Weeding the Soul's Garden


Your ego is a key player in your soul’s journey to wholeness. A strong, mature ego aids your psycho-spiritual growth; a weak and fearful ego holds you back. Tracking your dreams gives you a better understanding of your ego’s status. Your ego shows up every night as you, the dreamer: the one climbing the mountain, driving too fast down the dark road, running from the stranger, forgetting to feed the baby, standing naked in a crowd.

In my dream The Elephant in the Cave, the “I” trying to bar the door was my ego, and the elephant symbolized a strong inner force I didn’t want to acknowledge as part of me. In other words, my ego was frightened, rigid, closed, and one-sided. Ouch. Several months later, my dream Going Against the Current confirmed that my dreamwork was paying off. But was I finished? Had my ego grown open, strong, and brave? Not by a long shot. A few months after that I dreamed Hiding from the Enemy. There was the fear again. Even though I (my ego) was taking my inner life seriously, the dream said I was still afraid of something in my unconscious, still trying to hide from it. Still rigid. Still one-sided. What was this all about? I had no idea.

Fast forward about a year when along came a dream I called Killing the Weeds:

I’m carrying a container of weed killer with a thin tube coming out of the top. I’m careful not to touch the tip of the tube because I don’t want to get poison on my fingers. I walk along a patterned brick path adjoining the foundation of a large house and let the point of the tube fall on two large weeds that have sprouted up in the cement joint between the path and the house.

This was confusing. Weeds are Nature, and although most of us want to get rid of weeds, they’re not always bad. A weed in one part of the world is a greenhouse plant in another. What if I was trying to kill something in myself that was actually good? It was only when I put the dream into the context of my waking life that I saw what it could mean. A few days earlier I had made an uncharacteristically outspoken speech to a group of Episcopalians and two priests had openly disagreed with something I said. To my surprise, I was devastated by the implied criticism of these religious authorities.

My dream explained my discomfort. Until that point in my life, pleasing and impressing conventional authorities had been fundamental to my personality (the foundation of the house).  Not rocking the boat, not disturbing or annoying others, not creating conflict, not doing or saying anything that someone might think of as bad, avoiding criticism:  these things almost felt like life or death issues to me.  Sure, I had some rebellious feelings and original thoughts and unmet needs of my own, but I was extremely careful not to let any of them leak through the “good girl” persona (social mask) that had served me so well since childhood, especially when it came to my education and religion. I had achieved a certain amount of success in the eyes of my world by hiding my true self behind my persona, and I was simply too fearful and insecure to risk taking it off.

But after about two years of Jungian studies and dreamwork, I was beginning see my need for society’s approval as a pesky, unwanted trait (weeds) that had forced its way through the rigid foundation of my spiritual journey (patterned brick path). Realizing that my strong need to conform marred my prospects for continued growth, I had chosen to rid myself of it by pursuing self-knowledge (my dream ego was killing the weeds).

For the most part, this had been very empowering. My persona was becoming a bit more flexible and my ego was growing stronger. But there was still an immature part of me that feared losing the approval of religious authorities. Questioning my traditional religious beliefs felt subversive and dangerous, as if I might lose the approval of God, and my inner child was deeply afraid of being punished (poisoned).

Now I know why I resisted my soul’s flowering for so long: The ego’s fear of retribution for being different is a soul-killer! We feel so much safer conforming to the wishes of authority figures than challenging them. Don’t we learn the importance of obedience as children? But there comes a time in the life of every individual when we need to grow up, develop our own authority, find our own voice, and speak and act from our soul’s truths. When that time comes, it’s up to our ego to enter the soul’s garden, take off our mask, have a look around, and start weeding.

Last week I told you about my new YouTube video series called Dreams as Guides to Self Discovery , and shared the first video, The Theatre of the Ego.  This time I invite you to view the second one, The Theatre of the Persona.  You can find the entire 5-part series here on my blog (on the above right of this page,) on my website , and at this link:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMS7ZEV9HgLz1wuOVOCkDrLx6YR7ZfQSU   Or simply google Youtube, Jean Raffa.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXX80JOZnKc&w=560&h=315]

Jean Raffa’s “The Bridge to Wholeness” and “Dream Theatres of the Soul” are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. “Healing the Sacred Divide” can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.

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0 Responses

  1. Morning Jeanie. I had a brief dream in the early hours, down at the sea for a week since Sunday. The dream I think prompted in part by ongoing discussion with my son of the 10 day very rigorous retreat he recently attended. I can’t wait to tell him of the dream, so pertinent. It’s about gardening and stages …
    I’ve been up since about 5.30 this morning, catching up on emails etc., so imagine my surprise to see your post a little while ago! I’ve written about weeding and the necessity of this not only really and physically in the garden, but also the need to weed within the garden of our psyches and get rid of the dead wood. And when we think we’ve got rid of the weeds and dead wood, we go back to look at our work and see that actually there’s more still to be done 🙂
    Thank you so much! I am blown away by the synchronicity! And so grateful for these markers, my dream, your posts …

    1. Thank you for writing to share this synchronicity. How lovely that you had a gardening dream for your son this morning! So meaningful and affirming for you as a dreamer and a mother…
      Gardening really is an ideal metaphor for “growing” a soul. Both require a strong commitment—to nature and to creating beauty—plus time, attention, energy, creativity, imagination, organization, reflection, discernment, making distinctions, making choices, taking action, weeding, pruning, getting rid of dead wood, and so on. Both are hard work. And both are never done. Yet the rewards are many and more than worth it.
      I suspect that physical gardening may function as a sort of meditation practice for many people who are also interested in nurturing the life of the soul. As I think about this I’m seeing a definite correlation between the two at one point in my life. About ten years into my inner work I was getting comfortable with facing my shadow and feeling very determined to root out the dead wood: old outmoded attitudes, habits, beliefs, assumptions, etc. So I spent two or three summers at our mountain home clearing an acre or so of the property around our house. I’d prune and cut and saw and chop and amass huge piles of weeds and dead wood every week. The higher the piles grew, the better I felt! Just looking at those piles was enormously satisfying. I see the parallel now: I was creating order and beauty out of chaos in my outer world as well as my inner one.

  2. ‘Weeding the Soul’s Garden’ that’s such a great title, and another excellent article Jeanie! I love reading what you’ve learnt and discovered for yourself from your lengthy Jungian studies. Thank you so much for sharing with us your dreams, interpretations and knowledge. You’re such a great teacher, fine writer and wise Crone.
    I agree that need for approval is an all-time pesky one! For me, a natural relationship is about give and take, so when we apply this approach to ourselves I can see that symbolically ‘weeds’ must be taken out in order for us to come into flower. These rotations most essential, innate … for we all dwell in this world of turning seasons.
    From your dream I see that every variety of plant life knows how to grow in the Soul’s garden. Sleeping Beauty comes to mind and how that thicket of thorns grew where flowers had once flourished. Again we return to the tension of the opposites in order to cultivate ‘inner blooming.’ A journey from hurt to healing and beyond. Warm winter wishes, Deborah.

    1. Thank you for the very kind words, Deborah. Your mention of the cycles and seasons is so very apt. Another perfect metaphor for the kind of balance we need to achieve. Your words remind me of this ancient passage from the wisdom literature of Ecclesiastes:
      3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
      2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
      3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
      4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
      5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
      6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
      7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
      8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
      Love and blessings in this season of renewed hope,

  3. I am so applauding you, Jean, for standing up for yourself. I seldom dream, and in the past I usually was standing naked, cowering in a crowd. Over a long period of time I experienced several other dreams and then eventually it no longer bothered me to stand naked in the crowd. I could even proudly walk through the crowd without worrying about being naked. I am learning to be more ME. I no longer have to meet anyone’s approval. I am learning to voice my opinion and know that it is ok. To me it is wonderful to know that I’m finally being my authentic self. I still have growing to do and I so wish I had learned this YEARS ago. It is a wonderful experience being me.

    1. Thank you Gwynn. I know exactly what you mean. These naked dreams are perfect images of how comfortable we are about taking off our personae and showing the world the naked truth. The freedom to be more ME is one of the most extraordinary rewards of all of dreamwork. I am applauding you too for moving into your authentic self. As we both know, it is no easy task, but, oh my, the sense of accomplishment is the BEST!!!

  4. Thank you, Jeanie, for going through your excellent process and showing how dreamwork can be done to the benefit of the conscious persona. A dream is one of our most reliable sources of counsel, showing our deepest fears and follies, leading us to wholeness if we’re willing to pay attention and do the ‘work.’ (Scare quotes, because I do not consider working with dreams as work per se, but one of the greatest adventures of life.) Hugs, Jenna

    1. It’s great to hear from you, Jenna. And I totally agree. As far as I’m concerned, dreamwork is just a synonym for joyfully rediscovering the miracle of your life in all its sacred beauty! I can’t wait for your book on synchronicity to come out. What a gift to all of us that will be.

  5. Thank you for this wonderful example of how you work with dreams and include the wisdom of ones from the past to understand the present. And a great example of dream ego and getting rid of those weedy judgments growing in your soul’s garden. Don’t let them go to seed! And yes to your excellent video series.
    I’m amazed by how often I feel I’m starting over in my psyche and with dreams, returning to images and themes I thought had been sorted out. And maybe they were at the time, but those complexes emerge when a new challenge or descent happens. Years ago, I dreamed I was in the driver’s seat of my Subaru, but couldn’t see or control the car. It was slowly sliding downhill toward a filthy body of water full of trash. I was going to die. This dream came in response to a big disappointment in my career. I worked the dream with Marion Woodman. She said repeatedly, You have to be very careful of that depression. After Vic died, I had dream after dream of driving my Subaru wearing a blindfold, having no lights, being lost, being stuck, out of control. I went back to the car dream I’d worked with Marion and knew I had to be very careful not to sink into deep depression. My ego needed antidotes to grief.

    1. Thank you, Elaine. Your examples are wonderful and so familiar to me. And I’m very grateful for the insights and reassurance they’ve brought up in me at this very moment.
      Our old complexes certainly do emerge with new challenges and/or descents. In fact, in a beautiful synchronicity, your comment has touched on the exact same thing I’ve been dealing with for the last few days. After being gone for a few years, my Critical Bully showed up in a dream late last week, and then again two days ago, as a response to a mini-descent (a mild depression) I was having. Working with both dreams this morning helped me see my bully and understand his problem. A few hours ago I took steps to honor what he was feeling and why he was acting that way by talking honestly, openly and kindly to the person who had triggered his reappearance in the house of my psyche.
      The talk was wonderful and healing, my ascent back to the Upper World was immediate, and my bully (who shows up in angry, self-righteous feelings) is gone. He has been replaced with empathy and compassion for the other person involved. And somehow my dream of two days ago, the one I worked on just this morning, prefigured this:
      The dream took place in a temporary place, featured a messy house with a dining room flooded with two inches of water, guests who had to be fed, and a critical bully chef who was making everything worse by being mean and disrespectful to me and the house. The end of the dream featured my dream ego wading up to my ankles through mud in a lovely garden of tidy rows of beautiful green shoots and plants. It was the only way I could get to what I needed on the other side of the garden.
      In other words, I had to walk through the mud (descent into the dark Great Below), to get to the green, growing new life that awaited me in the Great Above. I didn’t sink into deep depression; the flood was only two inches deep and the mud only up to my ankles! And the reward for my decision to face this situation openly and without judgment was the departure of my bully and the return of compassion.
      None of this new green growth would have sprouted had I not been consistently working on my dreams for years. My ego needs the constant reminders of my dreams to stay on the path I’m creating every day. Without them it’s so easy to run into detours and fall into pits.

      1. P.S. I reworked this post about weeds on Monday for Tuesday’s publication without making any conscious connection to the current mini-descent I was having, and before last night’s dream. In her infinite and benevolent capacity for creativity, Dream Mother used the same image of green growing things to make another comment on my spiritual journey and to bring additional meaning to my potential associations for the earth’s greening. If there were weeds in this latest dream garden, they were out in the open and free to grow up to the light. And I didn’t see them as weeds. Was I in the garden to weed it or gain sustenance from it? I don’t know but I knew I had to go into it and I did without knowing why or what the results would be. Just as I chose to handle my mini-descent in a new way without knowing what it would yield. Oh, I so love this adventure!!!

      2. Green sprouts in mud, like rice. I love the way life interweaves with dreams in a constant mirroring.

  6. Thanks, Jean. Love your phrase, “The ego’s fear of retribution is a soul-killer! ” I am in training to be an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Hawaii and I would like to use this phrase in a homily I will give to a congregation at the end of the month. Giving homilies to real congregations is part of our training. 🙂

  7. This is fascinating and thank you. Can there be an attitude or embedded state of mind just below a ‘mask’ that stays there much longer than the mask itself? It seems, as you describe, that states of mind & identities launch us on our life journey. What if you want to alter the embedded state of mind that has lingered, maybe even fluctuating @ 50% long after the mask itself has been discarded. How might dreams show the way to deal with this? Perhaps this is simply the hidden side of the Persona?

    1. Steven, I would say that there are indeed embedded states of mind beneath the mask and these would be aspects of one’s shadow, whether positive or negative, light or dark. An unexamined shadow swamps us with emotions that we respond to habitually, often to our detriment. Whenever we feel strong emotions, we can be sure a shadow’s involved. I think it’s comparatively easy to see and rid oneself of many aspects of one’s persona, but ones with powerful affect (shadow) behind them will be much harder to see and rid oneself of.

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