Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Mother Nature Her Ownself May 31, 2013

Filed under: Nature,sacred feminine,Uncategorized — jeanraffa @ 12:01 am
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Our waterfall.

Our waterfall.

I’m back now, recovering from Ireland’s delightfully unpredictable weather in the subtropical highland climate of the southern Smoky Mountains.  Mother Nature blessed this region with a surplus of rain this spring, and at the moment she’s celebrating her mystery of rebirth with every color of the rainbow, unusually bold creeks, and riotous waterfalls the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.  These photographs and musings say it all for me right now. Enjoy, and have a blessed summer.

The hybrid rhododendrons are glorious this year.

The hybrid rhododendrons are glorious this year.

“Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm lichen this clematis!

I’m lichen this clematis!

“To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable.  I have only touched it, just touched it.”  Photographer Dorothea Lange

We will have plenty of blueberries this August.

We will have plenty of blueberries this August!

My peonies are in bloom!

My peonies are in bloom!

“ Just as God is truly our father, so also is God truly our mother.”  Anchorite Mother Julian of Norwich

sign

We are not separate from what is sacred;  we are part of it and it is part of us.

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

 

Insights From Ireland: Healing Our Divides in The Enchanted Forest May 28, 2013

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest

This is my final insight from Ireland: My dream was precognitive. The first night of the conference I was shown themes and symbols that would reappear many times throughout the week. So much so that at our final dinner, Diana Rubin, trip organizer for the New York Center for Jungian Studies, led a conga line through the room in which we danced to the beat of “E-`LEC-tric-`BLUE…`POS-sum-`EX-cre-ment!”  Monika laughingly said, “You’re going to write about this in your blog, aren’t you?  It was the theme of the whole conference!”

We had come because we’ve found direction in Jungian psychology. We want to pierce the veils of self-delusion. We want to know where our greening has been stunted by the spirit of the times. We want to end our obsession with logic and objectivity; thwart our conformity to conventional wisdom and collective values. We understand that the spirit of our time is the critical masculine and the spirit of the depths is the creative feminine, and we see the most profound and obvious truth Nature has to teach: that life would not exist without an egalitarian partnership between both. We respect the non-rational (not “irrational”) and emotional feminine within and seek ways to integrate her into our waking lives.

Like Jung, we do this by accessing our creative imagination. Creative imagination is a third world between spirit and matter, a holy place where all divides are healed. Ireland is one of the few countries in the Western world that takes this human faculty seriously. Consider her fascination with leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, lucky four-leafed clovers and fairies. Consider Celtic mythology in which Euisneach is the navel of the physical world and the third-world home of the goddess Eriu. Consider that Eriu is a symbol of Ireland and the divine feminine, the central uniting force of life. With her, in the subtle body just beneath the surface of things, live all the kings who have chosen to embrace her instead of killing her.

enchantedforest1The Irish respect the spirit in all things and the mysteries of everyday existence. Poet John O’Donohue says it best in these lines from Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, which Noirin read to us on Wednesday:  “Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence. Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. Respond to the call of your own gift and have the courage to follow it. When you have the experience, don’t miss the meaning. Allow your divine nature and divine appetite to become one.”

Ireland teaches that opening to mystery is what it means to be human and that each stone inviting our attention on the path through the enchanted forest is a gift of meaning. Because I find meaning beyond rational reason, measurable time, and visible space, Queen Maeve’s birthday gift to me was a dream that shattered these illusions with foreshadows of things to come. Why credit her with this gift? Because my creative imagination compels me to notice that the dream came when I was sleeping in Knocknarea Room, named after the hill site of her tomb.

On Friday a few of us walked to Labby Rock, a megalithic tomb behind Cromleach Lodge. Yes, we can lose our way in the enchanted forest, just as I led four others astray on the way back to the lodge. Sometimes we’ll stumble, err, feel angry or afraid. But if our hearts and minds are open to all that we are, we will be met by the magic of Maeve, The Intoxicated One, whose world is as close as our dreams and creative imagination.

My deepest thanks to all who have accompanied me on this inner adventure, especially you who brought the gifts of your comments. Perhaps you’ve noticed your influence in these posts. You’ve helped more than you can know.

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

 

Insights from Ireland: Getting the Human Thing Down May 24, 2013

A snake/dragon for Maeve

A snake/dragon for Maeve

I love the humanness of the dream I’ve been sharing. It’s so “lower chakra” with its symbolism of a possum and its excrement. Why do I love that? Andi sent me this quote in which Catholic priest Richard Rohr explains: “History has revealed too many people who have tried to be spiritual before they have learned how to be human! It is a major problem. Maybe this is why Jesus came to model humanity for us—much more than divinity….Get the ordinary human thing down, and you will have all the spirituality that you can handle.”

Kundalini yoga and Jung say the same thing. The colors of the rainbow represent the entire spectrum of human experience, from the infra-red of instinct and emotion to the ultraviolet of spiritual transcendence. We can devote our lives to spiritual strivings in the heady, upper chakra realms, but if we ignore our earthy roots we’ll still be plagued by issues related to self-esteem, security, physical identity, survival, fear, power, sex, pleasure, anxiety and relationships.

Ideally, the first half of life is for getting the human thing down, but life is rarely ideal. My parents were ill-suited to each other and when I was born my hard-working mother’s emotional health was precarious. Mom had just learned of my father’s infidelity and her mother-in-law blamed her for his moral lapse. Only now do the puzzle pieces, vague hints about family secrets, fall into place.  Deeply sensitive and intuitive from birth, I absorbed the crisis-laden atmosphere into which I was born. I see it now. My mother’s deep pain. The profound anxiety of a little girl who did not receive the nurturing she needed and assumed the fault was hers. The shameful secret I have borne since childhood:

I am unlovable.

Seeing this belief at the root of my personality is the biggest insight of all. So this is why I’ve always been so hard on myself!  Guided by the high-minded spirituality of my family, I responded to my unworthiness with self-consciousness, perfectionism and self-blame. I hid my anxiety beneath a smooth persona of stoic calm and poise. I tried to kill strong emotions. I played dead.  X, the shadow animus in my dream who also has a deep mother wound, wants me to maintain this persona. Acting reasonable, calm and cool can be a survival strategy for an insecure child who fears the emotional abandonment of its mother.

At the start of the conference the strain of playing dead was wearing me down. Dream Mother wanted me to know I’ve grown strong enough to deal with my lower chakra realities. So she let the possum out from her hiding place and she let my dream ego have the temper tantrum I was never secure enough to have as a child: “I’m not cleaning up this shit!” I yelled with no trace of a perfectionist persona in sight.

The alchemical detail of electric blue possum excrement suggests spiritual transformation. Am I getting the human thing down? The dream said I knew cleaning up after the possum was my responsibility and I would deal with it. Dream Mother was right. I’m cooking my inner contents in a sturdy golden vessel of writing and dreamwork. And now I have a new shadow to learn to love.

Hi, Little Possum. Welcome to my conscious world. Your mother may not have been able to carry you, but I can. You won’t need to play dead any more.

About the picture: On Monday’s hike I found a stick that looked half-dragon, half-snake. Meaningful symbols are keys to hidden chambers of the unconscious. Dragon represents difficulties that must be overcome before an important goal can be reached; snake is a symbol of transformation. I brought my stick to Maeve’s Tomb on Tuesday to leave as an offering on her special hazel bush. When Fred found a swatch of red (root chakra and Maeve’s color) cloth, I tied it to the dragon-snake’s back with dental floss. The red scarf tied to the trunk below is Monika’s.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon site or at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Insights from Ireland: Cooking Possum Stew May 21, 2013

mother and babyAfter I wrote my associations to the symbols in my Ireland dream, I started on its message. The biggest clues to a dream’s meaning are recent waking life experiences and how you responded to them. I was aware of some issues, thoughts and feelings in the days before the dream, but which were relevant and which were not? In the month since then I’ve pursued several dead ends but feel close to the core now. Here’s how my thinking has evolved.

Act I: It’s obvious that my psyche (mansion) is undergoing some kind of alchemical transformation (golden urn). I get it that my animus envisions a nourishing (dining room) change that would unite the vessel and its contents. But what is the nature of this change? I don’t know.

Act II: I understand that my ego wants to maintain a smooth and shiny persona (pinboard). As a “J” personality type, (see this site for an explanation), I like keeping the outer aspects of my life orderly and organized. But what less-obvious parts of my persona (covered pin holes and scraps of paper) still need work? And why doesn’t X want me to expose them? Is he afraid people will see that he’s/I’m not always smart, confident, in control, or right? Could be. New situations like this do bring out this concern. Maybe he’s my overly self-conscious perfectionist who fears I’ll say or do something thoughtless or annoying?

Act III: Another aspect of my animus (my thinker/spiritual striver/writer?) thinks some valuable old (as in inherited or acquired at an early age) qualities should be openly displayed. This could refer to personality traits that have been helpful in my inner and outer work, and also to the fact that I’m comfortable with aging. But what’s this primitive instinct (possum) hidden beneath the externalities that I don’t want in the house of my psyche? Which of my five instincts—nurturance, activity, reflection, sex or creativity—does it represent?

The mention of the dining room suggests the instinct for nurturance. Physical survival has never been an issue, but what is problematic is my emotional need for approval and security and my resistance to admitting to these needs. This is a root chakra issue that would have begun in my infancy.

possummotherSomeone at the conference noted that possums play dead when they’re frightened; hence, the phrase, “playing possum.” Another said that baby possums cling to the mother’s fur when they ride on her back. These associations felt important then and still do. There’s a frightened young possum in me that didn’t get all the mothering she needed and somehow plays dead as a result. But how does this show up in waking life?

Here’s what was going on with me. We left Orlando on Thursday and arrived at the conference site on Sunday afternoon. The pre-trip packing, airport hassles, flight to Dublin and lack of sleep left me exhausted. Two days of hectic touring in a new city reduced my normally low tolerance for excessive stimulation to zero tolerance for practically everything and everyone! Then we left the Dublin hotel, took a taxi to a meeting point, had a long bus ride to Cromleach Lodge, checked in, unpacked and organized luggage. Then there were 37 new people to meet.

Maybe these things aren’t problematic for some personalities, but for people like me, they’re challenging. Why? Partly because I’m an Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging Type. Partly because I was fully conscious of my feelings and didn’t like them. Stoic as usual, I was doing a pretty good job of containing my emotions (playing dead), (Fred told me later he had no idea how stressed I was), but, perfectionist that I am, I considered them unworthy. Inwardly I was shaming myself and my self-criticism was dragging me down. I couldn’t forgive myself for being human!

Next time, the big “Aha!”

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

 

Insights from Ireland: My Associations to the Dream May 17, 2013

opossumNow that I’ve related my dream from the night we arrived at the Jungian conference in Ireland, I’d like to use it to demonstrate how I work on my dreams.

Every year I start a new file on my computer and write out dreams in the order of their arrival, giving each one a number, date, and title. I try to include every detail, image, event, color, plot change, behavior, thought and emotion I can remember.

Next, I go through the actions and symbols and record my personal, cultural, and archetypal associations to them. I also note my dream ego’s emotions throughout the dream.

Finally, I look for connections between the dream and what’s happening in waking life. When I don’t understand something, I jot down questions. Sometimes this is enough to give me a sense of closure. Other times I’m left wanting more. When this happens I might think about the dream for days or even weeks, watching for more insights and adding them to my journal so I won’t forget them.

Following are my associations. Next time I’ll share what I think the dream was saying about my inner and outer life at the time I had it.

  • Fred: My husband. He often appears in my dreams. Sometimes as himself, sometimes as my animus, sometimes both. I associate my positive animus with qualities like self-discipline, ambitious goal-oriented activity, clear logical thinking, and persistence in heroic striving for psycho-spiritual growth. I’m annoyed at him for creating this mess.
  • Interior designer: An aspect of my animus that’s helping my ego re-design the interior of my psyche.
  • House: Me, my psyche, my personality: the place where I’m living now.
  • Golden urn: An alchemical vessel, container for my inner work.
  • Dining Room: A place to take in nourishing food so it can be transformed into useful energy.
  • Filling in holes on the pin board: The pinboard was like a household bulletin board that holds notes, schedules, lists and reminders. Smoothing out my persona, my outer social personality.
  • X doesn’t want me to see what lies beneath the list: X is an intense person I know whose extreme attitudes and behaviors sometimes make me uncomfortable. A shadow aspect of my animus.
  • The other designer arranges antiques into a still life on the right side of the mantel: An aspect of my animus which sees some older parts of me as valuable qualities that should be displayed in a prominent place. He arranges them above the hearth/heart, the center of my body and its chakras, the source of compassion and inner fire. I like many of my older qualities too, and think this is the right place for them. I assume that once they’re arranged they’ll be still and I won’t have to make any more changes. Hah! Joke’s on me!
  • Possum: A primitive, instinctual, and very alive aspect of me that’s been hidden from my ego’s awareness. My ego doesn’t want it messing up my psyche and I don’t want to clean up after it.
  • Excrement: Alchemy’s prima materia: raw, disowned, instincts and emotions.
  • Electric blue zig-zagged lines: Spiritually transforming energy like lightning bolts and electricity.
  • Beautiful patterned carpet: The underlying pattern of life; archetype of the Self; my god-image. I want my spirituality to be clean and pure, not marred with possum excrement (my flawed, human, physical, instinctual self.)
  • I know it’s my job to clean this mess up: Like it or not, I’ve accepted the responsibility to deal with this situation.

Any more thoughts?

 

Insights from Ireland: Dreamwork as a Vessel May 14, 2013

Moths_to_a_flameWe arrived at the conference on “Jung, Yeats and the Creative Imagination” on Sunday afternoon. At our first gathering that evening, Jungian analyst Monika Wikman spoke about the third world between spirit and matter to which Yeats and Jung sought connection because, in Yeats’ words, “a fire was in my head.”

The third world is the realm of creative imagination. The fire in our head is that realm. It is a natural faculty of the mind that we experience as a call to explore Mystery.  Many do not feel its warmth; others are as attracted to it as a moth to flame. Drawing too close can be risky, even dangerous. In Monika’s words, “The beings of the third world have their own life. We do not manipulate the presences; we just open up and allow the inspiration to come.” We’ve heard about the torment, addictions and self-destructive tendencies of writers and artists who’ve been burned by it; and we’ve marveled at the divine madness of saints and holy fools who see the gods and hear their voices in it.

I am one who feels the call to this fire. I didn’t ask for this. It’s simply an inner reality I cannot ignore any more than I can ignore my needs for food or love. Harnessing its life-changing impact on my unsuspecting ego has been a major challenge of my life. Luckily I stumbled on the vessels of writing and dreamwork. These keep me in a middle space that is neither too close nor too far from the fire. Either alternative would be intolerable.

I tell you this so that you might understand why I find my dreams so compelling and why I try so hard to extract meaning from them. I also tell you to introduce the strange dream I awoke from on Monday morning.

Dream #4434: “Electric Blue Possum Excrement”
Act I: Fred’s got several spring cleaning and remodeling projects going on. I’m annoyed at the mess, the workmen, and Fred for not letting me know he’d be doing this. An interior designer shows me a large square picture of a huge golden ceramic urn superimposed over a stately gray mansion. He wants to paper the dining room with this design he’s created and asks my opinion. I’m not sure I want to look at this every day. It feels strange and ungraceful for wallpaper.

Act II: There’s a shiny rectangular portion of a wall in one room that’s been used as a pin board. X has taken off most of the notes that were stuck to it and the surface is riddled with pin holes. I start filling them in with putty and smoothing it across the surface. I envision sanding it when it’s dry so it will look perfect. There’s one sheet of paper left that contains a list of some kind. I start pulling it off to get to the holes beneath. There are a few smaller pieces of paper there too. X doesn’t want me to remove the sheet of paper or see what it’s covering.

electricbluelightningvoltAct III: Another designer piles an armful of primitive-looking antique objects on the right side of a mantel. He moves them around to create a still-life arrangement. I like it. Startled by the movement, a possum hidden beneath the objects darts out, jumps onto the beautiful patterned carpet, and starts running through the rooms. He leaves a trail of excrement in thin, zig-zagged lines. I’m surprised to see that they’re electric blue. As I chase him I yell in angry frustration to anyone who can hear, “I’m not cleaning up this possum shit!” Even as I say this I wonder where I’ll find a pail, water and cleaning rags. I know cleaning it up is my job.

So there you have it. Are you suitably befuddled? So was I at first. Only gradually have I come to see the meaning it holds for me. I’ll tell you about that in upcoming posts. Until then I invite you to share any associations you might have if this were your dream.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon site or at Larson Publications, Inc

 

Insights from Ireland: Creating a Vessell May 10, 2013

nigredoOn Wednesday morning of the Jungian conference we shared recent dreams and Monika artfully assembled them into a group poem about what was being stirred up in our collective unconscious. Tom and Monika’s talks on alchemy and folklore had convinced me that Sunday night’s poop dream was highly relevant so I added it to the mix. But before I relate it I want to explain the basis for my associations with its symbols. What follows are summaries of concepts from the conference that relate to the symbols in my dream.

Alchemists were concerned with things spiritual rather than things temporal. They were committed to personal growth and refinement in preparation for the mystery of death and beyond. Their practices were directed toward understanding the soul’s processes on its journey through life. Carl Jung incorporated their symbolic language and images into his groundbreaking psychological theories, and Yeats used them in his poetry.

The alchemical process begins with the baser parts of humanity called the prima materia.  This is lower chakra stuff like unrefined instincts and raw, ungovernable emotions. Alchemical and dream symbols of prima materia include lead, excrement, mud, darkness, dangerous animals, carrion birds, and putrefaction. Tom quoted texts which described the proper attitude toward these: “Rejoice when your matter turns black.”  “All life proceeds out of corruption,” “Dig where you stumble! That’s where the gold is,” and “What has the highest value is what will come out of the lowest value.” The highest value—symbolized by the philosopher’s stone—is what psychologists call individuation and spirit persons call enlightenment.

The same truth is addressed in the Celtic folktales William Butler Yeats loved and collected. They say, for instance, that one must always listen to the animals and the crazy old lady in the woods.  This is an acknowledgement that animals and so-called “irrational” women represent unwanted instincts and emotions that have been marginalized in society. If we would find the gold, we need to accept these and other disowned shadow qualities for “this is where the face of the soul might appear.”

chemical-retorts-on-glass-tableIn alchemy the messy, difficult work of accepting and transforming our prima materia is symbolized by a vessel like a cauldron, crucible or urn which contains and “cooks” the dark matter. The point is to know what’s in the vessel of the psyche and to carefully tend the creative fire beneath it so the spirit can be released without the prima materia boiling over and doing damage in our outer lives. This is how we create consciousness.

Literal examples of vessels that can safely contain our inner work are Jung’s The Red Book, and Yeats’s poetry. Both men “cooked” the dark forces acting upon them by looking at them, reflecting on them, and exposing them to the fire of their creative imagination. Over time, their prima materia was distilled into symbols and themes that represented the spiritual lessons which had been entrapped in it. This was their magnum opus and their offering to the world.

We, too, can cook our shadow material in ways that bring us closer to our heart’s core. For example, in May of 1982 I experienced a depressing letdown after receiving my doctorate. Instinctively I turned to writing, an activity I have always loved, as a way to process some distressing internal conflicts. That summer I indulged in a creative orgy that produced over 40 poems. They’ll never be published, but that wasn’t the point. I was writing them for me.

One insight I’ve acquired from this conference is that I was an alchemist-in-training that summer.  With no idea of the significance of what I was doing,  I was crafting a vessel for my inner excrement. Seven years later I began refining my vessel with dream work.  Since then, few things have brought me as much meaning and fulfillment as the literal vessels that contain the spiritual lessons I’ve distilled so far: my books and this blog.

You can find my latest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at this Amazon site and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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