Symbols and Signs
It is mentioned in the Talmud that we see things not as they are but as we are. This explains not only why men have trouble finding anything in the kitchen, but also why the moment you understand the law of karma, you no longer get irate about parking fines. The more you see, the more there is to see. The more you know, the more there is to know. For example, take the paradox of love. C.G. Jung, one of the greatest psychologists of last century, said that ‘true love’ doesn’t exist but is a reflection of an inner archetype made real. Paradoxically, the more we search for ‘true love’, the more we learn how to love ourself, and in doing so, allow ‘true love’ to flourish with someone else.
Spiritual symbolism, where inner states are mirrored by outer events, is as old as humanity itself. Our mind uses physical objects (totems, icons and mantras) as means of representing our inner feelings and emotions. Thus, when we see an external object that closely resembles an inner symbol or hear words that resemble known inner dialogues with self, we impart these external sounds and sights as having supernatural, mystical or spiritual origins. That is, a spiritual message arising from a mundane source. The more symbolic our daily life is, the more imbued it is with symbols, and the more symbols and signs begin to appear in our everyday life. St Francis of Assisi, always bent to the spiritual life, once heard the words ‘Go, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” St. Francis interpreted this as meaning that he had to repair the church, and so this became the burning mission of his life. If another person had heard those words, they may have interpreted it to mean a need for psychiatric counselling or a backyard blitz. Few would have listened to those words as having a spiritual message. Even fewer would have heeded the implications of those words, or acted upon them the way St. Francis did. Thus it seems that spiritual symbols can be trivial or numinous, depending on the listeners ears, and with them comes a responsibility of acting upon the advice given.
A recently published book Awakening the Awareness Within discusses the modern implications of spiritual symbolism in a thought-provoking way. I was recently able to interview the author of this book, and asked her some pertinent questions about this fascinating topic.
– In your latest book, Awakening the Awareness Within, you mention that signs and symbols are around us all the time. Why is it that some people see these signs and others don’t?
CT: I think the biggest reason is because so many of us get caught up in the ‘physical’ side of life, forgetting that essentially, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Remembering this, we tend to see and feel things differently.
– Is it a matter of wishful thinking or do these signs really exist?
CT: Well, from my experience they definitely exist. Once you become open to the awareness of these signs, you begin to question the universe on whatever it is you need to know. It can seem a little weird at first if you’re truly new to it all, but it’s really important that you trust yourself on what you get. Making it a daily exercise can be a lot of fun and it’s amazing at how the answers come through.
– How relevant are these signs to where we are at? Are they telling us what we want to hear or are they telling us what we need to hear?
CT: Hmmm, good question! The signs are always relevant to where we are. One thing is for certain though, and that is that our minds are powerful and so we can think a sign means one thing when it in fact means another. Kidding ourselves is something we humans are good at sometimes! But what’s so great about it all is that the source of these signs will persistently show us what it is we need to know and in various ways, until we ‘get it’.
– What is the source(s) of these signs?
CT: The sources are the higher power that one may believe exists – God, the Universe, Angels, Guides, Buddha – whomever we relate to, communicate with or pray to, is our source.
– How individual are the signs? Can one sign mean the same thing for different people?
CT: It can do, but often it doesn’t. We each see, hear or feel whatever we need, depending on what our life situation is at the time. It’s important that you interpret what it means for you. For example, two people hearing a particular song on the radio can hold different messages for each. Again, trust what feelings it invokes and go with that.
– Can we invoke signs from our own inner fears / delusions?
CT: As I said earlier, our minds are powerful and so yes, I believe that we can. However, if you really focus on all that’s being shown, you’ll notice that often what accompanies these signs are those of encouragement and strength. Our state of being can definitely play a part on how we interpret messages. A good habit to get into when you’re not sure of a sign is to ask “What did that mean? Show me another version of that, but make it clearer and help me interpret it correctly.” Often they are just waiting to be asked.
– How long have these signs been around?
CT: Longer than we have…
– Your book highlights the importance of being self-aware or in a state ready for receiving signs. Is there ways for us to improve our listening; that is, make us more attuned to receiving these signs?
CT: Very simply, the more ‘in the moment’ we are, the more in tune we become. The easiest way to be ‘in the moment’ is through the breath. Breathe more deeply, and make it a practice to focus more on it. Besides it bringing you to the moment, it’s a great stress release technique.
– How do we know that what we are seeing is good or bad? Can some signs be from the devil?
CT: I believe all signs are good. Some can seem ‘devil based’, but in fact they are better described as warnings or wake up calls to our fears. Very often we receive signs that show us the way we think, in the hope that we look at it. For instance, I often see signs that show up as the word ‘FEA’. I know immediately that I’m sitting in some sort of fear, and so I work on looking at what it relates to so I can clear it.
– What form can signs take? Do we have to read number plates and billboards in order to get a message from guides/spirits? What if we live in the country?
CT: Signs come through anywhere, in many ways – words on a billboard, words in a song, number plates, or any other symbol, icon or object we relate to. Watch your reactions to them, and you’ll know the sign is for you.
– You discuss your own spiritual journey and how it was instrumental to your becoming sensitive to signs. Do we all have to go through a major life crisis to be able to see signs around us?
CT: Absolutely not! Just becoming aware of the guidance opens us up to receiving it. A life crisis often takes place as a wake up call and as a result of ignoring the gentler promptings. I often describe them as ‘getting hit with a brick’ moments, because we ignored the earlier more gentle strokes of urging.
– You have been a Reiki Master and practitioner for many years. How important is this work you do relevant to being able to see signs?
CT: It’s relevant in that it opens me further to receiving them. Reiki energy fills you with a sense of peace and oneness with all. In this space, I am more sensitive to everything around me. In turn, a person receiving Reiki feels the same peace, and able to live more in the moment, thus more open to everything around them.
– Does one have to be a vegetarian, or belong to a particular religion, in order to see signs?
CT: No, not at all. It’s true that looking after ourselves and living in a positive way, can enable us to feel peace, and so we should aim for that. However, as mentioned earlier, simple awareness of the guidance all around us will get us in touch with signs.
An interview with Chiara Tino is like having a Reiki session. Her breezy style refreshes the soul, and tempts me to emulate her state of ‘being in the moment’. In parting, she assures me that the only requirement of having a meaningful symbolic experience is inner space. ‘Man yearns to travel in outer space but avoids the inner one’. Chiara Tino makes spiritual symbolism sound easy.
But in this frenetic world, one asks the question, ‘Just how loud can the world within shout in order to be heard by the world without?’ The world needs more signs, but maybe it also needs more teachers like Chiara Tino to show us how to read these signs.
Authors Details: ‘Symbols and Signs’
Dr Jim Euclid (freelance author who lives in Melbourne) Interview of Author and Reiki Master Chiara Tino Web Site