Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Story of Living and Dying February 2, 2015

51pPyvcRbyL._AA160_As you read this, I’m enjoying the company of my friend Elaine Mansfield. Many of you will recognize her name from comments she frequently makes here, or from my Facebook page.  She flew down from New York to spend a few days with me before she goes on to Tampa where she’ll be presenting a workshop for a small fraction of the half million women who lose spouses each year.  While she’s here, we’re planning a new workshop on grief.

We met about 16 years ago.  She was with her husband, Vic, a physics professor who had written a new book on synchronicity, when he came to speak at the Winter Park Jung Center where I was teaching.  Fred and I took them out to dinner afterwards and enjoyed them so much that Elaine and I began an email correspondence.  Nine years later Vic died of cancer.

Some of you have lost a spouse; some, even two.  Others have spouses with terminal illnesses that could take them within the next few years.  So I want you to know about Elaine’s new book called Leaning into Love:  A Spiritual Journey through Grief. 

One reviewer describes it as a “touching and courageous memoir about love, illness, death, and grief.” Another says, “This magnificent, profoundly moving book gives encouragement and solace to all.”  Alison Lurie, Pulitzer prize-winning novelist writes, “Elaine Mansfield knows far more than most people about love and loss, and she tells it with admirable honesty and clarity.”

A mutual friend of ours and sister lover of Jungian psychology, Candace Boyd, wrote to Elaine some weeks ago and copied me. Candace wrote,  “I read your book in two days. Your writing is so powerful, and so beautiful. I wish that I had had this book to refer to a year and one half ago.” That was when her husband was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Synchronistically, as I was writing the beginning of this very paragraph I received another e-mail from Candace saying, “Cancer seems to be endemic to our lives now.”  I think I’m supposed to be writing this post today!

One of the more remarkable aspects of Leaning into Love is how honest and personal it is. Elaine doesn’t shy away from sharing occasions when she and Vic were irritable with each other. You don’t always see this kind of candor from loved ones who’ve been through the grueling day-to-day stress and strain of caregiving.  And when you do, it’s often accompanied by terrible guilt.

What’s so beautiful about this is that Elaine seems to have found a way to forgive herself for being human.  Maybe that’s because of the remarkable tenderness, understanding and love that infused their relationship.  Maybe she could forgive herself because she knew Vic forgave her for her flaws, just as she forgave him for his.  And for dying and leaving her all alone.

A big factor that undoubtedly influenced the patience and kindness these two consistently showed each other through their ordeal was their mutual desire for psychological and spiritual growth.   In the early years of their marriage they studied together with Anthony Damiani, a brilliant teacher who introduced them to Jungian psychology, meditation, and the philosopher Paul Brunton.  Later he guided them through Greek philosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism, and many Western philosophers. What they learned from him influenced them and their marriage in the best possible way.

Nobody is free from suffering, not even Anthony, who died of cancer at an early age.  And we don’t usually get to choose what causes our suffering.  But we can, like Vic and Elaine, choose to respond to it with courage, mindfulness, and kindness.  Of all the beautiful messages I received from this book, this is the one that made the deepest impression on me.  They practiced kindness.  What a beautiful thing to share in this dangerous, chaotic world.

Kindness. That’s what Elaine shares in her book. And, knowing her, I think it’s also one of the reasons she wrote it.

You can check out Elaine’s author page on Facebook here and buy her book here. 

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

 

What More Did I Think I Wanted? June 26, 2014

Misty MorningI’ve returned to my beloved mountain valley. After five days the stillness is starting to settle in.

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 and the crowsIzzy 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).

IzzyHike2Yesterday 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 FlammeElaine 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?

SkeletonOther 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).

 

 

 

 

VII

by Wendell Berry

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.

The sky

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

not quite.

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.

yellow leafJean 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

 

Why Do I Write What I Write? June 24, 2014

Recently, author and blogger, Fran Kramer, invited me to join her in a blog tour that highlights authors who write about intuitive understanding. I encourage you to visit her blog at http://www.frankramer.wordpress.com where she offers some excellent practical information on how to work with your dreams and acquire greater understanding of yourself and guidance for your life.  Fran also writes teen mystery novels that highlight  intuitive and informed dreamwork skills instead of traditional detective practices. Her latest is titled Dead Men Do Tell Tales.

For this blog tour I was asked to answer four questions about my writing.  To learn more about me and my work, visit my web site at http://www.jeanraffa.com and my blog at http://www.jeanraffa.wordpress.com.

1) What Am I Working On?

At the moment I find myself in a transitional space between life stages.  The 24 years prior to last summer were the most productive, creative and fulfilling of my life.  I wrote three books about the inner life, taught classes, led workshops,  made presentations, conducted dreamwork on myself and private clients,  and, until last June, wrote an average of two blog posts a week for over three years.  Then my inner environment underwent a mysterious change.

It was very subtle, like a wind carrying unusual scents, or a curve in the river that leaves the rushing rapids behind as it empties into a tranquil blue sea. Suddenly there were fewer mountains to climb and more depths to explore.  I had experienced two life-changing transitions before, and realized in retrospect that they were normal and healthy aspects of life, so while this new development was initially a bit unsettling, I paid attention and went where my energy wanted to go.

It was the right thing to do. The past year has been one of significant growth. Best of all, I seem, at last, to be learning how to love!  So what am I working on? Loving and living.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not really sure what my genre is.  Psychology, certainly.  Spirituality, yes.  Also some Philosophy. And of course Mythology. And Women’s Studies.  And Gender issues. And it’s a Memoir.  And there’s some Religion.  And Self-Help…..

For many years my first book, a psychologically oriented memoir titled The Bridge to Wholeness, (which is now an e-book), was used in college courses.  Yet people tell me it’s extremely readable and nothing like a textbook.  The same is true of Dream Theatres of the Soul, (also in e-book form now) which has been used at the college level as well as in private dream groups.  And Healing the Sacred Divide received the 2013 Wilbur Award which is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.  So I suppose my answer is that my work is different because it is not limited to any one genre.

3) How does my writing process work?

Self-Discovery is my passion and writing about it is pure joy. I’ve never had to force myself to write.  I wake up every morning wanting to get to my computer as soon as I can.  Writing my books has been the most fun thing I’ve ever done! The details of how each book was conceived and written are different, but the pleasure is always the same.

In 1990 I thought I might have a book in me so I quit college teaching and started with my earliest memory of being lost on the shore of Lake Michigan. Given my interest in Jungian psychology and my introverted, intuitive, and highly reflective personality, it was only natural that my focus was on how that experience had influenced my personality and my life. I had no plan, no outline, no aim other than to get it all down until I felt finished.

And so I wrote 4 or 5 days a week for about nine months until I had completed several “essays.”  Then one morning I started making up a fairy tale while sitting at my makeup mirror. I quickly wrote it down and realized it provided the framework for everything I had written until then and would write from then on.  About a year and a half after I began writing, my essays became chapters in The Bridge to Wholeness, which was published in 1992.  It opens with the fairy tale, “The Lily and the Rose.”

Dream Theatres of the Soul was conceived soon after Bridge was finished with an idea about how dreams can be organized into five categories, each an element of the psyche. I wrote an outline and finished this book in three and a half months.  It was every bit as much fun to write as Bridge.

Healing the Sacred Divide was difficult.  I began it with the intention of trying to clarify what the feminine side of God is like, and from there it went through several themes and titles before it was finally published in 2012, 19 years after it was begun.  During all that time I had no assurance that it would ever be published, but I loved every minute of it, even when I had no idea what it was supposed to be about. Which was most of the time.

4)  Why do I write what I do?

I write about self-discovery because I have to.  It’s my calling.  And frankly, it’s the only thing I’m good for. If we humans created religions to remind ourselves that we are loved and known and guided by a benevolent, magnificent, mysterious Other;  if  religions are meant to bring joy and comfort and purpose and meaning to human life;  if they are supposed to teach us humility and gratitude and compassion and understanding for ourselves and our fellow humans; if they are meant to teach us how to love… then I can honestly say that the inner work I have conducted to discover who I am, along with writing my books to help others do the same, has been a religious experience. In the truest sense of the word.

Thank you so much for reading this.  And now I’m delighted to introduce the authors and bloggers who will continue the blog tour next week with posts about their own fascinating work.  If you don’t already know them, you’ll want to check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Tzivia Gover

090114_kripalu_tziaviagover_022Tzivia Gover is a certified dream therapist, author, and educator. Her books include Learning in Mrs. Towne’s House: A Teacher, Her Students, and the Woman Who Inspired Them (Levellers Press), Mindful Moments for Stressful Days (Storey Books), and Dream House, a poetry chapbook. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications including Poets & Writers Magazine, The New York Times,  and The Boston Globe. To learn more visit http://www.tziviagover.com or http://www.thirdhousemoon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elaine Mansfield

DSC02161

Elaine Mansfield’s writing reflects over forty years as a student of philosophy, Jungian psychology, mythology, and meditation. She is a longtime student of Marion Woodman, the Dalai Lama, and spiritual teachers from many traditions and lives on 71 acres of woods, fields, and sunset views in the Finger Lakes of New York. Elaine was a nutrition, exercise, and women’s health counsellor, but after her husband’s death in 2008, her focus turned to healthy grieving and the challenges and rewards of creating a new life. She now facilitates hospice support groups for women who have lost partners or spouses, writes for the Hospicare and Palliative Care of Tompkins County newsletter and website, and helps others find the spiritual core and deeper connections available within loss.

Elaine’s book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief will be published by Larson Publications (October 2014). Dale Borglum of the Living/Dying Project said about the book: “Not only a touching and courageous memoir about love, illness, death, and grief, Elaine Mansfield’s Leaning into Love is a manual for healing that offers us the emotional and spiritual tools needed to grow and even flourish through life’s deepest crisis.”

Elaine writes a weekly blog about life’s adventures and lessons at elainemansfield.com/blog. Her email address is elaine@elainemansfield.com

 

 

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:

Orpheus

Orpheus

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.

Orpheus and the breath of life

Orpheus and the breath of life

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.

Lyre

Lyre

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.

A gust in the god. A wind.

A gust in the god. A wind.

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

Elaine Mansfield

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

2012Well, 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?candle

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.

My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at this Amazon link or at Larson Publications, Inc.

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.

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

 

 
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