The Indoor-Outdoor Place, Part Two

copper-pots-001Part Two: The Rest of the Story

The final part of this dream, which I deliberately didn’t include in the first post, adds an interesting layer of meaning:

Then I turn toward the rest of the house and there are piles of odds and ends, including lots of old and beat-up copper cooking pots that are flimsy and not usable, but could be attractive as part of the décor. I realize that I’m going to want to get rid of them, though, because there’s just too much junk here. The feeling in this dream is of moving into a new area and renovating it or updating it, though I’m somewhat tentative about it.

Cooking pots and kitchen images always make me think of alchemy—the process of heating the elements in order to purify them. Copper, in alchemical terms, is often associated with Venus and the feminine, and in the waking world is easily deformed, bent, and destroyed. These old, battered cooking pots—here likely symbolizing the internalized aspects of womanhood and the Feminine,  are “not usable,” but only decorative at this point. The dream suggests that I may need to get rid of those concepts and understandings and replace them with something more serviceable as I renovate this area of my life.

In fact, that’s what’s happening now in my life, as I finally begin to deal with my internalized mother (who is not capable of providing the support and nurturance that I need) and replace those internal images.

At the time of this dream, more than ten years ago, I had no idea of any of this. The information in this dream has become even more relevant than it was at the time it came to me, because it’s only now that I understand enough, and have become strong enough, to do the difficult work that’s required.

“In Defense of the Un-Swallowable”

20160930_101255This story begins with a dream:

The dream came with a title, as I awakened: “In Defense of the Un-Swallowable.” There’s this thing, this object, about the size of a goose egg. It’s pink and hard and lumpy, with a few odd black and gold specks on its surface. It’s “medicinal” and I have to swallow it somehow, so I put it into a glass of water. Then it softens and I put it in my mouth and kind of chew it up and swallow it. It’s not nearly as gross as I thought it would be, and goes down very easily.

Uh oh, I thought when I awoke. Another transitional object! I’ve had some experience with those! Something like RED, maybe? Or hopefully not that dramatic and shocking…this object is pink and, in the end, not that “hard to swallow.” But still….

But I’m endlessly curious about such things, notwithstanding the potential stress and difficulty of working on yet another aspect of my ego, so I decided to recreate the “un-swallowable object” in the waking world, as nearly as possible. Embodying it would bring it into my consciousness and help it do its job, whatever that was.

The waking-world object has turned out very close in appearance to the dream-object—I am pretty pleased. Right size, right shape, dents and bits of “dirt” in the right places. It feels good in my hand, just as I remember it.

More Dreams

During the week, while I patiently added coat after coat of acrylic and tissue paper, I reviewed the other dreams that have appeared in the past month, looking for patterns that will add information. The one that feels most closely allied with this object and the transition it embodies is this one:

This dream feels more like a story, or a movie—I don’t seem to be part of it; it’s like I’m watching it unfold. It takes place in “historic” time—maybe the 19th century. There’s a serious and uptight young man who’s following an odd character around. The character’s name is Aries, and he has two female companions, a Miss Lam(b) and another woman whom I never see. He’s mysterious and very sexually active. The young man has an important message for Aries, and he goes all over town trying to find the trio at their usual hangouts, but they’re not there. Finally he goes to the house of a friend where the three are staying. It’s the middle of the night, but he pounds on the front door of this old brownstone house, and he calls out to them. “Aries! Miss Lam(b)!” and we can hear them inside, and apparently they are coming to the door when I wake up.

Immediately upon waking, I knew that Aries is a psychopomp (“guide of souls”), a figure who can lead me “between the worlds” and farther along my soul’s path. I’ll be working with him in various ways for some time to come, I expect.

Several other dreams occurred within a few days of these two. Many of them were very encouraging and supportive, which is rather unusual for me.

In several dreams, I come to the defense of creatures who are being mistreated or neglected. My own cat is injured (on the left side of his face, of course; right where my own “injury” is located) but ignored by the vet to whom I’ve brought him; a group of cows are being confined under water (magically able to breathe) and are being “exercised” in a cruel way by handlers that they trust before they’re sent to slaughter; a small, abandoned and injured dog is in need of rescue; a cat’s owner brings it to me, telling me that it’s died and that I should bury it, but in fact the owner has been actively starving it to death. The dominant emotion in these dreams is anger and indignation.

In other dreams, animals that I’m caring for and am worried about are seen to be doing very well indeed, due to my loving efforts. I woke from these with a feeling of pleased wonder.

There have been a dozen or more with these themes—some have been nightmares, some have been full of joy and excitement when I realize, in the dream, that I can do something to help. In several, there are characters “in authority” who thank me for my efforts.

And then there are a few dreams where I stand up for myself, firmly and without anger. Finally, this one:

As I’m waking up, I hear a foreign man’s voice say to someone, “What is that name that you are calling me? Why are you calling me that name? That is not my name!” He is disturbed about it and angry, but not yelling. How odd!

There’s so much work still to do on these—I’ve only begun to unpack this bunch! In active imagination the other day, Aries himself showed up on the porch of my imaginal cabin, dressed not in the 19th-century garb of the dream, but as a gunslinger—cowboy hat and boots with spurs, flannel shirt over his paunchy middle, and a gunbelt. He himself wasn’t—isn’t—the least bit threatening, but I asked him what the meaning of his costume was. “Stereotype,” he said, and went on chewing his toothpick. Hmmm….

And in Waking Life…

Each of these dreams deserves an entire post in itself, and I will write more here about some of them. But for now, I want to talk about what’s been happening in waking life the last week, and sum up what I think the message is for me just now.

As I write this, it’s the last day of September, 2016. We’re a little more than a month away from the presidential election, in the heat of what is by far the strangest and most disturbing campaign I’ve ever experienced. It seems like the Universe has given us two candidates whose archetypal significance is writ not just large but in flashing neon. You can’t miss the meaning.

Normally, I avoid election coverage like the plague, and I never, ever post political material either here or on social media. But yesterday I saw a post that has made me change my rule.

It’s not about the actual political positions of the candidates—Democrat or Republican, to me, isn’t the point here. The image that I find so very disturbing is that of a a woman candidate—highly qualified, with more experience than most men who have run for the office and won—opposed by a man who is a blatant, in-your-face misogynist and bully. Women throughout social media are responding to this man’s tactics with fear and recognition—and posting about their responses. And so am I.

Speaking up and speaking out. It needs to be done, by me, too, despite my six decades of silence. Not so hard a pill to swallow, after all!

What Does It Mean?

How does that relate to the dreams? I’ve just started working with all of this, but I think I can see the gist of it.

I believe that Aries the psychopomp is helping me bring out my own inner Masculine, the part of my psyche that’s been shut out of my waking consciousness since childhood. I’m being encouraged to speak up for myself and for others—to speak what I see, without silencing myself like I’ve almost always done. The lesson I’m learning is that despite what I’ve been told all my life, I’m worth the effort. I and other woman have been frightened into silence for too long now, and it’s time to speak out and claim our place.

It’s the logical next step for me. After all, my dissertation looked at the effects on the feminine psyche of millennia of patriarchal silencing. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, and I’ve finally learned it. Now it’s time to speak it, no matter how scary it is.

It’s not easy, but it feels very right. And interestingly, it really isn’t such a hard pill to swallow….

The Importance of Community in the Individuation Process

20160528_204208 (2) for blog (350x197)While I was working on material for my study groups on Encountering the Imaginal in Everyday Life, I came across this bit from my dissertation. It feels important to share.

Throughout most of my life—actually, until the last ten years or so—I felt very much alone in the world, unable to form deep relationships with anyone. It’s still something I struggle with at times, but so much has changed, and in a very positive direction.

This is what I wrote almost a decade ago:

Engagement with others, with community, is a requirement for the soul and for the process of individuation. Jung (1921/1971) said, “As the individual is not just a single, separate being, but by his very existence presupposes a collective relationship, it follows that the process of individuation must lead to more intense and broader collective relationships and not to isolation” (p. 448). Hillman (1972) says that

psychological development stops in isolation; it seems unable to forego the context of other souls…. Soul-making would seem to have a Dionysian hole through which the individual soul is drawn into a communal “madness” …. This leakage … between souls dissolves paranoid isolation and seems required by the soul in contradistinction to the spirit, which proceeds, as Plotinus said, from the alone to the alone…. Psychology is created within the vale of living intimacy. (pp. 26-27)

My engagement with community—the Jung Society, the dance community, the horse owners at the barn, my students, and even Facebook—has been tremendously healing for me. A recent journal entry reads,

Somehow, through this experience, I’m being called upon to rebuild myself. And now, as I realize this, I find a quote from Judith Herman (Robb, 2006):

Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological faculties that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic capacities for trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy. (p. 341)

Whatever trauma I encountered in my childhood—damaging experiences in the hospital, a difficult relationship with my father, the violence of cultural repression—are slowly being healed through my relationships with a community of friends.

 

Hillman, J. (1972). The myth of analysis: Three essays in archetypal psychology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1971). Psychological types. In R. F. C. Hull (Trans.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 6). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1921)

Robb, C. (2006). This changes everything: The relational revolution in psychology. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

 

A message from Dad

DadOn the way to see my wonderful chiropractor/energy worker yesterday—this woman is the only one in the last 15 years to give me hope of working through the pain in my jaw—I met another angel. This one came in the form of a homeless woman who stood, huddled against the fierce wind and stinging snow, near the stoplight at the bottom of the freeway off-ramp.

I couldn’t read her sign, but it was obvious that she needed help and was likely asking for money. My initial reaction was two-fold: 1) I wanted to give her the $5 that was all the cash I had in my wallet, and 2) I was afraid the light would change before I managed to fish my wallet out of my back pocket. God forbid that anyone behind me should be inconvenienced by my “charity,” right?

Kindness won out over worry, and I got the wallet out, signaled to the woman, and lowered my window. “Oh, thank you!” she said as I gave her the money. “I’m hoping to get my room tonight!”

“God bless you,” I said. “I’ll keep you in my prayers.”

We locked eyes, and she smiled at me, tentatively. Then the light (which had stayed red for what seemed like a VERY long time) turned green. And for the next few minutes I did pray, fervently, that she be warm and safe that night, and that she be granted whatever she most needs on her journey.

The session with my practitioner went well (if you don’t mind the acupuncture needles she stuck into my neck, arms, and shoulders), as always. Lots of releasing of energy, some lovely/painful massage of sore and stuck points, and even some direct work on the painful jaw area.

Then she said, “I think your father is coming through.”

From our earlier discussions, I knew that she sees or senses my “entourage” of imaginal friends, relatives, and Guides, so it didn’t surprise me too much. We had been talking about some of my earliest memories, trying to find the pre-verbal, psychological roots of the pain in my jaw.

She asked me a little about him, in the way mediums often do: Did he wear a lot of red and yellow? (Yes.) Did he like plaid? (Oh yes.) Then she said this:

“He would like to thank you for stopping for the woman. He’s proud of you and your kindness.”

Oh, wow. I hadn’t mentioned the woman to her, or to anyone—the encounter had just happened, and no one but me and the woman even knew about it. Other than my dad, apparently, and whoever else had been hanging around in imaginal space.

I actually laughed (and cried a bit)—it was like something from one of John Edward’s sessions. It’s what John calls “validation”: where the medium reports something that he or she couldn’t have known about and that would be VERY unlikely to be the result of guesswork.

I don’t absolutely NEED this kind of validation in order to know that these things are the real deal, but it’s sure nice! Thanks, Dad, for coming through!

My practitioner friend went on to talk about other things Dad now appreciates about me that he was never able to verbalize while he was alive. Dad acknowledged how protective I was of him, and how loving…and how he felt that, in life, he might not always have deserved my dedication and kindness.

I’ve written here about my troubled relationship with my dad: Like so many women, I struggled all my life to “earn” Dad’s approval, but never felt like I had it. Two hours before he died, as he sat in his recliner so weak he could scarcely move, he was checking my arithmetic on a list of some purchases I had made for him at Walgreens, lest I be asking for more than I had actually spent. I mean, everyone knows I can’t add, but I do know how to operate a calculator, Dad. Really.

Oh—and one more thing: Last night, doing some video editing in the living room, I turned on the TV “just for company.” I almost never watch anything but PBS, but for some reason I had on the Disney channel and “Mulan,” which I had never seen.

Have you seen it? If so, you’ll know that it’s about a young woman who doesn’t fit society’s expectations for femininity, and who struggles to win her father’s approval and bring “honor” to her family. She goes off to war in her aging father’s place and saves the kingdom…or something like that. I admit I wasn’t paying very close attention. But at the end, she comes home triumphant, and her father tells her how proud he is of her…. I heard that part. And then, in my head, I also heard, “…and you don’t need to work so hard at it.”

Awww…. Thanks, Dad! What a lovely encounter this was. There IS something about hearing things from an “external” source (in this case, in my practitioner/friend’s voice) that you THINK you hear internally. It helps me be sure that I’m not just imagining it. I’ve said before that when you work with imaginal figures (including Guides and friends who’ve passed on), you have to be exceptionally careful that you’re not perceiving something just because you desperately wish it to be so—i.e., that you’re not letting you imagination rule. Not easy…and so it is very comforting to be getting the message in the way I did yesterday.

Comforting, and healing….

Challenges

EyeVisited the surgeon yesterday and got a glowing report on the left eye’s progress. Yay!

She did some final tests on the right eye, set for surgery in two weeks. We talked about the new implant and got all the paperwork finished.

In the afternoon I relaxed and watched “Sense and Sensibility” … or rather, slept through it. When I woke up, it was 5:30, and time for some supper.

I picked up my cell phone when I saw the light flashing…and discovered a message from the surgeon: She wanted to talk with me right away. Something to do with the implant; she would try to find a different phone number for me (there is none) and, if she wasn’t able to reach me, I should call her assistant as as soon as possible.

Hmmm…. What could prompt that kind of message? What if something’s wrong? What if they can’t get the right implant? What if they have to call the whole thing off? What if I’ll never be able to see out of that eye? What if….???

And of course, it’s after closing on a Friday evening….

I went from peaceful to panic-stricken in about a tenth of a second. Even at the time, though, I had to laugh at that. Where did all my “trust in the process” go? Everything else has worked out just fine. And heaven knows, there are lots of reasons she might have called — most of which have nothing “bad” about them. My surgeon (thankfully!) is the type who wants every detail nailed down beforehand, and she was leaving for the holidays after work yesterday.

Anyway, I am now back to calm, pretty much. I would love for CALM to become my new default setting, which may actually be happening as we speak. This is just another challenge, another exercise to help me strengthen my new-found trust.

Whatever happens will be for the Highest Good. Yeah, I know all about the “Highest Good“…. But I’m OK with that.

Monday morning will be here soon enough. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying my weekend and my lovely new vision!

Seeing Clearly: What IS the Highest Good?

2013-06-13_15-48-26_773It’s getting close to the date of my first cataract surgery. I’m excited! In recent months, my vision has deteriorated pretty badly—I’m no longer driving, and even seeing the computer screen is now difficult.

I’m starting to get nervous—but amazingly, only the tiniest bit, and I refuse to focus on that. Why should I? The benefit will be HUGE—to be able to SEE again? How wonderful….

So I’m trusting that the outcome will be excellent…and I also know that the outcome WILL BE for the Highest Good.

Now, those two things are a little different.

I remember visiting the dentist fifteen years ago for a repair to a crown on the lower left molar. I KNEW that all would be well. I’d been attending a spiritual center regularly, and had learned Spiritual Mind Treatment (which is a very effective form of meditation and prayer). I had treated for a positive outcome, and for the Highest Good.

No problem, then, when the touch of the dentist’s needle sent shock waves of electricity up and down the nerve in my jaw. That needed to happen, I told myself, but all would be just fine. No worries. The pain was momentary. I will admit, though, to being puzzled at the time, though: How could that stab of pain be “for the Highest Good?” [If you’re interested, you can read more about this amazing experience of pain in the “Two-by-Four” series, starting here.]

Well. Fifteen years of pain later, I have a more informed understanding of the “Highest Good.” I do believe, after years of struggle, that the pain is/was indeed necessary for a higher purpose. It’s done many things for my psychic growth, most of which I still don’t understand, and may never understand in my lifetime. But some things I do get.

Primarily, I now am able to see this experience of chronic pain as part of my repertoire. Let me explain what I mean by that.

In my life I’ve had so many “weird” things happen to me that do NOT happen to most people. Synaesthesia, for example—the experience of hearing color or seeing sound. While many of you will have heard of that, I’d wager that no more than a few of you have ever experienced it.

My case is a bit different, though. Thunbergia flowers sang to me once—and their songs were a vibrant orange color, like the vibrations of light turned into sound. Another time, majestic classical music performed in a cathedral one Christmastime sounded deep, soulful grays and blues which rose through chords woven of green and gold into and through the dome high above. There have been only those two instances, spaced many years apart.

Though I do not use drugs, I’ve had “visionary” experiences of altered states: Some have been ecstatic, lifting me up and out of my body to a sense of joining with the Universe. Others were profoundly “inward” and “downward,” dropping me through the reptilian brain and back to a place where “life” and “death,” “pleasure” and “pain” have no meaning whatsoever.

Fortunately, none of these lasted long; but the visceral memories remain. They are part of my experience, part of my “repertoire” of understanding. It’s really, really hard for my clients and friends to shock me, no matter what experience they share.

I’ve come to understand these experiences as a gift—they’ve vastly increased my compassion and empathy for myself and others. They provide a kind of “hook,” or framework of understanding, so that I’m not overwhelmed by what I see around me, or by what people share with me in confidence. Without this framework, I could not do the work I do in the world.

So the pain in my jaw that I suffer daily is a blessing, in this sense. There is no understanding of chronic pain unless you’ve experienced it, and you cannot experience chronic pain without it being, well, chronic. And long-lasting. And almost unbearable. So I’ve got that experience in my “toolbox.”

I’ve also got ways of coping with it—and of not coping with it—in that same toolbox. There are days when I just want to lay down and die…and there are days when I am so grateful for the experience that it brings me to tears right alongside the pain.

So I expect the outcome of my cataract surgery to be wonderful. I expect to be able to see very well indeed, just as I’m promised by the doctors and friends who’ve experienced the procedure, as soon as I wake up. And I am looking forward to that so much!

It will all be for the Highest Good, of that I am utterly certain. Let’s just say, though, that I have a more nuanced view of what the Highest Good actually looks like in “real life.” It’s not always what the ego wants to experience—but it’s exactly what the Soul has called forth.

What a beautiful, blessed life this is!