Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Value of Ritual April 15, 2014

In 1997 four other women and I formed an organization we called The Matrix. Our purpose was to discover, define, and address what is valuable in the lives of women. Having experienced many benefits from engaging in personal rituals, it was important to me to find concrete and memorable ways to express our hopes and desires for the Matrix — for example, to devise meaningful programs, to relate honestly, to work in harmony with one another, and to help women create connections with their own deep wells of wisdom — and so I created rituals for each meeting as well as the events we produced. To my delight, the others participated eagerly, and after a while I earned the unofficial title of “Ritual Lady,” a distinction I wore with great honor.

At first, the most obvious benefit of our planning session rituals was that they connected us with our innermost selves, often at levels much deeper than those normally accessible. Rarely did we complete a ritual without deep emotion and affirming new insights. This soul-baring work established the foundation for an unusual degree of intimacy and trust which gradually changed our group from a secular organization into a spiritual community. As a woman who has been very slow to trust that others would accept me if I spoke my soul’s truths, I experienced a huge breakthrough the first time my Matrix sisters created a special ritual for me in which to express some anger. Their encouragement to communicate honestly and openly, and their acceptance when I did, was life-changing.

I would never have had the courage to do this if we had not, meeting after meeting, month after month, year after year taken the time to create a sacred container for ourselves and our work through ritual. For me, this proves the truth of an assertion by Kay Turner in her article, “Contemporary Feminist Rituals,” that “Feminist ritual practice is currently the most important model for symbolic and, therefore, psychic and spiritual change in women.”

Whether personal or collective, rituals help transform individual souls and bring them into proper relationship with One Soul. In Turner’s words, “…ritual space and activity are sacred in the sense of representing the possibility of self-transformation. Part of the power and the fear experienced in ritual is the realization that one may change, become ultimately different, as a result of the experience or that the experience may suddenly make recognizable change that has been slowly rising from the depths of personality and ideology.”

A major benefit of ritual is growth in consciousness. As I wrote in my post from February, 2011 titled “Your Body As Your Partner in Dreamwork,” I’ve found that participating in original rituals helps me clarify and integrate important new insights. Even if I should someday forget the ritual my Matrix sisters conducted for me, the courage, relief, self-validation and personal empowerment I experienced changed me forever. I still feel anger and other powerful emotions, of course, but I am no longer at their mercy, nor do I feel compelled to deny them healthy outlets, for the simple reason that I am more conscious.

Before I began writing this post I lit the lemon grass and wheat-scented candle on my desk and spent a moment in quiet self-awareness. This never fails to inspire me. When I am finished, extinguishing it will bring the comfort of knowing I have completed a task that is important to my soul. What are the rituals that nourish your soul?

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

 

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 

 

Caryatids and Queens April 8, 2014

Femininity is universally associated with beauty, softness, tenderness, receptivity, relationship, and caring. While some equate these qualities with weakness, Spirit Warriors know they make us stronger than we ever imagined possible. Of the many symbols suggesting this kind of strength, none speaks as strongly to me as the caryatid.

Caryatids are gigantic columns or pillars in the form of beautiful, fully draped females. A very old architectural device, they were originally used to support immense entablatures in sacred public buildings. In ancient times it was said that seven priestesses founded major oracle shrines. These priestesses had different names in various parts of the world. In the Middle East they were known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, hence their common usage as columns holding up temple roofs. These same pillars are referred to in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom [Sophia] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” On the Acropolis at Athens, caryatids are associated with the strong and independent goddess, Artemis Caryatis, from whom they get their name.

My first glimpse of caryatids at the British Museum filled me with awe and wonder. In them I saw feminine beauty, gentleness, independence, spirituality and mystery blended with majestic, connected, immovable strength. I was looking at a manifestation of, and metaphor for, the Queen archetype. This is a feminine aspect of power and strength with which every psyche is furnished regardless of gender.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge social structures involving a variety of people, skill levels and activities, but never takes on more than she can handle, never gets crushed under the weight of her responsibilities.

Nor does she claim godlike perfection and omnipotence for herself: no savior complex for her! She simply receives what she is strong enough to receive; contains what she is large enough to contain; gives what is hers to give. Her strength is not based on compulsions to prove anything or pretend to be something she is not, but on a clear understanding of the nature of her gifts, dimensions of her interior space, and limits of her authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a sense of social responsibility. They are pillars of society who are always there to listen and understand; share in pain or joy; defend the innocent, weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised; and advance culture. They have a quiet, grounded strength that does not belittle, gossip, or betray confidences. They accept without rejecting differing opinions and protect without exploiting weakness. They do not relinquish softness; rather theirs is the softness of the lioness, not the lamb. Although receptive, they are never doormats. They nurture but never smother. Theirs is the warm and life-giving receptivity of the womb, not the cold hardness of the tomb.

Caryatids and Queens stand tall and firm with eyes wide open. With steadfast devotion and resolve they support institutions and endeavors which are in everyone’s best interest. We emulate their strength when we subordinate our ego’s will to the greater good and work for the betterment of all without betraying our personal standpoints. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

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 Well of Feminine Power March 25, 2014

In European and Chinese thought, the feminine principle is associated with passivity and the masculine with action. In Hinduism, however, the feminine is associated with creativity and action, and the masculine with manifestation.

The primary image of the feminine principle in Hinduism is the goddess Durga. In a myth called the Devi Mahatmya, a buffalo-headed yogi has become a monster whom none of the gods can overthrow. So the gods stand in a circle, send their energies back to where they came from, and a great black cloud appears. Out of it comes Durga, the goddess with eighteen arms. In each hand is a symbol of one of the gods. With the combined power of these symbols, she alone is able to defeat the monster.

In this story, masculine power is a specific form of the life energy that is feminine. As Joseph Campbell says in Pathways to Bliss, the feminine is the source of the energy and the masculine is its specification in any particular direction. She is the energy out of which creation arises, he is every visible manifestation of that energy. She is the whole; he is each individual part. This intuition from many spiritual traditions is probably why the feminine has long been associated with the dark sea of the unconscious, and the masculine with the ego consciousness which emerges from this maternal matrix.

Although the masculine and feminine principles are metaphors for the basic energies of every psyche, most of us associate them with the genders. As a result, Campbell says it’s much easier for a woman to identify with masculinity than for a male who is committed to his particular form to identify with femininity. All she has to do is take on a specification of the power that is already hers, but he has to give up his ego identity and personal field of power which feels like disintegrating into a formless void. This, of course, is exactly what the Buddha did, and that, says Campbell, was a heroic act of the first order.

In a perfect world, both forms of energy would be valued equally and every child would be helped to discover and activate his or her own unique blend of interests, skills and powers without regard to gender. But most of us have not yet attained that heroic level of consciousness. An immature ego with limited consciousness equates power with physical prowess and power over others. Sensing the magnitude of feminine power and fearing anything more powerful than itself, it represses the feminine principle in the psyche; and if it identifies with maleness, it will also tend to dominate and exploit females.

A well is a symbol of the feminine principle, the womb of the Great Mother, the human psyche.  We all contain Durga’s power: the totality of human potential. Our ego is only one form of that potential. We can choose to identify only with the familiar and comfortable qualities that are sanctioned by our families; or, if we want to, we can choose to activate our fullest power by accepting everything about ourselves we associate with the feminine principle, including tender feelings, instincts, caring, nurturing, evil, suffering, the capacity for intimate relationships, an understanding heart, intuition, etc.

In empowering Durga we can attain our destiny. What monsters hold you back from attaining your destiny? What do you have to lose by enlisting Durga’s help to overcome them?

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 

 

 

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 Secret to Healing Relationships March 14, 2014

Here’s one of the most important things I’ve learned about relationships: If we do not understand our worth and respect our right to be different, our relationships will be seriously impaired because others will not understand our worth or respect us either. But if we accept the natural entitlement that belongs to every soul, and if we can learn to trust our soul’s processes enough to stand firm in the face of misunderstanding and opposition, we can more easily bridge the divide between ourselves and others.

While we might sometimes feel that people we know and love are being deliberately perverse, at bottom, few are truly motivated by a need to create difficulties for us, but simply believe our differences mean that we are wrong and they are right. This blind spot has nothing to do with our true worth and everything to do with the walls every ego builds around itself from an early age.

If we understand this, our next challenge is to see the other side of our relationship story. The uncomfortable kicker is that if we are offended by those with whom we are in conflict, it is not necessarily because there is something terribly wrong with them.  Just as their inability to accept us as we are is not necessarily due to our flaws but to their inability to see and respect our differences, so our inability to accept them as they are is, in large part, due to the walls we have built up around ourselves. Ouch!

The foundation for this kind of prejudice is buried in our psyches at birth and we begin to build on it around the age of three when we realize that others are not extensions of ourselves but separate beings.  This awareness creates our ego, an edifice we design and construct by selecting the beliefs, qualities, goals, attitudes and values we like while rejecting those we don’t. Nobody does this on purpose or is even aware of doing it. It’s simply a natural stage of ego development that becomes habitual, and if hiding our fuller selves behind our walls does not cause problems and suffering for us we may never discover them.

Sometimes we reject others who remind us of qualities we have disowned. At other times we befriend them because something in us is attracted to their differences. Either way, the challenge is to heal the either/or divide which both egos in any relationship have created. If we can accept the truth that we are as ignorant and fearful as others, we can change our focus from criticizing them to knowing ourselves. Then our ego’s walls begin to soften and crumble and the authentic heroic journey begins.

Lowering our defenses and baring the truths of our souls creates a healing elixir which is a mixture of understanding and compassion for ourselves and others. This magical potion is the only lasting solution to transforming dysfunctional relationships. Accepting our truths and speaking and acting on them with kindness and restraint is powerful medicine. As we dispense this medicine step by step, day by day, we become visible proof that it is possible for the human ego to change and mature, thus becoming more attractive and inspirational to others who, in turn, are motivated to change.

The beloved American actress and singer, Pearl Bailey, wrote: “”You never find yourself until you face the truth.” To that I would add, “…and you never find others until you find yourself.”

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, plus  Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

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 
 

 
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