Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Signs at the Crossroads September 8, 2015

I'd love to have a beautiful
I’d love to create a beautiful “hobbit house” like this one that’s on exhibit at The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts in Highlands, NC.

“To understand is quick and exciting but to embody is slow and penetrating.”  ~John Tarrant

As I write this post I find myself at a crossroads;  it’s my last week in our Smoky Mountain summer home. By the time you read this I will have left. Part of my heart doesn’t want to leave this sanctuary;  the other part looks forward to returning to my Florida home and family.

Both places hold special charms for me.  Here it’s secluded, cool, mountainous, and forested. Everywhere I go I’m surrounded by nature’s wild beauty. My life is slower, less “mental”, more contemplative and physical—perhaps I should say, “embodied.”  I have lots of solitude, plenty of time to listen to my inner promptings and do whatever appeals, a large granddog companion to accompany me on daily hikes, and occasional house guests to enjoy and entertain…all at an easy, reasonable pace that feeds my soul at a deeply satisfying level.

My life in Florida has a different kind of beauty with its daily and weekly routines: regular workouts, ukulele lessons,  social commitments, holiday celebrations, and fun times with my family, always with enough time left over to write.  The pace is faster and more exciting, given Orlando’s thriving and diverse cultural offerings, but since I prefer a minimum of “fast and exciting,” I usually manage to stay within my comfort level there too.

The meaning of events is the way of salvation that you create. The meaning of events comes from the possibility of life in this world that you create. It is the mastery of this world and the assertion of your soul in this world. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 239.

The thing that makes dividing my time between these two paths work so well is that I’ve finally learned to listen to how I really want to spend my time and to look for meaning regardless of where I am. In Florida I find meaning in my family and friends, writing, music, and art.  Here in the mountains I mostly find it in nature, a road less traveled in our fast-paced world.

I’d like to show you what I mean.  These are some of the meaningful signs I’ve found in nature during this crossroads week. Each one speaks to how I want to live my life, regardless of where I am.

This morning I saw this magnificent display of light in the bathroom. It came from a single sunbeam that found its way through the slats of the window blinds.

Always be mindful of the miracle of life and light.

Stay mindful of the miracle of life and light.

The first thing Izzy has to do on our walks is chase the trout around the pond while I feed them.

If herding trout floats your boat, go for it with gusto!

If trout herding floats your boat, go for it with gusto!

As we stepped onto the trail, the trunk and green necklace circling the base of this beautiful old tulip poplar captured my imagination.

There's beauty in everything: even wrinkles and poison ivy!

Be an objective observer. There’s beauty in everything: even wrinkles and poison ivy!

The next thing to catch my interest was this unusual curved tree trunk.

Straight is not the only way to grow to the light.

There are many ways to grow toward the light. Straight is just one of them.

Izzy loves to run ahead, nose to the ground, while I like to take my time on the trail. But she doesn’t go far, and before long, she always comes back to check in.

Izzy's message to me:

There are few more satisfying or loyal companions than a dog that that has been loved, trusted, and treated with respect. Actually, that’s true of people too.

Yes, she does wait for me, but not always where I would prefer!

When you find a really great mud puddle, stop and take the time to play in it.

When you find a really great mud puddle, take the time to play in it.

She also waits at crossroads to see which way I’ll go.

If you're not sure about which way to go, wait for guidance.

If you’re not sure about your next step, wait for guidance.

I think she prefers the road less traveled too.

When your heart knows the way, step forth boldly!

When your heart knows the right path, face it head-on!

 The other day our friend, Sam, found what we’ve decided is an old moonshine jar almost buried beside the new path. Over the years, Mother Nature has turned it into a terrarium filled with green life. We left it there for Nature to do her thing, and to remind us of the history of these mountains. And to enjoy on our next walk.

Respect local traditions. Respect Nature. Respect change. For as Mother Julian of Norwich said,

Respect local traditions.

Respect Nature.

Respect change.

As Mother Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

We were being serenaded by crows near the end of our walk today when I found a crow feather.  At the trail’s end I placed it on our Crow Altar.

Respect synchronicities with all living beings, for they are reminders that you are known and loved by something beyond yourself.

Honor synchronistic experiences with your full attention and meaningful rituals. Synchronicities remind you that you are known and loved by a benevolent force beyond yourself.

This last sign came when we returned from town one twilit evening. I heard a loud rustle in the woodpile and saw a hawk fly up to a nearby branch. It peered down at us with interest and patiently waited while I pulled out my cell phone and took pictures.

Try to develop a sharp eye and a cosmic view that observes our precious world with infinite patience and love.

Try to develop a sharp eye and a cosmic view that observes this precious world with infinite patience and love.

A true religion is precisely one that can teach you how to recognize and honor God everywhere, and not just inside your own group symbols. ~Richard Rohr

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.

 

Artemis and Demeter’s Legacy August 18, 2015

A perfect moment in the hammock...

A perfect moment in the hammock…

Our children and grandchildren have left now and I’m alone except for Izzy, my son’s golden retriever. She keeps me company when Fred has to be away for a few days. At the moment she’s sleeping contentedly on the bed while I’m writing at my desk.  It gives me enormous pleasure to have her and my family here.

The source of my pleasure goes way back and deep within. I spent my early years as a horse- and woods-loving Artemis, the Greek virgin goddess of the wilderness and the hunt…who was usually accompanied by a dog.  But Artemis stepped aside during my young adulthood to make room for Athena, daughter of patriarchy and Goddess of wisdom, who helped me with my education, teaching, and soul-searching; and for Demeter, goddess of motherhood and fertility, who showed up when I gave birth to my children.

Like all gods and goddesses of myth, these favorites of mine are humanity’s projections of archetypal energies in every psyche. Nobody activates them all, however. We each have our own preferences that may emerge at different times in our lives…or not at all.

For example, after serving Demeter and Athena faithfully during my young adulthood and middle years, I invited Artemis back. Her desire to expose our children (and, we hoped, grandchildren) to nature motivated our decision in the early 80’s to buy this land in the Smoky Mountains from Fred’s parents and build a cabin on it. Years later she inspired me to buy a horse and add a small pasture and stable where Shadow could live in the summers.

A main feature of the original cabin was an open loft with a bedroom on either side of a bathroom for our teen-aged daughter and son.  To our great joy, grandchildren eventually came along.  Now our son’s bedroom contains 3 twin beds plus a bunk for the five grandchildren, while our daughter’s old room is an enclosed guest room which her teen-aged daughter recently claimed.

The cabin and land continually evolve with new projects almost every year, always with the family in mind. For a while we entertained the idea of building a tree house for the kids in a stand of giant hemlocks at the top of the mountain.  That idea was squashed when the hemlocks were infested with the wooly adelgid parasite. As the dead trees fell we found other uses for them.  Most of the wood was chopped into firewood to warm our and our neighbors’ cabins in winter.

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

Then a few years ago Algie, our friend, neighbor and a gifted builder, used the most promising fallen wood to make a table that would seat the eleven of us. He’d never built furniture from hemlock before. No one around here does because the wood tends to be too soft and twisty and it cracks and warps easily.

But after some experimentation he crafted a beauty.  As you can see, despite year-round exposure to the changeable weather, it’s holding up well on the screened porch beside the creek. So are the lights we bought in Mexico to hang over it:  eleven rusted metal birds, each with its own Edison bulb…for the light in each of us.

When my family’s here, Demeter’s a proud mother hen keeping an eye on her chicks (and grandchicks) as they enjoy the property and local attractions. The best time is when we return to the nest each evening for a family dinner that everyone contributes to and shares around our special, hand-made table.

Last winter’s project was a new foot trail that branches off the main one into the remote parts of the property. A few places are piled high with dead hemlocks. The rest is dense with poplars, oaks, maples, and tangled masses of wild rhododendron. Until our yard man got hold of it, it was largely unexplored. Now, after a winter of clearing, digging, fortifying and general magic-making, it’s done, and hiking it with Izzy and the grandchildren has become a major pleasure.

On this summer’s visit our nine-year old granddaughter and seven-year old grandson decided to build a playhouse on a levelish space above the waterfall. Initially, it was their secret. Our granddaughter made a detailed design complete with elevations and measurements, (she may have inherited her father’s architect genes…or maybe it’s her mother’s interior designer genes), and they cleared a trail and leveled the space. It wasn’t long before the older three demanded to know what was going on and started helping.  Soon, the fathers and Grandpa/Boppy were involved too.

By the end of the week they had constructed an 8 X 10 wood plank floor supported by four 4 X 4 posts.  Our son and his sons stayed up late Saturday night to finish the floor, and Fred drove in the last nails Sunday morning after they left. It was the archetypal childhood “build a tree-house with Dad” experience with the added twist of being a waterfall house that is satisfyingly hidden by tree branches all around. They plan to finish it on subsequent visits.

Our cabin in the early days

Our cabin in the early days

At bedtime the night before they left, our seven-year old grandson wistfully told his mother, “I wish my arms were long enough to wrap all the way around the cabin.” My Artemis and Demeter are still doing a happy dance! Seeds have been sown, and I can rest easy knowing my love for family, nature, and wilderness is a legacy my grandchildren will carry on.

For more on the goddess archetypes, check out Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s wonderful books, especially Goddesses in Everywoman.  I just finished and enjoyed her latest:  Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman.

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.

 

An Easter Visitation From Serpent Mother April 7, 2015

A blood moon rising over Lake Virginia.

A blood moon rising over Lake Virginia

What an exquisite time of year it is in Orlando. Easter weekend was especially lovely. Saturday night we went to the home of good friends, where, in the most gorgeous weather imaginable, we celebrated her 60th birthday with dinner in the backyard while watching the glorious rise of the astonishing red-orange “blood moon” over Lake Virginia. Afterwards, with the doors open to the cool breezes, we danced barefooted in the living room to his exquisite play list of the best dance music ever!! It was like The Big Chill—one of my favorite movies ever—all over again, except this time the music wasn’t Motown, it was “O” town!

Sunday was equally balmy and breezy.  So between the traditional indoor Easter Egg hunt for our grandchildren (we’re still missing a purple egg containing a $5.00 bill; maybe they’ll find it next year), and our version of Easter dinner (featuring Grandma Raffa’s Italian spaghetti and meatballs), we relaxed on the deck.

Our house is on a small secluded island on the edge of a large lake.  Most of the island lies within in the city limits of our suburb, but our end of the road is governed by the county.  So the neighbors across the street, whose home straddles the dividing line, have chickens on the county side of their backyard.  On our side of the street, a canal edged with a cypress swamp runs behind the few houses and merges with the lake at either end. Our tiny enclave is so isolated by the water and trees that it’s easy to forget we’re surrounded by large neighborhoods near the big city.

It’s paradise to the critters with whom we share this space. Nearly every day I see pairs of wood ducks flying in to make a splash landing near their nests.  Or hear a kingfisher screeching as he races through the treeless air space over the canal like a noisy space ship trying to shake off an enemy from Star Wars. Or listen to the piercing whistles of the ospreys who surf the air currents over the swamp and lake searching for fish.  We have 8-hooter owls, great blue herons, green herons, wood storks, coots, anhingas and bitterns. Ginormous turtles have been known to lay their eggs in our backyard, raccoons try to dig them up, bass swim in the canal, and alligators rule.

So I wasn’t very surprised Easter afternoon when I heard a shout from the big kids who were playing volleyball in the side yard.  “Snake! Snake!” As we rushed over Alex was hopping through the grass like a dancer over hot coals. Sure enough, passing beneath the center of the volleyball net, a 6-foot long snake was making a slithery bee-line for the canal.

My son-in-law recognized it right away and told us it was a non-poisonous rat or corn snake.  We watched, mesmerized, as she slid over the sea wall, slipped into the water, sashayed swiftly across the canal and disappeared in the undergrowth.

Serpent Mother

Serpent Mother

Judging by the direction from which she had come, my guess is she was returning from a visit to the henhouse across the street. Do they like eggs? I asked him.  Oh yes. Aha! So Serpent Mother likes to celebrate Spring with Easter egg hunts too!

Why do I call this serpent “her?” Can I tell the gender of a snake at a glance?  No, I’m not speaking literally. Everything has symbolic meaning that reflects the inner life of spirit and psyche, and snakes are especially rich with associations.  Aside from being a common dream symbol of transcendence, life-giving energy, healing, and the Sacred Self, the snake has always and everywhere been associated with the archetypal feminine and the ancient goddesses who represented the Great Mother of all life.

The moon is likewise associated with the cool light of the feminine, as compared to the masculine sun.  And a full moon, pregnant with life-giving blood, rising over Lake Virginia on Easter eve, a day when my psychologically aware and spiritually mature friend celebrated her 60th birthday, has very special meaning for me.

Plus, the element of water is the feminine counterpart to masculine fire. The name Virginia (from the OFr. virgine, and Lat. virgo), means virgin, a chaste maiden or unmarried woman who has taken religious vows of chastity. And Serpent Mother’s synchronistic visitation on Easter Sunday reminds me of the virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, a Spirit Person who transcended the physical limitations of earthly life, thus symbolizing our hope for new spiritual life.

I hope your Easter was blessed with reverence for the Mystery of new life, and I wish you an especially meaningful Spring.

Corn snake image credit:  Wikipedia

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 Benefits of Being with Nice People Who Do Nice Things March 31, 2015

IMG_5366There was a story in this morning’s Orlando Sentinel about the new book, “Beneath the Surface,” by John Hargrove. He’s a former senior trainer at SeaWorld’s parks who was interviewed for the documentary “Blackfish” after quitting his job in 2012. Apparently his book is opening old wounds in Orlando. People here remember Dawn Brancheau, a trainer who was battered and drowned by a bored, stressed-out orca in 2010. Many feel a deep sadness over this incident; some are still outraged.

My trainer and I talked about it this morning. I told him I’d gone to an Alan Jackson concert at SeaWorld Sunday afternoon at the invitation of dear friends.  He won’t go to SeaWorld any more and gives everyone who does a hard time. He can’t see why anyone would want to go to a place that holds these magnificent intelligent animals captive for the purpose of making money off them.  He doesn’t think their educational programs are justification for it.

I told him about a brilliant but deeply disturbing book I read years ago titled “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell.  This fascinating mix of science fiction and theology highlights the moral dilemma of being a conscious animal that eats and hunts and experiments on other animals.  He says he’s okay with eating a chicken or cow and lower vertebrates because of their less well-developed brains and neural pathways.

We agreed it’s easier to eat an animal you didn’t kill.  I told him my grandpa used to chop the head off an occasional chicken, then Grandma would pluck and dismember it in preparation for Sunday dinner.  I saw one running around without its head once. I ate it the next day and liked it.  We decided kids who grow up on farms get used to this sort of thing. That seems a shame, somehow.

I said I read an article about how some scientists now believe everything has some form of consciousness, even plants.  Even rocks.  It seems we’re actually surrounded by, and part of a “sea” of consciousness. The cells of our bodies even have consciousness.

He said if that’s true, then if we didn’t eat anything that had consciousness we’d all starve to death.  He has a point. He likes the way Star Trek solved that problem.  People had learned to make food that was full of nutrients and tasted like anything you wanted, but it didn’t contain animal products.  Won’t somebody please invent that?  Quick?Meanwhile, I guess we just have to decide which forms of consciousness we’re willing to eat and which we’re not, then find a way to come to terms with it. Otherwise, we’ll all either starve or go mad with existential angst.

Sometimes, living in this world is hard.  Sometimes very hard!  Yet, I’m feeling mellow on this beautiful spring day. I think it’s a holdover from Sunday’s visit to SeaWorld with Sam and Eleanor.  When we got there, Sam took me to where people were learning to line dance and whispered something to the man calling out the steps. He came over, pulled me into the group of dancers, and stayed with me ’til I got it.  It was fun.

Eleanor without her Bubbalou's T shirt

Eleanor without her Bubbalou’s T shirt

After that, a woman asked me where I’d gotten the cool black “Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que” T-shirt with the pink dancing pigs on it. I told her Sam gave it to me. He owns Bubbalou’s, one of the caterers for the “Bands, Brew, and BBQ” weekend events SeaWorld sponsored throughout March. She wanted to buy one, but they weren’t selling them. I introduced her to Eleanor. She told Eleanor she’s a helicopter pilot from Alaska. She attends this event every year. It’s the only time she gets to enjoy country music because her family doesn’t like it. Eleanor took off her T-shirt and gave it to her. Sam gave her a ticket for a free Bar-B-Que dinner after the concert.

Sam had reserved front row seats at the concert.  Alan Jackson was wonderful. Afterwards, the bass guitar player gave me a free Alan Jackson guitar pick. It says “YEE HAW” on one side and there’s a silhouette of A.J. on the other. I plan to try it out on my ukulele.

I still eat chickens and fish and occasionally cows. I usually feel guilty about it. I don’t hunt or fish;  partly on principle, partly because I don’t like to shoot guns or put worms on hooks. I feel sorry for them. The worms and the fish. I ate Bar-B-Que by the lake after the concert. I had the rest for lunch today. It was delicious.

My trainer and friends are good people. They remind me of the wellspring of caring and kindness at the core of every psyche. I’ve been thinking about the Buddhist goal of “Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.”  It helps some.

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 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.

 

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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