Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Animal Medicine: Acquiring Power and Success April 30, 2013

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my horse Shadow related to the healthy development of my attitudes toward power and success. I love it that when the time came for me to address these issues, without any conscious awareness of the full import of what I was doing, I chose the animal whose essence is power to be my teacher.

Horses have the physical energy and motivation necessary to acquire worldly power, but they are also symbols of soul power. Jung asserted that horses express the magic side of Man, ‘the mother within us’, or intuitive understanding; and native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that “In shamanic practices throughout the world, Horse enables shamans to fly through the air and reach heaven.” Every power issue involves both of these dimensions, for it is by meeting and overcoming challenges in the physical world that we empower our souls; conversely, the achievement of soul power leads to successful living.

In most herds of horses one can observe both kinds of power. Explosive as lightning and disruptive as hurricanes, some horses use their physical power aggressively to dominate and get their way. Through kicking, biting, and harassing any horses in the vicinity, they protect their chosen territory and ensure that they are always first in line for water, hay, grain, or the choicest new grass. But there are other horses that use their power in calmer, wiser ways. Without making a big deal of things, they simply go after what they want as peacefully, consistently, and relentlessly as a gently flowing stream. Mark Rashid, author of Horses Never Lie, calls these horses passive leaders and reports seeing one who was new to the herd decide to eat at a feed trough where the most dominant horse and two of his cronies were eating.

In a tremendous display of energy, the dominant horse tore after the new horse with ears laid back and teeth bared, chasing it fifty feet or so away from the trough. The new horse trotted away quietly and then, when the dominant horse resumed eating, came right back to the trough to try again. After half an hour of this behavior, the dominant horse was so exhausted he finally gave up and the new one walked right up and started eating from his trough, something few other members of the herd had ever dared to do. Rashid reports that in no time at all several horses began to follow the new horse around in acknowledgment of its unusual power.

When I bought Shadow I had no idea I had power issues, but he showed me just how shrouded in shadows this area of my soul was. Through him I saw my confusion about the positive and negative aspects of power and discovered a strong tendency to surrender my power to avoid conflict and keep peace. Shadow made it very clear to me that this was not a good thing. If I could not assert myself through means that gained his trust and respect, I was giving him tacit permission to test his power in ways that could become increasingly dangerous to me and detrimental to our relationship. This lesson was particularly difficult for me, but over time I learned that 1) there are positive and negative ways to satisfy the natural drive for power and success, 2) it’s okay to stand up for myself honestly, 3) it’s healthy to ask for and go after what I need, and 4) a calm, quiet, and persistent approach will eventually produce positive results.

Who knew what power lurks in Our Lady of the Beasts? Who knows how sweet and gentle power and success can be?  The Shadow knows!

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Animal Medicine: Seeing Hidden Emotions April 26, 2013

Screen-shot-2010-06-16-at-2.36.50-PM[1]As one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, my horse Shadow ranks right up there with Jung and my dreams. Horses, like dreams, are nature: they do not lie. People can cover their true feelings with masks, but horses do not know how to make masks. As animals of prey that have survived by being intensely alert and wary, they are easily unsettled by subtle signs of incongruence in people’s behavior. The tiniest gesture — a tentativeness in our stride, a sideways glance, a sudden intake of breath — can trigger prehistoric horsey images of predatory wolves clad in sheep’s clothing and cause them to spook.

One of the most amazing, and frustrating, things about horses is that they naturally mirror our emotions. If we are afraid, they will be afraid. If, beneath a calm exterior, we are irritable or angry, intense, anxious, or excitable, they will behave in accordance with the deeper reality. Shadow was especially good at this. And since I’ve always been good at ignoring uncomfortable feelings, together we were a Jungian analyst’s dream!

For example, the first time Shadow and I took a dressage test, I was vaguely aware of feeling nervous; but because I didn’t like the way that felt, I ignored it. Thirty minutes before my test was to take place, Liz, my trainer, told me to exercise him in the round pen.  This is a training technique where you ask the horse to walk, trot, and canter around you in wide circles. This warms him up, reminds him of cues, bonds him with his trainer, consumes excess energy, and gives the trainer an opportunity to monitor his mood and correct inappropriate behavior. When Shadow started moving along the fence he couldn’t have looked more anxious; his movements were tentative and irregular and his eyes darted wildly from side to side as he looked over the fence to scan the horizon for danger. When I asked him to canter he raced around in the thick sand so quickly and recklessly that I was afraid he would fall and hurt himself.

Worried, I yelled “Whoa” louder and louder, but this only got him more stirred up. I tried rushing to the side of the pen with outstretched arms to stop him, but that only made him turn around and gallop away in the opposite direction. Then suddenly the veil dropped away and I saw the full extent of my own anxiety in his behavior. Immediately I stopped dead still in the center of the ring, closed my eyes, and began to breathe as slowly and deeply from my belly as I could. As I calmed myself, his response was immediate and dramatic. Within two turns around the ring his wild pace slowed to a canter. After a couple more turns he was trotting, a few more and he walked calmly toward me, stopped behind me, and touched his nose to my left shoulder. Whereas before my behavior had convinced him there was something to worry about, now he was equally convinced everything was fine.

This lesson affected me profoundly. Fifteen minutes with Shadow in that round pen brought home something I had not mastered after years of meditation: recognizing negative emotional states and rendering them harmless by returning to my quiet center. This skill is crucial to conflict resolution in everyday relationships. And can you imagine how different the world would be if everyone involved in international relations had a Shadow to show them their shadow?

What lessons has Our Lady of the Beasts taught you through your animal friends?

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide on Amazon.com and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Animal Medicine: Developing Body Awareness April 19, 2013

When it comes to body awareness, my horse Shadow was a genius. In this respect, he was the opposite of my conscious, cerebral self, which tends to be so inner directed and one-track minded that I can be oblivious to what’s going on in my body and the world around me. Have you ever known someone who can be feeling vaguely uncomfortable for hours before realizing she’s cold, or hungry, or has a headache? Or who can be standing directly in front of the object she’s looking for and simply not see it? That’s me. Or it was me before Shadow.

Lots of people are like this. The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory says I’m a very strong intuitive, which means that my sensory awareness is equally weak. My desire to shed some light on this shadowy area of my being was one of the main reasons I bought Shadow, for I knew that training and learning to ride him well would be a demanding mental and physical challenge with the potential to bring more awareness and balance to my personality.

One day shortly after I bought him we spent about forty-five minutes in a large fenced arena doing ground exercises meant to generate mutual respect and bonding. When we were finished I took off his halter and let him loose to explore the arena on his own while I went over to the gate to talk to Sissy, the owner of the stable. As Shadow ambled away, the sky, which was gray when we started, grew more threatening, the wind picked up, and I heard rumblings of thunder in the distance. When I had bought Shadow he had a lumpy rash on his back which comes from rain that sits too long on the skin; so, as an inexperienced and over-protective new owner, I was more anxious than necessary about keeping him dry.

Suddenly I felt a rain drop. Startled and worried that a downpour would soon follow, I said to Sissy, “Oh, oh, I need to get Shadow,” and turned in his direction. From the far corner of the arena he lifted his head and pointed his ears at me. And then, to my astonishment, he walked directly toward me. When he reached my side he stood stock still and ducked his head to make it easier for me to put on his halter. I did, and we walked quietly to his stall.

I was stunned. I felt as if he had read my mind and for a moment was convinced I had a brilliant telepathic horse on my hands! Actually, as any horse owner knows, horses do at times appear to be extremely telepathic; but I don’t think this is the whole explanation for what he did. I think all our bonding activities that day had caused him to accept me as his leader — an alpha mare, if you will — and made him acutely sensitive to my every movement.

Even though he had his back turned to me and was nibbling at grass sprouting through the fence, this expert reader of body language was keeping an eye on me. When I reacted to the rain drop, my body must have changed from a posture that spoke of casual relaxation to one of alarmed alertness. Seeing that something was wrong, he was drawn to me in the same way a fearful child seeks the comfort of a trusted parent in a tense situation.

I’ll never be as aware of my body or physical matter as I am of my inner life. It’s just the way I’m made, and that’s okay with me. But thanks to Shadow, I’m much more conscious of my body’s messages to myself and others.  Unfortunately, I’m still a lousy finder!

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Learning From Our Lady of the Beasts April 16, 2013

“The Earth Mother is…the eternally fruitful source of everything…. Each separate being is a manifestation of her; all things share in her life through an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth….Her animals….embody the deity herself, defining her personality and exemplifying her power.”  Buffie Johnson, Our Lady of the Beasts, Inner Traditions

The successful wielding of power to enhance our soul’s development is a primary concern of the feminine archetypes. For them, power is not about controlling otherness, but about loving and learning from otherness so that our souls are empowered to become what they were created to be. If this is to happen, our energies need to be redirected away from pursuits aimed at acquiring external, historical power toward those that bring internal, natural power. By natural power I mean the soul’s power to act from its rich, authentic core, unencumbered by the chains of fear, ignorance, and conformity. One way of loosening these chains is to learn from Earth Mother’s manifestations in nature.

The farther removed we are from nature, the less apt we are to hear Sophia’s voice or learn from her natural guidance. One night after an eventful weekend at our mountain home I recorded five valuable insights I had acquired, all of them necessary to my empowerment, and none of which I would have learned had I stayed indoors. Through my adult interactions with nature I am rediscovering something I knew as a child but never had the words for: staying close to nature brings me closer to my truest self.

A major step in my own return to nature began when, in my fifties, I fulfilled a childhood dream of buying my own horse to train: a two-and-a-half-year old gray thoroughbred I called Honey’s Shadow Dancer — gray to symbolize the union of the opposites of black and white for which I strive, Honey for his sweetness, Shadow to signify my desire to be always mindful of my own shadow, and Dancer to honor the ever-changing dance of life. For me, the physical care I lavished on him and our efforts to understand and trust one another were spiritual practices that were every bit as meaningful as my earlier, more cerebral ones.

Native teachers and healers Jamie Sams and David Carson tell us that for many native peoples Horse represents both physical and unearthly power, and that the impact of Horse’s domestication was akin to the discovery of fire. “Before Horse, humans were earthbound, heavy-laden, and slow creatures indeed. Once humans climbed on Horse’s back, they were as free and fleet as the wind. Through their special relationship with Horse, humans altered their self-concept beyond measure. Horse was the first animal medicine of civilization.”

The term animal medicine refers to life lessons learned from animals whose characteristics and habits demonstrate how to walk on our physical Earth Mother in harmony with the universe. Like Buffie Johnson, I think of the aspect of Earth Mother that conveys lessons through wild creatures and beloved animal companions as Our Lady of the Beasts. Next time I’ll share some empowering animal medicine she brought to me through my beloved teacher, Shadow.

What animal teachers has Our Lady of the Beasts sent to you?

Congratulations to the three winners of my blog tour giveaway: Nancy Hup , Vicki Edmundson, and Rick Boys. They’ll each receive an autographed copy of Healing the Sacred Divide, and Nancy, as first place winner, will also receive an Amazon gift card.  Thank you to them and to all who followed the tour.

 

The 52nd Week December 28, 2012

Izzie and Bear

Izzie and Bear

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For me it stands out from the other 51 weeks in a year like a peaceful Zen garden amidst chaos, a special oasis where I attend to soul needs that require annual closure.

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

On the outside that decade was about perfecting and preserving the collective values of the times in which I was raised. But on the inside I’d been on a dark, underground journey and I was desperate to understand the conflicts that were tormenting my psyche.

In the fall of 1989 I joined a Centerpoint group based on Jungian psychology. A year later I had quit my job to write a book, attended my first Journey Into Wholeness conference, and was recording and studying my dreams. The year of 1990 was a threshold into the most life-changing, soul-satisfying and creative period of my life.

Throughout the nineties I did dreamwork every morning and wrote every afternoon. In the 52nd week of each year I reread my dream journals and summarized important themes and trends, noted new developments, and highlighted valuable insights. The annual practice of remembering and integrating my soul’s processes brought greater awareness to my daily life and provided useful data for my writing. This was my decade of finding, connecting with, and honoring the inner kingdom of the Self.

The new millennium brought new insights and year’s-end rituals. Initially, I employed “animal medicine” to address an unprecedented need to get in touch with my body and nature by fulfilling a lifelong dream to own and train my very own horse. Later, when my grandchildren began arriving, I was given a second chance to develop and indulge my maternal, care-giving instincts. This time around I was far more conscious and joyful. Since then we’ve spent the week between Christmas and New Years’ at the cabin with our children, grandchildren and dogs enjoying, yes, you guessed it, physical, outdoor, non-cerebral fun like sledding, making snow angels, and building snowmen!

Once again it’s my favorite week of the year. We arrived at the cabin last night with Izzie, my new grand-dog who’s a female version of her predecessor, Bear. Some family will arrive tonight, the rest in a few days. This morning Fred and I threw out the outdated food in the pantry and freezer. Now he’s grocery shopping while I’m writing this blog post, an endeavor that has brought me enormous pleasure for almost three years.

It’s still too early into this decade to forecast what its theme or 52nd-week ritual will be. But for today, savoring my life as I’ve been doing these last two hours has satisfied every need of my soul. May the new year bring you renewed awareness and gratitude for the times of your own one, precious life.

In closing, if you have a bit of extra time you might enjoy this radio interview I recently did for the Centerpoint Foundation about my introduction to Jungian psychology.

 

A Meditation on Our Mother: Nature August 2, 2011

As I write this I’m preparing to host a day of meditation for a dozen people at our cabin in the mountains.  Unless it rains, some of that time will be spent outdoors. At an altitude of about 3,300 feet, we’re situated in an enchanted womb of a valley encircled by densely wooded mountains, most of which are named after animals or natural formations resembling familiar shapes. What will we see or hear as we meditate near the house, in the woods along the trail, or in the nearby national forest? What will we learn from our mother and the mother of all life?  How will she inspire and change us?

Our cabin is visited daily by several varieties of birds, including kingfishers, red tail hawks, hummingbirds and crows — or perhaps they’re ravens; I’m not sure how to tell the difference — squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and rabbits.  Occasionally we see wild hogs, hedgehogs, turkeys, a great blue heron, deer, or black bear. Last week a glittering large — at least five feet long — black snake glided up the front porch steps, then, possibly deterred by the horrified energy emanating from a few frozen humans, veered off to the left and slithered down into the thick groundcover.

The pond has trout, and, apparently, a large turtle who sends intermittent pillars of bubbles to the surface.  Water skaters, dragonflies and other insects flit and flirt near the surface. Last night we saw fireflies. During the day we are serenaded by birds, bullfrogs and cicadas; at night by crickets and tree frogs.  We awaken and are lulled to sleep by the music of cool, rushing, boulder-skirting, rock-splashing water.

It’s impossible to take a walk without finding something that fascinates. Dead branches dotted with mounds of pale green ruffled lichen or shallow-bowled orange fungus beg to be picked up. Hornets vacate papier mache’ nests the size of cantaloupes. Discarded feathers, some alarmingly big, elicit excited cries of, “Oh, look what I found!” Cicadas, butterflies and moths abandon their husks on tree trunks, fence posts and porch railings. Daddy longlegs stalk the deck and scale the rocking chairs. Spider Woman awaits her lunch in shimmering webs beneath the eaves. We’re convinced there are fairies at the bottom of our garden.

When our grandchildren were here we talked about the perils of mushrooms, poison ivy, chiggers, wooly adelgid (a furry white parasite that’s killing our hemlocks), honey bees, yellow flies and stinging nettles. We identified the fern which emits a spicy-sweet earthen aroma we associate with this place. We picked and ate raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. We discussed when to leave a bird’s nest where it is and when it’s okay to add it to our nature tray. They waded in the icy cold creek, slipped on mossy boulders, captured tadpoles and crayfish. They left some of their treasures — shiny sheets of mica, sparkly rocks, buckeyes or feathers — in a tree hollow used by fairies as a post office.  By the end of their visit the fairies discovered these gifts and left treasures in return.

It is impossible not to be awed, enchanted and enlightened by Mother Nature’s magic, yet how often we forget to notice the miracles she leaves for us just outside our doors. Lauren Hutton has said, “Anything, everything can be learned if you can just get yourself in a little patch of real ground, real nature, real woods, real anything … and just sit still and watch.”

We’ll open our inner doors to real things tomorrow. What will we learn about our own natures from meditating on Mother Nature? What have you learned?

 

The Choice: A Story About a Boy and His Dog July 29, 2011

Dear friends: In the last few months, Joseph Anthony, author of TheWonderChildBlog, has became a treasured new internet friend. Joseph is a gifted writer, blogger, teacher, musician, husband and father whose enormous courage has transformed a difficult past of abuse and addiction into a creative outpouring which celebrates psychological healing and spiritual living. You may have seen his thoughtful comments here and know he published one of my posts, Dragon Lady: Shadow of the Queen, on his own blog.

Joseph and I enjoyed our collaboration so much that we’re doing it again. Today I’m sharing a story he wrote that was inspired by my last post, Another Dog Story. Joseph dedicated his story to me, and I’m dedicating this post to my son, Matt, who raised our golden retriever, Bear, from a puppy and was his primary owner until the last two years of our beloved friend’s life.  Enjoy.

The Choice

The child walked through the fields of light looking for his dog. He hadn’t seen it in what seemed like forever. He began to cry, brushing the tops of the radiant grass as he walked, when suddenly he heard the soft beating of wings and an angel alighted at his side. For a long time they said nothing. She walked with her hands cupped at her belly, looking straight ahead. He swiped a stick around them as they went.

“I miss him,” the boy said.

“He was your daemon,” she said.

“But I thought daemons never left you. That’s what the other angels said.”

“They don’t leave you. But they’re spirits, just like you and me, and so sometimes – well, sometimes when the unexpected happens, they get lost, just like us.”

“The boy was quiet a moment. He knew what she meant by unexpected, for here he was walking the illuminated fields of heaven with an angel. “So Bear’s lost?” He asked.

“In a manner of speaking. But he’s looking for you. And he’ll find you, you can count on that. He’s a clever dog.”

“Do I have to just wait for him to find me? Couldn’t I look for him too?”

“Of course,” said the angel. “In fact, your love for him acts as a beacon. Through the hazy distances of memory and through the corridors of his love for you – he will find you. He will come.”

The angel placed her hand around his shoulder and pulled him closer.”Keep calling him,” she said. “He’s listening. And keep being you – for it is when you are being yourself that your daemon is most attracted to you.”

“Do you suppose he’s upset that I left him?” asked the boy, his voice catching in his throat.

“You must stop thinking about it like that,” the angel answered. “You didn’t leave him. You made a choice. After the accident, when the Great Light asked if you wanted to remain here, you said yes, that’s all.”

“But I should have never said yes. I was being selfish.”

“Selfish?” said the angel in a voice much louder than usual. “So you had the opportunity to stay here, away from the sickness that surrounded your home back there. And you call that selfish?”

“He’s there though. I left him there and you know how daddy treated him.”

“Your daddy is a different man after the accident. Your choice to stay here has changed him. His heart broke in just the perfect way as to let the Light in. He will never mistreat anyone or anything again. He is a new creation. And if you would have gone back, he would still be steeped in his disease, so no more talk of selfish.”

“But what about mother?” said the boy.

“You don’t think she’s been born again watching your father be born again? You don’t think she’s a better person too? Your choice to stay here has changed them both. There’s hope for them now. They are helping thousands of families with their project. Many, many lives will be saved as a result of their choice to build upon your choice.”

“OK, OK,” so I’m not selfish. I still want Bear.”

“Of course,” said the angel.

“I won’t stop calling for him until he finds me,” said the boy.

“Or you find him,” said the angel.

“I’ll keep praying too,” said the boy.

“You are praying,” she said. “With every step and tear and word you are praying; by just being you – living the way you are living here in this world of Light and Use – you are praying. Don’t ever worry about not praying. Everything you do is a prayer, Dear Brave Heart.” And with that there was a rustling of unfurling wings and she was gone.

He stood in the river of white, shining grass and started calling for Bear. He walked all day in bright field calling, calling. Then the angels began singing. He spun around. When the angels sing that song – the welcoming song – there is a new arrival. The last time he heard it his great Aunt Ivy appeared. He began running towards the sound, for when heaven rejoices at a homecoming, the sound is indescribably wonderful. As he ran he forgot about Bear and instead thought about how happy whoever it was would be to have returned home to their dearest love.

When he reached the center of heaven he stopped. He shook his head. He was stunned. The hosts of heaven, the Great Light, and every soul from every part of the celestial world had gathered around something sitting in their midst. It was a black and white shaggy dog.

“Bear!” He shouted. And at the sound of his name, Bear took off running – fairly galloping over the snowy white grass, and he leapt into the boy’s embrace. The boy held Bear, weeping on his neck. Bear panted happily, licking the boy’s face with big, sloppy kisses. His angel appeared before them. She smiled, still singing.

“I didn’t know they did that for animals too,” laughed the boy with his arms still around Bear.

“All souls,” she said. “We sing for all souls.”

“When will I start singing like that?” He asked.

“Now,” she said. “Now that Bear’s with you, you are complete.”

And that’s when he felt his shoulder blades painlessly change their shape. They extended out and up and back, and a certain, splendid heaviness sprouted in two directions. He had wings. He opened and closed them as he stood, keeping his hand on Bear’s head. He smiled at Bear and at the angel, and began laughing.

****

Kneeling by the side of the road, the police officer put his hand on the side of the big dog’s bleeding head. “He’s gone,” he said. “There was nothing you could do. Don’t blame yourself. It’s dark. Hard to see.”

“He just jumped in the middle of the road,” the teenage girl said, sniffling. “I didn’t see him until it was too late.”

“I understand,” said the policeman. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes,” she said, looking up at the stars. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” asked the policeman.

“Singing,” she said. “I hear singing.”

 

 
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