Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

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.

 

 

Signs at the Crossroads September 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always be mindful of the miracle of life and light.

Stay mindful of the miracle of life and light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Izzy's message to me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think she prefers the road less traveled too.

When your heart knows the way, step forth boldly!

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

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

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

Respect local traditions.

Respect Nature.

Respect change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Have You Ever Met a Mystic? July 14, 2015

mysticism5Please do not let the word “mystic” scare you. It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and available to everyone. The experience of divine union is the goal of all religion.  ~Richard Rohr, Catholic Theologian and author of The Naked Now:  Learning to See as the Mystics See. (pp. 29-30.)

Have you ever had what felt like a “religious experience?”  Something that filled you with awe and wonder and made you feel you were in the presence of the Divine? Perhaps it came in physical form, like a wildly improbable synchronistic experience; a wave of chills that came while listening to a beautiful hymn; seeing an aura around a person; or feeling a powerful surge of energy in your body that couldn’t be explained by science. Maybe it was an extraordinarily meaningful dream, vision of light, sudden knowing, or spiritual awakening. Or you stepped onto a forest glade or mountain peak with a view that stopped you in your tracks and brought tears of appreciation and gratitude to your eyes. If you’ve experienced these or similar things, you’re not alone.

Throughout history, revered spiritual leaders such as Lao Tsu, Jesus, Buddha, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Mother Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Hasidei Ashkenaz, Rumi, Ibn Arabi, and countless ordinary people have reported spontaneous mystical experiences.  Documented religious experiences have also been induced by a variety of hallucinogens for millennia.

Either way, mystical experiences are not only real, but surprisingly common.  Why?  They’re simply evidence of the benevolent life-giving and life-sustaining Divinity that indwells every one of us, that permeates our minds and physical bodies, that is the very substance of which we are made. What should be more surprising than having a mystical experience is not having one!

Unfortunately, the idea that we can each find a direct and personal pathway to the Divine is still considered blasphemous by many adherents to mainstream religions.  And when hallucinogens are used to induce mystical experiences, world governments get involved in banning them. This, despite the fact that a rigorous study with clearly explicated methods was conducted in clinical conditions at John Hopkins university in 2006 with astonishing and highly beneficial results that

“may re-define our mutual human history as it’s been indoctrinated into billions of humans across the planet.  Not just one of two participants spoke of having an ineffable mystical experience;  it was 79% of the 36 participants who underwent the study…. That’s truly an astounding and inarguable number.”

As one writer reports, a follow-up in 2011

“appeared in the June 2011 issue of Psychopharmacology entitled Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: immediate and persisting dose-related effects“. Personally, I feel it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever read.  How often do any of us get to read something that speaks directly to the human psyche in relation of our experience of the mystical in such a scientific and clinical environment, but while recounting it in such personally spiritual terms?”

Now here’s the kicker:

“This study unquestionably and undeniably validates what shamans and spiritual explorers throughout history have known, what they’ve often shared at the risk of incarceration or death, but have painstakingly documented throughout history: The Psilocybe mushroom, a hallucinogen, can provide any one of us with an extraordinary, life-changing mystical experience that is indistinguishable from any other religious experience reported in our mutual human history.  What is perhaps more extraordinary is that the participants in this study didn’t just have a spiritual experience; the ingestion of these hallucinogenic mushrooms “produced substantial spiritual effects” and “those beneficial effects appear to last more than a year” (Griffiths et. al., 2008). In other words, here we have an example of scientifically proven religion, a spirituality that, rather than being in conflict with the rational, is supported by it.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not pushing a particular agenda for drug reform, despite the obvious need.  And I know the difference between entheogens—a term meaning “to reveal the Divine within” that belongs to a category of substances used for Divinatory purposes—and dangerous and life-threatening drugs like cocaine and heroin. It’s just that my goal in this blog is to serve evolving consciousness and empower individuals to discover spiritual meaning for themselves, and I’m not going to avoid doing so just because it requires us to challenge outmoded laws, belief systems and institutions.

My point is simply that we don’t have to blindly follow doctrines, religions, or spiritual authorities to connect with God!  Nor should we, unless they serve our growth into compassion and expanding consciousness.  Rather, we can listen to and learn from our own inner spiritual authority, which can be developed with reflective and meditative spiritual practices. Each of us knows what’s truly Sacred in the depths of our being, and that inner knowing, that actual inner experience of holiness, is available to everyone.

Have you ever met a mystic?  You have if you or anyone else you know has had an individual “religious” experience of divine union that s/he trusts over collective attitudes and institutions. If so, I invite you to share your story here.

Image Credit:  Google Images.  “Contemplation” Nathan Jon Tillett 2003 http://www.Fuzzy Planet.co.uk

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.

 

New Dreams About My Animus: Part II April 21, 2015

Wonder-129-School-Bus-Static-ImageIn last week’s post I shared two animus dreams from four years ago featuring helpful men. One made me feel loved, protected and deeply secure. The other was my partner in a creative, spontaneous dance performance that was fun, but unfinished. Hooray, I thought then. My animus and I are finally getting our act together!  Surely it won’t be long before I feel some closure on our relationship.

Four years later this relationship is still far from predictable, let alone finished, as the following dreams from a week ago illustrate.

#4630.  “I Want to Stop Driving the Bus.” I’m driving a yellow school bus down the road near my house when the light turns red.  I struggle to stop before hitting the black car in front of me. The bus finally stops inches away from the car. Why am I driving this bus? Stopping it is hard. Where am I going? Why isn’t Fred here to help me? I decide to abandon it in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store and walk home.

#4631.  “My Beautiful Green Shoes Need Work. I’m trying on a pair of green beaded shoes I haven’t worn in years. They resemble the low-heeled Capezios professional dancers wear. They’re very comfortable but the heads of four nails are sticking out from the bottoms of the heels, moreso on the right [masculine] heel than the left [feminine]. They feel sturdy enough to walk on, but they need work before I can trust my footing to be secure. I hope Fred will help me hammer in the nails.

These dreams made me uncomfortable. How did they relate to my waking life?  What was I doing four years ago that had me feeling so good about my animus?  What’s different now? Why isn’t he, (this time in the form of my husband who always has my back in waking life), there for me when my dream ego needs him?

UnknownI had no satisfying answers until a synchronistic occurrence this morning. Having just read last week’s post, Katalina commented:  “What an interesting evolution! What else is shifting / changing that might require the re-consideration of the relationship? In what areas of life is there a faint mistrust?…Funny that there is an audience – I have been thinking of you so much in the context of audience lately. That IASD conference coming up…[and her desire to attend my Friday night keynote lecture]…the theme of presenting to an audience – U wonder if you don’t trust him to be there for you when on stage?”

BINGO!  That’s it! Last week I was convinced there was a link between my older animus dreams and the two most recent ones, and dear Katalina intuited what it was!  My Writer/Teacher animus helps me manifest my thoughts in clear, organized, logical thinking. Four years ago this month he and I were working closely together to finalize my newest book for publication. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have his help and I often took a few moments off to thank him. Likewise, for the past few months I’ve been driving hard, preparing to address an audience of dreamers who want to learn what I know, and he’s been invaluable in helping me write my speech and create my powerpoint presentation.

Now that we’re finished with this phase of the journey, my animus has stepped out of the picture and my old nemesis, Self-Doubt, is using his absence to undermine me. I’m ready to get off the bus. I don’t want to “drive” this project to completion without my animus. Will we take up our graceful dance on the stage at the conference? Will I be wearing my repaired dancing shoes? Will he help me voice my standpoint to this live audience as well as he does in my writing?

The journey to self-knowledge and self-empowerment takes a lifetime. At this particular juncture I think I’ve been taking the masculine half of my soul for granted and he might be feeling a bit neglected. Now that I realize how much I need his help, I plan to lure him back with some long overdue inner work: a few active imagination dialogues and maybe a ritual or two! Like most men, he turns into a real softie with some tender, loving attention!

Image Credits:  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, 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.

 

Viewing Your Life through Mythic Eyes September 16, 2014

Celebrating my 10th birthday in my childhood home

Celebrating my 10th birthday in my childhood home

A few weeks ago my brother Jim and sister-in-law Mary came over for dinner.  Jim brought me copies of some old photographs he’d found stashed away in a closet. Among them were two taken in the dining room of our childhood home.  As I was preparing to publish last week’s post, The Interior Designer Within, which was about a recent dream, I realized the old photos might make good illustrations so I added them. In the week since then I’ve been flooded with many meaningful connections between the pictures and the dream. In this and the next post I’d like to share them with you.

The spate of insights was triggered by a comment Steven made. In the dream I’m sitting at a white table in the new dining room of my remodeled childhood home.  Steven wrote, “I’ve only scanned the article and will return but have to say that photograph with the double-candle gateway is simply beautiful. I like the second one also, very much, but the first one is not only rich and warm but also loaded with symbolism. A child looking into the future…it could be a European film.”

I reviewed the pictures to check out the symbols and what I saw was mind-boggling.

We’re celebrating my tenth birthday. A round birthday cake sits in the center of the table. In Jungian psychology centrality and circles are primary symbols of the Self, the archetype of wholeness and our religious function. So Steven’s association of the double-candle gateway on either side of it struck a very deep chord, indeed. The Self has been the ultimate object of my search since way before I had any idea of what I yearned for:  Enlightenment!

Moreover, this child looking into the future is leaning toward her father on the opposite side of the table. Daddy was my hero, and he died only 20 months after this picture was taken. So it’s no surprise that a major impetus for my psycho-spiritual journey has been a powerful desire to connect not only with a masculine God who would never die, but also with my inner opposite, my masculine Animus for whom Daddy is most certainly a symbol.

birthday2I’d already noticed the round picture above the center of the buffet and the circular glass bowl (alchemical vessel) beneath it, but now I saw another circular object (Self) on the left (unconscious) side of the buffet. Positioned precisely between the flames of the two candles (conscious and unconscious?), a cup and saucer (chalice and paten) were on display.

In the same photo I saw my shadow on the wall. Then I saw it again in the second photo, this time just over my left (unconscious) shoulder.  (I’m pretty sure all that darkness isn’t just my hair.) If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know that befriending my Shadow has been another major impetus for my explorations into the unconscious.

Now here’s where it gets mind-blowing. In the first photo I suddenly noticed the book under the round object on the left side of the buffet.   Since I’ve written four books, it’s especially meaningful to see a book in the only two pictures I have of the dining room in my childhood home.  But then I saw that in the second picture my right hand is resting on what looks like another book!  On the table! What was so wild was that in my recent dream, the white dining room table was where I did my writing!

Then the full force of these coincidences hit me.  When my grandparents came for Sunday dinner or special occasions we always read a chapter from the Bible before we ate. On this occasion my father’s deeply religious mother was there. She had traveled from Michigan to help take care of Daddy after his second heart attack.  Since his birthday was only 13 days before mine, she had made the cake and arranged this celebration for both of us. The fact that the Bible was beside me meant that I had been invited to read. Whenever this happened I invariably chose the 23rd or 91st Psalm. Here are the verses I loved best:

Psalm 23; Verse 4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;  for thou art with me…” Verse 5: “Thou preparest a table before me…my cup runneth over.”  Death. Shadow. Table. Cup. They’re all foreshadowed in the photographs!

Psalm 91; Verse 1:  “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”  There it is again:  Shadow.

Two photographs taken sixty years ago.  An unremarkable dream from two weeks ago. Two incidents that occurred almost a lifetime apart. Yet, when I put them together into one blog post, an alchemical reaction transformed them into a powerful testament to the interconnectivity of life.  The Mystery is everywhere, within and around us. And we can see it when we view our life through mythic eyes. Can you see it?

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

 

 
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