Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Sacred Laws of Psyche May 5, 2015

The inner universe

The inner univers

My friends: last week’s post about the new book, Into the Heart of the Feminine, by Jungian analysts Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris, addressed a lesson that must be learned if we want to heal ourselves and the world. This is the importance of recapturing our ability to think psychologically and symbolically. This I know:  learning the two languages of One Mind is the only lasting remedy for the devastation that our cultural mentality of one-sided rational, verbal and literal thinking has wrought.

With the synchronistic help of Elaine Mansfield, a dear friend and sister writer, I was reminded of this post I published in the wake of the Newtown tragedy over three years ago. If any act epitomizes the evil impact of the one-sided patriarchal culture that created the Death Mother archetype, that did! With this repost I extend my condolences to include the families and friends of those who lost their lives in last week’s devastating earthquake in Nepal.

The inner universe of the mind is, like the physical world, a living organism that functions according to natural laws.  Deciphering them has been the work of holy fools, for who can presume to understand the sacred inner workings of creation? Yet we do try to understand these autonomous patterns of energy (archetypes) in our individual minds (the psyche) and in the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness (the psychoid) because we feel their profound influence.

Our brains know two languages: logic and imagination. Separately, each has limits, but an individual who respects both can make brilliant inroads into the Mysteries. Einstein was one such person. He said, “Logic will take you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were others. Jung explored his inner life and that of his clients with the help of myths and symbols from various wisdom traditions. Campbell developed some of Jung’s themes. Together, their imaginative work shed much-needed light into the darkness of our current collective unconscious. Following are some natural laws they midwifed into our awareness.

1. The Law of Correspondence: The outer universe is a reflection of the inner universe. This intuition gave rise to the ancient adages, “As above, so below,” and “As without, so within.” Humanity has expressed this relationship in diverse symbol systems such as mythology, religion, tarot, alchemy, astrology and magic.

2. The Law of Synchronicity: Meaningful coincidences between our inner and outer universes occur more frequently with self-reflective practices like dreamwork and active imagination. Synchronicities are not products of “cause and effect,” but of an imaginative, heartfelt search for personal meaning which eventually produces what Jungian Monika Wikman calls, “a psychology of synchronicity instead of linearity.”

3. The Law of Opposites: For everything we know about ourselves (beliefs, values, attitudes, emotions), there is a corresponding unconscious opposite. In our psychological immaturity we see things dualistically, (in terms of either-or, good-bad), and automatically repress or disown that which our egos consider the less desirable option.

One Mind
One Mind

4. The Law of Oneness Beneath all apparent dualities lies a fundamental connectedness with All That Is.  We can tap into this One Mind by integrating pairs of opposites to create partnerships which see, think, and behave holistically.

5. The Law of Entropy: When opposites remain isolated from one another, any disorders within them remain constant or increase.

6. The Law of Change:  Energies in both universes are constantly circulating. Change toward stasis and polarization increases disorder and chaos. Change toward communication and integration increases movement toward perfection and completion.

7. The Law of Love: Love is the most powerful healing and unifying force in Life. It has its roots in the heart, i.e. honest feeling and valuing, not the head, or logic and reason.

8. The Law of Choice: Our ego, the organizing center of our consciousness, can choose to serve or fight these laws, and our personal choices influence ours and the world’s welfare. For example, if we serve the Law of Love, we respect and integrate ours and others’ religions, making space in ourselves and the world for both. If we fight this law we are choosing love’s opposite, hatred.

We can cultivate our imagination or bury it. View ourselves as separate or as connected. Integrate otherness or fight it. Nurture love or hate. Trust or fear. How can our beloved country serve these sacred laws at this point in history?  How can you and I?

My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of the innocents whose physical lives were tragically snuffed out in Newtown. Together, may we find a solution to this senseless tragedy.

Image Credits:  Google 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.

 

Into the Heart of the Feminine April 28, 2015

Medusa-Caravaggio_(Uffizi)There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man, which are inborn in him from the earliest times, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still making up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.
– Carl Jung

This blog is based on my passion for self-knowledge and understanding the two great archetypal foundations of life: the feminine and masculine principles. My research, writing and inner work have shed a great deal of light on these mysteries. They’ve also shown me how much I don’t know. Luckily, I have many opportunities to learn.  One recently appeared in the form of a book I was asked to review. I’m delighted to share its deep wisdom about the feminine principle with you.

Into the Heart of the Feminine: An Archetypal Journey to Renew Strength, Love, and Creativity, is co-authored by Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris. In this outstanding and groundbreaking book, the Harrises use the myth of the Greek Gorgon Medusa to demonstrate the timeless reality of a profoundly destructive complex of images, symbols and themes known as the Death Mother.

Myths are born whenever a culture evolves into a new stage of psychological awareness. Exploring them provides healing and understanding of these developments that are trying to become conscious. Medusa’s myth emerged in Greece during a time when patriarchal gods were trying to assimilate and control the transformative aspects of the feminine principle. The Harrises have uncovered traces of this myth countless times in themselves and their clients.

Medusa was a ravishingly beautiful maiden raped by the god Poseidon in Athena‘s temple. The angry goddess transformed Medusa’s beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. This is a perfect symbol for the devastating psychological impact of patriarchy’s wounding and devaluing of the feminine archetype.

To quote the Harrises, the Death Mother “paralyzes our initiative, spirit, creativity, and vitality.” Her negativity “affects our culture in general, mothering in particular, and our ability to like, nourish, and take loving care of ourselves.” Unfortunately, it also cripples our ability to meet the emotional needs of our children. Thus do many of us, women and men alike, grow up feeling so unloved, unlovable, depressed, and deeply disappointed in life that we pass on the same curse to them. What’s more, “When the feminine principle is repressed into our unconscious, it becomes part of our collective shadow, and this shadow projects itself as a longing, or even a demand, for power.” Many of us experience the negative consequences of that particular beast every day.

UnknownWith Medusa’s story as guide, the Harrises demonstrate that to bring the feminine into our world, we must begin in a personal way. Only by taking the time to reconnect with the wholeness of who we are—and dreamwork is a primary way—can we learn to value the feminine and have it become reborn within us. This point is illustrated throughout the book in stories about clients who have experienced healing by following the map for the journey outlined in Medusa’s myth.

This requires us to recognize our denial and face our fear of inadequacy, shame, rejection, and belittlement along with the underlying rage, grief and woundedness that give rise to these debilitating fears. With reflection we accept “the reality that we have been damaged by some of the primary attitudes and values in our culture.” This realization strengthens us to confront our personal Death Mother.  In the final phase of healing we learn to pay attention to our lives so that we can celebrate the transformation taking place by living a fuller, richer life.

I love this book.  You’d get a good idea how much if you could see the underlines and comments on practically every page. One of my favorite things about it, apart from the many “Ahas” I acquired about my own Death Mother complex, is the Harrises’ clear grasp of our current cultural mentality. We’ve become so rational, verbal and literal that we’ve forgotten how symbols and images carry a deeper reality than words.  We’ve lost the art of thinking symbolically. And as the authors say, “To lose this art is to lose the kind of grounding that enables us to experience the beautiful depths of love and the Divine presence that is potentially within our capacities.”

What greater loss could there be than that?

You can see Massimilla Harris speaking about the Death Mother at this link:   

Image Credits:  Medusa, Caravaggio.  Wikimedia Commons.  Cover Design of Into the Heart of the Feminine: Courtney Tiberio.  Cover Photo:  Anthony Cave

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.

 

New Dreams About My Animus: Part II April 21, 2015

Wonder-129-School-Bus-Static-ImageIn last week’s post I shared two animus dreams from four years ago featuring helpful men. One made me feel loved, protected and deeply secure. The other was my partner in a creative, spontaneous dance performance that was fun, but unfinished. Hooray, I thought then. My animus and I are finally getting our act together!  Surely it won’t be long before I feel some closure on our relationship.

Four years later this relationship is still far from predictable, let alone finished, as the following dreams from a week ago illustrate.

#4630.  “I Want to Stop Driving the Bus.” I’m driving a yellow school bus down the road near my house when the light turns red.  I struggle to stop before hitting the black car in front of me. The bus finally stops inches away from the car. Why am I driving this bus? Stopping it is hard. Where am I going? Why isn’t Fred here to help me? I decide to abandon it in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store and walk home.

#4631.  “My Beautiful Green Shoes Need Work. I’m trying on a pair of green beaded shoes I haven’t worn in years. They resemble the low-heeled Capezios professional dancers wear. They’re very comfortable but the heads of four nails are sticking out from the bottoms of the heels, moreso on the right [masculine] heel than the left [feminine]. They feel sturdy enough to walk on, but they need work before I can trust my footing to be secure. I hope Fred will help me hammer in the nails.

These dreams made me uncomfortable. How did they relate to my waking life?  What was I doing four years ago that had me feeling so good about my animus?  What’s different now? Why isn’t he, (this time in the form of my husband who always has my back in waking life), there for me when my dream ego needs him?

UnknownI had no satisfying answers until a synchronistic occurrence this morning. Having just read last week’s post, Katalina commented:  “What an interesting evolution! What else is shifting / changing that might require the re-consideration of the relationship? In what areas of life is there a faint mistrust?…Funny that there is an audience – I have been thinking of you so much in the context of audience lately. That IASD conference coming up…[and her desire to attend my Friday night keynote lecture]…the theme of presenting to an audience – U wonder if you don’t trust him to be there for you when on stage?”

BINGO!  That’s it! Last week I was convinced there was a link between my older animus dreams and the two most recent ones, and dear Katalina intuited what it was!  My Writer/Teacher animus helps me manifest my thoughts in clear, organized, logical thinking. Four years ago this month he and I were working closely together to finalize my newest book for publication. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have his help and I often took a few moments off to thank him. Likewise, for the past few months I’ve been driving hard, preparing to address an audience of dreamers who want to learn what I know, and he’s been invaluable in helping me write my speech and create my powerpoint presentation.

Now that we’re finished with this phase of the journey, my animus has stepped out of the picture and my old nemesis, Self-Doubt, is using his absence to undermine me. I’m ready to get off the bus. I don’t want to “drive” this project to completion without my animus. Will we take up our graceful dance on the stage at the conference? Will I be wearing my repaired dancing shoes? Will he help me voice my standpoint to this live audience as well as he does in my writing?

The journey to self-knowledge and self-empowerment takes a lifetime. At this particular juncture I think I’ve been taking the masculine half of my soul for granted and he might be feeling a bit neglected. Now that I realize how much I need his help, I plan to lure him back with some long overdue inner work: a few active imagination dialogues and maybe a ritual or two! Like most men, he turns into a real softie with some tender, loving attention!

Image Credits:  Google 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.

 

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.

 

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places? February 24, 2015

Unknown-1Have you ever put yourself in a relationship or situation that filled a deep need and seemed totally harmless?  And then suddenly something happened that made you aware of an unsuspected dark side of what you were doing? And it got so out of hand that you couldn’t control it and were swamped with anxiety and dread?  

Most of us have experienced something like this at some point in our lives. So what do you do?  Ignore it?  Keep plugging away and hope for the best? Pray? Fantasize?  Wait for a prince to ride up on a white horse and rescue you? Lay the blame on someone else while denying your part in it?  Ask for help then get angry when it doesn’t come? Run away?  Carry your guilt, fear, hurt and anxiety in a secret compartment and refuse to visit it while telling yourself you’re just fine?  Only to put yourself in another situation somewhere down the road that’s just as bad as, or even worse than the first? Then go through the whole thing again?

These are the responses of an immature ego with limited self-awareness. When we see this happening to someone we know, it’s obvious that whatever they’re doing isn’t working.  Yet, like a hamster on a wheel, some people keep traveling the same old path without getting anywhere no matter how good their intentions or wise their counsel.  I’ve been there.  Maybe you have too. Old habits and attitudes have strangleholds on our egos, regardless of how toxic the consequences. So how do we break free?

“To live fully, we have to…bring back to life the deepest levels of the psyche from which our present consciousness has evolved.” Carl Jung

images-2But how do we follow Jung’s advice?  Ask your unconscious for a dream. Dreams compensate for our conscious attitudes by showing us different ways of viewing our issues, especially problematic ones. The unconscious contains everything about ourselves of which we are unaware, including hidden potentials we haven’t yet discovered or alternative ways of being we’ve disowned. Situations like the above are invitations to bring them into our awareness so we can move forward.

This is not easy for an ego that’s oblivious to the inner life and thinks dreams and fantasies are “just our imagination.”  Plus, few of us welcome the effort it takes to reflect on them. Most difficult of all is giving up our illusion of being in control and trusting some unknown part of ourselves to help us out. We experience the power of these archetypal entities all the time in strong emotions, urges that seem to come from nowhere, and synchronicities, yet we rarely “waste” much time trying to understand them. But it’s the only way to go if we really want to grow. Consider this:

“The essential thing is to differentiate oneself from these unconscious contents by personifying them, and at the same time to bring them into relationship with consciousness. That is the technique for stripping them of their power.  It is not too difficult to personify them, as they always possess a certain degree of autonomy, a separate identity of their own. Their autonomy is a most uncomfortable thing to reconcile oneself to, and yet the very fact that the unconscious presents itself in that way gives us the best means of handling it.”  Jung: Memories, Dreams and Reflections, pp. 185-188.

images-1If we’re dead serious about wanting out of our ruts—and it usually takes desperation to bring us to this point—asking the unconscious for a dream about our situation will trigger an immediate response.  Within a night or two we’ll get one or more dreams. We won’t understand their symbolic language or meaning right away, but, if we persist step by step the rewards will come. My certainty of this comes from 26 years of treating my dreams “as if” they have objective meaning. Once I chose this path, it wasn’t long before I realized they actually do!

Our highest purpose is to grow more conscious and accepting of the benevolent otherness within and without so that we might live in love instead of fear. We can’t will ourselves to manufacture love or consciousness with mental effort alone.  These and other rewards only come with personal experience and a regular practice like dreamwork. With time, our toxic fears, shadows, habits and attitudes lose their power and are replaced with trust, peace and overflowing gratitude and compassion.

If you’re looking for love, I promise:  you can find it in your dreams.

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.

 

A Story of Living and Dying February 2, 2015

51pPyvcRbyL._AA160_As you read this, I’m enjoying the company of my friend Elaine Mansfield. Many of you will recognize her name from comments she frequently makes here, or from my Facebook page.  She flew down from New York to spend a few days with me before she goes on to Tampa where she’ll be presenting a workshop for a small fraction of the half million women who lose spouses each year.  While she’s here, we’re planning a new workshop on grief.

We met about 16 years ago.  She was with her husband, Vic, a physics professor who had written a new book on synchronicity, when he came to speak at the Winter Park Jung Center where I was teaching.  Fred and I took them out to dinner afterwards and enjoyed them so much that Elaine and I began an email correspondence.  Nine years later Vic died of cancer.

Some of you have lost a spouse; some, even two.  Others have spouses with terminal illnesses that could take them within the next few years.  So I want you to know about Elaine’s new book called Leaning into Love:  A Spiritual Journey through Grief. 

One reviewer describes it as a “touching and courageous memoir about love, illness, death, and grief.” Another says, “This magnificent, profoundly moving book gives encouragement and solace to all.”  Alison Lurie, Pulitzer prize-winning novelist writes, “Elaine Mansfield knows far more than most people about love and loss, and she tells it with admirable honesty and clarity.”

A mutual friend of ours and sister lover of Jungian psychology, Candace Boyd, wrote to Elaine some weeks ago and copied me. Candace wrote,  “I read your book in two days. Your writing is so powerful, and so beautiful. I wish that I had had this book to refer to a year and one half ago.” That was when her husband was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Synchronistically, as I was writing the beginning of this very paragraph I received another e-mail from Candace saying, “Cancer seems to be endemic to our lives now.”  I think I’m supposed to be writing this post today!

One of the more remarkable aspects of Leaning into Love is how honest and personal it is. Elaine doesn’t shy away from sharing occasions when she and Vic were irritable with each other. You don’t always see this kind of candor from loved ones who’ve been through the grueling day-to-day stress and strain of caregiving.  And when you do, it’s often accompanied by terrible guilt.

What’s so beautiful about this is that Elaine seems to have found a way to forgive herself for being human.  Maybe that’s because of the remarkable tenderness, understanding and love that infused their relationship.  Maybe she could forgive herself because she knew Vic forgave her for her flaws, just as she forgave him for his.  And for dying and leaving her all alone.

A big factor that undoubtedly influenced the patience and kindness these two consistently showed each other through their ordeal was their mutual desire for psychological and spiritual growth.   In the early years of their marriage they studied together with Anthony Damiani, a brilliant teacher who introduced them to Jungian psychology, meditation, and the philosopher Paul Brunton.  Later he guided them through Greek philosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism, and many Western philosophers. What they learned from him influenced them and their marriage in the best possible way.

Nobody is free from suffering, not even Anthony, who died of cancer at an early age.  And we don’t usually get to choose what causes our suffering.  But we can, like Vic and Elaine, choose to respond to it with courage, mindfulness, and kindness.  Of all the beautiful messages I received from this book, this is the one that made the deepest impression on me.  They practiced kindness.  What a beautiful thing to share in this dangerous, chaotic world.

Kindness. That’s what Elaine shares in her book. And, knowing her, I think it’s also one of the reasons she wrote it.

You can check out Elaine’s author page on Facebook here and buy her book here. 

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

My Dreamwork Method: Steps Five and Six January 27, 2015

FullSizeRenderAfter my last post about the six-step method I use to work with dreams, Amy wrote with a question,  “The thing I struggle most with when helping others are steps 5 and 6. I can help people substitute meaning language in place of symbols, but it seems there is a kind of leap for many people when trying to apply this to everyday experience. Many people struggle to recognise the truth even when laid out before them. Do you have any advice here?”

This is something I’ve always struggled with too, so I’d like to illustrate with an example from my own life.

In my early years of dreamwork I had a few dreams about weak, sickly trees. In one, a sapling had been almost totally uprooted by strong winds.  In another, I was checking on a weeping willow I’d planted next to the canal behind our house. The tree was standing in a watery swamp and the leaves were limp and brown. The ground was so muddy that the roots couldn’t take hold and my precious tree was about to topple over.

These dreams were very troubling.  Was I like these trees?  Maybe sick and about to die?  A bit fearful of the answer, I pressed on with my usual dreamwork method. As always, the hardest parts were Steps 5 (creating an emotional bridge between dreams and waking life) and 6 (reflecting and acting on needed changes.)  I just couldn’t understand how any of this applied to my thinking or living. I had no idea what I was “doing wrong,” let alone how to change it.

What did these dreams have to do with my emotions? Did the symbol of the weeping willow mean I was deeply sad? I had endured much sadness during my nine-year-long “dark night” experience, but that was behind me at the time of these dreams and I had no conscious awareness of being sad. I was doing regular dreamwork, writing my first book, and feeling on top of the world.

Another thing; willow branches are known for their flexibility, but what could be wrong with being flexible instead of rigid? So why was Dream Mother giving me these disturbing images?

I assumed the problem must be with the roots:  my connection to the underground.  I must need a sturdier standpoint and firmer grounding in the unconscious. But how did this relate to my waking life? Where/how/with whom did I need a stronger standpoint? What did that even mean?  And how could I acquire a firmer grounding in the unconscious?  What exactly about me needed to change? It was all so puzzling that I eventually gave up trying to understand, although I never forgot these dreams.

At the time, I had undergone so much growth that I thought I was surely becoming a mature oak! But now I smile at my naivety. I was a mere sapling struggling to survive in the early stages of a journey that would last a lifetime.

The tree represents the Self. In alchemy it was the central symbol of the opus, the great work of healing and transforming the psyche:

“…the tree may represent not only a place of awakening to new life, but also of suffering—mythic suspensions of sacrifice, ordeal, suicide, execution and reversal. A treasure guarded by snakes or dragons at the tree’s gnarled roots alluded to the difficulty of achieving the goal, the extraction of the self from the tangle of unconscious factors.” (Taschen, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, p. 130.)

Transforming oneself is no carefree romp in the park. It requires intense, on-going study of an inner development that follows laws the ego can neither fathom nor predict. Twenty-two years later, I can see the part of me that was then, and almost always has been, profoundly sad.  And I see how I’ve acquired a far sturdier standpoint and firmer grounding in the unconscious. But I still struggle making the waking life connection with new dreams….partly because I’m still not always attentive to my feelings, and partly because a great deal of unexplored territory remains in the ocean of my unconscious.

It’s difficult to bring light to our unconscious selves, and our natural fear and inertia make this task intimidating. But it’s the Hero’s Journey and it’s the only thing that will ultimately satisfy a soul hungry for maturity and meaning. So here’s my advice:

Be patient with the questions. You will receive answers when you’re ready for them.  Keep on keeping on with your chosen practice (or perhaps add a new one), gaining tiny insights step by step until they start paying off big. With commitment and perseverance, this will happen…maybe not until after midlife, but I assure you, the wait is worth it!!

Note: Special thanks to Amy Campion for inspiring this post, and to Susan Scott for another delightful synchronicity:  She recommended Taschen’s, The Book of Symbols to me after reading last week’s post, but only today when writing this post did I realize it was the same book my daughter gave me for Christmas!!

Image credit:  Alchemy’s Philosophical Tree;  engraving, ca. 1470 C.E. There’s more to see at the top of the tree, but I couldn’t fit it into the photo I took from Taschen’s, The Book of Symbols. And I like it this way.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,097 other followers

%d bloggers like this: