Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Love, Part I March 4, 2020

The language of religion defines God as “love,” there is always the great danger of confusing the love which works in man with the workings of God. ~Carl Jung; CW 5, Para. 98.

I don’t think we can separate love from overall human dignity and hope. ~Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978

7. Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Love: Love is the most powerful healing and unifying force in life. It has its roots in the heart — honest feeling, valuing, and respect, not in the head — ideas, words, theories, logic, and reason.

According to the ancient Greeks, there are seven types of love.

  • Eros: Love of the body. Eros was the Greek God of love and sexual desire. Romantic love.

  • Philia: Love of the mind. Philosophy means “love of Sophia,” the spark of life and wisdom in us.  Philia also refers to love between good friends.

  • Ludus: Playful love between partners and friends.

  • Pragma: longstanding, practical, systematic, business-like love of work.

  • Agape: Love of the soul. Charity, the love of human for human, and the love of God for humans and humans for God. The highest form of love.

  • Philautia: Love of the self.  To have regard for your own happiness or advantage. A basic human necessity, many see it as a moral flaw akin to vanity, selfishness, and egotism.

  • Storge: Love of the child. Natural or instinctual affection; family love,

Of these, I’d like to address four that seem most misunderstood and needed in today’s world:  Eros and Philia in this post, and Agape, and Philautia in Part II.

EROS

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us. ~Adrienne Rich

American women rule the home because the American men have not yet learned to love them. ~Carl Jung, NY Times, 1912.

Whoever is in love is a full and overflowing vessel, and awaits the giving. Whoever is in fore thinking is deep and hollow and awaits fulfillment. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 253.

Fred and I married when I was 21. When I saw the above picture my brother recently digitalized from a slide taken in those days, I was surprised and saddened by how naive and unconscious I was.  I was wary, detached, and scattered. Self-conscious, anxious to please, and focused on looking good on the outside. A school-smart, church-religious, idealistic conformist, I thought I was a loving person, but had no conception of who I was or what love is.

Since then, I’ve learned that an intimate relationship is the perfect school for love. When both partners can tolerate the tension of self-discovery and change, they can experience a revitalizing new birth. As the light of consciousness emerges in us, so does love. We’re going on 56 years together now, and so far it seems to be working.

PHILIA

The ancients called the saving word the Logos, an expression of divine reason. So much unreason was in man that he needed reason to be saved. If one waits long enough, one sees how the Gods all change into serpents and underworld dragons in the end. This is also the fate of the Logos in the end it poisons us all. In time, we were all poisoned, but unknowingly we kept the One, the Powerful One, the eternal wanderer in us away from the poison. We spread poison and paralysis around us in that we want to educate all the world around us into reason. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 280.

Until now it has not truly and fundamentally been noted that our time, despite the prevalence of irreligiosity, is so to speak congenitally charged with the attainment of the Christian epoch, namely with the supremacy of the word, that Logos which the central figure of Christian faith represents. The word has literally become our God and has remained so” ~Carl Jung, CW 10, §554.

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” ~Carl Jung

An alchemical text says: “The mind should learn compassionate love for the body.” ~Carl Jung, Jung-Ostrowski, Page 25.

I love ideas. I love connecting my thoughts in a network that explains the big picture of life. But it’s taken most of my life to take my body, emotions, or relationships as seriously as my mind.

Today, too many people  scoff at subjective inner experiences that can’t be proven. Some even scoff at love. Humanity is paying a big price for our obsession with divine reason.

We’ve lost awe and respect for the miracles of nature, our bodies, our imagination, our myths, our emotions, the search for personal meaning, and our fullest potential. In so doing we’ve lost touch with love. If we destroy ourselves it will be because of one-sided thinking, complacency, psychological ignorance, and the inability to love.

I like this picture better. I see maturity and love in these eyes.

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. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched in October of this year.

 

Sacred Laws of Psyche: Circles of Change February 18, 2020

My last post was about how resisting growth and change perpetuates disorder and chaos. The result is entropy, the inevitable decline of life and civilization. Here I’d like to explore how conscious individuals can reverse this trend and support forward movement. It can happen if we understand The Law of Change.

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

Your psyche is a universe of unimaginable potential. Like the outer universe in which moons circle planets, planets circle stars, and stars circulate around each other in galaxies, so the energies of your inner universe interact constantly. Nothing remains fixed. The ongoing cooperation between all Mother Nature’s elements creates changes in your psyche and the world.

You see it in your outer life every day. Neighborhoods decay, houses are torn down. Condominiums, parking lots, and strip malls fill the empty spaces. Nations and governments rise and fall. Toxic leaders are voted out and new ones replace them. All life is in constant flux. It’s a basic law of nature.

You can observe this flow in yourself. Your emotions and moods constantly change. One moment you’re exuding hope and energy, the next you’re sinking under the shame of something somebody said, a painful memory, or bad news. Your opinions and values change depending on your education, health, relationships, and current events. Your family system changes: children are born and grow up, adults fall ill and die, couples marry, new babies are born.

Overall, your ego is aware of only a very small portion of your psyche. Most of your potential sleeps in the darkness Jung called the unconscious. You notice a few changes now and then, ignore others. Approve of some, fight others. Sometimes you fight changes that conflict with your values. Sometimes unfamiliar people and challenging ideas make you uncomfortable. Sometimes you fight change out of habit, or because you fear the unknown.

Psychological change doesn’t end when your ego switches off the light of awareness and sinks into sleep. Your unconscious is a dark and vast ocean beneath your ego awareness. Like the earth’s oceans, its elements move with the winds and tides of change. Since they are nature and therefore not subject to your ego’s will, some elements come unbidden to you in dreams where they appear and disappear at will, morph into expected and sometimes terrifying forms, behave in unpredictable ways, and perform beautiful, shocking and mystifying acts. Like all natural events, some dreams are easily forgotten. Others leave lingering effects. Occasionally an unusually powerful dream influences change in your thoughts and behavior.

Whether or not your ego is aware of this oceanic change, there are forces in your unconscious that resist and fight it. Some are instinctual and archetypal, some are functions of your DNA, and some are aspects of your personality which was shaped by physical trauma and family and social experiences. You can reduce the toxic effects of these forces by noting their consequences. You can accept their presence in you and everyone. You can remove yourself from situations in which they are apt to create problems that are not in anyone’s best interest.

Regardless of where your resistance originates, it takes enormous energy to maintain it. In fact, you can waste so much libido —  psychological energy — by fighting change, that you have little left to explore and enjoy your life, your fuller potential, and your loved ones. Your resistance makes your waking life more problematic and your dreams reflect your struggles in terrifying and depressing nightmares. When this happens, you need to get proactive if you want to save your soul. Because it’s telling you it’s time for change.

You can refresh your soul and retrieve libido when you step toward positive change. For example, you might take your dreams seriously enough to study them. You might seek advice from your partner or friends. You might watch a different news channel to see what the opposite political party is saying and seek intersections of agreement. You might see a therapist, body worker, health practitioner, or spiritual guide. None of these things will kill you, and all of them will open your mind to healthy change.

Here are five guidelines for moving forward:

  • engage in open and honest dialogue with others

  • listen closely to inner and outer realities you have rejected

  • challenge habitual responses and consider healthier new options

  • free your libido to integrate the opposite, yes/no, either/or opinions that have ruled your life into a middle space of dialogue they can share

  • step toward experiences and values that have the potential to perfect and complete you

You can do it. Our survival depends on it.

For an oasis of inspiration, listen to Circle Game, Joni Mitchell’s extraordinary song about change, as covered by Ian and Sylvia in 1967.

Image credits:  Google free images:  Cornerstoneccs.com, Michael Nichols; The Wheel of Change, Michael Goldsmith, visual, http://www.discoveryinaction.com.du; Change, Managements Models, lucid chart.com.   

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. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

 

Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Connection Between Opposites January 28, 2020

Last time I began a new series about the sacred laws of the psyche. Understanding them can help us think psychologically and live spiritually: the only lasting way to heal ourselves and the world.

Psyche, sometimes translated as soul, refers to your mind, your psychological self with all its capacities and potentials. Psychoid was Jung’s term for the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness that is the source and subject of every religion. Wholeness is the ability to connect with both realities. To attain this enlightened state we have to venture beyond our normal-one-sided thinking to a broader perspective that uses both the logical/literal and the imaginative/creative qualities of our minds.

But this is not the only pair of opposites you and I need to integrate into our thinking and living. In fact, separation and divisiveness in every realm of human behavior is the dysfunctional norm in today’s world. Nobody thinks this is a healthy situation. To find a solution, we first need to understand a second sacred law.

2. The Law of Opposites: For everything we know about ourselves (beliefs, values, attitudes, emotions), there is a corresponding unconscious opposite.

Carl Jung wrote:

There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites. [“Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 178.]

In our psychological immaturity we think we know everything about ourselves. We don’t. No one does. Your unconscious self is a mystery as vast as the unknown universe stretching beyond our world to infinity.

When you were a child, your parents taught you to see things dualistically, in terms of either-or, good-bad. They did this to socialize you into the norms of acceptable behavior and keep you safe. Every time you exhibited qualities or traits they considered inappropriate, they guided you into ones they believed were more desirable.

Perhaps you thought you should drop an activity you loved, something fun, like art, boxing, or dancing, to learn a skill or pursue an occupation your family admired. But leaving it behind didn’t make your passion go away. Every potential you’ve disowned still lives in your unconscious. If you repressed an especially important feature of your unique personality, you will never be happy until you free it from its prison. As long as it’s locked in the unconscious, your shadow will gain power until it creates so much tension and unhappiness that it bursts out and creates havoc in your life.

Carl Jung said:

The repressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. [“The Problem of the Attitude-Type,” CW 7, par. 78.]

In lecture 10 of the Opposites Seminar in 1925, Jung said:

The opposition is a necessary condition of libido flow, and so you may say that by virtue of that fact one is committed to a dualistic conception of the world; but you can also say that the “flow”—that is, the energy—is one.

But when we become aware of the opposites we are driven to seek the way that will resolve them for us, for we cannot live in a world that is and is not, we must go forward to a creation that enables us to attain a third point superior to the pairs of opposites.

Finding a third way to oneness can solve the conflicts between opposites that torment you. But this does not mean you will live happily ever after. As Jung said:

The united personality will never quite lose the painful sense of innate discord. Complete redemption from the sufferings of this world is and must remain an illusion. Christ’s earthly life likewise ended, not in complacent bliss, but on the cross. [“The Psychology of the Transference,” CW 16, par. 400.]

Tough as it may be to live without our illusions, it’s better than being “doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites.”

What passions have you left behind? What pairs of opposites have created conflict in your psyche? Have you found solutions?

Next time I”ll discuss the third law:  oneness.

Image Credits:  Google Images. Artists unknown.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncWatch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

 

Sacred Laws Of Psyche: The Connection Between Psyche and Psychoid January 21, 2020

The inner universe

A few years back I wrote a post about eight sacred laws of the psyche and how our lack of understanding of them is responsible for the mess our world is in today.  In this post and a few to follow, I’d like to explore these laws more deeply in the hope of raising awareness about the interconnectedness of all things in One Mind and One God. The ability to think psychologically and live spiritually is a skill we desperately need to learn if we hope to heal ourselves and the world.

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

The two hemispheres of your brain know two languages: logic and imagination. They interact every moment of every day to help you understand and respond to all you see and experience. Separately, each language has limits, together, they aid your journey to intelligence, wisdom, competence, centeredness, and consciousness.  Wise people from every age have deliberately used both to make inroads into the mysteries of life. Albert Einstein was one such person. He said,

“Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were others. Jung explored his inner life and that of his clients with the help of archetypal myths and symbols from various wisdom traditions. Campbell developed some of Jung’s themes in his own extensive research. Together, their imaginative work has shed much-needed light into the darkness of the psychoid.

Following are some natural laws they midwifed into collective consciousness. As your logical mind attempts to make sense of the words, allow your imaginative mind to wander freely. Play with these ideas instead of automatically rejecting them.

1. The Law of Correspondence: The outer universe is a reflection of the inner universe.

This intuition gave rise to the ancient adages, “As above, so below,” and “As without, so within.” Humanity has expressed this relationship in symbol systems like mythology, religion, tarot, alchemy, astrology, magic, literature, and film. Imaginative languages like this have always awakened minds that are trapped in prisons of dry reason, tight logic, and literal belief.

This law means that if we believe in a spiritual reality “up there” or “out there,” it’s because our minds are furnished with an archetype Jung called the Self — our religious function. As long as we don’t understand that this is a very real force in us — an inner instinctual need for love, compassion, creativity and connectedness we share with every human being — we automatically (unconsciously) project it onto outer deities whom we then worship to earn favor and protection. We think our belief will “save” us. We don’t realize we have used our imaginations to create ideas about our gods that have been prompted by the inner archetype. We think some higher, more powerful reality apart from us made us and rules us. We think our very lives depend on propitiating it with literal belief.

We’re right in a way, but not in the way we think. The reality is not an inflated, grandiose, anthropomorphic image of the human ego in the sky. It is an unimaginably vast and diverse field of love and connectedness in which our puny, minimally conscious ego is immersed but to which it is not consciously connected. A universe that is both outside and within us. A universe that contains inner forces (archetypes) that influence and shape us just as the outer forces of gravity, magnetic fields, weather, our environments, our families, and our religions shape us from the outside.

Fortunately, your ego can develop a broader consciousness capable of seeing this reality. For this to occur you need to make room in your mind for new ideas about what is sacred. In the early stages of your psyche’s remodeling project you may suffer crippling doubt, dread, and loss of faith. It’s only a phase. Let it happen.

Because if you persist, you will discover that the only thing you lost faith in was the incomplete and inadequate idea you learned from your religion about a vast and mysterious field of reality. What you thought was the truth about God was a tiny piece of a giant puzzle at the core of everything that is.

Lifting your gaze to the bigger picture will take you to the state of peace, trust, wonder, and love sought by every individual and religion. You can’t get there without using your imagination.

Image Credits:  Google Images. Artist unknown.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncWatch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

 

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies, by Mary Pipher January 2, 2020

Happy New Year to my dear reader friends. Thank you for following Matrignosis. May the new year bring you increasing health, prosperity, joy, and wisdom. Today a friend sent me this wonderful article by Mary Pipher. I share her sentiments and could not have said it better.  Enjoy.

We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. –Maya Angelou

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies

–by Mary Pipher, Feb 27, 2019

This article originally appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review, on January 12th, 2019.

When I told my friends I was writing a book on older women like us, they immediately protested, “I am not old.” What they meant was that they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old.

In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging. Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, we are denigrated by mother-in-law jokes, and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.

Most of us don’t miss the male gaze. It came with catcalls, harassment and unwanted attention. Instead, we feel free from the tyranny of worrying about our looks. For the first time since we were 10, we can feel relaxed about our appearance. We can wear yoga tights instead of nylons and bluejeans instead of business suits.

Yet, in this developmental stage, we are confronted by great challenges. We are unlikely to escape great sorrow for long. We all suffer, but not all of us grow. Those of us who grow do so by developing our moral imaginations and expanding our carrying capacities for pain and bliss. In fact, this pendulum between joy and despair is what makes old age catalytic for spiritual and emotional growth.

By our 70s, we’ve had decades to develop resilience. Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.

We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.

Many women flourish as we learn how to make everything workable. Yes, everything. As we walk out of a friend’s funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues.

Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”

We may not have control, but we have choices. With intention and focused attention, we can always find a forward path. We discover what we are looking for. If we look for evidence of love in the universe, we will find it. If we seek beauty, it will spill into our lives any moment we wish. If we search for events to appreciate, we discover them to be abundant.

There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. As one friend said: “When I was young I needed sexual ecstasy or a hike to the top of a mountain to experience bliss. Now I can feel it when I look at a caterpillar on my garden path.”

Older women have learned the importance of reasonable expectations. We know that all our desires will not be fulfilled, that the world isn’t organized around pleasing us and that others, especially our children, are not waiting for our opinions and judgments. We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea. We don’t expect perfection or even relief from suffering. A good book, a piece of homemade pie or a call from a friend can make us happy. As my aunt Grace, who lived in the Ozarks, put it, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.”

We can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities.

Many of us have a shelterbelt of good friends and long-term partners. There is a sweetness to 50-year-old friendships and marriages that can’t be described in language. We know each other’s vulnerabilities, flaws and gifts; we’ve had our battles royal and yet are grateful to be together. A word or a look can signal so much meaning. Lucky women are connected to a rich web of women friends. Those friends can be our emotional health insurance policies.

The only constant in our lives is change. But if we are growing in wisdom and empathy, we can take the long view. We’ve lived through seven decades of our country’s history, from Truman to Trump. I knew my great-grandmother, and if I live long enough, will meet my great-grandchildren. I will have known seven generations of family. I see where I belong in a long line of Scotch-Irish ancestors. I am alive today only because thousands of generations of resilient homo sapiens managed to procreate and raise their children. I come from, we all come from, resilient stock, or we wouldn’t be here.

By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

The Magic of Women in Community December 17, 2019

“Every girl and every woman, has the potential to make this world a better place, and that potential lies in the act of thinking higher thoughts and feeling deeper things. When women and girls, everywhere, begin to see themselves as more than inanimate objects; but as beautiful beings capable of deep feelings and high thoughts, this has the capacity to create change all around. The kind of change that is for the better. Remember: High in the head and deep in the heart. Antlers on your mind and anchors in your heart.”
C. JoyBell C.

“What’s in hibernation?  What’s giving birth?”  These were the discussion prompts our hostess gave us for yesterday’s gathering. Our small community of six women (we’ve just lost the seventh who, sadly, is moving to another town) meets monthly to share the issues, concerns, challenges, joys, and blessings of this phase of our lives. We’re all still pursuing our passions in meaningful work, all but one is married (she has a boyfriend), all have adult children — some of whom have given us grandchildren — and we’re all interested in consciously exploring the mental, physical, and spiritual (three of us are Jewish and three, Christians) dimensions of our lives.

We’ve all led groups in our professional lives and are fully aware of the importance of listening well and taking turns. None of us wanted to be in charge of this group. Nor did we feel a strong need for a formal structure or specific subject matter. Mostly, we just wanted to take time out of our full and busy lives to be with other kind and interesting women with whom to engage in meaningful talk over hot tea and a simple snack. With no expectations, we have been living in the question and waiting to see what will happen.

So far our gatherings are very organic. At the first one we decided to meet at a different member’s home each month. It has deepened our appreciation and respect for each other’s uniqueness to experience the kind of environment each chooses to surround herself with.

One practice that has evolved is for the hostess to email a few questions about a relevant theme a few days in advance to give us time to think about it. Then after we make our tea, she opens the conversation with a centering practice like a meditation or conscious breathing and then restates the topic. We usually stay on that for a while, then veer off to follow fascinating threads that take us to new places before eventually returning to the topic with deepened insights. Occasionally someone brings a poem or written musings. Sometimes someone shares a dream and the insights they gained from it. Or a special, inspiring book. After two hours we usually close by going around the circle so everyone can share a final thought, feeling, or insight.

One of us will soon have a hip replaced, so yesterday’s discussion quickly zeroed in on the challenges of aging bodies that demand changes in lifestyle and attitude. What thoughts are germinating in her during this time of preparation? What feelings and new attitudes want to be born and listened to? How can the rest of us be of help during the recovery phase?

Another spoke of the fear she felt some years ago when she was about to undergo a difficult and complicated heart surgery. Before the operation she practiced several forms of inner work to dispel her fear, and eventually came to a deep sense of peace. Most surprising was the profound love she felt. Not for herself, her life, her family, or the doctors, but for her poor, struggling heart that was about to undergo such a stressful experience! That spurred a lively discussion about the importance of thinking about, talking to, and treating our bodies with kindness and love, especially in times of physical difficulties and pain.

One naturally independent woman had surgery on her shattered shoulder a few months ago in the midst of a stressful move to a new house. What did it take for her to admit she needed help? What did she learn when several friends volunteered to help her pack?

These days I think about the importance of community. Until about twelve years ago I was always in at least one group of wise and caring women who met my needs for meaningful female companionship. Then I went through a period of intense writing and hibernating and giving birth to a blog and two books that took up so much time that I dropped out of all of them. A natural introvert, I’ve always loved solitude, silence, and my own company. And writing about what is important to me is enormously fulfilling.

But last fall I noticed a nagging emptiness. I missed the friendship of women around my age who are linked by their desire to live their lives authentically and mindfully. Women who could never settle for a meaningless, purposeless life. Women who have  compassion for the suffering of people and our planet and take actions to alleviate it. Women with the strength and courage to ask the big questions and dig deep to bring out the unspoken words that still need to be said, the feelings that still want to be met. Open-hearted, generous-spirited, intelligent women who struggle to understand themselves, develop their skills, and give back to their communities.

Snake Goddesses from the Minoan civilization of Crete. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

So I told a woman I admire for the same qualities what I needed and together we created it. I simply took the next step I needed to take, and what is emerging is magical: a community of wise, compassionate women who know how to comfort and heal. Do you have a special community of women? What kind of women would you like to know and be with? Who would you start with?

“Who is She? She is your power, your Feminine source. Big Mama. The Goddess. The Great Mystery. The web-weaver. The life force. The first time, the twentieth time you may not recognize her. Or pretend not to hear. As she fills your body with ripples of terror and delight.

But when she calls you will know you’ve been called. Then it is up to you to decide if you will answer.”
Lucy H. Pearce, Burning Woman

Image credit:  Top: Google images, from thespacebetweentherapy.com. Bottom, author photo.

 

The True Meaning of Christmas Stories December 10, 2019

“Stories … protect us from chaos, and maybe that’s what we, unblinkered at the end of the 20th century, find ourselves craving. Implicit in the extraordinary revival of storytelling is the possibility that we need stories — that they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle and end of our personal and collective trajectories. It is possible that narrative is as important to writing as the human body is to representational painting. We have returned to narrative — in many fields of knowledge — because it is impossible to live without them.” ~Bill Buford, nonfiction writer and former fiction editor at The New Yorker

Here in the northern hemisphere of the Americas, ’tis the season for watching televised reruns of our favorite Christmas movies. Why do we love them so much? What is it that brings us back, again and again, to re-experience stories we’ve heard so many times? Perhaps we can get a clue from recaps of a few that stand out for me.

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” ~J.K. Rowling, novelist, screenwriter and film producer

A Christmas Story: Ralphie, a precocious, imaginative nine-year-old, wants a BB gun for Christmas but is discouraged by his mother, his teacher, and a department store Santa Claus who all fear “you’ll shoot your eye out!” After a series of episodes that depict the yearnings, humor, pathos, and disillusionment of an ordinary child growing up in a mid-century American family, Ralphie’s usually distracted and frustrated, but fundamentally loving father surprises him on Christmas morning with a BB gun. Ralphie does almost shoot his eye out, but it’s still his favorite Christmas ever!

White Christmas: Two soldier/singers enlist a sister act to assist them in helping their aging and discouraged superior officer from their military years save his failing country inn in rural Vermont by producing a Christmas musical extravaganza. Their efforts result in a spectacular show, and just as it ends, snow begins to fall. This will insure a white Christmas and a lucrative ski season for the inn.

It’s a Wonderful Life:  George Bailey’s missed opportunities and financial problems have brought him to such despair that shortly before Christmas he contemplates ending his life by jumping off a bridge. As he prepares himself, his guardian angel dives in the water and George ends up saving him. After the angel takes George through an alternative reality where he sees what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds, George returns to his present reality which he now sees through the eyes of love, joy, and gratitude for the miracle of his wonderful life.

Elf: Orphaned as an infant, Buddy grows up at the North Pole with Santa and the elves believing he’s an elf, albeit a large, awkward, and very strange one. Painfully disillusioned when he learns he’s not, he takes off for the big city and discovers his birth father, a cynical and driven workaholic who rejects him. But Buddy’s innocent, helpful nature wins the love of the woman of his dreams and transforms his father into a caring husband and father who has learned from Buddy to appreciate the important things in life.

“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” Mary Catherine Bateson, writer and cultural anthropologist

What do we learn through stories? We learn about who we are, what our souls look like and yearn for, the things that are more important to us than money or material possessions, more valuable than gold. We learn that we are lucky to be alive and loved. We learn that we want to stay present to precious moments of wonder and joy and be grateful for them.

Hope, yearning, suffering, kindness, humor, community, transformation, and love. These are archetypal themes about universal experiences and emotions. We’ve all been nine years old, hoping for that very special present. We’ve all suffered disillusionment, disappointment, regret, and despair over mistakes made and dreams unfulfilled. We’ve all been the recipients of acts of kindness and been changed by them. We’ve all experienced moments of joy, gratitude, and love for the blessings of a life we want to last forever.

And in the end, that’s what all our stories — not just Christmas stories, but also hero journey stories, myths, fairy tales, and autobiographical stories — come down to:  our basic human need for a miraculous transformational experience of being known and loved that will fulfill our soul’s yearning, bring hope, and end our suffering. Whatever our religion, the wish to improve and be conscious and mindful of the miracle of our life is the true meaning of the stories that last. Among those, the ones that remind us of this wish are the most beloved.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? What do you love most about them?

Stories are the way to capture the hopes, dreams, and visions of a culture. They are true as much as data are true. The truth of the powerful and irresistible story illustrates in a way data can’t begin to capture. It’s the stories that make you understand.” — Carl Sessions Stepp, professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” ~Joan Didion, writer and journalist

“God made man because He loves stories.” — Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Image credits:  Google images, unknown sources.

 

 
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