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.

 

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 Role of the Animus in a Woman’s Spiritual Journey January 12, 2015

 

anima-animus2Jung developed his theories about anima and animus in a place and time where gender stereotypes ruled. Despite his intention to draw from “the spirit of the depths” where these archetypes have universal meaning, to modern sensibilities some of his ideas might seem to have been contaminated by the spirit of his times.

For example, in his day men were generally considered to be more intellectually capable and women more emotional, and these assumptions occasionally crop up in his writing. To us this is obviously related to the fact that women in his time were still subjugated in many ways, including being denied equal educational and work opportunities.

Nonetheless, Jung developed far more objectivity in this area than most people before or since. Because of this, and because ignorance about these issues creates so many problems in our inner lives, work, and relationships, his descriptions of anima and animus are very useful.

In essence, he believed the animus matures as we cultivate an independent, non-socially conditioned idea of ourselves, growing more aware of what we truly believe and feel, and developing more initiative, courage, objectivity and spiritual wisdom. If the anima’s “soulful” activity is centered on caring and nourishing inner and outer relationships to preserve the species, the animus’s “spiritual” activity is focused on becoming more conscious and individuated to preserve oneself. In the big picture, of course, both ways of being are vital to the mature development of soul and spirit, individual and species.

Jungians believe that like the anima, the animus develops in four stages. In Jung’s Man and His Symbols, he cites analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz who writes that in the first stage the animus appears as “a personification of mere physical power – for instance as an athletic champion or ‘muscle man'” such as Tarzan. Next, the animus demonstrates initiative and has the capacity for planned action; thus, it might show up in a dream as a student, salesman, inventor, war hero, hunter, etc. Third, it becomes associated with inspired verbal and intellectual proficiency and might manifest as a dream image of a poet, professor, clergyman, lawyer, or politician. At its most mature it becomes, like Hermes and Sophia, a messenger of the gods who mediates between the unconscious and conscious mind via dreams, synchronicities, visions, and creative imagination. Thus, the highest calling of the animus, is, like the anima, to embody Wisdom and incarnate meaning.

Is this a true and accurate description of the animus?  No one really knows because our ideas about masculinity and femininity have been forming for thousands of years and vary widely from culture to culture.  I have no doubt that as the ego grows more conscious these ideas will continue to evolve. But currently in the West we tend to think of a healthy animus as the part of us with the strength, motivation, self-discipline, and courage to peel away the layers hiding the Self’s light, and we recognize him in the temptation to risk letting that light shine through until we are transparent in our uniqueness.

In the long run our uniqueness may not look anything at all like traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity. It will simply look like the soulful, spiritual being we really are.  The purpose of both anima and animus is to help our ego selves know and act from our fuller, authentic selves and develop loving relationships with everything and everyone, regardless of what others may think.

Photo Credit:  Google Images, Anima-Animus.  I can’t find out who the artist is.  If anyone knows, please let me know so I can give him/her credit.

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.

 

 

Do We Need Schools for Forty-Year-Olds? November 10, 2014

ArrienbookSome years ago I was working on a precursor to my latest book, a manuscript about creating partnership between our psychological opposites.  Throughout history cultures have found the categories of “masculinity” and “femininity” useful for designating differences between pairs of opposites in many areas of life, including languages, electronics, social roles, leadership styles and so on.  Curious about the different ways men and women develop psychologically over a lifetime, I used the same categories in an assessment tool I created.  The Partnership Profile estimates the relative weight an individual gives to the masculine and feminine qualities of his or her psyche.  I wanted to use it to help people understand that everyone contains both kinds of qualities, and both are equally necessary to a successful adaptation to life.

As Jung wrote in 1930 when gender and sexual stereotypes were more widely accepted and adhered to than now:

“We might compare masculinity and femininity and their psychic components to a definite store of substances of which, in the first half of life, unequal use is made.  A man consumes his large supply of masculine substance and has left over only the smaller amount of feminine substance, which must now be put to use.  Conversely, the woman allows her hitherto unused supply of masculinity to become active.” Jung, CW, Vol. 8, para. 782

Over the next few years I administered The Partnership Profile to over 700 people in various stages of life, from college students to old age, and used the results to refine my instrument and draw some preliminary conclusions about the natural changes that occur in the psyche over a lifetime.  I’m not sure I agree with Jung’s observation that men have a larger supply of masculine qualities and women of feminine, but my results did bear out his findings that everyone has both, and that our use of them changes over time.  He wrote,

“How often it happens that a man of forty-five or fifty winds up his business, and the wife then dons the trousers and opens a little shop where he perhaps performs the duties of a handyman.  There are many women who only awaken to social responsibility and to social consciousness after their fortieth year.  In modern business life, especially in America, nervous breakdowns in the forties are a very common occurrence….Very often these changes are accompanied by all sorts of catastrophes in marriage, for it is not hard to imagine what will happen when the husband discovers his tender feelings and the wife her sharpness of mind.” Vol. 8, para 783

For a while I conducted partnership workshops at the Disney Institute. At one session an elderly man stood up and proudly shared his score which was heavily weighted on the feminine side of the continuum.  Then he said something like this:  “I was a marine for over thirty years, and I’m proud of it. But I’m here to tell you that the score I got today is right on.  It sure wouldn’t have been when I was a young man, but I’ve changed.  My wife and I live next door to a little old lady whose health is bad and I go over there every day to help out. I cook, clean, buy groceries, run errands, do odd jobs.  My wife won’t go with me.  She says she’s had enough of that and would rather read.” At this point his wife nodded vigorously in agreement.  He continued, “But I can’t get enough.  I love helping her!  That’s a whole new part of me I never knew I had when I was a marine.”

hollisbookJung wrote:

“The worst of it all is that intelligent and cultivated people live their lives without even knowing the possibility of such transformations.  Wholly unprepared, they embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world?  No, thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of our life;  worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto.  But we cannot live the afternoon of life according the programme of life’s morning;  for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.” Vol. 8, para. 784

Have you experienced this reality?  What do you think?  Should someone start a school for forty-year-olds?

Note:  For those interested in reading more, I highly recommend The Second Half of Life by Angeles Arrien, and Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life by Jungian analyst James Hollis.

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.

 

 

 

 

That’s Amore: A Father’s Day Tribute October 7, 2014

My friends:  Last week my husband’s father died at the age of 103.  He was a beautiful man who was loved by all.  To honor his memory I’m sharing this post from June of 2011 which I wrote on the occasion of his hundredth birthday.  May you rest in peace, Dad. Thank you for bringing so much love and beauty into the lives of your family.

In 1904 a young man named Antonio Raffa stepped off the boat onto Ellis Island with a small bag of belongings, $9.00 in his pocket, and hope for a better life. His first act was to kneel and kiss the ground. As he told us years later, there was nothing for him in his small hill town near Messina, Sicily where his only choices were to be poor or join the Mafia. Neither option sounded good to him. With help from his older brother Phillip who was living in New York, Antonio established a barber shop in Brooklyn and settled in.

The next year Phillip returned to Italy and chose the lovely Giovannina Iannelli to be Antonio’s wife. Escorted by her parents, “Jenny” came to America and met Antonio over dinner on Friday night. They were married the next day. After a while she contracted a lung infection and their growing family left Brooklyn for the mountain air in the Catskills town of Liberty, NY. This is where Anthony Raffa, Jr., or “Tony,” the third of four sons, spent his youth. (He’s the third son from the left in the picture.)

Growing up as children of Italian immigrants wasn’t always easy in those days and Antonio wanted his sons to have every advantage. His first rule was to speak English. The second was to work hard and do well in school. The third was never to leave their house without being well-dressed and immaculately groomed. Tony Jr. was an especially intelligent, well-meaning, and attractive young man, (he could have been Ronald Coleman’s double with his wavy black hair and thin moustache), who thrived in the land of opportunity and made his parents proud.

After working his way through the College of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri where he joined the Acacia club, played the violin in a small combo, and paid his bills by ironing his friends’ shirts for four cents apiece, Tony returned to Liberty and started a medical practice on the downstairs floor of a Victorian house on Main Street. When he married Julia Vera Segar, a nurse of Scotch-Irish descent, they set up housekeeping above the office. My husband is their firstborn son, Fred. His favorite memory from those days is of coming home from school and meeting Rocky Marciano whom his dad was secretly treating in preparation for his upcoming match with Roland La Starza! Wouldn’t the paparazzi have had a field day if they had known?

Sadly, Vera died after the birth of their second son. Five years later Tony married Helen Scobell, a home-economics extension agent.  After the birth of their first child, a daughter, they moved to Tampa where they had two more sons, a thriving medical practice, a sophisticated home filled with art, music and laughter, and a country club membership. Active in the Masonic Lodge, he was awarded the 33rd Degree and became a Noble in the Mystic Order of the Shrine. Tony retired from his medical practice at age 74 and lost his second love, Helen, to cancer at 82.  At 85 he married Winn Wiley who still fills his life with love.

Unlike his feisty, cigar-smoking bantam rooster father, my fun-loving and even-tempered father-in-law is the most humble, gentle and tolerant man I’ve ever known. I’ve never heard him criticize anyone or speak an unkind word, never seen him angry. As one whose favorite saying is, “Family is the most important thing,” he brought his parents to Tampa and looked after them until they died. Last weekend I was reminded of the wisdom of these words when his family and friends gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday!  I can’t imagine my life without him, his son Fred, or our children and grandchildren.

Family. As Dean Martin, a fellow Italian-American, once sang, “That’s amore!”  Happy Father’s Day to Tony and fathers everywhere. May your lives overflow with amore!

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.

 

Embellishment May 28, 2014

My friends, For the next two weeks I’ll be re-posting a few favorite posts from the past.  I hope you enjoy this one from August, 2011.

Last Saturday my half-Italian husband told me about a funny thing that happened earlier that day when he was at the grocery store with his brother-in-law, Gary. “Where’s the tomato sauce?”  he asks Gary. Gary looks up and points to a sign and says, “Aisle 3. It says ‘tomato sauce.’”

They go to aisle 3 but all they find is ready-made spaghetti sauce in jars. “Hey!” Fred says.  “I’m not using that Paul Newman, Chef Boyardee crap.  I’m Italian.  I make my own spaghetti sauce.” Just then a 50ish blonde bimbo-type comes up behind him and in a nasal New Jersey accent says, “Hey! Don’t ask a man where something is in a grocery store. It’s in the next aisle with the vegetables. I know how to make spaghetti sauce.  I’m married to an Italian. My license plate says: “Fugeddaboudit!”

So they go to the next aisle. He sees cans of tomato paste, tomato puree, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, but no tomato sauce.  He’s complaining to Gary about this when a very proper, well-groomed Atlanta matron standing nearby says politely, “Excuse me, sir. You’re looking for tomato sauce?  It’s in the next aisle!”  This cracks him up. As he tells me this story he’s giggling so much he can barely talk.

My husband’s ability to tell a good story is one of the things I love most about him. I used to have trouble with it though. Coming from scrupulous-minded, strait-laced Dutch stock, I worried about his blatant distortions of the truth. Maybe he had a serious memory problem. Maybe even a character flaw. “That’s not how it happened,” I’d say in shocked disbelief.  “I was there!”

His whole family’s that way.  I think they got it from his step-mother, Helen.  His youngest brother, Tony, and I were talking about her the other day and he said, “You know, I think the word that best describes her is…” he paused for dramatic emphasis… “Embellishment.” “Embellishment?” I asked. He nodded emphatically, “Embellishment!” He would know.  He’s an interior designer who jokes, “Never done ’til overdone!”

While I was pouring my homemade limoncello after our spaghetti dinner Saturday night Fred told everyone about an incident at a friend’s villa in Florence, Italy many years ago.  “So,” he says, “after we’re installed in the guest cottage we go up to the villa where the chef has prepared a fabulous meal and our friend tells me to go to the wine cellar and pick out a good wine. I’m down there looking at all these dusty bottles thinking they have to be old and expensive. I didn’t know much about wine in those days and I didn’t want to take the best one so I choose a smaller bottle thinking it’s probably less expensive.  Upstairs I open it, pour it in our wine glasses, and it’s yellow! Turns out it’s limoncello!”  Everyone had a good laugh while I did a mental eye-roll.  “There was no guest cottage.  There was no chef,” I told them. “That’s embellishment.” More laughter.

Unfazed, he went on to tell the story of our wedding. “Jeanie’s mother made her dress and said she could either give us $300.00 or spend it on a fancy wedding,” he said. My mother didn’t make my dress, and it wasn’t $300.00.  It was $200. I know. I was there. Embellishment.

So what’s more important?  Telling a good story or telling the truth? One of the happiest outcomes of my inner work is that I’m learning the wisdom of lightening up. Sometimes truth is overrated.  Like limoncello,  a little bit of embellishment can be good for the soul.

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

 

 

 
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