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August 27, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

“The heart is a living symbol. With conviction, we speak of the 'heart of the matter' to refer to something essential or central without which an issue could not exist.”

8Ch.251 – A bear’s lifeline, starting from the heart, is depicted here.
Textile: trade cloth, with trade beads, sinew. USA, ca. 1900 A.D.

Today, I opened an Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) article titled “Heart” that Jungian analyst Steven Parker shared with those of us who visit his always-interesting Facebook page, Jung Hearted. Attached to the article was a copy of an reproduction of a Bear totem that I've included here. I immediately recognized this ancient totem as similar in meaning to a recent Bear totem/symbol from my own dreaming. 

Back in mid-July I had what I consider to be a Big Dream, one that I will ponder its deeper meaning in my life over time.

In the dream, titled “Heart to Heart” ~

We – a bunch of people, including my son Dylan and his wife Angela - are in a house in the woods. I go to the front door and attempt to open it. Blocking my way are several black bears. I close the door and call for everyone in the house to come see the bears, because it is highly unusual to see bears in this part of the country. In fact, I had never seen a bear this far south in Michigan before. Before the others make it to where I am watching through the window, one of the bears pushes the door wide open. I attempt to close it, but the bear’s strength is too much for me. I run into the interior of the house calling to everyone to go into their bedrooms and lock the doors because now a bear is in the house. In one bedroom with only a curtain for a door are two young children, totally unprotected. I grab them and run to a room with a door. We make it inside, but as I attempt to shut the door and lock it, the bear pushes it open and grabs my left hand and wrist. I am frightened, but Bear’s long, sharp claws don’t break the skin as he holds my hand so he can get in. Because of this gentle handling of my arm, I realize that this bear and I can be friends. I begin singing and crooning to him and smoothing down his facial fur. Soon I'm experiencing love instead of fear, and feel the love from the bear in return. Bear and I begin to communicate telepathically. He tells me that he’s a maverick in his group, and that he broke into our house because he was lonely. After 'talking,' we go out into the main part of the house. Eventually, Dylan and Angela and I walk Bear into the woods so that he can go back to his life in the wild. We stop at a wilderness store to get some provisions at the beginning of our journey. A woman shows me a map and asks if we are going to all the places on the map. She seems very impressed if we are. I tell her that it’s not my map…but I am interested in what all the symbols mean on it. Bear and I step outside for the sake of others who are uncomfortable with a large black bear in the store. I know on some level they think he is my pet, but Bear is not tame. His home is in the wild. After we go on a walkabout together, he will be returning there. Soon, Dylan comes out of the store carrying an over-sized drink that he’s bought to share with everyone…water, I think. I ask Bear where he finds water in the wild when he’s thirsty, concerned that he will have enough to keep him healthy. (EOD)

Upon awakening, I felt a deep gratitude to Bear for connecting me to my inner wildness - a longing for my own instinctive and natural life rhythms - that has been breaking into my conscious awareness since I retired two years ago. When I talked to Dylan about the dream, I discovered that he and Angela had taken an impromptu trip to the west rim of the Grand Canyon after visiting her father in Texas, and that Dylan had expressed a wish, before the trip had even begun, to see a bear as part of his wilderness travels! 

 Alas, no bears were encountered during their travels except those in my dreaming. That in itself is a gift of meaningful coincidence; one that leads me to hold fast to my belief that connections of the heart cross all barriers of time and space. For, while my night dreams of Bear provided a heart connection to my own inner longings, it also connected my mother’s heart to the waking dreams of my son. 

In my opinion, synchronicity doesn't get much better than that...



August 3, 2012

Healing the Sacred Divide

At the top of my 2012 gratitude list is Dr. Jean Raffa’s book “Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World.” I’ve been following and enjoying Jean’s blog “Matrignosis” for the past few years, so when she announced that her latest book had been published and was available, I decided to take a gamble and purchase it. Gamble? Ha! The book is a veritable treasure map, pointing the way to psychological, emotional, relational, and spiritual healing.  Jean shows us where we’ve been, where we are, and where we can be on the Path to Wholeness if we are willing to look within and challenge some of our cherished beliefs that have been blocking humanity’s journey for the past several thousand years. While this inner exploration may feel uncomfortable at times, never fear. Jean is a seasoned guide who uses her own and others experiences of Jungian psychology, mythology, dreams, imagination, and personal revelation as solid markers along the way to lead us to a place where spiritual probing, personal meaning, and relational unity are all healthy signs of consciousness evolution.
I’m also pleased that the book relates to my own pet project: synchronicity journaling. In the Prologue, Jean begins with a nightmare she had about the Lone Ranger when she was 10-years of age (You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened in the dream). The Lone Ranger is a metaphor that Jean returns to throughout the book. It heralded her tendency throughout much of her life to wall off her feelings and ‘go it alone’ emotionally, living out her fantasy of being the perpetual stoic Heroine. This tendency showed up early in her life after experiencing extended absences of her beloved father as well as the childhood wounding caused by her parent’s divorce, followed three months later by her father’s death. According to Jean, the Lone Ranger motif is discussed in all three of her books: The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, Dream Theaters of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work, and Healing the Sacred Divide.
The main motif of Healing the Sacred Divide, however, is the meaning of the symbol known as the mandorla. In Jean’s words a mandorla iswhere our power to set ourselves apart yields to a dawning awareness of what we share with ‘other’[… ]a holy place of healing where miracles occur.” The visual of this symbol is the almond shaped place where two circles meet as depicted on the cover of her book.  Jean writes that according to Jungian analyst and author Robert Johnson, “The mandorla binds together that which was torn apart and made un-whole—unholy.”  She adds, “The mandorla is creative synthesis, a symbol of partnership, conflict resolution, healing, and peace-making” and  “a radical middle path to God.”

With these pieces of information about the book - the significance and meanings of the symbols of Lone Ranger and the mandorla - you will soon see how they tie into the synchronicity I am about to relate.

I read all but the very last section of the book a few nights ago, and decided to savor the end for the next morning. That evening I chose, instead, some light entertainment (or so I thought) in the form of Netflix movie. I deliberately picked one that looked rather lighthearted titled Smoke Signals. According to a reviewer, “This was a funny, gentle movie (no cartoon violence or excessive language) that made me think, but not too hard!” Lord knows why I ever trust those reviews; they are almost never on the mark!
In fact, the movie is intense. It is about a couple of Indian kids on a reservation. The one, Thomas, loses his parents when he was an infant - in the very beginning of the film - to a house fire. The other, Victor, lives with a drunken, unavailable father who winds up leaving the family altogether when Victor is 12-years old.  I don’t want to tell too much about it in case you want to watch this fabulous film; suffice it to say that I cried many tears at the end (a bittersweet blend of happiness and sadness). But, here’s the clincher: I found out during the closing credits that the movie was based on a book titled “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”! There is also a remark by one of the characters in the film about Victor acting out emotionally like the ‘Lone Ranger’ toward the end of the film as well.  I didn’t get the mandorla connection until the very last words were spoken, but when I did, it hit me over the head in some of the parting words, spoken by Thomas, who played the Trickster ‘other’ that helped to heal Victor’s emotional ‘Lone Ranger'

How do we forgive our fathers? Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often or forever when we were little? Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers? For divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?

Wow! That is what I call a meaningful coincidence! And another synchronicity within a synchronicity: my parents’ divorce and my father leaving our home when I was around 10-years old traumatized me as a kid, too. The combination of the book and film helped to heal part of that wounding.

How does the seemingly magical alchemy of synchronicity work? I don’t know, but I surely do feel blessed and grateful when it happens.