Books: The Perfect Holiday Gift December 18, 2017
Holiday Greetings to all. It’s a week before Christmas, so there’s still time to order books for the readers on your list. In case you’re looking for ideas, here are some of my recent favorites. They’re all wonderful. Enjoy.
Regina Aguilar, Alchemy of the Heart: The Sacred Marriage of Dionysos and Ariadne. Chiron Publications. November 7, 2017.
Manipulated by mythologies which legitimate the authority of those who use them for economic and political advantage, we are increasingly estranged from our Source, our environment, one another and ourselves. We need stories that describe the soul’s healing, bring reverence for life, and connect us to an inner authority based on experiential knowing. Alchemy of the Heart—an in-depth Jungian analysis of the myth of Dionysos and Ariadne—is such a story. Dionysos exemplifies the destruction and restoration of wild, virile, passionate masculinity in deep rapport with the earth and femininity. Ariadne symbolizes innocent, trusting, devoted, but deeply wounded femininity in patriarchy. When a woman’s romantic illusions are shattered by masculine betrayal, the experience of feeling her supportive inner masculine brings renewed vitality and a mystical sense of oneness with life. The story and eventual union between the masculine Lover and feminine Beloved in the alchemical sacred marriage described in this myth is a metaphor for the inner path of integration and individuation available to you.
HeatherAsh Amara, The Warrior Goddess Way: Claiming the Woman You Are Destined to Be, Hierophant Publishing, October 24, 2016.
Written for women, The Warrior Goddess Way is filled with wise principles and insights from which anyone seeking greater power, passion, and freedom can benefit. Amara describes a pathway of presence, baby steps, and practice—a road to reclaim all of you, including your darkest fears and most precious gifts. It asks you to recognize how you have been trained to think and behave, to witness your mind instead of believing everything it tells you, and to embrace yourself in your entirety. Most of all it asks you to stop resisting things beyond your control and learn to love it all. To say Yes! to every situation in your life and ultimately, Yes! to death. Befriending death frees you to be more fully engaged with life. Examples and activities demonstrate the value of such qualities as presence, forgiveness, apology, authenticity, respect, listening, stillness, and awareness.
“Regardless of gender, the key to success in life is creating meaningful relationships.” With this line, the reader is ushered into a bold new territory where successful men care more about connecting and being real than wearing macho masks. In today’s world, authenticity and other qualities this two-sport All-American athlete now associates with greatness—like empathy, insight, honesty, vulnerability, compassion, acting for the good of others, and the ability to heal from one’s own wounds—are traditionally associated with femininity. Howes hopes to change this one-sided and outdated stereotype by describing nine toxic masks men wear which, when discarded, enable them to accept their vulnerability and evolve into a modern-day masculine archetype of benevolent and compassionate power, courage, inner peace and happiness.
Ira Israel, How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening, New World Library, November 7, 2017.
Western culture’s beliefs in capitalism, science, and religion taught you to value the wrong things like productivity, consumerism, and romantic love. Your futile struggles to find happiness and unconditional love via these beliefs created resentments and judgments about the past. As an adult you still dwell on these beliefs and ignore your present pain to stave off future pain. In How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult, psychotherapist Ira Israel deconstructs common dysfunctional mindsets and encourages you to accept and own the reality of your life. Suggestions to raise and reorient your consciousness include seeking a new definition of authenticity—encompassing the psychological principles of attachment, atonement, attunement, presence, and congruence—and practicing Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path and Three Jewels. Your practices will alleviate suffering, promote loving relationships, and help you live with authenticity and love.
Winifred M. Reilly, It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage with (Almost) No Help from My Spouse—and How You Can, Too, Touchstone, April 4, 2017.
Written by marriage and family therapist Winifred M. Reilly, this wise and practical book addresses unrealistic expectations and dysfunctional interactions which damage love relationships. With examples from clients and her own marriage, Reilly takes the reader through five developmental stages of partnerships. She concludes the key for positive change is for one partner to name the basic issues that create conflicts, accept personal responsibility for their role in them, learn how to manage their anxiety, and take risks to respond in new ways. This weakens habitual patterns and transforms the relationship into a more forgiving and loving partnership.
Tosha Silver, Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead, Atria (Reprint Edition), July 12, 2016.
Doctrinaire religions can leave you spiritually alienated because they focus on external observances instead of internal realities. Tosha Silver suggests you align with the Divine by asking for what it wishes for you instead of insisting on your ego’s preferred outcomes. When you offer your problems to the Divine and invite it to take the lead, then symbols and synchronicities tell you when to act. Your openness and trust in a divine order of love and abundance frees you from worry and allows the perfect solution to any problem to arrive at the right time. Silver shares a fascinating and entertaining collection of brief stories which illustrate these principles at work in her life and the lives of others.
Sara Avant Stover, The Book of She: Your Heroine’s Journey into the Heart of Feminine Power, New World Library, October 13, 2015.
Building on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1973) and Maureen Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey (1990), yoga and meditation instructor Sara Avant Stover’s The Book of She describes how women can reclaim their feminine power. Combining personal stories, examples from wisdom traditions, and advice from noted psychological and spiritual teachers, Stover highlights 13 stages of the feminine journey. These are organized into five parts: Preparing for the Journey, The Descent, The Initiation, The Ascent, and The Homecoming. Readers are encouraged to explore and heal their inner and outer lives with numerous activities, rituals and guided meditations within a framework of guiding principles—cultivating an ongoing practice, welcoming silence and prayer, clarifying your priorities, taking responsibility for your life, exploring dualities, and facing your shadow.
Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, Whitaker House, October 4, 2016.
“Bad theology is like pornography—the imagination of a real relationship without the risk of one.” This sums up the theme of The Divine Dance—a repudiation of Empire and a celebration of Relationship. Central to this celebration is your willingness to actively change what you let into your heart and consciously participate in the divine dance of loving and being loved. Trinity is a foundational principle of perennial philosophy—the core beliefs common to every religion. Some call it the Third Force. It is also a living reality—a circular flow of love in you and the universe that mirrors the orderly spinning dance of subatomic particles which birth and sustain life. The 67 essays in this book depict God as absolute relatedness. They affirm that your participation in the dance can transform your illusion of separation into a spiritual experience of radical relatedness with yourself, your life, and the Divine.
I think of you often as I work on my next book and will stay in touch in the New Year. I wish you the happiest of holidays. As the nights grow longer and darker, may your inner light grow stronger and brighter.
The Unseen Partner September 6, 2016
“The time is ripe for the unconscious and conscious dominants to meet each other. The death of the old dominant is indicated by the fact that the king is about to die. This corresponds to the fact that the God-image, the collective dominant of the Western psyche, is moribund. In preparation for its death, it opens up an ancient tomb; in other words it opens up the unconscious. This activates the feminine principle, which had been dead and buried in the very same tomb, in the unconscious. As the tomb is opened, the unconscious is penetrated by consciousness . . . and a revitalization occurs.” ~ Edward Edinger
With this opening quote a beautiful new book, The Unseen Partner: Love & Longing in the Unconscious, prepares the reader for a unique experience of a universal story: the hero’s journey to individuation. Unique, because this personal account shared in a mythical, poetic voice is utterly original and will impact each reader differently. Universal, because beneath the art, poetry, and expertly-crafted prose is the mythic story of Everyman. Two decades in the making and released this Labor Day weekend, Diane Croft’s The Unseen Partner is a most refreshing and artful contribution to the literature on Jungian psychology. I absolutely loved it!
By midlife, Croft had taken a predictable path to a comfortable life and successful career. Educated at Wittenberg and Harvard Universities, she became a publisher at National Braille Press. And then an unknown force invaded her conscious psyche and set her on a new path. As her press release notes, this force pulled her “into an energy field—the sacred temple at the center of the psyche—” (called the “Self” by Jung), where she captured the poetic voice she heard by means of automatic writing.
“In the summer of 1996, I fell into an experience of automatic writing. I was seated at my computer getting ready to compose a budget narrative. Instead I wrote a few lines of verse that appeared without thinking or intention. ‘Born in a cataclysm of cosmic violence/the lunar birth of daughter moon.’ And then a second poetry fragment appeared . . . and so it continued for three years, at roughly the same time each morning, until there were more than seven hundred odd verses. People ask me if I heard voices. No, I say, I just took dictation. The fingers moved and the words were typed.”
The Unseen Partner is based on 55 of these verses. Each is accompanied by an artful image that symbolizes an aspect of the individuation process. Croft’s commentary on the meaning she gleaned from the poetry and imagery is the third factor that weaves everything together into a remarkable book which is itself a creative work of art.
Here’s an example. This poem titled “Holy Ghost” features the symbolism of “the third.” The accompanying image and commentary illustrate how these three factors work together.
Who is this three of thee and me
a holy ghost in daylight calling
stirring in my bed this night
cauldron for my troubled soul,
reminding me again and again
of the living power it holds
over my dominion.
“Since I was baptized Lutheran, the image of the Holy Ghost was not foreign to me, though I understood nothing of its meaning. Since I now believe this collection is about the relationship between my conscious ego and the larger archetypal Self, then I can only say that that relationship involves a third. Who is this three of thee and me? In Mythology of the Soul, Baynes writes, ‘The number three is specifically associated with the creative process. . . . Every function of energy in nature has, indeed, the form of a pair of opposites, united by a third factor, their product.’ Jung identified “the third” as one of the stages of individuation: ‘The advance to the third stage means something like the recognition of the unconscious, if not actual subordination to it. . . .’ So, as I understand it, stage one equals the original state of wholeness (the pre-conscious totality), stage two represents separation and the emergence of opposites (ego consciousness), and stage three would be the union of the opposites through the agency of the Holy Ghost, now contained within the human vessel.”
This was particularly resonant to me. I don’t remember ever reading this quote by Jung before, but in Healing the Sacred Divide (2012), I used the symbolism of “the third” to illustrate the three epochs of the development of consciousness. Each of my epochs corresponds with Croft’s description of the stages of individuation. This synchronicity comes as no real surprise, for “the third,” like all the symbols treated in this marvelous book, represents an archetypal pattern residing in every psyche. Nonetheless, I had so many delicious “Aha” moments in reading it that the overall experience took on the flavor of meditating on, and with, a sacred unseen partner.
As Rumi warned, (and as Croft writes in the last line of her epilogue), “‘Don’t go back to sleep.’ Wake up and dip your cup into the living waters.” I could not recommend The Unseen Partner more highly, and I’ll be returning to it again and again, for in it I recognize a reliable companion and guide to the living waters within me.
The Unseen Partner can be found at Amazon.
Image Credits: Book cover, Amazon. “Friendship,” 1907, Mikalojus Konstantinos Ciurlionis, Lithuania, Wikimedia Commons.
Jean’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon as well as Kobo, Barnes And Noble, and Smashwords.
Coming Home to the Self December 29, 2015
Here in the mountains it’s a gray winter day. We arrived for our annual holiday visit the day after Christmas hoping for snow, but the weather’s so mild that the windows are open. Over the roar of the creek, swollen from a solid week of rain, a single crow caws somewhere nearby. Welcome home, she says. Downstairs the grown-ups are finishing a jigsaw puzzle we’ve been working on since summer. The grandchildren are playing a video game. I’m upstairs writing this, tomorrow’s post, my heart warm with the comforts of home, family, and love.
This place, this now, this beauty. These tears of wonder and gratitude. For this sacred moment, this simple awareness of being at one with my Self, life and love…this is all I want or need. This is the grace and blessing of the Self, a moment that needs no words. Yet now I am searching for words to fill this page. I don’t fight it. After all, part of the Self—my sacred core and circumference—is a writer and another part is a teacher. And these parts still want to share what they know.
Listen to me! the crow caws insistently. I hear you. I answer. You, too are part of me, part of the Self. I look out the window in its direction, past the skeletons of maples and buckeyes, the fluttering rhododendron leaves on the mountainside glistening with droplets of rain. It’s all alive. All sacred. What words could possibly be a clearer statement of the sacredness of life than this?
I haven’t always had this awareness. My soul has expanded very slowly through the years. First I had to want to know the truth about the puzzle of myself more than I wanted to protect myself. Then I had to let down some of my ego’s boundaries. Had to stop saying no and start saying yes. Had to admit I can be wrong. Could be hurt. Could need somebody. Could be showing the world a false self. Could be afraid. Angry. Selfish. All that took a while.
Eventually I liked the awareness so much that I searched for a practice to keep me more aware. Discovering dreamwork felt like striking gold. Metaphorically, that’s exactly what it was. That vein of gold led to more veins: the gold of self-validation and self-affirmation, the gold of insights, passion, revitalization, synchronicity, adventure. Some veins led to my dark shadow, others to my light shadow. Some led to my anima and animus. A few have gone deep enough to encircle my Self.
A soul needs time and reflection to expand. I’ve practiced dreamwork for 26 years with no end in sight. Which is good, because I never want it to end….even though lately I’ve been dreaming of my critical bully: a bossy chef, a menacing sniper, a criminal holding people hostage with a gun and a baseball bat, a rude and haughty boy. The craziness of the holidays can do that to a person! Last night I lay awake counting the number of people I’ve hurt over the years, sometimes out of self-righteousness, sometimes thoughtlessness. I was appalled at their number.
Yet on Christmas night and the next two nights I dreamed about a large Christmas tree ornament, a sparkling diamond and gold ball that was being clarified and perfected and completed, and so were my understanding of it and my words about it. And I was it and it was me.
Circles are images of the Self. So are diamonds and gold. Soul-making has infinite rewards. Every day I see my self-criticism backing off, my frustrations softening. Trust has pretty much replaced worry and grace flows through more often, revealing the sacred river of life and love that runs beneath and through it all.
A bad internet connection made my computer so sluggish a while ago that I took a break and went downstairs. I was aware of the river when I had lunch with my family. When Robyn and I emptied the dishwasher. When everyone went out to enjoy a brief dry spell before the rain returned. When I savored a slice of caramel cake. It was still there when I returned to my desk and found my internet connection working normally again. Another tiny reminder that, in the words of anchorite Mother Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
And now it’s time to finish this and rejoin my family downstairs. Fred’s got a fire going and my favorite new book of poetry, Coming Home by Jamie K. Reaser, awaits me on the chair in front of it. Thanks to her I’m learning how to talk to crows. It’s the perfect book to feed the fire growing inside me and keep the river flowing.
May the New Year bring us all more awareness of coming home to the Self.
Please enjoy this final video, “Theatre of the Self,” from my new YouTube series, Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page), on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.
Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.
A Global Community of Life December 1, 2015
This morning I was checking my Facebook page when I came across this image and a quote, both of which knocked my socks off. They were on a site I follow called Depth Psychology Alliance. The post was made by Inner City Books, the premier publisher of Jungian books. I know this because in the first frenzy of my introduction to Jungian psychology, I ordered, received, and devoured about 20 Inner City books. Since then I’ve acquired many more.
In those days, there was no internet, and only a handful of universities taught courses in Jungian psychology. So my only sources of information about my new passion were books and a course of study called Centerpoint, which sent audio tapes and printed materials via snail mail. And nobody but the few people in my group had ever even heard of Carl Jung.
Internet Story: A few weeks ago, Susie, a childhood friend from Michigan I last saw 59 years ago, found me on Facebook. What do you think was one of our first topics of discussion?
“Oh, Jeanie, by the way,” she wrote me. “Have you ever heard of Chandler Brown? She’s a friend of mine who wrote a book called Questpoint: The Journey to Myself.“
I was thrilled. Questpoint was the name of Centerpoint’s initial course offering, an introduction to Jungian psychology that groups could study without having to commit themselves to the entire four-year program. I loved that course. It changed my life.
I ordered the book so I could write about it here and discovered it was co-written by Elsom Eldridge Sr. He was affiliated with the original Centerpoint Group and is now the head of the Centerpoint Foundation International. And he lives a couple miles down the road from me. Seriously. Small world, huh? That kind of stuff happens all the time now that we have the internet!
So on to the quote. It’s from Marion Woodman, one of the shining lights of Jungian Psychology. It was taken from her book Conscious Femininity, by Inner City Books. All her books are rich in extraordinary insights, especially about our understanding of women and the feminine parts of the psyche, but this quote grabbed me where I live and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Halfway through the day when I sat down to write this post, it popped up again. That’s when I realized I needed to add it to today’s post. You’ll know why in a minute.
“Commenting on a mandala whose center was left empty, Jung said that its center was in the new era, the era which we have now entered. We are the observing center of the mandala which now revolves within human consciousness as consciousness expands to encompass the globe. The globe is a mandala whose center is us, whose center is the consciousness we bring to it.
Needless to say, the “us” at the center of the global mandala is not the unredeemed patriarchal ego which has ruled the planet since its human discovery as a globe. We who live in the center of that mandala are both masculine and feminine, united in a partnership of equals. That union, which I have spoken of in these interviews, transcends without denying gender; gender is the differentiated manifestation of the oneness that transcends it. To call the us at the center “androgyne,” with its primitive associations, is inadequate to what we as conscious beings now are and as world citizens are becoming. Perhaps a better understanding lies in the concept of human identity coming into consciousness through recognition of otherness not as alien other, but as the instrument of recognition itself.
The feminine is the instrument of the recognition of the masculine, as the masculine is instrument in the recognition of the feminine. The one is present in the other as the instrument of consciousness itself. Toward the emergence of that consciousness in both men and women, these interviews and articles are in a multiplicity of ways addressed. A Self endlessly differentiated through the work of individuals unites us all in a global community of life we are only now beginning fully to discover.”
So why did I write about this today? Because ever since last Tuesday, when my new video series about looking at your dreams from a Jungian perspective came out on Youtube, the internet’s power to educate and unite us in a “partnership of equals” in a global community of life has been the default setting in my mind. I thought about it while I looked up a recipe on my iPhone for apple and sausage stuffing. I thought about it at Thanksgiving dinner when I talked with some of our guests about things we’d seen about each other on Facebook. I thought about it when I took a picture of the 12 pies we set out after dinner on my iPhone and posted it on Facebook. I thought about it today when my trainer told me he liked my new videos on Youtube.
Ever since I made my keynote speech about my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul, at the IASD summer conference, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the video footage. With the help of Dawn Jensen, my social media trainer, and Rachelle Mayers, a communication, media and production professional, we came up with a format of five short videos, each from 8 to 12 minutes long, featuring the key points of my speech.
And now I’m thrilled to tell you they’re done. And what’s been on my mind all week is that none of this would have happened without the miraculous educating, connecting and uniting power of the internet. I wouldn’t have made a video of my speech because I wouldn’t have had a way to show it to enough people to make it worthwhile. And none of you would ever have seen it, and I wouldn’t have found my friend Susie, or the book Questpoint, written by her friend, or the exquisite yin-yang image from Inner City Books, or the quote from Marion Woodman.
Nor would I have received the best gift I could have ever gotten from my big brother, a retired head of production at a Tampa TV station. This dear man who’s been reading and copying all my posts for five and a half years called me from North Carolina to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. And to say, “Oh, by the way. I just binge-watched your dream videos on Youtube. And Jeanie, I think I get it now. I think I understand what you’ve been writing about!” All of this and so much more has been made possible by Grandmother Spider’s web.
So today I’m celebrating the internet. Because, human consciousness is, indeed, expanding “to encompass the globe…a mandala whose center is us, whose center is the consciousness we bring to it.” And I’m so thankful to be a part of that, and to present these new videos which I hope will add to your expanding consciousness and to our global community of life.
You can also find the series called Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery on my website and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.
Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.
Birth of a Poet? November 5, 2014
I’ve been feeling a bit estranged from myself for awhile. This might seem odd coming from one who’s made a profession of self-discovery. Yet, the fact is that since my last book came out, I’ve been beset by a restless discomfort and confounding dreams.
A part of me is not surprised. I can’t count the times I’ve undergone similar transitions after leaving an outworn psychological house behind. And I know I’ll experience more as long as I’m alive and growing. But another part of me expected this move to be shorter and easier. Shouldn’t I be getting better at adjusting to change?
Actually, I am getting better. I trust the processes of my psyche. I know my yearning for closure comes from an impatient ego longing for an end to the questions: What’s going on with me? What next? And I know closure will come when I’ve stayed present with the questions for as long as it takes.
Nonetheless, to give my unconscious a little nudge, last year during a ritual at Maeve’s tomb on the summit of a limestone hill in Ireland I asked the Celtic Queen of the fairies for a clearer understanding of the recurring symbolism of excrement in my dreams. Then last month in Greece, after a year of numerous dreams featuring the color orange, new babies, and feelings of being helpless and overwhelmed, I asked the Oracle at Delphi for direction in my life and writing.
So yesterday morning I wrote what may be my first real poem!
I’ve tried poetry off and on for years, but even the published few wouldn’t get air time on Amateur Hour. This is not false humility but an honest assessment of my limitations. I’m wordy. I tend to ramble. I have lacked a proper appreciation for subtlety; a true understanding of the power of imagery; and the patience to condense wimpy words and loose thoughts into a coherent idea with emotional impact.
This summer I received a book of poetry titled “Searching for Hummingbirds” from Betsy Holleman. I met her years ago at a writing conference led by novelist Rosellen Brown and poetess Dorianne Laux. I hadn’t written any poems since the conference, but Betsy’s book inspired me to write a memorial poem for my mother. I’m not happy with the result, but the process filled several enormously pleasurable hours.
I think that’s what motivated me to order “A Skinful of Dust” by Brian Carlin, an award-winning poet from Glasgow. We’ve followed and commented on each other’s blog posts for a few years and often find inspiration in each others’ writing. His book is a treasury of sturdy words and startling images that sparked a deeper resonance with poetry than I’ve ever felt before. And a book he recommended, Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space,” is opening my mind to creative depths I never knew existed.
Then yesterday morning I was blown away by the latest post from poet/artist Steven McCabe. His post “Autumn Morning,” is based on a poem by Pablo Neruda and complemented with original art and a vintage-looking video. It evoked such an unusually rich reverie that I set aside my morning Sudoku ritual to write a poem about it.
I’m not prepared to share it here yet. The poem is too fresh, my emotions are too raw, and my baby is too vulnerable for mass exposure. But I feel like I’m standing at the threshold of an exciting new adventure in creativity and I wanted to celebrate with you.
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.
Tourist or Pilgrim? Which Are You? October 14, 2014
In October of 2012 I was invited to make a presentation at Journey Conferences, an annual gathering of Jungians. There I met Phil Cousineau, an author, filmmaker, lecturer and expert on mythology, and learned that he leads trips to some of the world’s most sacred sites.
Fred and I love to travel, so when we heard about his trip to the sacred sites of Greece with Sacred Earth Journeys this fall, we signed up. My favorites among Phil’s many books are The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, and Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern Time. Since our return last week I’ve been thinking about how this trip combined the themes of these two books in a magical way that made this my favorite travel experience ever.
“In each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred.”
The focus of our previous guided tours has been on the outer world. What drew me to this one was the promise of equal time for the inner life of the soul.
I was not disappointed. Each morning began with an hour-long conversation about the sites we would visit, the ancient myths associated with them, and the way they are still being played out in our lives today. Phil’s passion for mythology combined with his passion for mentoring turned what could have been just another interesting tour into an extraordinary personal odyssey.
“The force behind myths, fairytales, parables and soulful travel stories reveals the myriad ways the sacred breaks through the resistance and shines forth into our world. Pilgrimage holds out the promise of personal contact with that sacred force.”
For me, one of the most problematic aspects of past tours has been the lack of opportunity for close observation and reverie. Not so this time! At least once a day Phil offered prompts for writing poetry or essays or making sketches. Always, he built in plenty of time for reflecting on how the celebrations and myths associated with sacred spaces triggered lost memories and inner stirrings. As if that were not enough, he provided even more time for sharing our impressions, insights and healing experiences with each other.
“Our task in life is to find our deep soul work and throw ourselves headlong into it.”
At the ruins of Eleusis, site of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries which celebrated the sacred death/rebirth fertility myth of Demeter and Persephone, we rested in the cave reputed to be the portal to the Underworld. There some of us shared evidence of the buried spiritual depths that lie beneath the surface of our lives. I spoke of how I shut down painful emotions and lost my tears at the age of 11 when my father died. That night I dreamed I was as angry as I’ve ever been at family and friends who were thoughtlessly trashing my house and expecting me to clean up. The dream ended with me hurling volleys of creative curses at them like Zeus throwing his thunderbolts, then laughing in delight at my uncharacteristic behavior!
Where was the anger coming from? Was being in Greece influencing me to channel my inner Persephone, Dark Goddess of the Underworld? Is she still mad at Hades for violating my personal space and stealing my father away? What about the laughter? Could Persephone finally be lightening up about a personal crisis which she has learned to view as a mere speck in the cosmic view of things?
Over drinks two evenings later, a woman in our group shared a shattering life-changing experience she had as a young adult. At dinner she made a mind-blowing connection: The myth of Demeter and Persephone is her story, one she has lived ever since her youthful trauma. She never knew it until that moment!
“What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”
The night after we visited Olympia, site of the original Olympic games, I dreamed of another Dark Mother who reminded me of Ereshkigal, cruel Queen of the Underworld who hung her sister Inanna, Sumeria’s Queen of Heaven and Earth, on a meathook to die. In a show of unwanted patronizing attention, dream Ereshkigal asked her attendants to escort me down some stairs. I refused to go. As I was falling asleep that night she visited me and gave me a light kiss on my lips. Her presence was oppressive and filled me with dread.
Why does the Goddess of the Underworld visit me now? It seems obvious. I’ve entered a phase of life when my task is to make peace with death. I’m not thrilled about this, but I’m ready to face what comes next.
“What every traveler confronts sooner or later is that the way we spend each day of our travel…is the way we spend our lives.”