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.

 

Tourist or Pilgrim? Which Are You? October 14, 2014

PhilGreeceThe pilgrim is a poetic traveler, one who believes that there is poetry on the road, at the heart of everything.” ~Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

In October of 2012 I was invited to make a presentation at Journey Conferences, an annual gathering of Jungians.  There I met Phil Cousineau, an author, filmmaker, lecturer and expert on mythology, and learned that he leads trips to some of the world’s most sacred sites.

Fred and I love to travel, so when we heard about his trip to the sacred sites of Greece with Sacred Earth Journeys this fall, we signed up.  My favorites among Phil’s many books are The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, and Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern Time.  Since our return last week I’ve been thinking about how this trip combined the themes of these two books in a magical way that made this my favorite travel experience ever.

“In each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred.”

The focus of our previous guided tours has been on the outer world. What drew me to this one was the promise of equal time for the inner life of the soul.

I was not disappointed. Each morning began with an hour-long conversation about the sites we would visit, the ancient myths associated with them, and the way they are still being played out in our lives today. Phil’s passion for mythology combined with his passion for mentoring turned what could have been just another interesting tour into an extraordinary personal odyssey.

Seeking Guidance from the Oracle at Delphi

Seeking Guidance from the Oracle at Delphi

“The force behind myths, fairytales, parables and soulful travel stories reveals the myriad ways the sacred breaks through the resistance and shines forth into our world. Pilgrimage holds out the promise of personal contact with that sacred force.”

For me, one of the most problematic aspects of past tours has been the lack of opportunity for close observation and reverie. Not so this time!  At least once a day Phil offered prompts for writing poetry or essays or making sketches. Always, he built in plenty of time for reflecting on how the celebrations and myths associated with sacred spaces triggered lost memories and inner stirrings. As if that were not enough, he provided even more time for sharing our impressions, insights and healing experiences with each other.

Our task in life is to find our deep soul work and throw ourselves headlong into it.”

At the ruins of Eleusis, site of the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries which celebrated the sacred death/rebirth fertility myth of Demeter and Persephone, we rested in the cave reputed to be the portal to the Underworld. There some of us shared evidence of the buried spiritual depths that lie beneath the surface of our lives. I spoke of how I shut down painful emotions and lost my tears at the age of 11 when my father died.  That night I dreamed I was as angry as I’ve ever been at family and friends who were thoughtlessly trashing my house and expecting me to clean up.  The dream ended with me hurling volleys of creative curses at them like Zeus throwing his thunderbolts, then laughing in delight at my uncharacteristic behavior!

The Starting Line at Olympia

The Starting Line at Olympia

Where was the anger coming from?  Was being in Greece influencing me to channel my inner Persephone, Dark Goddess of the Underworld?  Is she still mad at Hades for violating my personal space and stealing my father away? What about the laughter? Could Persephone finally be lightening up about a personal crisis which she has learned to view as a mere speck in the cosmic view of things?

Over drinks two evenings later, a woman in our group shared a shattering life-changing experience she had as a young adult. At dinner she made a mind-blowing connection: The myth of Demeter and Persephone is her story, one she has lived ever since her youthful trauma. She never knew it until that moment!

“What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”

The night after we visited Olympia, site of the original Olympic games, I dreamed of another Dark Mother who reminded me of Ereshkigal, cruel Queen of the Underworld who hung her sister Inanna, Sumeria’s Queen of Heaven and Earth, on a meathook to die. In a show of unwanted patronizing attention, dream Ereshkigal asked her attendants to escort me down some stairs. I refused to go. As I was falling asleep that night she visited me and gave me a light kiss on my lips. Her presence was oppressive and filled me with dread.

Why does the Goddess of the Underworld visit me now?  It seems obvious. I’ve entered a phase of life when my task is to make peace with death.  I’m not thrilled about this, but I’m ready to face what comes next.

“What every traveler confronts sooner or later is that the way we spend each day of our travel…is the way we spend our lives.”

Skotino Cave, Crete

Skotino Cave, Crete

The bearlike rock formation in the Skotino Cave in Crete reminded me of Elephant in the Cave, an early dream which showed me how frightened I was of reflecting on my inner life.   Greece’s ancient goddess figurines; images of snakes and initiation rituals; sacred vessels and ceremonial masks; ruins of labyrinths and altars; the sacred tree worshiped at the Palianis nunnery:  all these and more symbolize issues that used to haunt me in waking life and appeared at night in some of my most memorable and life-changing dreams.

Greece’s antiquities are not meaningless historical facts to me.  They are living realities within me.  Having experienced these realities for over 25 years, I feel blessed by this trip and the direct contact with the sacred it provided every day.  I guess this makes me a pilgrim.

How does travel impact you?

All quotes are from Phil Cousineau’s Art of Pilgrimage.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Insights from Ireland: Cooking Possum Stew May 21, 2013

mother and babyAfter I wrote my associations to the symbols in my Ireland dream, I started on its message. The biggest clues to a dream’s meaning are recent waking life experiences and how you responded to them. I was aware of some issues, thoughts and feelings in the days before the dream, but which were relevant and which were not? In the month since then I’ve pursued several dead ends but feel close to the core now. Here’s how my thinking has evolved.

Act I: It’s obvious that my psyche (mansion) is undergoing some kind of alchemical transformation (golden urn). I get it that my animus envisions a nourishing (dining room) change that would unite the vessel and its contents. But what is the nature of this change? I don’t know.

Act II: I understand that my ego wants to maintain a smooth and shiny persona (pinboard). As a “J” personality type, (see this site for an explanation), I like keeping the outer aspects of my life orderly and organized. But what less-obvious parts of my persona (covered pin holes and scraps of paper) still need work? And why doesn’t X want me to expose them? Is he afraid people will see that he’s/I’m not always smart, confident, in control, or right? Could be. New situations like this do bring out this concern. Maybe he’s my overly self-conscious perfectionist who fears I’ll say or do something thoughtless or annoying?

Act III: Another aspect of my animus (my thinker/spiritual striver/writer?) thinks some valuable old (as in inherited or acquired at an early age) qualities should be openly displayed. This could refer to personality traits that have been helpful in my inner and outer work, and also to the fact that I’m comfortable with aging. But what’s this primitive instinct (possum) hidden beneath the externalities that I don’t want in the house of my psyche? Which of my five instincts—nurturance, activity, reflection, sex or creativity—does it represent?

The mention of the dining room suggests the instinct for nurturance. Physical survival has never been an issue, but what is problematic is my emotional need for approval and security and my resistance to admitting to these needs. This is a root chakra issue that would have begun in my infancy.

possummotherSomeone at the conference noted that possums play dead when they’re frightened; hence, the phrase, “playing possum.” Another said that baby possums cling to the mother’s fur when they ride on her back. These associations felt important then and still do. There’s a frightened young possum in me that didn’t get all the mothering she needed and somehow plays dead as a result. But how does this show up in waking life?

Here’s what was going on with me. We left Orlando on Thursday and arrived at the conference site on Sunday afternoon. The pre-trip packing, airport hassles, flight to Dublin and lack of sleep left me exhausted. Two days of hectic touring in a new city reduced my normally low tolerance for excessive stimulation to zero tolerance for practically everything and everyone! Then we left the Dublin hotel, took a taxi to a meeting point, had a long bus ride to Cromleach Lodge, checked in, unpacked and organized luggage. Then there were 37 new people to meet.

Maybe these things aren’t problematic for some personalities, but for people like me, they’re challenging. Why? Partly because I’m an Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging Type. Partly because I was fully conscious of my feelings and didn’t like them. Stoic as usual, I was doing a pretty good job of containing my emotions (playing dead), (Fred told me later he had no idea how stressed I was), but, perfectionist that I am, I considered them unworthy. Inwardly I was shaming myself and my self-criticism was dragging me down. I couldn’t forgive myself for being human!

Next time, the big “Aha!”

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon site and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Humanizing Mr. Hyde June 11, 2011

A few weeks ago I dreamed my husband was critical of me for wanting to leave a social situation. I felt wounded and angry, and when I asked him why he was being so mean, he held up a mirror and I was embarrassed to see a silly-looking woman wearing outdated black-rimmed cat’s eye glasses and a goofy black hat with fluffy puffs of tulle over each ear.

This dream dramatized some uncomfortable feelings and ways of seeing myself that had been accumulating after six days and nights of intense social interactions. I had looked forward to these activities and enjoyed them, but for an introvert, a schedule like this can be very draining and when I’m exhausted I start worrying that maybe I’m too uptight, too out of touch, too eccentric, too withdrawn, wearing the wrong clothes, saying stupid things, blah, blah, blah!

What I saw in the mirror was a caricature of the “too-whatever” negative self-image I had built up over that week. I think Dream Mother was showing me how silly I was being in an attempt to get me to lighten up. She also wanted me to see what was happening to my animus, symbolized in this dream by my husband.  Normally my masculine side is a hard-working, enthusiastic, very helpful Dr. Jekyll/writing partner. But too much socializing had tired him out and transformed him into his shadow, and this stressed-out Mr. Hyde was taking out his frustration on me.

If I were a hermit with no family or friends it would be easy to protect myself from energy drains. Being alone and  having plenty of time to get in touch with myself and my surroundings is very restorative. But I love a man who gets energy from being with people and cramming as many activities as he can into every day.  Over the years we’ve adjusted to each others’ styles and gotten pretty good at compromising, but changes in routine still present challenges.

Traveling is particularly challenging. As I write this we’ve just returned from a 12-day trip to Italy with dear old friends. We love to travel, adore our friends and had a marvelous time. But to my way of thinking, we established an overly zealous schedule without enough down time. Tensions mounted all around as we rushed to buy tickets, make connections, navigate our car through annoying roundabouts on crowded roads, reach destinations, see sights, buy gifts, and still be on time for dinner reservations. Despite my determination to stay calm and centered, by the end of the trip my dream of a few weeks ago was playing out in my waking life. So it was that over dinner on the last night, Mr. Hyde, who had had quite enough of being repressed, thank you, pushed Dr. Jekyll aside and kidnapped my personality!

While Mr. Hyde was being critical and attaching blame, my ego, like my dream ego, was looking into the mirror of myself.  Feeling painfully embarrassed about how silly I must have looked I went to our room and began to meditate. After a while I remembered that nobody was responsible for my feelings but me. I lightened up, got over my snit, and tucked Mr. Hyde into bed for a much-needed rest.

Wholeness does not abide at either pole of any continuum but swings somewhere in between. No one but us can find our soul’s sweet spot. Seeing and owning our dark sides is half the battle. The other half is forgiving ourselves for being human so we can recover our humanity.

 

 
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