Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

A Summer of Numinous Moments August 21, 2019

This morning the temperature dipped below 60 degrees Fahrenheit here in our mountain valley. As I write this at 3:00 in the afternoon, it’s 76 degrees. Outside my window, clusters of brown leaves are gliding to the ground on gentle breezes. Summer is nearing its end.

I’ve experienced occasions of profound joy, awe, and thankfulness every summer I’ve spent here in the past 18 years. Partly because this tree-shaded nest surrounded by densely forested mountains is such a welcome change from Florida’s glaring sun and intense heat. Partly because it’s a special place to share and enjoy with my family and friends. And partly because, for one who pays attention, aging brings greater awareness of approaching mortality which, in turn, brings greater gratitude for each moment one is able to enjoy the gift of life.

But it’s not just this place that accelerated my numinous moments this summer. We also took a once-in-a-lifetime vacation with our daughter and her husband, our son and his wife, and our grandchildren, three of whom will be headed for college within the next couple of years. Knowing this might be the last time we’ll all be together for a summer trip intensified my awareness of the gift of life too. Everywhere I looked I saw beauty in things I would never have noticed when I was younger.

In these moments of heightened self-awareness I feel like I’m in touch with my true Self and the Source of life. When I was younger, this usually only happened in church. Now it happens daily, especially when I experience a synchronicity, am outdoors in nature, or spend time with family or friends.

You all know by now that I’m no Bible thumper or verse quoter. Nor am I a fan of the masculine pronoun habitually applied to the Sacred Mystery. Moreover, as you will have read in my previous post, I definitely don’t believe the religion I grew up in is the only “correct” one. But when I can overlook my ego’s biases against humanity’s distortions of spiritual truths, I’m still comforted by the underlying truths conveyed by sacred scriptures. Especially Psalm 91, my favorite ever since Grandpa read it to me as a child.

Since then, the following lines with their references to nature, the “secret place of the most High,” abiding “under the shadow of the Almighty,” trust, truth, living without fear, and being kept by angels in the holy ways of goodness and love have held enormous appeal for me. Maybe they’ll appeal to you too if you listen with your heart and soul and not your head. For me, they speak to the core of every human longing and every authentic religion.

Psalm 91 King James Version 

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Did these words and beliefs learned from organized religion at an early age activate my spiritual inclinations? Or do they simply come from being born a sensitive, introverted child with a subtle, natural awareness of the “religious function” (Jung’s term for the Self) within myself? Both, I think. Regardless, I’ve worked to connect with the Self through regular dreamwork for so long that this summer I’ve been seeing the sacred in almost everything.

The following pictures capture a few moments that stopped me in my tracks and filled me with appreciation for the miracle of life this summer. I hope you enjoy them. And the rest of your summer.

This gorgeous Chinese dogwood was one of our first sights when we arrived.

Can you see the tiny hummingbird? A few days ago I was sitting on the porch when one hovered within inches of my face long enough to bring tears of awe and joy.

Nature’s symmetry.

 

The Carolina wrens were busy this spring stuffing this bird house with nesting material!

Izzy chewing a stick in the moss garden by the creek.

Luscious homegrown raspberries.

Beauty from the summer garden.

 

 

A nighttime raid on our bird feeders by a hungry bear. It was definitely a religious experience that put the fear of God in me when Izzy awakened me with a ferocious bark at one in the morning and I found her staring intently out the window! When I texted this image captured by our motion detector camera to my family, I inadvertently drew in the black line beside the bear and don’t know how to erase it.

An Episcopal church in our mountain town. I love the shadow on the roof.

Our first taste of fresh sea urchin roe on bread dipped in EVOO and sprinkled with lemon juice.

 

Our son walking with his youngest son. Note how their steps are in synch.

The last dinner of our family vacation.

Note:  For those who are interested, Crucifixion Quake, the documentary I was asked to appear in  and was interviewed for last summer, is finished. Last week it was in its first film festival in Greece. The producer hasn’t received word of how it was received yet, but they have produced a trailer for it that you can watch at this link: https://vimeo.com/349143143.  You won’t see me in the trailer, but at times you’ll hear my voice. 

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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

The Mediatrix Archetype in Dreams May 21, 2019

My last two posts here and here, were in response to questions from students at Justina Lasley’s and Tzivia Gover’s Institute for Dream Studies. This post is the answer to their final question: “How do I identify the Mediatrix archetype in my dreams?”

In Aeschylus’s tragic play Agamemnon, Cassandra is a prophetess who foretells the fall of Troy and the death of Agamemnon, but no one believes her. Agamemnon goes to war with Troy anyway, and when it falls, Cassandra is raped, then given to Agamemnon. On their way back to Greece, she and Agamemnon are murdered. Cassandra’s seemingly supernatural ability to see into the future, as well as her suffering for it, is one theme associated with the Mediatrix archetype.

In the ancient myth of Inanna, Goddess of Heaven and Earth, Inanna descends into the Great Below to visit her sister, Queen of the Underworld. There she is stripped of all her belongings and hung on a meathook for three days until she is rescued by tiny emissaries of her priestess. When she returns home she rules as a benevolent and wise goddess.This myth depicts another Mediatrix theme: the wisdom gained from the suffering that comes with going deep to connect with the darkest mysteries of oneself and life.

Persephone’s rape and kidnapping by Hades, followed by Demeter’s search for her with the aid of a torch provided by the goddess Hecate, contains the above themes and suggests a third: the guidance and protection provided by the Mediatrix. In this story the Mediatrix is represented by Persephone, who goes to the underworld unwillingly, Demeter, who consciously explores that realm in her search for her beloved daughter, and Hecate—the goddess of crossroads, entrance-ways, light, and the hidden arts of magic, witchcraft, ghosts, and sorcery.

In The Odyssey, Athena, goddess of war and wisdom, disguises herself as the old man Mentor. Mentor is Odysseus’s wise friend and guide, and in his absence, the teacher of his son, Telemachus. The word ‘mentor’ means wise counselor, teacher, sponsor, or supporter. These, too, are qualities of the Mediatrix archetype.

 

The Birth of New Spiritual Life

The Catholic Church uses the titles of Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces, and Advocate for Mary. For them, Mediatrix means that all the graces from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit flow to us through Mary. In other words, the Mediatrix is also your spiritual guide.

Mediatrix represents an impelling force, a way of thinking guided by an ethic of care and compassion, that feels empathy for otherness and wants to understand and learn from it. Her goal is to share knowledge and create harmony between opposites within and without. She is both a physical and mental bridge that connects you with yourself, others, nature, and Spirit. Qualities associated with her include a humbling history of suffering, openness, receptivity, empathy, harmony, mindfulness, relationship, connection, understanding, special knowledge, gnosis, and compassion.

The Mediatrix’s knowing is not the ego’s accumulated accepted knowledge. Her mental specialty is subjective knowledge, like being aware and mindful of your honest feelings, bodily sensations, and intuitions. Noticing subtle messages coming to you from people and places and situations in the world around you. Feeling changes in your mood when you meet someone new, or touch an object, or visit a new place. Her influence can be as mind-blowing as a supernatural visitation or vision, or as gently affirming as experiencing the miracle and mystery of life as you gaze at the ocean.

It is your Mediatrix who wants to understand and learn from your dreams, and when the time is right, she will show up to provide guidance. But it can be very subtle, so you will have to be on the watch for her.

For example, you might see her influence in any of the above-mentioned archetypal themes in a dream or waking life. Or she might be a dream companion who quietly stays in the background to support and reassure you in a harrowing adventure. She could be a suffering orphan who’s been abandoned by her parents and begs for your attention. Or a dog you follow on a forest path.

She could be a barely noticeable passenger in the back seat of your wildly careening car. An indigenous grandmother wrapped in shawls who gives you three mysterious gifts. A whispered message from an unseen source. A priestess who leads you through an initiation, a wise woman who writes instructions in a book, an unknown woman who swims beside you toward your home base on the far side of the sea.

When you sense her presence in a dream, pay attention to how she makes you feel. What does she remind you of? When do you have these thoughts and feelings in waking life? What does she seem to be trying to do or say? Watch for her in the inspirations and intuitions that arrive in that liminal space just before your ego fully awakes in the morning. Make note of them and apply them to your waking life.

In time you will learn to trust her knowing, which is really your soul’s natural knowing as opposed to your ego’s culturally influenced knowledge. Following it will lead you to unimagined treasures.

Image credits:  Wise Woman, artist unknown, 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. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

Time Out January 31, 2017

Yippee! It's morning! Time to get up, Granna.

Yippee! It’s morning! Time to get up, Granna.

My son brings Izzy, his four year-old golden retriever, to our house. We will dog sit until his family returns from their winter vacation.  She’ll be with us for five days. I love this dog, but she’s not easy. She’s big, rambunctious, needy, demanding of attention. Will the time and attention I’m willing to spare be enough for her? I hope so.

We take a little walk. She sniffs around, does her business. Good. We return to the house so I can work and she can rest.

It’s evening.  I feed her and leave for my ukulele lesson. When I return home Fred says our daughter has invited us to join them for dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. We are delighted. Izzy will be fine alone for a while. She’s been here many times. I give her a treat, tell her we’ll go for a walk when I get home, say goodbye.

Over dinner our granddaughters recount last week’s accomplishments. A perfect score on a difficult and important math test.  A thrilling promotion from the junior varsity to varsity softball team.  Does anything feel better than this time out with them?

Back home, Izzy wakes up  from her nap on the kitchen floor. She looks up at me, tail thumping, waiting to see what’s next. I wrap her leash around my shoulders, stuff a green doggy-waste-bag in the pocket of my blue jeans, and we step out the front door.  Our little neighborhood is small and secluded so the leash is just a back-up plan in case we run into cars or other late-night dog-and-human-walkers.

A late afternoon walk.

A late afternoon walk.

I love being outdoors at night. The fresh cool breeze off the nearby lake. The quiet. The shadows. The open space. The peace. No people to talk to. No cars to avoid. A few pale street lights…just enough to keep Izzy in sight. The pleasure of giving her this time out, knowing she’s enjoying it, feeling confident and secure because I’m there with her.

She stops in the middle of the road, sniffing road kill. It’s too dark and the creature’s too long gone to tell what it is. Was. Osprey, raccoon, opossum, squirrel?  I look at the stars, happy to wait, enjoying her pleasure.  She glances back at me. I step forward, so does she. We move on to the next olfactory infusion. She stops, transfixed. I stop, transfixed. Does she remember I’m here, or is this new smell her entire universe in this moment?

We walk on. She sniffs something else, looks back, reads my body language. “It’s okay. You’re okay,” my body says. She understands and moves on. I’m still her lighthouse. I follow her lead. Knowing we’re connected as surely as if she were on a leash. Gratified that we trust one another so much that she doesn’t have to be tied physically to me. Pleased that she’s free to follow her nose. Humbled that we’re so acutely aware of the significance of each other.

We approach a crossroad. She looks back at me. Looks to the left. Looks to the right. Starts off to the right. No, I think. Left toward the lake is better. No traffic that way. She’ll be safer. I whistle one note. She freezes. Glances back. I point to the left. Just a slight movement of my arm and index finger. She turns around and goes left.

img_8984

A magical night by the lake.

I feel a surge of joy. This moment. This connection with Nature, this utterly delicious intuitive knowing. This trust between two animals who have such different languages and ways of processing life.

So different, and yet….we see each other. We know each other. In some invisible way we are touching each other, our minds sharing the same time and space. It feels magical. Miraculous. We’re part of a mystery so vast my mind can’t encompass it.

But, oh! I can enjoy it. This night under a starry sky. This dog who trusts me, who I trust. This connection to the unknown. I’m filled to bursting with gratitude and love. Does anything feel better than this time out?

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.

 

A Zen Summer August 16, 2016

imagesYou trust your unconscious as if it were a loving father. But it is nature and cannot be made use of as if it were a reliable human being. It is inhuman and it needs the human mind to function usefully for man’s purposes. Nature is an incomparable guide if you know how to follow her. ~Carl Jung, Letters Volume 1, Page 283.

Remember Mr. Miyagi, the Japanese handyman who was a Karate master in the classic 1984 film, Karate Kid?  Everyone’s favorite part was the way he used hard work, specific movements, and mantras to train Daniel, a misguided youth. “Wax on, Wax off. Sand the floor. Paint the fence. Paint the house.” For Daniel, the work was grueling, pointless and demeaning until, as shown in this dramatic scene, his suffering led to a revelation akin to a transformational spiritual awakening.

Mr. Miyagi comes to mind when I think about this summer in the mountains. I’m a writer and practitioner of inner work and contemplation…not much of a physical doer. I look forward to being here all year, imagining the pleasures of no deadlines, no agenda. I picture myself spending long hours on the porch reading and writing in peaceful meditation. Then I arrive and barely find the time to publish a weekly blog post or finish reading a book.

Izzy's job is to carry my water and clippers in her backpack.

Izzy’s job is to carry my water and clippers in her backpack.

Here, my life is centered on my granddog Izzy, and Nature. Like Mr. Miyagi, both are exacting masters. Feed birds. Feed fish. Feed dog. Groom gardens. Groom trails. Groom dog.  Pick up trash. Avoid poison ivy. Wash dog. Worry about trees. Worry about rain. Worry about dog. Appreciate boulders. Celebrate rain. Pet dog. Four of these were especially prominent this summer.

My patting boulder. Old lady with fern hat or Green Man?

My patting boulder. Old lady with fern hat or Green Man?

Appreciate Boulders. I found a new favorite stone on the trail our handyman blazed through the dense forest last winter. It’s huge, mossy, and wrinkled as an old lady wearing a hat of ferns. Or is that Green Man whose face I see in the shadows? I can’t resist reaching out and patting him/her when I pass by. A few days ago I found this in one of my favorite blogs:

“The central symbol of the Zen garden is the stone. For Jung, it signified “something permanent that can never be lost or dissolved, something eternal that some have compared to the mystical experience of God within one’s own soul;” for Cirlot it is “the first solid form of the creative rhythm —the sculpture of essential movement, and the petrified music of creation.” Stones are pure and perfect in their simplicity, yet powerful, mysterious and inscrutable like the gods.” From Symbol Reader,  Symbolism of Gardens.

The stone mandala I made about 15 years ago captured in a Yin/Yang moment of shade and sun.

The stone mandala I made about 15 years ago captured in a Yin/Yang moment of shade and sun.

Worry About Trees.  The hemlocks are being decimated by a parasite and we’re treating many of them with biennial doses of medicine, but we can’t save them all.  On every hike after a big wind I have to remove or circumvent heavy branches and another fallen tree or two. A neighbor across the creek has several dead ones still standing. A few threaten to land on our house.

One evening after a storm with gale force winds we heard a commotion out on the main road. A giant oak had fallen and neighbors with chain saws were cleaning it up. It was there a century ago when the dirt road leading to our property was carved out of the mountainside, and over time its roots were exposed and weakened by erosion. Luckily no cars were beneath it when it finally surrendered to nature’s purposes.

This beech standing on tiptoe could be the next victim of erosion on our mountain slopes.

This beech standing on tiptoe could be the next victim of erosion on our mountain slopes.

Celebrate Rain.  I don’t know what it is about rain, but it feels magical. One evening Fred and I were rocking on the porch and watching black clouds gathering above the mountains when suddenly the ozone-scented breezes and whisper of raindrops coming up the valley transported me to an unusually intense meditative state. Curious, I checked my heart rate on my Apple watch. Within moments my normal resting rate of 61 beats per minute plummeted to a shocking 45.  Cool.

A woman too has a peculiar attitude toward nature, much more trusting than that of a man. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 123.

Was Jung right, or was he still conditioned by some of the prevailing stereotypes about women in the early 20th century? I don’t know. But I do know I am deeply connected to this land.  I love it and trust it, and sometimes I worry about it. Will my grandchildren and great grandchildren love it as much as I do? Will they feed the birds and clear the paths and pat the boulders and love the trees enough to learn their names and do their best to protect them?

11406420_810904575646427_1976885749494247402_oFeed Birds? Last week Izzy’s fierce barking woke Fred at 1:30 in the morning. Exhausted from a day of “doing,” I was sleeping like a stone. Thinking she had to go out, Fred took her downstairs. But instead of heading for the front door, she stood transfixed at the glass door to the side porch. What was going on?

The mystery was solved the next morning when we found our biggest, sturdiest, squirrel-proof bird feeders mangled on the ground. Only a scattering of seeds remained. Somewhere in the Nantahala National Forest up the mountain a contented bear was snug in its den dreaming about last night’s tasty meal.

images-1The Asian martial arts are rooted in Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Their spiritual elements gave purpose and meaning to the ancient warriors who loved and practiced them.

The same can be said of those of us who find purpose and meaning in loving Nature, our Mother. If our practices have a spiritual element, so do hers. After all, inhuman though she may be, we come from her, and she’s an “incomparable guide if you know how to follow her.”

Credits:  Thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for the Jungian quotes.  Karate Kid video from YouTube. “Anyone can slay a dragon quote” image by Brian Andreas from www.pinterest.com“Try not to change the world” quote by Sri Chinmoy from www.srichinmoybio.co.uk

 

A Dialogue with the Self August 2, 2016

serpentine_fire_81Carl Jung said the Self is both our core and our circumference. Some think of it as our soul, the totality of who we are and who we have the potential to become. Jung called it the archetype of wholeness. In later years he referred to it as our god-image and connection to the Mystery some call God. Composed of the twin drives for self-preservation (i.e. masculine logos, represented in alchemy by the King archetype) and species preservation (feminine mythos/eros symbolized by the Queen), the Self shapes our ideas about what is sacred.

As the source of our irresistible compulsion to grow into our true selves and express our unique creativity, the Self is an ongoing, never-ending process.  I see it as the psychological equivalent of the physical exchange of energy and information constantly occurring at the quantum level between the molecules of our bodies and between us and our environments. As I understand Jung, he suspected that the energies of both processes, inner and outer, are united in one intelligent, purposeful, evolving collective unconscious, Force (as George Lucas named it), or Zero Point Field (as some physicists now call it), which promotes increasing order, health, and wholeness.

We associate the Self with six attributes: wholeness, centrality, unity, love, pattern, and the life-giving force. We grow conscious of its guidance by noticing these themes in the symbols and synchronistic events of our dreams and waking life.  Benevolent by nature, the Self calls our egos to their heroic destiny of merging with the indwelling Mystery. Our egos often reject its guidance, but it never gives up on us. The more we notice and respond to it, the more it responds to us.

The following story from one of my earliest blog posts illustrates the loving interaction that can take place between ego and Self:

I’ve just arrived at my soul’s home in the mountains of North Carolina where I will spend the remainder of the summer. I’ve often wondered why I love this place so dearly, why it makes me feel so loved and connected and alive and grateful for my life. My answer came last night and this morning.

spider-web-with-dew11I’m at my desk looking out an east-facing window. The morning sun enters my backyard late because it has to rise above the mountain before its rays filter down through a thick tree canopy. Most of what I see is in shade but a patch of sun has highlighted the brilliant silver threads of a spider web between two branches of a buckeye tree. Grandmother Spider is busily checking connections, tightening threads, and hunting for tasty morsels that got trapped during the night.

Pursuing the threads of last night’s thoughts, this morning I picked up Aion, Volume 9, ii, of Jung’s Collected Works, in search of symbols of the Self. In paragraph #356 he writes:

“The commonest of these images in modern dreams are, in my experience, the elephant, horse, bull, bear, white and black birds, fishes, and snakes. Occasionally one comes across tortoises, snails, spiders, and beetles. The principal plant symbols are the flower and the tree. Of all the inorganic products, the commonest are the mountain and lake.”

Spiders. Mountains. Trees.

When I entered the gravel road last night my arrival was heralded by a cawing black crow who flapped off toward the house. The first thing I did was feed the rainbow trout in our pond. Black birds. Fish. Lake. (Do you think a pond counts?)

Then I walked around the garden to check out the flowers. My treasured peonies are already spent, but the pink New Dawn roses and purple clematis are a-riot on the trellis, the hydrangeas look like giant blue and white powder puffs, the hostas are sending up tall bud-laden spikes, the astilbe have myriad pointed white cotton candy tufts, the golden daylilies are in full bloom, and there’s a  mound of pink petunias by the kitchen door. I don’t garden in Florida. It’s just too hot. But here I can have my flowers. Flowers.

Below Bear Pond and Shadow Brook there’s a small pasture and stable where my horse, Shadow, used to spend his summers. I’ve always had a thing for horses. And Shadow, well, he’s a subject for another post. Horses. By the way, bears are the theme of this mountain home.  They’re all over the house.  But that’s another story too. Bears.

bear-grandfather-mtn-tim-floyd-7796081Speaking of bears, every summer for ten years I’ve come here with my sweet friend, a handsome golden retriever whose name was Bear. He passed on last August, but his ashes are in a white box with a label that says “Bear Raffa:  Forever Faithful” in a cabinet four feet to the right of where I sit. I cried when I entered the house without him last night. But this morning when I was still in that borderland between sleeping and waking, I heard his joyous booming bark. Twice. He’s glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m back.

Do I need any further reminders of how loved I am and why I love this place so? Not really, but such is the nature of the Self that I’ll probably continue to get them every day anyway. And night, too. Sweet dreams of the Self, my friends.

 

Following Our Symbols: Healing Our Souls March 15, 2016

My photo of a black bear raiding a bird feeder in Highlands, NC.

A black bear raiding a bird feeder in Highlands, NC.

There is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man…[that] still makes up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.”~C.G. Jung

Last weekend, Elaine Mansfield and I presented a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop to the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota about the lessons to be learned from loss and grief.  A major theme was how our culture’s one-sided emphasis on the brain’s left-hemisphere logos thinking has severely crippled the fullest development of our souls. Like Carl Jung, we believe that ignorance of right-hemisphere mythos, a way of thinking which employs imagination and symbol, undermines our hope of finding healing and meaning in our suffering.

Through sharing, writing, examples, and interactive experiences, we demonstrated how to use mythos to find meaning in the symbols from our dreams and myths. Dreams are personal myths. They come to bring healing and wholeness. Cultural myths do the same thing. If we know their language, both can guide us on our soul’s journey through and after life. As Jung noted, using this language to develop a harmonious relationship with our symbols is the first step toward wisdom.

“First we must learn to think mythologically. Powerful things happen when we touch the thinking which myths, fairy tales, and our own dreams bring to us.” ~Robert Johnson

I began studying mythos in my late forties. Every night I recorded my dreams. When I had time for reflection I consulted good symbol books for possible meanings. Occasionally I used active imagination with compelling symbols. Among these were bears. Today Bear is one of my most valued healers and guides.

Bears, in their simple willingness to shake off their unconscious sleeps, abandon the dark caves of their births and hibernations, and make their solitary ways into the forest, are associated with endings and new beginnings. They demonstrate that transitions from known to unknown are not to be feared as obstacles or punishments, but embraced as thresholds to enriched living. This lesson from my dream bears brings me peace and trust during times of change.

During hibernation bears fall into a sleep so deep that they appear to be dead; yet, wonder of wonders, they emerge from their caves in spring as if they have been resurrected, often with a new cub or two. In terms of our soul’s journey, this pertains to experiences of transformation and rebirth  that awaken us to new insights about the unconscious world beneath our ordinary awareness.

A golden bear in my collection of bear symbols.

A golden bear in my collection of bear symbols.

It was only natural that Bear would become a cherished symbol when I was compelled by unconscious forces to embark on a painful spiritual quest. Although initially devastating, my encounter with the Self within eventually brought far greater rewards than the familiar comforts I left behind. Like Bear, I too am now at home in the unknown where I love to roam the wilderness and fish for nourishment in dark, deep waters.

Many Native Americans associate bears with spiritual introspection. So do I. Bear emerged during a phase of massive psycho-spiritual house-cleaning and remodeling. I was attending weekly classes on Jungian psychology, studying books, recording my dreams, and writing down meaningful insights in my first book about psycho-spiritual development. For reasons I did not fully understand, a golden bear became a prominent symbol in that book. Just as Bear spends long periods of time in inward-focused hibernation each year, so was I thoroughly immersed in my inner world.

Some years ago a new theme, return to nature,  began to demand my attention. It manifested in ways unusual for me then: a decreased motivation to write, restlessness, attraction to the outdoors, and an alien itch for more physical activity. I recognized another threshold, another opportunity to follow Bear.

As large animals that are so human-like at the same time they are so strangely other, bears generate an awareness of, and reverence for, the instinctual life of the body and soul. In a culture such as ours, based as it is on a centuries-old tradition of valuing mind over matter and repressing the instincts, Bear reminds us that we ourselves are animals, and that, in the soul-stirring words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Fred and me before a circus-themed costume party.

A scary bear and an affectionate bear tamer before a circus-themed costume party.

Once the golden bear called me out of unconsciousness and into awareness of the sacred place within. Now it calls me out of myself. You’ve hibernated long enough, my bears say. Come out here and find us! It’s time to explore your senses and immerse yourself in your body and nature, the final sacred place for pilgrims such as you.

What symbols have appeared in your dreams?  How have they brought healing meaning to your life’s journey?

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 KoboBarnes And Noble, and Smashwords.

 

A Warm 52nd Week: 2015 January 5, 2016

Filed under: Family,Holidays,Living,Nature,Uncategorized — jeanraffa @ 12:01 am
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Little Hogback Mountain near sunset.

The Western slope of Little Hogback Mountain just before sunset.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.  The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”  ~Carl Jung

We returned home from the cabin last night after a week of unseasonably warm and rainy weather and equally warm family gatherings.  Unfortunately, this morning the cold that’s been threatening me for a couple of days finally showed up in a sore throat, laryngitis, and the other usual symptoms.

So instead of writing a longer, more time-consuming epistle, I’ll summarize my final week of the year with a quick post sprinkled with pictures. After which, as the Victorian ladies say, I’ll “take to my bed” for a long winter’s rest. With popcorn. And movies. Hey, I’ve been good!  And I really need this today.

Where'd all this water come from?

Where’d all this water come from?

 

Izzie and I took several hikes. The first day we discovered that after a week of solid rain, the little brooks that are usually only trickles had become serious contenders with our big and bold Buck Creek!

We had the good luck to run into Hermenio, who lovingly tends and beautifies our property. He took us on a guided tour of the new trail he’s building.

 

Hiking the new trail.

Hiking the new trail.

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The winter woods are full of treasures. Like this delicate ground-cover plant with tiny green leaves and bright red berries that loves the damp ground and mossy sides of rocks and boulders. Does anyone know its name?

One of my favorite things to do on hikes is look for Mother Nature’s art. Here are a few samples.

I call this "Stepping Stone with Leaf and Boot Print."

I call this one “Stepping Stone with Tulip Poplar Leaf and Boot Prints.”

Has any human ever made lace as delicate as this?

Have human hands ever made lace as delicate as this?

I'm likin' this lichen bracelet.

I’m really likin’ this gorgeous lichen bracelet.

 

Cooking is a favorite pastime and we have lots of food rituals.

 

I always make a big pot of chili to welcome the family on their first night.

I always make a big pot of chili and homemade biscuits to welcome everyone after a long travel day.

And we have to have monkey bread for breakfast at least once!

We have to have monkey bread for breakfast at least once. Robyn, the boys’ mother, made this one…with a little help from her youngest.

Homemade pizzas are always favorites.

Of course, nobody doesn’t like homemade pizzas.

 

 

 

 

 

The most fun of all is a 'hat dinner!' For this one, our godson, Wade, treated us to BarBQ brisket made in a big green egg.

Our ‘hat dinners’ (we collect old hats) are the most fun of all! For this one, Wade, our honorary godson, treated us all to BarBQ brisket cooked in a Big Green Egg. Seriously yummy!

 

Here we are with our son and his family just before sitting down to our New Year's Eve hat dinner.

Here we are with Matt and his family just before sitting down to our New Year’s Eve hat dinner.

 

Wade and his family before dinner.

Wade and his family.

 

On our last hike the boys finally found some frost and played a game of tic tac toe made from weather-impervious marble. Their table is the stump of a hemlock.

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Wishing you warm memories of 2015 and a happy, healthy, prosperous, and wildly love-filled New Year!!

Happy New Year!

 

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.

 

 
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