Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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 

 

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

 

The Couple: A New God-Image March 5, 2014

mandorlaheartAs our self-knowledge expands, so do our ideas about the Mystery of God.  For many people today, the Couple, a symbol for the central archetype of the Self, is replacing the old Sky-Father God-image. Dwelling within us, the Self knows who we are and what our lives are all about. It shows us our truths with symbols that emerge in our imagination, dreams, and outer lives. Exploring these symbols helps us like and trust our true selves and creates spiritual meaning.

Connecting with the divine within makes us more aware of the divine in others. As a result, we lose our fear, hatred, and prejudice and contribute to the healing of the world. Trusting the Self also helps us trust life’s processes.  We no longer have to know everything, control everything, or be prepared for every eventuality.  We lose anxiety in the present moment and anticipate what the next may bring with lightness, playfulness, and enthusiasm. These new attitudes are not planned or forced but the natural result of releasing our resistance to the unknown. Life becomes a delightful gift to be savored; not a contest to win, obstacle to overcome, or ordeal to be endured.

Knowing we possess the authority of the Self also empowers us to break out of our prisons of conformity and blossom into our individuality. No longer do we stifle our gifts, pretend, respond habitually, or conceal our true needs and honest feelings. No longer do we feel the need to prove anything to others.  Having lost our fear of the truth about ourselves we make original, authentic choices and lose defensive behaviors such as hostility and hypersensitivity.

As we integrate our inner opposites our thoughts and behaviors spring from healed archetypes, not wounded stereotypes. Thus do we create an original work of art:  an authentic, empowered being with balanced energies which flow appropriately between masculine and feminine, here manifesting qualities of the drive for self-preservation, there acting from the drive for species-preservation. In a culture distorted by one-sided worship of the masculine, integrating the feminine brings a refreshing return of feeling and the ability to live with soul.

The Couple balances the King’s clarity and hierarchical authority with the Queen’s caring and sense of community; softens the Warrior’s intensity with the Mother’s gentle acceptance; blends the Wisewoman’s intuition and diffuse awareness with the Scholar’s objective knowledge; and integrates the Lover’s desire to please with the Beloved’s desire to be pleasing. Thus do we live with more flexibility and grace.

Integrating masculine and feminine values fashions a new morality of impeccable integrity and personal responsibility based on universal standards of justice and care for all. Our wish to cause as little pain as possible, combined with our growing ability to see and restrain our own shadows, helps us listen with patience and tolerance while allowing our partners to speak their truths. Creating the Couple heals relationships and establishes the intimacy and compassion for which every soul longs.

With continued attention to our inner condition, we grow more mindful. We can see when we are floating off into yesterday or reaching out to tomorrow and we can choose to return to today. Remembering that this moment is all we have helps us savor our lives and joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world. Thus we find that it is overcoming our ignorance, not our sin, which connects us with the ground of our being and brings us into the presence of the eternal Mystery.

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 also at Amazon as well as  Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

Photo Credit:  Daniel B. Holeman

 

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 

 

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 
 

The Spiritual Practice of Gathering the World to Oneself February 4, 2014

worldreligions

“…the self comprises infinitely more than a mere ego, as the symbolism has shown from of old. It is as much one’s self, and all other selves, as the ego.  Individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gathers the world to oneself.”

~Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Paragraph 432.

Individuation was Jung’s word for the process of coming to know and accept our whole selves as we truly are.  As I’ve noted before, this includes not only who we think we are, (Ego), or what we show the world (Persona), but also our Shadow (disowned unconscious contents), Animus (unconscious masculine sides), Anima (unconscious feminine sides), and Self (our God-image, the archetype of wholeness).

To our surprise, opening to our inner otherness reveals a world that is exactly like the one without!  Not only is it a compilation of our worst fears and flaws, but also of our fundamental beauty, lovable qualities, and sacred potential. Accepting ourselves at our worst humbles and softens us.  Accepting ourselves at our best affirms and inspires us.

If we keep at it, bringing our inner opposites into our awareness becomes a catalyst for the miracle of transformation. Resistance, separation and defensiveness soften into an all-embracing inclusivity.  Suspicion dissolves into trust, agitation calms to equanimity, hostility is replaced by compassion, and mindless worry wanes into mindful serenity. This inner alchemical process gradually alters our behavior too, although it can take years before old dysfunctional habits and attitudes are so thoroughly mitigated that other people can see and trust the mounting evidence.

Gathering the inner world to ourselves also changes our ideas about the Mystery of God.  For example, the Old Testament Yahweh first appeared in the Western world as a jealous, partisan and judgmental deity. Then 2,000 years ago a new God-image of love, mercy, justice and inclusiveness was introduced and began to make its way into collective thinking.   But despite widespread acceptance of this God-image, the translation of ideas into action has been a dishearteningly slow process.

Christianity was founded on the basic principles of democracy, but the U.S. didn’t establish a democratic government until 1,776 years later!  Slaves were freed in the U.S. in 1863, but it took another three generations before the exclusive doctrine of “separate but equal” was overturned.  Jesus constantly demonstrated his belief in the equality of women, but American women weren’t even allowed to vote until 95 years ago and women are still denied certain basic rights throughout the world.

Despite our advances, it is commonplace for people who profess to believe in a God of love and inclusiveness to consistently demonstrate the opposite values without realizing it.  This has always been true of even the most well-intentioned people.  Jungian analyst James Hollis explains why:

“…the unexamined adult personality is an assemblage of attitudes, behaviors and psychic reflexes occasioned by the traumata of childhood, whose primary purpose is the management of the level of distress experienced by the organic memory of childhood we carry within. . . . What we may call the provisional personality is a series of strategies chosen by the fragile child to manage existential angst. Those behaviors and attitudes are typically assembled before age five and are elaborated in an astonishing range of strategic variations with a common motive – self-protection.” 

The unexamined adult personality is the reason for the disconnect between belief and behavior.  After thousands of years of struggling to do the right thing and consistently failing, we are just beginning to realize that there is no magic pill, no silver bullet, no quick fix.  The only remedy for our painful separations is to cross the line that fear drew in the sand of our childhood and begin gathering our inner world to ourselves.  Then each of us will discover that it is overcoming our ignorance, not our sin, which connects us with the Ground of our Being and ushers us into the presence of the sacred eternal Mystery.

Special thanks to Lewis Lafontaine and Robert Longpre’ for posting the inspiring quotes.

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 

Image credit:  google free images

 

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.

 

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.

 

The Thanksgiving Gift of Two-Way Partnership November 26, 2013

Queen of the Night and King of the Day:  A Partnership Made in Heaven

Queen of the Night and King of the Day: A Partnership Made in Heaven

My Thanksgiving gift for you is a video about a very special young woman who can neither hear nor speak yet has an extraordinary gift of communication. Stacy Westfall is a bona fide horse whisperer who communicates with her body, heart and soul. Before you see her in action I want to tell you something about human-horse relationships.

Most people think working with horses is a one-way form of communication: the human does the training and the horse does the listening and learning so it can serve the human’s needs. Most riders and trainers love horses very much and train them with kindness and patience; others believe they need to “break” horses with bullying and brute force. Either type can achieve great success…from the perspective of the human ego.

But the truly inspiring horse whisperers like Stacy step out of their egos and into the horse’s perspective because they want partnerships that are as satisfying to the horse as the human. They don’t have special powers the rest of us lack. Their secret is quite simple. They let themselves be trained by horses. They appreciate and respect the otherness of horses—their desire to please us, their willingness to serve us—so they take the time to learn and use horse language. Horses are exactly the same in reverse. They are “human whisperers” who appreciate and respect our otherness, are acutely sensitive to our emotional nuances, try to learn our language, and let themselves be trained by us because they want satisfying relationships too.

The horse whisperer/human whisperer relationship is the best example of two-way partnership I know. You’ll see it going on between the horse and human in this video. Look for Stacy’s signals: hand pats and rubs, heel nudges, turning her head in the direction she wants her horse to take, shifting her body weight. Then watch for Baby Doll’s signals to her. Throughout the performance his mouth is licking and chewing, licking and chewing. Know what this means in horse language? He’s telling her he’s thoroughly bonded with her and is doing his absolute best to please her.

Watch his ears. When he’s alert and focused he points them forward. This tells Stacy he’s paying attention and ready to go. When she gives a signal he swivels one ear back toward her. He’s listening. When she asks him to do something that requires extra concentration and exertion, like spinning in circles or running backwards, he flattens them on his neck, indicating his agitation and determination.

Watch his tail. When he’s relaxed his tail is relaxed. When he’s asked to move sideways or kneel, his tail switches back and forth with increased intensity. And when he’s getting excited and probably a bit annoyed about the truly difficult things, he whips it up and down with some attitude. But he does what Stacy asks him to, then he licks and chews and pops his ears back to alert and all is well again.  He does this for the same reason you push through your annoyance to do the tough exercises your trainer or aerobics instructor asks of you. Because this partnership is important to you, you’re grateful for it, you want to do your best, and it feels good when you do.

The best way I know to show gratitude to our loved ones this Thanksgiving is to be a human whisperer: To pay attention what they’re asking of us, learn the nuances of their communication styles, push through our annoyance, and try our best to be a good partner. May you allow yourself to be trained by your loved ones this Thanksgiving. Enjoy the video.

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

 

Mythological Healing in Times of Crisis November 19, 2013

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to my guest blogger, Elaine Mansfield.  Elaine and I met about 15 years ago at the Winter Park Jung Center where her husband Vic made a presentation about his newest book.  Talking over dinner afterwards,  Elaine and I discovered that we had many interests in common, including dreamwork, women’s issues, and mythological studies. We have stayed in touch ever since. The following piece is an especially poignant example of how her inner work helped her through Vic’s cancer and death:

Orpheus

Orpheus

While my husband Vic began chemotherapy in 2006, I absorbed Rainer Maria Rilke’s message in Sonnets to Orpheus: within the darkness of our experience, there is always light. Rilke praised the impermanence of the natural world where all that is born dies. Vic and I lived and loved as he—and we—were also dying.

Ah, the knowledge of impermanence

That haunts our days

Is their very fragrance.

During that chemotherapy autumn while my safe world collapsed around me, I studied Rilke’s sonnets and the myth of Orpheus in a mythology class. Vic struggled, suffered, and kept going. In the chemotherapy room, I watched brave women with scarves askew, bony men with smooth skulls, and angry teenagers with oversized baseball caps concealing their baldness. I saw how each patient balanced their darkness with a call from a friend, the smile of a nurse or companion, or music on their IPod. As I held Vic, the myth held me and taught me what it means to be mortal and live in this world of opposites.

Rilke’s words helped me accept as toxins entered Vic’s veins.

Let this darkness be a bell tower

and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.

Orpheus and the breath of life

Orpheus and the breath of life

Rilke helped me see that death is always present in my experience, even in pleasure.

Full round apple, peach, pear, blackberry

Each speaks life and death

into the mouth.

Searching for life and light within the darkness of Vic’s dying became my spiritual practice.

For almost twenty-five years I’d been part of a mythology class with women grounded in Jungian Psychology. We studied the Greek goddesses and gods, a few Eastern European and Asian fairytales, and Inanna’s descent to the underworld to be initiated into the mysteries of Death. Soon after Vic was diagnosed, a class member spotted Sonnets to Orpheus in a bookstore window and suggested we explore the myth of Orpheus.

Lyre

Lyre

Orpheus was a demigod, musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek mythology. After his beloved wife Eurydice died, he traveled to the Underworld to play his lyre, sing his lament, and gain Eurydice’s release. The beauty of his song convinced Hades and Persephone to grant her freedom, but Orpheus was told not to look back at Eurydice until they were in the Light. Being at least partly human, he glanced back and lost his Love forever to Death.Our group met twice a month and worked on one sonnet each meeting for over two years since there are 55 sonnets. We explored the mythic ideas, read many translations, studied various versions of the Orphic myth, and painted the poetic images—the god, a tree, a lyre. We also included images from personal experiences in our drawings. Within the vessel of this archetypal myth, Rilke’s poems, and a circle of wise, loving women, I remembered that my world of heightened opposites held just as much living as dying.

A gust in the god. A wind.

A gust in the god. A wind.

But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places

we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers

that—when you feel it—brings you to your knees.

Elaine Mansfield

Elaine Mansfield

Elaine Mansfield’s writing reflects 40 years as a student of philosophy, Jungian psychology, mythology and meditation, and life on 71 acres of woods, fields, and sunset views in the Finger Lakes of New York. Since her husband’s death in 2008, Elaine’s website and blog have focused on bereavement, marriage, and the challenges and joys of her emerging life. Elaine has written a book about love, loss, and new life to be published in 2014. She facilitates hospice support groups for women who have lost partners or spouses and writes for the Hospicare and Palliative Care of Tompkins County newsletter and website and other on line publications.

Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry is from  In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus.

Original art by Elaine Mansfield.

 

 
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