Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Beautiful Obsession September 4, 2018

The intuitive’s morality is governed neither by thinking nor by feeling;  he has his own characteristic morality, which consists in a loyalty to his vision and in voluntary submission to its authority. ~Carl Jung, CW 6, para. 613

Every day was Labor Day this summer. Mental labor. Emotional labor.  A labor of love. Labor nonetheless. That’s just the way it is when you’re writing a book. At least for me. I’m exhausted. I’ve been back in Florida for four days, trying to let myself rest. Yesterday was Labor Day. We celebrated our granddaughter’s thirteenth birthday at the beach with our family. Pure pleasure. How can she be thirteen?

Today’s my first day back at work. I’m eager — well maybe anxious is a better word — to get started, but putting it off. It’s time to give you an update. I finished six chapters this summer. Yaayy!!  Only two more to go before the first draft is finished. Almost….. There’s so much more to do.

You spend eight hours a day writing two pages and end up on a great high. But by the time you go to bed you’re worried about the next problem. Plus, You have a deadline. Yes, okay, that’s a year away but there’s so much to be done. And so much you’re not sure of. You go back to it the next morning and realize half of what you wrote yesterday needs to be trashed because it’s empty. Boring. Meaningless. Dry. Too wordy. Whatever. You dread starting over. Find excuses to stall. Force yourself to start.  At the end of the day you feel good again because you know it’s better. Maybe you’ll change it tomorrow. But that’s okay. You’re making progress and that feels wonderful.

You fall asleep quickly, wake up the next day forming sentences, playing with words, choosing this one over that one. You can’t wait to get to your computer because you’ve rewritten the opening lines in your head and don’t want to forget. You think you may have had a dream. What was it…..?  But you can’t remember. All you have are the words you woke up with. The dream is lost. You wish you could recapture it. You think it might have been a good one.

You write down the words before you forget. Izzy nudges your elbow. She needs breakfast and a walk. You throw on some clothes, feed her, take her for a walk, make yourself a quick breakfast. Go back to the computer. The next thing you know it’s four hours later. Time for lunch. You don’t want to stop because you’re on a high again. But the phone rings, or the handyman knocks on the door. Or Izzy wants to go out.

So you do what needs to be done, all the time thinking about the last paragraph. Rehearsing the beginning of the next one. The pressure to get back to work never leaves. You make notes to yourself on your iPhone as you walk through the woods, impatient to return. You feel guilty because you’re not even enjoying Izzy’s delight at running around free, sniffing everything. Oops. She’s finishing a half-eaten, ant-ridden green tomato some critter gnawed on, then dropped. Digestive enzymes will see to them.

You force yourself to stop thinking. Just observe. Breathe. You smile. Gaze at the cloudless pale blue-gray sky. The mountains peeking through the spaces between the trees surrounding this valley nest where you live every summer. Like those Carolina wrens that return every year to the same nest in your porch planter. A yellow leaf spirals to the ground, a fiery flicker of light from the cherry tree that’s struggled all summer. Another tree dying?

You give Izzy a treat and make a lunch and force yourself to sit on the porch in your favorite rocking chair. You worry too much. Push yourself too hard. You need to enjoy the moment. You close your eyes. Slow and deepen your breath. Tell yourself the book will wait. Watch the birds vying for perches at the feeders.

A hummingbird stares at you and flies closer. It hovers a foot away from your face. You hold your breath, afraid to move. It flies lightly past your left ear. You sit still as stone, feeling the gentle breeze from its wings on the back of your neck. Do stones feel the breezes of hummingbird wings? You hear the soft hum in your right ear. She’s circling your head. You want to hold out your hand and invite her to rest, but you know she’ll only fly away. She does anyway. You smile, relish this magic moment. Then you get up, put your dishes away, go back to work.

The next morning you wake up with more words. A dream image flashes past. You let go of the words, close your eyes, breathe. Invite the image back.

Dream #4972. My friend and I have ridden motorcycles to the back of this vast complex of buildings. I’m hiding in the shadows by the back door. I’m trying to disguise myself as an old woman. I have to cover my hair with a cloth and stoop over so they won’t recognize me. The man with me is over on my left, trying to bluff a guard into letting us into the building. I’m afraid they’ll discover we don’t belong here. I think we’re imposters. But my friend convinces them that John Somebody invited us. Somehow, the man lets us in. We wander through. There are others here. Why are they here? Why are we here? I don’t know. I only know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve made it this far. Might as well have a look around until I know what the next step will be.

It’s been like that with my book every day. Joy and angst. Worry and guilt I can’t shake off. Conflicts I don’t know how to resolve. A mission I can’t stop trying to complete. I feel like an imposter. Yet my animus keeps pushing me to do this. I don’t know why. We just have to.

To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 249

It’s a beautiful obsession. Back to work.

Special thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for posting the exact quote on Facebook I needed this morning.

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.

 

Staying Conscious April 11, 2017

Surprise! I’m back with an update. Reworking my old manuscript is bringing enormous satisfaction. My unconscious is sending solutions to knotty problems via my dreams and early morning ruminations before I’m fully awake. I’m meditating for 20 minutes before I get to work and writing for hours at a time. The latest entries in my dream journal say it all.

#5877 

I’m teaching a one-hour college class in Language Arts. I have two pages of written notes stuck to a clipboard and am carefully peeling them off so I can hold them in my hands while I teach. Little chunks of the bottom of the second page stick to the board, but there’s nothing written on them so I won’t worry about them now. I suddenly realize I’ve spent the first 15 minutes getting my notes together and have no idea what’s in them. I feel an urgency to start teaching.

I start quieting everyone down, but interruptions and distractions prevent me from actually teaching. This is okay with me, because I can use this time to figure out what to talk about. I hope I’ll know by the time the class is ready to listen. A mother comes in late with two little girls. I don’t want them here but realize she must not have a choice so I smile to let them know it’s okay, all the while hoping she’ll keep them from disturbing the class. A loud male student gets my attention and I firmly ask him to quiet down. I realize I was too harsh and could have handled this better. I see I’ve used up another 15 minutes.

In the third 15 minutes the little girls fall backwards into a deep hole or well in the floor—it’s round and maybe 4 feet deep. The girls are submerged in a foot or two of water. I’m worried, but the mother doesn’t appear to be. They’re holding their breath and enjoying themselves. I decide they’ll come up when they’re ready and continue thinking about what to teach. But soon everyone is gathered around and I can’t ignore the situation anymore so I ask the parents (the father is here now) to pull them out.

Now I only have 15 minutes left. What’s the best way to use this time? I realize I haven’t given them the course syllabus yet. They need it to prepare for their end-of-semester project. I try to remember what it is. Oh yes, they have to create original learning centers. I feel better now. I know what to say before the class is over and I have to leave. I organize my thoughts and begin to teach.

Associations:

This feels like a metaphor for the way I’ve spent my time in Earth School.  

During the first quadrant I unconsciously spent my time preparing myself, gathering information without having a clue about what I was meant to do with my life.

In the second quadrant I was teaching and becoming aware of forces within me that were preventing me from finding and fulfilling my life’s work. One challenge was juggling parenthood with teaching and learning.  Another was some strong masculine energy that presented me with problems I didn’t know how to handle gracefully. 

During the third quadrant I committed myself to dreamwork as a means of self-discovery and wrote my first three books. At last I knew what my purpose was:  to share what I knew about the transformation of human consciousness. Sometimes my immature feminine shadow fell back into unconsciousness. But I knew the importance of my mission and had the awareness to ask the Self (the parents) to bring her back into awareness.  

In the final quadrant where I am now, I know how little time I have left to fully prepare my students (whoever might be influenced by my teaching and writing) for what is to come. Now I know what to do and am doing it. 

#5878

There’s a girl-woman I know well who’s done something problematic. She’s got a bandaged wound. I’ve apprehended her and have to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she doesn’t escape and create more problems. This feels extremely important. Occasionally I take her by the wrist to keep her near. She’s pleasant and compliant, but I can’t trust her.

Associations:

The girl is my feminine shadow.  The dream says I am seeing her clearly and objectively. When I stay with her she’s not a problem. But if I fall back into unconsciousness and forget to watch her, she will resurrect and negatively impact my work and relationships.

Conclusions:

Staying conscious is vital to this last quadrant of my life.  I meditate every day now to be more mindful of subtle thoughts and inclinations that might prevent me from doing my best work. When something uncomfortable emerges I align with my observer/Self to look at myself objectively, recognize my shadow, and gently bring myself back into a place of repentance, forgiveness, gratitude and love. Making this effort is working.

Sending you love and blessings, dear friends. I’m having the time of my life.

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.

 

In What Can We Trust? November 15, 2016

trust-dreamsLast night I had two dreams, my first since the presidential election. They were helpful, and I hope they might be to some of you.

Dream #4800.  Monday, Nov. 14. Releasing Two Snakes. 

The end of the tail of a long slender black snake is somehow attached to me. I pull it away to free it and set it on the ground. It writhes, as if in pain. I hope it’s not hurt. I back away from it cautiously.

Now there’s a large, greenish, alligator-sized snake with an unusually large head in front of me. A man I can’t see, but whose presence I sense, faces me from the other side of the snake. We need to remove it from this place of humans and return it to its natural habitat.

Pressing his left hand on the snake’s head so he can hold it down to prevent it from turning around and biting us, the man uses his right arm to lift it up. I’m pleased to have his help, impressed that he knows what he’s doing, and aware that though we are cautious, we’re not overly fearful. I trust him to know how to handle this.

Dream #4801. Monday, Nov. 14. Dancing with my Anima

I’m dancing with a woman who’s smaller than me. We’re wearing white robes and holding each other loosely and lightly. I realize with embarrassment that I’m trying to lead and not doing a very good job of it. I don’t hear music and can’t find an appropriate rhythm. I make a self-deprecating joke about how our problem is that I’m trying to lead and ask if she’ll lead instead.

We stand there for a brief moment, then she gently dips me over backwards. I smile, enjoying this unexpected move. I’d forgotten about dipping. Relaxed, I give my body to this movement, trusting her not to drop me. As I raise one leg to do the ‘dip pose’ I wonder if I’m flexible enough to do this gracefully.

330a7260e2e98f35ebfed55532c4e3b7Associations and Conclusions: Since the election I’ve been vacillating between trust and fear for myself and our country. Taken together, these dreams affirm that what I’ve been thinking and feeling is okay. I can trust the Self (integration of my animus and anima energies) and allow it to be in charge.

My dream ego’s interaction with the black snake says my ego is actively involved in ridding myself of some dark, unconscious, primitive and potentially problematic instinctual energy. I think this energy may be related to unconscious prejudices I’ve had about patriarchy and masculinity.

The size and color change from the black snake to the larger green one in the second dream suggests that some ‘greening’ (healthy new life) is developing in my soul. Perhaps this represents my growing trust in my animus whose help—for example, in the form of more courage to speak my mind and address fears I once ignored—I’m beginning to accept.

The dancing dream shows my habit of trying to control the dance of my life and my realization this isn’t working. When ego’s in charge I lack balance and harmony; I can’t hear the music (of my soul) and don’t know what steps to take. But I’ve reached a point of vulnerability where I trust my anima (body, instincts, physical energy, intuition, honest emotions and feelings) to lead the way in the hope of acquiring more flexibility, balance and grace in everything I do.

I don’t have any wise and learned theories about my future or the future of our country as a result of this election. I don’t know how I’ll feel this afternoon or what steps I’ll take tomorrow. I don’t know my topic for next week’s post. Until this morning I thought this one would be about synchronicities surrounding the election and Leonard Cohen’s passing.

But what I do know is that my dreams have proven to be so helpful that I trust them to guide me safely through whatever comes.

Sweet dreams, dear friends. R.I.P. Leonard Cohen. Halleleujah.

 

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.

Image Credits:  Quotesgram.com, Pinterest.

 

Seeing Through a New Lens: Part I October 25, 2016

I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.

I thought of this favorite coffee mug when I remembered my story about Ken.

This morning I awoke from a dream in which a woman calls me on the phone to tell me about an idea she has. “It’s erotic,” she says almost apologetically.”That’s okay,” I say, “I’ve been thinking about that lately.”

It’s true. Recently, a heightened awareness of the joys of physical life has reminded me of Jungian analyst Marion Woodman’s desiderata: ‘the eroticization of all life.’ By this she means experiencing and being grateful for the sacred energy which activates nature, our bodies and our psyches; creates and maintains the ongoing birth/death/rebirth cycle of life; and can fill our time on Earth with enthusiasm, creativity, meaning and passion. Libido, chi, Eros, God, and kundalini are some of the names we give it, but to me it’s all the same thing.

The woman on the phone continues, “Get a lens. A good one.” I imagine a big camera lens. “Take it with you. Listen to people’s stories. We don’t need more theory. We need to see real lives, hear real stories, like the one about the woman in Palestine protesting the war.” I imagine writing a new book of stories told by women from around the world. I could illustrate them with images captured with my new lens.

The dream stayed with me while I ate breakfast, read the latest news about the election, and prepared for the day. Should I take it literally? Was my anima suggesting the theme for a new book? Meanwhile I was also wondering about the theme for this blog post. Last night’s dream? Suddenly a memory of a painful incident in my teen-aged years came to mind. I had written about it in The Bridge to Wholeness, so it would be easy to rewrite here. Bingo! I had my theme. So here’s that story inside this story.

When I grew up the rules for girls were clear. Women wishing to be acceptable to mainstream society were limited to three roles:  lily-white virgin, supportive wife, and devoted mother. Any other way of being feminine was suspect, and women who stepped too far out of these prescriptions would be punished by self-righteous advocates of patriarchy. I had three experiences with this kind of prejudice during my teen-age years and they all did exactly what they were meant to do:  keep me fearful of, and submissive to, men.

The first occurred in the 6th grade shortly after my father died. I was home alone after school when a man called and asked for my mother. When I said she wasn’t home he told me in vulgar, sexually explicit terms what he was going to do to me. Then he said, “I’ll be right over.” I ran to a neighbor’s house and stayed until my mother came home. I never slept easily in that house again.

The second experience involved another phone call. The summer before tenth grade a friend was at my house when the phone rang.  It was a boy who wanted to talk and flirt but wouldn’t tell me his name. The memory of the obscene call was still fresh, and I told my friend I didn’t want to talk to him. A bold and sassy girl who had no fear of boys, she happily took the phone and continued talking as if she were me. At first this was fun but when her voice took on a disturbing sensuous quality I asked her to stop. Keeping the phone away from me and covering the receiver so he wouldn’t hear me, she continued the conversation. When she hung up, she refused to tell me what he said, and soon I dismissed the incident as harmless.

Weeks later I went to my first high school dance wearing a new white dress. Before long, the shy wallflower I had been through junior high was dancing with a boy. During a break he led me to a group of boys he knew. Among them was a boy I’ll call Ken who had a crush on me in the fifth grade. When we were learning folk dances he asked me to be his partner several times, but being loyal and shy, I never danced with anyone but Jimmy, my friend and neighbor from across the street.

This is the dress from my story. Here I'm wearing it again to the senior prom.

This is the dress from my story. Here I am two years later wearing it to the senior prom.

The boy I’d been dancing with said hello to Ken, then moved on to talk to the next boy. Face to face with Ken, I smiled and said, “Hi.” With a cold, venomous stare he spat out a single word: “Pig!”

I stared at him in shocked bewilderment. When I could get away without being noticed, I hurried to the ladies’ room where I locked myself into a stall and sobbed until the dance was over. I never wore that dress again without feeling dirty and ashamed. Perhaps you already know why Ken said that, but it took me 30 years to realize he was the anonymous boy on the phone.

Two years later my story took another turn. I’ll tell it next time. Meanwhile, perhaps you’d be willing to share a similar story. I can assure you I’ll listen.

We don’t need more theory. We need to see the world through a new lens. We need healing stories, like the video I saw on Facebook yesterday of Jewish and Palestinian women singing and dancing together in the streets to protest the war between their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

 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.

 

Dreams As Spiritual Guides October 11, 2016

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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.

 

Following Our Symbols: Healing Our Souls March 15, 2016

My photo of a black bear raiding a bird feeder in Highlands, NC.

A black bear raiding a bird feeder in Highlands, NC.

There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man…[that] still makes up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.”~C.G. Jung

Last weekend, Elaine Mansfield and I presented a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop to the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota about the lessons to be learned from loss and grief.  A major theme was how our culture’s one-sided emphasis on the brain’s left-hemisphere logos thinking has severely crippled the fullest development of our souls. Like Carl Jung, we believe that ignorance of right-hemisphere mythos, a way of thinking which employs imagination and symbol, undermines our hope of finding healing and meaning in our suffering.

Through sharing, writing, examples, and interactive experiences, we demonstrated how to use mythos to find meaning in the symbols from our dreams and myths. Dreams are personal myths. They come to bring healing and wholeness. Cultural myths do the same thing. If we know their language, both can guide us on our soul’s journey through and after life. As Jung noted, using this language to develop a harmonious relationship with our symbols is the first step toward wisdom.

“First we must learn to think mythologically. Powerful things happen when we touch the thinking which myths, fairy tales, and our own dreams bring to us.” ~Robert Johnson

I began studying mythos in my late forties. Every night I recorded my dreams. When I had time for reflection I consulted good symbol books for possible meanings. Occasionally I used active imagination with compelling symbols. Among these were bears. Today Bear is one of my most valued healers and guides.

Bears, in their simple willingness to shake off their unconscious sleeps, abandon the dark caves of their births and hibernations, and make their solitary ways into the forest, are associated with endings and new beginnings. They demonstrate that transitions from known to unknown are not to be feared as obstacles or punishments, but embraced as thresholds to enriched living. This lesson from my dream bears brings me peace and trust during times of change.

During hibernation bears fall into a sleep so deep that they appear to be dead; yet, wonder of wonders, they emerge from their caves in spring as if they have been resurrected, often with a new cub or two. In terms of our soul’s journey, this pertains to experiences of transformation and rebirth  that awaken us to new insights about the unconscious world beneath our ordinary awareness.

A golden bear in my collection of bear symbols.

A golden bear in my collection of bear symbols.

It was only natural that Bear would become a cherished symbol when I was compelled by unconscious forces to embark on a painful spiritual quest. Although initially devastating, my encounter with the Self within eventually brought far greater rewards than the familiar comforts I left behind. Like Bear, I too am now at home in the unknown where I love to roam the wilderness and fish for nourishment in dark, deep waters.

Many Native Americans associate bears with spiritual introspection. So do I. Bear emerged during a phase of massive psycho-spiritual house-cleaning and remodeling. I was attending weekly classes on Jungian psychology, studying books, recording my dreams, and writing down meaningful insights in my first book about psycho-spiritual development. For reasons I did not fully understand, a golden bear became a prominent symbol in that book. Just as Bear spends long periods of time in inward-focused hibernation each year, so was I thoroughly immersed in my inner world.

Some years ago a new theme, return to nature,  began to demand my attention. It manifested in ways unusual for me then: a decreased motivation to write, restlessness, attraction to the outdoors, and an alien itch for more physical activity. I recognized another threshold, another opportunity to follow Bear.

As large animals that are so human-like at the same time they are so strangely other, bears generate an awareness of, and reverence for, the instinctual life of the body and soul. In a culture such as ours, based as it is on a centuries-old tradition of valuing mind over matter and repressing the instincts, Bear reminds us that we ourselves are animals, and that, in the soul-stirring words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Fred and me before a circus-themed costume party.

A scary bear and an affectionate bear tamer before a circus-themed costume party.

Once the golden bear called me out of unconsciousness and into awareness of the sacred place within. Now it calls me out of myself. You’ve hibernated long enough, my bears say. Come out here and find us! It’s time to explore your senses and immerse yourself in your body and nature, the final sacred place for pilgrims such as you.

What symbols have appeared in your dreams?  How have they brought healing meaning to your life’s journey?

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

 

 

 
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