Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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: 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.


Signs at the Crossroads September 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always be mindful of the miracle of life and light.

Stay mindful of the miracle of life and light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Izzy's message to me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think she prefers the road less traveled too.

When your heart knows the way, step forth boldly!

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

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

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

Respect local traditions.

Respect Nature.

Respect change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Artemis and Demeter’s Legacy August 18, 2015

A perfect moment in the hammock...

A perfect moment in the hammock…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

Our hemlock table with bird lights above

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our cabin in the early days

Our cabin in the early days

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

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

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


Dream Symbols of the Beloved August 4, 2015

Note:  My kids and grandkids have arrived at our summer home in the Smoky Mountains for a nice long visit. I won’t have much time for writing, so today and next Tuesday I’ll be republishing two of my all-time favorite posts from a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy them! And don’t hesitate to comment;  I’ll be checking in every day.

The Self is our Beloved, the core energy in every psyche that compels us to grow into loveable, empowered, authentic, enlightened beings. Our egos often reject the Self’s guidance but it never gives up on us. In its aspect as Dream Mother it reveals itself in symbols and actions based on six basic attributes: wholeness, centrality, unity, love, pattern, and the life-giving force.

Wholeness: Jung associated this with quaternity, or four-ness, because of the way we and our world are created. There are four directions and four winds. Christianity has four evangelists, a cross has four arms, there are four cardinal virtues, and mandalas — the intricate circular sacred symbols produced by many religions — have four sections. Also, humanity has four basic ways of experiencing life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. So whenever a circular object (a coin, table, bowl, sphere, etc.) or four-ness (four people, four flowers in a vase, four walls, the numeral 4, etc.) appear in a dream, I always consider their implications for my growth into wholeness.

Centrality: The Self is our psyche’s source of energy and the point from which every psycho-spiritual event proceeds. It is often represented by things with centers; for example, the heart (a vital central organ), the circle with a dot in the center (the central hole in the Chinese jade disk opens to heaven), and ancient symbols for the center of the world, including a cosmic tree (Jung saw the vertically growing form of a palm tree as a symbol of the soul) or sacred mountain.

Unity: Since the Self’s creative energy is constantly being renewed by the ongoing tension between our masculine and feminine drives, it is often symbolized by the balanced union of opposites — i.e. pairs of things, a Couple, reciprocal actions, the Divine Androgyne (suggested by having attributes of the opposite gender), twins, crosses, two interlocking circles making a mandorla, the hexagram or double triangle, the yin-yang symbol, weddings and wedding rings, sex, and bridges — and also through images of the unity in multiplicity, i.e. a pearl necklace or mandala.

Love: Deity’s primary characteristic is love. As our god-image, the Self can be represented in dreams via depictions of people engaged in loving actions such as kissing, hugging, forgiving, helping others, gift-giving, or making sacrifices. When our dream egos feel and demonstrate love for others, or when others make us feel loved, we are being shown something about our capacity for love and the Self’s love for us. Of course, the heart is also a symbol of love.

Pattern: Since we think of God as the creator and sustainer of the underlying patterns that support life, the Self is suggested by patterned walkways, lattices, mathematical arrays, music, webs, grids, the Diamond Net of Indra, holograms, intricately patterned mandalas or jewelry, and so on.

Life-Giving Force: All symbols or acts of insemination, creativity, initiation, birth, growth (i.e. growing babies or blooming plants), transformation (the butterfly), or movement and change (a snake shedding its skin, the double-stranded DNA spiral, spinning wheels), refer to the miracle of our life and the forces that sustain it.

More next time.  Meanwhile, pay attention to your dreams tonight. You might just have one that features the Self. If you do, I hope you’ll let me know!

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.


My Animus is Afraid to Trust My Instincts June 30, 2015

puppy-pic2Two nights before my keynote speech to the 2015 International Association for the Study of Dreams I had this dream.

#4,642: My Animus is Afraid to Trust My Instincts:  Old friends have visited us for two days. I’ve just realized they left their dog alone at home. I’m worried about this. Will it have enough food?  I say to the husband, “Won’t it poop and pee all over the house?” He says with a shrug, “Maybe. We’ll see.” I can’t believe he’s so casual about this. It feels wrong.

We drive to their house in another town and go inside. As we approach the sliding glass door to the backyard, he points out little piles of poop that make a trail to the open door. I see their dog sticking its cute brown and white head out from some green undergrowth at back of the cement patio. It moves into the open looking wobbly and weak, as if it’s about to drop.

I go to it, sit on the ground, and pet it. It wags its tail happily and climbs into my lap, growing excited and playful. Another little black dog who looks like Peri [our son’s dog as a child] runs to me, jumps all over me, licks me, and wiggles around in my arms. The husband is watching us from the stoop of the open door. With an ironic smile he looks pointedly at his brown and white dog and says, “I’m afraid of you.” He turns away as if he’s lost interest.

My associations:  I associate the husband with the part of my animus that identifies with the Scholar archetype.  In waking life this man is an intelligent, creative former college professor. The dogs represent my animal, instinctual self, especially my instincts for nurturance and activity. My dream ego enjoys and trusts my instincts, but my animus neglects them and admits he’s afraid of his dog. Why?

The key to understanding this dream is the context. Anxiety about my upcoming speech had dominated my waking hours for over a month. The previous day, an artist friend who used to attend my classes at the Jung Center called and asked if I was ready. When I told her about my concerns she said, as other friends had been saying, “Relax.  You’re going to be great. You always are. Just trust your instincts.”

Bingo! My animus was afraid to trust my instincts. As a college professor, my instincts were of no importance. Nothing but an abstract concept. What was important was task-oriented, single-minded attention to texts written by outer authorities. We (my animus and ego) saw this as the only way to comprehend and express the course material clearly and correctly. This was how a good teacher prepared to teach.

When I quit teaching and began writing over 25 years ago, this habit persisted. By then my reading, studying and writing were focused on Jungian psychology and understanding my dreams.  But as I persisted in this inner work, something changed. I began to rely more on my dreams and instincts and less on outer authorities to guide the direction of my thinking and writing.

Following some inner compass I didn’t know I had, I spent mornings listening to my anima—my creative, feminine, instinctual self—by meditating and working on my dreams. When a dream image, emotion or theme felt unusually fascinating, I’d spend the afternoon—time reserved for my animus to manifest my anima’s creativity—incorporating it into my current manuscript. In respecting the needs of my feminine and masculine sides I was unknowingly activating the Self, the central authority of my psyche, and learning to trust it.

This transformation awakened my passion and creativity and informed my books. Dream Theatres of the Soul:  Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work is the book on which my speech for the IASD was based. I knew this material. It had come from listening to my feminine instincts. Yet, in preparing for my speech I’d neglected Her in favor of His traditional, single-minded, outer-referential ego-mode.  And like the puppies in my dream, She was starved for attention, nurturance, and love.

Understanding this inner reality had a magical, mystical impact. With no mental effort other than a 30 minute meditation/ritual during which I thanked Dream Mother for this dream and reassured my animus that he could relax now, my concerns simply fell away.  For the next several days I was wrapped in a cocoon of calm and trust. Never have I been more relaxed before or after a presentation.

Yes, after 25 years of inner work, my animus’s fear of my instincts occasionally still floods me with anxiety, but so far this tension has served me well. Tolerating the interaction between the different perspectives of my masculine and feminine sides has not only insured my survival and thriving, but created and birthed self-knowledge, consciousness, and spiritual meaning.

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.


Summer Surprises June 23, 2015

We’re back in our beloved Smokey Mountains and we brought our granddaughters and granddog with us. The kids are gone now, and I miss them terribly, but for the last 11 days we’ve had a marvelous time. There’s a lot to do here and the weather is glorious, so we took advantage of it. Here are a few of the fun things we experienced.

Izzy's first venture into the pond.  Do I really want to do this?

Izzy’s first venture into the pond. Do I really want to do this?

Last summer we restocked the pond with a couple dozen baby trout!  The ride from the trout farm to our place must have been unusually traumatic because they hid and refused to come out for feedings.  After a week we gave up, assuming they were all dead, or had been eaten by critters (we have bears, otters, and great blue herons here, and they all love trout), or slipped through the high water pipe and headed downstream.

But when our kids came back over spring break, the trout were not only there, but eager to eat!  By the time we got here last week we had several at least a foot long, several more around 8 inches, and even a few that looked only 4 or 5 inches long! Where were they last summer? Why do we have 3 different sizes of trout in our pond now? Can those little ones be new babies?  We’ve heard trout don’t breed in captivity.  What’s up? It’s a mystery.

Where'd they go?

Where’d they go?

Our girls love horses, so naturally we went horseback riding. There they are in front of me in their personally designed tie dyed t-shirts. That’s the tips of my horse’s ears at the bottom of the picture.

Heading off for a grand adventure!

Heading off for a grand adventure!

We actually did have a bit of a surprising adventure. One horse had a wardrobe mishap and ran off without his rider.  He was caught, but someone else rode him after that. Then a little girl couldn’t control her young horse who kept insisting on being first, to the consternation of the guide’s horse, so she and I traded horses.  The little girl finished the trip on my horse, the biggest and calmest horse in the herd, and I, a rather tall person, rode the smallest feistiest horse home!  I don’t think my knees will ever be the same!

The girls discovered a surprise:  a marble tic tac toe game embedded in a stump!  And Izzy discovered a stick!!!

The girls discovered a surprise: a marble tic tac toe game embedded in a stump! And Izzy discovered a stick!!!

Then there was the first hike on our property. It was sad and depressing to see the stumps of the beautiful old hemlocks that had to be cut down because of a deadly infestation of the wooly adelgid pest that’s destroying the Smokey Mountains’ grand old ladies. It’s devastated some parts of our property, but we’re making the best of it.

Our friend and neighbor, Algie, made us a gorgeous long table for the screened porch out of some of the timber, and he gave away truckloads of it to neighbors who depend on firewood to heat their cabins in the winter.  Tony, my brother-in-law, found a novel use for some of the stumps. Without our knowledge, he had a marble tic tac toe game embedded into a particularly large one and installed two smaller ones for seats! What a lovely surprise to stumble upon in the middle of the woods. Thanks, Tony!  You’re the best!

Izzy wanted to play too!

Izzy wanted to play too!

Last summer I talked to Herminio, our handy man who can do anything–and always with extraordinary beauty and skill–about forging a new hiking trail in a part of the property that’s been a dumping ground for dead trees because it’s too overgrown with thick rhododendron in some places and too wet in others to use. We came up with what looked like a good starting point off the main trail, but it looked terribly difficult and I pretty much gave up dreaming about it over the winter.

But when we took our first hike last week, I was thrilled to see beautiful log steps at the entry to the new trail. Soph, Izz and I hiked it and it’s perfect! Herminio used tree trunks to fortify steps and steep sides of the trail, and brought in flat rocks for stepping stones over the marshy areas! And it was just so cool and suddenly I was ten years old again, the little girl who loved trees and woods and was fascinated by natural sanctuaries where I felt the presence of God!

Izzy loves the new trail too.  Notice the rhododendron blossom in the upper right?

Izzy loves the new trail too. Notice the rhododendron blossom in the upper right?

This mud wallow was probably Izzy's favorite part of the hike! She is one happy dog!

This mud wallow was probably Izzy’s favorite part of the hike! She is one happy dog!

Seeing this sanctuary through the eyes of my granddaughters and Izzy has brought back wonderful memories of a childhood when being out in nature was an adventure, when walking down a sunny dirt road or through a shadowy forest, or playing in the sand by the ocean filled me with delight and wonder.

I lost that feeling for a long time.  Way too long.  But it’s back now. And I think I may know why. I’ve spent my adult life looking for the numinous and now I’m finding it in the most unlikely of places: myself. This has been the most amazing and delightful surprise of all!

Note: If you liked this post, you might enjoy  Re-Stocking and Moving On, written in the summer of 2012.

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.


Confessions of a Right-Brained Writer June 9, 2015

Speaking at the 2015 IASD conference about Dream Theatres of the Soul. Don't you love my

Speaking at the 2015 IASD conference about Dream Theatres of the Soul. Don’t you love my “shadow” in the background?
Photo Credit: Walter Berry

“The last big speech I gave was a year ago this March.  What if I’m rusty?”

“I’m terrible at memorizing! I could forget something important.”

“I talk with my hands. People might find that annoying.”

“I don’t notice the physical world around me.  I could trip over an extension cord.”

“I don’t want to say ‘Um’ all the time. If I don’t practice, I’ll forget.”

“I’m not worried about talking to a big audience, but technology is really hard.  I need to be sure I know how to use the remote to my powerpoint presentation and when to click it.”

“I’m afraid I’ll leave out something important.”

These are just some of the responses I made to my husband when he asked why I was constantly revising, practicing, and generally fretting over my upcoming speech for the annual gathering of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

Fred is a brilliant man with a photographic memory.  As a forensic economist, he can read through a 100-page file over breakfast and testify about it in a trial or deposition two hours later without forgetting one detail.

It took me a year to write my dissertation. I needed hours of uninterrupted solitude, usually at night when Fred and the kids were asleep. Even then, selecting and pulling together relevant thoughts from among the myriad impressions flooding my mind, not to mention writing them down in a logical, clear, and organized way, was a constant struggle.  The next night I spent half my writing time omitting or revising whole sections of what I wrote the night before. Initially it was hard, but by the end of that year I realized I’d never had so much fun in my life.  By then, the revising was as much fun as the creating.

In the early years of our marriage I thought there must be something wrong with him; like maybe he was lazy, or a procrastinator, or had ADD. I mean, how could he possibly be ready to defend his dissertation in a month when he’d only written fifteen pages and was constantly distracted?  Later on, I realized 20 minutes at a time was all he needed to do something it took me hours to do.  Then I thought there must be something wrong with me.

The truth is in between.  There’s nothing wrong with either of us.  We just have different ways of thinking about, processing and expressing information. His way is considered far superior to mine in our Western, academically oriented culture.  And for many years, I bought into that perspective.

Yet we were both excellent students, which tells me we each had access to both ways. Just as he can think in ways that present difficulties for me, I can think in ways that are difficult for him. My subjective perspective is associated with sensitive, receptive, reflective and inner-directed artists, advisors, sages and Queens. His objective way is associated with with tough, logical, assertive outer-directed scientists, warriors, and Kings. Is one better than the other?  Of course not!

Dinner with Fred and sister dreamer Justina Lasley the night before my speech in Virginia Beach.

Dinner with Fred and sister dreamer Justina Lasley the night before my speech in Virginia Beach.

That couldn’t have been more clear at last weekend’s IASD conference.  Fred took care of our travel arrangements and got us to the hotel easily and efficiently. When I walked out of our hotel room and turned the wrong way, he guided me in the right direction.

He found things I misplaced in our room, remembered what time breakfast was served, where the next presentation was, and when it would start.  I had to have a schedule with me at all times. He took pictures of special times with friends when I forgot to bring or use my cell phone.

Having him with me turned what could have been a frustrating ordeal into a joyous experience. Yet, he usually only sees the trees when my ability to see the forest is more helpful. And I often sense underlying currents in situations that need to be addressed when he doesn’t have a clue.

All this is to say that my presentation is over and I couldn’t be more thrilled with it. And I can’t help but compare my new pleasure and confidence in myself with earlier times when I believed his way of being was superior to mine. My months of writing and revising and practicing, plus receiving support, suggestions and assurance from friends who cared, was of infinite value.  It eased my concerns, gave me confidence, and turned what could have been an average presentation into one that received a standing ovation and more compliments than I can count.

And here’s the biggest plus:  After 51 years of marriage (as of June 15), Fred and I have more understanding, respect, and gratitude for each other than ever before—a true partnership in which we have each learned to value the differences in ourselves and each other.

Thank you, Fred, and thank you to all of you who helped and supported me. I couldn’t have done it without you.

A video of my speech will be available in a few weeks.  I’ll tell you when and where as soon as I know.  Meanwhile, here’s a recent Skype interview of me about Healing the Sacred Divide that was coincidentally published just this weekend. I hope you enjoy it.

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



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