Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dreams As Spiritual Guides October 11, 2016

unknown-1

When you are in the darkness you take the next thing, and that is a dream. And you can be sure that the dream is your nearest friend; the dream is the friend of those who are not guided any more by the traditional truth and in consequence are isolated. ~Carl Jung, the Symbolic Life, CW 18, Para 674

And if you lose yourself in the crowd, in the whole of humanity, you also never arrive at yourself; just as you can get lost in your isolation, you can also get lost in utter abandonment to the crowd. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1020

For 27 years, my spiritual practice has been dreamwork. Dreams aren’t commonly thought of as spiritual aids but they absolutely are. Carl Jung demonstrated this in The Red Book in which he recorded what he learned about himself from visions and dreams over a three year period. This formed the material and inspiration for his groundbreaking insights into the true nature of the psyche, and for his belief that acquiring self-knowledge and becoming who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.

I wish I had understood this during the middle of my life. Throughout the 1980’s I functioned well in the outer world, juggling a home and family with college teaching. But inside I was struggling through a “dark night of the soul” crisis in which I was increasingly dissatisfied with my religion, my work, my relationships and myself.

Near the end of that decade I joined a Jungian study group. When I learned that dreams show us unknown aspects of ourselves in a visual, metaphorical, symbolic language, I began to record and work with mine. By the time I had this Big dream, I knew that taking my nocturnal dramas seriously was vital to my wellbeing.

Dream #155: “Going Against the Current.”

I’m walking downstream in a 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 turn around and laboriously make my way back upstream in water up to my chin.  The bottom is rough and rocky.  I reach up and hold onto some thin, flimsy branches sticking out over the water. This helps, but soon there are no more and I have to go on unaided.  

At the last turn I come up against thousands of people heading downstream. Friendly people press in on every side as I struggle against the current toward the place I’m supposed to be—my base camp. Sometimes I touch a head or shoulder to propel myself forward. When I reach the mouth of the river I put my palms together 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? A younger, blond-haired woman appears, 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 far away on the left shore, a place I’ve never been but know to be my destination.

unknownIn exquisitely beautiful imagery, this dream told the story of my psycho-spiritual development. It said that when I began my journey (walking) through the unconscious (water) I was still aligned with the collective (going with the flow downstream). But I had become aware of the passing of time (river) and the danger of continuing to rush mindlessly along on the path of least resistance (downstream) while ignoring my undeveloped self and unfulfilled yearnings.

Redirecting my focus to my inner world was making my journey more difficult (going upstream). The form of spiritual support (branches) I had always clung to—the heavenly spirituality of the Sky God that requires conformity to dogma—was of no further help to me (the branches disappear) and I had to continue alone.

Like the children of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea, I was leaving my slavish allegiance to the collective (crowd of people) behind, and entering the unknown: my frightening and dangerous (deep water) unconscious self (the sea). There I caught a glimpse of my anima or soul (the blond woman), the feminine half of the Self which, in Jungian language, is partner to the masculine animus or spirit. Together they form our central archetype, our God-image, symbol-maker, and connection to the Sacred. The message of this dream was that assuming my own authority and trusting myself would bring me to my true self (base camp).

Until I discovered dreamwork, no books or scriptures, no religious beliefs or sacrifices or regular church attendance, none of my ego’s hard work or good behavior, no well-intentioned thoughts or knowledge or cleverness, no psychological expert or religious authority—nothing in my life had any lasting transforming or healing power for me. But this dream from the Self did.  The Self knew me.  It spoke to me in the symbols of this dream which it fashioned solely for me when it knew I was ready to listen.

My Beloved knew where I’d been, what I sought, where I was going. It knew I was turning my life around before I did. It reassured me that replacing my old life of passionless conformity with the great adventure of exploring my unconscious self was the right choice for me. Above all, it convinced me I could trust it to tell me the truth and guide me in the direction of my heart’s desire. Eventually this knowing emboldened me to leave work for which I was ill-suited to follow my passions for writing and self-knowledge. That choice has made all the difference between a false life of meaninglessness, dissatisfaction and confusion, and the real life of increasing clarity, trust, meaning and peace I’m living now.

imagesContrary to popular belief, discovering and being true to who you are beneath the mask you wear, and doing it for the sake of love, is the authentic spiritual journey. What did you dream last night? What did you learn about yourself?

Photo Credit: “Going Against the Current,”Luo Quingzhen, Google Images.  Salmon going upstream: unknown, Wikimedia Commons. “Danube Salmon Swimming Against the Current,” unknown, Wikimedia Commons.

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.

 

The Unseen Partner September 6, 2016

51JQhuqU2cL._SY401_BO1,204,203,200_“The time is ripe for the unconscious and conscious dominants to meet each other.  The death of the old dominant is indicated by the fact that the king is about to die.  This corresponds to the fact that the God-image, the collective dominant of the Western psyche, is moribund.  In preparation for its death, it opens up an ancient tomb;  in other words it opens up the unconscious.  This activates the feminine principle, which had been dead and buried in the very same tomb, in the unconscious.  As the tomb is opened, the unconscious is penetrated by consciousness . . . and a revitalization occurs.” ~ Edward Edinger

With this opening quote a beautiful new book, The Unseen Partner: Love & Longing in the Unconscious, prepares the reader for a unique experience of a universal story: the hero’s journey to individuation. Unique, because this personal account shared in a mythical, poetic voice is utterly original and will impact each reader differently. Universal, because beneath the art, poetry, and expertly-crafted prose is the mythic story of Everyman. Two decades in the making and released this Labor Day weekend, Diane Croft’s The Unseen Partner is a most refreshing and artful contribution to the literature on Jungian psychology.  I absolutely loved it!

By midlife, Croft had taken a predictable path to a comfortable life and successful career. Educated at Wittenberg and Harvard Universities, she became a publisher at National Braille Press. And then an unknown force invaded her conscious psyche and set her on a new path. As her press release notes, this force pulled her “into an energy field—the sacred temple at the center of the psyche—” (called the “Self” by Jung), where she captured the poetic voice she heard by means of automatic writing.

Croft explains:

“In the summer of 1996, I fell into an experience of automatic writing.  I was seated at my computer getting ready to compose a budget narrative.  Instead I wrote a few lines of verse that appeared without thinking or intention.  ‘Born in a cataclysm of cosmic violence/the lunar birth of daughter moon.’ And then a second poetry fragment appeared . . . and so it continued for three years, at roughly the same time each morning, until there were more than seven hundred odd verses.  People ask me if I heard voices.  No, I say, I just took dictation. The fingers moved and the words were typed.”

The Unseen Partner is based on 55 of these verses. Each is accompanied by an artful image that symbolizes an aspect of the individuation process. Croft’s commentary on the meaning she gleaned from the poetry and imagery is the third factor that weaves everything together into a remarkable book which is itself a creative work of art.

Here’s an example. This poem titled “Holy Ghost” features the symbolism of “the third.”  The accompanying image and commentary illustrate how these three factors work together.

Who is this three of thee and me

a holy ghost in daylight calling

stirring in my bed this night

cauldron for my troubled soul,

reminding me again and again

of the living power it holds

over my dominion.

Croft’s commentary:

Unknown“Since I was baptized Lutheran, the image of the Holy Ghost was not foreign to me, though I understood nothing of its meaning.  Since I now believe this collection is about the relationship between my conscious ego and the larger archetypal Self, then I can only say that that relationship involves a third.  Who is this three of thee and me?  In Mythology of the Soul, Baynes writes, ‘The number three is specifically associated with the creative process. . . . Every function of energy in nature has, indeed, the form of a pair of opposites, united by a third factor, their product.’ Jung identified “the third” as one of the stages of individuation: ‘The advance to the third stage means something like the recognition of the unconscious, if not actual subordination to it. . . .’  So, as I understand it, stage one equals the original state of wholeness (the pre-conscious totality), stage two represents separation and the emergence of opposites (ego consciousness), and stage three would be the union of the opposites through the agency of the Holy Ghost, now contained within the human vessel.”

This was particularly resonant to me. I don’t remember ever reading this quote by Jung before, but in Healing the Sacred Divide (2012), I used the symbolism of “the third” to illustrate the three epochs of the development of consciousness. Each of my epochs corresponds with Croft’s description of the stages of individuation. This synchronicity comes as no real surprise, for “the third,” like all the symbols treated in this marvelous book, represents an archetypal pattern residing in every psyche. Nonetheless, I had so many delicious “Aha” moments in reading it that the overall experience took on the flavor of meditating on, and with, a sacred unseen partner.

As Rumi warned, (and as Croft writes in the last line of her epilogue), “‘Don’t go back to sleep.’ Wake up and dip your cup into the living waters.”  I could not recommend The Unseen Partner more highly, and I’ll be returning to it again and again, for in it I recognize a reliable companion and guide to the living waters within me.

The Unseen Partner can be found at Amazon

Image Credits:  Book cover, Amazon.  “Friendship,” 1907, Mikalojus Konstantinos Ciurlionis, Lithuania, Wikimedia Commons.

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

 

 

A Zen Summer August 16, 2016

imagesYou trust your unconscious as if it were a loving father. But it is nature and cannot be made use of as if it were a reliable human being. It is inhuman and it needs the human mind to function usefully for man’s purposes. Nature is an incomparable guide if you know how to follow her. ~Carl Jung, Letters Volume 1, Page 283.

Remember Mr. Miyagi, the Japanese handyman who was a Karate master in the classic 1984 film, Karate Kid?  Everyone’s favorite part was the way he used hard work, specific movements, and mantras to train Daniel, a misguided youth. “Wax on, Wax off. Sand the floor. Paint the fence. Paint the house.” For Daniel, the work was grueling, pointless and demeaning until, as shown in this dramatic scene, his suffering led to a revelation akin to a transformational spiritual awakening.

Mr. Miyagi comes to mind when I think about this summer in the mountains. I’m a writer and practitioner of inner work and contemplation…not much of a physical doer. I look forward to being here all year, imagining the pleasures of no deadlines, no agenda. I picture myself spending long hours on the porch reading and writing in peaceful meditation. Then I arrive and barely find the time to publish a weekly blog post or finish reading a book.

Izzy's job is to carry my water and clippers in her backpack.

Izzy’s job is to carry my water and clippers in her backpack.

Here, my life is centered on my granddog Izzy, and Nature. Like Mr. Miyagi, both are exacting masters. Feed birds. Feed fish. Feed dog. Groom gardens. Groom trails. Groom dog.  Pick up trash. Avoid poison ivy. Wash dog. Worry about trees. Worry about rain. Worry about dog. Appreciate boulders. Celebrate rain. Pet dog. Four of these were especially prominent this summer.

My patting boulder. Old lady with fern hat or Green Man?

My patting boulder. Old lady with fern hat or Green Man?

Appreciate Boulders. I found a new favorite stone on the trail our handyman blazed through the dense forest last winter. It’s huge, mossy, and wrinkled as an old lady wearing a hat of ferns. Or is that Green Man whose face I see in the shadows? I can’t resist reaching out and patting him/her when I pass by. A few days ago I found this in one of my favorite blogs:

“The central symbol of the Zen garden is the stone. For Jung, it signified “something permanent that can never be lost or dissolved, something eternal that some have compared to the mystical experience of God within one’s own soul;” for Cirlot it is “the first solid form of the creative rhythm —the sculpture of essential movement, and the petrified music of creation.” Stones are pure and perfect in their simplicity, yet powerful, mysterious and inscrutable like the gods.” From Symbol Reader,  Symbolism of Gardens.

The stone mandala I made about 15 years ago captured in a Yin/Yang moment of shade and sun.

The stone mandala I made about 15 years ago captured in a Yin/Yang moment of shade and sun.

Worry About Trees.  The hemlocks are being decimated by a parasite and we’re treating many of them with biennial doses of medicine, but we can’t save them all.  On every hike after a big wind I have to remove or circumvent heavy branches and another fallen tree or two. A neighbor across the creek has several dead ones still standing. A few threaten to land on our house.

One evening after a storm with gale force winds we heard a commotion out on the main road. A giant oak had fallen and neighbors with chain saws were cleaning it up. It was there a century ago when the dirt road leading to our property was carved out of the mountainside, and over time its roots were exposed and weakened by erosion. Luckily no cars were beneath it when it finally surrendered to nature’s purposes.

This beech standing on tiptoe could be the next victim of erosion on our mountain slopes.

This beech standing on tiptoe could be the next victim of erosion on our mountain slopes.

Celebrate Rain.  I don’t know what it is about rain, but it feels magical. One evening Fred and I were rocking on the porch and watching black clouds gathering above the mountains when suddenly the ozone-scented breezes and whisper of raindrops coming up the valley transported me to an unusually intense meditative state. Curious, I checked my heart rate on my Apple watch. Within moments my normal resting rate of 61 beats per minute plummeted to a shocking 45.  Cool.

A woman too has a peculiar attitude toward nature, much more trusting than that of a man. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 123.

Was Jung right, or was he still conditioned by some of the prevailing stereotypes about women in the early 20th century? I don’t know. But I do know I am deeply connected to this land.  I love it and trust it, and sometimes I worry about it. Will my grandchildren and great grandchildren love it as much as I do? Will they feed the birds and clear the paths and pat the boulders and love the trees enough to learn their names and do their best to protect them?

11406420_810904575646427_1976885749494247402_oFeed Birds? Last week Izzy’s fierce barking woke Fred at 1:30 in the morning. Exhausted from a day of “doing,” I was sleeping like a stone. Thinking she had to go out, Fred took her downstairs. But instead of heading for the front door, she stood transfixed at the glass door to the side porch. What was going on?

The mystery was solved the next morning when we found our biggest, sturdiest, squirrel-proof bird feeders mangled on the ground. Only a scattering of seeds remained. Somewhere in the Nantahala National Forest up the mountain a contented bear was snug in its den dreaming about last night’s tasty meal.

images-1The Asian martial arts are rooted in Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Their spiritual elements gave purpose and meaning to the ancient warriors who loved and practiced them.

The same can be said of those of us who find purpose and meaning in loving Nature, our Mother. If our practices have a spiritual element, so do hers. After all, inhuman though she may be, we come from her, and she’s an “incomparable guide if you know how to follow her.”

Credits:  Thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for the Jungian quotes.  Karate Kid video from YouTube. “Anyone can slay a dragon quote” image by Brian Andreas from www.pinterest.com“Try not to change the world” quote by Sri Chinmoy from www.srichinmoybio.co.uk

 

Join the Epoch III Ego Evolution Revolution June 14, 2016

Lightworkers-66

“People must know they are in conflict. They must be able to carry the conflict. That is consciousness.”  Carl Jung, as told to M.I. Rix Weaver, J.E.T., Pages 90-95.

Individual Transformation

Leaving our Epoch II ego consciousness behind is daunting and painful because the ego is suffering the trauma of dying to “the world’s” opinions.  As Dr. Michael Washburn notes (Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective, pp. 183-216), symptoms of the ego’s death throes include a lack of psychic energy, a sense of alienation from the world, unstable relationships, mood shifts, depression, extreme anxiety, impulsiveness, potentially self-damaging behaviors, intense and inappropriate anger, emptiness, boredom, identity disturbances, and so on.

These common symptoms point to the Epoch II ego’s dis-ease and its need for purging and opening before new psycho-spiritual life can be born. This process often starts with a painful crisis that forces us to acknowledge our shadow and the undeveloped masculine and feminine forces of our psyche. Help can be found in various forms of mental training that explore the unconscious. Some people use spiritual practices—prayer, meditation, contemplation and mindfulness—to observe their thinking. Psychological practices like dreamwork, psychotherapy and active imagination likewise help us retrieve repressed material and identify and control toxic mental events and emotions.

tumblr_m5orenMrr61rrdazqo1_r1_500“…this work brings many benefits, including affirming self-knowledge, deeply satisfying personal meaning, freedom from the compulsion to please or impress, the joy of clearly seeing the underlying patterns of our lives from a cosmic perspective, a sense of connectedness to nature and all of life, and benevolent thoughts and actions guided by a conscious immersion in the Divine Unity.” J.B. Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 73.

Jung noted that this work leads

“to the union of opposites in the archetypal form of the hierosgamos or ‘chymical wedding.’  Here the supreme opposites, male and female . . . are melted into a unity purified of all opposition and therefore incorruptible.”  C.G. Jung, CW xii, para 37.

The alchemists called this the sacred marriage of the King and Queen. Psychologists call it individuation and wholeness.  Spirit persons refer to it as enlightenment. All are names for Epoch III Integrated Consciousness. As the famed ‘pearl of great price’ it is highly sought; however, the way is closed to even the most intelligent and pious Epoch II ego until it is brought low enough to face its powerlessness and ask for help.  Richard Rohr quotes Bill Wilson, Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“How privileged we are to understand so well the divine paradox that strength rises from weakness, that humiliation goes before resurrection; that pain is not only the price but the very touchstone of spiritual rebirth.” –Bill Wilson (Cited in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, June 10, 2016).

UnknownSocietal Transformation

Every living thing is compelled to evolve into an improved form. As individuals find healing and rebirth, society follows. But pain, weakness and humiliation do not go down well in patriarchy and at present we can expect little help from that front. In writing about the rash of mass shootings in the U.S. over the last several decades, Mary Harrell, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist, points to the need to incorporate qualities associated with the feminine principle into societal institutions.  Harrell asks

“How can our nation’s boys effectively manage hate and rage when they live in a society that splits all aspects of the human condition into good and evil?” Mary Harrell, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life, p. 79.

“Unfortunately, it is our schools—reflections of the larger culture—that have marginalized the archetypal feminine, the Goddess.  Because she has been cast into the dark place of repression and denial, she can’t transform excesses of rage and hate.” Harrell, p. 82.

Harrell notre that transforming educational systems

“…requires conversations, and especially direct initiatives aimed at inclusiveness and effective response to cultural wounding.  Valuing the Goddess calls for consideration of issues of war and peace within a frame of death and life, rather than through a sole masculine expression of “higher values” like nationalism, and freedom, thereby bloating an expanded military agenda….These goddess perspectives need to balance the patriarchal attitude, which defines the school curriculum, usually by overvaluing science, math, and technology (intending that the nation will stay ahead in a competitive—masculine—rather than a collaborative—feminine—process).” Harrell, pp. 83-4.

I wrote the above last week. As I conclude this post two days before its scheduled publication, I am struck by a bizarre synchronicity. This morning a rage-filled young man killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in my home town of Orlando. Mourning this outrage, I still remain hopeful of positive change.

Hope-For-A-Broken-WorldWhat We Can Do

1.  Notice and reflect on what’s happening in your inner and outer life.

2.  See your conflicts and crises as meaningful messages from your inner feminine who wants to awaken deep feeling, humility, willingness and surrender.

3.  Help her express herself creatively through art, poetry, writing, dreamwork, ritual, etc.

4.  Unless you are in an abusive situation, tolerate the tension as long as possible without doing anything rash. Trust that healing and balance will come if you stay with your struggle.

5.  Share your earned wisdom in your own unique way.

Together, we can make a difference.  If a critical mass of individuals frees their dragons from their psychological prisons, future generations will see us as heroic pioneers who led humanity into the “Epoch III Ego Evolution Revolution.”

 “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~Jung CW 9i, Page 32, Para 66. 

Image Credits:  Google Images

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

 

Why Do I Meditate? April 5, 2016

I’m at my desk reading the Goethe quote on my coffee mug: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” I feel the truth of this deeply, but wonder if I really understand it or can express it adequately. I want to try.

I close my eyes to feel the life in my body and follow my breath. Tiny tinglings everywhere…chest and belly rising and falling…the air conditioner fan whirring away to my left, an airplane humming overhead…the solid floor beneath my feet…the warmth of my clasped hands…the softness of my velvet robe.

I open my eyes and look out the window at the stand of bald cypress with their knotty brown trunks and newly green foliage. I watch the soft sway of their gray Spanish moss beards. I wait…for what I don’t know. I smile. It’s a relief not to need to know. A love bug lands on the window at eye level. No, wait; it’s two love bugs! My smile expands. My heart seems to expand too. I’m enjoying this tiny reminder of love. Fluttering leaves sparkle. Some show their paler sides; others are a deeper green. A dragonfly flits by. Cottony clouds with dove gray undersides sink slowly below the cypress canopy.

I rise and step outside to see if the great blue heron is still fishing across the creek. S/he’s gone, but a pair of black-feathered, yellow-legged, red-billed birds (young coots?) fly past, then abruptly make a U-turn and hurry back in the opposite direction.

I remember the brilliant cardinal that kept dropping by one day last week to peck at the picture window, either flirting with his image or trying to pass through the sky’s reflection. I Googled the symbolism of cardinals and found this: [The cardinal] “reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility.” Good advice. But that was a few days ago. I return to this moment.

Caroline Myss

Caroline Myss

Other random thoughts intrude and I invite them to pass on so I can stay present. I realize I’m hoping to close these musings with some sort of sign or synchronicity I can share to prove how rewarding just appreciating this day can be! But nothing is showing up and I’m running out of writing space.

Wait. Something is showing up. (As I write these words a cardinal darts by…is it my cardinal?… but that isn’t what I mean.) What shows up after I’ve written the previous paragraph is an awareness of my ego’s influence over my thoughts and writing. My ego wants a sign it can use to be impressive, but my soul just wants to be! And just as I was thinking this the cardinal passed by. I guess I did receive a sign after all: ego pride!  I smile and let it be. Self-knowledge is healing but self-criticism erodes my confidence and robs me of this moment. Simply being aware of everything, including my baser tendencies, is the true value of this day.

Why do I meditate? Because it slows down my monkey mind and makes me more mindful of my body. Because when I’m mindful of my body, I experience this fleeting miracle of being.  Because experiencing the miracle of being—being alive, being me, having this body, this day, this comfortable place to live, my health, people who love me—fills me with love and gratitude. And when I remember love and gratitude, I remember to choose love more often that day, no matter what’s happening in my outer world. For me, that’s reason enough.

Photo Credits:  Google Images

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon as well as KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

 

Coming Home to the Self December 29, 2015

A rainy winter day in the mountains

A rainy winter day in the mountains

Here in the mountains it’s a gray winter day. We arrived for our annual holiday visit the day after Christmas hoping for snow, but the weather’s so mild that the windows are open. Over the roar of the creek, swollen from a solid week of rain, a single crow caws somewhere nearby. Welcome home, she says. Downstairs the grown-ups are finishing a jigsaw puzzle we’ve been working on since summer. The grandchildren are playing a video game. I’m upstairs writing this, tomorrow’s post, my heart warm with the comforts of home, family, and love.

This place, this now, this beauty. These tears of wonder and gratitude. For this sacred moment, this simple awareness of being at one with my Self, life and love…this is all I want or need.  This is the grace and blessing of the Self, a moment that needs no words. Yet now I am searching for words to fill this page. I don’t fight it. After all, part of the Self—my sacred core and circumference—is a writer and another part is a teacher. And these parts still want to share what they know.

Listen to me! the crow caws insistently. I hear you. I answer. You, too are part of me, part of the Self. I look out the window in its direction, past the skeletons of maples and buckeyes, the fluttering rhododendron leaves on the mountainside glistening with droplets of rain. It’s all alive.  All sacred. What words could possibly be a clearer statement of the sacredness of life than this?

IMG_6729I haven’t always had this awareness. My soul has expanded very slowly through the years.  First I had to want to know the truth about the puzzle of myself more than I wanted to protect myself. Then I had to let down some of my ego’s boundaries.  Had to stop saying no and start saying yes. Had to admit I can be wrong. Could be hurt. Could need somebody. Could be showing the world a false self. Could be afraid. Angry. Selfish. All that took a while.

Eventually I liked the awareness so much that I searched for a practice to keep me more aware. Discovering dreamwork felt like striking gold. Metaphorically, that’s exactly what it was. That vein of gold led to more veins:  the gold of self-validation and self-affirmation, the gold of insights, passion, revitalization, synchronicity, adventure. Some veins led to my dark shadow, others to my light shadow. Some led to my anima and animus. A few have gone deep enough to encircle my Self.

A soul needs time and reflection to expand. I’ve practiced dreamwork for 26 years with no end in sight. Which is good, because I never want it to end….even though lately I’ve been dreaming of my critical bully:  a bossy chef, a menacing sniper, a criminal holding people hostage with a gun and a baseball bat, a rude and haughty boy. The craziness of the holidays can do that to a person! Last night I lay awake counting the number of people I’ve hurt over the years, sometimes out of self-righteousness, sometimes thoughtlessness. I was appalled at their number.

Yet on Christmas night and the next two nights I dreamed about a large Christmas tree ornament, a sparkling diamond and gold ball that was being clarified and perfected and completed, and so were my understanding of it and my words about it.  And I was it and it was me.

Circles are images of the Self. So are diamonds and gold. Soul-making has infinite rewards. Every day I see my self-criticism backing off, my frustrations softening. Trust has pretty much replaced worry and grace flows through more often, revealing the sacred river of life and love that runs beneath and through it all.

IMG_6708A bad internet connection made my computer so sluggish a while ago that I took a break and  went downstairs. I was aware of the river when I had lunch with my family. When Robyn and I emptied the dishwasher. When everyone went out to enjoy a brief dry spell before the rain returned. When I savored a slice of caramel cake. It was still there when I returned to my desk and found my internet connection working normally again. Another tiny reminder that, in the words of anchorite Mother Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

And now it’s time to finish this and rejoin my family downstairs. Fred’s got a fire going and my favorite new book of poetry, Coming Home by Jamie K. Reaser, awaits me on the chair in front of it. Thanks to her I’m learning how to talk to crows. It’s the perfect book to feed the fire growing inside me and keep the river flowing.

May the New Year bring us all more awareness of coming home to the Self.

Please enjoy this final video, “Theatre of the Self,” from my new YouTube series, Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page), on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU   Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

What Is Love? October 27, 2015

The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

“There is no linear evolution;  there is only a circumambulation of the self.” ~Carl Jung

My last post concluded with the question, “And what about my prayer for love?  Did that work?”

For the past 35 years I’ve traveled a slow and circuitous route to unravel the mystery of love. First, I had to learn what love is not. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

Discovery #1.  Love is not a role we play or an act we perform.

In my early years I was largely unaware of my inner life and the fact that my behavior was dictated by a compulsion for safety and approval.  I just wanted to be good, and being good was easy for me….until it became hard.

“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.”

Letting go of ego starts with recognizing and dissolving the persona (social mask) we built in our youth. If we continue to identify with our role—in my case, being the loving and devoted daughter, wife, and mother; the pious believer; and, to a certain extent, the compassionate savior—we’ll pay a price for not seeing our shadow.

For example, after noting that, “…the pious Drummond once lamented that ‘bad temper is the vice of the virtuous'” Jung added,

“Whoever builds up too good a persona for himself naturally has to pay for it with irritability.” ~Jung (CW7, par.306)

images-2Jung said of a patient that when she first came to him “…she was able to play her traditional role of the supremely wise, very grown-up, all-understanding mother-daughter-beloved—an empty role, a persona behind which her real and authentic being, her individual self, lay hidden.  Indeed, to the extent that she at first completely identified herself with her role, she was altogether unconscious of her real self.  She was still in her nebulous infantile world and had not yet discovered the real world at all.” ~Jung, (CW7, par.248)

Discovery #2. Love does not grow in a nebulous infantile world.

Love needs familiarity with our real self. As Ghandi said, love is not a “garment to be put on and off at will.  Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being….If one does not practice non-violence in one’s personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken.” ~Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi, ed. Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence, pp. 36-38.)

Discovery #3. Love is a choice.  It has taken me many years to learn that love is a practice we willingly engage in minute by minute, day by day. The goal of our practice is not to use our ego’s willpower to love, (or act like we love) others, but rather to use our healthy, mature ego in service to acquiring self-knowledge. But isn’t that egotistical, people often ask? No. Because love dwells in the Self. And with daily practice—that long, slow, circuitous route to the Self—we will eventually connect with the love at the core of our nature. Only then can we truly love others.

In other words, consciousness travels hand-in-hand with love.  As consciousness grows, so does love. This leads me to the inevitable conclusion:

Discovery #4. Love is consciousness. Consciousness is love.

Catholic monk Richard Rohr, one of the foremost spiritual teachers of our time, affirms this conclusion and describes the practice which led Ghandi to consciousness, love, and non-violence:

“Gandhi’s answer is always the same: steadfast, persistent, dedicated, committed, patient, relentless, truthful, prayerful, loving, active nonviolence. In other words, universal compassion must become your whole way of moving through life.” ~Richard Rohr

unnamedSo have I learned to love?  Well, yes and no. I know that love dwells in the unified Self, but I also know that knowing about love is not the same thing as loving.  Unless the knowing is accompanied by authentic loving words, motivations and actions, it’s just dualistic thinking that values the head and mind over the heart and matter.

But yes, in my 35 years of circumambulating the Self I’ve experienced love, and sometimes I manifest it…when I remember it’s already there, waiting for me to choose to access it. But no, I don’t access the love that indwells me all the time. First, I have to be conscious of my non-loving feelings and attitudes. Then I have to choose to connect with love and act from it instead.

But I’m hopeful knowing that love is a process of growing increasingly conscious through recognizing and integrating the opposites in my life: ego and Self, persona and shadow, even yes and no! And yes, I’m involved in that process. Anyone can be. You don’t need to be a saint to enjoy the benefits of awakening to your life.

“Life becomes infinitely more meaningful when the focus of our existence changes from separating to connecting. The more opposites we unite, the more conscious we become.  The wiser we grow, the more sacred significance we see…and the more deeply we experience our lives.” ~Jean Benedict RaffaHealing the Sacred Divide

Image Credits:  Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, Wikipedia via Google Images. Jungian image quote:  Lewis Lafontaine. Quote image:  Brooke Snow via Google Images.

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

 

 
%d bloggers like this: