Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Singing My Own Song March 10, 2015

MandalaToday, March 10, 2015, is the anniversary of Matrignosis. For five years my musings have been read by an audience that originally numbered in the tens and is now in the thousands. What a thrilling and richly rewarding ride this has been!

The most satisfying thing of all has been connecting with so many kindred souls. You know who you are, and I adore you and thank you with all my heart. Over and over again you take the time to tell me how a post has touched you, provided a valuable insight, or been a synchronistic gift that arrived just when you needed it.

I wonder if you know how profoundly your comments and questions have enriched my life. Not only have you taught and affirmed me;  but just knowing you are here, thinking of me and wishing me well, permeates my days with feelings of warmth, lightness and gratitude.

This two-in-one post is my symbolic way of connecting a meaningful outer and inner event. I’ll begin by revisiting my inaugural post published on March 10, 2010. After that I’ll share something new from my heart.

Part I:  Following My Passion

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273 )

Matrignosis Post #1: Coming Home to Feminine Spirituality

I understand that an emerging name for blog is lifestream.  This seems very fitting.  It reminds me of one of the two most important dreams of my life.  This one came in January of 1989.  I had been teaching at a local university for ten years and was growing increasingly dissatisfied.  The previous year I had discovered Carl Jung, joined a Jungian study group, and embarked on a program of serious self-examination and dreamwork.  The insights I was gaining gave me the courage to consider giving up teaching to do something I really loved, but this was a very difficult step for me.  Then I had this BIG dream.

1Dream #155: “Going Against the Current.”

I’m walking downstream in a wide, rushing river beside a rocky bank.  People are shooting by on rafts and I wonder how they keep from bashing themselves against the rocks. I decide to go back upstream and walk in water up to my chin.  The rough bottom slows my progress.  I reach up and hold onto some thin, flimsy branches hanging out over the water. This helps a little until they disappear and I have to go on unaided. 

As I near the last turn, suddenly there are thousands of people in front of me, all heading downstream.  I’m in the midst of them, trying to make my way back upstream to the place I’m supposed to be – my base camp.  Friendly people press in on every side.  Sometimes I gently touch a head or shoulder to propel myself forward.

At the mouth of the river I put my hands together in front of me and gently part the people. This reminds them of Moses parting the Red Sea and they smile indulgently.  Then I’m far out in the ocean in deep water, tired and afraid.  Will I make it? 

Suddenly a younger, blond-haired woman is in front of me, only her head showing above the water.  “That was smart of you,” she says.  I know she’s strong and rested and will support me if I need to float for a while.  Together we head slowly to my base, a place I’ve never been but know to be my destination.

For me, walking through the rushing river represented the swift passage of time in my life’s journey.  For most of it I had been going downstream in the direction of least resistance, believing what I was told to believe, doing what was expected of me, and ignoring some deep, unfulfilled yearnings. But my dream confirmed that the time had come to discover and honor my individuality. Like the children of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea, I was leaving my slavish allegiance to the collective behind.  I was being initiated by the Absolute (the ocean) and led to my true Self by my inner soul guide (the blond woman).

I cannot overstate the importance of this dream.  I knew “I” didn’t create it;  it came from a profound source of wisdom deep within me. I think of this inner wisdom as Sophia, the Divine Mother. The part of her that speaks to me in dreams is Dream Mother. Because I had the courage to listen to her and change the direction of my life, I soon discovered my true passions, writing and the search for self-knowledge, and they have made all the difference.

With the guidance of Sophia’s Feminine wisdom I’ve decided to take my newest plunge: lifestreaming on the internet.  I hope you’ll find something in the outpourings from my base camp that will help you, too, move in the direction of home.

photoPart II:  Singing My Own Song

A major goal on my soul-making journey has been to become transparent enough to let my soul’s light shine through. Common advice to travelers like me include “follow your passion,” “find your own voice,” and “sing your own song.”

My writing has been of considerable help in this regard. But other beloved ways of expressing my soul’s truths remain in the shadows. One is a literal example of “sing your own song:” I’ve neglected my deep love for music-making since college. So last year, with a surprising amount of trepidation, I approached my grandsons’ guitar teacher about giving me ukulele lessons. He was happy to oblige and I haven’t had this much fun in years!

This leads to my second way of celebrating this blog’s 5th anniversary, which is to step out of my musical comfort zone and risk “going public.” What follows is not my “own” song as the title above suggests, but considering my passion for dreams, I think it’s quite appropriate for this occasion.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” This song has “music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt and lyrics by Gus Kahn. It was first recorded in February 1931 by Ozzie Nelson and also by Wayne King and His Orchestra, with vocal by Ernie Birchill. A popular standard, more than 60 other versions have been recorded, but some of the highest chart ratings were in 1968 by Mama Cass Elliot with The Mamas & the Papas.”

FullSizeRender 4Hmmm. “…first recorded in February 1931….?” That’s almost exactly 84 years ago today. Only a few days’ difference! Why am I not surprised?

Anyway, with the help of Ron Duncan—a gifted musician, teacher, and all-around great guy—I’ve been learning to play it. Initially, he recorded himself playing the guitar and sent it to me so I could listen to it as I practiced. But then a few weeks ago we began the fun teaching/learning experience of adding my ukulele and voice on his iPad Garage Band app.

It was never meant for anyone but me, but with my recent dream-related posts, and again, with a surprising amount of trepidation, I thought it might be fun to share it with you. If you’re a real musician, please remember…..I’m still learning to sing my own song.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Mandala Image credit:  Google Images. Divine Feminine by Charlotte Backman

Poem and river image from ram0ram’s blog.

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.

 

The Anima’s Role in a Man’s Spiritual Journey January 6, 2015

anima_animus1Now that the holidays are over, I’d like to return to the topic I started a few weeks ago. I wrote about a man who, in the middle of his life, had a powerful dream in which he briefly identified with being a woman. What could this mean from the perspective of Jungian psychology?

In his work life, this man had become a highly successful and respected authority in his field. He was a responsible, law-abiding citizen and a loving husband, father, and social benefactor. Looking from the outside, one might ask, “What more could he possibly lack or want?” What more but a satisfying and meaningful inner life?

This introspective, scrupulous man is aware of the universe beneath the surface of his life. For him, filling society’s roles, following conventional rules, and acquiring worldly success are not enough. He is realizing his fulfillment lies in coming to terms with his whole self, including his unconscious feminine side. Something deep within him wants more than external observances: it wants internal congruence. It wants more than the appearance of caring and compassion: it wants the deeply felt reality. It wants more than the attainment of social power and authority: it wants a connection with his inner spiritual power and authority.

In his book Jung and the Lost Gospels, Dr. Stephan Hoeller summarizes the psycho-spiritual task of the serious seeker: “In Jung’s psychology, women need to integrate their animus, and men must do the same with their anima; the bringing to consciousness of the contrasexual image of each person permits entry into the kingdom of individuation and consequent wholeness.”

The word anima literally means soul. Jung saw the main qualities of the anima as relatedness and mediation, both between self and other and between ego and unconscious. The foundation for these qualities is love, or Eros, with its attributes of intimacy, harmony, tolerance, empathy, compassion, etc. In Volume 16 of Jung’s Collected Works he summarized the four stages in which a man’s anima develops: from the purely biological in which a woman is equated with the mother and only represents something to be fertilized; to an aesthetic and romantic level in which sex still dominates but woman has acquired some value as an individual; to a stage of religious devotion in which Eros is elevated to spiritual motherhood; and finally to Sophia, Wisdom.

Dreams of women show men at least two things about their unconscious selves: unknown feelings and attitudes toward femininity, and the health and maturity of their anima. In the dreams of a man who fears, distrusts, or disdains women and represses his “feminine” qualities, his anima will show up as an angry shrew, hag, witch, nag, victim, tease, or dangerous siren, and his dream ego will usually respond to her in ways typical for him in waking life.

Conversely, the dreams of a man who is accepting his feminine side — i.e. getting in touch with his feelings, developing respect for women, learning to express tender emotions, becoming comfortable with intimacy, growing more understanding and nurturing in his relationships, etc. — will be visited by increasingly friendly, kind, helpful, loving, trustworthy, and profoundly fascinating women.

Thus is the wicked witch transformed into the beautiful princess who awaits the prince’s kiss.  Thus does the feminine Spirit Warrior awaken and bestow her blessings of self-acceptance, true wisdom, and spiritual meaning on a man who is, himself, becoming a Spirit Warrior.

Next time I’ll discuss the role of men in women’s dreams.

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

 

 

The 52nd Week December 29, 2014

Izzie and Bear
Izzie and Bear

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It has always stood out from the other 51 weeks in a year like a peaceful Zen garden, a special oasis where I attend to soul needs that require annual closure.

During the 80’s when I was juggling parenting with college teaching, I often spent this week assembling and basting together sandwiched layers of fabric backing, cotton batting, and the quilt tops I’d been working on all year. It took another year of hand-quilting everything together before I presented them to my children the next Christmas. After they each had a quilt of their own I used the last week of the year to start more quilts for our new mountain cabin. When these were finished we took them with us for our annual years’-end visit.

On the outside the 80’s were for me a time of perfecting and preserving my persona and the collective values of the times in which I was raised. But on the inside I felt I’d been shipwrecked and was living on my own private, isolated island. There I spent most of my time fishing in the watery depths of my psyche for psychological sustenance that could help me understand myself and resolve my inner conflicts.

Then, in the fall of 1989 I found what I was looking for:  I joined a Centerpoint group based on Jungian psychology, and suddenly the lights came on! I don’t remember what I did during the 52nd week that year but I’m pretty sure I would have spent most of it reading, studying and underlining one of the 20 or so books by Jungian analysts I had immediately ordered from Inner City Publishers.  Intense study was the first of the practices I undertook that made the year of 1990 a threshold into the most life-changing, soul-satisfying and creative period of my life.

My other main practice was recording and studying my dreams. Throughout the nineties I did dreamwork every morning and wrote every afternoon. I also meditated and practiced yoga. But I always devoted the 52nd week of each year to rereading my dream journals, summarizing important themes and trends, noting new developments, and highlighting valuable insights. Remembering and integrating my soul’s processes at the end of every year was an extremely valuable ritual for me in those days. Essentially I was building a new foundation for my psyche and I could feel it growing stronger with each passing year. This was my decade of finding, connecting with, and honoring the unconscious and the Self.

The new millennium brought new insights and year’s-end rituals.  Feeling an unprecedented need to get in touch with my body and nature, I usually spent the 52nd week hiking and climbing the mountains near our cabin.  As my grandchildren began arriving, they and their parents would join us;  we’d also play games and enjoy lots of physical, outdoor, non-cerebral fun like sledding, making snow angels, and building snowmen!

Once again it’s my favorite week of the year. This year Fred and I brought Izzie—our grand-dog who’s a female version of her predecessor, Bear—with us to the cabin. One of my favorite things so far has been to take a long daily hike around the property with her.  Another was to prepare a welcome meal of chili, salad, homemade biscuits, and key lime pie for my son’s family who joined us a few nights ago.

So far, the only theme I see emerging during this decade is to listen and follow the guidance of my instincts and energy.  I don’t feel much need for closure any more—annual or otherwise—and the days of making special preparations for the 52nd week are long gone. In fact, I rarely do much of that any other time of the year either.  Mostly I just like staying present with myself, my family, and the moment and its opportunities.

Above all, I’ve been spending a lot of time savoring the many blessings of my life.  Believe me, I’ve had more than my share and I’ve never felt more grateful for them. Right now, that’s enough for me. Whatever the new year may bring, I welcome it with open arms.

May the new year bring you renewed awareness and gratitude for the special times of your one, precious life.

If you’re interested in hearing more about my introduction to Jungian psychology, you might enjoy this radio interview I did for the Centerpoint Foundation.

Ebook versions of Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Creativity: The X Factor December 9, 2014

The Birth of New Spiritual Life

The Birth of New Spiritual Life

The unconscious is a repository of infinite properties which are unknown to our conscious egos. A recent dream vividly highlights this reality:

Dream #4592.  The Root Cellar: I’m looking through a window into the old root cellar carved from the base of the mountain on our North Carolina property.  The large, light-filled room contains peacefully meditating people.  Where the back wall used to be is a wide lit hallway extending far into the mountain with passageways on either side.  Where the wall to the right of the window used to be is another opening into another generous space of warm light and more meditating people.  Someone tells me that somewhere inside there is a portal to an underground system of rooms underlying the entire property. I’m thrilled and can’t wait to explore it.

After my last post, Five Links to Creativity, was published I realized I had failed to address a crucial source of creativity. This dream which came two nights later, showed me what was missing and inspired this post.

The “me” standing at the window represents my ego. The cave in the mountain represents my inner life which my ego observes. In waking life, the stone root cellar has no window and the entire structure measures maybe 12′ X 12′; but in the dream it’s much larger and filled with light and people.  The areas I can see represent the aspects of my inner life of which my ego is conscious. I am unaware of the left wall, i.e. the parts of my personal unconscious I have yet to “see” into. The dream tells me that my inner work has brought light into many formerly unknown parts of myself. But there’s far more, both in my personal unconscious and the collective unconscious below, about which I know nothing.

The X Factor of creativity is one of these things. Why have I always felt compelled to create?  Why did I draw pictures of horses throughout elementary school, start a novel at the age of ten, write a serial story for the 5th grade monthly newspaper?  Why make my own clothes, keep a diary, write plays and poems throughout Jr. High and High School? Why the college art class and pencil drawn portraits?  Why the urge to write stories and essays in my 20’s and 30’s?  Why the pottery classes? The Christmas card linoleum prints? The hand-made quilts? I have no idea.

There’s an X Factor I can’t explain that may have far more to do with creativity than anything we can know. It’s that unknown component in Mozart that made him a child prodigy who performed throughout Europe at the age of six. Can we credit his creativity to self-knowledge? Certainly not as a child.  What about psychological balance? Not really. In his own words he suffered from “black thoughts” and deep depression, leading some historians to believe he may have had some form of bipolar disorder. He also had periods of hysteria and spells of hectic creativity. Yet he was an innovative genius whose creative daemon expressed itself in some of the most beautiful, violent and sensual music the world has ever known.

Vincent Van Gogh was deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence brought about by his bouts of mental illness including a nervous collapse, an acute psychotic episode, and a hospital diagnosis of generalized delirium.  Yet, during his worst years his daemon expressed itself in some of his best work.

What is this daemon that drives us to create no matter how balanced, turbulent or comfortable our inner or outer lives may be?  The term “daemon” derives from a Greek word meaning “godlike power, fate, god.”  In classical mythology daemons were benevolent nature spirits similar to spirit guides who dispense riches, guidance, protection and good fortune to humans.  It was believed that every individual had its own spirit, daemon, or genius which was the source of their exceptional creativity in certain areas of their lives.

According to the Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research, “the concept of genius still holds some mystical connotations suggesting inspiration from the supernatural powers, the unconscious or the higher states of consciousness.” And in terms of our psychological development, “The ideology of genius as an exceptional personality possessing some extraordinary qualities assumes that the function of genius is to eliminate alienation (of the self and the world from themselves), and to establish “a higher order in which unity is achieved or restored, and in which humanity is fully realized.”

Psychological alienation and spiritual inspiration can both be components of creativity. Certainly alienation played an important role in mine. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been stressing the psychological aspects:  how the ego’s search for greater consciousness and balance can activate our creativity.

But a few nights ago my dream reminded me of the existence of a vast realm beyond the knowable psyche. To ignore the X Factor of the collective unconscious wherein the spirits dwell is a great mistake. It gives too much credit to the ego and conscious mind and not enough to the Great Mystery of life, our source, essence and reason for Being.

Have you found creative inspiration from your dreams?  How does your daemon manifest?

10731012_895794060460797_5614104505800819928_n

Image:  The Birth of New Spiritual Life.  A linoleum print I made in the early 70’s. 

Quote:  From Carl Jung Depth Psychology, a web site moderated by Lewis Lafontaine.

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.

 

 
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