Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Books: The Perfect Holiday Gift December 18, 2017

Holiday Greetings to all. It’s a week before Christmas, so there’s still time to order books for the readers on your list. In case you’re looking for ideas, here are some of my recent favorites. They’re all wonderful.  Enjoy.

Regina Aguilar, Alchemy of the Heart: The Sacred Marriage of Dionysos and Ariadne. Chiron Publications. November 7, 2017.

Manipulated by mythologies which legitimate the authority of those who use them for economic and political advantage, we are increasingly estranged from our Source, our environment, one another and ourselves. We need stories that describe the soul’s healing, bring reverence for life, and connect us to an inner authority based on experiential knowing. Alchemy of the Heart—an in-depth Jungian analysis of the myth of Dionysos and Ariadne—is such a story. Dionysos exemplifies the destruction and restoration of wild, virile, passionate masculinity in deep rapport with the earth and femininity. Ariadne symbolizes innocent, trusting, devoted, but deeply wounded femininity in patriarchy. When a woman’s romantic illusions are shattered by masculine betrayal, the experience of feeling her supportive inner masculine brings renewed vitality and a mystical sense of oneness with life. The story and eventual union between the masculine Lover and feminine Beloved in the alchemical sacred marriage described in this myth is a metaphor for the inner path of integration and individuation available to you.

HeatherAsh Amara, The Warrior Goddess Way:  Claiming the Woman You Are Destined to Be, Hierophant Publishing, October 24, 2016.

Written for women, The Warrior Goddess Way is filled with wise principles and insights from which anyone seeking greater power, passion, and freedom can benefit. Amara describes a pathway of presence, baby steps, and practice—a road to reclaim all of you, including your darkest fears and most precious gifts. It asks you to recognize how you have been trained to think and behave, to witness your mind instead of believing everything it tells you, and to embrace yourself in your entirety. Most of all it asks you to stop resisting things beyond your control and learn to love it all. To say Yes! to every situation in your life and ultimately, Yes! to death. Befriending death frees you to be more fully engaged with life. Examples and activities demonstrate the value of such qualities as presence, forgiveness, apology, authenticity, respect, listening, stillness, and awareness.

Lewis Howes, The Mask of Masculinity, Rodale, October 31, 2017.

“Regardless of gender, the key to success in life is creating meaningful relationships.” With this line, the reader is ushered into a bold new territory where successful men care more about connecting and being real than wearing macho masks. In today’s world, authenticity and other qualities this two-sport All-American athlete now associates with greatness—like empathy, insight, honesty, vulnerability, compassion, acting for the good of others, and the ability to heal from one’s own wounds—are traditionally associated with femininity. Howes hopes to change this one-sided and outdated stereotype by describing nine toxic masks men wear which, when discarded, enable them to accept their vulnerability and evolve into a modern-day masculine archetype of benevolent and compassionate power, courage, inner peace and happiness.

Ira Israel, How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening, New World Library, November 7, 2017.

Western culture’s beliefs in capitalism, science, and religion taught you to value the wrong things like productivity, consumerism, and romantic love. Your futile struggles to find happiness and unconditional love via these beliefs created resentments and judgments about the past. As an adult you still dwell on these beliefs and ignore your present pain to stave off future pain. In How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult, psychotherapist Ira Israel deconstructs common dysfunctional mindsets and encourages you to accept and own the reality of your life. Suggestions to raise and reorient your consciousness include seeking a new definition of authenticity—encompassing the psychological principles of attachment, atonement, attunement, presence, and congruence—and practicing Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path and Three Jewels. Your practices will alleviate suffering, promote loving relationships, and help you live with authenticity and love.

Winifred M. Reilly, It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage with (Almost) No Help from My Spouse—and How You Can, Too, Touchstone, April 4, 2017.

Written by marriage and family therapist Winifred M. Reilly, this wise and practical book addresses unrealistic expectations and dysfunctional interactions which damage love relationships. With examples from clients and her own marriage, Reilly takes the reader through five developmental stages of partnerships. She concludes the key for positive change is for one partner to name the basic issues that create conflicts, accept personal responsibility for their role in them, learn how to manage their anxiety, and take risks to respond in new ways. This weakens habitual patterns and transforms the relationship into a more forgiving and loving partnership.

Tosha Silver, Outrageous Openness:  Letting the Divine Take the Lead, Atria (Reprint Edition), July 12, 2016.

Doctrinaire religions can leave you spiritually alienated because they focus on external observances instead of internal realities. Tosha Silver suggests you align with the Divine by asking for what it wishes for you instead of insisting on your ego’s preferred outcomes. When you offer your problems to the Divine and invite it to take the lead, then symbols and synchronicities tell you when to act. Your openness and trust in a divine order of love and abundance frees you from worry and allows the perfect solution to any problem to arrive at the right time. Silver shares a fascinating and entertaining collection of brief stories which illustrate these principles at work in her life and the lives of others.

Sara Avant Stover, The Book of She: Your Heroine’s Journey into the Heart of Feminine Power, New World Library, October 13, 2015.  

Building on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1973) and Maureen Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey (1990), yoga and meditation instructor Sara Avant Stover’s The Book of She describes how women can reclaim their feminine power. Combining personal stories, examples from wisdom traditions, and advice from noted psychological and spiritual teachers, Stover highlights 13 stages of the feminine journey. These are organized into five parts: Preparing for the Journey, The Descent, The Initiation, The Ascent, and The Homecoming. Readers are encouraged to explore and heal their inner and outer lives with numerous activities, rituals and guided meditations within a framework of guiding principles—cultivating an ongoing practice, welcoming silence and prayer, clarifying your priorities, taking responsibility for your life, exploring dualities, and facing your shadow.

Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, Whitaker House, October 4, 2016.

“Bad theology is like pornography—the imagination of a real relationship without the risk of one.” This sums up the theme of The Divine Dance—a repudiation of Empire and a celebration of Relationship. Central to this celebration is your willingness to actively change what you let into your heart and consciously participate in the divine dance of loving and being loved. Trinity is a foundational principle of perennial philosophy—the core beliefs common to every religion. Some call it the Third Force. It is also a living reality—a circular flow of love in you and the universe that mirrors the orderly spinning dance of subatomic particles which birth and sustain life. The 67 essays in this book depict God as absolute relatedness. They affirm that your participation in the dance can transform your illusion of separation into a spiritual experience of radical relatedness with yourself, your life, and the Divine.

I think of you often as I work on my next book and will stay in touch in the New Year. I wish you the happiest of holidays. As the nights grow longer and darker, may your inner light grow stronger and brighter.

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.



Staying Conscious April 11, 2017

Surprise! I’m back with an update. Reworking my old manuscript is bringing enormous satisfaction. My unconscious is sending solutions to knotty problems via my dreams and early morning ruminations before I’m fully awake. I’m meditating for 20 minutes before I get to work and writing for hours at a time. The latest entries in my dream journal say it all.


I’m teaching a one-hour college class in Language Arts. I have two pages of written notes stuck to a clipboard and am carefully peeling them off so I can hold them in my hands while I teach. Little chunks of the bottom of the second page stick to the board, but there’s nothing written on them so I won’t worry about them now. I suddenly realize I’ve spent the first 15 minutes getting my notes together and have no idea what’s in them. I feel an urgency to start teaching.

I start quieting everyone down, but interruptions and distractions prevent me from actually teaching. This is okay with me, because I can use this time to figure out what to talk about. I hope I’ll know by the time the class is ready to listen. A mother comes in late with two little girls. I don’t want them here but realize she must not have a choice so I smile to let them know it’s okay, all the while hoping she’ll keep them from disturbing the class. A loud male student gets my attention and I firmly ask him to quiet down. I realize I was too harsh and could have handled this better. I see I’ve used up another 15 minutes.

In the third 15 minutes the little girls fall backwards into a deep hole or well in the floor—it’s round and maybe 4 feet deep. The girls are submerged in a foot or two of water. I’m worried, but the mother doesn’t appear to be. They’re holding their breath and enjoying themselves. I decide they’ll come up when they’re ready and continue thinking about what to teach. But soon everyone is gathered around and I can’t ignore the situation anymore so I ask the parents (the father is here now) to pull them out.

Now I only have 15 minutes left. What’s the best way to use this time? I realize I haven’t given them the course syllabus yet. They need it to prepare for their end-of-semester project. I try to remember what it is. Oh yes, they have to create original learning centers. I feel better now. I know what to say before the class is over and I have to leave. I organize my thoughts and begin to teach.


This feels like a metaphor for the way I’ve spent my time in Earth School.  

During the first quadrant I unconsciously spent my time preparing myself, gathering information without having a clue about what I was meant to do with my life.

In the second quadrant I was teaching and becoming aware of forces within me that were preventing me from finding and fulfilling my life’s work. One challenge was juggling parenthood with teaching and learning.  Another was some strong masculine energy that presented me with problems I didn’t know how to handle gracefully. 

During the third quadrant I committed myself to dreamwork as a means of self-discovery and wrote my first three books. At last I knew what my purpose was:  to share what I knew about the transformation of human consciousness. Sometimes my immature feminine shadow fell back into unconsciousness. But I knew the importance of my mission and had the awareness to ask the Self (the parents) to bring her back into awareness.  

In the final quadrant where I am now, I know how little time I have left to fully prepare my students (whoever might be influenced by my teaching and writing) for what is to come. Now I know what to do and am doing it. 


There’s a girl-woman I know well who’s done something problematic. She’s got a bandaged wound. I’ve apprehended her and have to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she doesn’t escape and create more problems. This feels extremely important. Occasionally I take her by the wrist to keep her near. She’s pleasant and compliant, but I can’t trust her.


The girl is my feminine shadow.  The dream says I am seeing her clearly and objectively. When I stay with her she’s not a problem. But if I fall back into unconsciousness and forget to watch her, she will resurrect and negatively impact my work and relationships.


Staying conscious is vital to this last quadrant of my life.  I meditate every day now to be more mindful of subtle thoughts and inclinations that might prevent me from doing my best work. When something uncomfortable emerges I align with my observer/Self to look at myself objectively, recognize my shadow, and gently bring myself back into a place of repentance, forgiveness, gratitude and love. Making this effort is working.

Sending you love and blessings, dear friends. I’m having the time of my life.

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 Couple Relationship Within and Without January 24, 2017



“The original sperm from which we are formed is masculine and feminine, the one which is in the majority wins, but the other side does not die, it remains living but as a minority, just as in politics the Government and the Opposition both exist.” ~Carl Jung, ETH, Page 216.

Unfortunately, whether we are talking about the masculine and feminine attributes of our physical bodies, the psychological relationship between our inner masculine and feminine qualities, or relationships between males and females, Jung’s use of the word ‘Opposition’ in the above quote is only too appropriate.  Once our egos start identifying with one principle in childhood, we tend to set up an antagonistic relationship with the other, and this polarization permeates every aspect of our lives.

Dualistic thinking appears to be a natural and inevitable by-product of ego-formation in the first half of life, but it does not have to end there. Nor should it, if we want to keep growing. As Dr. Jung noted, we’re all formed from both principles, and each of us has our own unique spot somewhere along the continuum between them. Ultimately, our satisfaction and fulfillment in life depends on finding our own place and learning how to be true to it.

“It is only possible to live as we should if we live according to our own nature. But in these days we live by our brains alone and ignore the very definite laws of our body and the instinctive world. We damage ourselves severely when we offend against these…” ~Carl Jung, Modern Psychology, Page 219.

As long as we’re unaware and unaccepting of our true nature and fuller potential, we inevitably damage others too. Regardless of our gender, if, as a child, we learn to fear, mistrust, and dislike our fathers or other adult males, we may grow up to feel the same way about our own masculine sides, other men, or the masculine sides of women. Our attitudes toward our mothers and adult females will likewise effect our attitudes toward our feminine sides, other women, and the feminine sides of men.

We all have different personalities, experiences, biases, complexes and shadows, and no one wants to look at their painful aspects. But we ignore them at our peril, because our disowned selves influence our health and the health of our relationships.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to spot our prejudices and barriers: they are mirrored every day in intimate couple relationships. But unfortunately,

 Nails in Love

Nails in Love

“We have not been educated to look inwards, though most people are able to give their attention to outside things.” ~Carl Jung, ETH, Vol. 3, Page 13.

If we want loving couple relationships, we must redirect our attention from the outer world to the inner.  We must commit ourselves to practices which reveal our soul’s truths, which we must accept, especially the painful ones. If we persevere, over time our wounds begin to heal and our perspective changes. As this happens our outer lives change too.

We will never change completely and our shadow will always be with us, but we can recognize it sooner and make reparations faster. Moreover, accepting and integrating our fuller potential empowers us to break out of our prisons of conformity and blossom into our individuality. Gradually our resistance to, and fear of, others and the unknown lessens. We pretend less, react less habitually, feel less need to conceal our honest feelings or stifle our gifts. Our need to know everything, control anyone, or prove anything diminishes. Defensive postures such as resentment and hypersensitivity soften.

We grow more mindful, less agitated. We can more easily relax into the present moment. We can anticipate what the next may bring with pleasure and enthusiasm. We can make original, authentic choices. When we feel our prejudices, painful emotions and unhealthy habits rising within us like monsters from the deep, we can find new ways to express them without hurting others.

Over time, our thoughts and behaviors spring more often from healed archetypes than wounded stereotypes. Life becomes a delightful gift to be savored; less of a contest to win, obstacle to overcome, or ordeal to be endured. Thus do we create an ongoing, original work of art:  an increasingly more authentic, empowered, and conscious being with balanced energies which flow appropriately between masculine and feminine, here manifesting qualities of the drive for self-preservation, there acting from the drive for species-preservation. In a culture distorted by one-sided worship of the masculine, integrating the feminine brings a refreshing return of feeling and the ability to live with soul.

Northern Italy (Embriachi workshop): Jewellery Casket with Couples of Lovers; late 14th century; bone on wood, intarsia. Skulpturensammlung (inv. no. 690; acquired in 1835 for the Royal „Kunstkammer“ collection), Bode-Museum Berlin.

Northern Italy (Embriachi workshop): Jewellery Casket with Couples of Lovers; late 14th century; bone on wood, intarsia. Skulpturensammlung (inv. no. 690; acquired in 1835 for the Royal „Kunstkammer“ collection), Bode-Museum Berlin.

Respecting both masculine and feminine values fashions a new morality of impeccable integrity and personal responsibility based on universal standards of justice and care for all. Our wish to cause as little pain as possible, combined with our growing ability to see and restrain our shadows, helps us listen with patience and tolerance while allowing our partners to speak their truths. Creating the Couple within dramatically increases our hope of healing our relationships and establishing the intimacy and compassion for which every soul longs.

“If our inner journey does not match and lead to an outer journey, we have no true freedom or “salvation.” Richard Rohr Online Daily Meditation, January 16, 2017.

And I would add, if our inner relationship does not lead to a more honest and healthy couple relationship, we can be sure we are neither spiritually mature nor enlightened.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.  

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 Transcendent Function January 3, 2017

gothicrayonnantrose003In the almost 7 years since I began Matrignosis, I’ve written much more about depth psychology than what I would call ‘depth spirituality.’ Perhaps because I’ve been doing in-depth studies of Jungian psychology for 27 years and feel more comfortable about my knowledge and experience of it.  Perhaps because I have no formal credentials on the subject of religion and so have left writing about it to those who do.

Either way, I’ve only hinted at depth spirituality and its connection to depth psychology, shared a few meaningful religious experiences, and occasionally addressed mysticism and religion. Yet, depth spirituality is a passion of mine and I’m feeling compelled to write more about it. So here goes.

I’ve been deeply spiritual since the age of 17 when I experienced an epiphany about some Bible verses and eagerly answered an altar call at a Billy Graham Crusade shortly afterwards. Perhaps it started before that, when, at the age of 10, I was encouraged by my Baptist paternal grandmother to kneel beside my bed and invite Jesus into my heart. Or did it happen a few months later when my minister immersed me in the baptismal font at the First Christian Church we attended?

Maybe my spiritual spark ignited when, around the age of 5, I experienced awe and wonder on a walk with my father beneath the cathedral-like canopy of a forest? Or was it earlier still at age 3 when I was lost and alone on the shores of Lake Michigan, following a faraway light that twinkled through the darkness like a star?

Regardless of when it awakened, I know for certain it didn’t begin to deepen until midlife. That’s when I experienced a crisis of faith which caused painful internal conflicts between known and previously unknown parts of myself. Gradually, taking these conflicts seriously and exploring them over a long period of time transformed my old God image of a distant and aloof heavenly father into a sacred, genderless, benevolent force which was real, present, and life-changing.

Carl Jung, whose father was a minister, experienced a similar crisis which activated the same compulsion to understand himself and participate in the Mystery of life. He called this compulsion the ‘transcendent function.’

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.


In fact, people have been encountering the transcendent function for thousands of years. Here’s what happens. Consciousness is born when we become self-aware: when we see ourselves objectively and realize we can make original choices instead of conforming and being buffeted about by unknown forces. We start out believing these forces are outside of us, in nature, other people, gods. We grow by acknowledging that they are in us, and that we project them outward to avoid taking responsibility for who we really are.

It is we who create our religions, our cultural standards, our wars, our beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad. This good/bad opposition is the source of our internal and external conflicts. We have no control over the transcendent function or when—or if—it kicks in. But if and when it does, everything changes.

The transcendent function does not proceed without aim and purpose, but leads to the revelation of the essential man. It is in the first place a purely natural process, which may in some cases pursue its course without the knowledge or assistance of the individual, and can sometimes forcibly accomplish itself in the face of opposition. The meaning and purpose of the process is the realization, in all its aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in the embryonic germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, par. 780.

Self-discovery is the basis of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism and the mystical traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Some practices that lead to self-discovery are introspection, meditation, contemplation, centering prayer, dreamwork, body work, active imagination, journaling, psychotherapy, art, and so on.

Our choice to explore our unconscious selves is where East meets West and Soul meets Spirit. Working together in partnership toward understanding, union and love, our divided selves can eventually merge into One. This transforming process is both depth psychology and depth spirituality. It is where Life wants to take us.

great_temple_at_honan_cantonBy means of the transcendent function we not only gain access to the ‘One Mind’ but also come to understand why the East believes in the possibility of self-liberation. If, through introspection and the conscious realization of unconscious compensations, it is possible to transform one’s mental condition and thus arrive at a solution of painful conflicts, one would seem entitled to speak of ‘self-liberation’. ~Carl Jung, CW 11, par. 784.

Image Credits: Rayonnat Gothic rose window of north transept, Notre-Dame de Paris (window was created by Jean de Chelles on the 13th century). Great Temple at Honan, Canton. (Hoi Tong Monastery on Henan Island in GuangzhouChina). Wikimedia Commons.  Quote image courtesy of Lewis LaFontaine.

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.


What Does Mature Religion Look Like? August 30, 2016

35375c195eee0f2d7c552d7bba2c6cfe“Religion is supposed to teach us the way of love. Jesus even commanded it. Though I’m not sure that you really can order or demand love, it’s so all-important that the great spiritual teachers always do, saying with urgency, as it were, “You’ve got to love or you’ll never find your soul’s purpose. You’ll never find the deepest meaning of life itself.” Philosophically, you will never discover the Logos, the blueprint, the pattern, the template of all reality, what Jung would have called ‘the soul of the world.'” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Do we, the majority of us in the contemporary world, do we understand what love means?  Do we feel fulfilled and spiritually satisfied in the depth of our souls? To the point that we’ve found our soul’s purpose? To the point that we can feel love for others whether they love us or not? Most of us don’t. I think that’s why our world’s in such a mess. Consider how our ideas about love for God and others develop…..

AN INFANT’S IDEA OF LOVE: You satisfy every instinctual need.

Come here right now!  Feed me. Hold me close. Touch me gently. Make the hurt and hunger and loud noises go away. Smile at me. Make soothing sounds.

A CHILD’S IDEA OF LOVE:  You give me what I want.

No! I won’t eat that nasty broccoli. I’ll throw up if you make me eat it. I want this toy! Don’t take it away from me! I won’t lie down. I don’t want to take a nap now. Come back here.  Don’t leave me alone. Give me what I want and I’ll be good. Don’t leave me with the baby sitter. I’m afraid.  Look under my bed. Did you check the closet? Just one more story and I promise I’ll go to sleep. Pleeeeeeease!  Suzy’s touching me!  Make her stop looking at me!! Thank you for giving me that (insert item) I wanted. You’re the best mommy/daddy/god in the whole world!

ADOLESCENT: You leave me alone.

There’s something wrong with you if you won’t let me do what I want to do.  Why don’t you understand me?  I was definitely born into the wrong family.  I can’t wait to get out of here!!

imagesYOUNG ADULT:  I am attracted to you and you make me feel good!  

If you love me you’ll always make me feel this good and I will love you forever! (Unless, of course, you stop making me feel good, in which case I’m outta here!)

I don’t feel as good as I used to.  What’s happened to you? If you really loved me you’d ….  (fill in the blank.) You don’t love me any more. I don’t love you any more either and its your fault:  (Pick one:)  A.  But, I’ll stay (and make both our lives miserable because being with you is familiar and I’m afraid to change) or B. So I’m leaving  (you’ll be sorry, but I know there’s someone out there who will love me.) There’s a C option too, but most of us never get to that…..

“I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”~ C.G. JungModern Man in Search of a Soul

MIDDLE AGE: You’re not enough for me.

Is this all there is?  I’ve done everything I thought I was supposed to do and I’m still not happy.What’s wrong with my partner? Could there be something wrong with me? How can I feel better? Would it be wrong to tell the truth and act on my honest feelings? Will God punish me if I change my beliefs and break my promises?

images-2MATURITY: Teach me to love so that I may become Love.

“Meaty spirituality must first of all teach us freedom from the self, from my own self as a reference point for everything or anything. This is the necessary Copernican Revolution wherein we change reference points. Copernicus discovered that Earth is not the center of the universe. Now we have to discover that we are not the center of any universe either. We are not finally a meaningful reference point. Although we do have to start with self at the center to build a necessary ‘ego structure,’ we then must move beyond it. The big and full world does not circle around me or you. Yet so many refuse to undergo this foundational enlightenment.’This ultimate reality, the way things work, is quite simply described as love.'” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

May our religion become Love.

Image Credits:  Pinterest. Google Images.


Managing the Monkeys August 23, 2016

Monkey-Mind-1-300x201“The unconscious as we know can never be “done with” once and for all. It is, in fact, one of the most important tasks of psychic hygiene to pay continual attention to the symptomatology of unconscious contents and processes, for the good reason that the conscious mind is always in danger of becoming one-sided.” ~Carl Jung; Syzygy: Anima and animus.

Is it my imagination or has this summer been crazier than usual?  I’m wondering if this is not just about the world situation in general, and America’s situation in particular (especially the upcoming election), but also about my personal life.  I didn’t expect to feel this way at my age, especially not when I’m supposed to be relaxing and enjoying our vacation in the mountains. But this summer there seems to be so much more on my plate, and I’ve been unusually aware of the weight of it. Yet at the same time — and here’s the odd part — I find I’m accepting it more calmly and letting go of it more easily. It’s……just……no big deal.

So I’ve been thinking about this lately and apparently my unconscious wants to help me clarify it. I think this because this morning I awoke with the residue of a dream in which I was writing a post about managing ‘monkey mind!’  I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term. Meditators use it to describe the challenge of calming the mind when myriad thoughts, images, ideas, worries, responsibilities, emotions, etc. are bouncing around in your head like a roomful of monkeys.  So since we just returned to Florida last night, and since today is one of those days when it feels like there must be a million monkeys in there, I’m going to go with this theme.  How shall I begin?

635941048195162433-28431253_TRUST articleTRUST:  As I wrote the above question, I realized that my choice to write about the issue highlighted in last night’s dream was exactly what I wanted to write about. For me, calming my monkey mind is a matter of trust. Trust that my mind is normal. Trust that my ego doesn’t have to control everything and I can let my unconscious do some of the work. Trust that my dream has meaning I can apply to my waking life. Trust that writing about what is meaningful to me might be helpful you. Trust that if my day gets so crazy that I don’t get my post written by my deadline of midnight tonight, my readers won’t be upset and my world won’t fall apart…. You get the idea.

So what I want to tell you is that I didn’t start out with all this trust. It has come very slowly, over years of reflecting on my inner life. You don’t decide one day to start trusting yourself and the universe, and then Trust just falls into your lap.  You have to work for it, and there’s no way of getting around that. What happens is that the more inner work you do, the easier and less stressful your life feels. You’re not as afraid of looking like an idiot. You don’t get as worried about silly unimportant things; and when you do, the agitation passes quickly. It feels like the big monkey bullies are calming down, some of them seem to have abandoned ship, and a few are starting to feel like friends you want with you on the cruise.

“Dictionaries define a contradiction as two things that cannot be true at the same time. I would say it this way: a contradiction is two things that cannot be true at the same time by your present frame of logic. As long as you do not reframe your reality, as long as you insist on your own frame of reference, you will not be able to find the wisdom in paradox. “The kingdom of God” is Jesus’ term for the bigger frame, or what we often call “the big picture” or “in the light of eternity…” You’ve got to find some framework that allows you to stand back and look at the moment with the eyes of Infinite Love and Mercy. Then you’ll see that many things which appear to be contradictory through logical, egocentric, dualistic thinking might not necessarily be so to a nondual mind.” Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, August 21, 2016.

monkey-mind-2TAKE YOURSELF VERY SERIOUSLY: This isn’t easy. Conventional wisdom has it that taking yourself seriously signals self-centeredness. And religion tells us that you should always think about others first. Right? Wrong. Let me remind you of a couple of sayings by someone generally considered to be one of the greatest Spirit Persons who ever lived.

#1: “The kingdom of God is within.” So if the sacred place is located inside your mind, is it wise to ignore the monkeys that plague your mind? Might taking them seriously be, in fact, the exact way to acquire a more spiritually enriched life?

#2: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “As yourself” implies that you have to love yourself before you can love your neighbor, right? So how can you love yourself if you’re frantically trying to love and take care of everyone else and neglecting the monkeys in you that want your attention?  Will you learn to love others by hating your monkeys? Ignoring them? Being afraid, critical or ashamed of them? It doesn’t work that way.

STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY: Yes, on the surface this seems to contradict what I just said above. But if you can accept both sides of this paradox instead of thinking it has to be one or the other, you’ll see what I mean. Yes, we have to notice the monkeys. And, yes, we have to stop being so hard on them and start lightening up and playing with them. Because that’s how we calm them down. We have to ask ourselves, “So how important is it really, if I don’t get this post written by my self-imposed deadline? Is trying to save the world with my writing really more important than living fully and loving and being who I was born to be?” (Which is a lot more than just a writer.)  Can I let go of my self-importance and start enjoying my day?

imagesI think I’m finished here….except you might be interested in knowing that I just wrote this entire post in record time with plenty of time leftover to play for the rest of the afternoon and evening. This on a day onto which my ego projected an especially dismal forecast. I hope you’ll forgive me for giving myself a metaphorical pat on the back, and for awarding myself a metaphorical gold medal for what feels like an Olympic accomplishment.

Image credits:  “Monkey Mind,” Google Images,  “Trust,”  Google Images,  Monkey mind-2:  Google Images, Peanuts cartoon:  Google Images,


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“Try not to change the world” quote by Sri Chinmoy from


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