What More Did I Think I Wanted? June 26, 2014
This morning the eastern sky was red. “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.” It will probably rain today.
The sun is slow to reach the west side of the house. For now the garden is shrouded in shadows and mist.
“Again I resume the long lesson: how small a thing can be pleasing, how little in this hard world it takes to satisfy the mind and bring it to its rest.” ~Wendell Berry
Izzy watches attentively while I fill her bowls with food and fresh water. This is her first summer here and her interest in the smallest things is rubbing off on me. I’m unusually attentive too as I prepare my breakfast of coffee, fresh strawberries and blueberries, yogurt and walnuts while she wanders in and out of the house. Although I intended to meditate every day, I haven’t yet. But this morning, this stillness, this heightened awareness….it’s all a meditation.
Our walks through our 28 acres bring new wonders every day. Izzy has been fascinated by flowers since she was a puppy. At two and a half, she still sniffs every new one she sees.
The crows seem determined to attract our notice this summer. Or am I just more aware of them? They wake us up in the morning, punctuate the quiet air with raucous caws throughout the day, leave their perfect black feathers on the trail. This year we brought gifts for them. Izzy approves.
“Whenever we touch nature we get clean. People who have got dirty through too much civilization take a walk in the woods, or a bath in the sea. They shake off the fetters and allow nature to touch them. It can be done within or without. Walking in the woods, lying on the grass, taking a bath in the sea, are from the outside; entering the unconscious, entering yourself through dreams, is touching nature from the inside and this is the same thing, things are put right again.” (Carl Jung, Dream Analysis: Notes on a Lecture Given in 1928-1930).
Yesterday brought us a rare visitation from a beautiful timber rattler who barely moved but eyed us warily as we passed. “A truly numinous encounter with Other-ness, Jeanie. Very auspicious— just give plenty of room for her to move. Many Rattlers do not even carry venom. They come as Teachers of the ancients,” says Facebook friend, Melissa La Flamme. Elaine Mansfield agrees, “Wow, Jean. A visitation. Respect and caution needed, but what a gift to mine. I imagine you writing about this soon.” Yes, I will write about this once I’ve absorbed its message.
This morning I found a skeleton by the back steps. It looks like a baby alligator’s head, but that’s impossible! Not in the Smokeys! What could it be? What can it mean?
Other gifts arrived this morning via Grandmother Spider’s world wide web, including the quotes and poem I’ve cited here. Her messages speak to my immediate experience. Such synchronicities no longer surprise me.
“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of the same thing.” (C.G. Jung, On the Nature of the Psyche, Collected Works Vol. 8, para. 418).
Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.
Within the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight.
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever. The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.
Jean Raffa’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks
Mythological Healing in Times of Crisis November 19, 2013
It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to my guest blogger, Elaine Mansfield. Elaine and I met about 15 years ago at the Winter Park Jung Center where her husband Vic made a presentation about his newest book. Talking over dinner afterwards, Elaine and I discovered that we had many interests in common, including dreamwork, women’s issues, and mythological studies. We have stayed in touch ever since. The following piece is an especially poignant example of how her inner work helped her through Vic’s cancer and death:
While my husband Vic began chemotherapy in 2006, I absorbed Rainer Maria Rilke’s message in Sonnets to Orpheus: within the darkness of our experience, there is always light. Rilke praised the impermanence of the natural world where all that is born dies. Vic and I lived and loved as he—and we—were also dying.
Ah, the knowledge of impermanence
That haunts our days
Is their very fragrance.
During that chemotherapy autumn while my safe world collapsed around me, I studied Rilke’s sonnets and the myth of Orpheus in a mythology class. Vic struggled, suffered, and kept going. In the chemotherapy room, I watched brave women with scarves askew, bony men with smooth skulls, and angry teenagers with oversized baseball caps concealing their baldness. I saw how each patient balanced their darkness with a call from a friend, the smile of a nurse or companion, or music on their IPod. As I held Vic, the myth held me and taught me what it means to be mortal and live in this world of opposites.
Rilke’s words helped me accept as toxins entered Vic’s veins.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Rilke helped me see that death is always present in my experience, even in pleasure.
Full round apple, peach, pear, blackberry
Each speaks life and death
into the mouth.
Searching for life and light within the darkness of Vic’s dying became my spiritual practice.
For almost twenty-five years I’d been part of a mythology class with women grounded in Jungian Psychology. We studied the Greek goddesses and gods, a few Eastern European and Asian fairytales, and Inanna’s descent to the underworld to be initiated into the mysteries of Death. Soon after Vic was diagnosed, a class member spotted Sonnets to Orpheus in a bookstore window and suggested we explore the myth of Orpheus.
Orpheus was a demigod, musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek mythology. After his beloved wife Eurydice died, he traveled to the Underworld to play his lyre, sing his lament, and gain Eurydice’s release. The beauty of his song convinced Hades and Persephone to grant her freedom, but Orpheus was told not to look back at Eurydice until they were in the Light. Being at least partly human, he glanced back and lost his Love forever to Death.Our group met twice a month and worked on one sonnet each meeting for over two years since there are 55 sonnets. We explored the mythic ideas, read many translations, studied various versions of the Orphic myth, and painted the poetic images—the god, a tree, a lyre. We also included images from personal experiences in our drawings. Within the vessel of this archetypal myth, Rilke’s poems, and a circle of wise, loving women, I remembered that my world of heightened opposites held just as much living as dying.
But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that—when you feel it—brings you to your knees.
Elaine Mansfield’s writing reflects 40 years as a student of philosophy, Jungian psychology, mythology and meditation, and life on 71 acres of woods, fields, and sunset views in the Finger Lakes of New York. Since her husband’s death in 2008, Elaine’s website and blog have focused on bereavement, marriage, and the challenges and joys of her emerging life. Elaine has written a book about love, loss, and new life to be published in 2014. She facilitates hospice support groups for women who have lost partners or spouses and writes for the Hospicare and Palliative Care of Tompkins County newsletter and website and other on line publications.
Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry is from In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus.
Original art by Elaine Mansfield.
The Death of Earth or the Birth of Love? December 21, 2012
Well, here we are. It’s December 21, 2012: Winter Solstice, shortest day and longest night of the year, and the subject of extensive speculation about history’s final events. As most of us know, rare astronomical alignments have caused this date to be regarded as the end of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Although main-stream Mayan scholars do not believe they were predicting an end to life on this planet, some people do. Others have been preparing for wide-spread natural catastrophes that would dramatically alter our lives.
The Bible’s book of Revelation is one example of our long-standing fascination with end times. I confess that during the charismatic movement in the early 70’s, I briefly considered the idea of a “rapture” that would literally spare “true believers” the worst sufferings, but I concluded that this was the wishful thinking of fearful souls. I now think that since this vision was the product of a human mind, it is also the projection of a human intuition about the eventual need for a dramatic change in collective consciousness. When I first heard about the Mayan calendar and compared its end date with escalating wars, terrorism, climate changes, and natural disasters, I lay awake more than one night worrying about the future of my grandchildren. More recently, Cormak McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic, Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, again raised my anxiety about our shared future.
I don’t believe my sensitivity to this issue makes me that unusual. As Jung discovered, for everything we know about ourselves there is a corresponding opposite we prefer not to know. Nobody’s immune from the suffering that comes when we’re forced to face repressed material, in this case the awareness of our mortality. Who among us has not glimpsed a terrifying future in which we will not be physically present? Our egos may rush to dismiss this thought, but it lives on in our unconscious where it influences our personalities and behavior anyway. How many addictions have their roots in a desperate wish to escape our fear of death?
The horrific tragedy in Newtown last week is the latest in a maelstrom of catastrophes that are swamping our planet and forcing us to face our collective shadow as well as the shadow of death. Is it any wonder some are obsessing over Earth’s death? People have always done this when the chaotic spirit of the depths challenges the complacent spirit of the times to respond with increased consciousness.
For me, this year’s solstice marks such a juncture. Call it mere coincidence if you will, but I call it synchronicity: a meaningful coincidence. Here at the end of a major astronomical cycle, humanity is receiving a massive wake-up call to evolve psychologically or die. We know we’re in serious trouble, we know our lack of consciousness and compassion have brought us to this point, and we know something has to change. This is why many of us intuit that today’s date is a metaphor for the beginning of an era of positive psycho-spiritual transformation.
In response to my last post, “The Sacred Laws of the Psyche,” blogger and author Elaine Mansfield wrote: “As Solstice nears, I feel the power of the pause when ultimate darkness has been reached and the light is about to return. May this be a sacred moment for the major transitions we need in the world. We certainly seem to have the darkness, but I’m also counting on the Law of Love and the Law of Choice.”
Me too. May this holiday season mark our loving choice to bringing more light and love to the world.
For a different take on this issue by another Jungian, check out this article by Pythia Peay.
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.