Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Animal Medicine: Acquiring Power and Success April 30, 2013

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my horse Shadow related to the healthy development of my attitudes toward power and success. I love it that when the time came for me to address these issues, without any conscious awareness of the full import of what I was doing, I chose the animal whose essence is power to be my teacher.

Horses have the physical energy and motivation necessary to acquire worldly power, but they are also symbols of soul power. Jung asserted that horses express the magic side of Man, ‘the mother within us’, or intuitive understanding; and native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that “In shamanic practices throughout the world, Horse enables shamans to fly through the air and reach heaven.” Every power issue involves both of these dimensions, for it is by meeting and overcoming challenges in the physical world that we empower our souls; conversely, the achievement of soul power leads to successful living.

In most herds of horses one can observe both kinds of power. Explosive as lightning and disruptive as hurricanes, some horses use their physical power aggressively to dominate and get their way. Through kicking, biting, and harassing any horses in the vicinity, they protect their chosen territory and ensure that they are always first in line for water, hay, grain, or the choicest new grass. But there are other horses that use their power in calmer, wiser ways. Without making a big deal of things, they simply go after what they want as peacefully, consistently, and relentlessly as a gently flowing stream. Mark Rashid, author of Horses Never Lie, calls these horses passive leaders and reports seeing one who was new to the herd decide to eat at a feed trough where the most dominant horse and two of his cronies were eating.

In a tremendous display of energy, the dominant horse tore after the new horse with ears laid back and teeth bared, chasing it fifty feet or so away from the trough. The new horse trotted away quietly and then, when the dominant horse resumed eating, came right back to the trough to try again. After half an hour of this behavior, the dominant horse was so exhausted he finally gave up and the new one walked right up and started eating from his trough, something few other members of the herd had ever dared to do. Rashid reports that in no time at all several horses began to follow the new horse around in acknowledgment of its unusual power.

When I bought Shadow I had no idea I had power issues, but he showed me just how shrouded in shadows this area of my soul was. Through him I saw my confusion about the positive and negative aspects of power and discovered a strong tendency to surrender my power to avoid conflict and keep peace. Shadow made it very clear to me that this was not a good thing. If I could not assert myself through means that gained his trust and respect, I was giving him tacit permission to test his power in ways that could become increasingly dangerous to me and detrimental to our relationship. This lesson was particularly difficult for me, but over time I learned that 1) there are positive and negative ways to satisfy the natural drive for power and success, 2) it’s okay to stand up for myself honestly, 3) it’s healthy to ask for and go after what I need, and 4) a calm, quiet, and persistent approach will eventually produce positive results.

Who knew what power lurks in Our Lady of the Beasts? Who knows how sweet and gentle power and success can be?  The Shadow knows!

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

 

Animal Medicine: Seeing Hidden Emotions April 26, 2013

Screen-shot-2010-06-16-at-2.36.50-PM[1]As one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, my horse Shadow ranks right up there with Jung and my dreams. Horses, like dreams, are nature: they do not lie. People can cover their true feelings with masks, but horses do not know how to make masks. As animals of prey that have survived by being intensely alert and wary, they are easily unsettled by subtle signs of incongruence in people’s behavior. The tiniest gesture — a tentativeness in our stride, a sideways glance, a sudden intake of breath — can trigger prehistoric horsey images of predatory wolves clad in sheep’s clothing and cause them to spook.

One of the most amazing, and frustrating, things about horses is that they naturally mirror our emotions. If we are afraid, they will be afraid. If, beneath a calm exterior, we are irritable or angry, intense, anxious, or excitable, they will behave in accordance with the deeper reality. Shadow was especially good at this. And since I’ve always been good at ignoring uncomfortable feelings, together we were a Jungian analyst’s dream!

For example, the first time Shadow and I took a dressage test, I was vaguely aware of feeling nervous; but because I didn’t like the way that felt, I ignored it. Thirty minutes before my test was to take place, Liz, my trainer, told me to exercise him in the round pen.  This is a training technique where you ask the horse to walk, trot, and canter around you in wide circles. This warms him up, reminds him of cues, bonds him with his trainer, consumes excess energy, and gives the trainer an opportunity to monitor his mood and correct inappropriate behavior. When Shadow started moving along the fence he couldn’t have looked more anxious; his movements were tentative and irregular and his eyes darted wildly from side to side as he looked over the fence to scan the horizon for danger. When I asked him to canter he raced around in the thick sand so quickly and recklessly that I was afraid he would fall and hurt himself.

Worried, I yelled “Whoa” louder and louder, but this only got him more stirred up. I tried rushing to the side of the pen with outstretched arms to stop him, but that only made him turn around and gallop away in the opposite direction. Then suddenly the veil dropped away and I saw the full extent of my own anxiety in his behavior. Immediately I stopped dead still in the center of the ring, closed my eyes, and began to breathe as slowly and deeply from my belly as I could. As I calmed myself, his response was immediate and dramatic. Within two turns around the ring his wild pace slowed to a canter. After a couple more turns he was trotting, a few more and he walked calmly toward me, stopped behind me, and touched his nose to my left shoulder. Whereas before my behavior had convinced him there was something to worry about, now he was equally convinced everything was fine.

This lesson affected me profoundly. Fifteen minutes with Shadow in that round pen brought home something I had not mastered after years of meditation: recognizing negative emotional states and rendering them harmless by returning to my quiet center. This skill is crucial to conflict resolution in everyday relationships. And can you imagine how different the world would be if everyone involved in international relations had a Shadow to show them their shadow?

What lessons has Our Lady of the Beasts taught you through your animal friends?

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

 

The Ten Best Things About Turning 70 April 23, 2013

AMERICAN-BITTERN-300x225It’s April and the bittern is back. (See this blog post from a year ago!) As I write this on April 16, he’s just arrived and is out back by the marshy canal that separates our backyard from the cypress swamp beyond. He’s late this year. Maybe that’s why he’s screeching his head off. Have you ever heard a bittern screech? It’s loud, harsh, raucous, piercing, and frankly a bit annoying. Yet I feel a certain fondness toward this one.  He might be the same one from last year who decided to return for his courting. It’s an ideal spot for large water birds…except for the alligators, of course. The canal is connected to a large lake and is shallow enough for marsh birds to easily see the bass swimming by. Yesterday a great blue heron plucked a long squirmy thing out and lifted its beak so gravity could slide it down his gullet.

April’s my favorite month in Florida. Actually it’s my favorite month anywhere because it feels like my very own special month. I was born on April 23 in 1943, a year when the 23rd was on Good Friday. I always felt proud of being born on Good Friday as if it meant I was good and would be rewarded with a comfortable life. Now of course I recognize a universal, less auspicious significance to this day. Good Friday is when Jesus of Nazareth is said to have been beaten, tortured, and hung on a cross to die for speaking out against the ills of rigid religious orthodoxy and the injustices of misogyny and Roman imperialism. As a child I never considered the possibility that, if taken as an omen about my spiritual journey, being birthed on Good Friday did not signify a pain-free life.  In fact, it didn’t, but I’m not sorry.

Of course, I don’t claim any factually objective connection between this historical event and my birth date. Conventional thinking would see this as the height of hubris, self-importance, and magical thinking. But as someone who’s spent the last quarter century learning the symbolic language of dreams and experiencing an unending series of synchronicities between my inner and outer worlds, I find it profoundly meaningful anyway. I don’t expect anyone to understand unless they’ve been on their own inner exploration long enough to have experienced such things. But those who have know that the life of the mind is about much more than history, objectivity, linear logic and intellectual reasoning. There’s a grand and glorious MYSTERY out there, and we can be part of it.

Yes, I’m turning 70 on April 23 this year, today, in fact, if you’re reading this on April 23rd, 2013. And I’ve never felt better.  To honor this, here’s my personal list of the best things about turning 70. I know my experience isn’t true of everyone my age, and this knowledge pains me. Aging is not a piece of cake and I have a pretty good idea of the unpleasantness I can expect in times to come. But I assure you that at this moment I feel excellent and am filled with hope.

10. I can see the great blue heron swallow a snake and hear the bittern calling his mate. Life is teeming with the drama of the birth/death/rebirth cycle, and I’m still part of it.
9. I’m still learning and growing and I foresee no end to this adventure.
8. I still have my mental and physical health and usually have the sense to enjoy it.
7. I feel more comfortable every day about being transparently me.
6. I’ve survived an agonizing ego death and am enjoying its miraculous aftermath.
5. I wake up every morning to work I’m passionate about, and I can keep doing this as long as my mind and fingers hold out.
4. My life has purpose and meaning because I’m touching people in ways that are making a difference in their lives.
3. Because of the internet and other technology which has eliminated the barriers of time and space, I can be present to the lives of my loved ones and communicate my love whenever I want.
2. I’m proud of my progeny and filled with hope for their futures.
1. I’m surrounded by people who love me and whom I love.

Wishing you all this and much more when you turn 70.

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

 

Animal Medicine: Developing Body Awareness April 19, 2013

When it comes to body awareness, my horse Shadow was a genius. In this respect, he was the opposite of my conscious, cerebral self, which tends to be so inner directed and one-track minded that I can be oblivious to what’s going on in my body and the world around me. Have you ever known someone who can be feeling vaguely uncomfortable for hours before realizing she’s cold, or hungry, or has a headache? Or who can be standing directly in front of the object she’s looking for and simply not see it? That’s me. Or it was me before Shadow.

Lots of people are like this. The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory says I’m a very strong intuitive, which means that my sensory awareness is equally weak. My desire to shed some light on this shadowy area of my being was one of the main reasons I bought Shadow, for I knew that training and learning to ride him well would be a demanding mental and physical challenge with the potential to bring more awareness and balance to my personality.

One day shortly after I bought him we spent about forty-five minutes in a large fenced arena doing ground exercises meant to generate mutual respect and bonding. When we were finished I took off his halter and let him loose to explore the arena on his own while I went over to the gate to talk to Sissy, the owner of the stable. As Shadow ambled away, the sky, which was gray when we started, grew more threatening, the wind picked up, and I heard rumblings of thunder in the distance. When I had bought Shadow he had a lumpy rash on his back which comes from rain that sits too long on the skin; so, as an inexperienced and over-protective new owner, I was more anxious than necessary about keeping him dry.

Suddenly I felt a rain drop. Startled and worried that a downpour would soon follow, I said to Sissy, “Oh, oh, I need to get Shadow,” and turned in his direction. From the far corner of the arena he lifted his head and pointed his ears at me. And then, to my astonishment, he walked directly toward me. When he reached my side he stood stock still and ducked his head to make it easier for me to put on his halter. I did, and we walked quietly to his stall.

I was stunned. I felt as if he had read my mind and for a moment was convinced I had a brilliant telepathic horse on my hands! Actually, as any horse owner knows, horses do at times appear to be extremely telepathic; but I don’t think this is the whole explanation for what he did. I think all our bonding activities that day had caused him to accept me as his leader — an alpha mare, if you will — and made him acutely sensitive to my every movement.

Even though he had his back turned to me and was nibbling at grass sprouting through the fence, this expert reader of body language was keeping an eye on me. When I reacted to the rain drop, my body must have changed from a posture that spoke of casual relaxation to one of alarmed alertness. Seeing that something was wrong, he was drawn to me in the same way a fearful child seeks the comfort of a trusted parent in a tense situation.

I’ll never be as aware of my body or physical matter as I am of my inner life. It’s just the way I’m made, and that’s okay with me. But thanks to Shadow, I’m much more conscious of my body’s messages to myself and others.  Unfortunately, I’m still a lousy finder!

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

 

Learning From Our Lady of the Beasts April 16, 2013

“The Earth Mother is…the eternally fruitful source of everything…. Each separate being is a manifestation of her; all things share in her life through an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth….Her animals….embody the deity herself, defining her personality and exemplifying her power.”  Buffie Johnson, Our Lady of the Beasts, Inner Traditions

The successful wielding of power to enhance our soul’s development is a primary concern of the feminine archetypes. For them, power is not about controlling otherness, but about loving and learning from otherness so that our souls are empowered to become what they were created to be. If this is to happen, our energies need to be redirected away from pursuits aimed at acquiring external, historical power toward those that bring internal, natural power. By natural power I mean the soul’s power to act from its rich, authentic core, unencumbered by the chains of fear, ignorance, and conformity. One way of loosening these chains is to learn from Earth Mother’s manifestations in nature.

The farther removed we are from nature, the less apt we are to hear Sophia’s voice or learn from her natural guidance. One night after an eventful weekend at our mountain home I recorded five valuable insights I had acquired, all of them necessary to my empowerment, and none of which I would have learned had I stayed indoors. Through my adult interactions with nature I am rediscovering something I knew as a child but never had the words for: staying close to nature brings me closer to my truest self.

A major step in my own return to nature began when, in my fifties, I fulfilled a childhood dream of buying my own horse to train: a two-and-a-half-year old gray thoroughbred I called Honey’s Shadow Dancer — gray to symbolize the union of the opposites of black and white for which I strive, Honey for his sweetness, Shadow to signify my desire to be always mindful of my own shadow, and Dancer to honor the ever-changing dance of life. For me, the physical care I lavished on him and our efforts to understand and trust one another were spiritual practices that were every bit as meaningful as my earlier, more cerebral ones.

Native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that for many native peoples Horse represents both physical and unearthly power, and that the impact of Horse’s domestication was akin to the discovery of fire. “Before Horse, humans were earthbound, heavy-laden, and slow creatures indeed. Once humans climbed on Horse’s back, they were as free and fleet as the wind. Through their special relationship with Horse, humans altered their self-concept beyond measure. Horse was the first animal medicine of civilization.”

The term animal medicine refers to life lessons learned from animals whose characteristics and habits demonstrate how to walk on our physical Earth Mother in harmony with the universe. Like Buffie Johnson, I think of the aspect of Earth Mother that conveys lessons through wild creatures and beloved animal companions as Our Lady of the Beasts. Next time I’ll share some empowering animal medicine she brought to me through my beloved teacher, Shadow.

What animal teachers has Our Lady of the Beasts sent to you?

Congratulations to the three winners of my blog tour giveaway: Nancy Hup , Vicki Edmundson, and Rick Boys. They’ll each receive an autographed copy of Healing the Sacred Divide, and Nancy, as first place winner, will also receive an Amazon gift card.  Thank you to them and to all who followed the tour.

 

Blog Tour for Friday, April 12, 2013 April 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jeanraffa @ 12:01 am

I can’t believe it’s already the last day of my blog tour.  I had such a great time preparing these posts and responding to comments.  I hope you enjoyed what you’ve read.

Today’s post is an interview with me about my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide. Jonathan, the host, sent me several questions  and is posting them with my answers on his blog,  “I Read a Book Once” this morning. The post should be up no later than 8 AM (EST) and might be available well before that. Here’s the address of the home page:  http://www.ireadabookonce.com/ If you can’t find my post check back here. I’ll post the exact link the moment I know what it is.

The giveaway on my website ends at midnight tonight so if you haven’t registered yet, you might want to go there.  Information is on the home page just below the pictures of my three books.  There are three prizes:  First is a $20.00 Amazon subscription and a signed copy of Healing the Sacred Divide.  Second and Third are both signed copies of my book. I’ll send these to you just as soon as I know who won and get your address.  Click here to find my site.

As a final reminder I’ve listed the day, blog title and host, and link to all the blogs in my tour so you’ll have  that information on one post. That way, if you haven’t been able to get to some of them all this week, you can come back here when you have more time.

Monday, April 8, 2013: Cheryl Fuller’s Jung at Heart.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013:  Gina Messina-Dysert’s Feminism and Religion.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013:  Bonnie Bright’s Depth Psychology List.

Thursday, April 11, 2013:  Betty Healey’s Road Signs.

Friday, April 12, 2013:  Jonathan’s I Read a Book Once.

Many thanks, my friends.  I’ll be back next week at the usual times.

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

 

Blog Tour for Thursday, April 11, 2013 April 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — jeanraffa @ 12:01 am

Welcome to the fourth day of my blog tour.  So far it’s been a very interesting experience. We’ve had an especially stimulating  conversation on Feminism and Religion, with many different viewpoints expressed.  I’ve learned a lot about the kinds of issues that the women who follow that blog are concerned about. Primary among them is social justice and equity for women. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the link. 

Don’t forget to stop by my website and register for the giveaway.  There’s still time but it will end Friday night.  You can click here to check it out.

Today, Thursday, April 11,  I’ll be a guest blogger at Betty Healey’s blog, Road Signs.  The title of my post is The Value of Understanding Your Dark and Bright Shadows.  It’s a combination of two of my most popular posts here at Matrignosis. Betty’s very interested in making peace with herself and likes to give her readers helpful information so I thought they might enjoy learning about the shadow.  Click here for the link. Here’s the address in case there’s a glitch in the system and you can’t find it:  http://theroadsignscoach.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/the-value-of-understanding-your-dark-and-bright-shadows/

I hope you enjoyed my guest post at Depth Psychology List yesterday.  If you haven’t stopped by yet, click here to find it. The title is Tending the Creative Fire.

Many thanks to those of you who’ve been following along and commenting.  See you tomorrow.

 

 
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