood what humanity was trying to accomplish. However, they usually were quiet and not activists. The archetype currently coming through human consciousness is the practical mystic, which is not just a seer of Spirit's work, but a doer of Spirit's work. I am a practical mystic. So are you. When something is revealed to us, we want to create a workshop around it or a magazine article so that others can learn. Practical mystics are the architects and the builders of the new consciousness that is pouring through our inner life now. We are receiving messages from these subjective realities because new energy has to come from within. It's exciting because we have to learn decode symbol and metaphor and understand our dreams. If it came from outside, it would be created already. It has to come from the uncreated to be something new.

PT: Whether we identify ourselves as a practical mystic, we can invoke this consciousness

Jacquelyn: Yes, We all begin with a self-purification process, no matter how wide our consciousness is and how much we see.

PT: You define self-purification as leaving behind earlier formed identities and stories that emerged out of our sense of who we were upon entering adulthood. What do we move into? What guides us as we begin shedding our smaller story?

Jacquelyn: Self-purification usually begins with some internal crisis. People become unhappy with themselves because they see that they are not living according to their higher ideals. My son works for one of the largest corporate consulting firms in the world. They recently surveyed their employees, asking how they saw themselves being in the world five years from now. 85% of the employees saw themselves leaving corporate America and going into creative pursuits becoming an architect, farmer or artist. There is an enormous yearning to put our lives in alignment with what we consider to be our highest human ideals, and every single human being knows that. But we have excuses and don't do it. We say, "I don't have enough money or time" or "I'm too busy" or "I need more education."

Therefore, we have to engage in some kind of spiritual practice daily. Every morning, we can decide, through the power of intention, to live life for that one day according to our highest ideals. Every night, for nearly twenty years, before going to bed, I've asked a question to my Higher Power. For instance, recently, I have been asking how I can become more creative again. This morning, upon awakening, I realized that my Highest Self had sent me a symbol, a wave of force, pearl gray in color, and shaped like a giant teardrop, that washed through my psyche. We are meaning-makers, and I interpreted this symbol to mean that my Higher Power was washing through my psyche, clearing out the conditioning that is holding me back. I go into self-doubt sometimes when I am alone. I work better in groups, and when alone, I sometimes forget how creative I am. Everyone has his or her own conditioning that gets in the way of our highest good. We must make these distortions conscious so they won't run (or ruin) us. In this self-purification, first we observe, because we have to be able to see what we are caught up in, and second, we change our course to refocus on what we spiritually intend.

PT: You state that archetypal energies help with self-purification. What is archetypal energy and how can we engage these energies?

Jacquelyn: Archetypes are the divine patterns of how to be perfectly human, the blueprints we grow into. They are divine ideals living in a higher dimension that seek expression through us.

PT: What are some examples of archetypes?

Jacquelyn: You and Rick, because you publish a magazine, are operating under the archetype of the Communicator in your current life work. There is a divine Communicator; a perfect way to communicate that exists in the world of the ideal. I, for instance, operate under the archetypes of the Healer and the Teacher. When I'm "on," all of my conditioning is out of the way, and I manifest as a pure expression for just a few moments, here and there, as a teacher or as a healer. Then my conditioning gets in the way and I go off course. It's unfortunate, but that's how we are. We struggle to live out these divine patterns on earth and not let the superficial aspects of life destruct us.

PT: Is the Observer an archetypal energy that helps with self-purification?

Jacquelyn: Yes, the inner Observer is an archetype. Without an Observer self, you can't do any kind of transformation because this inner Fair witness is a neutral observer. It sits and watches what you do, moment by moment. It makes the light bulb come on in your head when you see that you are off-key. For instance, let's say you have been invited to dine at a restaurant down the street from your office. Rather than driving by your office, you turn in the parking lot by habit, and start to open the car door, when the light bulb comes on, "Oh! I'm going to the restaurant." The Observer doesn't judge, it just nudges you and says, "Notice, you just made a wrong turn."

PT: It brings reality into awareness.

Jacquelyn: Yes, it brings something into consciousness. That's all. People confuse it with the Critical Parent, which is a voice in your head saying, "Shame on you, you stupid thing, look what you did." That is not the Observer. This is the ego state.

PT: Some archetypes become part of our greater story that informs our decisions. However, the Observer serves by bringing our past conditioning into awareness, helping with the psychological work of transformation.

Jacquelyn: Yes. The Observer lives between Spirit and the human self, as the middle one. It is a divine adjuster, if we will invoke it and listen. Unless invoked, however, it remains inactive in us.

PT: Give an example of how we invoke and utilize the Observer.

Jacquelyn: First, we have to realize that we have the power, moment by moment, to be in charge of our lives according to what we focus on and how we decide to be. Once you know you have the Observer and make it conscious, you move through the day with an attitude of self-creative observation. I imagine that mine sits on my right shoulder noticing what I do as I do it. That means, moment by moment, I notice how I am living up to what I have intended myself to be, or how I've gotten off-base, and if I've gotten off-base, I have to notice what caused me to deflect. For instance, I may feel compassionate while in a conversation with a friend, when she says something that threatens me, and suddenly, instead of being my Higher Self, who is a loving soul, I become this vicious little person for a moment, and I say something ugly. At that time, I need to pull back and reflect. What happened? What caused me to drop down and behave that way? I have to take responsibility for getting in touch with how my conditioning keeps me from being true to what I intend.

PT: Does the Observer help make conscious the shadow side and those aspects of us still connected to our old, small story?

Jacquelyn: It's a way of befriending our shadow side, and if you are in human form, you do have a shadow. No one is exempt.

PT: Which is not wrong or bad

Jacquelyn: The shadow is the parts of us that never matured, never had a chance to develop properly, and there are many reasons why. It may be that we were wounded as a child or that we are still innocent about something, not having had any experience with that particular aspect of life, and so we behave foolishly. People have the mistaken notion that the shadow is evil and bad, something they are supposed to cover up. We create more shadow by pretending that we don't have one.

PT: You talk about redemption and the role it plays in preparing us to embody our bigger story. Let's talk about redemption.

Jacquelyn: Redemption is tied to the process of salvation. We were taught that redemption is a moral issue, but it's not; its a psychological process. To redeem something means to go back and salvage it. We were born as precious daughters and sons of God. We come into dysfunctional families because we humans have not been educated to remember who we are. We are raised with flawed parenting and as a consequence, create what psychology calls neuroses and dysfunctional ways of relating to the world, and we wind up distorted. To redeem means you go back and do a self-corrective process in order to remember that you are a spiritual being in human form, rather than a little person who belonged to your mother and father. Often, people have to go to therapy or growth groups, or have a practice of self-reflection and meditation to work through the psychological wounds they have taken on. The process of becoming a practical mystic is a self-corrective course to get back in touch with who we really are and what we are here to do and be, which is to reshape and change this world into the ideal that it was intended to be. We are here to bring heaven to earth.

PT: This is not for the faint-hearted. How do we deal with the tensions, the emotional and physical strain of dying to the old while the new comes into formation?

Jacquelyn: Birthing new consciousness has to be done while staying focused on our spiritual purpose. Otherwise, we get trapped in low self-esteem and self-doubt and lose touch with our spiritual connection. We have been trained for two-hundred years through a belief system of pathology. We've been told that we are damaged, and given pathological labels, which makes us feel as though we are sick or crazy. This has to change. The discomfort that causes us to behave in improper ways is sometimes not symptoms of pathology, it is the birthing pangs of a new consciousness, which is very painful. Humans grow through processes of death and rebirth. Some deaths are small ones that don't bother us too much, but some are huge and we feel like we lose a lot at once. Staying focused on our spiritual purpose gives us the strength and substance to come through the pain and crisis, preventing us from getting lost. We have to utilize the Observer and we have to be in touch with the archetype we want to manifest, because archetypes sculpt our future. If I am trying to be a good teacher, I want to invoke the archetype of the Teacher. I want it to become my inner guide and to communicate with me. I have to know that it will speak through symbol, metaphor, dreams images and be willing to look at symbolic meanings. I gave an example earlier of the pearl gray wave image that came through my consciousness this morning as I was awakening. Our little ego struggles with this at first, because we have not been taught to look at our inner life with respect. We've been taught to seek money, success and fame. That's why my son's consulting firm managers were surprised when they saw, in the research, that young men and women in the company were aspiring to be artists and musicians, not vice presidents of the company! Again, to birth a new consciousness, we first have to sense what it is we are trying to become, which is different for everybody. Some might feel drawn to be a server or a warrior and others a magician or lover. All are sacred ways to express spirit.

PT: You are saying that we have to align with the archetypal energy that we are seeking. How do we know when the Divine calls us and how do we know which archetypal pattern is our greater purpose?

Jacquelyn: It will come from what you are naturally interested in. Some people have a passion to be a gardener and to help planet Earth be a more beautiful and healthy place to live. Others are interested in the psychological aspect of life; they want to know how to change human consciousness. Others are architects and want to design the buildings for the new age. We have to look at our passions and honor our desire nature whatever it is that we desire with all of our heart, what we yearn for when no one else is influencing us, who it is we are in our natural state. Then we have to identify the divine ideal of what we want to become. It might be the warrior or the healer. When you get in touch with the archetype you are seeking to bring into the world, you are going to hit a lot of trouble, unfortunately. You are going to work within the tension of the opposites, because you will have a part inside of you that is resistant to becoming that. We always do. That's the shadow, the part of you who will say, "Oh, you could never be that. My goodness, how arrogant of you to think that you could be a teacher." It will put you down, or distract you into "you better just make money," and send you on a fame trip, which can be an enormous distraction from what you are here to do and be. We have to be adamant about a spiritual practice that keeps us focused on what we intend. We have to stay true to it and not let society's norms pull us away. Once we invoke the archetype that we want to become, we have to learn how to live within the tension of the opposite, because everyone has a dark side that is a problem to be worked out.

PT: Do you see the approaching millennium as having significance to this kind of transformational process?

Jacquelyn: In every age of human history, there are people who feel a strong sense of destiny and realize that there's something bigger going on than meets the eye. At the end of centuries and at the end of millenniums, this intensity tends to coagulate into a powerful draw toward change. It's similar to the way we feel at the end of the year, when we make New Year's resolutions. Multiply that a million-fold, and that's what happens at the end of a millennium. However, we're not just at the end of a millennium, we're at the end of a 25,000-year cycle, and at the end of a 250,000-year cycle. There is an impulse within the human process that feels like we are passing through a doorway, entering a new dimension or birthing a new consciousness. Some think that something dramatic is going to happen. I personally don't believe that. I think there is going to be more desire in humans to preserve and improve life. It is interesting that negative archetypes are being exposed. Clinton, Monica and OJ Simpson have captivated our consciousness. Not only do we see that change is needed in our political, economic and education institutions, human beings are looking at archetypal patterns and saying, "Whoa, we really do need change." Unfortunately, human beings don't tend to change until there is a crisis. People with high visibility often reflect the archetypes, both their positive and negative sides. This helps us all see more clearly what we value and need to correct.

PT: In conclusion is there anything else that you would like to add?

Jacquelyn: If you are awakening right now, you know it, because the truth is, you are already a practical mystic. We are all mystics, and will awaken at some point to our true powers as living souls.

And finally, my prayer is that we all invoke the quality of right relationship, remembering that we are all brother and sister souls in one big human family. We need to let go of jealousy, possessiveness and competition, and see the beauty and unique creative potential in everyone and help bring that out in one another. This is what creates a better world.