Artemis and Demeter’s Legacy August 18, 2015
Our children and grandchildren have left now and I’m alone except for Izzy, my son’s golden retriever. She keeps me company when Fred has to be away for a few days. At the moment she’s sleeping contentedly on the bed while I’m writing at my desk. It gives me enormous pleasure to have her and my family here.
The source of my pleasure goes way back and deep within. I spent my early years as a horse- and woods-loving Artemis, the Greek virgin goddess of the wilderness and the hunt…who was usually accompanied by a dog. But Artemis stepped aside during my young adulthood to make room for Athena, daughter of patriarchy and Goddess of wisdom, who helped me with my education, teaching, and soul-searching; and for Demeter, goddess of motherhood and fertility, who showed up when I gave birth to my children.
Like all gods and goddesses of myth, these favorites of mine are humanity’s projections of archetypal energies in every psyche. Nobody activates them all, however. We each have our own preferences that may emerge at different times in our lives…or not at all.
For example, after serving Demeter and Athena faithfully during my young adulthood and middle years, I invited Artemis back. Her desire to expose our children (and, we hoped, grandchildren) to nature motivated our decision in the early 80’s to buy this land in the Smoky Mountains from Fred’s parents and build a cabin on it. Years later she inspired me to buy a horse and add a small pasture and stable where Shadow could live in the summers.
A main feature of the original cabin was an open loft with a bedroom on either side of a bathroom for our teen-aged daughter and son. To our great joy, grandchildren eventually came along. Now our son’s bedroom contains 3 twin beds plus a bunk for the five grandchildren, while our daughter’s old room is an enclosed guest room which her teen-aged daughter recently claimed.
The cabin and land continually evolve with new projects almost every year, always with the family in mind. For a while we entertained the idea of building a tree house for the kids in a stand of giant hemlocks at the top of the mountain. That idea was squashed when the hemlocks were infested with the wooly adelgid parasite. As the dead trees fell we found other uses for them. Most of the wood was chopped into firewood to warm our and our neighbors’ cabins in winter.
Then a few years ago Algie, our friend, neighbor and a gifted builder, used the most promising fallen wood to make a table that would seat the eleven of us. He’d never built furniture from hemlock before. No one around here does because the wood tends to be too soft and twisty and it cracks and warps easily.
But after some experimentation he crafted a beauty. As you can see, despite year-round exposure to the changeable weather, it’s holding up well on the screened porch beside the creek. So are the lights we bought in Mexico to hang over it: eleven rusted metal birds, each with its own Edison bulb…for the light in each of us.
When my family’s here, Demeter’s a proud mother hen keeping an eye on her chicks (and grandchicks) as they enjoy the property and local attractions. The best time is when we return to the nest each evening for a family dinner that everyone contributes to and shares around our special, hand-made table.
Last winter’s project was a new foot trail that branches off the main one into the remote parts of the property. A few places are piled high with dead hemlocks. The rest is dense with poplars, oaks, maples, and tangled masses of wild rhododendron. Until our yard man got hold of it, it was largely unexplored. Now, after a winter of clearing, digging, fortifying and general magic-making, it’s done, and hiking it with Izzy and the grandchildren has become a major pleasure.
On this summer’s visit our nine-year old granddaughter and seven-year old grandson decided to build a playhouse on a levelish space above the waterfall. Initially, it was their secret. Our granddaughter made a detailed design complete with elevations and measurements, (she may have inherited her father’s architect genes…or maybe it’s her mother’s interior designer genes), and they cleared a trail and leveled the space. It wasn’t long before the older three demanded to know what was going on and started helping. Soon, the fathers and Grandpa/Boppy were involved too.
By the end of the week they had constructed an 8 X 10 wood plank floor supported by four 4 X 4 posts. Our son and his sons stayed up late Saturday night to finish the floor, and Fred drove in the last nails Sunday morning after they left. It was the archetypal childhood “build a tree-house with Dad” experience with the added twist of being a waterfall house that is satisfyingly hidden by tree branches all around. They plan to finish it on subsequent visits.
At bedtime the night before they left, our seven-year old grandson wistfully told his mother, “I wish my arms were long enough to wrap all the way around the cabin.” My Artemis and Demeter are still doing a happy dance! Seeds have been sown, and I can rest easy knowing my love for family, nature, and wilderness is a legacy my grandchildren will carry on.
For more on the goddess archetypes, check out Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen’s wonderful books, especially Goddesses in Everywoman. I just finished and enjoyed her latest: Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman.
Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
Conscious Parenting May 6, 2014
I am so proud of my children: how they turned out, who they married, how well they are raising their children. Their parenting styles are different in many ways, yet both sets of children are delightful: sweet, funny, bright, good-natured, well mannered….(I could go on, of course, but I’ll spare you more grandparental gushing!) My time with them reminds me that no matter how well-prepared we may believe we are for the role of parenting, much of what we bring to it comes from unconscious factors over which we have no control.
I loved and respected my mother. I saw her as an intelligent, well-meaning, independent woman with an unemotional personality and a hands-off parenting style. Having a full-time job, she was never involved with my brother’s or my education or social lives, trusting us to get along fine without her participation or advice. And we did. Get along fine.
Well, except maybe for a couple of little things… As a child I longed for her to attend my plays and concerts at school. How good it would have felt if she had been a room mother or attended PTA meetings, how nice to come home to a clean house and find her waiting for me, perhaps with a tray of cookies or freshly baked bread. But I understood and forgave her for having to work and vowed never to let my work interfere with my children’s happiness. Other than that I assumed raising my children with the same love and trust I had received was about all that was necessary.
As it happened, my choices, combined with a lot of good luck, an education in child development, help from a good husband, and a strong desire to be a good parent made me a good-enough mother. But beneath the conscious aspects of my upbringing and later on, of my parenting, was an emotional undercurrent of which I was utterly unaware.
As a child I took my mother’s emotional reserve and unwillingness to discuss family problems for granted. I would never have guessed that her untaught lessons, unexpressed feelings and unrevealed truths would leave me ill-equipped to handle many psychological aspects of child-rearing.
I never heard or saw my parents argue. (Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that Daddy was rarely home!) Moreover, I can think of only two instances when my mother and I exchanged heated words. The time she used the word “damn,” I was shocked into silence. Intuiting her emotional fragility and wanting to spare her more pain after my parents’ divorce and Daddy’s death, I spared her the normal adolescent phase of rebellion by disowning my uncomfortable emotions. For years I thought that was admirable. What a good girl I was! Just like Mama.
Naturally, this influenced my parenting. Without knowing it, I was so intimidated by conflict and anger that at the first sign of agitation my default response was, like my mother’s, avoidance. Since my family rarely saw negative emotions from me, I believed I was very good at keeping them under control. I was, but that wasn’t a good thing! On the rare occasion when shutting my mouth, swallowing my emotions or distancing myself didn’t work, I was quick to grow impatient, irritated and stern. And if that didn’t shock them into silence, an angry eruption from me would. That may have been an effective way to relieve my anxiety, but it was a dismal model of emotional maturity.
Our parents’ unresolved issues flow into us through dark underground passageways, and if we don’t bring them to the light of consciousness we pass them on to our children. With every gain I’ve made in managing my anxiety, I’ve gifted my family with one less problem to contend with. I’ll never be a perfect wife, mother, or grandmother, whatever these elusive creatures might be, but knowing I’ve lightened my family’s inherited psychological burdens gives me comfort.
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
On Interrelatedness: No Beginning, No End March 21, 2014
Yesterday I met with my writer’s group, The Purple Pros, at the Barnes and Noble Café. As is our custom in this group which has met for over twenty years, one of us brings a meditative reading; another brings a topic we write about for five minutes. Despite the fact that these activities are randomly chosen, their themes are almost always remarkably similar, if not identical. Moreover, the same themes inevitably crop up again during our touch-in ritual. We never fail to be awed by the mystery of this synchronicity.
It happened again yesterday. Margie lost her beloved husband several years ago. To the great joy of those who love her, she’s found love again and will soon marry a wonderful man. To celebrate this happy occasion, I light a small candle in a sparkly gold container and read a blessing from John O’Donohue titled “For a New Beginning.” Margie tears up as I read. Afterwards she tells us of a synchronicity that makes this blessing especially meaningful.
Since I’ll be out of the country the day of her wedding, and since she and her fiancé are both patrons of the arts, I give her a carved wooden Endless Knot that was hand-painted by the young students at an art school we support in Bhutan, a country whose economic development is based on “gross national happiness.” I bought it there several years ago. The tears continue to roll down her cheeks as she tells us the paint is the exact colors of her wedding! Enclosed is this description: “In the endless knot all the lines are interrelated to each other and the knot has no beginning and no end. It symbolizes the infinite knowledge and love of Buddha to all sentient beings. It is good to give as gift to your dear ones as an expression of your eternal love and compassion.”
Lenny’s writing assignment is to write a scene that depicts happiness that is meaningful and true to us. Here we go again. First we celebrated Margie’s upcoming marriage ritual which is all about love and happiness; then I give her a gift from a country whose official goal is to promote happiness; now we are to write about what brings us happiness. Usually I need time to think before I start writing; occasionally I never even get started. This time my scene arrives immediately and fully formed. I can’t write fast enough. Only after I’m finished do I connect all the dots: it’s about the interconnection between happiness and ritual, relationship, meaning and love.
This is what I wrote. It makes me happy just to think about it!
My granddaughters are excited about tonight’s sleepover. They ring the doorbell then run and hide, a ritual they started in early childhood and still enjoy. I loudly lament their absence until they race from their hiding places and give me hugs and kisses.
After depositing their backpacks their first stop is my bedroom. Sophia sorts through the makeup in my vanity drawer and picks out something to take home while Alex tries on my shoes. When she falls in love with an old pair that fit perfectly, I give them to her.
Dinner is delivery pizza consumed over a favorite video. Dessert is freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, still warm.
The rituals continue at bedtime. They bathe in the spa tub with bubble bath crystals and fragrant lotions. Sophia pulls the pillow cases off her favorite Swedish foam pillow. Alex asks for her glass of water.
I tuck them in and kiss them goodnight then sit at my desk on the balcony outside the same room their mother once occupied, my presence a reassurance they still crave. Their door swings open and Sophia comes to me clutching the large furry rabbit hand-puppet I brought her from a trip to the Grand Canyon a few years ago.
“You forgot to say goodnight to Snuggle Bunny!” she says with questioning eyes as she tentatively holds out her beloved bedtime friend. Will I still want to enact a ritual that means so much to her? I receive Snuggle Bunny with infinite tenderness. As my fingers animate her head and arms in gestures of shy love, we three murmur our goodnights.
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
Image Source = Wikipedia: Zeskanowana praca ręcznie wykonanej kopia ogólnie dostępnej grafiki
Children and Meditation: A Follow-Up July 23, 2013
“Thank you, Granna. I love you.” These words from my 11-year-old grandson were accompanied by a warm hug before he went up to bed.
Earlier that evening I had taken my five grandchildren to our tipi and taught them a lovingkindness meditation. I’d been thinking for months about what I wanted to do with them during this summer’s visit to our cabin in the Smokey Mountains. One thought was to introduce them to meditation, so in a blog post last March I asked readers for suggestions. The response was far beyond my expectations. My sincere thanks to all who shared your wonderful ideas.
With help from them and Coming to Your Senses, a new book about meditation written by my friend, Beth Johnson, I came up with a plan for four sessions. All the children, ranging from five to eleven, are excellent students with good attention spans, but anticipating their excitement about being together combined with the novelty of learning how to meditate in a tipi, I decided to keep the sessions no more than 15 minutes long. My plan was to focus on their physical senses and guide them through fun activities that would harness their creative imagination. I also devised follow-up activities, most for outdoors (listening for sounds, looking for landmarks on our property, and finding and identifying wildflowers), and, in case it rained, one (making a mind jar) for indoors.
My backpack full of props included a hand-woven wool Navajo placemat; a thick, pure soy candle; incense and an incense container; a lighter; a tape player and 2 tapes of Cherokee legends to play at the beginning of each session; a few bottles of water; 6 towels on which to sit or lie; bug repellant; and because it was such a rainy summer, a camo tarp to cover the wet tipi floor.
I approached the first session, which was about quieting our monkey mind by noticing our physical body and senses, with a bit of trepidation. The kids are still at the stage where the mere mention of the word “body” brings up giggly references to body parts normally not mentioned in polite company. I got what I expected. At dinner a few nights later our friend Bud, the grandfather of a 3-year old boy, asked, “So how did the meditations with the grandchildren go?” “Exactly how you’d expect with five children under 11.” I said.
The next day I skipped the Day Two session “Feeling and Relaxing Your Body” (guess why) and went directly to Day Three: “Finding Your Star,” a creative visualization suggested by a reader named Amy. We lay on our towels, closed our eyes, and imagined flying above our bodies. We flew over the cabin, mountains, and seas into outer space toward our own special star. When we arrived we sat down for a while to enjoy the view. I told them this is a very special quiet and safe place inside them where they can return whenever they feel sad, lonely, or a need to be alone. After a moment we flew back into our bodies and stood up and did a silly star dance.
Amy also suggested the lovingkindness meditation we did the last day. They were getting used to this by now, so although there was still some silliness, everyone participated fully and enjoyed talking about it later. After listening to another Cherokee legend we focused on the candle flame, then on our heartbeats, and then on the light of love inside our hearts which grew bigger and brighter as we imagined being with someone we love. Finally we imagined giving away some of this light/love to someone who might need it from us. These children are naturally sweet and loving, and judging by my grandson’s bedtime response, I’m pretty sure this one was their favorite.
I feel very good about my first try at teaching my grandchildren how to meditate. I don’t expect any immediate or dramatic changes, but I’m pretty sure I gave them some memorable experiences that planted a few seeds of awareness. I’m going to love watching them grow.
“The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth. Scholarliness belongs to the spirit of this time, but this spirit in no way grasps the dream, since the soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.” Carl Jung The Red Book, A Reader’s Edition, p. 133
Note: For those who are wondering, I’m taking a little sabbatical from blog-writing this summer so you won’t be getting many e-mails like this for a while, but I’m posting links to some of my archived posts on Twitter and my Facebook page. I hope you enjoy them.
A Grand Adventure July 10, 2013
It’s been over five weeks since I decided to step back from my twice-weekly blog posting to just let life happen without an agenda. I’ve been surprised to find that with only one exception (my post about Grandmother Spider) I haven’t missed writing. Until today. Why now? Lots of things I guess: a note from a friend who’s missing my regular updates and musings; a lull in the activity going on around here (my three grandsons have left to visit their other grandparents for a week and my daughter’s family is off zip-lining today). And also, perhaps, because I think best by writing and I have much to think about.
Apparently my new freedom from stressing over self-imposed writing deadlines has snuck into other areas of my personality. The other day my husband and one of our grandsons spent a lot of time setting out cushions and hauling wood and laying a fire in our new globe fire pit in the terrace garden by the creek. Out-of-town friends were dropping by for a glass of wine and we were going to sit out there.
Just before they arrived the skies darkened and thunder rolled and a few fat droplets splashed on the deck. I casually said to my daughter, “Let it rain. The wood will dry, the cushions won’t be ruined, and they’ll see it another time.” With a deadpan look she said, “Well that was very un-compulsive of you!” I’m still chuckling. I loved it that my stress switch didn’t automatically flip on and highjack my equanimity as it has done so often in the past! I don’t know if it’s increasing age or increasing consciousness, but either way, it’s real progress!
Last week my five grandchildren were here for some much anticipated fun at Camp MaBoppa with, you guessed it, Ma and Boppa. After several days of spending most of our time indoors because of non-stop rain, one night around midnight I was in their bunk room trying for the zillionth time to settle them down and get them to go to sleep. The first few nights of this it hadn’t been an issue. The excitement of being with each other was catching and I figured it wouldn’t do any harm to let them enjoy the novelty for the few days they’d all be together.
But by this night my HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) personality trait had been pushed to the max by not enough sleep, too little solitude, and too much intense stimulation. Tired, frustrated, and cranky, I was preparing to leave when one child started laughing and another started crying and I felt a crack in my normally patient, composed persona, and then it exploded into a million pieces. I felt it coming like you do when someone lights the fuse of a giant mamajama Roman Candle on the 4th of July, and then I let it fly with a few angry, totally appropriate, well-chosen words!
Absolute silence! In bed a moment later, a twinge of guilt and a bit of fear that they’d stop loving me were soon swept away by a wave of joy and “You go, girl!” pride. I did it! I was proud of myself! It was the right thing to do and I knew it! For someone who hates conflict so much that sometimes she doesn’t set clear boundaries, this was an important achievement.
That night I dreamed I was looking at a map of the Western Hemisphere and tracing a route that started in North America, passed through Central America, and ended at a special village in the center of South America. Part of the route was a watery passage dotted with islands. I imagined I’d need a canoe for that. I’d been asked by a regal-looking woman wearing a long, neutral colored dress to accompany her and her photographer on this trip. I was to help him articulate the essence and meanings of the images he’d be making of our grand adventure. The dream ended with someone giving me a packet of folded up paper. When I opened it, precious gems tumbled out and I searched for the diamond I knew was in there for me.
The next day we were having lunch when one of my grandsons said, “Do you remember what you said last night?”
“Yup,” I said. “I sure do. And there’s more where that came from if I need it.”
“I’ve never seen you that way,” he said with a touch of awe. “Me neither,” said the little one, equally solemn and wide-eyed. Then we all smiled at each other and ate our sandwiches.
This summer is turning out to be a grand adventure.
Children and Meditation March 19, 2013
Achy and tired from a one-hour morning walk on the treadmill, I sat at my computer a while ago with a single question. What shall I write about for tomorrow’s blog post?
Before fully awakening this morning I dozed off and on in dreams about a new post. But I can’t remember a word of it now. Plus, my mind is still absorbed in the book I was reading on Kindle (The Bet, by Vivienne Tuffnell) as I walked. What I really want to do is keep reading. But one-track-minded as my ego is, it decided to defer that particular gratification until I’ve written this, with no idea what this would be.
Years of dreamwork and meditation have taught me some valuable realities. One is that my ego’s conscious thoughts and feelings are balanced by equally valid and influential unconscious material. Another is that when I experience a writer’s block it’s because an unconscious issue “wants” to be addressed. Third, my ego can gain access to this material. I have rituals for times like this, and I trust them because they never let me down.
So I lit my ever-present candle—the current one has a nostalgic scent of cinnamon and evergreens called Joie de Noel—closed my eyes, held my hands in front of me, focused on feeling the tingling in my palms and the beating of my heart, and entered the pregnant darkness (a term for the unconscious I got from the title of Jungian analyst Monika Wikman’s book.) Within seconds I was far away. I’ve been feeling stirrings of excitement lately about the coming of spring and our annual mid-May trek to North Carolina, and this is where I immediately went.
I saw myself sitting cross-legged in the center of the tipi we erect each spring. Our grandchildren were sitting in a line facing me. I was going to teach them how to meditate. I was wondering how to start and what to say and how they would react, imagining jokes and giggles and restless stirrings, when I realized how far my mind was from my hands. Immediately I was back at my desk feeling the tinglings. Within less than two minutes, what I wanted to write about was birthed into my awareness. Or rather, what I wanted to ask you about.
Except for the few minutes of deep-breathing combined with the simple centering mantra I teach my dream groups and use to open my workshops, I’ve never taught anyone to meditate. I have little formal training and am largely self-taught with help from books. There are many different kinds of meditation and people respond differently to different methods. The one that works for me involves following my breath and the life in my body, noticing when my mind strays away from that focus, and then bringing myself gently back to it. With almost no effort or strain, my ego swiftly goes to the place wanting the most attention.
So here’s my question. Have any of you ever taught children to meditate? If so, would you do it with children between the ages of five and eleven or is that too early? If not, should I find a fun way to teach what works for me, or have you had success with a different method? Of course, all of this is predicated on the assumption they’ll be interested in learning. But I figure it won’t hurt to give it a try. I’d love them to have a mental practice to ease the stresses they’ll be experiencing in the coming years.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.