Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Meeting the Mistress of the Forest August 11, 2015

Once I read about a horse that lived in the same pasture for over 30 years, eating the same old tired grass, trying to find shade in the noonday heat under the same scrawny tree. After many years of neglect, the fence that separated this pasture from a lush, grassy meadow studded with beautiful leafy trees crumbled and eventually fell. Stepping over the fallen wood would have been a very simple matter for the horse, yet it stood at the border where it had always stood, looking longingly over at the grass as it had always looked.

I feel so sorry for that horse. It had become so accustomed to its old boundaries that it never noticed when they were outworn. I wish someone from the other side had called it over so it could have spent its final years grazing in a greener, fresher, infinitely more satisfying space.

Many of us have felt our spirits quicken through glimpses of something ineffable in the mist beyond normal awareness and longed to pursue it. But concerns about the judgment of others and habitual assumptions about what we think we should be thinking and doing are not easy to recognize or change. Moreover, the daily demands of life are so compelling that we usually defer our journey into the deeply alluring recesses of the forest until another day.

What are we to do if we do not want to end up like that horse? Luckily we humans have a special someone who beckons to us from beyond our outworn boundaries: she is the wisdom of the Deep Feminine traditionally called Sophia. But to hear her call we need to turn off the constant flow of words and listen with our hearts and bodies.

The promptings that come from this inner being are so faintly heard at first, however strong on their own plane, that we tend to disregard them as trivial. This is the tragedy of man. The voices that so often mislead him into pain-bringing courses–his passion, his ego, and blind intellect–are loud and clamant. The whisper that guides him aright and to God is timid and soft. Paul Brunton (22-1-201)

Her voice is very soft; her call, though compelling, is quiet. She speaks to us in urges, needs, wishes, emotions, feelings, yearnings, questions about the meaning and purpose of our life, attractions to people, ideas and activities, synchronicities, physical symptoms, accidents, instincts, nature, meaningful insights, joyful experiences, bursts of unexpected pleasure, creative ideas, images, symbols, dreams: all the things we have learned to ignore so we can perform with utmost efficiency in the rat race of daily life.

The message in her communiques seems so subversive that we have learned to ignore it too. Do not fear the unknown, she says when we are tempted to risk exploring the wilderness of our souls. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not be content with the half life that comes from avoiding your fears. Feel your fears, enjoy your pleasures, experience your life with all your being. Open yourself and go deeper, for great treasures lie buried in your depths.

Following Sophia does not result in a quick fix, but if we will go boldly and persevere, the mansion doors to the eternal sacred that lies within will open unto us. The inhabitant of that mansion is the Self, our inner Beloved. Made of equal parts masculine and feminine energy, (Animus and Anima, in Jungian terms), the Self is often symbolized by the King and Queen. Here in the West we project our King onto the distant Sky God and remain relatively ignorant of his feminine partner, Sophia, the Mistress of the Forest who is as close to us as our own breath and blood. Thus do we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from her wisdom and cross over into her sacred space.

So how, exactly, are you different from that old horse?

How has the Mistress of the Forest been speaking to you lately? What is she saying?

Image credits:  Google Free Images

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.


The Wilderness of Our Emotions July 21, 2015

getPartIn the early years of working with my dreams my focus was almost entirely on head work: thinking, reading, discriminating, clarifying, understanding, analyzing symbols, and so on. I had heard that dreams were pictures of emotions and I enjoyed dreams that left me feeling happy or good about myself, but others that left me feeling bothered after I woke up were deeply puzzling.

As a child I learned to ignore uncomfortable emotions, or ones which, if I expressed them, would earn the disapproval of my family. By the time I entered junior high school, instead of responding authentically to each situation as it came, I automatically — and completely unconsciously — processed my reactions through a filter of how I thought I was supposed to act, which was calm, nice, reasonable, and, above all, unemotional.

I assumed — again, I was not aware of this assumption at a conscious level — that what I thought and how I appeared to others was more important than what my heart felt. I thought if I was tough enough to take whatever was handed to me and didn’t let it get to me, it simply wasn’t a problem. I thought it was just a function of mind over matter, and I was rather proud of my will power. The habit of being emotionally stoic was so deeply ingrained that I was almost completely unconscious of it as I was doing it, although I could sometimes see it after the fact.

It wasn’t until about 18 years ago that I finally began to see it as it was happening. The catalyst was a dear friend and gifted dreamworker, Justina Lasley. After I related a dream to her, Justina focused in on a part where some men were treating me unkindly and asked me how that made me feel. “Oh, fine. It’s no big deal,” I said offhandedly. Justina just sat there looking at me. “Really,” I said. “That’s just the way some men are; I understand that.” She just looked at me. I squirmed a bit under her penetrating gaze, and then the lightbulb went on. “Oh,” I said. “You mean, how do I really feel about this down deep? Oh, I get it! Well, I guess there’s a part of me that feels… sad? Hurt? Maybe…a little angry?”

I was stunned at this revelation. For the first time, I really got it in my gut that my automatic denial of uncomfortable feelings was part of my persona, the social mask I had built around my inner self to cover up my vulnerability. This was a huge breakthrough for me. I had always assumed that ignoring painful feelings was the right thing, the noble and spiritually desirable thing, akin to not being a whiner or complainer. But I was wrong. Why? Because our emotional realities are as important to our well-being as mental ones, and repressing them saps the life out of us. When we lose touch with our feelings we lose touch with our souls. Indeed, in our compulsion to elevate logos over mythos/eros we’ve lost our souls.

This is a major reason for the epidemic of anxiety and depression in Western society today. We have long believed that the path to healing, spiritual growth, and happiness can be found by accepting mainstream beliefs and devoting our energy to straight-forward, one-sided, stiff-upper-lip, upward-striving, people-impressing mental effort!  But, the true path takes a wandering way deep into the dark forest of our unconscious selves. This is where we’ve been dumping  unacceptable truths about ourselves, especially painful emotions, in the hope they’d go away. Unfortunately, they don’t, and they never will until we can find and face them.

Fortunately, our dreams send pictures of the contents of our personal garbage dump every night. Sometimes they are images of angry, cruel, sad, suffering, self-pitying, or fearful people, animals, or objects.  Sometimes it is we, our dream ego, who feel these and other disowned emotions. Either way, recording and reflecting on these images, paying special attention to those that bring up uncomfortable emotions, and trying to see where they show up in our waking life, is how we find the treasure buried beneath the garbage.

Once we can see and admit to our true emotions, the next step is simply to allow ourselves to feel and grieve them without having to act on them.  This is how, step by step, dream by dream, picture by picture, we walk the path of healing our pain and moving into the fullness of our lives. I wish you well on this healing adventure into the wilderness of your true Self.

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.


Dream About A Mother Complex June 2, 2015

Note:  The International Association for the study of Dreams will have its annual Conference in Virginia Beach this weekend. As some of you know, I’ll be presenting Friday night’s keynote speech. Since I’m still polishing it, I don’t have the time to write a new post, so this is one from a few years ago.  Interestingly, last month I wrote a post about the mother complex and several of you wanted to know more. Then last week I wrote about a friend’s dream of killing Lance Armstrong that received more comments than any other post I’ve written.  So it feels especially appropriate to repeat this one which features both themes.  I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at the conference this weekend.

A friend recently sent me this dream. I want to share it with you, as it brings to mind the very interesting topic of the mother complex.

An old lady is beating up a boy. She is beating him up really badly, he has a bloody face. When she is done, she comes towards me, moving to my right. I go to the left to see if the boy is still alive. I fear he is not. She comes at me, and I kick her in the stomach and she goes flying backwards, off a cliff.

She comments: “This was not a positive dream. Kind of freaked me out a bit, had a hard time going back to sleep. Was wondering what you thought, if you have time.”

My initial response: “Think of the waking life context a day or two before you had this dream. Did anything happen that gave you the same feeling you had in the dream? Were you angry or worried about something? An older woman in your life? An uncomfortable awareness of your own aging? A memory of something hurtful involving an older woman?”

She responded: “This dream came right before I played in my first big tennis tournament. In retrospect, I was the oldest lady on the courts I played, all my opponents were at least half my age. I think it had something to do with that, being something I was worried about. The older feminine who squelched my ambition and drive in waking life was my mom. Since her death I have finally come into my own. This dream seems like a significant one.”

Being the oldest woman on the courts may have triggered emotions which activated the ancient Great Mother. In her positive aspect this archetype creates and nurtures new life. In her negative aspect she smothers and destroys it. The way we see her depends to a certain degree on our experiences with our personal mothers although other factors can enter in as well.

In this dream she’s a mean old lady trying to kill a boy. I’d see him as my growing Animus, associated with my drive to individuate. He’s the part of me that wants to rise up from my unconscious bath in the maternal matrix wherein I just float along enjoying being taken care of and respond to discomfort by blaming outer circumstances while remaining innocent of all personal responsibility. He wants me to light my own fire, forge my own identity, prove myself through tests of my own choosing, accept responsibility for my own behavior, and assume my own authority.

The fact that the dreamer kicks the woman off the cliff suggests a mythical motif Jung called “The Sacrifice.” Jungian analyst June Singer writes about “the child’s sacrifice of the paradise of the early and rewarding unity with the mother” that “All children have to work it out with their own mothers or mother-surrogates in the process of moving toward maturity.” Why?  Because until they do, they will struggle with a host of debilitating issues and emotions which prevent the fuller development of their unique and creative selves. This is essentially what is meant by having “a negative mother complex.”

While the imagery of this dream may be shocking to a waking ego which does not see itself as a raging killer of little old ladies, there’s a deeper metaphorical meaning. In my projection, the mean old lady represents her negative mother complex:  the factors that have stood in the way of her individuation.

This dream seems to say that the dreamer has acquired the psychological strength and self-awareness to acknowledge the wounding she received from her mother.  No longer dependent on or controlled by her mother’s opinions of her, she is ready to empower herself, even if it means sacrificing her unrealistic fantasy of uniting with Mother in an innocent blissful paradise.  This creative and courageous act has freed her dammed-up libido, (the positive aspect of the Great Mother, the divine creative force of nature), to be used toward protecting and manifesting her truer, fuller self.

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.


Killing Lance Armstrong May 26, 2015

Military personel from all over Europe compete in the 2006 United States Forces Europe Mountain Bike riders prepare to race at Aviano Air Base, Italy.  Military personel travel from all over Europe to compete in these series of races.  ( U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nathan Doza ) ( Released )

Military personel from all over Europe compete in the 2006 United States Forces Europe Mountain Bike riders prepare to race at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Military personel travel from all over Europe to compete in these series of races. ( U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nathan Doza ) ( Released )

For several years I’ve occasionally helped a friend understand puzzling dreams. Recently he shared one I found so interesting that I asked his permission to share it here. First, I need to tell you something about him.

As an avid cyclist, he was a long-time fan of Lance Armstrong.  A really BIG fan.  He followed all his races.  He worried about him when he was diagnosed with a potentially fatal cancer and celebrated when he returned to racing and won.  He supported Armstrong’s charity, Livestrong—a Non-Profit Organization that unites, inspires and empowers people affected by cancer—by buying many of its products and encouraging others to do the same. You might say Lance Armstrong was his hero.  He admired him, was inspired by him, and avidly defended him when others suggested he might be taking drugs.

And then, “in 2012, a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation concluded that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his career and named him as the ringleader of ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.'”(Wikipedia) A CNN article wrote, “The epic downfall of cycling’s star, once an idolized icon of millions around the globe, stands out in the history of professional sports.”

My ethically idealistic friend was outraged.  He felt duped, violated, betrayed. What bothered him most was that Armstrong had ruined the career of fellow cyclist and friend, Frankie Andreu, and publicly slandered and humiliated his wife Betsy for exposing his drug use. And he was utterly unrepentant! My friend threw out or gave away all his Livestrong gear and even burned one of his shirts. Whenever someone brought up the subject he could feel the anger and hatred rising to the point that he could barely contain it.

He couldn’t forgive Armstrong and lived with this knot of hatred for three years. He knew it wasn’t good for him, but he couldn’t help it. Then a few weeks ago he had this dream:

“I’m in a store where people are standing around a table admiring some Livestrong gear.  I say, “Don’t buy any of that stuff.  The guy’s a liar, a doper, a cheater, and a despicable human being!” Then I go into a room where a man is admiring a beautiful racing bike and see he’s Frankie Andreu. I say, “Hey Frankie.  I have an idea.  Let’s go out there and buy up all that Livestrong gear and burn it! I can buy a thousand dollars worth if you’ll take care of the rest.” Frankie enthusiastically agrees, so we buy everything. Then I say, “Where can we burn it?”  A Mafioso-looking man nearby says, “I have a field you can use.”  So we pile our purchases in Frankie’s  SUV, drive to the site, and burn the gear.

We hear a commotion and see people sitting in front of a nearby tent. They tell us they’re watching a mountain bike race. Just then a biker comes into view over a rise wearing Livestrong clothes. I think it’s Lance, so I say to Frankie, “Hey, lets shout insults at him.” He agrees. I see my BB gun lying in the lawn chair in front of me. “Let’s sting him a little with this,” I say. “Yeah, that’ll be good,” he says. But the biker turns out to be Armstrong’s girlfriend.

Another biker rides past then Armstrong comes over the rise. I see my hand gun beside the BB gun. I pick it up, aim it at him and shoot three shots in the shape of a triangle into his center mass. I look at the gun in my hand and think, “I’m going to jail for this. But I guess that’s okay. Being the guy who killed Lance Armstrong isn’t a bad legacy.”

When I asked my friend how he felt after that dream, he said most of the anger and resentment was gone. I asked how he felt about it now. He said, “I feel good!” That’s when I realized what the dream was about.

It wasn’t saying he’s a terrible person. This would be taking the dream literally and ignoring the underlying metaphorical meaning. Since he learned the truth about Lance Armstrong he’d been obsessed, feeling embarrassed, angry and unforgiving. Meanwhile, without his awareness, his unconscious was looking for a solution to this unsatisfactory way of living; and when the time was right, it gave him this healing dream.

Killing Lance Armstrong in a dream gave his moral outrage a profoundly powerful, yet harmless outlet. After three years, his obsession has been defused and he’s feeling pretty good. Because what he actually killed was Lance Armstrong’s power over him.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone handled their hatred with the same integrity and self-restraint as my friend?  If they took their inner lives seriously? If they tried to understand their dreams?  If they felt and expressed their honest feelings without causing harm?

This reinforces my belief that there’s hope for our world. There is a way for humanity to attain inner and outer peace.  And this is it.

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.


How Emotionally Intelligent Are You? May 19, 2015

HSDcoverLast week Bud Harris, a Jungian analyst and author, posted a review of Healing the Sacred Divide on Amazon. In it he noted, “I have recommended this book to many people particularly for its sections on Emotional Integrity and Cultivating Emotional Intelligence.” Others have told me how much that part of the book means to them too, so I’d like to share a bit of it here.

Most of us believe we’re in touch with our emotions if we feel the basic ones like love, anger, fear, happiness, and sadness.  But it is possible to feel and recognize some emotions and not others. Moreover, knowing you’re feeling an emotion doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to contain it or use it wisely.  Consider the following symptoms of emotional ignorance.  Which of these have you experienced?

25 Common Symptoms of Emotional Ignorance

1.  Feeling angry, happy, sad, anxious, afraid, guilty, ashamed, rebellious, hurt or sorry for yourself without knowing why or being able to control it.

2.  Acting scornful, superior, patronizing, fearful, seductive, resentful, manipulative, critical, etc., without realizing it.

3.  Not recognizing, understanding, or being able to admit to having a certain emotion, even when you experience it in a dream or someone points it out to you in waking life.

4.  Recognizing and responding from your anger while ignoring the hurt, sadness, fear, self-pity, self-doubt, guilt, or other less-obvious emotion that gave rise to it.

5.  Being swamped by a strong emotion–for example, grief, jealousy, fear, or anger–and allowing it to escalate to the point that it hurts you, another person, or a relationship.

6.  Becoming infatuated or falling in love with someone you barely know.

7.  Acting on your attraction to someone without being able to control yourself when it would be hurtful to you, him/her, or other innocent people.

8.  Having obsessive and/or intrusive fears, thoughts, anxieties, or worries you can’t control that are unrelated to chemical imbalances or mental illness.

9.  Trying to alleviate anxiety or other uncomfortable emotions with excessive use of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or compulsive/addictive behaviors.

10. Feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, or drained of energy on a regular basis without knowing why (except for the last, which could, of course, have a physical cause).

11. Expecting others to make you happy and blaming them for your unhappiness instead of taking responsibility for (which requires admitting to) your own feelings and the unsatisfactory life situations that give rise to them.

12. Feeling guilty or critical of yourself for having certain normal human emotions such as anger, fear, or self-pity; or, at the opposite extreme, pleasure, happiness or joy.

13. Habitually expressing only the emotions you think you should express based on your family’s emotional personality.

14. Feeling justified or not caring when you do or say something that hurts someone else.

15. Feeling no compassion for people who are hurting.  This includes yourself.

16. Holding grudges without wanting or trying to resolve them.

17. Hating/despising others who are different from you; and/or hating/despising yourself for being different from others.

18. Being caught in a repetitive cycle of abuse, remorse, and over-compensation toward another person; or allowing another person to act that way toward you.

19. Expecting others to meet your emotional and/or physical needs without noticing or appreciating how they meet yours; or believing you have to meet another person’s emotional and/or physical needs whether or not they notice or appreciate your efforts.

20. Avoiding apologizing or talking with someone you have hurt because you don’t want to feel the guilt or admit to having said or done something hurtful.

21. Being unwilling or unable to cry or grieve over your pain or losses.

22. Being unable to enjoy your successes.

23. Feeling a strong internal pressure to habitually act cheerful and put on a happy face regardless of how you really feel.

24. Habitually withholding your true emotions from your partner, family, or friends.

25. Moodiness.

If you see any of these symptoms in yourself, welcome to the human race.  If you are ready to deal with them, welcome to the threshold of consciousness.

Image Credit:  Mandorla.  Cicero Greathouse.

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.


Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places? February 24, 2015

Unknown-1Have you ever put yourself in a relationship or situation that filled a deep need and seemed totally harmless?  And then suddenly something happened that made you aware of an unsuspected dark side of what you were doing? And it got so out of hand that you couldn’t control it and were swamped with anxiety and dread?  

Most of us have experienced something like this at some point in our lives. So what do you do?  Ignore it?  Keep plugging away and hope for the best? Pray? Fantasize?  Wait for a prince to ride up on a white horse and rescue you? Lay the blame on someone else while denying your part in it?  Ask for help then get angry when it doesn’t come? Run away?  Carry your guilt, fear, hurt and anxiety in a secret compartment and refuse to visit it while telling yourself you’re just fine?  Only to put yourself in another situation somewhere down the road that’s just as bad as, or even worse than the first? Then go through the whole thing again?

These are the responses of an immature ego with limited self-awareness. When we see this happening to someone we know, it’s obvious that whatever they’re doing isn’t working.  Yet, like a hamster on a wheel, some people keep traveling the same old path without getting anywhere no matter how good their intentions or wise their counsel.  I’ve been there.  Maybe you have too. Old habits and attitudes have strangleholds on our egos, regardless of how toxic the consequences. So how do we break free?

“To live fully, we have to…bring back to life the deepest levels of the psyche from which our present consciousness has evolved.” Carl Jung

images-2But how do we follow Jung’s advice?  Ask your unconscious for a dream. Dreams compensate for our conscious attitudes by showing us different ways of viewing our issues, especially problematic ones. The unconscious contains everything about ourselves of which we are unaware, including hidden potentials we haven’t yet discovered or alternative ways of being we’ve disowned. Situations like the above are invitations to bring them into our awareness so we can move forward.

This is not easy for an ego that’s oblivious to the inner life and thinks dreams and fantasies are “just our imagination.”  Plus, few of us welcome the effort it takes to reflect on them. Most difficult of all is giving up our illusion of being in control and trusting some unknown part of ourselves to help us out. We experience the power of these archetypal entities all the time in strong emotions, urges that seem to come from nowhere, and synchronicities, yet we rarely “waste” much time trying to understand them. But it’s the only way to go if we really want to grow. Consider this:

“The essential thing is to differentiate oneself from these unconscious contents by personifying them, and at the same time to bring them into relationship with consciousness. That is the technique for stripping them of their power.  It is not too difficult to personify them, as they always possess a certain degree of autonomy, a separate identity of their own. Their autonomy is a most uncomfortable thing to reconcile oneself to, and yet the very fact that the unconscious presents itself in that way gives us the best means of handling it.”  Jung: Memories, Dreams and Reflections, pp. 185-188.

images-1If we’re dead serious about wanting out of our ruts—and it usually takes desperation to bring us to this point—asking the unconscious for a dream about our situation will trigger an immediate response.  Within a night or two we’ll get one or more dreams. We won’t understand their symbolic language or meaning right away, but, if we persist step by step the rewards will come. My certainty of this comes from 26 years of treating my dreams “as if” they have objective meaning. Once I chose this path, it wasn’t long before I realized they actually do!

Our highest purpose is to grow more conscious and accepting of the benevolent otherness within and without so that we might live in love instead of fear. We can’t will ourselves to manufacture love or consciousness with mental effort alone.  These and other rewards only come with personal experience and a regular practice like dreamwork. With time, our toxic fears, shadows, habits and attitudes lose their power and are replaced with trust, peace and overflowing gratitude and compassion.

If you’re looking for love, I promise:  you can find it in your dreams.

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.


My Dreamwork Method: Steps Five and Six January 27, 2015

FullSizeRenderAfter my last post about the six-step method I use to work with dreams, Amy wrote with a question,  “The thing I struggle most with when helping others are steps 5 and 6. I can help people substitute meaning language in place of symbols, but it seems there is a kind of leap for many people when trying to apply this to everyday experience. Many people struggle to recognise the truth even when laid out before them. Do you have any advice here?”

This is something I’ve always struggled with too, so I’d like to illustrate with an example from my own life.

In my early years of dreamwork I had a few dreams about weak, sickly trees. In one, a sapling had been almost totally uprooted by strong winds.  In another, I was checking on a weeping willow I’d planted next to the canal behind our house. The tree was standing in a watery swamp and the leaves were limp and brown. The ground was so muddy that the roots couldn’t take hold and my precious tree was about to topple over.

These dreams were very troubling.  Was I like these trees?  Maybe sick and about to die?  A bit fearful of the answer, I pressed on with my usual dreamwork method. As always, the hardest parts were Steps 5 (creating an emotional bridge between dreams and waking life) and 6 (reflecting and acting on needed changes.)  I just couldn’t understand how any of this applied to my thinking or living. I had no idea what I was “doing wrong,” let alone how to change it.

What did these dreams have to do with my emotions? Did the symbol of the weeping willow mean I was deeply sad? I had endured much sadness during my nine-year-long “dark night” experience, but that was behind me at the time of these dreams and I had no conscious awareness of being sad. I was doing regular dreamwork, writing my first book, and feeling on top of the world.

Another thing; willow branches are known for their flexibility, but what could be wrong with being flexible instead of rigid? So why was Dream Mother giving me these disturbing images?

I assumed the problem must be with the roots:  my connection to the underground.  I must need a sturdier standpoint and firmer grounding in the unconscious. But how did this relate to my waking life? Where/how/with whom did I need a stronger standpoint? What did that even mean?  And how could I acquire a firmer grounding in the unconscious?  What exactly about me needed to change? It was all so puzzling that I eventually gave up trying to understand, although I never forgot these dreams.

At the time, I had undergone so much growth that I thought I was surely becoming a mature oak! But now I smile at my naivety. I was a mere sapling struggling to survive in the early stages of a journey that would last a lifetime.

The tree represents the Self. In alchemy it was the central symbol of the opus, the great work of healing and transforming the psyche:

“…the tree may represent not only a place of awakening to new life, but also of suffering—mythic suspensions of sacrifice, ordeal, suicide, execution and reversal. A treasure guarded by snakes or dragons at the tree’s gnarled roots alluded to the difficulty of achieving the goal, the extraction of the self from the tangle of unconscious factors.” (Taschen, The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, p. 130.)

Transforming oneself is no carefree romp in the park. It requires intense, on-going study of an inner development that follows laws the ego can neither fathom nor predict. Twenty-two years later, I can see the part of me that was then, and almost always has been, profoundly sad.  And I see how I’ve acquired a far sturdier standpoint and firmer grounding in the unconscious. But I still struggle making the waking life connection with new dreams….partly because I’m still not always attentive to my feelings, and partly because a great deal of unexplored territory remains in the ocean of my unconscious.

It’s difficult to bring light to our unconscious selves, and our natural fear and inertia make this task intimidating. But it’s the Hero’s Journey and it’s the only thing that will ultimately satisfy a soul hungry for maturity and meaning. So here’s my advice:

Be patient with the questions. You will receive answers when you’re ready for them.  Keep on keeping on with your chosen practice (or perhaps add a new one), gaining tiny insights step by step until they start paying off big. With commitment and perseverance, this will happen…maybe not until after midlife, but I assure you, the wait is worth it!!

Note: Special thanks to Amy Campion for inspiring this post, and to Susan Scott for another delightful synchronicity:  She recommended Taschen’s, The Book of Symbols to me after reading last week’s post, but only today when writing this post did I realize it was the same book my daughter gave me for Christmas!!

Image credit:  Alchemy’s Philosophical Tree;  engraving, ca. 1470 C.E. There’s more to see at the top of the tree, but I couldn’t fit it into the photo I took from Taschen’s, The Book of Symbols. And I like it this way.

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.



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