Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Dreams: Your Personal Treasure Trove April 30, 2019

For the last 30 years, dreamwork has been my primary psychological and spiritual practice. Nothing has brought me as much self-knowledge, self-acceptance, meaning, and all-around life satisfaction as remembering, recording, analyzing, ritualizing, and journaling about my dreams.

My dreams are my personal treasure trove. They have known me better and guided me more surely toward my true gifts than any human seer or counselor could possibly do. They have been wiser than any teacher, more valuable than material possessions, more constant than any friend, more affirming of what’s true and important to me than any compliment, mirrored reflection, or admiring glance I’ve ever received. Had I not discovered this hidden wealth within me, none of the accomplishments I hold most dear—not my loving relationships with my family, my mentoring of my students, my books and other writings, or my spiritual growth—would have been possible.

Knowing of my passion and long experience working with my dreams, two weeks ago, Tzivia Gover, Director of the Institute for Dream Studies founded by Justina Lasley, hosted me as a speaker for an online class with her international group of students. I was asked to talk about my new book, The Soul’s Twins, with its emphasis on the feminine and masculine archetypes and how they can appear in dreams. After my talk we had a lively Q & A session. Tzivia wrote today to tell me that her students were still discussing some of the topics and had a few more questions for me. I’m sharing my answers here for other like-minded souls.

Q: How did you make the transition in your late thirties when you underwent a spiritual dark night and shifted your focus from the outer world of achievement and conformity to the authentic inner life of the psyche? What challenges did you have to overcome? How was this beneficial in the long run?

The transition was long, slow, and difficult. It began with an experience that awakened an instinct that had been relatively unconscious until that time. It centered around a painful conflict between two very real and valid parts of myself. The part that felt new, scary, and bad (my instinct) wanted to act. The part that had always been “good” and proper and careful and conforming—and felt rather proud of herself for being that way (my ego)—most certainly did not want to act! The problem was that both sides were extremely compelling and both choices would have been intolerable.

Until that time, I had believed I was doing everything right. For the first time I was faced with challenges to the persona I had carefully built over the years and could not dismiss them with self-discipline and will power. My religion was no longer a helpful guide. Prayer didn’t take my problem away. My major challenge was to face my spiritual questions and doubts and have it out with my God-image, who was really my church’s God-image, not mine, although I didn’t realize that at the time. These internal dialogues kept me awake for hours many nights.

Another challenge was to carry on normally by day without allowing my suffering to infect my family life and work. A third was to think through all the possible scenarios that could result from either choice without taking any impulsive actions I might later regret. A fourth was to trust a tiny intuition that this was all happening for a reason. A fifth was to tolerate the tension of clarifying my conflict and persevering until the solution arrived. When it did after about six months of this, I chose to go against convention and honor my instinct.

Once I was firm in my intention and made that original choice, the conflict was resolved by outer circumstances beyond my control. Acting on my decision was no longer an option. I felt cheated, betrayed, abandoned, mistreated, abused, and deserted by my God. My grief was intense. I suffered the deepest anguish I’ve ever felt for about two years without allowing my suffering to hurt anyone else. This was my trial by fire, and it lasted nine years.

During that time I began to experiment with trusting my instincts and pressing needs more often. I also became aware of a new God-image of compassion and love that was emerging in me, although I often failed in my intention to put love first in my everyday life. I still do. I faced and endured many agonizing conflicts because I wanted to protect the realities of my inner and outer life at the same time without betraying either one. When I discovered Jungian psychology and my dreams, I finally quit a job I hadn’t liked for years and started my first book about the inner life. That’s when the light started streaming back in.

As for the benefits, I’ve answered that question above. The fact that I’ve discovered my calling and befriended many of my dragons doesn’t mean I no longer have conflicts or flaws. It just means I’m much better at forgiving myself and seeing, facing, and resolving them quickly.

Q: Can you say more about the discoveries you uncovered when exploring the feminine approach to the hero myth?

I learned the hero myth is not about acquiring the outer trappings of success in the eyes of the world. That’s been patriarchy’s interpretation for thousands of years. It’s really a story about your masculine side (usually your conscious ego), cooperating with your feminine side (your soulful, feeling self), so that together these parts of you can find the courage to uncover and befriend the forces of ignorance in your own unconscious.

I learned it’s okay to have a shadow and to experience conflicts with it. Everyone does. And it’s never as bad as you think it is at first.

I learned that just because my religion and family and country have definite ideas about right and wrong doesn’t necessarily mean their views are correct or good for me. I realized that the point of the hero’s journey isn’t to kill my dragons–my shadow, instincts, and true feelings–but to build a relationship with them based on trust and compassion for myself and respect for their differing realities. Because they’re the ones guarding my treasure. And until I get past them by approaching them in peace and friendship—carrying on dialogues with them, and accepting their qualities as mine—I’ll never gain access to it.

Tzivia’s students at the Institute for Dream studies have two more questions about archetypes, but this is already too long so I’ll answer them next time. Dreamers, please know that it’s true that your treasures lie within. You are courageous warriors to seek them, and I salute you. This post and the next are dedicated to you.

Image credits: Dream, artist unknown, Google Images. St. George and the Dragon, Rogier van der Weyden.

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.

 

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, http://www.warriormindcoach.com.  “Trust,”  Google Images, http://www.theodysseyonline.com.  Monkey mind-2:  Google Images, https://interculturalmeanderings.wordpress.com. Peanuts cartoon:  Google Images, http://www.pinterest.com.

 

Killing Lance Armstrong May 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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