Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Freeing Buried Emotions August 28, 2012

Recently Deepak Chopra posted an article on Huffington Post about the relationship between physical health and consciousness. He wrote that the mind and body are connected in a feedback loop which works all the time, whether you’re awake, asleep or in a coma. But here’s what I found most interesting: when you participate in the feedback loop with self-awareness, you make your mind and body allies in a positive partnership that leads toward increased health and longevity.

After reading Dr. Chopra’s and Dr. Rudy Tanzi’s eleven “prescriptions” to a self-aware approach to life, I copied two into my blog file thinking I might want to write a post about them. Behind my conscious reason, however, was another of which I was barely aware: I needed these prescriptions for myself! One was: “Free yourself emotionally — to be emotionally resilient is the best defense against growing rigid.” In other words, there’s a cause and effect relationship between mental and physical inflexibility and vulnerability.

This advice has been simmering in my mind since then, and now I know why I found it so compelling. I haven’t exercised regularly this summer and am getting increasingly stiff. Today I did a lot of bending and stooping and weed-pulling in the garden around the root cellar, and soon afterwards felt the need for two Aleves!  I know this isn’t unusual for my age, but I also know it’s not inevitable. So what’s the mental correlate that might be contributing to it?

My mother was a wonderful woman, but she was not emotionally open or resilient. In fact, she was so emotionally vulnerable—fragile, really—that to her death she strongly resisted feeling and manifesting any strong emotions at all. Since she never dealt consciously with this aspect of her shadow, I naturally inherited it. So here’s the connection. She died four years ago this month, five days short of her 94th birthday. My brother and I knew she wanted to be cremated, but she never told us what to do with her ashes. So I’ve kept them in a closet. As you can imagine, this has been weighing heavily on my shoulders. My rather stiff shoulders. Does this suggest anything to you? It sure does to me!

I’ve been trying to uncover some long-buried emotions for several years and it’s paying off.  I’m less sensitive and emotionally reactive, and I’m losing my unconscious tendency to deny physical and emotional pain. A few months ago when I read a post on Elaine Mansfield’s blog about the stone cairn she and her sons built over her husband’s ashes, I had an epiphany. Our North Carolina property is practically a quarry! Burying her here under a cairn was the perfect answer!  The fact I was ready to let her go tells me I was also ready to let go of some guilt, anger and denial related to her.

Last Saturday evening my brother, husband, and I buried Mom’s ashes in a garden we created for her this summer. At one point Jim paused for a moment. The sound of the gurgling creek flowing past the garden had brought back a memory from our youth. We rarely went on vacations, but once Mom saved enough money to rent a beach cottage. That week she spent most of her time on the porch reading and doing crossword puzzles. One day she said to Jim, “I just love listening to the water.”  In dreams, water often symbolizes emotions. She may not have heard her pain in life, but now she has no pain, and she can listen to something she loves for eternity. Rest in peace, Mom. We’re both freer now.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, from www.Amazon.com or www.LarsonPublications.com

 

Do You Take Yourself Too Seriously? August 17, 2012

A while back I attended a lovely gathering with friends. Later that evening I realized that instead of feeling good, I felt oddly uncomfortable. When I asked myself why, I knew it was because much my conversation had come from my ego. Instead of just enjoying their company, I had been comparing what they said to what I think, then unconsciously wanting to impress them with my thoughts! Ouch!

Deepak Chopra has written: “It is much more beneficial to your health if you feel your way through life than think your way through life. Self-awareness monitors how you feel.” What does this have to do with how I interacted with my friends?  Simply this. When I was with them I was not self-aware. I was trying to impress them with my thinking, not monitoring how I was feeling. As a result,  my behavior that day was not beneficial to me or them.

In my last post I wrote about a crucial moment in my development when I was overcome with self-consciousness. I’ve also written about how a dream in which the Lone Ranger shot me was a wake-up call into a new way of seeing myself and life. At my fiftieth birthday party roast a friend joked about my tendency to take myself seriously. In March of this year I published a post titled “Is Self-Discovery Selfish?” All these “self” issues touch on self-awareness. How we use this inherent ability has more to do with our well-being than anything else in our lives!

Nobody explains these concepts more clearly than Dr. Chopra, so instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, I’ll use his words: “When you have any experience, your mind is in one of three states: unconscious, aware, and self-aware. The first state leaves health — and well-being generally — to chance. If you light up your fifth cigarette of the day without thinking, you are doing something unconsciously, as is the nature of habits. If you see yourself lighting up the cigarette, you are aware of what you’re doing. But self-awareness goes further; it says, “What am I doing to myself?” Posing questions, reflecting on your behavior, looking at the larger picture, taking your life seriously — these are all self-aware behaviors.”

Asking ourselves, “What am I doing to myself? or “What did I just do and why?” is how we feel our way through life instead of thinking our way through life. This does not require great wisdom, intelligence, or logical thinking. It simply requires us to take ourselves seriously.

In this sense, the word “feeling” is not about emotions, but about what we value. It’s about noticing what we’re doing and how important it is to us. About what feels meaningful. What makes us feel better about ourselves. Lighting up our fifth cigarette may bring an emotional release from stress, but does it really make us feel better about ourselves? If it doesn’t, and if we ignore that fact and keep smoking anyway, we’re not taking ourselves seriously enough.

Taking oneself seriously has positive and negative aspects. In my conversation with my friends I was aware, but I was not self-aware. I was taking myself too seriously. But when I reflected on my discomfort later that evening I was feeling my way through my life. I was being self-aware, noticing what I value. I value my friends and want them to enjoy being with me. Knowing I can take myself so seriously that I can diminish our mutual pleasure makes me squirm. But knowing I can be self-aware gives me hope for a more beneficial outcome the next time I’m with them.

 

Puppy Love July 20, 2012

Recently I shared a dream from many years ago (Seeing Through the Mist) of a sacred garden where a puppy playfully grabbed my hand as if inviting me to follow him. Who was this puppy named Prince? What was he doing in my dream? Where did he want to take me? In those days I had only a vague inkling of what this sweet symbol had to do with me. But the sweetness has spread a hundred-fold since then and I thought you might be interested in knowing why.

Animals in dreams usually represent our physical, animal natures. In Jungian psychology dogs are often seen as psychopomps, i.e. spiritual initiators and guides who direct the transformation of souls. For example, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the river Styx, the place of transition between physical life and the underworld afterlife.  Psychologically, the upper world represents our conscious selves and the underworld represents the unconscious: our unknown depths. 

So how did this symbol relate to the transformation occurring in my soul? I found a clue in the writing of Thomas Moore. In his book, Care of the Soul, he says that during the Middle Ages, many wise people considered the body to be a physical manifestation of the soulDeepak Chopra addresses the same theme in Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul.  Both write about the loss of soul that comes from neglecting the sacred life in our bodies.

Was I attuned to the sacredness of the life in my physical body?  Did I treat it like a spiritual vessel for my soul? Did I respect the messages it sent me through emotions and physical sensations? Absolutely not. And here’s why. At the age of 11 I learned the most devastating lesson anyone can have:  the reality and inevitability of death.  When my father died, my unconscious response was to escape physical vulnerability and pain by strengthening my mind and spirit.

From then on, I was a stoic little Warrior.  I refused novacaine when the dentist drilled my teeth.  If my eyes filled with tears, I simply wiped them away and pressed on. If I felt physically drained, instead of noticing what was sapping my energy I criticized myself for wimping out. If someone said something cruel or nobody asked me to dance at the Jr. High cotillion, I refused to feel hurt.  So for the grown-up me, the puppy represented an inner soul guide whose appearance signaled my readiness to become better acquainted with my physical, instinctual, emotional self.

What about his name: Prince? Did that mean something too? Of course it did. Everything in our dreams has meaning for us. Consider this association for “prince” from The Herder Symbol Dictionary: “Psychoanalytically he can be understood as the representative of victorious ego powers.” This innocuous little puppy symbolized a profound spiritual truth: The success of our journey is a function of our (our ego’s) willingness to acquire as much reverence for the unconscious life in our bodies as we have for the conscious life of the mind.

That this puppy was a Prince and not a fully adult King suggested I had a lot of growing up to do. But the fact that he was being fed by unconscious aspects of my psyche (the unknown people in the dream who gave him food) was enormously reassuring because it said parts of me were beginning to heed this wisdom so beautifully expressed by Jungian analyst, Dr. Cara Barker: “Take the time to feed what is hungry in your soul, and rest what is weary in your heart.”  Today I realize that receiving Prince’s affirmation from the sacred depths was when I stopped trying to escape my life and started falling back in love with it.

Click here to see a video of my first interview for my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide.

 

The Power of Choice April 16, 2011

In this blog I use the framework of Jungian psychology to express my philosophy about life which can be summarized in four words: “Think psychologically; live spiritually.” Because Jung’s discoveries have been so meaningful to me, I’ve hoped to help others make sense of their lives by sharing what I’ve learned.

In my experience, most people drawn to Jungian psychology tend to be curious, progressive, open-minded thinkers who enjoy exploring old ideas and staying in touch with the newest theories in many fields other than psychology. Some of the most common in this mixed bag are quantum physics, astrophysics, astronomy, astrology, anthropology, archaeology, architecture, alchemy, literature, film, religion, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, brain research, dream research, gender relationships and women’s studies. Their goal in familiarizing themselves with such a broad range of knowledge is to gain a better understanding of the reasons for human thought and behavior in the hope of improving the health and wholeness of themselves, their clients, and all humankind.

A field currently yielding some of the most exciting developments is brain functioning, and in particular, the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. MedicineNet.com provides this definition of neuroplasticity: “The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.”

Of most interest to me is the fact that a leading advocate of research in this field is the Dalai Lama who has encouraged Buddhist monks to become “guinea pigs” for scientists wishing to learn if there is a correlation between intentional mind-training techniques like meditation, and physical changes in the brain. The results of this unprecedented collaboration between science and religion point to the startling conclusion that we can change our lives by changing our brains.

The implications are mind-blowing. Until recently, mainstream science has been skeptical of reports that a regular program of meditation creates more compassion, peace, and well-being. But today a growing number of scientists take some of the traditional claims of psychology and religion very seriously indeed.

For example, Dr. Rudolph Tanzi of the Harvard Medical School says we are more than our brains and bodies, which are merely the instruments of an intangible “real self.” If this real self, (what Jung would call the Self), is not in charge of our intellect and emotions — i.e. if our egos do not listen to our thoughts and monitor our emotions and follow our intuition and make conscious, original and caring choices — we are their servant! But with regular mind-training practices such as meditation and dream work we can change our brains and transform ourselves from slaves to masters of our lives!

For more information check out this video of a conversation between Deepak Chopra and Dr. Tanzi. Meanwhile, consider this:  Our mind has unimaginable potential;  our ego is a small, but crucial element of that potential. Small, because its sphere of consciousness is like a grain of sand on the shore of a cosmic ocean of consciousness;  crucial because that tiny grain has the life-changing power of choice. If our lives feel narrow and fulfilling it is because we, our ego selves, have not chosen to do what it takes to enlarge and enrich them. Why?  Ignorance, complacency, laziness, fear of censure, retribution, failure or the unknown…you name it. But regardless of the reason, we can still choose to change our brains and our lives if we truly want to.

 

Puppy Love May 11, 2010

Recently I wrote about a dream from many years ago of a sacred garden where a puppy playfully grabbed my hand as if inviting me to follow him. Who was this puppy named Prince? What was he doing in my dream? Where did he want to take me? In those days I had only a vague inkling of what this sweet symbol had to do with me. But the sweetness has spread a hundred-fold since then and I thought you might be interested in knowing why.

Animals in dreams usually represent our physical, animal natures. In Jungian psychology dogs are often seen as psychopomps, i.e. spiritual initiators and guides who direct the transformation of souls. For example, in Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the river Styx, the place of transition between the upper- and underworlds. Psychologically, the upper world symbolizes everything we know about ourselves and the underworld represents our unknown and undeveloped depths.

A major issue with spiritually oriented people like me is that we can become so infatuated with the abstract life of the mind that we tend to lose touch with our feelings and bodies. Have you ever been moved to tears by something and not known why? Our bodies send us emotional messages like this all the time, and dismissing them is like failing to open a letter from your most trusted friend. I used to ignore these spontaneous eruptions from the underworld but now I try to figure out what they’re trying to tell me. Are they about a sad loss? A painful betrayal? An unhealed wound? Or do they signify overflowing gratitude for the blessings of my life, like the freedom to be myself, a thoughtful gift from a grandchild, or a loving hug from a dear friend?

Anyway, during the Middle Ages, many wise people considered the body to be a physical manifestation of the soul. This idea is being revived today by people like Thomas Moore (Care of the Soul), and Deepak Chopra (Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul). The common theme in these books is the loss of soul that comes from neglecting the sacred life in our bodies. So for me, the puppy represents an inner soul guide whose appearance signaled my readiness to get better acquainted with my physical, instinctual, emotional truths.

That’s cool enough, but what about his name: Prince? Did that mean something too? Of course it did. Everything in our dreams has meaning for us. Consider this association for “prince” from The Herder Symbol Dictionary: “Psychoanalytically he can be understood as the representative of victorious ego powers.” This innocuous little puppy symbolizes a profound spiritual truth: The success of our journey is a function of our (our ego’s) willingness to acquire as much reverence for the unconscious life in our bodies as we have for the conscious life of the mind.

That this puppy was a Prince and not a fully adult Queen or King suggested I had a lot of growing up to do. But the fact that he was being fed by unconscious aspects of my psyche (the unknown people in the dream who gave him food) was enormously reassuring because it said parts of me were beginning to heed this wisdom so beautifully expressed by Jungian analyst, Dr. Cara Barker: “Take the time to feed what is hungry in your soul, and rest what is weary in your heart.”  Today I realize that receiving Prince’s affirmation from the sacred depths was when I started falling back in love with my life.

 

 
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