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.

 

The Power of Original Choice January 11, 2013

enlightenmentIn the instant when our ego is conscious of our shadow we are lifted by grace from the dark realm of blind reaction into the enlightened realm of original choice.”

The above is from my last post about the shadow. Around 22 years ago I read a quote about original choice that instantly switched on some long-unused lights. I think Emerson wrote it. It was something like, “Nothing is so rare as an original choice.” I was just emerging from a lengthy dark night experience and knew that if I’d read it a decade earlier I would have blown right past it, uncomprehending.

Until I saw those words I hadn’t known how blinded I’d been by collective thinking. I’d been so busy being a good girl and pleasing all the important people and looking up to famous authorities and being so proud of myself for doing everything right that it simply hadn’t occurred to me that following outer examples while repressing inner realities is not the way to become who you are meant to be. This is what it means to be unconscious.

It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t until mid-life. And it took a whopper of an inner crisis for me to get it. Luckily, I refrained from doing anything foolish during that time. I was very good at being a stoic little soldier, so I just tolerated the pain. Doing so was another message I had unconsciously absorbed. So much so that around the age of 12 when the dentist said I needed several fillings, I refused Novocain. I still remember the odd way he looked at me after drilling a particularly bad tooth. I had no idea what it meant, but now I think this kind man was feeling a mixture of compassion and pity. He must have wondered why in the world a little girl like me would make such a choice. I had no idea. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.

Wait! I made that decision by myself! Wasn’t that an original choice? Not really. I was proud of myself for choosing to be so brave, but unconsciously I was just following an example. No-excuses, non-complaining, unemotional stoicism was my mother’s drug of choice. Or at least, that’s how it seemed to me. In my mind I had to be like her. It made me feel safe. Special. Worthy. Such is the power of cultural conditioning.
A truly original choice would have been to listen to my feelings and say, “Hell yes, I’ll take Novocain! And anything else you’ve got! I’m tired of pretending! Conforming! Not feeling! Proving something! To whom? For what?” But I didn’t know I had that option. Most children don’t. We teach our kids good manners and appropriate social behavior, but how many of us teach them to trust their inner promptings, especially those that make us acutely uncomfortable? For most children, it’s far easier to conform than risk parental disapproval of their deepest, truest selves.

How do we make an original choice? First, by learning to listen to the murmurings of the pure and loving soul we were born with; a soul whose purpose in life is to bless the world with its unique gifts simply by loving what it loves. Second, when the time is right and we’re strong enough to accept the rejection that some will gleefully heap upon us, by singing our own song. Making our own contribution to the healing of the world is the greatest power and purest joy we will ever know.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Such is the power of cultural conditioning.  When’s the last time you made an original choice?

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

 

 
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