Until I was about 47 my spirituality was guided by the God of Christianity. But somehow this was never quite enough. I thought religion was supposed to have all the answers to the mysteries of life and fully satisfy my every yearning, yet I was haunted by a spiritual hunger I could not satisfy. When the emptiness was particularly painful I would wonder guiltily, Can this truly be all there is to life? Just behaving well, keeping God’s rules, serving him through organized religion, and embracing “correct” beliefs about him? If so, why isn’t it enough for me? Is there something terribly wrong with me?
Finally I reached a point when I could no longer ignore the fact that my religion’s symbols and rituals were as cold and dead to me as fossils frozen in stone. Then I discovered Jungian psychology and sparks began to fly. To keep the fire stoked I began a program of study and dreamwork. To my delight, the personal insights I gained were extraordinarily revitalizing. And not just in a psychological sense. The process of self-discovery was also satisfying my spiritual hunger in a way organized religion had ceased to do!
That was when I knew spirituality is a process of inner growth and the Mystery of God is Love. Whatever our cultures and religions might call it — Jehovah or Allah, Shiva or Shakti, Father or Mother, Holy Spirit, Kundalini, Beloved or Life — this Love is a very real entity which pervades everything in the universe, including human beings.
Love lives in the deep well of every soul where it stirs beneath layers of beliefs and assumptions that blanket our authentic selves. It paints masterpieces in our dreams, croons lullabies in comforting memories, sends gifts in synchronistic events. It swells our hearts in a lover’s kiss, a baby’s smile, the ocean’s roar, a scattering of wildflowers beside the road, the cool sanctuary of a forest cathedral. No matter how much we may have been hurt, no matter how much we may have hurt others, it rejoices with every breath we take and every beat of our heart singing, “You are known. You are loved. You are alive. You are life.”
Jung had a name for the individual piece of universal Love that flows through every soul; he called it the archetype of the Self. The Self has called out to seekers throughout history saying, “Live, Baby, live! Grow, Baby, grow!” The ego’s desire to answer this call forms the basis of every religion. The fact that my religion no longer served my growth did not mean there was something wrong with me. Nor did it negate the holy Mystery at the heart of every religion. It was just a signal that I had stopped honoring the sacred new life bubbling up within me.
For me, the golden bear symbolizes the Self in its feminine aspect: the infinitely powerful and empowering kind of all-embracing maternal love that leads to universal Love and spiritual renewal. Love’s tracks are everywhere: in our soul’s truths, in our heart’s desires, in messages from our bodies, in the changes that wake us up and shake us up, in everything that lights our passion and keeps it burning. By opening to growth and change and pursuing the things we love we learn to love ourselves. By learning to love ourselves we learn to love others. With every step we take we move closer to embodying Love in every aspect of our lives. How could this not be a spiritual path?
I wish you Godspeed as you follow Bear to the Love within you.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.