Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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 

 

On Interrelatedness: No Beginning, No End March 21, 2014

Shrivatsa

Shrivatsa

Yesterday I met with my writer’s group, The Purple Pros, at the Barnes and Noble Café.   As is our custom in this group which has met for over twenty years, one of us brings a meditative reading;  another brings a topic we write about for five minutes.  Despite the fact that these activities are randomly chosen, their themes are almost always remarkably similar, if not identical.  Moreover, the same themes inevitably crop up again during our touch-in ritual. We never fail to be awed by the mystery of this synchronicity.

It happened again yesterday.  Margie lost her beloved husband several years ago. To the great joy of those who love her, she’s found love again and will soon marry a wonderful man.  To celebrate this happy occasion, I light a small candle in a sparkly gold container and read a blessing from John O’Donohue titled “For a New Beginning.”  Margie tears up as I read.  Afterwards she tells us of a synchronicity that makes this blessing especially meaningful.

Since I’ll be out of the country the day of her wedding, and since she and her fiancé are both patrons of the arts, I give her a carved wooden Endless Knot that was hand-painted by the young students at an art school we support in Bhutan, a country whose economic development is based on “gross national happiness.” I bought it there several years ago.  The tears continue to roll down her cheeks as she tells us the paint is the exact colors of her wedding!  Enclosed is this description: “In the endless knot all the lines are interrelated to each other and the knot has no beginning and no end. It symbolizes the infinite knowledge and love of Buddha to all sentient beings.  It is good to give as gift to your dear ones as an expression of your eternal love and compassion.”

Lenny’s writing assignment is to write a scene that depicts happiness that is meaningful and true to us.  Here we go again. First we celebrated Margie’s upcoming marriage ritual which is all about love and happiness; then I give her a gift from a country whose official goal is to promote happiness; now we are to write about what brings us happiness.  Usually I need time to think before I start writing; occasionally I never even get started.  This time my scene arrives immediately and fully formed. I can’t write fast enough. Only after I’m finished do I connect all the dots:  it’s about the interconnection between happiness and ritual, relationship, meaning and love.

This is what I wrote. It makes me happy just to think about it!

My granddaughters are excited about tonight’s sleepover.  They ring the doorbell then run and hide, a ritual they started in early childhood and still enjoy. I loudly lament their absence until they race from their hiding places and give me hugs and kisses.

After depositing their backpacks their first stop is my bedroom.  Sophia sorts through the makeup in my vanity drawer and picks out something to take home while Alex tries on my shoes. When she falls in love with an old pair that fit perfectly, I give them to her.

Dinner is delivery pizza consumed over a favorite video.  Dessert is freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, still warm.

The rituals continue at bedtime.  They bathe in the spa tub with bubble bath crystals and fragrant lotions. Sophia pulls the pillow cases off her favorite Swedish foam pillow. Alex asks for her glass of water.

I tuck them in and kiss them goodnight then sit at my desk on the balcony outside the same room their mother once occupied, my presence a reassurance they still crave.  Their door swings open and Sophia comes to me clutching the large furry rabbit hand-puppet I brought her from a trip to the Grand Canyon a few years ago.

“You forgot to say goodnight to Snuggle Bunny!” she says with questioning eyes as she tentatively holds out her beloved bedtime friend.  Will I still want to enact a ritual that means so much to her?  I receive Snuggle Bunny with infinite tenderness. As my fingers animate her head and arms in gestures of shy love, we three murmur our goodnights.

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 at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

Image Source = Wikipedia:  Zeskanowana praca ręcznie wykonanej kopia ogólnie dostępnej grafiki

 

A Valentine For My Internet Friends February 14, 2014

valentines-day-wallpapers24Last night before his power went out, Skip Conover, a social activist and creator of the web site Archetype in Action, sent me 9 pages of statistics about blog posts of mine that he has been supporting and reposting on his internet site and newsletter for almost three years. I was blown away, not just to see evidence of how many people read them, but by his ongoing support and kindness.  When I began blogging and posting on Twitter and Facebook almost four years ago, I never imagined I would meet so many wonderful people who I now feel I can call friends.

 

After writing the following letter to him this morning I realized it could have been written to many of you.  So on this Valentine’s day I’m sending it to you too.  You know who you are!

 

“I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to share my writing.  It’s a huge compliment to me, and I’m very grateful for your support.  I feel so fortunate that you “found” me on the internet and liked what you saw.   Collaborating with you has been a true gift to me and I dare to hope perhaps to “the world” as well. If there’s any way I can be of help to you, please know that it would be my honor and pleasure to do whatever I can.

 

“I’ve had a slow, quiet and restful winter so far.  Just the kind I like. My decision last May to back off from my almost obsessive (certainly passionate) 2-a-week blog posts after over 3 years of it was right for me.  It was beginning to be less fun and more of a “job” and I was becoming somewhat depleted, both physically and mentally.  Then the day after hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 25 I woke up with a painful left foot which turned out to be a stress fracture of a toe.  Still too much “stress?”  Yes, my stoic, perfectionist Warrior has a hard time listening to my energy and trusting my instincts. To him/her, slowing down and taking some pressure off myself almost feels like failing or giving up!  Certainly it feels like disappointing others and shirking my responsibility!!!

 

“But I got the message and sense that something new has been incubating in my unconscious as a result. Some very interesting dreams lately seem to affirm it.  Last week I fed an interesting Animus figure in my kitchen, after which he went into an adjoining room where a group of students was eagerly waiting for him to begin teaching. A few nights later he showed up as a lovely Jewish man named Goldman who sang me a hauntingly beautiful song. The other night I had a dream about two Animus images:  one was an annoying Mexican man who was resting and so wouldn’t assist with the birth of a baby when a pregnant Mexican woman and her husband asked for help. But somehow they got to a hospital and when I went to see them, it was Fred who was pregnant!!!  While I was there I met a wonderful woman doctor who was going to assist the birth and who let me know she wanted to get to know me better! Such marvelous symbolism.

 

“All this seems to speak to some inner transformations going on with my Animus and Soul.  I’m sure part of it is related to making more time for music, another passion of mine, by taking ukulele lessons and practicing every day!  So much fun! Plus, I’m getting excited about the speech and workshop I’ll be giving about Healing the Sacred Divide to the C.G.Jung Society of Sarasota on the weekend of March 14-15.  I’m thoroughly enjoying preparing power point presentations and workshop materials and everything is falling into place beautifully.  I’ve been getting guidance daily from dreams, blogs I follow, and books I’m reading, so I’m not driving myself at all. I just respond to inspiration when it comes. This lack of worry and stress, this effortlessness, is what feels so new.  Perhaps I’ll write a post about it when I’m clearer about what has been happening. But that could take a while. Understanding is only just beginning to emerge! :-)

 

“I hope all is well with you and Deb in this crazy weather.  We’re enjoying some very pleasant cooler-than-usual days and nights and plan to spend this evening by a cozy fire. Wishing you both a happy, love-filled Valentine’s Day!”

 

Stay warm, my friends,

 

Jeanie

 

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 
 

Confessions of a Reluctant Holiday Reveler December 18, 2013

My Idea of Holiday Fun

My Idea of Holiday Fun

The holiday season is here!  Ho, Ho, Ho and Happy New Year!!  Are you feeling jolly and excited?  Not me.  In fact, I’ve been feeling uneasy since Hallowe’en.

Call me Scrooge if you must, but I’m not really a wet blanket or party-pooper. I like to laugh. I know how to have fun. It’s just that, according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, I’m a member of a small minority, an Introverted iNtuitive Feeling (INF) type treading water in a sea of EST’s, i.e. Extraverted Sensate Thinking. When you add my task-oriented, closure-needing Judging (J) function to the mix, the stats say that in your average gathering of a hundred people, I’m the only INFJ in the room.

There’s nothing pathological about my type.  It’s simply one of 16 normal possibilities. And it doesn’t mean I’m shy or lacking in certain kinds of confidence. In fact, when I tell people I’m an introvert they often don’t believe me because I’ve learned to handle myself perfectly well in public…as long as I don’t have to be out there more than a few hours at a time! After that, I just want to go home.

The way I’m made creates difficulties for me that others may not see or understand. For example, the batteries of extraverts run dry when deprived of human interaction for very long.  So to an extravert, staying home while everyone’s out having fun can feel downright masochistic, whereas for me it’s restorative. Then there are the sensory types for whom the physical world is a buffet of delights. These people find withdrawing from the table punishing.  I find it a relief. And thinking types who base decisions on detached logic are usually suspicious of those of us who feel life deeply while I suspect them of being thoughtless and uncaring.

Not only is the world beyond my front door swarming with happy shoppers and giddy party goers this time of year, but I also live with a husband who is an Extraverted Sensate Thinking type.  Naturally, our differences create problems for us, although working them out has given us enormous understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others.  But one thing will never change:  he feels at home in a bustling world I am reluctant to enter.  As an INFJ who also has many characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person, I lack the protective armor that he and others take for granted. Naturally, this can make social situations challenging.

For instance, simple conversations are loaded traps. Beneath the words, my own included, I sense hidden agendas and never know whether to address the conscious or unconscious message. It can be awkward when I make the wrong choice. I’ve been accused more than once of having Foot-in-Mouth disease, and the resultant orgies of humiliation and self-recrimination just make me feel worse!

Another thing: I can see both sides of most issues and enjoy debating and discussing differences of opinion…as long as the conversation stays friendly.  But I don’t handle conflict well.  Or negativity.  In fact, heated conflicts are so distressing that I usually tune out, shut down, or blow up. Fun, huh?

Here’s one more. I love meaningful dialogues that run deeper than the surface.  But when I try to steer the average conversation that way, it’s the rare person (usually another INFJ) who wants to go there.  Inevitably I end up mentally kicking myself for trying.

These and other traits make for a somewhat burdensome inner life.  Don’t worry, I’m pretty tough, and I happily accept the personality I was given as the price for an abundance of blessings. But I think you can understand why I’m drawn to the solitary, contemplative life.  And I want you to know this:  Like all human beings, I need the comforts and solace of loving families and friends.  I especially love private conversations with close friends, and I derive great pleasure from communicating with like-minded people.

So I’ll attend a few holiday parties, schmooze with the guests, and be glad I went. But most of the time I’ll be home reading, writing, or having a glass of wine by the fire with my husband while we listen to my favorite Anne Murray Christmas album.  Trust me.  I’ll be enjoying myself very much.

Happy Holidays to all. May your stockings overflow with warmth, comfort and love.

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

 

Something Different About Last Weekend November 7, 2013

Nearing the End of a 20-Year Wait

Nearing the End of a 20-Year Wait

I want to tell you about last weekend.

But first, some background.  Around 35 years ago, my husband’s youngest brother, Tony, called us late one night from college to tell us he was gay.  My first reaction was surprise.  This was in the late seventies, when homosexuality was still so closeted that the average straight person rarely thought about it, let alone openly encountered it.

My next reaction was a flash of understanding. Suddenly Tony’s unhappiness and occasional troubling behavior as a teenager made sense.  How alone he must have felt. How he must have despaired of ever finding acceptance.

That’s why my third reaction was admiration for Tony’s courage. Where had that come from? What pain had brought him to this place?  How much more would he experience now that he had chosen to reveal his truths to a judgmental and unforgiving world? I had never met anyone with that kind of bravery before, and I was in awe of it. Could I be that brave?  I didn’t think so. I was still too afraid of failure and censure to leave the conventional path I was on.

Years passed.  Tony became an interior designer and thrived in a profession he loved. Eventually he started his own successful design firm in Houston. Meanwhile, I grew increasingly unhappy with myself. Unlike Tony, I didn’t love my work as a college professor, but I was too afraid to quit and start over.

Then, when I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me and had given up hope of ever finding fulfillment, I discovered Jungian psychology. Afraid of what I might learn about myself, but even more afraid of wasting my truths on an unlived life, I turned within and stepped into a bold new adventure of self-discovery and authentic living.

By the time Tony and Scott met I had quit teaching and written my first book. Two years later they invited Fred and me to Houston where I conducted their commitment ceremony. Never have I felt such warmth and kindness, such sincere interest and approval, as I received from their friends that weekend. The natural, unforced acceptance of these total strangers was a revelation.

Since then I’ve encountered this attitude many times. Always from Tony and Scott and their friends. Most recently I felt it last weekend at the city clerk’s office in New York where Fred and I went to witness their marriage. While waiting for their number to be called I sat next to a producer of Broadway musicals. In just moments, he and his partner would be legally married after being together for 35 years. They, too, exuded a rare, unguarded friendliness.

It's Official!

It’s Official!

What makes people like this so different from the norm? I found my answer at the play we attended that night. Kinky Boots is a delightful musical about a young man who saves his father’s shoe factory by making boots for drag queens. Its theme is acceptance: how it is withheld by some and freely given by others.

Most of us have been hurt by some form of prejudice, whether because of our nationality, race, religion, social or economic class, age, appearance, gender or sexuality. The people who automatically judge and reject us do so because they fear and reject their own differentness. Those who freely accept us have broken through their fear and found the courage to accept themselves.

Reflecting on last weekend, I realize why it was so very special for me. Since that late night phone call so many years ago Tony has been a beloved teacher who paved the way for me to stop fearing my life and start living it. He did that by showing me what courage, self-acceptance, and open-heartedness look like. These are among my most treasured lessons and I will always be grateful.

Congratulations, Tony and Scott!!  May your marriage be long and happy.  And thank you for being in my life.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Love Letter to the Unknown June 4, 2013

87175589My dear friends and followers,

Three and-a-quarter years ago, on March 10, 2010, my spirit stepped out on a new adventure. With a minimum of technical expertise and a maximum of self-doubt, I published my first blog post. The idea came from my agent and editor, Paul Cash, who thought a blog would be a good venue for my writing and a place where potential publishers could see samples of my work.

At his suggestion, a few months earlier I had hired a social media trainer. With infinite patience and remarkable skill, Dawn Jensen gently nudged me into the new and exciting world of the internet, the vast potential of which I was previously barely aware. Initially, the challenges of writing and publishing two posts a week, (which seemed doable at that time), plus learning and navigating the intricacies of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, were enormous.

Obstacles presented by my personality were equally daunting. A major hurdle was my distaste for self-promotion. But since publishers are rarely attracted to writers who hide their lights under bushels, I knew this was something I needed to overcome. Another problem was that, conditioned from youth to keep my most meaningful truths to myself, I rarely expressed them in public lest I be misunderstood, ridiculed or criticized. Of course, it was initially daunting to share them in my books, but I soon realized that when it comes to avoiding immediacy and intimacy, a book works even better than a persona because it gives you much more time to think before you “speak.” However, two appearances a week can severely test the vigilance of even the most scrupulous mask-wearer.

Fortunately, in matters of real import to my soul, my self-doubting Orphan rarely bests my intrepid Warrior and he pushed on. Had he not, I would have missed one of the most soul-satisfying experiences of my life. I’ve said this before, but to be sure you’ve heard me I need to say it one last time:  my relationships with the people I’ve met through this blog have become, like my grandchildren, the love affair of my old age.

Nonetheless, for several months now, Changing Woman has been eroding the boundaries of my routine and nudging me into new terrain. I can’t see the path yet, but I can read the signs: Warrior needs a rest and Wisewoman wants to move on. Neither will be left behind because both have more work to do, but for now, more balance is required.

As this chapter ends I don’t yet know what the next one will bring, so in this time of transition I ask for your forbearance. Traveling alone used to be enough for me but now I cannot imagine continuing without the companionship of fellow travelers. Perhaps we will meet only once a week for a while, perhaps less often. But I’ll still be here and I hope you’ll still want to connect. Your kind and timely thoughts, like the call I synchronistically received from my dear friends Sam and Eleanor as I was finishing this just moments ago, have made a profound difference in my life.  For all who have shared your journey with me here, I send this blessing:

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the grey promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

   John O’Donohue

                              Benedictus:  A Book of Blessings

 

The Ten Best Things About Turning 70 April 23, 2013

AMERICAN-BITTERN-300x225It’s April and the bittern is back. (See this blog post from a year ago!) As I write this on April 16, he’s just arrived and is out back by the marshy canal that separates our backyard from the cypress swamp beyond. He’s late this year. Maybe that’s why he’s screeching his head off. Have you ever heard a bittern screech? It’s loud, harsh, raucous, piercing, and frankly a bit annoying. Yet I feel a certain fondness toward this one.  He might be the same one from last year who decided to return for his courting. It’s an ideal spot for large water birds…except for the alligators, of course. The canal is connected to a large lake and is shallow enough for marsh birds to easily see the bass swimming by. Yesterday a great blue heron plucked a long squirmy thing out and lifted its beak so gravity could slide it down his gullet.

April’s my favorite month in Florida. Actually it’s my favorite month anywhere because it feels like my very own special month. I was born on April 23 in 1943, a year when the 23rd was on Good Friday. I always felt proud of being born on Good Friday as if it meant I was good and would be rewarded with a comfortable life. Now of course I recognize a universal, less auspicious significance to this day. Good Friday is when Jesus of Nazareth is said to have been beaten, tortured, and hung on a cross to die for speaking out against the ills of rigid religious orthodoxy and the injustices of misogyny and Roman imperialism. As a child I never considered the possibility that, if taken as an omen about my spiritual journey, being birthed on Good Friday did not signify a pain-free life.  In fact, it didn’t, but I’m not sorry.

Of course, I don’t claim any factually objective connection between this historical event and my birth date. Conventional thinking would see this as the height of hubris, self-importance, and magical thinking. But as someone who’s spent the last quarter century learning the symbolic language of dreams and experiencing an unending series of synchronicities between my inner and outer worlds, I find it profoundly meaningful anyway. I don’t expect anyone to understand unless they’ve been on their own inner exploration long enough to have experienced such things. But those who have know that the life of the mind is about much more than history, objectivity, linear logic and intellectual reasoning. There’s a grand and glorious MYSTERY out there, and we can be part of it.

Yes, I’m turning 70 on April 23 this year, today, in fact, if you’re reading this on April 23rd, 2013. And I’ve never felt better.  To honor this, here’s my personal list of the best things about turning 70. I know my experience isn’t true of everyone my age, and this knowledge pains me. Aging is not a piece of cake and I have a pretty good idea of the unpleasantness I can expect in times to come. But I assure you that at this moment I feel excellent and am filled with hope.

10. I can see the great blue heron swallow a snake and hear the bittern calling his mate. Life is teeming with the drama of the birth/death/rebirth cycle, and I’m still part of it.
9. I’m still learning and growing and I foresee no end to this adventure.
8. I still have my mental and physical health and usually have the sense to enjoy it.
7. I feel more comfortable every day about being transparently me.
6. I’ve survived an agonizing ego death and am enjoying its miraculous aftermath.
5. I wake up every morning to work I’m passionate about, and I can keep doing this as long as my mind and fingers hold out.
4. My life has purpose and meaning because I’m touching people in ways that are making a difference in their lives.
3. Because of the internet and other technology which has eliminated the barriers of time and space, I can be present to the lives of my loved ones and communicate my love whenever I want.
2. I’m proud of my progeny and filled with hope for their futures.
1. I’m surrounded by people who love me and whom I love.

Wishing you all this and much more when you turn 70.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Feasting at Women’s Tables April 2, 2013

feast1Since I left my job to write in 1989 I’ve always been part of at least one women’s circle with sometimes as many as four ongoing groups at the same time. My Jungian study group was formed in 1989 and our weekly meetings lasted for ten years. The Purple Pro’s, my writing group, has met monthly since 1990 and usually shared home-cooked lunches. This year is the first we haven’t had a meeting because of changes in our lives that make it too difficult.

In 1997 a few women and I founded The Matrix, an organization dedicated to identifying and meeting the sometimes physical, but always psycho-spiritual needs of women in Central Florida. Until we passed the torch along a few years ago, my monthly meetings with five unusually wise and gifted women were deeply growth-inducing and soul-sustaining. 1997 was also the year I started teaching classes and leading dream groups at the Winter Park Jung Center. When it closed, our dream groups met in private homes until my latest book demanded too much time and energy.

For over 20 years I have regularly shared meetings, study groups, planning sessions, classes, programs, volunteer projects, weekend workshops, retreats, dream groups, and food with circles of women. We opened and closed most occasions with rituals. Some, like the five minute deep-breathing meditation before dream groups, became traditions. Others were tailored for specific occasions like Matrix meetings, classes, holiday gatherings, and individual life passages such as birthdays, weddings, new babies, transitions into crone-hood, house-blessings, illnesses and deaths.

The defining feeling running through all these groups was abundant nurturing. This is nothing to scoff at, I assure you! Think about it. When’s the last time you were with a group of people who wanted to nourish each other more than they wanted to grab all the goodies? I’m not saying there were no hurts, disagreements or misunderstandings, but there were only two occasions when differences were not resolved with emotional restraint born from growing fullness and caring. In both instances, the unforgiving women who left were deeply wounded neophytes in self-reflection.

A climate of abundance is rare among both genders in social institutions where an attitude of scarcity prevails. Not even religions are immune. Think about the usual office and board meetings, gatherings around the water cooler, times off in the break room, holiday office parties. How many have you attended where you didn’t hear a single snide remark or juicy bit of gossip? I’ve sat in faculty meetings where scorn for other professors, departments or colleges was palpable. Served on boards, chaired committees, and attended church functions where petty gossip, misogyny, exclusivity, and competition to impress hid behind the thinnest of pious veils.

I know some women prefer the company of men. I’m sorry for those who’ve never experienced the deep sustenance offered by mature and generous-spirited women, who’ve been poisoned by the spiteful gossip of miserable, mean-spirited women. I’ve shared tables with a few of the latter type when they’ve joined one of my classes or tried to befriend me. But ever since I excused myself from the company of rigid institutions and started communing with like-minded sisters, women like that have never hung around for long. I think their wounds have left them feeling so empty that they crave a constant diet of discord and drama, and I have no appetite for this.

There are some desperately unsatisfied and spiritually starved women out there, and it hurts knowing they can’t digest the kind of food that would help them discover their inherent beauty and capacity for love. But there are also many generous-spirited Queens, Mothers, Wisewomen and Beloveds, and sharing my journey with some of them, including you who join me at this table, has been a major blessing in my life.

You can find my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at Amazon.com and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Obsessing About Stressing October 2, 2012

The other night I dreamed an entire blog post. I woke up a few times thinking, “Yay! This will be a good one!” but dozed off again before writing anything down. When the alarm rang we jumped up and raced off to our grandchildren’s soccer, baseball, and volleyball games. By the time I thought about my dream it had snuck into that place where unremembered dreams hide. I sure wish I could find that place. I hate losing a good idea for a post. But I’m trying not to stress over it.

I used to think I was very laid back, but lately I’m reconsidering: partly due to an excess of traveling, and partly because I had my annual checkup last week and my doctor questioned my alleged “white coat syndrome.” My mother, a nurse, would have dismissed it with, “Pooh! It’s all in your head!” But, hey! What’s in your head is still real, right? It’s even been written up in medical journals! It’s when your blood pressure reaches a hypertensive average in an office setting but not at home. Oddly, people with this condition don’t exhibit signs of trepidation. That’s me. I don’t feel anxious or get palpitations, but put me in a room with a white coat and my blood pressure soars.

I’ve known this since I volunteered to be a guinea pig in my high school anatomy lab. After a quizzical look and two re-checks, my teacher sent me back to my desk with a vague, “Oh, you’re probably feeling a bit excited,” before quickly changing the subject. Now I always warn the nurse.

My goal is a reading no higher than 130 over 80. Last week I felt perfectly calm but it was 161 over 94! Yet I always get normal numbers at those blood pressure machines in the grocery store! Weird. But, good patient that I am, I bought a blood pressure monitor. After recording the numbers I note what I was doing before I checked it because I’m curious to see if there are any patterns. So far, out of 25 readings my average is a perfectly respectable 125/76.

And yes, I’ve found a pattern. The six lowest readings averaged 110/70. Of these, two were taken immediately after I’d written long e-mails to friends, one after playing Words With Friends on my I-phone, two after being with my children and grandchildren, and one after checking my social media sites. I love it! All six had to do with positive interactions with family or friends! Conversely, the highest reading, 149/87, was taken after I’d spent an hour trying to figure out how to edit my e-mail signature! That time I didn’t need to take my blood pressure to know I was stressed!

So what gems of self-knowledge have I mined from this little science experiment?

1.  My ego may believe I’m not afraid to die, but somewhere in my unconscious (probably next door to the Cave for Unremembered Dreams) lives a part of me that fears the things I associate with doctors: physical vulnerability, suffering, mortality. More “proof” of this split-off part: an hour ago while I was writing about white coat syndrome my blood pressure rose to 137/86! Now that I’m almost finished with this post, it’s down to 128/73!

2.  I love how easy my computer makes blogging and writing to friends, but it also has a sick technological side. Obviously, I need a computer doctor! No one with a white coat need apply.

3.  Balancing work I love with good relationships is the best medicine I know for stress.

I just took my blood pressure again. It’s 122/71! (Am I obsessing? Should I worry about bursting blood vessels in my left arm?)

My new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

What Exercise and Dreams Have In Common March 16, 2012

If someone had told me three years ago that one day I’d enjoy working out twice a week I wouldn’t have believed them. I’ve never liked to exercise,  never felt the need. But sore shoulders and lower back pain from sitting hunched over a computer every day for years have a way of creeping up on you, and I finally had to admit I needed an exercise routine.

So when my friend Nancy asked me what I wanted for Christmas two years ago, I said, “Sign me up at the place where you work out!” A few days later I got a call from a trainer named Tom and he scheduled me to come in from 12 to 1 every Tuesday and Thursday starting in January. To my immense surprise, it turned out to be one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received!

Except for the annoyance of having to leave my computer, get dressed, and drive a mile down the road (I know. Big deal, right?) I love everything about it! Most of all I enjoy my conversations with Tom. He’s a great guy with a kind heart and a sincere interest in social justice and spiritual matters. And he’s so funny that I usually come out with 2 or 3 major guffaws per visit, which definitely adds to my enjoyment! But it was when he started asking for help understanding his dreams that I knew I’d found a friend with magical powers to motivate me for an extended run.

So today I asked him if he’d had any interesting dreams lately and he told me about this morning’s dream in which he’s standing with a neighbor on a second-story balcony of a three-story condo and she’s pointing to the top of a stone chimney that intersects all three floors. There are flames coming out between the stones near the top. While he’s thinking this could be a real problem, his brother and brother’s friends bustle around him erecting a bizarre L-shaped scaffolding from which they’re going to bungee jump! Tom thinks they’re being absurd.

As usual, I had no idea what it meant. But as he described his emotions in the dream and his associations to his neighbor it became apparent it was about how angry he feels about the way people are talking about a recent local shooting. To paraphrase what he said, “I guess I’m feeling inflamed about how emotional everyone’s being and I’m looking down at them from this ‘higher place’ for being so illogical and absurd.” This was a big “Aha” for him. “I guess that could be a problem,” he said.  “So does this mean I should stop talking with my clients about issues that stir me up like this?”

Here’s what I told him. Absolutely not! Dreams don’t judge us or tell us what to do. They simply show us the way things are with us so we’ll be more aware of potentially problematic qualities and emotions.  With more knowledge of what’s going on inside we can choose to act in healthier ways outside.

On the way home it struck me that dreams are a lot like exercise. Many of us find it’s not just our bodies that get stiffer and more inflamed with age. The same thing can happen to our minds.  One purpose of dreams is to make our minds stronger, more balanced and flexible. Healthier, and therefore happier with ourselves. Easier to be around.  But we won’t experience these benefits if we won’t rouse ourselves and commit to this work over the long haul.

Thanks for the insight, Tom.  And for the blog topic.  See you next Tuesday.

 

 
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