Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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 
 

The Feminine Symbolism of Vessels February 12, 2014

Our relationships with nature and matter are closely connected to our relationships with our bodies. In certain orthodox religious circles, love for God as remote masculine spirit has gone hand in hand with physical self-loathing. For example, Moses Maimonides, the greatest Jewish medieval philosopher, was merely stating a commonly held belief when he said that “all philosophers are agreed that the inferior world, of earthly corruption and degeneration, is ruled by the natural virtues and influences of the more refined celestial spheres.” Likewise, St. Augustine considered his body to be the major source of his spiritual problems and sufferings.

This attitude is an obstacle to the fullest development of our spirituality. In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes:

“Spiritual life does not truly advance by being separated either from the soul or from its intimacy with life. God, as well as man, is fulfilled when God humbles himself to take on human flesh. The theological doctrine of incarnation suggests that God validates human imperfection as having mysterious…value. Our depressions, jealousies, narcissism, and failures are not at odds with the spiritual life. Indeed, they are essential to it….The ultimate marriage of spirit and soul, animus and anima, is the wedding of heaven and earth…”

Vessels are classic symbols of feminine matter. Of the many vessels symbolizing feminine containment, one that is particularly dear to Christians is the chalice or grail, the highest level of spiritual development and heavenly and earthly happiness. The female body is a vessel which receives sperm and produces eggs. A womb is a vessel within a vessel, the cradle of life that receives, holds, nurtures, and protects a growing embryo. A breast is a vessel which creates and dispenses milk. A skull is a vessel containing the brain, itself a vessel teeming with creative potential. In Christianity, Mary is a vessel for new spiritual life.

Another vessel-like symbol is the tower. A tower’s elevated position links it to heaven; its impenetrability to virginity; its vertical aspect to the human figure; its roundness to the womb; its containment to creative new life. Hence, towers that are closed and windowless were once emblematic of the Virgin Mary. In early Christian times a tower was often used to suggest the sacred walled city, another feminine symbol. The Herder Symbol Dictionary notes that a tower with a light is a lighthouse, which has long been a symbol “of the eternal goal toward which the ship of life [is] steered across the waves of this existence.” Its light suggests Sophia, the divine spark of life within us.

For Jung, too, the tower was a feminine symbol with sacred meaning. In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he describes the stone tower he built at Bollingen, a small town on the upper shores of Lake Zurich, and writes that it “represented for me the maternal hearth.” He wrote,

“From the beginning I felt the Tower as in some way a place of maturation — a maternal womb or a maternal figure in which I could become what I was, what I am and will be. It gave me a feeling as if I were being reborn in stone.”

Vessels accept, contain, protect and preserve the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life at both the physical and metaphysical levels. Our planet Earth is a living vessel whose life cycles mirror the soul-making processes of psychological and spiritual transformation. The matter (L. mater) of which our bodies are composed is our mother, teacher, partner and guide on the spiritual journey. For that, it deserves our everlasting gratitude. How do you honor and thank your mother/body for nurturing the life of your soul?

Photo Credit:  “Chalice” by Barbara Sorensen

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 Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Spiritual Practice of Gathering the World to Oneself February 4, 2014

worldreligions

“…the self comprises infinitely more than a mere ego, as the symbolism has shown from of old. It is as much one’s self, and all other selves, as the ego.  Individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gathers the world to oneself.”

~Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Paragraph 432.

Individuation was Jung’s word for the process of coming to know and accept our whole selves as we truly are.  As I’ve noted before, this includes not only who we think we are, (Ego), or what we show the world (Persona), but also our Shadow (disowned unconscious contents), Animus (unconscious masculine sides), Anima (unconscious feminine sides), and Self (our God-image, the archetype of wholeness).

To our surprise, opening to our inner otherness reveals a world that is exactly like the one without!  Not only is it a compilation of our worst fears and flaws, but also of our fundamental beauty, lovable qualities, and sacred potential. Accepting ourselves at our worst humbles and softens us.  Accepting ourselves at our best affirms and inspires us.

If we keep at it, bringing our inner opposites into our awareness becomes a catalyst for the miracle of transformation. Resistance, separation and defensiveness soften into an all-embracing inclusivity.  Suspicion dissolves into trust, agitation calms to equanimity, hostility is replaced by compassion, and mindless worry wanes into mindful serenity. This inner alchemical process gradually alters our behavior too, although it can take years before old dysfunctional habits and attitudes are so thoroughly mitigated that other people can see and trust the mounting evidence.

Gathering the inner world to ourselves also changes our ideas about the Mystery of God.  For example, the Old Testament Yahweh first appeared in the Western world as a jealous, partisan and judgmental deity. Then 2,000 years ago a new God-image of love, mercy, justice and inclusiveness was introduced and began to make its way into collective thinking.   But despite widespread acceptance of this God-image, the translation of ideas into action has been a dishearteningly slow process.

Christianity was founded on the basic principles of democracy, but the U.S. didn’t establish a democratic government until 1,776 years later!  Slaves were freed in the U.S. in 1863, but it took another three generations before the exclusive doctrine of “separate but equal” was overturned.  Jesus constantly demonstrated his belief in the equality of women, but American women weren’t even allowed to vote until 95 years ago and women are still denied certain basic rights throughout the world.

Despite our advances, it is commonplace for people who profess to believe in a God of love and inclusiveness to consistently demonstrate the opposite values without realizing it.  This has always been true of even the most well-intentioned people.  Jungian analyst James Hollis explains why:

“…the unexamined adult personality is an assemblage of attitudes, behaviors and psychic reflexes occasioned by the traumata of childhood, whose primary purpose is the management of the level of distress experienced by the organic memory of childhood we carry within. . . . What we may call the provisional personality is a series of strategies chosen by the fragile child to manage existential angst. Those behaviors and attitudes are typically assembled before age five and are elaborated in an astonishing range of strategic variations with a common motive – self-protection.” 

The unexamined adult personality is the reason for the disconnect between belief and behavior.  After thousands of years of struggling to do the right thing and consistently failing, we are just beginning to realize that there is no magic pill, no silver bullet, no quick fix.  The only remedy for our painful separations is to cross the line that fear drew in the sand of our childhood and begin gathering our inner world to ourselves.  Then each of us will discover that it is overcoming our ignorance, not our sin, which connects us with the Ground of our Being and ushers us into the presence of the sacred eternal Mystery.

Special thanks to Lewis Lafontaine and Robert Longpre’ for posting the inspiring quotes.

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 

Image credit:  google free images

 

 
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