With my 70th birthday coming up this year I’d been giving some thought to how I wanted to celebrate. Top on my list was to be with my family, but might there also be something a little unusual and special?
I was still considering possibilities this winter when I received an e-mail catalogue from the New York Center for Jungian Studies about their annual spring conferences in Ireland. Each lasts a week, takes place in a different location, and has a different theme. When I came to the third and last one, my heart quickened. “Jung, Yeats & the Creative Imagination” would take place during April 21 – 27. My birthday week. As if this weren’t enough, one of the presenters was Jungian analyst Monika Wikman!
If you follow my blog you know I think very highly of Monika and her book, Pregnant Darkness. And I’ve written posts about creative imagination. Moreover, although I’d never read the poetry of William Butler Yeats, several people have recommended it to me. One was the founder of Innisfree Press, the publisher of my book, Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work.” Innisfree’s motto was “A call to the deep heart’s core,” the last line of one of Yeats’ most beloved poems, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”
I felt the call. So with the full support of my husband—who, although not a lover of Jung or poetry, is a lover of travel and me—we signed up. We have just returned and it was all I’d hoped for and much more. Since my way of processing experience is to write about it, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts in upcoming posts. I hope some will be meaningful to you.
Our group of 35 people checked into our lodge in rural County Sligo on Sunday afternoon. On Monday, the day before my birthday, we climbed up a steeeeep, hill to the Caves of Kesh. As the bird flies, it wasn’t that high or far, but as the human walks, this was no piece of birthday cake. There was no trail, so we each had to find our own way.
The first part of the hike featured a grove of scrubby trees, a locked gate that had to be scaled, thick black mud, and prickly undergrowth like heather and stinging nettle which we occasionally had to grab to keep from sliding and falling. Some fell anyway. The next phase was up a deceptively innocent-looking pasture dotted with more quagmires, slippery grass, and a plethora of sheep poop, some of which ended up under our fingernails when grabbing grass was the only way to maintain balance. By the way, as you will learn in an upcoming post, poop steadily gained in importance that week until it became a defining symbol for the entire conference!
In Celtic mythology the Caves of Kesh were hiding places for two lovers pursued by an angry King/husband. But it was the climb that held significance for me. Not only have I had many dreams of ascending steep stairs only to find the way blocked at the top, but as a soon-to-be-70 elderwoman, I was on a mission to shatter stereotypes about aging and gray-haired women. Determined to prove to myself and all present that 70 is not synonymous with doddering, I kept going. As it turned out, Fred and I were two of only 14 people who enjoyed the stunning view from inside the caves. I’m proud of us!
So here are a few things I’ve been thinking about my visit to Ireland last week:
- 70 is a number, not an excuse to forego adventure.
- Inheriting healthy genes is not within my range of choices, but staying open, listening to myself, accepting challenges and doing my best are.
- Most successes are the result of sheer determination and perseverance.
- When viewed through the lens of creative imagination, everything—even the names of islands and publishing houses, climbing, caves, stinging nettle, mud and poop—has symbolic meaning for our soul’s journey.
- No matter how difficult the climb may be, following the heart’s call is worth it.
You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon or Larson Publications, Inc.
Note: I’ve just seen the ad that’s been placed on this post and I want you to know I have nothing to do with it and can’t figure out how to take it off. I apologize. Please know it’s not authorized by me.
Loved this post Jeanie !! … and loved the nice little bullet points at the end.
Oh … 70 ~ you have officially entered the new middle age. R
Thank you, Richard. It’s very nice to know. I was afraid it might sound a bit boring and traveloguey…. If this is middle age, I’ll have more of it please!! 🙂 Jeanie
How beautiful … and little surprise perhaps that you had such an inspiring ascent and entry into the unconscious …
A word-smith knowledgable of Jung’s typology might connect the core with the climb – even I did – ‘Innesfree’ – ‘Inn ‘nn’ ‘is’free’ –
INN – conscious connotations with rest, shelter nourishment and peace.
NN – double creativity through that ethereal type function of intuition – both introverted and connected to the inner realm; and extraverted, allowing the ideas and imagery to engage with the collective.
IS free – disengaged from the irrational yet perhaps controlling function of sensing, where order and discipline abounds, maintaining control over things, relationships, and people.
Any bears in the cave when you got there then Jeannie?
‘Innisfree’ – what a blessing! .. 🙂
You’re very good at this, Andi! I so appreciate your associations to Innisfree! They validate my inner work and add another level of meaning to my experience, as does your comment about my ascent and entry into the unconscious.
No, I didn’t find any bears in the cave, but you may be interested to know that the 6th dream I ever recorded…this was in 1989 when I was emerging from a long and deep descent…was about trying to lock an elephant in a cave. I was afraid of it and tried to close it in but the door broke so I ran for help. You can read my associations to it in this post that appeared on April 8, 2010: http://jeanraffa.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/elephant-in-the-cave-2/. I’ve received much help since then and am infinitely freer now. As you can see from the picture, the door is gone now, and my view has expanded immeasurably.
Innisfree!!!! The inside of me is feeling free? A blessing, indeed!! I will hold this word close from now on.
Jean … sorry to come back in so soon, but there may be more to your ascending the path to the rock … Richard Rohr’s daily meditation this morning …
… http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Daily-Meditation–Start-With-a-Stone—-Frame—-May-5–2013.html?soid=1103098668616&aid=5_JaBD6hhXk …
concludes with … ‘Once we get the simplest human parts down (stop slamming doors and start loving rocks), God will most assuredly take it all from there’ …
I have at home a stone which, a few years ago I dug out of the ground from Medjugorje at the place of the apparitions, a rock which somehow is ingrained with images of the feminine – but then, the lady of Medjugorje is known as ‘Our lady of the Stones’, so why not? That is not what is catching me this morning though.
Has your ‘Inn’is’free’ journey to the Celtic Isle crystallised in a representation of your search for meaning? In your husband’s picture, the image, taken from inside the cave is more than beautiful … it is amazing … two Jung quotes come to mind … you will be familiar with them both I don’t doubt …
… ‘ The magic circle of your own personality’ – (Analytical Psychology – page 72) … and …
… ‘The mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre … there is only a circumambulation of the self … everything points towards the centre … in finding the mandala as an expression of the Self I had attained what was for me the ultimate … (MDR page 222).
In projecting meaning on this wonderful image I see the two mandorlas having come together to produce the mandala, a symbol of transcendence. The darkness of the cave itself generates the presence of the image, as if the collective unconscious is rising to become collective consciousness. The personal conscious, the sky, forms the counterbalance to the personal unconscious, the earth, where the real beauty and colour lies. This is where the shadow of the human form watches and waits, while the waters of the loch iappear to be nourishing the mind right at the centre of the Self … water which will ultimately rise to the sky … pretty neat, seems to me! What a lucky lady!
Beautiful post – looking forward to reading more about Ireland and the hike. And Happy Birthday! What an inspiring life you lead!!! Kat
Oh, Kat. Thank you. I’ve just read your beautiful post “The Moment” from your blog, Follow Your Nose. I’m putting the address here for those who might like to read it. http://followyournose.org/ I highly recommend it. As you will see from my upcoming posts, the major insight I gained from this trip was very similar to your Vision Quest experience!! Nothing like I expected…..so very much more. Blessings to you on your inner search, which, by the way, I find very inspiring! Jeanie
Aw gee, thank you – glad you enjoyed that post. Can’t wait to read more about your trip. xx K
Thanks, Jean, for sharing the motto and the ground beneath your feet. When I read that Monika Wikman was a presenter I thought: “I wish….” I’m delighted that your way of processing is to write; it is a gift for those of us who are thousands of kilometres in different directions. We look forward to more ponderings 🙂
You’re so welcome, Catherine. Perhaps you’ll be able to attend a future conference with Monika. I’m sure she’ll be doing others for the New York Jung Center. I appreciate your kind words about my writing. What a blessing it is to know that doing what I need and love to do can be a blessing to others!! Jeanie
How great you could celebrate your 70th with Fred in this way in Ireland. I looked at those spring Jung conferences longingly myself, so I’m glad you could take the time to follow your heart and enjoy the adventure of being a strong and courageous woman of 70 years. I”m thinking about how I will celebrate my 70th to express a significant rite of passage for myself as I feel the joy of my whole self being alive!
Thanks for sharing your messy, challenging and victorious journey with us, Jeanie,
You’re very welcome, Julie. It was great! I hope you get to attend one of these conferences one day. This one was simply wonderful. Blessings on your whole wonderful alive self!! Jeanie
Until yesterday I did not know the name Yeats. When I was teaching in a tenth grade English class last semester we read “Things Fall Apart” which begins with some Prose that starts about a Falcon being unaware of the Falconer and getting caught in a gyre. I only read it once but it must have stuck with me somehow. Just yesterday, I was reading and I came across the word “gyre” and I started semiconciously thinking about the Falcon and the rhythm of the poem came to my mind. Then on the next page was the same exact section of prose from Yeats about the Falcon. Now he’s in your blog. Perhaps I should look him up. Sounds like synchronicity to me. 🙂 That sounds like a great adventure. I hope you had a wonderful time!- Emerald
Sounds like synchronicity to me too. The falcon came up at our conference and the questions I recorded in my notes are, “What if the falcon can hear the falconer? What if it can follow the secret thread between itself and the divine? Where am I sitting in relationship to the light right now?”
The point being: What if my less conscious, instinctual, animal self can hear the call to the deep heart’s core and acquire the presence of mind to heed it? What would that look like in my life right now? How can I work with that idea in my creative imagination so that it becomes a lasting awareness that provides guidance for me?
So I’m wondering if any of these questions speak to you.
Blessings, my friend,
Fantastic Jean, inspiring story and lovely photos. Next time in Ireland, head North and drop by for ‘an cupán tae’ 🙂
Thanks, Roberta. I’d love to! Your country is magnificent and magical.
Andi, your second comment above adds more to the soup I’m stirring about this experience. As you will see when Tuesday’s post comes out, (I wrote it 2 days ago), rocks played an important role in my second day at the conference, which was my birthday. The rock I chose to lay upon Queen Maeve’s (the archetype of the Sacred Feminine) cairn was white on one side and black on the other, an image of the merging of the conscious and unconscious selves. The reclaiming of the feminine and the union of opposites were much on my mind throughout the week.
A favorite rock of mine is dark gray and shaped somewhat like an arched window, grave headstone, or stele. The thing that got my attention was the white “bracelet” that runs all the way around the central part of it. I picked it up on the path to Jung’s tower in Bollingen some years ago and have had it close ever sense. Something about it touched me deeply. I didn’t quite know why and still don’t. It simply felt like a special gift left there for me. I suppose this kind of response is fairly typical of the INF personality; intuition and feeling always come first. Then logic, reason, and sensation follow slowly behind. The same thing is happening now as I struggle to put words to my Ireland experience.
As for the photo, it was I who took it. When I entered the cave my attention was first directed inward, but I soon turned around and saw a woman who’d arrived before me—her name also happens to be Jean, by the way—framed in the center of that glorious space. When Fred saw me photographing it he offered to take one of me in the same spot, but I was very happy with the one I’d taken and didn’t need another. I did notice the mandala and I am familiar with Jung’s thoughts about it, so that was part of the attraction. The other was the meeting of earth and sky I saw through the opening. And then there was her shadow in the center of it all! I framed it this way intuitively without really thinking about the meaning. Now I do think this image is becoming the most significant one of the trip for me, and I appreciate your connecting it with “Inn-is-free.” I wasn’t familiar with the phrase, “the magic circle of your own personality,” and love it. I see now how that fits with this image as well.
Thank you for sharing Richard Rohr’s meditation. And did you notice the very similar earth/sky mandala that accompanied it? I particularly loved the comment, “Any distinction between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane, is a bogus one.” There’s so much synchronicity, so much magic entering the circle of my personality in connection with this trip, that I’m feeling a bit blown away by it all. For the last few days it’s been a nearly constant reminder of the fundamental truth of Richard’s message.
Again, thank you for adding your insights to the mix. And please don’t worry about coming “back in so soon.” I very much enjoy these kinds of conversations.
… You took the picture … and a ‘shadow’ Jean is in the centre … it really is a beautiful representation of where you are on your journey … another projection from me of course, I will stop so doing … 🙂
Twenty years ago this year I went to Bollingen to locate Jung’s answer to a question that seemed to hold such importance for me at the start of my own late ‘midlife’ journey. In trying to get to the then dock in the front of the Tower, I fell, in a new business suit, into lake Zurich, ‘swam’ to the dock, and sat delightedly drenched on his stone for some time, enthralled. An hour later, the Head of Learning at the Jung Institute in Kusnacht, (the first Jungian I had ever met) commented that I was blessed in my fall into Jung through my ‘baptism’ that day, and that whatever I was in looking to find in Jung would prove to become hugely influential in my life. (Two hundred years ago, women in Scotland were bound and thrown into the sea for less …) Who was the crazy one, her, or me, or both of us? That incredible comment fired a passion in me that has burned brightly since. What a wonderful world we live in!
What a great story! Okay, here’s mine. We were attending an intensive at the Jung Institute around the same time — possibly a year or so later. I was among a few attendees who made an unauthorized visit to Bollingen and when I saw the blissful look on the face of one of them who was sitting on the stone on which he had carved his famous image of the little homunculus in the center of the mandala, I asked for her camera and took a picture of her. After we returned home she sent me a copy of it. Between us was a foggy circular “presence” that neither of us had seen, but both had sensed. Yes, it is indeed a wonderful, magical world, and I feel so fortunate to be here!