Freeing Buried Emotions


Recently Deepak Chopra posted an article on Huffington Post about the relationship between physical health and consciousness. He wrote that the mind and body are connected in a feedback loop which works all the time, whether you’re awake, asleep or in a coma. But here’s what I found most interesting: when you participate in the feedback loop with self-awareness, you make your mind and body allies in a positive partnership that leads toward increased health and longevity.
After reading Dr. Chopra’s and Dr. Rudy Tanzi’s eleven “prescriptions” to a self-aware approach to life, I copied two into my blog file thinking I might want to write a post about them. Behind my conscious reason, however, was another of which I was barely aware: I needed these prescriptions for myself! One was: “Free yourself emotionally — to be emotionally resilient is the best defense against growing rigid.” In other words, there’s a cause and effect relationship between mental and physical inflexibility and vulnerability.
This advice has been simmering in my mind since then, and now I know why I found it so compelling. I haven’t exercised regularly this summer and am getting increasingly stiff. Today I did a lot of bending and stooping and weed-pulling in the garden around the root cellar, and soon afterwards felt the need for two Aleves!  I know this isn’t unusual for my age, but I also know it’s not inevitable. So what’s the mental correlate that might be contributing to it?
My mother was a wonderful woman, but she was not emotionally open or resilient. In fact, she was so emotionally vulnerable—fragile, really—that to her death she strongly resisted feeling and manifesting any strong emotions at all. Since she never dealt consciously with this aspect of her shadow, I naturally inherited it. So here’s the connection. She died four years ago this month, five days short of her 94th birthday. My brother and I knew she wanted to be cremated, but she never told us what to do with her ashes. So I’ve kept them in a closet. As you can imagine, this has been weighing heavily on my shoulders. My rather stiff shoulders. Does this suggest anything to you? It sure does to me!
I’ve been trying to uncover some long-buried emotions for several years and it’s paying off.  I’m less sensitive and emotionally reactive, and I’m losing my unconscious tendency to deny physical and emotional pain. A few months ago when I read a post on Elaine Mansfield’s blog about the stone cairn she and her sons built over her husband’s ashes, I had an epiphany. Our North Carolina property is practically a quarry! Burying her here under a cairn was the perfect answer!  The fact I was ready to let her go tells me I was also ready to let go of some guilt, anger and denial related to her.
Last Saturday evening my brother, husband, and I buried Mom’s ashes in a garden we created for her this summer. At one point Jim paused for a moment. The sound of the gurgling creek flowing past the garden had brought back a memory from our youth. We rarely went on vacations, but once Mom saved enough money to rent a beach cottage. That week she spent most of her time on the porch reading and doing crossword puzzles. One day she said to Jim, “I just love listening to the water.”  In dreams, water often symbolizes emotions. She may not have heard her pain in life, but now she has no pain, and she can listen to something she loves for eternity. Rest in peace, Mom. We’re both freer now.
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0 Responses

  1. What a beautiful way to honor the memory of your mother! I also love the way you’ve installed the antique door in the garden. I sincerely hope that this exercise has brought and will continue to bring peace to you and to your brother.

    1. Thank you, Jeanne. You actually helped feed the inspiration for using the antique door! Fred and I bought it last spring with the intention of installing it somewhere on the property this summer. Then, coincidentally, you sent me the photo of the “portal” sculpture overlooking a beautiful view in Switzerland. I loved that and started looking for a similar site here but nothing came together. But when I changed my focus to choosing a site for Mom’s ashes, I found the perfect shaded spot tucked away in a corner of the property and that’s when I realized the door was the perfect entry to a garden! This exercise has brought Jim and me great peace. We feel we’ve discovered the perfect place for her. Jeanie

  2. Jean, I’m deeply grateful for your powerful insight, the ritual work you describe, and the images which encourage me on this journey to become ‘conscious.’

    1. Thank you, Catherine. And I’m so very grateful for your kind spirit and generous heart, and for the others like you who take the time to read what I write and let me know they find it nourishing and meaningful. This is a real gift to me. Jeanie

  3. Within the Urn
    Over the years, the dust settled.
    With every footstep and voice
    From those moving about the house however,
    The fine mist rippled with energy,
    And eventually, over time, over everything,
    It transformed into soil; the ground of being.
    So when she carried the urn into the woods, like
    An Egyptian carrying a basin of water,
    And poured the ashes into the ground,
    Some of them rose and, try as she might
    To blink them away, they got in her eyes
    And changed her vision forever.
    When the ashes entered the earth, they rejoiced
    For the returning home. They spread, seeping
    And dancing, touching everything. They threaded the roots,
    Slipped into the underground stream, drifted into the den
    Of a newly hibernating bear, and mingled
    With the bones of the deer and the Cape Fear Indians.
    They threaded deep into hidden memories
    Of the earth, and within hours had forced up
    Entire fields of trilliums and cinnamon ferns.
    And when the woman placed the last stone of the cairn down,
    And stood holding the empty urn,
    She was lighter, freer, and what little dust
    Was left inside lifted into the summer wind
    To become part of the song of the watercourse way.

    1. Joseph, I am, of course, in tears as I read your exquisite poem to the miracle of life, death and rebirth. Your words always touch me deeply, these, especially so. Thank you, my kind and gifted friend, from the depths of my soul, for this beautiful memorial to my mother. I will treasure it.
      By the way, when we’d finished I rinsed out the urn in the creek and her remaining ashes did become “part of the song of the watercourse way.”

  4. Jeanie, thank you for this insightful “mother peace” And I love the way the two of you have intermingled your arms and are pouring her ashes together as an integration of opposites in this act of healing with her and yourself.
    I’ve been in the process of healing from my “mother” wounds also and finding more inner peace, joy and flexibility in mind and body as I allow feelings to be what they are, without judgment of myself and awareness in how I might judge another rather than feel what I feel and find a way to express it that unites inner and outer reality.
    Your garden area looks beautiful and peace-filled, as within, so without! Peace Be, Julie

  5. Oh, Julie! Thank you for pointing out the symbolism of our intermingled arms! I hadn’t seen that! Yes, it’s an unconscious physical merging of two mandalas—the union of opposites, masculine and feminine—which creates one, albeit very slim, integrated mandorla between them!!! I love, love, love that!! I was, however, aware of the color of the shirts Jim and I wore. I wore purple for healing; his red shirt suggests the blood of life! And what you can’t see is that my earrings are two, large, silver circles.
    By the way, the entry way just beyond the gates has a winding path through the circle of boxwoods that suggests yin/yang to me. We planted a tall sugar maple on the right side of the path to suggest striving yang energy; and the beautiful “Vanilla and Strawberry” hydrangea bush on the left side suggests the fertility and fruitfulness of the feminine. We also hung a small plaque of the triple goddess on a nearby tree, and, of course, the St. Francis statue is a tribute to Christianity and the sacredness of Mother Nature. All in all, this was a deeply satisfying project for me that has brought me the closure I’ve been seeking!

  6. Jeanie, thank you for bringing me to your beautiful garden and ritual site. I am grateful to be part of your inspiration. I love what Julie Keefer says about the entwined arms of masculine and feminine. I see your bodies forming a heart as your mother’s ashes flow into the earth. How fortunate that you have this beautiful place to grieve and rejoice. Today, sunlight dappled the wet stones of Vic’s cairn when I brought bright fresh gladiolas from my garden after being away a few days. These small offerings never fail to bring me solace. May beauty and healing surround you and all of us.

    1. Thank you. It was very healing for me. I feel lighter, somehow, as if performing this physical ritual for her has freed my body as well as my psyche from a weight of guilt and unfinished business. I appreciate your taking the time to write! Jeanie

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