Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Inanna: Myth of Descent February 9, 2016

Inanna: myth of descent

Note:  Most of us are familiar with hero myths.  Today we see these “solar” myths from the patriarchal era as metaphors for the ego’s heroic efforts to conquer the “dragon” of unconsciousness and ascend into the heights of power, success, acclaim, fulfillment and enlightenment. Far fewer people are familiar with “lunar” descent myths, some of which predate the solar myths and feature women. Their themes are about loss, suffering, death and rebirth with resultant deepened self-knowledge, wisdom, compassion, trust and love.

Primitive humans probably created these myths to describe the cycles of life as it progressed through nature’s seasons, and to reassure themselves that spring’s sprouting and summer’s blossoming will always follow agriculture’s decline in the fall and apparent death in winter. But Dr. Carl Jung proved time and again that they are also stories about the life of the soul which can be of enormous comfort to individuals who find themselves in a descent phase of life.

In keeping with the onset of winter, this past December Susanne van Doorn featured a series of posts about the mythological theme of descent on her blog, Mindfunda. I was honored to be invited to write her first guest post about the Journey to the Underworld.  The following is a repost of that article.

Inanna

Jean Raffa

Today’s Guest author is Dr. Jean Raffa, a former television producer and college professor who—with the help of Jungian psychology—began following her passions for self-discovery and writing during mid-life. Jean has written several books. Her first was “The Bridge to Wholeness.” Her second book, “Dream Theatres of the Soul,” got her invited to make a keynote speech at the International Associations for the Study of Dreams in the summer of 2015. You can see her videos about this book at her YouTube channelHer newest Wilbur Award-winning book is called “Healing the Sacred Divide.”  Next week, Elaine Mansfield will write about the darkness of the descent.

On March 11-12, 2016, Jean will appear with author Elaine Mansfield at the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota for a presentation on descent, loss and grief based on the myth of Inanna.

Myth of Inanna: 3 kinds of Descent

A psychological descent can take many forms. Sometimes it shows up in strategies to escape painful present realities by regressing into past memories. We’re consumed by a bittersweet yearning for the “good old days” when we were young and innocent. Life was easy and we were on top of the world.

Inanna
Picture: viewsfromtheroof.com

 

We were a handsome Apollo, a confident football star and president of the high school student body who is trying to recapture our youth by driving a sporty new car or finding a younger wife. We were a beautiful, innocent Persephone, an entitled daughter and gifted student who has been pulled into the dark realms of obsessive binge eating, shopping sprees and plastic surgery.

A second kind of descent is forced on us by circumstances beyond our control: an accident, illness, divorce, loss of a home or job, death of a parent, child, or spouse. These can plunge us into the depths of a depression where grief and sorrow are constant companions.

Inanna
Picture: huffingtsonpost

 

Then there’s the existential descent into meaninglessness which appears uninvited at mid-life. Suddenly the beliefs and ideals that served so well in the first half of life no longer work, yet questioning them feels dangerous. Worse, we’ve met our shadow in feelings and urges we can no longer ignore and our naively positive self-image is irretrievably damaged.

Captivated by the archetypal Hero’s widely publicized and deeply satisfying rise to success, we are rarely prepared for our conflicts and losses. To an ego that has prided itself on being in control and doing everything right, it can feel as if we are adrift in a chaotic sea. Kris Kristofferson described this painful experience in his song, “Shipwrecked in the 80’s.” For some, the metaphor of falling into an abyss and plunging into what St. John of the Cross called a “dark night of the soul” is more apt.

Inanna

 

From the age of 17 I derived all the meaning I needed from my religion. Then at 37, I experienced an existential descent. On the outside it was business as usual, but inside I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Nine years later I was rescued by Jungian psychology. After committing to a regular practice of study, reading, self-reflection and dreamwork I finally began to understand what had happened. My ego had been brutally assaulted by unconscious instinctual forces within my psyche. Brutal? So it felt to me. Nonetheless my ordeal was life-serving. Without it, I would never have willingly explored my unconscious and been rewarded with the elixir of a revitalized life-force and the gold of affirming self-knowledge.

Inanna and the Descent Myth

Myths from every culture and religion are allegories of psychological and spiritual truths. In them, we can find guidance and healing meaning for our lives. Seeing the similarities between my story and the Sumerian descent myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, brought me great comfort.

 

Inanna
Inanna Queen of Heaven
unkown artist on easy.com

 

The first half of Inanna’s life was, like mine, fairly predictable. We both struggled to create a comfortable home, affirm our individuality, and establish our authority. Inanna accomplishes this by having a bed and a throne made for her. Then she cleverly tricks Enki, the God of Wisdom, into giving her the gifts of civilization, which she shares with the city she rules. She tops it all off (she assumes) by courting, seduction, bearing children, and fulfilling her Queenly duties.

I, too, gained knowledge through my cleverness:  enough, at least, to get a college scholarship. I earned two degrees, met, courted and married my husband, established a home, and birthed a daughter and a son. Eventually I earned a doctoral degree and a college teaching position. I’ve done it all, I thought with a measure of self-satisfaction. That’s when I learned that cleverness, knowledge, possessions and physical comfort do not define success or insure fulfillment.

My descent from Inanna’s “Great Above” to the “Great Below” began when my shadow broke into my awareness with a moral conflict between two intolerable choices.  I was profoundly tempted to break a rule that had always been sacrosanct to me, and appalled at myself for considering it. I spent sleepless nights praying to the God I had been taught to believe in, challenging beliefs that felt outdated and meaningless while fearing retribution for my audacity. I found little joy in living. My stomach hurt much of the time. I lost 20 pounds. At times I knew there was meaning in my ordeal, but my knowing provided scant relief. Mostly I felt alone and miserable. Like Inanna and Persephone, I was introduced to the dark underbelly of the unconscious beneath my naive “good girl” self-image. The shock was devastating.

Inanna is a “good girl” too:  a loving wife to Dumuzi, a mother, and a sister to Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. At mid-life Inanna descends into the underworld to, by some accounts, attend the funeral of Ereshkigal’s husband. Or was her call, “Let him come. Come, man, come!” an invitation to her animus, her unconscious masculine side?

 

Inanna
Inanna courting Dumuzi
Image: Beyondpottery.blogspot.com

 

On the way down she is humiliated by being stripped of all her earthly possessions: symbols of her beauty, success, femininity and the power she has worked so hard to attain. Humiliation is a crucial element of descent myths because crisis and suffering are the only powers that can destroy an ego’s belief in its invincibility.

The story of Inanna in body and soul

If we look for it, we will find that every detail of a myth can have psychological and spiritual meaning. For example, the number three in myths and fairy tales heralds the arrival of Mystery. Receiving three wishes, asking for help three times, or being the third and youngest child to attempt a difficult task signals our readiness for an initiation that will force us out of childhood innocence into mature responsibility and consciousness.

Inanna
I Tjing hexagram 3: Difficulty at the Beginning

 

Sure enough, three shows up in the story of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, too. At the bottom of her descent she is met by Ereshkigal who, perhaps jealous of her sister’s charmed life in the world above, has her hung naked on a meat hook where she suffers for three long days. I hung on my metaphorical meat hook for three years, plus another six during which my suffering gradually diminished.

Like Inanna’s descent, mine was a painful physical, emotional and spiritual experience. But, unwilling to give up or make a terrible mistake, I persevered in my outer life and stirred the contents of my inner world over a low, reflective fire. Ever so slowly, this alchemical opus brought about lasting changes.

My body awakened to instinctual energies I had long repressed. My ears heeded my soul’s cries of pain. My heart felt compassion. My ego’s center of gravity shifted from a place of control and resistance to a place of surrender and acceptance of forces far more powerful than my puny will. My eyes were opened to my sovereignty over my own life and my childish dependence on others dissolved. I began to make my own choices and take responsibility for them. Death took up its abode on my left shoulder and Choice on my right, each whispering daily reminders to savor every moment.

Hero myths have healing meaning too, but “happily ever after” does not tell the whole story.  Descent myths do.

On the third day, Inanna is rescued by her loyal priestess, Ninshubur, and Enki, the God of Culture, and she returns to life in the world above. There she faces new problems, but now she has the awareness to handle them with wisdom and balance. With Inanna’s help, I’m getting better at that too.

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

 

What Principles Do You Live By? February 2, 2016

Unknown-1This past weekend I attended a symposium featuring the internationally renowned poet, David Whyte. As the subtle beauty of his words and images—and even more, the silence behind them—washed through me, an intense inner resonance asked to be heard. “This is a fellow traveler,” it said. “Pay attention,” it said.  “You can learn from this one,” it said.

He told stories, he recited poems, and over and over the same three threads ran through.  One was “the conversational nature of reality.”  This reminded me of an observation from the American Buddhist, Jack Kornfield,

“All of spiritual practice is a matter of relationship:  to ourselves, to others, to life’s situations…Whether we like it or not, we are always in relationship, always interconnected.” ~Jack Kornfield

David Whyte would no doubt add, “…always having a conversation.” Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think or feel initiates a relationship, a conversation with otherness. Otherness that sparks our imagination.  Otherness that provides clues, if we’re observant, to who we really are.  Our ongoing conversations—sometimes between ourself and another, sometimes between Inner Ego and Inner Other—motivate us to reflect, form questions, discover new insights, and ultimately, act on what we know to be true.

Which brings me to a second thread that colors his poems:  the importance of asking “beautiful questions.” Again, not just of other people, but of all hidden otherness everywhere. For example, while sharing a story about the thoughts and feelings that an ancient stone carving of a woman’s face evoked, he said, “We stand on the threshold of what has not yet occurred…a possible future.  What is the invitation?” What is the invitation of this joy? These tears? That yearning?

A question like this invites us to take a new step, in a new direction, to a newer, truer reality.  Toward my growth. My truth. My reality. Toward the life I was born to live.

A third thread binds the others into the artful fabric of a life:  “Beauty is the harvest of presence.” It’s true. The seeds of our beauty are sown with our presence.  The bud of our beauty opens petal by petal as we practice presence moment by moment, day by day, year by year.

 “Start close in.  Don’t take a second or third step.  Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Take a small step you can call your own. Start with your own question.” ~David Whyte

If we’re not listening to the Other right now there will be no conversations worth having. If we’re unaware of standing on the threshold of what has not yet occurred, of a possible future, we will never ask the beautiful question, “What would it mean for me to be the ancestor of my future self?” If we don’t stay present long enough to see and take the step we don’t want to take, the fabric of our lives will never flower into a work of art.

Inspired by the beautiful poem that is David Whyte, I have a beautiful question for you: “What threads run through your life?” Or as my friend Rachelle Mayers, a gifted videographer and media consultant, asked me three months ago:  “What principles do you live by?”

Here was my response:

 

Image Credit:  Pinterest, unknown.

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

 

Affordable. Health. Care. Part III January 26, 2016

maslows-hierarchy“If only man would act rationally, perhaps wars and depressions and insanity could be avoided;  but unfortunately, man does not seem to be any more capable of acting sanely now that he was a thousand years ago.  We are still confronted with man’s own irrational behavior and the untamed forces within his psyche.” ~M. Esther Harding, Psychic Energy, pp.202-3

The troubled waters of society are the natural result of troubled waters within the human psyche. Until we free ourselves from our instinctive drives, each of us, from the most powerful leader to the most vulnerable victim, will add to the turbulence of our time. And the waters will not grow calm until our basic needs for survival, health and safety are met.

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s  President Franklin Roosevelt signed the original Social Security Act into law amidst great turbulence and opposition. At the time, poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50 percent.

“Opponents, however, decried the proposal as socialism. In a Senate Finance Committee hearing, the Democratic Oklahoma Senator Thomas Gore asked Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, “Isn’t this socialism?” She said that it was not, but he continued, “Isn’t this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?” Since then, “Changes in Social Security have reflected a balance between promoting “equality” and efforts to provide “adequate” and affordable protection for low wage workers.” Wikipedia

Affordable. Health. Care. Eighty years later opponents of government’s involvement in the lives of its citizens still fear “socialism.” Proponents still promote “equality” and “adequate” affordable protection. Those whose lives have been made easier by the Social Security Act don’t really care what you call it. They’re too busy being grateful for Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security pensions. For the freedom to enjoy their latter years in relative comfort and health without unduly burdening their children.

And what of their children? They are the baby boomers, some of whom are now running the government.  Here’s what Wikipedia says of them…of many of us:

“In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of widespread government subsidies in post-war housing and education, and increasing affluence.[3]

As a group, they were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to that time, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time.[4] They were also the generation that received peak levels of income; therefore, they could reap the benefits of abundant levels of food, apparel, retirement programs, and sometimes even “midlife crisis” products. The increased consumerism for this generation has been regularly criticized as excessive.[5]

And “socialism” is still a bogeyman, even to some who have benefitted most from widespread government subsidies. And we still quibble and fear and fret over this issue; the untamed forces within our psyches still stir the waters.

I was surprised to learn from this site how many countries already have universal health care. Switzerland and Singapore have the two must successful systems and “have achieved universal health insurance while spending a fraction of what the U.S. spends.”

This Forbes article says “Many American conservatives oppose universal health insurance because they see it as fundamentally antithetical to a free society. ‘If we persevere in our quixotic quest for a fetishized medical equality we will sacrifice personal freedom as its price,’ wrote a guest editorialist in the Wall Street Journal in 2009. But according to the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, ten nations freer than the United States have achieved universal health coverage. It turns out that the right kind of health reform could cover more Americans while increasing economic freedom.”

So if “the right kind of health reform could cover more Americans while increasing economic freedom,” what’s preventing us from devising and implementing “the right kind of health reform?”

oceans-choppy-watersThe untamed forces within our psyches.

Many people I’ve spoken to since beginning this series tell me the Affordable Care Act is the best thing that ever happened to them. But it has problems. And my friend is trapped by a particularly unjust one.

I have no answers. But one thing is sure: the troubled waters in the US will not grow calm until the basic needs of our citizens—survival, health and safety—are met. And this will not happen until the privileged few at the top of our governmental hierarchy willingly place the untamed forces within their psyches under the microscope of consciousness.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”~Carl Jung

My thanks to all of you who enriched this dialogue with your many insightful comments.  May the dialogue continue until the waters grow calm.

Image Credits:  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,Wikipedia. Turbulent waters: earth data.nasa.gov

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

 

Affordable. Health. Care. Part II January 19, 2016

affordable-care-act-generic-graphic-hearstLast week I wrote about a friend who has issues with the Affordable Care Act and vented to me in a rather adversarial way. In that post I shared my self-doubt and conflicts about whether I could handle such a political hot potato in this blog with intelligence, objectivity and balance. Afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that just writing that introduction resolved most of my discomfort. The bit that lingers is just par for the course for this sensitive and scrupulous INFJ!

So now I’ll continue with his story in his own words:

“In 2014 my United Healthcare PPO health insurance policy cost me $213.09 per month with a $2500.00 deductible.  My wife paid $250.00 per month with a $3500.00 deductible, also from United Healthcare.  We are both in our 50’s and self-employed in the service industry.  We pay 25% income tax.  There were no savings or other advantages to purchasing a joint health care policy.  Together, our effective monthly cost was $450.00 per month with $5000.00 in deductibles.

“In 2015 the Affordable Health Care Act went into effect.  My monthly premium went up to $489.39 with a $5200.00 deductible with Humana (HMO). My wife’s plan with United went up to $475.00, also with a $5200.00 deductible.  That cost us $965.00 a month with an effective $10,400.00 deductible!  The policies included maternity costs;  my wife had a hysterectomy in 2004.  They also included children’t dental care.  We have NO children.  By definition, we are a “married couple with no children” and our annual adjusted gross income is above $62,000.000 — the defining line to qualify for the government health care subsidy.  Affordable??

“In November of 2014 I had a bout with gastroenteritis. Severe dehydration sent me to the emergency room in a life-threatening condition.  After being hooked up to IV’s in the ER for two hours, the finance rep from the hospital came in to secure payment for my $5,200.00 deductible. Awesome. My wife gave him my credit card as I was out of it.  Eight hours later the doc told me I needed to be admitted to the hospital because my kidney function numbers were not good.  What they never mentioned was that this hospital was no longer in my network.  I left the following afternoon. The bills that arrived over the next four months totaled $6,000.00 in addition to the deductible. A friend in the medical industry went to bat for me by reviewing the hospital bills. We found charges for services and tests I never received, so the finance department offered a discount for full cash payment. I took it.  My brief visit to the hospital cost me $11,000.00 out of pocket.  Affordable??

“My wife and I have a simple lifestyle. We live in a condo, go out to dinner once a month.  Both our businesses barely survived the economic crash in ’08. We still haven’t recovered. When she had to relocate her business, costs were high, including three separate licenses to fulfill city, county, and state requirements. At the time of my hospital stay we had not taken a vacation in three years.  But we are thankful for what we have and are not complainers.

“In 2016 we received notice that our Humana HMO plans were going up.  Our savings are dwindling, yet we now have to pay $1,150.00 per month with $14,400.00 in deductibles. Two years ago we paid $450 per month. Affordable???

“Options.  We’ve shopped plans through three agents. We have the cheapest plan, a Bronze HMO. Alternatively, we could choose a catastrophic plan for $380.00 a month with $10,000.00 deductibles, but they cover very little and we’d have to pay a penalty for choosing a plan that is not ACA approved.  We think the penalty would be 3% of our adjusted gross income, but our CPA isn’t sure because the law is so convoluted. Our only other option would be to find new entry level jobs with benefits, but our income would be considerably less.  And this isn’t an easy thing to do for 55- and 59-year-olds. We’ve worked hard for 25 years to develop our clienteles and reputations.

“Now our health care costs are the biggest expense in our budget.  While I understand the overall goal of Obama’s plan to provide health care for everyone, this plan is a total failure.  In my mind, the insurance companies responded to the government getting into their business (less piece of the pie) by raising rates to make up for profit loss.  Also, the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act are too inclusive.  Why would we pay for maternity care or children’s dental?  In the past I was rewarded for being healthy.  I only saw doctors three times in the past ten years, and those were at a Centacare and my dermatologist.  I don’t drink, smoke, or take any medications.  I am not obese.  Now I’m treated the same as an overweight, smoking alcoholic on ten different meds. Really?? Furthermore, with such high deductibles we’re less likely to consult a doctor when sick.

“My feelings are that Obama wanted the Affordable Health Care Act to be part of his administrations legacy; because it was an ego thing he pushed it through at any cost to us. The philosophical benefits to society do not justify crucifying the middle class American. There has to be a better plan. It was easy for politicians who receive lifetime health care at taxpayers’ expense to pass this law without even reading it since it was so long.  I’m angry. We are honest and hard-working. We make our own money and are trying to be responsible small business participants.  But it really is hard to watch the President vacationing in Hawaii while asking us “to tighten our belts” for the “greater good.”  I’ve watched this country go off course for too long and I think the system is irreparably flawed, with no solution in my lifetime.”

1hexagramJeanie again: I invite you to share your story and perspective.  It will surely be interesting and enlightening, especially if anyone can suggest solutions.  Knowing how divisive political issues can be, I ask only that you use diplomacy and restraint. (As if any of my amazing regular readers needed to be reminded to behave with civility!)

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

Image Credits:  Google Images. Inner Truth: Lewis Lafontaine in Carl Jung Depth Psychology.

 

Affordable. Health. Care. Part I January 12, 2016

024.Jacob_Wrestles_with_the_Angel

Nothing can exist without its opposite;  the two were one in the beginning and will be one again in the end. Consciousness can only exist through continual recognition of the unconscious, just as everything that lives must pass through many deaths.  ~Carl Jung CW Vol. 9i  par. 178

There’s a battle going on in my head.  I hate fights.  I hate conflict of any kind.  But I’ve been witnessing this battle every day for six weeks and I’ve decided to give you a ringside seat. First I need to set the scene so you’ll know where I am and what the fight’s about it and who the antagonists are.

The setting is the political arena as seen from the perspective of my philosophical, introverted, sensitive, non-political mind.  The issue is Affordable Health Care.  The antagonists are various aspects of my Ego, Shadow, and Higher Self. Sometimes I know who’s speaking, sometimes I don’t.

For six weeks now, ever since I had an emotionally-charged conversation with a friend after I attended a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, some of my inner characters have been having a dicey dialogue.  I wake up to their arguments. They make points throughout the day. Their themes populate my dreams and interrupt my sleep.

So why am I inviting you to view this inner drama? Here are a few of the reasons I recognize at the moment:

  1. To clarify my thoughts.

  2. To ease my conscience.

  3. To heal my conflicts.

  4. To get some sleep.

  5. To show you the kinds of challenges people face when they’re committed to self-knowledge, thinking psychologically, and living spiritually. After all, that’s the theme of this blog.

  6. Because I want to make a difference in individual and collective thinking and living.

I realize the last reason may sound a bit grandiose, but wouldn’t everyone like to think that maybe their lives made a positive difference, if only a very tiny one? In fact, isn’t there an inner archetypal force, a mysterious ‘transcendent function’ that pushes all of us, no matter how craven, to better ourselves, to rise above our ignorance and selfishness?

What but a personal experience of this function could motivate me to write a book called Healing the Sacred Divide:  Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World? What but a taste of the joy that comes from heeding its call would cause any of us to do our best at our work and build loving, intimate relationships? Would we be fully human if we cared about nothing but ourselves?  I believe we wouldn’t. Yet sometimes I still fight my mysterious task master.

imagesSo here’s what’s been going on in my head:

“But I’m a philosopher, not an activist.”

“How’s that working for you? And how’s the view from your Ivory Tower?” (Pretty sure this latter comment came from my Spiritual Bully, not the Self.)

“But I abhor politics.  What possible good is there in self-serving rants and self-righteous blame games motivated by power and greed?”

“Don’t be so cynical. You know that’s human nature. We all react instinctively to fear, and the less awareness we have, the more we project our shadows onto others to take the heat off ourselves.”

“I know. But the fear and projection seem to be getting worse. And so few people seem to see it or care, and my psychologizing can’t change that. People have to want to change.”

“So if you really care, what can you do?”

“The only thing I know how to do is write, but I know absolutely zero about this issue and the factors involved.”

“You could find out. Do some research.  Ask around.”

“I’m not interested in that kind of research.  I want to understand how our minds work and why we behave the way we do. I don’t want to read thousands of pages of boring details, know who lobbies whom to get bills vetoed or passed, or learn the depressing facts about the twisted, depressing lies politicians tell to push their personal agendas through. None of it makes any lasting difference in the end. Meanwhile, it hurts to be constantly reminded that some people who are supposedly devoted to serving our country care more about getting re-elected than easing people’s pain and suffering. That they would rather distort the truth and blame the other party than be true to their consciences.  That they may not even have consciences.”

“Hmmm.  I’m hearing some powerful anger and resistance here.  What are you really afraid of.”

“Venturing into this new arena is difficult for me. My position is unusual and I don’t want to be misunderstood or scorned. What if I can’t present my case with clarity and objectivity?  What if people hate me or think I’m arrogant or frivolous?  It’s hard enough to see and deal with my own crap. Do I have to heap more coals on my head?”

“I see. Pooor baby. You think you shouldn’t have to suffer any more. After all, look how hard you’ve worked to become a more conscious, ‘spiritual’ person! (That had to be my Spiritual Bully again.) So if that’s how you feel, why keep agonizing about whether to write about this? Why not let people with thicker skins and extroverted personalities enter this particular fray?”

Consciousness-opposites“Aaarrgh! Because nobody else seems to care what’s happening to him and it’s not fair! I can’t stand to see him suffering over this injustice. And I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try to help.”

“Well alright.  Let’s get on with it then, shall we?”

So that’s it. Next time, the full story from my friend.

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

Image credits:  Google Images. Gustav Dore’.  Jacob Wrestles with the Angel. Vincent van Gogh.  The Starry Night.

 

 

 

A Warm 52nd Week: 2015 January 5, 2016

Filed under: Family,Holidays,Living,Nature,Uncategorized — jeanraffa @ 12:01 am
Tags: , ,
Little Hogback Mountain near sunset.

The Western slope of Little Hogback Mountain just before sunset.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.  The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”  ~Carl Jung

We returned home from the cabin last night after a week of unseasonably warm and rainy weather and equally warm family gatherings.  Unfortunately, this morning the cold that’s been threatening me for a couple of days finally showed up in a sore throat, laryngitis, and the other usual symptoms.

So instead of writing a longer, more time-consuming epistle, I’ll summarize my final week of the year with a quick post sprinkled with pictures. After which, as the Victorian ladies say, I’ll “take to my bed” for a long winter’s rest. With popcorn. And movies. Hey, I’ve been good!  And I really need this today.

Where'd all this water come from?

Where’d all this water come from?

 

Izzie and I took several hikes. The first day we discovered that after a week of solid rain, the little brooks that are usually only trickles had become serious contenders with our big and bold Buck Creek!

We had the good luck to run into Hermenio, who lovingly tends and beautifies our property. He took us on a guided tour of the new trail he’s building.

 

Hiking the new trail.

Hiking the new trail.

IMG_6743

The winter woods are full of treasures. Like this delicate ground-cover plant with tiny green leaves and bright red berries that loves the damp ground and mossy sides of rocks and boulders. Does anyone know its name?

One of my favorite things to do on hikes is look for Mother Nature’s art. Here are a few samples.

I call this "Stepping Stone with Leaf and Boot Print."

I call this one “Stepping Stone with Tulip Poplar Leaf and Boot Prints.”

Has any human ever made lace as delicate as this?

Have human hands ever made lace as delicate as this?

I'm likin' this lichen bracelet.

I’m really likin’ this gorgeous lichen bracelet.

 

Cooking is a favorite pastime and we have lots of food rituals.

 

I always make a big pot of chili to welcome the family on their first night.

I always make a big pot of chili and homemade biscuits to welcome everyone after a long travel day.

And we have to have monkey bread for breakfast at least once!

We have to have monkey bread for breakfast at least once. Robyn, the boys’ mother, made this one…with a little help from her youngest.

Homemade pizzas are always favorites.

Of course, nobody doesn’t like homemade pizzas.

 

 

 

 

 

The most fun of all is a 'hat dinner!' For this one, our godson, Wade, treated us to BarBQ brisket made in a big green egg.

Our ‘hat dinners’ (we collect old hats) are the most fun of all! For this one, Wade, our honorary godson, treated us all to BarBQ brisket cooked in a Big Green Egg. Seriously yummy!

 

Here we are with our son and his family just before sitting down to our New Year's Eve hat dinner.

Here we are with Matt and his family just before sitting down to our New Year’s Eve hat dinner.

 

Wade and his family before dinner.

Wade and his family.

 

On our last hike the boys finally found some frost and played a game of tic tac toe made from weather-impervious marble. Their table is the stump of a hemlock.

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Wishing you warm memories of 2015 and a happy, healthy, prosperous, and wildly love-filled New Year!!

Happy New Year!

 

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

 

Coming Home to the Self December 29, 2015

A rainy winter day in the mountains

A rainy winter day in the mountains

Here in the mountains it’s a gray winter day. We arrived for our annual holiday visit the day after Christmas hoping for snow, but the weather’s so mild that the windows are open. Over the roar of the creek, swollen from a solid week of rain, a single crow caws somewhere nearby. Welcome home, she says. Downstairs the grown-ups are finishing a jigsaw puzzle we’ve been working on since summer. The grandchildren are playing a video game. I’m upstairs writing this, tomorrow’s post, my heart warm with the comforts of home, family, and love.

This place, this now, this beauty. These tears of wonder and gratitude. For this sacred moment, this simple awareness of being at one with my Self, life and love…this is all I want or need.  This is the grace and blessing of the Self, a moment that needs no words. Yet now I am searching for words to fill this page. I don’t fight it. After all, part of the Self—my sacred core and circumference—is a writer and another part is a teacher. And these parts still want to share what they know.

Listen to me! the crow caws insistently. I hear you. I answer. You, too are part of me, part of the Self. I look out the window in its direction, past the skeletons of maples and buckeyes, the fluttering rhododendron leaves on the mountainside glistening with droplets of rain. It’s all alive.  All sacred. What words could possibly be a clearer statement of the sacredness of life than this?

IMG_6729I haven’t always had this awareness. My soul has expanded very slowly through the years.  First I had to want to know the truth about the puzzle of myself more than I wanted to protect myself. Then I had to let down some of my ego’s boundaries.  Had to stop saying no and start saying yes. Had to admit I can be wrong. Could be hurt. Could need somebody. Could be showing the world a false self. Could be afraid. Angry. Selfish. All that took a while.

Eventually I liked the awareness so much that I searched for a practice to keep me more aware. Discovering dreamwork felt like striking gold. Metaphorically, that’s exactly what it was. That vein of gold led to more veins:  the gold of self-validation and self-affirmation, the gold of insights, passion, revitalization, synchronicity, adventure. Some veins led to my dark shadow, others to my light shadow. Some led to my anima and animus. A few have gone deep enough to encircle my Self.

A soul needs time and reflection to expand. I’ve practiced dreamwork for 26 years with no end in sight. Which is good, because I never want it to end….even though lately I’ve been dreaming of my critical bully:  a bossy chef, a menacing sniper, a criminal holding people hostage with a gun and a baseball bat, a rude and haughty boy. The craziness of the holidays can do that to a person! Last night I lay awake counting the number of people I’ve hurt over the years, sometimes out of self-righteousness, sometimes thoughtlessness. I was appalled at their number.

Yet on Christmas night and the next two nights I dreamed about a large Christmas tree ornament, a sparkling diamond and gold ball that was being clarified and perfected and completed, and so were my understanding of it and my words about it.  And I was it and it was me.

Circles are images of the Self. So are diamonds and gold. Soul-making has infinite rewards. Every day I see my self-criticism backing off, my frustrations softening. Trust has pretty much replaced worry and grace flows through more often, revealing the sacred river of life and love that runs beneath and through it all.

IMG_6708A bad internet connection made my computer so sluggish a while ago that I took a break and  went downstairs. I was aware of the river when I had lunch with my family. When Robyn and I emptied the dishwasher. When everyone went out to enjoy a brief dry spell before the rain returned. When I savored a slice of caramel cake. It was still there when I returned to my desk and found my internet connection working normally again. Another tiny reminder that, in the words of anchorite Mother Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

And now it’s time to finish this and rejoin my family downstairs. Fred’s got a fire going and my favorite new book of poetry, Coming Home by Jamie K. Reaser, awaits me on the chair in front of it. Thanks to her I’m learning how to talk to crows. It’s the perfect book to feed the fire growing inside me and keep the river flowing.

May the New Year bring us all more awareness of coming home to the Self.

Please enjoy this final video, “Theatre of the Self,” from my new YouTube series, Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page), on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU   Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.

 

 

 

 

 

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

 

 

 
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