Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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 

 

Formula for a Successful Marriage February 19, 2014

Still Together After All These Years

Still Together After All These Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T & E + C & IW = SM

As Finkel writes,

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

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

Photo Credit:  Amy Smith Photography

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

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

 

Why Go Into the Arts? January 28, 2014

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

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

When the night has come and the land is dark,  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you have an opening for one more?”

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

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

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

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

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

And thanks, Sam. This one’s for you.

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

 

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

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

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

Ego Speaks

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

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

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

“Ego Wants

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

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

… And Fast

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

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

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

Photo Credit: dreamstime

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

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

 

Confessions of a Reluctant Holiday Reveler December 18, 2013

My Idea of Holiday Fun

My Idea of Holiday Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mythological Healing in Times of Crisis November 19, 2013

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

Orpheus

Orpheus

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

Ah, the knowledge of impermanence

That haunts our days

Is their very fragrance.

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

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

Let this darkness be a bell tower

and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.

Orpheus and the breath of life

Orpheus and the breath of life

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

Full round apple, peach, pear, blackberry

Each speaks life and death

into the mouth.

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

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

Lyre

Lyre

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

A gust in the god. A wind.

A gust in the god. A wind.

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

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

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

Elaine Mansfield

Elaine Mansfield

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

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

Original art by Elaine Mansfield.

 

Something Different About Last Weekend November 7, 2013

Nearing the End of a 20-Year Wait

Nearing the End of a 20-Year Wait

I want to tell you about last weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's Official!

It’s Official!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Connecting with the Holy, Step Two: Giving Our Warrior A New Job October 22, 2013

What Does Your Life Map Look Like?

What Does Your Life Map Look Like?

With inner work [your ego accords] every element of life, including the dark elements…a place of dignity and worth.”

–Robert A. Johnson

If spirit persons throughout history are right when they say the nature of Divine Being is light and love, why can’t we see and feel it?  Because our shadow blocks the light!  Unfortunately, we can’t see our shadow either.  In fact, we find the very idea of it difficult to comprehend. So how do we handle something we can’t see and don’t believe in?

Luckily, we each have an inner ally who can help. The Warrior archetype is a powerful pattern of psychological energy with the courage, commitment and self-discipline to show up to work every day. It wants to be active but it only has so much energy so we need to prioritize. We can begin by asking ourselves these questions:

1: What job(s) does my Warrior have now?  In other words, what occupies the majority of my time, thought, activity and will power? My job? Family? Home? Appearance? Social standing? Relationships? Hobbies? Addictions? Making money? Acquiring material objects? Pleasing people?

2:  Does using my Warrior’s energy these ways bring joy, meaning and fulfillment or do I yearn for something more?

We have two basic life tasks. During the first half our job is to acquire power and success in the material world.  Our Warrior’s energy is meant to be directed into socialization, education, perfecting our skills, and establishing a comfortable home, satisfying job and loving relationships. Using some of our energy to disown what we consider negative while trying to act positive and loving is often helpful during this time, but it’s not enough to connect us with the mystery of Divine Love.

If your answer to #2 is that you’re still unfulfilled and yearning, you’re probably near the second half of life. Dissatisfaction at this time comes from having repressed some of our valid, and often valuable, potential. To complete ourselves we need to give our Warrior the new job of freeing our unlived life.First, we need to become intentional about acknowledging our true feelings, especially those which feel dangerous, for they are among the more accessible symptoms of our shadow. Then we need to begin a committed program of regular inner work that will help us see and restrain it. Inner work is a big job, in fact it’s THE big job, and it continues throughout our lives. Most of us find it painful at first, but it gets easier. Spirit persons have always demonstrated that growth pains are preferable to the child’s fear of switching on the light in the closet of nighttime monsters, for that is a choice to remain in spiritual darkness.

Integrating Our Light and Dark Sides.

Integrating Our Light and Dark Sides.

Inner work requires our Warrior’s commitment to practice, practice, practice!  It can be anything that brings self-knowledge, empowers us to make healthy choices, and provides purpose, meaning and spiritual direction. Examples include journaling, dream work, active imagination, meditation, and psychotherapy.  For more information, I highly recommend Robert A. Johnson’s Inner Work. Growing mindful of how and when our shadow shows up is like creating a special road map that highlights unnecessary detours and obstacles, and directs us to safer routes. No one else can make our roadmap and we can’t complete it for ourselves without self-knowledge.

The theme of solar mythology is a great battle between light and darkness, good and evil.”

–Anne Baring

Befriending the dark side seems counterintuitive to most people today. After 4,000 years of conditioning by the Sky god’s mythology, our Warrior is far more comfortable trying to obliterate it!  But when the sun of our life begins to set and the moon begins to rise, lunar mythology, with its theme of integrating dark and light, is meant to take over. Dialogues with our soul open our hearts. With practice they bring self-acceptance, humility, compassion, forgiveness and love. These qualities connect us to our Source—the Divine Ground in which we and the universe are immersed—and allow it to manifest its love for us. When we accept ourselves and learn to love, our shadow’s power ebbs away and holiness flows in.

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

Photo:  Antique Map of Hungary, Braun & Hogenberg

Photo:  Fijian Warrior, Graham Crumb

 

Dreamwork as a Spiritual Practice October 18, 2013

dreamtheatresThis is just a note to let you know about an article I wrote for a wonderful online magazine  titled elephant journal (lower case caps on purpose!) that was published yesterday.  If you haven’t been to elephant journal before, you might want to take some time to browse around. They have excellent writers and articles on many topics.

If you follow me on twitter and/or Facebook you probably already know about this, but it occurred to me this morning that I could let my blog followers know via a quick post here.

I hope you’ll check it out and share it with like-minded friends if you like it.

Thank you so much for following my work.  You are all so dear to me and I appreciate you more than I can say.  :-)

Here’s the link:  I hope you enjoy it!  http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/10/going-against-the-current-dreamwork-as-spiritual-practice-jean-raffa/

If you’re interested in knowing more about Jungian dream work you can find my book Dream Theatres of the Soul at Amazon.

 

 
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