Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Principles Do You Live By? February 2, 2016

Unknown-1This past weekend I attended a symposium featuring the internationally renowned poet, David Whyte. As the subtle beauty of his words and images—and even more, the silence behind them—washed through me, an intense inner resonance asked to be heard. “This is a fellow traveler,” it said. “Pay attention,” it said.  “You can learn from this one,” it said.

He told stories, he recited poems, and over and over the same three threads ran through.  One was “the conversational nature of reality.”  This reminded me of an observation from the American Buddhist, Jack Kornfield,

“All of spiritual practice is a matter of relationship:  to ourselves, to others, to life’s situations…Whether we like it or not, we are always in relationship, always interconnected.” ~Jack Kornfield

David Whyte would no doubt add, “…always having a conversation.” Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think or feel initiates a relationship, a conversation with otherness. Otherness that sparks our imagination.  Otherness that provides clues, if we’re observant, to who we really are.  Our ongoing conversations—sometimes between ourself and another, sometimes between Inner Ego and Inner Other—motivate us to reflect, form questions, discover new insights, and ultimately, act on what we know to be true.

Which brings me to a second thread that colors his poems:  the importance of asking “beautiful questions.” Again, not just of other people, but of all hidden otherness everywhere. For example, while sharing a story about the thoughts and feelings that an ancient stone carving of a woman’s face evoked, he said, “We stand on the threshold of what has not yet occurred…a possible future.  What is the invitation?” What is the invitation of this joy? These tears? That yearning?

A question like this invites us to take a new step, in a new direction, to a newer, truer reality.  Toward my growth. My truth. My reality. Toward the life I was born to live.

A third thread binds the others into the artful fabric of a life:  “Beauty is the harvest of presence.” It’s true. The seeds of our beauty are sown with our presence.  The bud of our beauty opens petal by petal as we practice presence moment by moment, day by day, year by year.

 “Start close in.  Don’t take a second or third step.  Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Take a small step you can call your own. Start with your own question.” ~David Whyte

If we’re not listening to the Other right now there will be no conversations worth having. If we’re unaware of standing on the threshold of what has not yet occurred, of a possible future, we will never ask the beautiful question, “What would it mean for me to be the ancestor of my future self?” If we don’t stay present long enough to see and take the step we don’t want to take, the fabric of our lives will never flower into a work of art.

Inspired by the beautiful poem that is David Whyte, I have a beautiful question for you: “What threads run through your life?” Or as my friend Rachelle Mayers, a gifted videographer and media consultant, asked me three months ago:  “What principles do you live by?”

Here was my response:

 

Image Credit:  Pinterest, unknown.

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.

 

Affordable. Health. Care. Part II January 19, 2016

affordable-care-act-generic-graphic-hearstLast week I wrote about a friend who has issues with the Affordable Care Act and vented to me in a rather adversarial way. In that post I shared my self-doubt and conflicts about whether I could handle such a political hot potato in this blog with intelligence, objectivity and balance. Afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that just writing that introduction resolved most of my discomfort. The bit that lingers is just par for the course for this sensitive and scrupulous INFJ!

So now I’ll continue with his story in his own words:

“In 2014 my United Healthcare PPO health insurance policy cost me $213.09 per month with a $2500.00 deductible.  My wife paid $250.00 per month with a $3500.00 deductible, also from United Healthcare.  We are both in our 50’s and self-employed in the service industry.  We pay 25% income tax.  There were no savings or other advantages to purchasing a joint health care policy.  Together, our effective monthly cost was $450.00 per month with $5000.00 in deductibles.

“In 2015 the Affordable Health Care Act went into effect.  My monthly premium went up to $489.39 with a $5200.00 deductible with Humana (HMO). My wife’s plan with United went up to $475.00, also with a $5200.00 deductible.  That cost us $965.00 a month with an effective $10,400.00 deductible!  The policies included maternity costs;  my wife had a hysterectomy in 2004.  They also included children’t dental care.  We have NO children.  By definition, we are a “married couple with no children” and our annual adjusted gross income is above $62,000.000 — the defining line to qualify for the government health care subsidy.  Affordable??

“In November of 2014 I had a bout with gastroenteritis. Severe dehydration sent me to the emergency room in a life-threatening condition.  After being hooked up to IV’s in the ER for two hours, the finance rep from the hospital came in to secure payment for my $5,200.00 deductible. Awesome. My wife gave him my credit card as I was out of it.  Eight hours later the doc told me I needed to be admitted to the hospital because my kidney function numbers were not good.  What they never mentioned was that this hospital was no longer in my network.  I left the following afternoon. The bills that arrived over the next four months totaled $6,000.00 in addition to the deductible. A friend in the medical industry went to bat for me by reviewing the hospital bills. We found charges for services and tests I never received, so the finance department offered a discount for full cash payment. I took it.  My brief visit to the hospital cost me $11,000.00 out of pocket.  Affordable??

“My wife and I have a simple lifestyle. We live in a condo, go out to dinner once a month.  Both our businesses barely survived the economic crash in ’08. We still haven’t recovered. When she had to relocate her business, costs were high, including three separate licenses to fulfill city, county, and state requirements. At the time of my hospital stay we had not taken a vacation in three years.  But we are thankful for what we have and are not complainers.

“In 2016 we received notice that our Humana HMO plans were going up.  Our savings are dwindling, yet we now have to pay $1,150.00 per month with $14,400.00 in deductibles. Two years ago we paid $450 per month. Affordable???

“Options.  We’ve shopped plans through three agents. We have the cheapest plan, a Bronze HMO. Alternatively, we could choose a catastrophic plan for $380.00 a month with $10,000.00 deductibles, but they cover very little and we’d have to pay a penalty for choosing a plan that is not ACA approved.  We think the penalty would be 3% of our adjusted gross income, but our CPA isn’t sure because the law is so convoluted. Our only other option would be to find new entry level jobs with benefits, but our income would be considerably less.  And this isn’t an easy thing to do for 55- and 59-year-olds. We’ve worked hard for 25 years to develop our clienteles and reputations.

“Now our health care costs are the biggest expense in our budget.  While I understand the overall goal of Obama’s plan to provide health care for everyone, this plan is a total failure.  In my mind, the insurance companies responded to the government getting into their business (less piece of the pie) by raising rates to make up for profit loss.  Also, the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act are too inclusive.  Why would we pay for maternity care or children’s dental?  In the past I was rewarded for being healthy.  I only saw doctors three times in the past ten years, and those were at a Centacare and my dermatologist.  I don’t drink, smoke, or take any medications.  I am not obese.  Now I’m treated the same as an overweight, smoking alcoholic on ten different meds. Really?? Furthermore, with such high deductibles we’re less likely to consult a doctor when sick.

“My feelings are that Obama wanted the Affordable Health Care Act to be part of his administrations legacy; because it was an ego thing he pushed it through at any cost to us. The philosophical benefits to society do not justify crucifying the middle class American. There has to be a better plan. It was easy for politicians who receive lifetime health care at taxpayers’ expense to pass this law without even reading it since it was so long.  I’m angry. We are honest and hard-working. We make our own money and are trying to be responsible small business participants.  But it really is hard to watch the President vacationing in Hawaii while asking us “to tighten our belts” for the “greater good.”  I’ve watched this country go off course for too long and I think the system is irreparably flawed, with no solution in my lifetime.”

1hexagramJeanie again: I invite you to share your story and perspective.  It will surely be interesting and enlightening, especially if anyone can suggest solutions.  Knowing how divisive political issues can be, I ask only that you use diplomacy and restraint. (As if any of my amazing regular readers needed to be reminded to behave with civility!)

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.

Image Credits:  Google Images. Inner Truth: Lewis Lafontaine in Carl Jung Depth Psychology.

 

Affordable. Health. Care. Part I January 12, 2016

024.Jacob_Wrestles_with_the_Angel

Nothing can exist without its opposite;  the two were one in the beginning and will be one again in the end. Consciousness can only exist through continual recognition of the unconscious, just as everything that lives must pass through many deaths.  ~Carl Jung CW Vol. 9i  par. 178

There’s a battle going on in my head.  I hate fights.  I hate conflict of any kind.  But I’ve been witnessing this battle every day for six weeks and I’ve decided to give you a ringside seat. First I need to set the scene so you’ll know where I am and what the fight’s about it and who the antagonists are.

The setting is the political arena as seen from the perspective of my philosophical, introverted, sensitive, non-political mind.  The issue is Affordable Health Care.  The antagonists are various aspects of my Ego, Shadow, and Higher Self. Sometimes I know who’s speaking, sometimes I don’t.

For six weeks now, ever since I had an emotionally-charged conversation with a friend after I attended a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, some of my inner characters have been having a dicey dialogue.  I wake up to their arguments. They make points throughout the day. Their themes populate my dreams and interrupt my sleep.

So why am I inviting you to view this inner drama? Here are a few of the reasons I recognize at the moment:

  1. To clarify my thoughts.

  2. To ease my conscience.

  3. To heal my conflicts.

  4. To get some sleep.

  5. To show you the kinds of challenges people face when they’re committed to self-knowledge, thinking psychologically, and living spiritually. After all, that’s the theme of this blog.

  6. Because I want to make a difference in individual and collective thinking and living.

I realize the last reason may sound a bit grandiose, but wouldn’t everyone like to think that maybe their lives made a positive difference, if only a very tiny one? In fact, isn’t there an inner archetypal force, a mysterious ‘transcendent function’ that pushes all of us, no matter how craven, to better ourselves, to rise above our ignorance and selfishness?

What but a personal experience of this function could motivate me to write a book called Healing the Sacred Divide:  Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World? What but a taste of the joy that comes from heeding its call would cause any of us to do our best at our work and build loving, intimate relationships? Would we be fully human if we cared about nothing but ourselves?  I believe we wouldn’t. Yet sometimes I still fight my mysterious task master.

imagesSo here’s what’s been going on in my head:

“But I’m a philosopher, not an activist.”

“How’s that working for you? And how’s the view from your Ivory Tower?” (Pretty sure this latter comment came from my Spiritual Bully, not the Self.)

“But I abhor politics.  What possible good is there in self-serving rants and self-righteous blame games motivated by power and greed?”

“Don’t be so cynical. You know that’s human nature. We all react instinctively to fear, and the less awareness we have, the more we project our shadows onto others to take the heat off ourselves.”

“I know. But the fear and projection seem to be getting worse. And so few people seem to see it or care, and my psychologizing can’t change that. People have to want to change.”

“So if you really care, what can you do?”

“The only thing I know how to do is write, but I know absolutely zero about this issue and the factors involved.”

“You could find out. Do some research.  Ask around.”

“I’m not interested in that kind of research.  I want to understand how our minds work and why we behave the way we do. I don’t want to read thousands of pages of boring details, know who lobbies whom to get bills vetoed or passed, or learn the depressing facts about the twisted, depressing lies politicians tell to push their personal agendas through. None of it makes any lasting difference in the end. Meanwhile, it hurts to be constantly reminded that some people who are supposedly devoted to serving our country care more about getting re-elected than easing people’s pain and suffering. That they would rather distort the truth and blame the other party than be true to their consciences.  That they may not even have consciences.”

“Hmmm.  I’m hearing some powerful anger and resistance here.  What are you really afraid of.”

“Venturing into this new arena is difficult for me. My position is unusual and I don’t want to be misunderstood or scorned. What if I can’t present my case with clarity and objectivity?  What if people hate me or think I’m arrogant or frivolous?  It’s hard enough to see and deal with my own crap. Do I have to heap more coals on my head?”

“I see. Pooor baby. You think you shouldn’t have to suffer any more. After all, look how hard you’ve worked to become a more conscious, ‘spiritual’ person! (That had to be my Spiritual Bully again.) So if that’s how you feel, why keep agonizing about whether to write about this? Why not let people with thicker skins and extroverted personalities enter this particular fray?”

Consciousness-opposites“Aaarrgh! Because nobody else seems to care what’s happening to him and it’s not fair! I can’t stand to see him suffering over this injustice. And I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try to help.”

“Well alright.  Let’s get on with it then, shall we?”

So that’s it. Next time, the full story from my friend.

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.

Image credits:  Google Images. Gustav Dore’.  Jacob Wrestles with the Angel. Vincent van Gogh.  The Starry Night.

 

 

 

Which Feminine Archetypes Are Strongest In You? November 24, 2015

If you haven’t read last week’s post, you might want to go there first to hear my thoughts about the basic masculine archetypes.  This time I want to highlight the feminine ones.  Please remember that these energies and qualities, so-called “masculine” and “feminine,” are part of the psychological inheritance of everyone, regardless of gender. It’s only society that assigns some of them to men and others to women, and these associations can very from culture to culture.  Unfortunately, this limits all of us to only a portion of our fullest potential.

In my system, the feminine archetypes are the Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These images of our basic instincts serve our “feminine” drive for species-preservation and relationship. The ways we see and use their energies are transformed over time as our egos mature through three “feminine” phases: the innocent Maiden, the life-giving Mother, and the wise Crone.

In the first phase we unconsciously serve the drive to preserve our species by emphasizing relationships, conforming to tribal/cultural standards, and sexual activity; in the second, the cycles of life force us us to become more aware of our individual needs; and in the third, attending to our inner, spiritual selves becomes as important as meeting the needs of others.

Our Queen is a culture mother and the feminine sovereign of the psyche. Like the goddess Hera, a Queen in the Maiden phase automatically honors her duty to society without reflection. Her growth is usually instigated by some sort of crisis —rape or love, parenthood, illness, divorce, or loss of a loved one—which destroys the Maiden’s virgin innocence and instigates the Mother’s suffering. If she develops a conscience and learns moral responsibility she becomes a caring Crone/Queen of personal sovereignty, moral virtue, respect for individual differences, and social leadership.

The Mother archetype represents our instinct for physically serving the birth/death/rebirth life cycle.  In our unreflective Maiden phase our Mother is, like the warrior goddess Artemis and Mother Nature herself, as capable of destroying life as mothering it, simply because she is not very aware of the significance of otherness and puts her own needs first. In our Mother phase our Mother archetype struggles to understand and serve the needs of individuals as much as her own and the activity of the impersonal Great Mother who gives and takes all  life. As our egos mature, the Crone Mother helps us value the life in our bodies and souls as much as life outside ourselves.

The Wisewoman is diffusely aware of, and deeply sensitive to, the maternal depths of the unconscious.  In our unreflective phase she is like Greece’s Persephone, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Walt Disnery’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Because we lack the experience and logical thought to handle the vast unknown, our Maiden can get us into trouble with archetypal powers we don’t understand and can’t control. Our transformation into the Mother phase begins when our mistakes force us to distinguish between objective facts and subjective symbols in the inner and outer worlds. Our Crone Wisewoman integrates logos with mythos to see the big picture, understands how the parts connect, and creates personal psychological and spiritual meaning.

The Beloved is the magnetic principle in relationships. Our Maiden Beloved is like Aphrodite: an innocent, unconscious seductress driven to attract sexual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment by attracting and pleasing others. Our Mother phase begins when we suffer the conflict between wanting to please our lovers and wanting to discard them when they no longer please us. Our Crone Beloved is like a hospitable, emotionally authentic hostess who lives in beauty, inspires others, and gives what we could only hint at in our youthful phase: full sensory and emotional intimacy with fully respected and loved otherness.

12246976_1115151578525043_7102838831078503786_nWhereas shadow masculinity destroys otherness, shadow femininity is self-destructive. A compulsive Queen can burn us out if we give too much of ourselves. Our Mother can sabotage our relationships by being too receptive or smothering. An obsessive Wisewoman can cause us to be depressed and overwhelmed by the unconscious. And if our egos obsess over the outer appearance of beauty, our Beloved can compel us to sacrifice the true beauty of our souls. But as we accept our feminine sides and partner them with our masculine sides, their union can give birth to a Spirit Warrior of perfected selfhood and completed relationships.

What does your attitude toward the feminine archetypes say about your ego’s maturity and your acceptance of the feminine side of your psyche? How are your relationships and service to our species evolving in ways that benefit all?

I wish you all a happy and love-filled Thanksgiving Holiday.  I am so very thankful for you, my internet community. You have enriched my life immeasurably.

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.

 

Which Masculine Archetypes Are Strongest In You? November 17, 2015

Fascinated by the inner forces that influence human attitudes and behavior, I’ve spent years trying to understand archetypes. Nobody can describe them with any certainty because they are deeply unconscious. However, there are many theories based on research and careful observation of human nature.

My perspective is based on Jungian psychology.  Like Jung, I think of the archetype of the Self—our core, circumference and God-image—as an alchemical blend of so-called “masculine” Spirit (animus) and “feminine” Soul (anima). Obviously, Spirit and Soul have nothing to do with gender; everyone contains both. However, using “masculine” and “feminine” to describe these foundational forces of every psyche can be helpful.  As metaphors, they help us understand differing and often conflicting forces in ourselves and others. But when, in our ignorance, we assign them to the genders and reject the qualities of our opposite, we repress our fullest potential and obstruct our growth.

I’ve found it helpful to think of four main feminine archetypes as Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These serve our drive for  species-preservation and relationship/wholeness. The masculine King, Warrior, Magician/Scholar and Lover serve our drive for self-preservation and individuation. Since the masculine archetypes are more familiar to most of us, I’ll begin with them and discuss the feminine next time.

It is by no means necessary that we all agree with any one way of imagining our instinctual energies. Indeed, the fact that I’ve found it useful to organize them into mental categories simply reflects my masculine penchant for clear, logical distinctions. I could just have easily focused on experiencing them in my body, nature, relationships, needs and emotions. But I was educated with the left-brained academic bias which has dominated Western culture for thousands of years. This does not in any way violate or diminish the power of feminine energy. It simply blinds us to it.  Which is why I believe that clarifying the differences that divide us is a necessary step to integrating them.

I also want to note that while everyone is furnished with the same basic patterns of psychic energy, how we and our culture see, activate and manifest them differs.  Moreover, each archetype changes as our egos mature through three phases of self-awareness and self-knowledge.

In the first phase we see our King as a cultural Father figure, protector, and preserver of law and virtue who leads us with clear thinking and hierarchical order. The Old King is authoritarian and tradition-bound; questioning his law is taboo. But if we keep growing, he becomes a restless, searching, ego-driven Son/Prince who challenges outdated standards and risks breaking old rules. In turn, the Prince can become a mature and wise masculine sovereign of the psyche who, like England’s Queen Elizabeth I or the legendary King Arthur, actively promotes tolerance, healing change, order, virtue and justice in himself and society.

Our unreflective Warrior is focused on perfecting the body and the world. He proves himself and acquires power and success by influencing others with aggressive, impressive behavior while having little real concern for their feelings. In the Son phase he begins to question his motives, methods and values and struggles to channel his dynamic manifesting activity into work that provides a satisfying outlet for his true talents and ideals. In his final phase he is like Merida, the warrior princess in Disney’s animated film Brave, a Samurai Warrior, or a Star Wars Jedi master who channels his expertise, self-discipline, courage, and moral maturity into activities that heal the broken, protect the vulnerable, defend human rights, and preserve every form of life.

The unreflective Magician/Scholar seeks release from delusion by processing information with focused consciousness and logical thinking. He prefers the objective to the subjective and the known to the unknown and keeps the two sharply separated. In his Son phase he questions tribal wisdom and pursues unorthodox and occasionally original ideas and ways of thinking. The mature Magician/Scholar is a creative, reflective Wise Old Man like Hermes, Avatar’s Dr. Grace Augustine, or Professor Dumbledore whose “magical” knowledge, acceptance, and integration of the visible and invisible forces of life makes him an effective thought leader who can transcend boundaries between people and worlds.

Finally, the Lover is the idealistic and passionate dynamic principle in relationships. In his unreflective phase he seeks emotional release and physical love and pleasure with little compassion or moral responsibility. As Son he treats his Beloved with less selfishness and moodiness and more responsiveness to her differing feelings and needs. The mature Lover is a playful, romantic, aesthetically aware and psychologically balanced lover of life. Like Dionysus, poets Sappho and Lord Byron, or William Blake he appreciates the beauty, worth and inspiration of femininity and honors it in himself and his partners.

The negative poles of the masculine archetypes can be as contemptible as the positive are commendable. The shadow side of the masculine drive for self-preservation abuses and destroys otherness. Whether in a male or female, an unconscious King is a morally rigid, biased, rule-oriented and uncaring tyrant; a Warrior is an abusive invader and wanton destroyer; the Magician/Scholar is a cleverly manipulative, duplicitous, and critical know-it-all; and the Lover, a perverted, hedonistic addict.  But when all four are fully developed and partnered with equally mature feminine archetypes, the result is a profoundly powerful, uniquely creative, psychologically whole and spiritually enlightened being.

Next time I’ll address the basic feminine archetypes.  Meanwhile, if you’re in the mood for a little inner work you might reflect on which of your masculine archetypes are more fully developed and which could use some growing.

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.

 

Horse Crazy Part II: How to Heal the Separations October 20, 2015

My sweet Shadow.

My sweet Shadow.

While writing my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness, I had a dream.

I’m in the kitchen with a woman who personifies motherhood to me.  We’re standing before a low, double-doored freezer in the middle of the room.  As we open and close the doors, getting things out for a dinner party, my friend accidentally bumps the head of a dark-haired boy between ten and twelve standing between us.  He starts to cry.  I think she should kiss his head where she bumped him. But I realize she knows how to handle this, so I say to the boy, “She has children of her own.”  He looks up and stares deeply into my eyes and says, “Yes, but does she have a stallion?”

Like the woman in my dream, I grew up believing relationships with my husband and children would fulfill me.  So I gave up my passion for horses. Perhaps my friend’s passion for her family was enough.  Maybe she never heard the compelling call of the Self.  But the little boy whose eyes pierced my soul is my own inner boy and he knew that once I was horse crazy.  That I was the kind of woman who needed more than relationships:  I needed my stallion, too.

One might assume that because passion is such a powerful emotion it must be associated with the active masculine principle.  But this is not so. The word passion comes from the Latin passio, which means suffering, or being acted upon.  Thus it is associated with the passive feminine principle. (I’m not talking about men and women, but the feminine principle in all of us.) When one has a passion, one is acted upon—e.g. the passion of Jesus Christ—by a calling from or to some unknown power that cannot be ignored without endangering one’s very soul. Moreover, passion is an emotion, and emotion is associated with the dark, feminine, dangerous animal side of our natures, as distinguished from reason and light, which are associated with the masculine.

“I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid…If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”― Joseph Campbell

I knew what bliss was.  I felt it every time I was around horses. Obviously I had a passion for them.  What I didn’t know was that a spiritual passion was also stirring. When I heard the call of the Self at a Billy Graham crusade at 17, I tasted a new kind of bliss, and I believed it could best be served by sacrificing myself in service to others. So from then on I used religious beliefs and ideals to fortify the wall I’d been building to separate me from my shadow side.

By 37 my wall was developing cracks. Despite my stoic self-discipline I could no longer ignore the dangerous new feelings and uncomfortable questions stirring behind it. Something was wrong. One night, torn by an agonizing inner conflict, I prayed the most authentic, heartfelt prayer I had ever prayed: Help me. Please, please teach me to love.

Thus began a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ spiritual crisis. For the next nine years I consciously and painfully tolerated the tension between the life I had chosen and the life of joy I hoped was waiting for me. All that while I managed to ‘hold my horses,’ i.e. avoid rash actions that might betray my soul or hurt someone else.  Was this love?  I didn’t know.

This vigilant waiting, this alchemical tending of the fire, of keeping the passions in the crucible of my soul at a simmer…this was magical. Despite my mental suffering, I knew it even then. What I was doing felt important, right somehow. Sure enough. Beneath my conscious awareness, powerful transformations were occurring. Old dysfunctional attitudes and habits were dissolving. Tenuous new insights and connections were coalescing.  My wall was crumbling to ash.

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”― Joseph Campbell

With the joyful discovery of Jungian psychology at 47, a door in my mind opened. My suffering exited as my latent passions for self-discovery, dreamwork, and writing strode in. Since then doors have continued to open. The Bridge to Wholeness was published. Invitations to speak and teach about what I loved arrived. Dream Theatres of the Soul was published. Healing the Sacred Divide won the 2013 Wilbur Award.

UnknownAt 57 I fulfilled my childhood passion and bought a horse to train. Honey’s Shadow Dancer was neither black nor white like the horses I loved in my youth, but gray, the color that results from blending these opposites.  Shadow symbolized my choice to stop living in an either/or way and start embracing and living my truths. At 2 and 1/2 years old, he was ripe for training.  So was I. It was time to get out of my head and into my body and the physical world, and I knew he’d teach me how to do that.

I had learned I didn’t have to choose between Heaven and Earth, Spirit and Soul, others and self, head and heart, mind and body, safety and passion, meaning and duty, or masculine and feminine. I could find a middle way that integrated all the opposites: with consciousness.

And what about my prayer for love?  Did that work?  I’ll tell you next time.

Image credits:  Mandorla, Cicero Greathouse

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.

 

Twenty-five Benefits of Inner Work September 29, 2015

UnknownDespite the rapid growth of psychological awareness in the West, many people don’t really get what inner work is or why anyone would want to do it. If you’re one of them, this post is for you.  If you’re not, but struggle with some of the issues below, or know someone who does, it’s for you too.  We can all benefit from using our instinct for reflection in more intentional ways.

Inner work is anything that helps you reflect on who you really are beneath your conscious awareness and public persona. Examples are wounds you dismiss, grief and pain you deny, traits you disown, instincts and needs you ignore and thwart.

One effective form of inner work is to study depth psychology, for example, the writings of Carl Jung and Jungian analysts. This might lead to examining the meaningful themes and symbols of myths and your dreams to see how they relate to you. Other examples include psychotherapy, journaling, active imagination, mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, body work, dance, and other forms of creative and artistic self-expression.

The goal of inner work is to help you see the unconscious forces that shape you, often in dysfunctional ways. Consciousness heals your wounded ego-self and creates an intimate connection with your true, spiritually-connected Self.

Here are some examples of how regular, long-term inner work can transform every aspect of your life.  I hope you find them helpful.

  1. jungquote Self-acceptance: Seeing our true strengths and weaknesses diminishes self-criticism and helps us like ourselves.

  2.  Self-esteem: We learn to accept our basic worth and rights, and we expect fair treatment and respect from others.

  3.  Love: Self-knowledge brings more understanding, compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves and others.

  4.  Courage:  We dare to speak our own truths and live our own lives by our own lights.

  5.  Choice-making:  We see alternative ways of responding, our choices grow less habitual, compulsive and obsessive, and making healthier choices gets easier.

  6.  Morality:  Suffering the knowledge of our shadow and its potential for evil humbles our ego and births a new ethic of caring and love.  It impels us to take responsibility for our actions, care about others’ welfare, act with integrity, and want to be of help.

  7.  Social action:  We practice what we preach with less talk and more action.

  8.  Feeling: We spend less time in our heads and more in our hearts.

  9.  Authenticity: Less faking it and more honesty. We become real.

  10.  Emotional pain:  Grieving our wounds frees us to accept reality instead of fighting it.

  11.  Stress:  Awareness of our internal conflicts eases worry, indecision, fear, frustration, anxiety, and agitation.

  12.  Spontaneity: Accepting our inner realities diminishes our fear of criticism, failure, and what others think about us. We live in the present moment instead of being bound by concerns about the past or future.

  13.  Emotional intelligence:  Taking responsibility for our debilitating emotions prevents us from blaming and hurting ourselves and others.

  14.  Work:  Knowing our true interests and skills motivates us to gravitate away from work we hate and toward work that is personally meaningful and fulfilling.

  15.  Intuition:  We see and know things of which others are unaware, and we trust our knowing.

  16.  Mental acuity: Our mental processes become sharper as we allow our instincts, feelings and bodies to inform our thoughts and guide our behavior.

  17.  GuidanceWe rely more on our own authority and less on outer authorities.

  18.  Relationships:  We grow more honest, authentic, open and forgiving.  Relationships become more intimate, respectful, loving.

  19.  Living:  We overcome obstacles with less effort and move through our days with more pleasure and wisdom.

  20.  Dying: Death feels less like the end of us and more like an exciting new beginning.

  21.  Trust: The benevolence of life becomes an experienced reality. We neither get derailed nor lose hope when problems arise because we know that apparent obstacles are opportunities in disguise.

  22.  Spirituality:  Feelings of wonder, gratitude, reverence and love are commonplace and generate a truly “religious” attitude toward the miracle of our lives.

  23. 115235-004-350EACF1 Meaning:  Our lives have purpose. We no longer live by belief, but by synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) which regularly reassure us that we are known and loved by something beyond ourselves.

  24.  Peace:  We strive less and enjoy more harmonious relationships with our inner selves, work, others, and nature.

  25.  Creativity: Self-knowledge awakens our originality and creativity. We become works of art.

Image Credits:

Jungian Quotes: Google Images

Dervish:  www.britannica.com. Bruno Morandi–Stone/Getty Images

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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