Monday, November 29, 2010


Why, oh why is it so very hard to ask to be paid what your time is worth? Ouch, ouch, ouch. I just got paid for a very time-intensive workshop, and received less than half what I wanted for it. Why? Because I didn't ask for it. In fact, I asked for exactly what I got.

And I even had warning that this was likely. This morning's Horse Wisdom card was "The False Self," the card that speaks of all those old tapes that say, "I'm not worth that much," or "I didn't do all that much," or "I don't deserve to be paid much," and the like. Sheesh. Did the warning do me any good? Nope. Here's how it went down (my pay, that is):

My first mistake, when this whole thing was first talked about, was not to specify a price for my services. That's a whole 'nother story, but water under the bridge. So this morning I walked in to the office to talk to the manager. I wanted $XXX dollars, and I had told myself that over and over again. It was a fair price, or probably a bit lower than fair, but it's what I wanted.

I proceeded to tell the manager how I had ended up doing all the contact and up-front work, because my partner had been out with a death in the family and a family vacation and hadn't been in town. I was setting the stage, just as I had planned. Then, somehow, someone else took over my mouth and said, " just pay me what you paid her."

Where the heck did that come from? I was so shocked that I couldn't imagine a way to get out of it--and then my mouth froze up entirely. So the manager says, "We paid her $XX an hour for the six hours." Whoever it was took charge again and said, "That sounds fine."


I got to the car and laughed and cried at the same time, all the way home. I knew exactly what had happened, and there was absolutely no one to blame but that False Self of mine, the one who, underneath it all and despite all my education, experience, and talent, still believes she doesn't deserve anything much at all.

I learned a valuable lesson this morning, or at least I hope I've learned it, and I'm trying hard not to beat myself up over it. But I sure could have used that extra money.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't make assumptions....

I got a call an hour or so ago from my beloved Aunt Margie. She's my mother's younger sister, and in the last ten or so years, she's become more like a mother to me than an aunt.

That said, I do not keep in touch as well as I would like to. I think about her almost daily, but almost never pick up the phone to call, and rarely write. And she doesn't do those things, either. It's like we have all these good intentions, but never seem to act on them.

I've never understood this behavior. My mom and I did it, too, and Mom and her sister, and probably on and on through the whole family. Not just Mom's family has this behavior pattern; my dad's family and I do the same dumb thing.

All my life I've felt guilty, like it's my personal failing that I don't keep in touch. Only recently has it become obvious even to me that phone lines work in both directions, that the mail delivers letters to and from people....

And once I realized this fact, I started wondering even harder why the gap between thinking of someone and acting on that thought exists, seemingly everywhere in life. How interesting.

No universal answers have appeared to me yet; if they do, I'll share them! But I have gotten some clarity about it in the last few days. And as usual, the process that led to that understanding is kind of interesting, at least to me.

I think that for my mother, Aunt Margie, and me, it boils down to insecurity. "If you really loved me, you'd ..." (fill in the blank). In this case, "you'd write or call more often." "If you really loved me, if I were really important to you, you would keep in touch." The fact that we don't do the writing or the dialing allows the other person (and ourselves) to reinforce the false belief that we really aren't important to the other one.

Interesting. I've been reading Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book lately. At first I got completely and utterly stuck on the First Agreement: "Be impeccable with your word." Well, of course! But as I read past the first couple of pages about how our word affects others, I came to the part where he asks that we love ourself.

Um, yeah.... And then I got stuck, realizing that for whatever reason deep in my psyche, I felt incapable of actually loving myself. Why on earth not? The myriad reasons I came up with are grist for innumerable future posts. I'm still not able to say it and mean it, but I'm at least able to entertain the concept. Progress, eh?

But then I started reading more. The Second Agreement is "Don't take anything personally." That one's helping--it allows some distance from the icky things that happen (real or imagined). The third one, "Don't Make Assumptions," is the one that really brought some insight into this business of "if you loved me, you'd ...." For example, here's what Don Miguel says:

In any kind of relationship we can make the assumption that others know what we think, and we don't have to say what we want. They are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don't do what we want, what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and think, "How could you do that? You should know." ... A whole drama is created because we make this assumption and then put more assumptions on top of it.
I haven't gotten to the Fourth Agreement yet. But just these first three have helped me make some changes in the way I think, the way I operate. I am not beating myself up about not calling Aunt Margie. I feel sad that this is the pattern we've been following, but I am able to see it as one that's profoundly human. And I can choose a different way.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Time for a funeral

I think maybe I’m getting closer to figuring out this latest dream series, or at least closer to peeling off the first layer of meaning. Here’s last night’s version:

I’m with a number of other people—family? friends?—getting ready for a funeral. I think it’s Dad’s funeral—it’s not very clear—or maybe it’s Gram’s funeral. It’s also not clear if they’re still alive or not. At any rate, Dad has been ill for a long time, and Gram is, of course, very old. I don’t remember any of this very clearly now, but there was more about traveling from home to wherever this was to take place, about packing, about trying to get everything done in time. Just a very busy dream. Not sad at all, just busy.
“Gram” is my father’s mother, Anna, whose ambition and drive were all projected onto her family, particularly onto her only son. Dad was always busy, always driven to do something, to keep moving. He, in turn, projected this need onto his own family, and we were brought up believing that sitting still, reading a book, or (worst of all!) daydreaming were signs of that cardinal sin, laziness.

This is the second time in the last few days that Dad and Gram have appeared in my dreams. The other night, in the dreamworld, we were traveling somewhere with lots of family and friends (of course). I was in our motel room, trying to pack up to leave. Somehow I’m the one who has to pack up the stuff that everyone else has left. All my things fit easily into my suitcase—I have packed very lightly for this trip—but there is a ton of food and dish soap and wet towels and odds and ends of clothing that still have to be jammed into my suitcase. I end up having to leave some of it behind.

So last night Dad and Anna show up during preparations for their funeral. Interesting. I think the message is that “Dad” and “Gram,” those two hard-driving, type-A personalities that I’ve internalized so thoroughly, need to go. I’m carrying all their baggage in addition to my own, and it doesn’t fit any more. Let’s get them properly buried so that I can move on.

This makes perfect sense. It’s that constantly moving, constantly judging part of me that makes me unable to meditate, to journey, to work properly with my dreams, to just be. Those things, to the Dad-and-Anna part of me, seem so worthless and—the perfect word just popped into my head—unproductive.

Sheesh. Those “activities,” those states of reverie, are the only thing that will help me move along my chosen path! None of this busy-ness that I so often get mired in will help in the least; it only distracts me from what I need and want to be doing. My soul-work gets neglected because it’s done in stillness and silence.

Well. That’s food for thought.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm missing something....

My dreams lately are filled with people.

Some are folks I know from dance, or from school, or from the barn; many--most, even--are people I never saw in my life. And I'm moving: traveling, moving house, walking through shopping malls and convention centers.

All is public; there is no privacy, no doors on bedrooms or bathrooms or living quarters. Or, if there are doors, they're unlocked when they shouldn't be. "My" apartment or house is either completely empty, or filled to the brim with junk, laundry, trash, or inheritances from my family. I haven't even been able to record most of them, because they are so busy and filled with seemingly random detail.

It is exhausting. And, not surprisingly, I'm not sleeping well.

I am missing something here, and my imaginal friends are determined that I will get this message.

This morning, I went outside to mow the lawn. Got most of the front yard done, but then the mower quit on me, and no amount of jerking on the starter rope would bring it back to life. I was so hot, so sweaty, so frustrated when I came back into the house! And then I noticed the tell-tale, blindingly bright spots in front of my eyes: an "optical migraine."

For me, these optical migraines almost invariably appear at a time when I'm overly stressed and trying desperately to avoid seeing something that's right in front of my face. So I guess it's not surprising that they should show up now. What, I wondered, am I missing?

That question posed itself in my mind, and within a minute, the spots were I went upstairs to lie down and try to meditate. Nope. Not bloody likely. My mind was--and still is--all over the map. Anything but silence, anything but understanding.

So tonight, I expect, all my "friends" will be back in my dreams again. Sigh....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Κυκλάμινο (Cyclamen)

Back when I was in the hospital after falling off my horse and fracturing my skull, a dear friend brought me a plant: a beautiful cyclamen with blood-red flowers. When she lived in Greece, she explained, she always saw κυκλάμινο, the cyclamen, growing in wild and dangerous places. When she saw the plant in the gift shop, it reminded her of me.

Photos I’ve seen of the cyclamen in the wild show its flowers springing up from leaves nearly invisible in cracks in the rocks. That lovely, tenacious, tough little plant flourishes in “impossible” situations. The cyclamen feels like a symbol I can hold on to, not just because my friend sees me like that, but because I recognize those qualities in myself. And I need that symbol in my life right now, when I’m trying so hard to find the next steps on my life’s path.

I have never thought of myself as a risk-taker. I was a pretty timid kid who never rode fast on her bike, was scared to cross a creek on a log, hung out by herself, and never broke a bone (until a month ago). But there were exceptions to this.

Throughout my life, I have found myself taking on certain risks and challenges because of something I believed in very strongly. Sometimes the risks were in relationships, sometimes they involved goals or directions in life. Like the cyclamen growing on a dry and rocky slope, I’ve persevered at these times, sometimes with little or no encouragement and, seemingly, with little or no chance of succeeding. Sometimes things worked out; sometimes they didn’t.

One example is my dissertation. The dissertation was its long and wrenching process, or maybe the process was the dissertation. Either way, to call it unconventional is an understatement. It took six years of watching “nothing” happen, of trying in vain to piece together pieces that didn’t seem to go together, and waiting—just waiting—for understanding to emerge from chaos. Not even my advisor truly believed I’d finish—I know he was convinced that I was going to be just another “All But Dissertation” PhD student.

But I just kept going, despite how dangerous it seemed in terms of ever getting it accomplished. It took a very long time indeed! My dissertation defense occurred within a week of my "drop-dead" date, the absolutely last day, after which my entire eight years at Pacifica would have been for nothing, at least officially.

I certainly never envisioned myself as radical in any way. But when I first proposed my topic, my advisor said, "Wow. That's really out there!" And the statement in the abstract, “a radical approach that … refigures the traditional distinction between research as scholarly reflection and the act of being in the world” is almost verbatim my advisor’s response when, after a couple of years of hearing nothing from me, he read the final draft. Interestingly, the same friend who gave me the cyclamen was with me the evening I heard those words over the phone.

The dissertation process itself was so emotionally risky. During that time I ended up questioning pretty much everything I thought I knew, everything I thought I was. Some of it held true, some had to be let go in order for new wisdom to enter. But I kept it up, day after uncertain day, until finally the thing coalesced and I could piece together the final story.

I need to keep that process, that journey, in mind as I move along the path toward building a viable career with my horses. It seems so unlikely that I’ll ever make a go of it financially, and no matter how emotionally and psychologically rewarding the work is, I and the horses have to eat and have a roof over our heads.

I just have to trust the process as it unfolds, follow where I am led, and keep moving. No old, outworn story of loss and defeat must stand in my way. I choose to move forward now, toward my dream.

Κυκλάμινο, be my guide!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back to Grazing

The last few days I’ve been mulling over a journal entry from some years back:
She who dances in the moonlight becomes the lady cloaked in sorrow. Dance the grief…. Oh God, let my heart be pierced, let my heart be opened so that joy may flow once more.

The entry is the record of an active imagination session, a waking dream, that occurred in the aftermath of an emotionally devastating relationship. The grief still haunts me, and there are days when I become pretty much nonfunctional because of it. Lately I can feel myself sliding back into that depression, just when I most need to be alert, alive, and aware of the excitement that a new direction in my life offers me.

Worse yet, this entry seems to represent a kind of pattern in my life. Not just the relationship itself, or its outcome, but the story. I am a closet drama queen. Well, in truth, my friends would probably dispute the “closet” part. I prefer the terms “high-strung,” or “sensitive,” but call it what you will: I seem to thrive on intense emotion, and what better way to keep it alive than by spinning it into the myth of my life?

So, I realize now, I tell myself these stories over and over again, like re-reading Jane Eyre or some other beloved, romantic book. The brave but beleaguered heroine faces poverty and despair, but ultimately triumphs over it all…. So satisfying to read. So uplifting, in fiction.

However, it’s not so uplifting when it’s your own life’s fictions that you’re re-telling. I’m finally starting to get bored with the plot, and it’s holding me back. But I’m having a terrible time changing my habits. It’s not so easy to let these kinds of stories go—not nearly as easy as putting down a book. I think I’m addicted to the melodrama.

I’ve recently been using Linda Kohanov’s The Way of the Horse, which accompanies a set of cards bearing gorgeous images of horses created by artist Kim McElroy. Like “angel cards” or the tarot, these “wisdom cards” allow one can do readings or get advice from the Guides by pulling a card or cards at random. Whether or not the cards one pulls are meaningful depends entirely on one’s point of view. As you might imagine, I use these types of tools pretty much every day.

This morning’s card was #19 in the Horse Wisdom set, “Back to Grazing,” which speaks of emotional agility and letting the story go. Horses live in the eternal present. They remember, of course; but they spend no time or energy re-living the past or worrying about a possible future. When they are frightened or angry, they react. When the moment is past, they let the emotion wash through them, and they return quietly to grazing.

If I could let my story go, I could simply experience the emotion that is actually present in the moment and not re-live the past and its destructive patterns. The story, alas, can just keep playing over and over in my mind, robbing me of peace and energy.

In point of fact, I am not cloaked in sorrow right this moment. Yes, there are times when that is true, and I can deal with those times. But for the most part, I am, in the moment, feeling quite fine, and am often joyful. So, as the Horse Ancestors might advise,

Let the story go, Kay. Let the grief wash through you, and get back to grazing. The world is a salad!

[Cross-posted on The Alchemical Horse]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Synchronicity, again

I’ve been reading Linda Kohanov’s second book, Riding Between the Worlds, this morning. In order to be able to relax and focus on the reading in spite of an appointment at 11:30, I set a timer to let me know when I needed to quit and go get ready to leave.

In the chapter on “The Music of Connection,” Kohanov talks about how difficult, but how necessary, it is to let go of past patterns of behavior: old ways of being-in-the-world that kill off parts of the soul, or at least don’t allow those parts to grow and thrive. She notes how this kind of pattern leads to depression and sometimes even to suicidal thoughts as the person fails to recognize that it’s the “False Self” who has to die.

This resonates with my own experience. She goes on to describe how horses have helped her clients see how this operates. It made me realize the absolute importance of knowing myself as I move forward with this work.

Then, as I read her example of the woman who was completely unaware of her own fear, though the horse felt it and was badly spooked until the woman returned to her physical body (pp. 130-132), I burst into tears:

“Do you think [the horse] was acting out my hidden fear?” Jane asked.

“Maybe,” I said. “Maybe she was spooking for her own reasons, most likely a bit of both. Either way, you gained her respect, not by denying your fear and talking a good game, but simply by being present. And you showed everyone outside the arena what being present really means. It looks like nothing to the untrained eye, but it means everything to a horse.”
At that moment, just as I absorbed the import of that sentence for my own life and work, my timer went off, leaving me laughing and crying at the same time, marveling at the “synchronicity.” Such a blessing! So my “homework,” it seems, is to just be present with my horses, with no other agenda. Just be present. Which is, of course, much harder than it sounds.

[Cross-posted on The Alchemical Horse, my other blog.]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A healing memory....

The other day, out of the blue, I remembered something that happened a couple of months before my father died in 2004. I don't think I ever shared it; I didn't even write about it in my journal until months later. For some reason I wanted to share it now.

We all knew he was dying of pancreatic cancer. He had always said that when his time came, he wanted to go quickly, and not linger on in this life debilitated and unable to continue his active, independent life. The cancer claimed him within six months of the onset of symptoms, and even the night before his passing, thanks to his little scooter, he motored himself off to sit at dinner at the retirement center with his friends and family.

Here is the only entry in my journal at the time this particular incident happened:

7:30P. What a day! Dad called me about 9 last night to say he was in a lot of pain; he called again at 3A and I went over and took him to the ER at Barnes. They’re going to admit him, if they can ever find him a room. When I left at 4:30 this afternoon he was still in the ER, and I haven’t heard from him yet!

Nearly a year later, I was finally able to write about it more fully:

I was sitting in a curtained “room” in the ER, and Dad was dozing uncomfortably on a gurney. We’d been there since about 4 in the morning, and it was then mid-afternoon. The nurse had finally come to fix Dad’s IV once again and give him some more morphine.

I put my head down awkwardly on the chair and was dozing as best I could with all the noise and commotion. I found myself in that rare and strange place where my waking mind was mostly asleep but my consciousness was hyper-alert and receptive. Wish I could reach that state more often! I decided to do some Healing Touch with Dad, since I hadn’t been able to do it much at all since he got sick. There was just too much emotion.

I started the usual chakra connection sequence. His energy was quite strong and vital, and I had no trouble connecting. When I got to the hips and connected across them, I was instructed not to continue with the root and sacral chakras, as would normally happen, but rather to follow his spine upward. I did so, connecting each vertebra with the ones above and below as best I could.

I had absolutely no idea why this was necessary, but just went along with the instruction. I finished energetically connecting his spine, then quickly finished the chakra connection about the time the nurse came back in. I left shortly afterward to go home, still puzzling over it.

It was some time later when I realized, with a start and a flood of grateful tears, that what Dad had needed at that moment was courage: he needed to stand straight and tall to face his fears and the difficulties that he was enduring. That was what I was asked to do: help him keep his back straight and strong.

What a blessing to be able to help in this way, and an even greater blessing to understand it. I love you, Dad.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Early Summer

The First of May. Terrific storms in the area last night left no damage here, thank goodness. Today is cool, cloudy, clean; headed for the upper 70s, with more storms to move through late in the day. The Dame's Rocket and the iris are in full bloom, and the first rose opened during the night. The little wren once again sings, “Sweet! Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!”

May Day: Sumer is icumin in, lhude sing cuccu….

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Yesterday I finished Linda Kohanov's The Tao of Equus. It's one of those books I've been meaning to read for years, but it seems that now was the right moment.

Kohanov is one of the pioneers of equine-assisted psychotherapy, which takes advantage of the horse's amazing power to facilitate emotional growth, healing, and transformation. Her book gives many, many examples of this kind of healing, starting with her personal story.

The book is especially relevant to me right now as I begin to think seriously about using horses in my own psychological practice, on a professional level. Galahad and Midnight have brought about profound changes in my own psyche, and the stories in Kohanov's book resonate strongly with my personal experience.

Near the end of the book, Kohanov relates the story of a woman whose horse had recently died, but she still felt his presence, as though he had not "crossed over." In a waking dream, the woman encountered her horse, Wally:

All of a sudden, I was walking through this beautiful field of grass with a single tree. The image went from normal to sepia tone, and I saw a chestnut horse grazing in the distance. Someone was walking with me; it felt like my spirit guide. I said to this person, "Is that Wally? It must be; his coat is so shiny."

Wally looked up and recognized me. I could see he was wearing the halter I had gotten for him. He came cantering toward me and said, "Is this the new place where you're boarding me?" I said, "No Wally, you've died. You don't have to wear that halter any more."

The halter unclasped and fell off by itself. Wally bowed and trotted off happily toward the horizon. As the vision faded, [I] heard [my] guide explaining the rhythms of the soul's journey through life and death in a way that suggested this world, the one we believed to be so solid and stable, was really the dream.

As I read this, I burst into tears--but these felt like tears of relief. Suddenly I began to breathe--great, deep, gasping breaths that slowly subsided. I felt like I hadn't taken a deep, free breath for longer than I could remember. I kept hearing, “You don’t have to wear that halter any more.” (p. 333)

Suddenly, some deep part of me understood that the restrictions that I’ve had around my heart and spirit are finally loosening. I can let go of the internalized cultural restraints that chafe and restrict me. In my head I heard the words, “The animal knows what it needs.” By giving my true nature its head, perhaps, I can the trust the internal knowing that shows me my path through life.

Today, I find myself deeply happy and more relaxed than at any time I can remember. What a blessing!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The next step, maybe?

I’ve signed up for James Twyman’s seminar on what he calls  “dream dancing,” which uses the process of lucid dreaming as a way to connect with loved ones who have passed on. I don't usually sign up for those kinds of seminars and workshops and courses, because so much of the material that's covered is stuff that I've already learned, over the years.

My problem is that I don't often show the self-discipline to practice the techniques I already know. You can't buy enlightenment, kiddo; you have to work for it. Oh. Work. Yeah, that.

A very interesting thing happened right after I signed up. That very night, my mother (who died over ten years ago) was with me in my dreams, vividly present. I miss my mom very much, but don't have much contact with her--not nearly as much as I've had with other imaginal figures and deceased relatives. She seems as quiet and reserved in the afterlife as she was in this one.

I wonder what the larger implications of that are? I wonder if it’s easier for some of those Others to communicate in different ways—maybe some can make themselves heard the way I usually do it, while others might like a different method like lucid dreams.

Part of the reason I decided to sign up was to investigate what the technique Twyman proposes is like, and to see if I can figure out what the pitfalls are. Initially, with little experience of lucid dreaming and none whatsoever of James Twyman’s methodology, I am concerned about the usual New Age problems: an uncritical belief, and an emotional attachment to the outcome. But the same is true of active imagination, and of sensing the energies of the living, as I have sometimes painfully discovered over the years.

So it will be useful for me to experiment with this other method. I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll report, on the blog, on the results I achieve, or don’t.

A discouraging outcome

Well, my dream groups didn't make, despite a promising start. In the end, only one person, out of the hundred or so that I invited, actually signed up. This is a tough time of the year, and a tough time economically, so it's not altogether surprising. But I'm feeling pretty discouraged.

Many people are interested in dreamwork, no doubt about that. And I truly want to share what I know about the subject, because my approach is quite different from that of most people. If there was ever someone with the qualifications to help others understand their dreams, it's me. But this is the third time I've tried the groups, and the third time there haven't been nearly enough people to hold them.

My ego is having a real problem with this outcome, not surprisingly. But I remind myself that pushing the river is never a good idea. Things happen, or don't happen, when and how they  need to because of linkages and resonances that we cannot understand. Maybe at some point, years from now, I'll be able to say, "Oh, now I understand!" as I catch some faint glimmer of a pattern.

You can't push the river. On the other hand, you can't just sit passively and say, "Well, something will turn up." You have to keep watching, looking, following your passion, and taking whatever step shows up into the dark. I've lived like this for years--my dissertation evolved in just this way--so I know what to "do."

That does not make it any easier.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gratitude and abundance

I had occasion yesterday and today to wonder about the relationship between gratitude and abundance. Haven't thought this through, but am just watching my own life. As I relax into a state of gratitude, good things seem to follow.

I'm so grateful to have my horse, for instance; just the fact that he is mine, and that I can be around him, seemed like a miracle to me. Then, out of the blue, someone gave me a saddle that "just happens" to fit both me and Galahad perfectly. I couldn't have afforded a saddle right now, but that was fine with me. Then: one appeared.

It seems to me that the grattitude and the abundance may actually be the same thing, somehow....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Afternoon tea

I was thinking about my friends just now, while pouring my afternoon tea. How different things are today, compared with years past. None of my friends lives close enough to gossip across the fence, or drop by for a cup and a chat. My imaginal friends the Ladies experienced that kind of closeness, living in small communities and neighborhoods. I never have.

Something that many of them experienced as well was isolation and loneliness. I have letters from several of them which speak of friends who've moved away, perhaps never to be heard from again. Others, having themselves moved away, wrote to friends and loved ones back home and spoke of how much they missed them.

My great-great-grandmother Mary Ann's homesickness and loneliness on the prairies of Illinois was so great and so lasting that I can feel it to this day, when I drive between the river and the upland fields there, through the stretch of woods that reminded her of her Pennsylvania home. I wonder if she ever quit missing the old place, though she lived for more than fifty years longer, and raised her family, among the cornfields.

What made me think of all this today was, of all things, facebook. I felt lonely this afternoon, working at home by myself. But I can go online and see what my friends are up to, what they're reading, what they're laughing about, what they're working through. Yes, I'm lonely, but I am not isolated in any but a physical sense.

How different this is from anything human beings have experienced ever before, in all the long millennia of our existence as a species. I wonder, as have many others, what this all means in the Grand Scheme of Things....

Meanwhile, join me, friend, for a cup of tea. A place is set just for you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010




Things are beginning to stir, though I still don't know what they are. Waiting in uncertainty is such a difficult skill. I hate not knowing what comes next. I want to rush forward to some kind of resolution. What's my path in life? What's the answer to the puzzle posed by all the bits and pieces of seemingly unrelated events, people, feelings, information?

It's an active waiting, for me, not a passive one. I'm trying to refine my skill at the art of active receptivity, which has been my way of being-in-the-world for some years now. It's a matter of waiting while watching for the next hint to appear, the next door to open, the next part of the path to become visible among the weeds. It's a balance. Too hasty, and I risk getting sidetracked; too slow, and an opportunity may be missed.

And all the time, of course, I don't know exactly what it is that I'm looking for. I hate it, but I have to trust that I'll know the right moment to act when that moment arrives, and the right moment to remain still, watching and waiting.

Why couldn't this be easier? Sigh....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Insight from a little bird

Some friends reported on facebook the other day that their little parrot had escaped and flown away. This bird had been very unhappy since they first adopted her as a youngster last year. She never adjusted to life in her new home, and repeatedly plucked all her breast feathers out despite my friends’ kindness, caring, and all-out attempts to figure out what was bothering her. Without her feathers to insulate her, she undoubtedly perished fairly rapidly in this winter weather.

I woke up in the middle of that night thinking about the bird, and about what I could say to my friends that would be of any comfort at all. In my mind I framed a message to put on facebook the next morning—facebook is where all of us communicate such events these days.

“Some creatures, like some humans,” I would say, “are just so damaged that they can’t recognize love and safety even when they are surrounded by it. They are too damaged by whatever trauma they suffered at an early age, and never recover.” I’m a psychologist, and I know this stuff, right?

As I was dozing back off, I woke up with a flash of rueful insight: I might as well be talking about myself.

Here I am, financially secure, with the most interesting life of anyone I know and the opportunity to do pretty much whatever I want with my life. I am loved, and I am surrounded by abundance, and I am safe in this world. The Universe repeatedly demonstrates this. Yet I fret and worry and berate myself for not doing “enough,” or “the right thing.” I wait for the other shoe to drop, for The Dreadful Thing to happen. I make myself miserable, just like my friends’ little parrot.

I feel so sorry for the little creature, and for my friends grieving her loss. And maybe now I’ll stop pulling my feathers out.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dissertation Abstract. Working With the Imaginal: Art-Making With Figures of Soul

Women’s voices have long been silenced and our work demeaned by our patriarchal culture, leading to profound and internalized devaluation of our worth as human beings and the loss of a sense of ourselves as persons with stories worth telling. Through art-making, dreamwork, imaginal dialogues, and waking-world experiences, I explore the resonance between my own archetypal complexes and my experiences of the Ladies, a group of imaginal women. This dissertation tells the story of its own process, and in the telling, recovers the importance of “women’s work” that in each moment creates soul and embodies our connection with the Divine.

The art pieces created during this process express a temporal and psychic shift, emerging from early Victorian repression through mid-nineteenth-century control and sexualization to the embodiment of a psychic space in which sexuality, sensuality, and activity can be freely expressed. This process reflects a similar transformation in my own psyche, as I moved from a deep sense of isolation, repression, and fear of speaking out, into a more open and confident expression of my self, my voice, and my art.

A major challenge facing depth psychology is to understand the nature of the imaginal world and the ways that we can and do interact with it. This imaginal dissertation addresses the challenge by documenting what the dissertation process and product look like when the work is done in the imaginal way, from within a collaborative field co-emerging between the waking world and the imaginal world. Within this field we have access to a wisdom that surpasses the rational by taking advantage of the quantum nature of reality—the psychoid archetype.

The study uses a radical approach that steps out from alchemical hermeneutics and refigures the traditional distinction between inner work and outer work, between thought and action, between research as scholarly reflection and the act of being in the world. It recaptures an essentially feminine way of knowing, and demonstrates that the boundaries between the “real” world and the imaginal are not as rigid as we have been taught. The imaginal is always in between and always co-arising.

[If you would like to learn more about the creation of Ellen's dress, you can read about it here.]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thoughts on the movie "Avatar"

For me, this movie was very difficult to watch. Beautiful, brilliant, wrenching, and deeply disturbing. I'm still processing it, and will be for some time, I suspect.

The Quaker in me insists that there must be a better way—a way that doesn’t involve death and destruction on all sides. The Quaker insists it is not necessary to hate, but only to stay true to what one believes.

The Warrior wants to fight to the death; the Warrior wants to rip the guts out of the destroyers. The Warrior revels in the destruction of the Evil Sky People, and glories in the tales of valor that will be re-told for generations to come.

The Voice of Reason found the story trite and predictable; the Voice of Reason knows there is no magic in the world, despite all those electromagnetic and chemical connections among the roots of the world.

Keiki o ka ‘aina grieves for all those who died; Keiki o ka ‘aina grieves for the loss of the World Tree and for the destruction of the beauty and richness of that world and this one. Keiki o ka ‘aina feels the magic in the world and its pain; she wonders what might be her small part in this great shift that is occurring, in the breaking of these patterns of destruction and blindness. Keiki o ka ‘aina will continue to pray for guidance and search for the next step on her path.

The Critic wonders why I bother with all this nonsense; the Critic is certain that there is nothing I could possibly do that would be of any significance whatsoever.

Whose voice will speak with the most effect? How much courage do I really possess?

Monday, January 11, 2010

The depths of winter....

I should know enough by now to expect this: I'm in the depths of winter at the moment, feeling cold and still and sad without reason. The only thing that forces me to acknowledge that I'm still alive is the ache in my soul. This happens in the darkest part of the year, reliably, every year, and yet every year the depression is as fresh and painful as the very first time. Maybe it's like the pain of icy fingertips, reminding me that it's time to go warm up my hands before frostbite sets in.

There are bright moments, of course. Being around my horses brings me back to life; so does dancing. In those moments, joy returns. But as soon as I stop, the icy blanket descends again, so chilling that hope itself seems like the enemy.

My dreams, by contrast, are full of life and death and transformative imagery. I just don't seem to have the energy to work with them. But surely spring will come, as it always does. Outside, just as it did last year, just as it does each year as surely as depression, the witch hazel is blooming in the garden, opening its scented blossoms like the breath of hope itself.

I am grateful.