Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II July 22, 2014

IndividuationandArchetypeLast time I shared a dream from over 20 years ago titled “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” So what did that dream have to do with “real” life?  Actually, dreams ARE real life.  They happen to everyone, even some animals.  They are facts.  We do not make them up.  They come from a place beyond Ego’s control: the unconscious.  Our unawareness of the unconscious does not negate its reality;  each dream proves its existence. When we trust it and explore its nightly dramas, ordinary life is transformed into the greatest adventure of all: living our own myth.

This is my all-time favorite dream and I’m still processing its message. It arrived shortly after I finished my first book about the inner life, The Bridge to Wholeness.  I had quit college teaching to follow my passion for writing, birthed my precious child, nurtured it through months of revisions, and was looking for a publisher. At a time when I was particularly vulnerable, this dream affirmed my choices and bolstered my courage to continue on my new path.

It is a mythic allegory about the psycho-spiritual initiation of my immature Ego (the little green snake) which had unconsciously identified with my culture’s masculine/Animus values.  It said that my destiny was to take the individuation (tree) journey through a dark and unknown way to integrate my Soul (brown female snake) into consciousness.

The Bridge to WholenessThe first stage of initiation was a slow awakening to Spirit through a lengthy immersion in the spiritual realm (hole).  This corresponded with the first half of my life when I escaped internal conflicts by immersing myself in church, the Bible, and masculine-oriented religious teachings.

The second stage began when the little green snake left the safe womb of conformity and ventured out on its own.  This was the right choice (right) for me, even though it opened me to the dangerous influence of the unconscious (left). The outer world equivalent to this plot development is that at age 37 I finally acknowledged my unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, overcame my inertia, and returned to college for my doctorate.

Act III featured an encounter with my earthy feminine Anima/Soul (brown female snake) who lived in the opposite, unconscious side of my psyche. Suddenly, her differing needs demanded equal time with Spirit.

In waking life I had come face to face with a moral dilemma, both sides of which were equally compelling, yet intolerable.  Fearful of making a terrible mistake that could have disastrous consequences, I tolerated the tension of their slow simmering in a Dark Night of the Soul for nine long years. Listening to the dialogues between Reason and Emotion, Conscious and Unconscious, Animus and Anima, Spirit and Soul, Ego and Self without giving in to my Ego’s desperate wish to escape was my salvation, for in the process, the alchemical vessel of my psyche was strengthened and empowered.

dreamtheatres2Fascinated by the strange image of the female snake biting down on the head of the little green snake, I looked for associations in Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker says that the serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess and many ancient religions told stories about a male snake deity who was the Goddess’s consort.  Walker writes:

[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess.  The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century:  that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him [italics mine] p. 904.

Bingo! This mythic image which I had never encountered before is an archetypal symbol of fertility, transformation and renewal! It appeared in my dream as a natural consequence of years of inner work and mirrored a life-changing transformation in my personality. This is why the last scene of the dream pointed not to death, but to new life. An apparent catastrophe was transformed into something sacred (rainbow) by the snakes’ bizarre embrace. The result was a more maturely individuated Ego and Animus (cowboy) and a deeply meaningful spirituality.

So my answer to,”What do dreams have to do with ‘real’ life?” is, “Everything that truly matters and is deeply real.”  They show us who we are: our greatest fears and deepest desires, our wounds and wishes, weaknesses and strengths.They tell us where we are and how to get where we want to go. They help us forgive our flaws and learn compassion for ourselves and others. They encourage our individuality and reward our healthy choices. They satisfy our soul’s yearning to be known and loved.

I still struggle daily to understand and accept myself, but thanks to my dreams and the writing through which I pour out my vital essence, I’m still evolving.  And beneath my ubiquitous self-doubt rests a solid foundation—laid by 25 years of recording and working on #4,552 dreams to date—of peaceful knowing.  My dreams tell me:  You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

Photos:  Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger is one of my favorite books by a Jungian analyst. It’s a must for the library of any serious seeker. To learn more about Jungian psychology from a layperson’s point of view check out any of my books.  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 Do Dreams Have to Do with “Real” Life? Part I July 15, 2014

299px-Caduceus.svg[1]If you’ve never thought of dreams as having any relevance to your waking life, I can assure you, they do. This one which came at a pivotal time in my life convinced me beyond any doubt that some unimaginable, unconscious Mystery which dwelled both within and outside me knew what was going on in my conscious life and had something to tell me about it. I’ll share the dream in this post and comment on it in the next.

Dream #843:  Two Snakes in the Tree of Life”. 

Someone is telling a story. I watch from afar as the events unfold.

“Once upon a time a little green snake started his life in one side of a tree.”  I see the snake.  He is long and thin and his underbelly is the color of the inside of an avocado.

“On the other side of the tree lay a huge, old, brown female snake, but the little green snake did not know it.  He grew and grew until one day he decided to go on his journey and he entered the hole.”  The little green snake slithers into a hole in the tree and disappears.  I look to see if his head comes out of the hole on the other side where the big old female snake is, but it does not.  Maybe the way inside the hole is long and winding.

“It took him a long time of traveling and he was enjoying his journey, but eventually he came out on the other side.”  His head peeks out of the hole.  Will he see the big snake?  No, he turns right and takes a narrow spiral path that curves around the tree to the left, to where the big snake is waiting.

“The little green snake slid along smack into the mouth of the big snake.” The green snake’s head peeks out of the side of the big snake’s mouth.  The big snake munches down on his head twice.  Chomp. Chomp.  The little green snake’s face shows no fear or distress or pain.  Maybe this does not hurt.  Maybe he has no idea what is happening to him.  I hope so.

Now the narration breaks off.  There are other onlookers here.  One says, “Oh, well.  That’s the end of the little green snake.”

Someone else says, “Well, what if he fights back?”  I wonder how he can possibly fight back with no hands or arms or legs. There seems to be no hope.

Someone else says, “Oh, no.  He shouldn’t fight back. That would be wrong.” 

The narrator says, “Oh, is fighting the wrong answer?”

Suddenly, a rainbow streaks across the sky and lands in a different place, like a lit-up stage in a vast, darkened theatre.  It is the little green snake, who has been transformed into a young, handsome cowboy.  Triumphantly he saunters across the stage to the bar, slaps down two coins, and says to the bartender, “Set ‘em up, Joe.”

He survived!  He did not have to die and he turned into a human! This is the best possible ending to the story.

Symbols

Little Green Snake:  An archetype that has many possible meanings.  Because the snake constantly sheds its skin, it symbolizes transformation, rebirth, and perpetual renewal. The color green, the color of the annual renewal of nature, reinforces this meaning. The Kundalini serpent of Tibetan yoga, which is said to be coiled at the base of the spinal column, symbolizes the cosmic evolutionary energy that accompanies growing spiritual awareness.  In this dream, I believe the little green snake represents my masculine spiritual striving for transformation, personal empowerment, and individuation.

Tree:  An archetype of individuation;  spiritual development;  androgyny.

Brown:  The color of the ‘feminine’ earth.

Female Snake:  The ancient, earthy, natural feminine;  the archetypal Great Goddess or Great Mother, which has the power of life and death;  my feminine essence.

Hole:  An opening into the unknown, or spiritual world.  Since it is a circle, also the Self.

Right: A suggestion that the snake is headed in the ‘right’ direction;  the direction of consciousness.

Left: The unconscious.

Onlookers:  Other aspects of my personality.

Cowboy: A rugged individualist, a mature individuated animus.

These were my associations to the symbols twenty years ago when I was working on this dream for inclusion in Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dreamwork. I no longer see the cowboy as a “mature individuated animus,” but at that time my animus was still in the throes of youthful heroic swagger. I forgive myself (and him) for being so full of ‘ourselves.” My body was no longer young when I had this dream, but my ego was, and inflation always shadows a newly-empowered ego.

I’ll share what I wrote about this dream next time. Meanwhile, I welcome your associations.

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

 

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

 

Tzivia Gover’s “Forget About Ids and Analyses and Experience the Dream” July 1, 2014

My friends, I just tried to reblog a post from another website for the first time and thanks to Francesca, a thoughtful reader, disovered that I failed miserably. So here I go again with a different method!  I hope you’ll let me know if it works!!

This post about the self-knowledge that dreams can bring was written by certified dreamworker Tzivia Gover and can be found at her blog, http://www.thirdhousemoon.com.   I loved it and wanted you to see it too!

Forget about ids and analyses and experience the dream (or: A year ago … CV)

HPIM0541.JPG Early last summer I accepted a last minute invitation to visit a friend who lives two hours away for a barbecue. With no planning I jumped in my car and soon I was in my friend’s kitchen helping her rinse greens for a salad, while others prepped the grill and set the table. I spent the day playing with a little boy on the tire swing under the Chestnut tree, eating chicken hot dogs with the group, and later driving to a lake where we kayaked under a serene blue sky. Floating there on the lake in a small blue boat, my yellow paddle pushing me past the white flowers sprouting from lily pads, I felt my heart pulsing with joy.

This past winter, when I felt cold or lonely, I would remember that day—the painterly light animating the tall grasses in the field behind my friend’s house, the trees, and the buttlerflies whispering on the breezes, and the easy company of old and new friends, and the peace of paddling on that glimmering lake.

The day was sweet. But reflecting on it and savoring it in the months that followed, was even sweeter.

I don’t need to convince you that paying attention to happy moments like this one, and savoring them afterwards, adds joy to your life. Such a day can enrich our lives just by having happened, and by being remembered. Or we might go a step further and try to learn something from it: This is what happens when I take a chance and say yes to a last minute invitation, for example.

But you might need convincing if I told you that a dream is no different, that by simply savoring a sweet one, or studying a troubling one, you can learn lessons and increase the joy in your life. You might argue, “But my dreams are not like a serene summer day with new friends.” You’ll say, “My dreams are anxiety-infused, nonsensical, and bizarre.”

Yes, my friend I’ve had days—I mean dreams—like that, too.

Let’s take the days, first, because we all believe in those. For example there was the day a friend who’d always been sweet and cheerful turned argumentative and angry. Or the day I took my seat on the ferry for a weekend getaway only to realize, that I’d left my wallet at home. Or the one where my students refused to listen to me and I came home hoarse from asking them to quiet down.

I could choose to ignore those days because they too are bizarre, nonsensical, and anxiety-infused. But I’m not that kind of person, and since you are reading this, I’m guessing neither are you. Instead, I reflect: What happened? How do I understand my friend’s sudden change in behavior? What did I learn about my inner resourcefulness from embarking on a trip with no identification or money? How can I speak to my students so they will want to listen?

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s easy to see that we can learn from our experiences rather than turn away from them, and that this is the way to grow and become more skillful at navigating what life throws our way. And you can do the very same thing with your dreams.

Forget for the moment about archetypes, analysis, ids, and super egos. Look at your dreams as experiences you can choose to dismiss as random hallucinations, or mine for wisdom, emotional insight, and original perspective.

Working with dreams is no more complicated, than what you do naturally with your waking experiences. Simply pay attention to what happened last night, when you drifted into sleep and entered into other dimensions of consciousness.

Try This:

  • This week, accept your dreams as experiences. Period. Remember: interpreting and analyzing dreams is only one of many ways to respond to them.
  • As you reflect on your dream notice: What new places did I see? What new, unusual, or unexpected abilities or facets of myself or others did I encounter?
  • Is there anything from your dream, perhaps a color, character, situation, or feeling, that you’d like to savor or reflect on?

ZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZ

Tzivia Gover, Certified Dream Therapist, is available to help you understand the meaning and messages in your dreams. Visit her at www.thirdhousemoon.com to view her upcoming workshops and for summer dreamwork discounts.

 

 

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 

 

The Never-Ending Dance June 18, 2014

Osservare-le-stelle-in-inverno[1]This morning I read a blog post from a dear internet friend, writer Vivienne Tuffnell, titled “Humankind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality.” It can be found at this link . It was originally written two years ago, and Viv has just reposted it. It was about depression and despair. At the bottom was a new comment from another internet friend, John Amenta:

“It did not matter, after all. He was only one man. One man’s fate is not important.

“If it is not, what is?”

He could not endure those remembered words.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, Gaverel Rocannon, Rocannon’s World

I too have suffered from despair since childhood. It began at the age of 11 when my father died. To this day there are many occasions in my daily life when I cannot get excited about something because I know it will not last and my pleasure will not last and I will die and nobody will care and nothing I have done will make any difference, and so what?

I started believing in religion because of this despair, and then I eventually gave up on religion for the same reason. It may be fine for others, but it never made a dent in my despair.

Yet I believe this: If my fate is not important, what is? This belief— actually it’s not a belief but a knowing — has come slowly over a lifetime of spiritual questing, meditation, and self-discovery. It has come from too many synchronicities to count in which I was reminded over and over and over of another, spiritual, dimension of reality that is very different from this physical one, yet is sister (or brother) to it. The knowing is characterized by an objective awareness that all the things I fear and fret about are really “No big deal,”  and by the freedom to be myself and do my thing with an effortless, anxiety-free ease.

It feels to me as if this dimension, this One Mind or Consciousness or whatever it is, this invisible, untouchable reality, is “interested” in me. At times it feels like it’s guiding and affirming me. Tiny, insignificant, unimportant me. This makes no rational sense. Yet this is my experience. Others might dismiss it with a scoff and a flick of the hand. Yet this is my experience, and it brings meaning and peace.

I believe I’m fairly conscious of the terrifying reality beneath the surface of life. I’m often acutely aware of the tininess of my one little soul and body in a universe too vast to even imagine. I’m constantly reminded of my mortality and often have the feeling that death hovers just over my left shoulder. And sometimes I am awakened to deeper levels of reality which deepen my despair.

Yet, over time, somehow the tragedy of life has come to be balanced with a consciousness of the miracle of life in such a way that the despair never “wins.” It’s always there, like the sun that can blind me or the radiation that constantly pierces my body, but it never wins because it’s partnered with the knowing. The knowing is always there too, like the air I breathe and the blood that pumps through my veins and the earth I walk on. I think of it as a gift of grace. I don’t know where it came from and I don’t know why I have it, but I do. Maybe it’s always shared a bed with despair in the depths of my soul and my inner work simply awakened it.  Whatever the reason, when I remember to notice it, it puts the despair in a different perspective. Instead of feeling hopeless and afraid I feel comforted because I “know” that life and death — like importance and unimportance, vastness and tininess, electrons and neutrons — are in a never-ending dance and that I’m an important part of it and always will be.

I hope this doesn’t sound “woo woo” or silly or self-important or preachy. Most of all I hope it doesn’t add to the pain of those of you who know despair. I just hope it gives you a shred of hope that there might be a shred of a reason to hope.

Thank you Vivienne and John for your inspiring honesty and wisdom. This post is dedicated to you. You’ve both made a difference in my life.

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 

 

Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge May 23, 2014

Dorothy'shouseOkay.  Time for a confession.  Until recently I’ve been quite mature about aging.  I’ve believed platitudes like, Why fight the inevitable?  It’s just a number.  Accept it with grace.  It’s a phase everyone goes through…if they’re lucky enough to live that long.  Stay active. You can still be a useful member of society.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera….  Then, about halfway into my 70th year, the s**t hit the fan.

It began with some pain in a toe after a few weeks of vigorous walking on brick roads in wornout tennis shoes.  The coup de gras was delivered on Thanksgiving Day when I squatted for about three minutes in front of a low kitchen cabinet looking for just the right serving dish.  The next morning my toe was so painful I couldn’t walk without limping.  Determined to tough it out, I didn’t consult a podiatrist until January.  The black boot I had to wear until my stress fracture healed wasn’t pretty, but at least it brought me a lot of sympathy! Squatting, for heaven’s sake?  Who knew squatting could be a health risk?

Then one day in February I woke up with the lids of my right eye stuck together.  When I got them open I was appalled at the intense shade of pink staring at me from the mirror. Could I get an eye doctor to see me?  Of course not!  I’d just have to tough it out until next Monday.  Fortunately, I had an appointment with my podiatrist that afternoon. After his eyes widened at the sight of mine, he asked his assistant to make me an appointment with the eye doctor down the hall. The good news is that I saw him 30 minutes later.  The bad news is that the next day both eyes were stuck shut and as red as alligator eyes in the glow of a flashlight at night. Eat your heart out, Bob Costas!  Speaking of… that was a weird coincidence, especially since I had made such a big deal about his case of pink eye at the Winter Olympics only a few days earlier.  “Look at that, Fred! He’s got something wrong with his eye.  Gross! What is that?”

The third indignity, this one even grosser than pink eye, cropped up soon afterwards.  One day I developed an annoying itch in the center of my upper chest.  Several mornings later I awoke scratching a wart!  A wartSeriously?  I’d always secretly suspected that only people with character flaws got warts and now I was one of them! How could that be? Luckily, specially treated Band-Aids make them go away, but I have to tell you, hiding mine was a wardrobe challenge for the next three weeks!

So now I was hobbling around with a bum toe, alligator eyes, an unsightly growth and high-necked blouses! Next came a sinus infection. What was happening here? After a few weeks of moping around the house feeling as sorry for myself as a child, I finally had to admit the universe was sending me a humbling message:  “Wake up, Princess.  You’re not in Kansas any more!  Aging is no tea party and you might as well get used to it!”

I’m trying. So here, thoroughly chastened by this latest wake-up call and determined to handle it like a grownup so I can get on with my life,  I present my top Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge.

1.  To my horror, health complaints are getting to be a common conversation topic.

2.  When I don’t feel well I get cranky, petulant and depressed.

3.  Your reflexes actually do get slower as you age, which explains why your driving does too.  I’m thinking that if you see me behind the wheel 20 years from now  (I’m determined to be optimistic about this) you better hope I’m headed the other way.

4.  I don’t laugh at people who watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in bed any more.

5.  I’ve been sitting at my desk writing all day every day for so many years that sometimes just walking requires aspirin. I hope I haven’t done myself some permanent damage.   At any rate, now I get the Tim Conway shuffle.  (Check out the link for some good laughs.)

I still intend to live this phase of my life with grace, but after this winter I’m aspiring to more kindness and humor too.

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 .

 

 

Five A’s of Inventive Aging May 20, 2014

The Snail 1953 by Henri Matisse 1869-1954The latest meeting of my writer’s group, The Purple Pros, was rich with splendid conversation about art, poetry, literature and theatre. In my update I mentioned how after 24 years of  passionate—one might almost say obsessive—writing, teaching and speaking, I’ve been in a semi-fallow period since my last book came out. Little green shoots are popping up here and there, but as yet I have no clear direction. Lenny spoke of how various challenges and life changes leave her with little time to work on her long play and the four short ones she wants to start.  What with Margie newly remarried after years of non-stop writing, speaking, and presenting, it quickly became apparent that we had found our theme for the meeting: the transition from our highly productive and creative middle years into the autumns of our lives.

For her writing activity, Margie had synchronistically chosen the same theme.  She told us about visiting the Tate Museum’s exhibition of the cut-out art of Henri Matisse on her honeymoon. Bedridden and wheelchair-bound in the last decade of his life, Matisse was too frail to stand up or hold a brush for long.  So, still driven to create by his daemon—in classical mythology a daemon was a benevolent semi-divine nature spirit who drives humans forward and upward—his new medium became colored paper and his tool, scissors.  Margie shared some questions she’s been pondering since then and suggested we address any that appealed to us.

Two questions interested me: “Why is it important to re-invent myself at this stage of life?” and “What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?”  Since crossroads and transitions are common to all at crucial times in our lives, I decided to share my musings here. A thought:  If our daemons drive us to pursue and perfect our passions, our musings/muses infuse them with inspiration and creativity.  After all, my musings on Margie’s incisive questions inspired this new post at a time when I’ve been writing less than usual.

So, “Why is it important to reinvent myself at this stage of life?”  Because I may have completed my previous stage, but I’m not finished for good.  My life is a miraculous gift, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m not ready to sit on the riverbank watching the rest of it flow past. I don’t want to leave without having made all the contributions that my driven daemon, creative muse and unique soul can make. I may not be Henri Matisse or Virginia Woolfe but I am Jean Raffa!

“What qualities would enable the reinvention of my craft?”  Yes, writing is my craft, but so is my life. My ultimate mission is to make of myself and my life a work of art: something beautiful, original and meaningful, something that nourishes the growth not only of my soul but of others.  As I wrote my answer to this question I recognized five qualities that have helped me reinvent myself and will continue to do so:

  1. Attention:  Staying aware of my inner and outer life—what I’m feeling, sensing, intuiting, doing, and finding fulfilling and meaningful—in service to self-knowledge, authenticity and consciousness.
  2. Acceptance:  Releasing my resistance to things I can’t control or change.
  3. Appreciation:  Being grateful for whatever happens inside and outside of me, not just what I consider positive, but also what I’m inclined to view as negative, in the knowledge that every particle of life is valuable, necessary and instructive to my soul.
  4. Assimilation:  Consciously integrating my experiences and perceptions into a growing and changing life stream of creative energy that keeps me moving forward.
  5. Action:  Manifesting my soul’s creativity in my writing, loving and living so that my offerings will make a healing difference.

So far I’ve chosen to be a friend, wife, teacher, mother, Episcopal church-goer, homemaker, carpool driver, community volunteer, television producer, graduate student, college professor, vision quester, dream worker, shadow-tamer, author, workshop leader, social media networker, and music maker. Lately I hear the call to reinvent myself again. I don’t know what choices I’ll make or how they’ll turn out, but then I never did.  What I do know is that my daemon, muse, soul and I intend to keep reinventing our life until this one ends and the next begins.

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

 

 

 

The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014

Maiden/Princess

Maiden/Princess

Child

Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Crone

Crone

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

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

Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa. 

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

 

The Soul’s Never-Ending Journey March 18, 2014

vesica_piscisLast weekend I presented a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop on Healing the Sacred Divide for the CG Jung Society of Sarasota.  The material for both presentations came from 25 years of ongoing inner work.

With my 1989 discovery of Jungian psychology and the healing value of dreamwork, I started paying attention to images and symbols that felt important.  Over the next five years of intense study I recorded and worked on hundreds of dreams and wrote two books.  Both featured meaningful symbols that were helping me make sense of my life.

As I continued to write and teach at the Winter Park Jung Center throughout the 90’s,  I devised and tested what I called The Partnership Profile. This is an assessment tool to help people understand where they lie on a continuum between the opposites of masculine and feminine archetypal energies.  According to Jung, we all contain both, and wholeness is a function of valuing and integrating both into our awareness so we can live with balance. The symbol I chose for The Partnership Profile was two interlocking circles with the unifying mandorla in the middle.  I used it again on my first website,  then on my newly revised website, and most recently on the cover of Healing the Sacred Divide.

Why this symbol and not another?  Why am I so drawn to it?  I finally found the answer last weekend.

I began my Friday evening lecture with the Big dream I had at the age of ten.  In it I was walking along a railroad track toward a point on the distant horizon when Tonto took me to see the Lone Ranger who was standing below the left side of the tracks. As I waited to hear what my hero wanted to tell me, he shot me. When I woke up screaming I vowed I would never forget this devastating dream of betrayal.

Fast forward to Saturday’s workshop. My last topic for the day was “The 9th Gift of an Integrated God-image:  Mandorla Consciousness.”  This is when we begin to travel the psycho-spiritual path which Lao-Tsu, father of Taoism, called the Middle Way of mindful thinking and living.

In our discussion about whether or not this is enlightenment, I shared a huge awakening experience I had at the age of 27 when I was suffering a crisis of faith.  After a leader in our church prayed for me I had a vision of a pillar of vibrating blue light that stood between me and the altar for over a minute.  Not only did this convince me of the reality of the Sacred Mystery, but it made me wonder if I had reached enlightenment!  After all, it was a blue “light!”

I hadn’t of course!  But that’s a subject for another post. I’m telling you this now because when one of the workshop participants asked me what shape the pillar was, I stood up to demonstrate with my hands.  “Well, it was a tall pillar, about this size and shape…..”  “Oh,” said the woman.  “It was a mandorla.”

It took a moment to sink in. The train tracks in my Lone Ranger dream represented my spiritual journey. I would strive for the rest of my life to walk in that middle, mandorla-like space between two opposite but  interconnected rails.  Seventeen years after that dream my first powerful awakening also featured a mandorla.  And I didn’t see either one of them until last Saturday!

What does this tell me about the Soul’s journey?  That becoming fully conscious takes a very, very long time. So long, in fact, that it may continue into eternity like those tracks in my dream.  As it’s taken thousands of years for humanity to evolve to our present level of awareness—which anyone with eyes can see is far from complete—so may each individual soul need eons to evolve into its fullest potential. If what physicists say is true—that energy is never lost—than that includes soul energy.

I find it very reassuring that my journey is far from over, and I look forward to the next leg, whenever and wherever it may take place.

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

 

 
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