Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Animal Healers August 6, 2014

A couple of years ago I babysat a precious golden retriever puppy for three days so my son and his wife could surprise their sons with her on Christmas morning. During that time she developed some digestive issues and by Christmas day she was in obvious distress, needing to be let out of the house every fifteen minutes or so. Was it my fault? Had she eaten a poisonous plant in our yard or swallowed something she couldn’t pass? The thought that I might be responsible was agonizing and I wondered for the umpteenth time why we get so attached to animals and experience some of our greatest joys and deepest sorrows because of them.

Certainly mammals have body structures, nervous systems, organs, instinctual needs, and even DNA very similar to ours. So when they’re sick, wounded or in pain, we know how they feel. Moreover, although most animals can try to flee from danger, there are always forces—including humans and Nature herself—that are far more powerful. Knowing our own fears and vulnerability, we can relate to that aspect of animals too.

Then there’s the unconditional love some animals give us. It’s so comforting when your dog follows you around, your cat purrs contentedly in your lap, or your horse comes running at your approach. You feel known, appreciated, valued. A happy, thriving pet reminds you that you can be loving, nurturing and morally responsible. We crave these good feelings and love the animals who elicit them, so it’s only natural that we get emotional when they suffer or die.

Repression and projection have something to do with the magical relationship we have with animals too. All of us deny some of our unwanted qualities and project them onto people and animals.  For example, I once knew a tough-minded woman who showed no emotion when  talking about her own difficult circumstances, yet she cried easily at the thought of abused animals. To her it felt safe to sympathize with the pain and helplessness of a dog or cat, but she was unwilling to feel her own pain.

At the time I didn’t know if anyone else noticed this about her, but it was painfully obvious to me.  From where did this insight come?  Personal experience. When my parents divorced I cried my heart out. But when my father died three months later I didn’t shed a tear. I was so traumatized that I shut down emotionally so I wouldn’t hurt any more. Denying pain became so important to me that I even refused novocaine when I went to the dentist! For years I couldn’t cry for myself but I could use up a box of tissues watching an animal movie. I still can!

Animals mirror our unconscious, instinctual selves.   This is why we love our pets so much. As they are vulnerable, so are we.  As they suffer, so do we. We know how they feel, they seem to know how we feel. We think we understand them; they seem to understand who we really are. We know we have unlovable shadows, yet they love us anyway. We see their instinctual shadows, and we love them anyway. Because they  trust and depend on us we do not take their devotion or suffering lightly.  We deal with it as best we can, and we know we are better for having made the effort. In the process of learning compassion for them, we discover that we are as deserving of love as they are.

Over the years Miss Lottie, a sensuous Siamese cat; Peri, a perky little chihuahua/terrier mix; Shadow, an elegant, high-strung thoroughbred gelding; and Bear, a handsome and gentle golden retriever, have been my teachers, therapists and healers. Training and caring for them taught me patience and respect for the ways of others. Their simple joy in being alive taught me greater awareness and appreciation for my body and the life in it. Their love and devotion to me helped me feel and express more tenderness and love to everyone, including myself. And the copious tears I shed at their deaths softened my heart and taught me more compassion for others who suffer loss.

By the way, Isabella, or Izzy as Matt’s family called their new puppy, was fine the next day. Apparently her problem was caused by the rawhide puppy treats I gave her to keep her from chewing on my kitchen cabinets. I felt terrible about it, but she kept loving me anyway. And now that she’s come to live with me for the summer,  I remember something I forgot after Bear died.  Being with her makes me feel better about myself. It’s a mysterious thing, this healing power of animals, but it’s real.  And I’m deeply grateful for it.

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

 

What Meaning Can We Find in Numinous Encounters with Otherness? July 7, 2014

blackbearLast week I wrote about an encounter with a rattlesnake on our forested mountain property.  The day before that I found a skeleton of the head of something that looked like a baby alligator.  Friends later confirmed that it was another snake. A bigger one.  I had my third wild animal encounter in as many days the day after the live rattler appeared. This time it was a very large, very alive black bear! I had just arrived at a friend’s house to meet with my Jungian summer study group and it walked into her garden, knocked over a bird feeder she had filled only fifteen minutes earlier, and sat down to enjoy the feast. It wasn’t 30 feet away from her porch.

Humankind has always found significance in threeness.  Three fairy tale brothers set out to win a princess, a wolf terrorizes three little pigs, a little girl explores the forest home of three bears, a hero receives three wishes. Christianity has its trinity and its three wise men. If two movie stars or old friends died within a few weeks of each other, my mother always waited for the third.

We also attach spiritual meaning to animals.  Native American warriors were visited by their power animals on vision quests and in dreams.  A stray dog appears out of nowhere to bring comfort and companionship to a grieving widower. A widow whose husband loved hummingbirds has never seen a hummingbird in her garden until one taps on her kitchen window the afternoon of his funeral.  When Lawrence Anthony—a legend in South Africa who bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities—died on March 7, 2012, 31 wild elephants showed up at his home two days later to pay their respects.

Perivale BearSo I ask myself, what meaning is there for me in these three  “truly numinous encounter(s) with Other-ness?” as Jungian therapist Melissa LaFlamme said  about the rattlesnake.  She continues, “Very auspicious…. [snakes] come as Teachers of the ancients.”  Writer Elaine Mansfield agrees, “Wow, Jean. A visitation. Respect and caution needed, but what a gift to mine.”

Snakes are at home on the ground, in water, in trees. They shed their old skins (or old lives) and grow new ones to emerge reborn, transformed. Two snakes entwine the Rod of the god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicinal arts in Greek mythology. A similar image, the caduceus of the Greek god Hermes, is still a symbol for medicine and healing.

And what about bears?  I’ve written about them many times in earlier posts:  here, and here, here, here, and here.  A symbol of spiritual introversion in Native American lore and of psychological transformation and rebirth in Jungian psychology—bears hibernate in the winter, as if dead, and emerge in the spring as if reborn, often with a cub or two—Bear has been one of my two animal totems (the other is Horse) ever since it asked to be included in my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness. When we remodeled our summer home in the Smoky Mountains, a large bronze bear was installed in a place of honor. Over the years I’ve had several Big dreams about serpents and bears, (Jung saw both as symbols of the Self), but this is the first time a live rattlesnake or bear has appeared in close proximitiy to me.

Three encounters with Snake and Bear in three days.  Synchronicity. Fairy tales and myths. Vision quests—I’ve been on one since I was 17 through forest and mountain, both physical and spiritual. Jungian psychology. Animal Teachers. Writing. Healing. Teaching. Comfort. Dreams.  Spiritual introversion. Psychological transformation. Growing respect and gratitude for the gift of physical life. Home. The Self. These are my primary associations with last week’s numinous visitations.  They speak to the themes of my spiritual journey and connect my outer and inner worlds.

They say:  You are on the journey you were meant to take:  finding the meaning of your myth, living your passion, sharing what you have learned. You are a valuable part of the whole, sacred interconnected web of life. You are seen. You are known. You are loved.

And I am grateful.

Jean Raffa’s newest book, 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

 

Why Do I Write What I Write? June 24, 2014

Recently, author and blogger, Fran Kramer, invited me to join her in a blog tour that highlights authors who write about intuitive understanding. I encourage you to visit her blog at http://www.frankramer.wordpress.com where she offers some excellent practical information on how to work with your dreams and acquire greater understanding of yourself and guidance for your life.  Fran also writes teen mystery novels that highlight  intuitive and informed dreamwork skills instead of traditional detective practices. Her latest is titled Dead Men Do Tell Tales.

For this blog tour I was asked to answer four questions about my writing.  To learn more about me and my work, visit my web site at http://www.jeanraffa.com and my blog at http://www.jeanraffa.wordpress.com.

1) What Am I Working On?

At the moment I find myself in a transitional space between life stages.  The 24 years prior to last summer were the most productive, creative and fulfilling of my life.  I wrote three books about the inner life, taught classes, led workshops,  made presentations, conducted dreamwork on myself and private clients,  and, until last June, wrote an average of two blog posts a week for over three years.  Then my inner environment underwent a mysterious change.

It was very subtle, like a wind carrying unusual scents, or a curve in the river that leaves the rushing rapids behind as it empties into a tranquil blue sea. Suddenly there were fewer mountains to climb and more depths to explore.  I had experienced two life-changing transitions before, and realized in retrospect that they were normal and healthy aspects of life, so while this new development was initially a bit unsettling, I paid attention and went where my energy wanted to go.

It was the right thing to do. The past year has been one of significant growth. Best of all, I seem, at last, to be learning how to love!  So what am I working on? Loving and living.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not really sure what my genre is.  Psychology, certainly.  Spirituality, yes.  Also some Philosophy. And of course Mythology. And Women’s Studies.  And Gender issues. And it’s a Memoir.  And there’s some Religion.  And Self-Help…..

For many years my first book, a psychologically oriented memoir titled The Bridge to Wholeness, (which is now an e-book), was used in college courses.  Yet people tell me it’s extremely readable and nothing like a textbook.  The same is true of Dream Theatres of the Soul, (also in e-book form now) which has been used at the college level as well as in private dream groups.  And Healing the Sacred Divide received the 2013 Wilbur Award which is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.  So I suppose my answer is that my work is different because it is not limited to any one genre.

3) How does my writing process work?

Self-Discovery is my passion and writing about it is pure joy. I’ve never had to force myself to write.  I wake up every morning wanting to get to my computer as soon as I can.  Writing my books has been the most fun thing I’ve ever done! The details of how each book was conceived and written are different, but the pleasure is always the same.

In 1990 I thought I might have a book in me so I quit college teaching and started with my earliest memory of being lost on the shore of Lake Michigan. Given my interest in Jungian psychology and my introverted, intuitive, and highly reflective personality, it was only natural that my focus was on how that experience had influenced my personality and my life. I had no plan, no outline, no aim other than to get it all down until I felt finished.

And so I wrote 4 or 5 days a week for about nine months until I had completed several “essays.”  Then one morning I started making up a fairy tale while sitting at my makeup mirror. I quickly wrote it down and realized it provided the framework for everything I had written until then and would write from then on.  About a year and a half after I began writing, my essays became chapters in The Bridge to Wholeness, which was published in 1992.  It opens with the fairy tale, “The Lily and the Rose.”

Dream Theatres of the Soul was conceived soon after Bridge was finished with an idea about how dreams can be organized into five categories, each an element of the psyche. I wrote an outline and finished this book in three and a half months.  It was every bit as much fun to write as Bridge.

Healing the Sacred Divide was difficult.  I began it with the intention of trying to clarify what the feminine side of God is like, and from there it went through several themes and titles before it was finally published in 2012, 19 years after it was begun.  During all that time I had no assurance that it would ever be published, but I loved every minute of it, even when I had no idea what it was supposed to be about. Which was most of the time.

4)  Why do I write what I do?

I write about self-discovery because I have to.  It’s my calling.  And frankly, it’s the only thing I’m good for. If we humans created religions to remind ourselves that we are loved and known and guided by a benevolent, magnificent, mysterious Other;  if  religions are meant to bring joy and comfort and purpose and meaning to human life;  if they are supposed to teach us humility and gratitude and compassion and understanding for ourselves and our fellow humans; if they are meant to teach us how to love… then I can honestly say that the inner work I have conducted to discover who I am, along with writing my books to help others do the same, has been a religious experience. In the truest sense of the word.

Thank you so much for reading this.  And now I’m delighted to introduce the authors and bloggers who will continue the blog tour next week with posts about their own fascinating work.  If you don’t already know them, you’ll want to check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Tzivia Gover

090114_kripalu_tziaviagover_022Tzivia Gover is a certified dream therapist, author, and educator. Her books include Learning in Mrs. Towne’s House: A Teacher, Her Students, and the Woman Who Inspired Them (Levellers Press), Mindful Moments for Stressful Days (Storey Books), and Dream House, a poetry chapbook. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications including Poets & Writers Magazine, The New York Times,  and The Boston Globe. To learn more visit http://www.tziviagover.com or http://www.thirdhousemoon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elaine Mansfield

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Elaine Mansfield’s writing reflects over forty years as a student of philosophy, Jungian psychology, mythology, and meditation. She is a longtime student of Marion Woodman, the Dalai Lama, and spiritual teachers from many traditions and lives on 71 acres of woods, fields, and sunset views in the Finger Lakes of New York. Elaine was a nutrition, exercise, and women’s health counsellor, but after her husband’s death in 2008, her focus turned to healthy grieving and the challenges and rewards of creating a new life. She now facilitates hospice support groups for women who have lost partners or spouses, writes for the Hospicare and Palliative Care of Tompkins County newsletter and website, and helps others find the spiritual core and deeper connections available within loss.

Elaine’s book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief will be published by Larson Publications (October 2014). Dale Borglum of the Living/Dying Project said about the book: “Not only a touching and courageous memoir about love, illness, death, and grief, Elaine Mansfield’s Leaning into Love is a manual for healing that offers us the emotional and spiritual tools needed to grow and even flourish through life’s deepest crisis.”

Elaine writes a weekly blog about life’s adventures and lessons at elainemansfield.com/blog. Her email address is elaine@elainemansfield.com

 

 

Jean Raffa’s newest book, 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 

 

Ghost Stories June 10, 2014

This is another in a series of re-posts from August of 2011.  I hope you enjoy it.

Last weekend I was telling some house guests about how my golden retriever Bear woke me up at night with his booming bark several times after he died. When I was finished, the husband nodded with solemn knowing and shared his story.

They had an orange cat that was very attached to him. When he was outdoors it would sit on a low table by the pool and watch him. One day after the cat died he was working by the pool and glanced over at the table and there it was, staring at him as it always had. “It wasn’t my imagination,” this very down-to-earth man said.  “This was real. I looked away for a minute, and when I looked back, he was gone.” We all nodded with solemn knowing. We believed him.

Some years ago we re-connected with a high school friend with a history of mental illness. A delightful charismatic actor, writer and scholar, he was living with a lovely woman, also a writer, to whom he was devoted.  When he was on his medications he was great fun to be with, but occasionally he’d think he was well enough to stop taking them and before long he’d be in trouble. One day while Fran was at the corner store he shot himself in the head.

In Fran’s words, “Then, just 26 hours after his death, Bill came to visit me. Suddenly, a space opened in my mind, as a door in a wall would open. There, as close as the air, was Bill in another form.  I was still somewhat aware of the room and the people in it, but my attention was riveted on Bill. He was himself, my love, the man I knew, but not in a body with flesh. Instead, he was a lovely, soft, white being, full of pulsing lights that slowly appeared, peaked, and extinguished to be replaced by others.

“Bill wasn’t alone. His spirit seemed bonded, or somehow fused, to another person in the same form. This spirit was an older man, I thought, whom I had never met. Their relationship was like that of a child at a party and a loving grandparent looking on. Bill was ecstatic — full of pure joy and terribly excited to be with me. The older man was joyful, but calmer and not at all surprised by what was occurring. Months later, someone suggested that the gracious old spirit might have been Bills’ beloved “Grandpa Tom,” whom I had never met, and who had died two years earlier.

“I think that Bill went to some trouble to let me know the truth about what happens after the death of the body. He wanted me to know that the spirit goes on in a most lovely and ordinary way, and that people stay the same in essence. Even in his “second skin,” featureless, Bill was immediately recognizable to me. He also wanted me to know that he was not alone, but experiencing intense joy, love, and freedom from pain.

“Just before he left me, Bill wrote a message in my mind. I cannot overstate the importance of this message, which seems to me to hold one key to understanding a human continuum between earthly life and immortality. I suspect he chose the written word because he knew I would take his writing seriously, as I had done in our life together. His words appeared slowly, one at a time: ‘Nothing exists except love.’”

I don’t know about you, but as I repeat Fran’s moving words I’m nodding with solemn knowing.

Art:  Lightbeing. Artist unknown.

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 

 

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

 

 
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