Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Positive Side of Depression April 22, 2014

In her brilliant book, “Psychic Energy,” Jungian analyst M. Esther Harding writes: “When life presents us with a new problem, a new chapter of experience for which the old adaptation is inadequate, it is usual to experience a withdrawal of the libido. For one phase of life has come to an end, and that which is needed for the new is not immediately at hand. This withdrawal will be experienced in consciousness as a feeling of emptiness, often of depression, and certainly of inertia, with an overtone of self-rebuke because of what seems like laziness or sloth.”

Have you ever been there? I have. Many times. And each time it happens it takes a while before I remember that this is simply another step in the journey. The road may be leading downhill for now, but it’s still there, and as long as I can place one foot in front of the other the story isn’t over yet. But what are we to do while we’re in the abyss of emptiness? The depths of depression? The islands of inertia? The swamps of self-rebuke?

First of all, we need to remember that when our libido, or psychological energy, withdraws, it is not gone forever. The laws of physics tell us that energy can be transformed but not destroyed. When we feel a loss of energy it simply means that the energy which was formerly available to our ego has sunk into the unconscious. Once it gets there, forces over which our egos have no control will have to be mobilized before the energy can return to consciousness. The ego usually feels to blame, but it is not, because it has no control over unconscious forces.

Second, in the words of Harding, “When the light of life dims and one is left in the darkness of depression, it is much more effective to turn for the moment from the objective task and to concentrate attention on what is going forward within, instead of forcing oneself to continue by a compulsive effort of the will.” Once the libido is no longer available to our ego, will power can only be used effectively to “follow the lost energy into the hidden places of the psyche by means of creative introversion.”

Creative introversion means working with our fantasies and dreams in creative ways that feel meaningful. These products of our unconscious speak to the hidden forces which have sucked our libido down into the dark belly of the whale, and their images can give us clues not only to the nature of the difficulty, but also to the solution.

For example, many years ago toward the end of an extended period of libido loss I kept imagining myself as a baby chick still inside an egg, pecking at the shell. I knew I felt trapped, but I didn’t know what was trapping me or how to get out. Exploring this and other waking and dreaming images through art and journaling highlighted features of my persona that had initially protected the new life in me but were beginning to smother it. As I kept pecking away, cracks appeared in my shell until it finally collapsed and I stepped out of my self-imposed prison. The extraordinary infusion of new life I’ve experienced since then has taught me to see libido loss and depression not as obstacles or enemies, but as helpful guides along the way.

My thanks to Dr. Judith Rich for the inspiration for this post. Check out her article on the Huffington Post to see her wonderful take on a related topic.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Value of Ritual April 15, 2014

In 1997 four other women and I formed an organization we called The Matrix. Our purpose was to discover, define, and address what is valuable in the lives of women. Having experienced many benefits from engaging in personal rituals, it was important to me to find concrete and memorable ways to express our hopes and desires for the Matrix — for example, to devise meaningful programs, to relate honestly, to work in harmony with one another, and to help women create connections with their own deep wells of wisdom — and so I created rituals for each meeting as well as the events we produced. To my delight, the others participated eagerly, and after a while I earned the unofficial title of “Ritual Lady,” a distinction I wore with great honor.

At first, the most obvious benefit of our planning session rituals was that they connected us with our innermost selves, often at levels much deeper than those normally accessible. Rarely did we complete a ritual without deep emotion and affirming new insights. This soul-baring work established the foundation for an unusual degree of intimacy and trust which gradually changed our group from a secular organization into a spiritual community. As a woman who has been very slow to trust that others would accept me if I spoke my soul’s truths, I experienced a huge breakthrough the first time my Matrix sisters created a special ritual for me in which to express some anger. Their encouragement to communicate honestly and openly, and their acceptance when I did, was life-changing.

I would never have had the courage to do this if we had not, meeting after meeting, month after month, year after year taken the time to create a sacred container for ourselves and our work through ritual. For me, this proves the truth of an assertion by Kay Turner in her article, “Contemporary Feminist Rituals,” that “Feminist ritual practice is currently the most important model for symbolic and, therefore, psychic and spiritual change in women.”

Whether personal or collective, rituals help transform individual souls and bring them into proper relationship with One Soul. In Turner’s words, “…ritual space and activity are sacred in the sense of representing the possibility of self-transformation. Part of the power and the fear experienced in ritual is the realization that one may change, become ultimately different, as a result of the experience or that the experience may suddenly make recognizable change that has been slowly rising from the depths of personality and ideology.”

A major benefit of ritual is growth in consciousness. As I wrote in my post from February, 2011 titled “Your Body As Your Partner in Dreamwork,” I’ve found that participating in original rituals helps me clarify and integrate important new insights. Even if I should someday forget the ritual my Matrix sisters conducted for me, the courage, relief, self-validation and personal empowerment I experienced changed me forever. I still feel anger and other powerful emotions, of course, but I am no longer at their mercy, nor do I feel compelled to deny them healthy outlets, for the simple reason that I am more conscious.

Before I began writing this post I lit the lemon grass and wheat-scented candle on my desk and spent a moment in quiet self-awareness. This never fails to inspire me. When I am finished, extinguishing it will bring the comfort of knowing I have completed a task that is important to my soul. What are the rituals that nourish your soul?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,  and Diesel Ebooks 

 

A Path With Heart April 11, 2014

Here’s a spiritual truth I’ve learned through personal experience. Without self-knowledge, all the offerings of organized religion — group worship, teachings, scriptures, retreats, sacraments, guidance from helpful religious professionals — and all the correct beliefs, good intentions and divine interventions we can experience are not enough to transform us into spiritually mature beings. Why? Because there is no such thing as spiritual maturity without psychological awareness! You can no more separate your spiritual self from the rest of your psyche than you can separate your right brain from your left and still be a whole, balanced human being.

In A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield tells the story of how he spent 10 years, many of them as a Buddhist monk, in systematic spiritual practices conducted primarily through his mind. Having had visions, revelations, and many deep awakenings and new understandings, this holy man returned to the United States to work and continue his studies in graduate school. To his surprise, he discovered that his years of meditation had helped him very little with his feelings or human relationships. In his words,

“I was still emotionally immature, acting out the same painful patterns of blame and fear, acceptance and rejection that I had before my Buddhist training; only the horror now was that I was beginning to see these patterns more clearly. I could do loving-kindness meditations for a thousand beings elsewhere but had terrible trouble relating intimately to one person here and now. I had used the strength of my mind in meditation to suppress painful feelings, and all too often I didn’t even recognize that I was angry, sad, grieving, or frustrated until a long time later. The roots of my unhappiness in relationships had not been examined, I had very few skills for dealing with my feelings or for engaging on an emotional level or for living wisely with my friends and loved ones.”

Many of us have known spiritually-oriented people who think very well of themselves yet are arrogant, mean-spirited, impatient, intolerant, critical or unloving. This common phenomenon is partly why Freud was so critical of religion. He must have asked himself many times how people who professed to love God could be so hateful to their families and neighbors; how such lofty ideals could co-exist with such lousy relationships. In the face of this perceived hypocrisy he dismissed humanity’s spiritual nature and focused on understanding the sexual instinct, the repression of which he believed to be the true source of our problems.

It would take Freud’s maverick mentee, Carl Jung, to discover the fundamental reality of our spiritual natures and understand that they cannot be fully activated and empowered unless we take our inner lives seriously and commit ourselves to owning and integrating our disowned qualities — instincts, emotions, hidden motivations, archetypal inheritance, everything. Jung had learned for himself that neither psychological nor spiritual dogma can heal our souls and transform us into spirit persons:  only consciousness can do that.

The work of this spiritual and psychological pioneer has made all the difference in my life.  I’d like to recommend two sites to anyone interested in learning more. For information about how you can start a Centerpoint study group write to: centerpointec.com  For a list of Jungian books you can use to begin your own program of study, check out Inner City Books.  I’m pretty sure you’ll never regret it.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Suspicious Girl April 1, 2014

Nurturing New Growth

Nurturing New Growth

I don’t usually talk or write much about sex. Yet I feel compelled to share this disturbing dream.

Dream #4518: The Suspicious Little Girl: I’m staying at a house with other people.  A noise wakes me up at night. Someone is opening the door.  An eleven-year-old girl who feels familiar is sleeping beside me. Fearing a man is sneaking in to kidnap her, I wrap my arms protectively around her. The shadowy figure of a woman stands by the bed looking shocked. She thinks I might be a child molester! I’m appalled. The next day we’re in a roomful of people when the girl asks me suspiciously, “What was last night all about?” I’m confused. I say defensively, “Darling, someone came into our room in the middle of the night! I was trying to protect you!” Nobody says anything. I sense their suspicion.”

The girl is near the age I was when my father died. As I work with the dream’s images three experiences from that time rise to my awareness.  The first is a dream in which the Lone Ranger shot me. I’ve since learned that for girls who lack the protection of a strong, vigilant mother, such a dream can express a budding awareness of her vulnerability to male predators.

The next summer a girl at church camp told me about rape. After that I saw predators everywhere. One day at a church outing in a state park, a friend and I were walking through the forest when an older boy we knew called out to us from the bottom of a wooded ravine, “Come here.  I want to show you something.” Terrified that he wanted to expose himself or worse, I raced back to the safety of the group, leaving Sylvia far behind.

The third happened one afternoon when I was home alone. The phone rang and a man asked for my mother.  When I told him she wasn’t home, he said, “You’ll do!” Then he described what he would do to me when he came over. I raced to my neighbor’s house where I stayed until my mother came home from work. I never felt safe in that house again.

I see the suspicious girl in my dream as the sensitive and innocent part of me that was traumatized by these events.  My dream ego’s assumption that the intruder was a man illustrates the power experiences like this have to create lasting bias in young minds.  And my instinct to protect the girl is equally strong in my waking life. The woman who was the actual intruder feels like a largely unconscious (night) aspect of my maternal instinct which suspects predatory agendas in adults who are overly intimate with other people’s children.  The group of adults (collective) who were suspicious of me the next day suggest the shared suspicion of female sexuality pervading Western culture…the Salem witch hunts come to mind. And my dream ego’s disbelief and defensiveness about their suspicion suggests some unconscious guilt about my female sexuality.

I recently read a comment by a woman who sees nothing good about men and truly believes the world should have an entire country closed to them so women can live without fear. I was shocked by her vehement one-sidedness, but this dream illustrates how dysfunctional male sexuality can wound a girl to the point that she acquires disdain for all males.  My first inkling of this possibility occurred at twelve. I was wandering through a drugstore when I saw a boy staring at me, peeking around the ends of the aisles, “stalking” me in an innocent boyish way. An innocent part of me was flattered, but a wounded part was more powerful. When he finally walked past me with a flirty, “Hello Cutie,”  I said, “Hello Ugly.”

Ow. Ow. Ow. How could I have been so mean?  Yet I felt totally justified.  For a moment that poor boy represented everything about maleness that felt overwhelmingly threatening. When I told my mother about it, I expected her to be proud of my pluck, but to my surprise she seemed shocked by my cruelty.  The fact that I assumed she’d approve tells me I had unconsciously absorbed part of this attitude from her.  Having never dealt with her own male-inflicted wounds, she passed them on to me.

Working on the above dream was disturbing, but then I re-read the following forgotten one from the previous night:

Dream #4517:  The Besotted Young Man.  A lovely young man of whom I’m very fond, (no one from my waking life), has been following me around. He sneaks up behind me in the kitchen of a big house where we’re staying. When I turn around to see who’s there, he surprises me with an awkward kiss. I enjoy the moment, then step back to look at him. His handsome face is red and intense with emotion. “Do you think it’s time we had sex?” he asks with hopeful innocence.  Not wanting to hurt my husband or him, I smile and gently caress his arm. “No, dear boy. I don’t.” He takes this well, as if it is what he expected.

This dream is a contemporary remake of my youthful waking experience in the drugstore. People go to drugstores for remedies to mental and physical wounds.  My cruelty to the young “stalker” was a symptom of a psychic wound inflicted by toxic masculinity and I needed a remedy.  A kitchen is a room where people gather to nourish body and soul.  My dream says I feel no need to be cruel to this young “stalker.” In fact, my greatest concern is not to hurt him.

As dream #4518 shows the parts of me that are still infected by the shadow of masculinity, this dream depicts the healing difference inner work can make.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014

Maiden/Princess

Maiden/Princess

Child

Child

Earlier this month on March 10, my darling child, Matrignosis, turned four years old.  As it has been with my human children, so it has been with Matrignosis in many ways: Pouring my passion into her and learning more about myself as she’s grown has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life.  Indeed, the overwhelming maternal feelings I have for her and what she’s taught me are reflected in the name I gave her:  matri (Lat. Mother), and gnosis (Gk. knowledge).

Yet, as she has developed through my creative outpourings, Matrignosis has been not only Child, but also Maiden, Mother and Crone to me.  All are part of the life cycle of women and the Sacred Feminine in whatever guise we see her: Goddess, Sophia, Anima, Soul, Yin, Mother Nature, Durga, Kali, the drive for species-preservation…..

As Child she represents my youthful innocence—all the instinctual feeling, vulnerability, wonder and openness I once had and to which I am returning, this time with awareness. (See Dreams of the Divine Child.)

As Maiden she is my dreaming Princess who lives in the questions and tolerates the tension between immaturity and maturity, ignorance and knowing, waiting for a kiss to guide her next steps in the dance. (See The Golden Bear.)

As Mother and Queen she has willingly embraced the otherness of masculinity.  In so doing, she has suffered the loss of innocence, established the boundaries of her identity, struggled to assume her sovereignty, and celebrated the birth of fresh, hopeful new life.  (See The Queen: Lioness of the Psyche)

As a Crone who is slowly and lovingly being stripped of youth’s illusions, she is opening to the mystery of Death while blessing the beauty and wisdom of her body,  experiences, and each fleeting moment of her miraculous life.  (See A Dream of Crones  and Crone Love.)

Matrignosis contains all these qualities and more, as do I. She also reflects my Shadow, the parts of me that are ignorant, self-centered, proud, stubborn, judgmental, defensive, unforgiving.  In some posts I’ve shared my flaws. In others I’ve withheld them. And sometimes they’ve snuck through the cracks in my Persona without my awareness, just as my Shadow sometimes erupts in my behavior.  That’s what Shadows do and I’m okay with that. There’s no human being so transparent that light passes through without casting a shadow.

Yet I am not just a physical body with a flawed personality.  I’m also an evolving soul with a sincere passion for self-knowledge, a deep love for Spirit, and a powerful desire to pass along what I have learned.  As such, Matrignosis is as much a testament to my soul’s healthy truths and accomplishments as to my ego’s unhealed wounds.

The combination of both is what makes me human.  My willingness to take my soul seriously enough to face and admit to both is what makes me heroic.  The same is true of you and every soul who suffers the shame of ignorance, who is appalled when your Shadow overrules reason and good intentions, who enters the struggle for understanding because you want learn how to love and help other suffering souls.  You. Are. Heroic!

And so in conclusion to this celebration of Matrignosis’s fourth birthday, I’d like to say that of all the good things she has brought into my life over the past four years, the courage to claim my soul’s heroism and let its light shine without apology or fear of judgment brings the most satisfaction.

Thank you for reading and sharing your truths here.  It means the world to me to have created this in-between space where heroic souls can meet.

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Crone

Crone

This is for you, Tony.  Did you ever know you are my hero?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa. 

Art: Wisdom Lady by C. Victor Posing. Used with permission.

 

The Well of Feminine Power March 25, 2014

In European and Chinese thought, the feminine principle is associated with passivity and the masculine with action. In Hinduism, however, the feminine is associated with creativity and action, and the masculine with manifestation.

The primary image of the feminine principle in Hinduism is the goddess Durga. In a myth called the Devi Mahatmya, a buffalo-headed yogi has become a monster whom none of the gods can overthrow. So the gods stand in a circle, send their energies back to where they came from, and a great black cloud appears. Out of it comes Durga, the goddess with eighteen arms. In each hand is a symbol of one of the gods. With the combined power of these symbols, she alone is able to defeat the monster.

In this story, masculine power is a specific form of the life energy that is feminine. As Joseph Campbell says in Pathways to Bliss, the feminine is the source of the energy and the masculine is its specification in any particular direction. She is the energy out of which creation arises, he is every visible manifestation of that energy. She is the whole; he is each individual part. This intuition from many spiritual traditions is probably why the feminine has long been associated with the dark sea of the unconscious, and the masculine with the ego consciousness which emerges from this maternal matrix.

Although the masculine and feminine principles are metaphors for the basic energies of every psyche, most of us associate them with the genders. As a result, Campbell says it’s much easier for a woman to identify with masculinity than for a male who is committed to his particular form to identify with femininity. All she has to do is take on a specification of the power that is already hers, but he has to give up his ego identity and personal field of power which feels like disintegrating into a formless void. This, of course, is exactly what the Buddha did, and that, says Campbell, was a heroic act of the first order.

In a perfect world, both forms of energy would be valued equally and every child would be helped to discover and activate his or her own unique blend of interests, skills and powers without regard to gender. But most of us have not yet attained that heroic level of consciousness. An immature ego with limited consciousness equates power with physical prowess and power over others. Sensing the magnitude of feminine power and fearing anything more powerful than itself, it represses the feminine principle in the psyche; and if it identifies with maleness, it will also tend to dominate and exploit females.

A well is a symbol of the feminine principle, the womb of the Great Mother, the human psyche.  We all contain Durga’s power: the totality of human potential. Our ego is only one form of that potential. We can choose to identify only with the familiar and comfortable qualities that are sanctioned by our families; or, if we want to, we can choose to activate our fullest power by accepting everything about ourselves we associate with the feminine principle, including tender feelings, instincts, caring, nurturing, evil, suffering, the capacity for intimate relationships, an understanding heart, intuition, etc.

In empowering Durga we can attain our destiny. What monsters hold you back from attaining your destiny? What do you have to lose by enlisting Durga’s help to overcome them?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncEbook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon, and at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

Formula for a Successful Marriage February 19, 2014

Still Together After All These Years

Still Together After All These Years

Yesterday my friend Pat sent me a link to an article in the New York Times she knew I’d like called The All-or-Nothing Marriage. It asks the question, “Are marriages today better or worse than they used to be?”  Writer Eli J. Finkel writes,

“This vexing question is usually answered in one of two ways. According to the marital decline camp, marriage has weakened: Higher divorce rates reflect a lack of commitment and a decline of moral character that have harmed adults, children and society in general. But according to the marital resilience camp, though marriage has experienced disruptive changes like higher divorce rates, such developments are a sign that the institution has evolved to better respect individual autonomy, particularly for women. The true harm, by these lights, would have been for marriage to remain as confining as it was half a century ago.”

After studying the scholarly literature on marriage, Finkel offers a third view.

“Perhaps the most striking thing I learned is that the answer to whether today’s marriages are better or worse is “both”: The average marriage today is weaker than the average marriage of yore, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the best marriages of yore.”

The reason for the success of the best marriages comes as no surprise to me: “Those individuals who can invest enough time and energy in their partnership are seeing unprecedented benefits.”  So Finkel’s magic formula for a successful marriage is T (time) + E (energy) = SM (successful marriage.)

Synchronistically, today is my husband’s birthday and I read this article immediately after wrapping his presents and signing his birthday card.  I don’t think he’ll mind if I share what I wrote with you:  “I can’t believe you’re 70, my darling.  Our love feels so much younger than that! Perhaps it’s because we’re just starting to get it right!!”  His response after reading it this morning was, “We are, aren’t we?”

As I wrote to Pat, obviously I didn’t mean ‘younger’ as in, naïve, unformed or immature (we were certainly that, having married at 20 and 21!), but light, youthful, rejuvenating, hopeful, free. As someone who has worked hard at my marriage and myself, I can tell you that both endeavors are paying off in a deeply satisfying way at this stage of my life.

When Fred and I met we could hardly have been more different.  He’s Irish/Italian, I’m Dutch/English. He was an extraverted, socially confident jock; I was an introverted, serious-minded student.  He was an outspoken “bad boy” who always said exactly what he thought;  I was a quiet and reserved “good girl” who kept my feelings and opinions to myself.

A recipe for disaster?  Many people probably thought so, yet here we are in our 70th year on Earth preparing to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary this summer.  So what’s our secret?  Part of it has to do with Finkel’s findings about the importance of Time and Energy to devote to our relationship. Somehow we both found work we love that gives us enough time to share a lifestyle we both enjoy.  Likewise, we both lucked into good health and plenty of energy. Believe me, we know how fortunate we are. As Finkel notes, so many people don’t have these luxuries!

But I’d like to add two more ingredients to Finkel’s equation that have been essential to us.  Despite our differences, the one thing we both share is a deep ‘Commitment’ to each other and our relationship.  Second, in mid-life I devoted my remaining years to a search for self-knowledge via a regular program of Inner Work. So what’s my magic formula for a Successful Marriage?

T & E + C & IW = SM

As Finkel writes,

“The bad news is that insofar as socioeconomic circumstances or individual choices undermine the investment of time and energy in our relationships, our marriages are likely to fall short of our era’s expectations. The good news is that our marriages can flourish today like never before. They just can’t do it on their own.”

This one’s for you, Fred.  Happy Birthday.

Photo Credit:  Amy Smith Photography

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

 

Why Go Into the Arts? January 28, 2014

Teen-aged Jeanie (in Sailor Hat) with Uke at Church Camp

Teen-aged Jeanie (in Sailor Hat) with Uke at Church Camp

When the night has come and the land is dark,  

and the moon is the only light we’ll see,

no I won’t be afraid, oh I won’t be afraid,

just as long as you stand, stand by me.”

My eyes close and I take a deep breath as I near the chorus.  I know this part by heart.  By the final chorus I’m rocking my shoulders and tapping my toes.

“Whenever you’re in trouble won’t you stand by me, oh stand by me, oh stand now, oh stand, stand by me.”

I practice it a few more times, then move on to Jimmy Reed’s, “You Got Me Runnin’.”  Then “Falling Slowly” from the movie “Once.”  After that I practice a G lick, a D lick, and an A minor pentatonic scale.

My mother said that when I was three I knew the words to “Bell Bottom Trousers” and sang it to anyone willing to listen. At ten I sang “How Much is that Doggy in the Window?” (Woof, woof!) at the church camp talent show.  That fall I began piano lessons.

By 14 I’d given up the piano, but it wasn’t long before I found a more satisfactory substitute.  On the way to camp that summer a girl showed me two chords on her baritone ukulele and by the time we arrived I’d taught myself to play “In the Still of the Night” and “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley.” From then on I played her ukulele every time I could get my hands on it.  Somehow I found the money to buy one of my own when I returned home that fall.

In college Fred learned the guitar and we played and sang folk music.  Then adulthood took over and we got serious.  Over the years we’d occasionally play for friends and the magic was back: For a few moments I was 14 again and there was nothing but the joy of making music.  The magic returned a few years ago when our friend Sam started bringing his guitar to our gatherings and encouraged us to play with him. But after a while that stopped too.  Inevitably my love for music would come up against Boris the Bore, my perfectionist bully who criticized my lack of skill until it was too painful to go on.

ukeOne day last October I took my 11-year-old twin grandsons to their weekly guitar lesson. When Jake started playing the blues, tears started falling down my cheeks.  The magic was back and this time it was accompanied by a profound longing.

“I want to take ukulele lessons!” cried Teen-aged Jeanie.

“You’re too old!  You’ll make a fool of yourself,” scoffed Boris the Bore.

“I don’t care!” Teen-aged Jeanie insisted. “I want to! It’s now or never!”

Afterwards, Teen-aged Jeanie dragged me to the teacher. “Do you teach ukulele?” she asked shyly.  I could feel my heart beating.  Boris was breathing down my neck. He couldn’t wait to tell me how ridiculous I was being.

“Sure,” the teacher said.  “Actually, I’ve just started teaching a teen-aged girl.”

“Do you have an opening for one more?”

He did.  I took my first lesson two weeks later.  I’m in my second term now, and I play every day.  By the way, “play” is the right word.  Teen-aged Jeanie and I are getting better and having a blast!  Boris got off a few shots last weekend after Sam convinced me to play “Falling Slowly” in public for the first time, but for the most part he’s been curiously silent.

Why go into the arts?  Your story will be different, but I assure you, the fundamental reasons are the same for every heart and soul:

Go into the arts.  I’m not kidding.  The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable.  Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.  Sing in the shower.  Dance to the radio.  Tell stories.  Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem.  Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward.  You will have created something.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Here are a few of my favorites:   Stand By Me: Ben E. King;   Baby Why You Wanna Let Go?: Jimmy Reed;   Falling Slowly:  Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova.

Thanks to my old friend, Charles Ruehl, for sending me the picture of Teen-aged Jeanie at church camp. That’s him on the left.

And thanks, Sam. This one’s for you.

My books can be found at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Diesel Ebooks and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

What’s the Difference Between the Voices of Ego and Soul? January 21, 2014

egoorsoulThe search for self-knowledge requires us to discriminate between helpful and non-helpful thoughts, attitudes, feelings and emotions.  Until now,  I’ve never found simple guidelines for this practice.  Then I came across an article in the online journal, Waking Times. Rhiame’s post, “How Do I Know if it’s My Ego or Soul Talking?” is helpful to me, and I’d like to share a portion of it.

“Here are the three main characteristics that undoubtedly define ego.

Ego Speaks

“The expression ‘listen to your soul’ is often misleading. Indeed, the soul does not speak; it’s ego that speaks, and as a matter of fact, very loudly. In my search to follow my soul’s will, I often call on her for guidance, and usually, obviously, I expect an answer from her. “Unfortunately, most of the time — if not all the time — the first answer that comes is not from my soul, but from my ego. I’ll use a little story to illustrate what happens in the background of our consciousness.

“Let’s imagine that Mr. Ego and Ms. Soul live under the same roof (body), and there’s only one phone line in the house to contact either of the two. So, every time I call to reach Ms. Soul, it’s Mr. Ego who picks up the phone. He’s a control freak, a self-absorbed, noisy character that wants to be in charge of everything. He makes sure that Ms. Soul never answers the phone, and plays tricks so I won’t recognize him. He even changes his voice and his attitude to make me believe it is my soul talking. But when I learn the right tools to recognize him, I get taken in by his tricks less and less.

“The Soul does not speak. She is a voiceless character that imposes her will smoothly by setting up life situations. She is more of a doer than a talker. When she manifests her will, she usually makes me do things that may not make any sense at first glance — from an egotistic standpoint. Often it sounds illogical and scary, but it is so strong that I feel compelled to do it. An inner state of ‘knowing’ or ‘feeling right’ is created. I’d like to quote Mother who said, ‘If you ask yourself whether it’s the soul talking, then you know it’s not.’ This may clarify, if in doubt!

“Ego Wants

“Ego always wants something or doesn’t want something. He is the one who makes me say: “I want more money“, “I don’t want to be sick“, “I don’t want to live alone, I want to find a companion“, “I need to be recognized”, and on and on. By wanting or needing things, the ego is always attached to a result that is tangible.

“On the other hand, the soul does not want anything. She has no expectations and she is not attached to any outcome. The soul is only interested in the experience, the process…the emancipation of my being, and in the evolution of my consciousness towards who I really am. Any life situation I may encounter is regarded as beneficial for that purpose; indeed, for the soul, there are no positive or negative life experiences — they are all working for…realization.

… And Fast

“Ego wants fast. So each time I feel rushed to do something or to make a decision, I know it’s my ego’s impulse. Indeed, ego lives in a mortal reality where he believes that his time is limited. He is the one who wants me to do as many things as possible in a short period of time. He is the one who is afraid of missing an opportunity, and who does not want to waste time in things that do not fulfill his immediate needs.

“Whereas the soul lives in the infinite present moment and is immortal. So each time I feel rushed to do or decide something, I must stop right away and give myself time to think it over. Concretely, I must shut down my ego’s big mouth which obstructs my clarity and prevents me from perceiving my soul’s inclination. Only when my ego is silenced and put on the back seat of the car can my soul take the wheel, in other words, take the governance of my life, and lead me in the direction that will further her fusion with my body.”

As with every facet of inner growth, wanting discrimination is not enough. It takes practice; however, the results are worth it.  As Rhiame says, “…the more we practice, the faster we’ll get out of this appalling fear-based animal humanity that creates hell on earth!”

Photo Credit: dreamstime

Rhiame has been walking the personocratic path for the last 6 years. She shares her experience and integration with the world through her blog Personocratic Seeds, and e-workshops.

My books can be found at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Diesel Ebooks and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Psychology and Religion: Natural Enemies or Intimate Partners? January 7, 2014

dreamstime_xl_19724675In my growing up years the relationship between psychology and religion mirrored the cold war between the U.S. and Russia. Other than the fact that each was suspicious of the other, they appeared to have little in common.

But this began to change for me at the age of 17. One morning I was reading the assigned Bible verses at church camp when suddenly the door to a hidden dimension of my being burst open and a flood of feeling and meaning rushed into my awareness. Suddenly I understood words which, until then, were written in a foreign language. And they spoke directly to me!

My heart responded with stunned awe and wonder. God was real. Moreover, God knew me and was using the Bible to communicate with me!

Joseph Campbell called an experience like this “… a profoundly felt, inward knowledge of the transpersonal imperatives and quality of life…” The impact was so powerful, in fact, that I couldn’t get enough of the New Testament and read it again and again over the next several years.

 “‘Archetype’ is Jung’s word for the psychological image of a god, and when an archetype is activated, we speak of its impact as numinous. In other words, numinosity is the charge of energy in whatever we experience as divine or demonic. If you want to know what is numinous to you, consider what you find fascinating, compelling, thrilling, mysterious, horrifying, gripping, tremendous, terrifying, dreadful, or awesome. Think about the things with which you are preoccupied in spite of yourself.”   -Jungian analyst Janet O. Dallett

My experience was numinous. I can use religious language and call it a “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Psychologically I can interpret it as the activation of the Self archetype.  Or I can see it as both. Having no psychological understanding at the age of 17, I chose the former.  But it doesn’t really matter how I saw it. Either way, it happened. And it got my attention in a big way.

The religious part of the psyche is at work whenever you pay attention to something that is numinous to you, whether or not other people feel it is important.”  -Janet O. Dallett

I kept paying attention and had more numinous experiences. Each one awakened awarenesses about the spiritual dimensions of life and created lasting changes in me. I knew I was part of a vast Mystery and I was compelled to trust the stream of life-giving feeling and knowing that was my umbilical cord to the Sacred.

For a long time I dared not speak about this.  Who was I to think God indwelled me, when one of the most respected religious authorities in my church openly disparaged “humanism” and “psychology” because they were the despised “wisdom of man” as opposed to “the wisdom of God?” What was important to him was belief in the word of God as revealed to spirit persons two thousand years ago and recorded in Holy Scriptures.  What was revealed to today’s spirit persons was heretical.

But the Bible, Torah, and Koran are not God. They are symbols that point to the Mystery some of us call God, Yahweh, or Allah. As such, they can trigger life-changing numinous experiences, but only if they activate our archetypal roots—the religious part of the psyche—in ways that get our attention.  Whatever God is, it cannot change us or the world without our growing awareness!

Psychology and religion are not natural enemies, but intimate partners in the sacred dance of life.  We are not only imprinted with the Sacred, we are sacred, just as all life is sacred.

Photo credit: dreamstime

My books can be found at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Diesel Ebooks and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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