Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The 52nd Week December 29, 2014

Izzie and Bear
Izzie and Bear

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It has always stood out from the other 51 weeks in a year like a peaceful Zen garden, a special oasis where I attend to soul needs that require annual closure.

During the 80’s when I was juggling parenting with college teaching, I often spent this week assembling and basting together sandwiched layers of fabric backing, cotton batting, and the quilt tops I’d been working on all year. It took another year of hand-quilting everything together before I presented them to my children the next Christmas. After they each had a quilt of their own I used the last week of the year to start more quilts for our new mountain cabin. When these were finished we took them with us for our annual years’-end visit.

On the outside the 80’s were for me a time of perfecting and preserving my persona and the collective values of the times in which I was raised. But on the inside I felt I’d been shipwrecked and was living on my own private, isolated island. There I spent most of my time fishing in the watery depths of my psyche for psychological sustenance that could help me understand myself and resolve my inner conflicts.

Then, in the fall of 1989 I found what I was looking for:  I joined a Centerpoint group based on Jungian psychology, and suddenly the lights came on! I don’t remember what I did during the 52nd week that year but I’m pretty sure I would have spent most of it reading, studying and underlining one of the 20 or so books by Jungian analysts I had immediately ordered from Inner City Publishers.  Intense study was the first of the practices I undertook that made the year of 1990 a threshold into the most life-changing, soul-satisfying and creative period of my life.

My other main practice was recording and studying my dreams. Throughout the nineties I did dreamwork every morning and wrote every afternoon. I also meditated and practiced yoga. But I always devoted the 52nd week of each year to rereading my dream journals, summarizing important themes and trends, noting new developments, and highlighting valuable insights. Remembering and integrating my soul’s processes at the end of every year was an extremely valuable ritual for me in those days. Essentially I was building a new foundation for my psyche and I could feel it growing stronger with each passing year. This was my decade of finding, connecting with, and honoring the unconscious and the Self.

The new millennium brought new insights and year’s-end rituals.  Feeling an unprecedented need to get in touch with my body and nature, I usually spent the 52nd week hiking and climbing the mountains near our cabin.  As my grandchildren began arriving, they and their parents would join us;  we’d also play games and enjoy lots of physical, outdoor, non-cerebral fun like sledding, making snow angels, and building snowmen!

Once again it’s my favorite week of the year. This year Fred and I brought Izzie—our grand-dog who’s a female version of her predecessor, Bear—with us to the cabin. One of my favorite things so far has been to take a long daily hike around the property with her.  Another was to prepare a welcome meal of chili, salad, homemade biscuits, and key lime pie for my son’s family who joined us a few nights ago.

So far, the only theme I see emerging during this decade is to listen and follow the guidance of my instincts and energy.  I don’t feel much need for closure any more—annual or otherwise—and the days of making special preparations for the 52nd week are long gone. In fact, I rarely do much of that any other time of the year either.  Mostly I just like staying present with myself, my family, and the moment and its opportunities.

Above all, I’ve been spending a lot of time savoring the many blessings of my life.  Believe me, I’ve had more than my share and I’ve never felt more grateful for them. Right now, that’s enough for me. Whatever the new year may bring, I welcome it with open arms.

May the new year bring you renewed awareness and gratitude for the special times of your one, precious life.

If you’re interested in hearing more about my introduction to Jungian psychology, you might enjoy this radio interview I did for the Centerpoint Foundation.

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

 

What’s the Point of the Three Kings? December 22, 2014

Hans_Baldung_-_Three_Kings_Altarpiece_(open)_-_WGA01199[1]Those of us raised as Christians know this holiday is about a lot more than rushing about, partying, shopping, eating, decorating, and giving gifts, and many of us enjoy warm memories and nostalgic feelings this time of year. But why does it sometimes feel that our gifts are not enough, both the ones we give and those received? Why do we sometimes feel we’ve missed the point of Christmas? What is the point, and how can we celebrate it?

To understand what’s missing we need to discover the true meaning of Christmas for ourselves, and to do that we need to look at the Christ story and our own lives through the symbolic language of mythos. This is not the left-brained language of fact and logic, but the language of myth and symbol, the language of the Soul.

The Christmas story takes place in a stable filled with animals at the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of year. Throughout the world, common associations for the symbol of darkness include the unconsciousness of our instinctual animal nature and all the ignorance, chaos, death, and moral irresponsibility that goes with it. Psychologically, this setting is a reference to unconsciousness, the state in which we all begin our lives and often end them as well.

The plot centers around a virgin who gives birth to a baby boy. Virgins and babies symbolize innocence and the abundance of undeveloped possibilities, like the pure state of a soul ready to receive Spirit. Birth represents new life with its potential for growth into greater maturity and wisdom.

And is there significance in the fact that the baby is a boy? Yes. Mary, like the Hindu goddess Durga, symbolizes the feminine source of all energy, and Jesus represents an extraordinarily hopeful new masculine form of ego-life that has manifested from the maternal matrix. From our soul’s perspective, the significance of Jesus is that 2,000 years ago he introduced into the Middle-Eastern world an unprecedented (for that place and time) new capacity for an inner birth of a deeply personal, intimate experience of Spirit. This experience is characterized not just by believing in the ideal of love or having a strong desire to love others, but by actually feeling and living with love.

At the end of the story three (the number of forward movement that overcomes the conflicts of duality) kings (the masculine principle, sovereignty, and worldly power) arrive after a long and arduous trek from the Far East with rare and precious gifts for the tiny baby. The kings symbolize the wisdom and individuated, religious outlook of a mature and unified consciousness that is born through self-reflection and self-acceptance. Having endured the hard work of this inner journey and assumed our own sovereignty, we are finally able to see the sacredness in everything and revere every form of life down to the smallest and seemingly least important.  Knowing the preciousness of this gift of new life, we want to give it to others.

And finally, the kings are guided by a star.  Stars are attributes of all Queens of Heaven.  They represent spiritual inspiration, the highest attainment, and the presence of divinity, hope and light in our lives. A star is also a symbol of creative imagination, our uniquely human capacity for combining outer facts with the soul’s meaningful inner truths and expressing them with life-changing symbols and images.

Like the myths of every religion, this story combines historical events with psychological truths. Christ mass celebrates a momentous evolutionary leap forward in ego consciousness from a primitive, ignorant, and self-serving survival mentality into an advanced self-awareness capable of bringing wisdom, love, and authentic being and living.

The point of Christmas is that you and I can take this leap into Christ-awareness and experience for ourselves the life-enhancing, soul-satisfying love, hope and wonder that come with it.  Giving material gifts is certainly one way to show and share our love during the holiday season, but giving the gift of our growing psychological and spiritual maturity to our loved ones is far more rewarding and lasting.

May a more mature psychological consciousness and spiritual enlightenment be quickened worldwide during this holiday season, and may the love in our hearts be abundant and overflowing.  Thank you for stopping by in this most blessed season.

P.S. I hope you won’t mind a little shameless self-promotional hint:  If you or someone you love is on the inner journey, one of my books might be a good holiday gift. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Art Credit:  Wikimedia Commons

Three Kings Altarpiece (open)

1507 Linden panel, 121 x 70 cm (central), 121 x 28 cm (each wing) Staatliche Museen, Berlin

 

Women in Men’s Dreams December 16, 2014

Some years ago, a very successful and talented friend of mine began to experience a crisis of meaning. As he became more receptive to his inner life he found himself drawn to Jungian psychology and dreamwork. One night he had the following dream.

An odd chase dream. I am with a woman…no one I know. I am being pursued by a very large bear. I have a thin spear-like stick with which to defend myself. The woman points out to me a very sharp, but very thin and small, piece of metal on the ground. It is like a piece of broken razor blade. I have to search for it a bit on the ground, where it is entangled with leaves, twigs, etc. I have it and force it into the end of the stick. The bear, I sense is close at hand, but I can’t see it…I never see it. I do see various cast shadows of it, almost like cut shots in a film, one of its powerful open jaws. I jab and feint at locations near me where, based on the cast shadows, I feel I might hit the bear. I never do. Shift. I am a woman. I awaken.

I haven’t discussed this dream with my friend, who was amazingly generous to share it with me, so I do not know what it means to him; nor can either of us possibly know its fullest meaning. The best I can do is tell you what it would mean to me if it were my dream. So here goes.

For me this extraordinary dream illustrates the archetypal drama of being compelled to move out of familiar territory (he is being chased by a bear), and accepting help from our feminine side (an unknown woman companion helps him), so as to be empowered to become an authentic Spirit Warrior (he is forced to look for a weapon with which to defend himself against an animal which feels dangerous and threatening). This new problem with its accompanying discomfort and uncertainty makes it necessary to develop creative new resources (the unusual weapon).

The woman in this dream (his anima, or unconscious feminine side, and possibly a suggestion of the archetypal Great Mother) helps by pointing out the sharp piece of metal (a product of masculine, man-made technology) which is entangled on the ground among leaves and twigs (feminine symbols of the natural world). He searches for the piece of metal (possibly a pun suggesting he is searching for his mettle, i.e. courage to honor his true self and live authentically), and then finds a creative way to unite the two objects, man-made metal and Mother Nature’s stick, into one useful weapon which he uses to jab at shadows: i.e. his shadow.

It would appear that when my friend had this dream his ego was trying to figure out how to deal with an aspect of his shadow — perhaps an instinct (suggested by the bear) or regressive tendency — against which it wanted to defend itself. I have no idea what the characteristics of his particular shadow are, but the dream makes it very clear that because he followed the guidance of his inner feminine and found a creative way to unite the opposites, (masculine technology, feminine biology), not only did he find a way to protect himself, but for one, brief moment he was able to identify with his feminine side by actually becoming a woman.

What could this mean? Does this suggest a positive development in this man’s psyche? If so, why would accepting help from a woman and briefly “becoming a woman” be important to a man’s psychological and spiritual development? Next time I’ll answer these important questions from the perspective of Jungian psychology.

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

 

Creativity: The X Factor December 9, 2014

The Birth of New Spiritual Life

The Birth of New Spiritual Life

The unconscious is a repository of infinite properties which are unknown to our conscious egos. A recent dream vividly highlights this reality:

Dream #4592.  The Root Cellar: I’m looking through a window into the old root cellar carved from the base of the mountain on our North Carolina property.  The large, light-filled room contains peacefully meditating people.  Where the back wall used to be is a wide lit hallway extending far into the mountain with passageways on either side.  Where the wall to the right of the window used to be is another opening into another generous space of warm light and more meditating people.  Someone tells me that somewhere inside there is a portal to an underground system of rooms underlying the entire property. I’m thrilled and can’t wait to explore it.

After my last post, Five Links to Creativity, was published I realized I had failed to address a crucial source of creativity. This dream which came two nights later, showed me what was missing and inspired this post.

The “me” standing at the window represents my ego. The cave in the mountain represents my inner life which my ego observes. In waking life, the stone root cellar has no window and the entire structure measures maybe 12′ X 12′; but in the dream it’s much larger and filled with light and people.  The areas I can see represent the aspects of my inner life of which my ego is conscious. I am unaware of the left wall, i.e. the parts of my personal unconscious I have yet to “see” into. The dream tells me that my inner work has brought light into many formerly unknown parts of myself. But there’s far more, both in my personal unconscious and the collective unconscious below, about which I know nothing.

The X Factor of creativity is one of these things. Why have I always felt compelled to create?  Why did I draw pictures of horses throughout elementary school, start a novel at the age of ten, write a serial story for the 5th grade monthly newspaper?  Why make my own clothes, keep a diary, write plays and poems throughout Jr. High and High School? Why the college art class and pencil drawn portraits?  Why the urge to write stories and essays in my 20’s and 30’s?  Why the pottery classes? The Christmas card linoleum prints? The hand-made quilts? I have no idea.

There’s an X Factor I can’t explain that may have far more to do with creativity than anything we can know. It’s that unknown component in Mozart that made him a child prodigy who performed throughout Europe at the age of six. Can we credit his creativity to self-knowledge? Certainly not as a child.  What about psychological balance? Not really. In his own words he suffered from “black thoughts” and deep depression, leading some historians to believe he may have had some form of bipolar disorder. He also had periods of hysteria and spells of hectic creativity. Yet he was an innovative genius whose creative daemon expressed itself in some of the most beautiful, violent and sensual music the world has ever known.

Vincent Van Gogh was deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence brought about by his bouts of mental illness including a nervous collapse, an acute psychotic episode, and a hospital diagnosis of generalized delirium.  Yet, during his worst years his daemon expressed itself in some of his best work.

What is this daemon that drives us to create no matter how balanced, turbulent or comfortable our inner or outer lives may be?  The term “daemon” derives from a Greek word meaning “godlike power, fate, god.”  In classical mythology daemons were benevolent nature spirits similar to spirit guides who dispense riches, guidance, protection and good fortune to humans.  It was believed that every individual had its own spirit, daemon, or genius which was the source of their exceptional creativity in certain areas of their lives.

According to the Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research, “the concept of genius still holds some mystical connotations suggesting inspiration from the supernatural powers, the unconscious or the higher states of consciousness.” And in terms of our psychological development, “The ideology of genius as an exceptional personality possessing some extraordinary qualities assumes that the function of genius is to eliminate alienation (of the self and the world from themselves), and to establish “a higher order in which unity is achieved or restored, and in which humanity is fully realized.”

Psychological alienation and spiritual inspiration can both be components of creativity. Certainly alienation played an important role in mine. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been stressing the psychological aspects:  how the ego’s search for greater consciousness and balance can activate our creativity.

But a few nights ago my dream reminded me of the existence of a vast realm beyond the knowable psyche. To ignore the X Factor of the collective unconscious wherein the spirits dwell is a great mistake. It gives too much credit to the ego and conscious mind and not enough to the Great Mystery of life, our source, essence and reason for Being.

Have you found creative inspiration from your dreams?  How does your daemon manifest?

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Image:  The Birth of New Spiritual Life.  A linoleum print I made in the early 70’s. 

Quote:  From Carl Jung Depth Psychology, a web site moderated by Lewis Lafontaine.

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

 

Five Links to Creativity December 2, 2014

ChiefOsceolaandRenegadeLast time in “The Psychology of Creativity” I discussed how creativity originates in the body’s physical instincts.  But, you might wonder,  what does this mean for me in practical terms?  How do I gain access to my creativity? Where do I direct my energy and attention? What, exactly, is the link that connects my body’s natural instincts with my ego’s potential to produce something truly original?

Actually, more than one link needs to be forged between our conscious and unconscious selves before we can fully activate and manifest our creativity.  Here are five I consider to be of primary importance.

1.  Libido:  Libido is psychological energy, the zest for life which enables us to get out of bed every day and act on our instinctual urges, including the instinct for creativity.  We all have the urge to grow and learn, but life presents many obstacles that can sap it. Chief among these is the ego’s lethargy.  Our child-like desire to regress into unconscious dependence is extremely powerful;  nobody finds it easy to rouse themselves from the cozy maternal matrix we inhabited during our early years. Other drains come from early trauma, lack of nurturance,  self-destructive habits, poverty, debilitating accidents and illnesses, toxic relationships, grief, and anything else that stifles our instincts and brings hopelessness and despair.  It’s not impossible for an individual with insufficient libido to find a creative outlet, and that in itself will provide an increase of libido, but we can’t develop our fullest creativity without a good dose of it.

2.  Balance:  Psychological one-sidedness can imprison our instincts, thus inhibiting our creativity. Some examples:  the person whose obsession with logic and reason causes scorn for spontaneity, intuition and emotion.  The one whose extreme emotions eliminate the possibility of rational decision-making. The person full of inspired, creative ideas who can’t handle the daily show-up and follow-through.  The religious fanatic who idealizes disembodied Spirit and fears and hates his bodily temptations. Balance is a bridge that allows opposites to interact, and the resulting fertilization creates something new.

 3. Self-Awareness:  You can’t mend your psychological imbalance if you don’t see it. Most of us spend the first half of our lives on auto-pilot. As long as we’re driven to do what we need to do without questioning or taking over the controls, our creative offerings are minimal. This may be fine for one who doesn’t feel the creative urge, but for those who do, self-awareness is indispensable.  Noticing the different ways you feel in different situations, then figuring out where you feel best and spending more time there, frees up repressed libido.  The more you watch your actions, listen to yourself talk, or notice the direction your life is taking, the more aware you are of alternatives. The more alternatives you have, the more original your choices can be.

4. Feeling:   At your psyche’s core you are a unique individual with important values, ideas and images that contribute to your creativity and give shape to your life’s purpose. But from the moment you first saw a frown on Mother’s face or heard the impatient edge in Daddy’s voice you started covering up your true Self until you lost touch with your essence. Reconnecting with the Self requires trust in what feels meaningful and important regardless of what others think.

I was reminded of this while watching the Florida State vs. Florida football game Thanksgiving weekend.  Back when FSU’s football program was young and unknown, Fred was one of two freshmen to earn a walk-on scholarship.  Naturally, we’ve rooted for the Seminoles ever since.  In those days I’d watch Chief Osceola stir up the crowd during a game and think, “That Indian needs a horse!”  I wasn’t aware of Horse’s symbolic meaning.  I just knew a horse could bring pride, unity and strength to our struggling athletic program. I had no idea it could do the same for my psyche!  Nine years after we left, FSU got a horse mascot.  Today Chief Osceola and Renegade are national icons and Horse has a profound influence on my writing.

I’m not suggesting there’s anything new about a Native American on a horse, or that there’s a cause and effect relationship here, or that winning and fame should be our ultimate goals!  My point is that recurring feelings and images signal creative developments emerging from the spirit of the depths, and taking them seriously can enhance our creativity.

5. Self-Love:  The final and most important link to be forged between our egos and instincts is Love.  If we can’t love our bodies and their instincts, we can’t love our flawed humanness, and without a measure of self-love we are in grave danger of living libido-deprived, unbalanced, unaware, unfeeling and uncreative lives. Living with love and creativity is our greatest joy and reason for being. We bring forth these life-giving qualities through conscious dialogues with our instincts.  This is holy work.

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

 Image: Mark Wallcheiser, Chief Osceola on Renegade, Wikipedia

 

 
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