Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

You’ll Want to Read This Book! July 28, 2015

51UpsvbeUtL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In last week’s post I mentioned how my friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley, helped me understand how dreams are pictures of emotions we need to face if we want to wake up to our truths and live our lives as fully as possible.  I had written and scheduled that post for publication during the previous week because I wouldn’t have time to write a new one while we were visiting friends in Aspen.

Synchronistically, on the day we returned from Aspen—the day before last week’s post was published—I received a letter from Justina. She’s been working hard creating a launch for her newly republished book, Wake Up to Your Dreams: Transform Your Relationships, Career, and Health While You Sleep, and asked if I could help her get the news out to as many people as possible.

I must tell you that Justina is one of those special, generous-spirited women who is gifted not only at dreamwork but also at networking and promoting the work of other women she admires. She was the first person to invite me to lead a weekend workshop on my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness, in her home town of Atlanta.  That experience led to many new contacts and opportunities for other presentations.

She did the same thing when Dream Theatres of the Soul came out. By that time she’d been leading dream groups at her church for a few years so I invited her to co-lead that workshop with me.  She did, and she was good, and the rest is history. She went back to school for a master’s degree, wrote her first book, then founded and still directs the Institute for Dream Studies, an internationally recognized program that promotes the understanding and value of dreams to help people reclaim their authenticity.

I mention our history together because I believe that in a world dominated by masculine values, one of the most wonderful and valuable feminine qualities—in women and men alike—is the desire to share and promote the new ideas and worthy works of other women. We’ve all heard stories of how dominant males throughout history have squelched the voices and buried the valuable contributions of women while taking all the credit for their work and research.  I refuse to be a part of that divisive, one-sided, short-sighted, ego-driven, territory-protecting behavior! So does Justina, and this is the main thing that drew me to her and one reason I’m writing this post.

You already know the goal of this blog is to inspire you to think psychologically and live spiritually. Justina’s stated goal for Wake Up! is essentially the same: in her words, “to inspire you to awaken to your authentic self and greatest potential.” She writes,

“Wake Up! introduces you to the incredible wealth of wisdom available nightly through your dreams and teaches you to remember, record, and dissect your dreams to better understand yourself and your life. Dreams bring new information and truths that are not often available in waking consciousness and are therefore precious and beneficial to all types of psychological and physical health. Wake Up! encourages you to use nighttime dreams as a tool to awaken your most authentic, creative, and spiritual self and thus to lead a more fulfilling and joyful life.”

After my keynote at the IASD conference.  Justina introduced me!

After my keynote at the IASD conference. Justina introduced me!

I’ve read this wonderful book and give it my highest recommendation.  Justina tells her story honestly, interprets her dreams fearlessly, and is especially skillful at helping others dissect their own dreams using a variety of incisive questions and helpful techniques. If you’re a serious dream worker, you’ll want to include this book in your library. The formal launch for Wake Up! will take place on August 5th. I encourage you to visit Justina’s site on that day and take advantage of some of her give-aways, including autographed copies of her book.

You can purchase Wake Up to Your Dreams at Amazon.  Justina’s other information is below.

Institute for Dream Studies
Justina@DreamSynergy.com
www.DreamSynergy.com

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, Inc.

 

The Wilderness of Our Emotions July 21, 2015

getPartIn the early years of working with my dreams my focus was almost entirely on head work: thinking, reading, discriminating, clarifying, understanding, analyzing symbols, and so on. I had heard that dreams were pictures of emotions and I enjoyed dreams that left me feeling happy or good about myself, but others that left me feeling bothered after I woke up were deeply puzzling.

As a child I learned to ignore uncomfortable emotions, or ones which, if I expressed them, would earn the disapproval of my family. By the time I entered junior high school, instead of responding authentically to each situation as it came, I automatically — and completely unconsciously — processed my reactions through a filter of how I thought I was supposed to act, which was calm, nice, reasonable, and, above all, unemotional.

I assumed — again, I was not aware of this assumption at a conscious level — that what I thought and how I appeared to others was more important than what my heart felt. I thought if I was tough enough to take whatever was handed to me and didn’t let it get to me, it simply wasn’t a problem. I thought it was just a function of mind over matter, and I was rather proud of my will power. The habit of being emotionally stoic was so deeply ingrained that I was almost completely unconscious of it as I was doing it, although I could sometimes see it after the fact.

It wasn’t until about 18 years ago that I finally began to see it as it was happening. The catalyst was a dear friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley. After I related a dream to her, Justina focused in on a part where some men were treating me unkindly and asked me how that made me feel. “Oh, fine. It’s no big deal,” I said offhandedly. Justina just sat there looking at me. “Really,” I said. “That’s just the way some men are; I understand that.” She just looked at me. I squirmed a bit under her penetrating gaze, and then the lightbulb went on. “Oh,” I said. “You mean, how do I really feel about this down deep? Oh, I get it! Well, I guess there’s a part of me that feels… sad? Hurt? Maybe…a little angry?”

I was stunned at this revelation. For the first time, I really got it in my gut that my automatic denial of uncomfortable feelings was part of my persona, the social mask I had built around my inner self to cover up my vulnerability. This was a huge breakthrough for me. I had always assumed that ignoring painful feelings was the right thing, the noble and spiritually desirable thing, akin to not being a whiner or complainer. But I was wrong. Why? Because our emotional realities are as important to our well-being as mental ones, and repressing them saps the life out of us. When we lose touch with our feelings we lose touch with our souls. Indeed, in our compulsion to elevate logos over mythos/eros we’ve lost our souls.

This is a major reason for the epidemic of anxiety and depression in Western society today. We have long believed that the path to healing, spiritual growth, and happiness can be found by accepting mainstream beliefs and devoting our energy to straight-forward, one-sided, stiff-upper-lip, upward-striving, people-impressing mental effort!  But, the true path takes a wandering way deep into the dark forest of our unconscious selves. This is where we’ve been dumping  unacceptable truths about ourselves, especially painful emotions, in the hope they’d go away. Unfortunately, they don’t, and they never will until we can find and face them.

Fortunately, our dreams send pictures of the contents of our personal garbage dump every night. Sometimes they are images of angry, cruel, sad, suffering, self-pitying, or fearful people, animals, or objects.  Sometimes it is we, our dream ego, who feel these and other disowned emotions. Either way, recording and reflecting on these images, paying special attention to those that bring up uncomfortable emotions, and trying to see where they show up in our waking life, is how we find the treasure buried beneath the garbage.

Once we can see and admit to our true emotions, the next step is simply to allow ourselves to feel and grieve them without having to act on them.  This is how, step by step, dream by dream, picture by picture, we walk the path of healing our pain and moving into the fullness of our lives. I wish you well on this healing adventure into the wilderness of your true Self.

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, Inc.

 

Have You Ever Met a Mystic? July 14, 2015

mysticism5Please do not let the word “mystic” scare you. It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and available to everyone. The experience of divine union is the goal of all religion.  ~Richard Rohr, Catholic Theologian and author of The Naked Now:  Learning to See as the Mystics See. (pp. 29-30.)

Have you ever had what felt like a “religious experience?”  Something that filled you with awe and wonder and made you feel you were in the presence of the Divine? Perhaps it came in physical form, like a wildly improbable synchronistic experience; a wave of chills that came while listening to a beautiful hymn; seeing an aura around a person; or feeling a powerful surge of energy in your body that couldn’t be explained by science. Maybe it was an extraordinarily meaningful dream, vision of light, sudden knowing, or spiritual awakening. Or you stepped onto a forest glade or mountain peak with a view that stopped you in your tracks and brought tears of appreciation and gratitude to your eyes. If you’ve experienced these or similar things, you’re not alone.

Throughout history, revered spiritual leaders such as Lao Tsu, Jesus, Buddha, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Mother Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Hasidei Ashkenaz, Rumi, Ibn Arabi, and countless ordinary people have reported spontaneous mystical experiences.  Documented religious experiences have also been induced by a variety of hallucinogens for millennia.

Either way, mystical experiences are not only real, but surprisingly common.  Why?  They’re simply evidence of the benevolent life-giving and life-sustaining Divinity that indwells every one of us, that permeates our minds and physical bodies, that is the very substance of which we are made. What should be more surprising than having a mystical experience is not having one!

Unfortunately, the idea that we can each find a direct and personal pathway to the Divine is still considered blasphemous by many adherents to mainstream religions.  And when hallucinogens are used to induce mystical experiences, world governments get involved in banning them. This, despite the fact that a rigorous study with clearly explicated methods was conducted in clinical conditions at John Hopkins university in 2006 with astonishing and highly beneficial results that

“may re-define our mutual human history as it’s been indoctrinated into billions of humans across the planet.  Not just one of two participants spoke of having an ineffable mystical experience;  it was 79% of the 36 participants who underwent the study…. That’s truly an astounding and inarguable number.”

As one writer reports, a follow-up in 2011

“appeared in the June 2011 issue of Psychopharmacology entitled Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: immediate and persisting dose-related effects“. Personally, I feel it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever read.  How often do any of us get to read something that speaks directly to the human psyche in relation of our experience of the mystical in such a scientific and clinical environment, but while recounting it in such personally spiritual terms?”

Now here’s the kicker:

“This study unquestionably and undeniably validates what shamans and spiritual explorers throughout history have known, what they’ve often shared at the risk of incarceration or death, but have painstakingly documented throughout history: The Psilocybe mushroom, a hallucinogen, can provide any one of us with an extraordinary, life-changing mystical experience that is indistinguishable from any other religious experience reported in our mutual human history.  What is perhaps more extraordinary is that the participants in this study didn’t just have a spiritual experience; the ingestion of these hallucinogenic mushrooms “produced substantial spiritual effects” and “those beneficial effects appear to last more than a year” (Griffiths et. al., 2008). In other words, here we have an example of scientifically proven religion, a spirituality that, rather than being in conflict with the rational, is supported by it.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not pushing a particular agenda for drug reform, despite the obvious need.  And I know the difference between entheogens—a term meaning “to reveal the Divine within” that belongs to a category of substances used for Divinatory purposes—and dangerous and life-threatening drugs like cocaine and heroin. It’s just that my goal in this blog is to serve evolving consciousness and empower individuals to discover spiritual meaning for themselves, and I’m not going to avoid doing so just because it requires us to challenge outmoded laws, belief systems and institutions.

My point is simply that we don’t have to blindly follow doctrines, religions, or spiritual authorities to connect with God!  Nor should we, unless they serve our growth into compassion and expanding consciousness.  Rather, we can listen to and learn from our own inner spiritual authority, which can be developed with reflective and meditative spiritual practices. Each of us knows what’s truly Sacred in the depths of our being, and that inner knowing, that actual inner experience of holiness, is available to everyone.

Have you ever met a mystic?  You have if you or anyone else you know has had an individual “religious” experience of divine union that s/he trusts over collective attitudes and institutions. If so, I invite you to share your story here.

Image Credit:  Google Images.  “Contemplation” Nathan Jon Tillett 2003 http://www.Fuzzy Planet.co.uk

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, Inc.

 

Reflections on Refuge July 7, 2015

porch1In his magical book, The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes,

“…in the world of inanimate objects, extraordinary significance is attached to nests.  We want them to be perfect, to bear the mark of a very sure instinct.  We ourselves marvel at this instinct, and a nest is generally considered to be one of the marvels of animal life.”

I sit in my rocker grooming Izzy.  She’s unnaturally still. I follow her intense gaze.  A Carolina wren sits on the porch railing, a worm dangling from its beak. It looks left and right, up and down, hops closer.  A flower box is attached halfway up the wall to my left. When we arrived for the summer I was delighted to discover it contained a nest. How did the birds know how to build it? Now the eggs have hatched.

Izzy and I are only a few feet away. I sit very still, willing the parent to reach the nest before we scare it off. Izzy whips her body around hoping the brush in my hand will scratch the itchy space where her tail and back meet. Startled, the wren flies away. I release my breath slowly, regret having alarmed it, feel like an intruder on my own porch, wish the birds weren’t afraid of us. Izzy noses my hand. I brush her obligingly.

Can you see the wren sitting on the chair?

Can you see the wren on the closest chair?

The Smokeys are filled with sources of fresh emotions that remind me of my own instincts. This morning when Fred went out to the porch to enjoy his coffee, a squirrel jumped off the chaise lounge. The yellow wool throw at the end of it was churned into a lumpy mass. Apparently the squirrel had used my cozy wrap for a nest.

It’s been cool and rainy for the past two weeks. When misty drizzles swell into weightier drops the birds desert our feeders. I feel sorry for them, worry about how they’re keeping dry.

Luckily, the wrens’ nest is high and dry under a covered porch. I’m comforted by this when I watch the rain from my rocking chair. Yet, there’s a down side to this location. How were Mama and Papa Wren to know their refuge in this mountain valley is also our nest, and that it would soon be invaded by a four-legged, waggy-tailed, creature as well as some giant two-leggeds?

porch2As living near man-made habitats can be problematic for birds and other wild creatures, so Nature’s sanctuaries can have down sides for humans. On our first walk last summer, Izzy and I were in a narrow space bordered by dense undergrowth when she raced ahead of me past a lethal timber rattler less than 3 feet away. I was both frightened and fascinated, and have avoided that spot ever since. The next day our neighbor came over with his rifle and stalked it. But we never saw it again. Perhaps its instinct for survival compelled it to find a safer haven in a deeper, darker part of the forest. The same instinct makes me wary of such places!

Bachelard writes,

“It is striking that even in our homes, where there is light, our consciousness of well-being should call for comparison with animals in their shelters. An example may be found in the following lines by the painter, Vlaminck, who, when he wrote them, was living quietly in the country:  ‘The well-being I feel, seated in front of my fire, while bad weather rages out-of-doors, is entirely animal.  A rat in its hole, a rabbit in its burrow, cows in the stable, must all feel the same contentment that I feel.’ Thus, well-being takes us back to the primitiveness of the refuge. Physically, the creature endowed with a sense of refuge, huddles up to itself, takes to cover, hides away, lies snug, concealed.”

Refuge at last!

Refuge at last!

When we first arrived, Izzy slept as close to our bed as she could when it stormed outside.  Sometimes her need for concealment was so strong that she’d push herself too far under and get stuck. Meanwhile, I’d be listening to the rain snuggled in a nest of soft pillows and a thick, bunched-up comforter. Our need for refuge was the same. We just expressed it differently.

Our relationships with our instincts are as paradoxical as our relationships with wilderness creatures. We love and indulge them when we’re secure in our safety and comfort. We cage and kill them when we’re not. What animal in us seeks refuge from life’s storms and feels such well-being in our nests? What cringing creature experiences terror when otherness intrudes? What inner observer sees our fear and challenges us to overcome it?

Thank you to my poet friend, Brian Carlin, for recommending Bachelard’s wonderful book.  I can see why you love it.

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, Inc.

 

 
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