The Next Step December 28, 2016
This week between Christmas 2016 and the New Year of 2017 is the first in almost seven years that I didn’t schedule a Tuesday post on Matrignosis. I’m still trying to figure out why, but one factor is undoubtedly that I’m struggling with physical, emotional, and spiritual burnout from the presidential election and holiday preparations. As a result, I’m recovering from my second nasty bout with bronchitis in two months.
Determined to get the rest I obviously need this week, I had no conscious plans to write a post until after the new year. But this morning I awoke from a dream:
A new government has taken over. It is banning free speech and singling out intellectuals and other ‘undesirables’ on trumped up charges. I’m feeling worried and frightened. Our only hope is in one extraordinary man who secretly leads a resistance group. I see his slogan, “We Will Survive” written in large bold letters on a large surface in a public place and take great hope from it.
I have to tell Fred. He’s been distracted by work and doesn’t know this has happened. I find him and tell him with tears welling up in my eyes, “I have terrible news about the government!” I consciously add the words ‘about the government’ because I want to prepare him to hear something alarming but don’t want him to think the news is about any kind of immediate threat to our loved ones. I fear for our world.
So this is it. The core issue beneath everything I’ve been thinking and doing and trying not to think about or do in recent weeks. My intuition and feelings are in a high state of alert and as an introvert I’ve been trying to keep them under cover, both for my own protection and others. But the Self won’t allow me to ignore this any longer and sent me a dream to make me face it.
How am I going to respond to a situation that feels like a terrible threat to our country and world? How can I be sure that what I say or do will be helpful and not harmful?
After recording my dream I reread recent posts, looking for threads that might suggest my next step, my next post.
From The Invisible Cord: “Awakening from a long sleep during which our egos have been unconscious of our inner truths, and moving into a more mature way of living and loving is what Christmas is really about.”
From The Two Sides of Surrender: “Positive surrender frees you to live to the fullest with all the life energy you have at your disposal without wasting it on denial, escapism or self-hatred.”
And, “Healthy surrender is not a victim’s descent into lethargy. It is a warrior’s ascent to compassionate action which causes the least possible harm to others. It requires…restraint until you acquire the wisdom to know what must be done.”
But when will I know what must be done? Until now, my actions have been guided by this thought:
“Your voice is too weak for those raging to be able to hear…Thus, do not speak and do not show the God, but sit in a solitary place and sing incantations in the ancient manner.” ~Carl Jung. The Red Book, p. 284.
Perhaps this is part of the reason I could find no words for a Tuesday post this week. But I am unusually mindful of these words from The Invisible Cord: “…all opposites, outer and inner, are bound to each other by an invisible cord which is as real and essential to us as our heartbeat.”
There is an absolute, eternal union between God and the soul of everything. The problem is that Western religion has not taught us this. Our ego over-emphasizes our individuality and separateness from God and others. ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.
Mystics like Francis and Clare lived from a place of conscious, chosen, and loving union with God. Such union was realized by surrendering to it, not by achieving it! ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.
After citing the above I wrote: “If you’re not a religious person, just replace the word “God” with any or all of these three: Life. Love. Reality. It’s all the same thing.”
Still looking for guidance, I picked up a new book I’ve been wanting to start and chose a page at random. There I read,
“We’re standing in the middle of an awesome mystery—life itself!—and the only appropriate response before this mystery is humility. If we’re resolved that this is where we want to go—into the mystery, not to hold God and reality but to let God and reality hold us—then I think religion is finally in its proper and appropriate place.” ~Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, p. 73.
‘We’re standing in the middle of an awesome mystery.’ ‘Western religion has not taught us this.’ ‘I think religion is finally in its proper and appropriate place.’
‘Show the God.’
I think you can expect more of this from me in the coming months.
Image credits: Brain Power, Cononley_09, Wikimedia Commons.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.
A Dialogue with the Self August 2, 2016
Carl 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.
I’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.
Speaking 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
“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.
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.”
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 Kobo, Barnes And Noble, and Smashwords.
Coming Home to the Self December 29, 2015
Here in the mountains it’s a gray winter day. We arrived for our annual holiday visit the day after Christmas hoping for snow, but the weather’s so mild that the windows are open. Over the roar of the creek, swollen from a solid week of rain, a single crow caws somewhere nearby. Welcome home, she says. Downstairs the grown-ups are finishing a jigsaw puzzle we’ve been working on since summer. The grandchildren are playing a video game. I’m upstairs writing this, tomorrow’s post, my heart warm with the comforts of home, family, and love.
This place, this now, this beauty. These tears of wonder and gratitude. For this sacred moment, this simple awareness of being at one with my Self, life and love…this is all I want or need. This is the grace and blessing of the Self, a moment that needs no words. Yet now I am searching for words to fill this page. I don’t fight it. After all, part of the Self—my sacred core and circumference—is a writer and another part is a teacher. And these parts still want to share what they know.
Listen to me! the crow caws insistently. I hear you. I answer. You, too are part of me, part of the Self. I look out the window in its direction, past the skeletons of maples and buckeyes, the fluttering rhododendron leaves on the mountainside glistening with droplets of rain. It’s all alive. All sacred. What words could possibly be a clearer statement of the sacredness of life than this?
I haven’t always had this awareness. My soul has expanded very slowly through the years. First I had to want to know the truth about the puzzle of myself more than I wanted to protect myself. Then I had to let down some of my ego’s boundaries. Had to stop saying no and start saying yes. Had to admit I can be wrong. Could be hurt. Could need somebody. Could be showing the world a false self. Could be afraid. Angry. Selfish. All that took a while.
Eventually I liked the awareness so much that I searched for a practice to keep me more aware. Discovering dreamwork felt like striking gold. Metaphorically, that’s exactly what it was. That vein of gold led to more veins: the gold of self-validation and self-affirmation, the gold of insights, passion, revitalization, synchronicity, adventure. Some veins led to my dark shadow, others to my light shadow. Some led to my anima and animus. A few have gone deep enough to encircle my Self.
A soul needs time and reflection to expand. I’ve practiced dreamwork for 26 years with no end in sight. Which is good, because I never want it to end….even though lately I’ve been dreaming of my critical bully: a bossy chef, a menacing sniper, a criminal holding people hostage with a gun and a baseball bat, a rude and haughty boy. The craziness of the holidays can do that to a person! Last night I lay awake counting the number of people I’ve hurt over the years, sometimes out of self-righteousness, sometimes thoughtlessness. I was appalled at their number.
Yet on Christmas night and the next two nights I dreamed about a large Christmas tree ornament, a sparkling diamond and gold ball that was being clarified and perfected and completed, and so were my understanding of it and my words about it. And I was it and it was me.
Circles are images of the Self. So are diamonds and gold. Soul-making has infinite rewards. Every day I see my self-criticism backing off, my frustrations softening. Trust has pretty much replaced worry and grace flows through more often, revealing the sacred river of life and love that runs beneath and through it all.
A bad internet connection made my computer so sluggish a while ago that I took a break and went downstairs. I was aware of the river when I had lunch with my family. When Robyn and I emptied the dishwasher. When everyone went out to enjoy a brief dry spell before the rain returned. When I savored a slice of caramel cake. It was still there when I returned to my desk and found my internet connection working normally again. Another tiny reminder that, in the words of anchorite Mother Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
And now it’s time to finish this and rejoin my family downstairs. Fred’s got a fire going and my favorite new book of poetry, Coming Home by Jamie K. Reaser, awaits me on the chair in front of it. Thanks to her I’m learning how to talk to crows. It’s the perfect book to feed the fire growing inside me and keep the river flowing.
May the New Year bring us all more awareness of coming home to the Self.
Please enjoy this final video, “Theatre of the Self,” from my new YouTube series, Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery. You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page), on my website , and at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.
Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.