The Never-Ending Dance


Vincent Van Gogh: Trees in the Garden of Saint Paul Hospital

I hope you enjoy the following lightly edited post from June of 2014.  Dealing as it does with the all-too-common experience of despair, it could have been written yesterday. 

Just where we don’t expect life, there it will be, because the life that we know is almost exhausted. The new life always comes from an unexpected corner. Carl Jung Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-34, Vol. I (27 May, 1931), p. 377.

This morning I read a blog post from an internet friend, writer Vivienne Tuffnell, titled “Humankind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality.” It can be found at this link . It was originally written two years ago, and Viv has just reposted it. It was about depression and despair. At the bottom was a new comment from another internet friend, John Amenta:

“It did not matter, after all. He was only one man. One man’s fate is not important.
“If it is not, what is?”
He could not endure those remembered words.”
Ursula K. Le Guin, Gaverel Rocannon, Rocannon’s World

I too have suffered from despair since childhood. It began at the age of 11 when my father died. To this day there are occasions in my life when I cannot get excited about something because I know it will not last and my pleasure will not last and I will die and nobody will care and nothing I have done will make any difference, and so what? I started believing in religion because of this despair, and then I eventually gave up on organized religion for the same reason. It might help others, but it never made a dent in my despair.

Yet I believe this: If my fate is not important, what is? My answer: the sacred life within me and everything that exists is important.

This belief— actually it’s not a belief but a knowing — has come slowly over a lifetime of spiritual questing, meditation, and self-discovery. It has come from too many synchronicities to count in which I was reminded over and over and over of another, spiritual, dimension of reality that is very different from this physical one, yet is sister (or brother) to it. The knowing is characterized by an objective awareness that all the things I fear and fret about are really “No big deal,”  and by the freedom to be myself and do my thing with an effortless, anxiety-free ease.

It feels to me as if this dimension, this One Mind, Consciousness or the Sacred Self, is “interested” in me. At times I feel like it’s guiding and affirming me. Tiny, insignificant, unimportant me. This makes no rational sense. Yet this is my experience. Others might dismiss it with a flick of the hand. Yet it is my experience, and it brings meaning and peace.

I believe I’m fairly conscious of the terrifying reality beneath the surface of life. I’m often acutely aware of the tininess of my one little soul and body in a universe too vast to even imagine. I’m constantly reminded of my mortality and often have the feeling that death hovers just over my left shoulder. And sometimes I am awakened to deeper levels of reality which deepen my despair.

Yet, over time, somehow the tragedy of life has come to be balanced with a consciousness of the miracle of life in such a way that the despair never “wins.” It’s always there, like the sun that can blind me or the radiation that constantly pierces my body, but never wins because it’s partnered with the knowing. The knowing is always there too, like the air I breathe and the blood that pumps through my veins and the earth I walk on. I think of it as a gift of grace.

[T]he way of nature will bring you quite naturally wherever you have to go. Carl Jung Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-34, Vol. I (10 June 1931), pp. 402-33.

I don’t know where it came from and I don’t know why I have it, but I do. Maybe it’s always shared a bed with despair in the depths of my soul and my inner work simply awakened it.

Whatever the reason, when I remember to notice it, it puts the despair in a different perspective. Instead of feeling hopeless and afraid I feel comforted because I “know” that life and death—like importance and unimportance, vastness and tininess, electrons and neutrons—are in a never-ending dance and that I’m an important part of it and always will be. Some dances never end.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at

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38 Responses

  1. I can relate to much of what you say here. I think, or perhaps say to myself anyway, that these feelings come from being sensitive and allowing the feelings to have weight, where as for some others, even when they have similar feelings, they dismiss them.
    “It feels to me as if this dimension, this One Mind or Consciousness or whatever it is, this invisible, untouchable reality, is “interested” in me. At times it feels like it’s guiding and affirming me. Tiny, insignificant, unimportant me. This makes no rational sense. Yet this is my experience. Others might dismiss it with a scoff and a flick of the hand. Yet this is my experience, and it brings meaning and peace.”
    What a dilemma, yes? For me, the only way to make sense of the intuition that things matter, is to remember how much others have touched me, as this is very true. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that we are all influenced by each other in meaningful ways.
    I was really touched by your post, as I have traveled down a similar path with religion in my life. I have joined more churches than I care to admit, but none of them ever stick, even if I do have a lot of respect for their beliefs. I am trying to make my peace with that.
    Thanks for what you do here.

    1. I love your observation that perhaps “these feelings come from being sensitive and allowing the feelings to have weight.” The aware inner voice always asks questions like this, doesn’t it? And well it should. As long as we don’t give it any more weight than the feelings themselves. A dilemma for sure. And I agree that the solution is to remember how we’ve been touched by others. This is so much more important that mental beliefs. What’s most important is accepting and coming to terms with our own realities: trusting and loving them, giving them a higher priority than the ideals of others who don’t walk in our shoes. Thank you for your affirming and thoughtful comment.

  2. Jeanie, I think you already know me well enough to know what I feel about what you wrote in this blog post, but let me tell you just in case. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said! I think that each life in the billions of dancing lights in this plane of existence- and beyond – is an important part of the whole. I believe, as you do, that we are guided by an intelligent, loving universe…much more than we know. That it is cause for celebration in the spheres beyond material existence when we humans pause long enough to actually feel the love and good counsel all around us when we begin to listen with our hearts and minds connected. And, yes, I have had the same existential fears and thoughts many a time: that we are all marching toward oblivion and who will even remember that we even lived a generation from now? And then I get back to remembering we have a purpose in the Big Picture of existence…and that could be as simple (not simplistic) as modeling an authentic life as we live in peace and harmony with who we are and the conditions of our life. There is more than physical evolution going on. We are part of a spiritual evolutionary thrust as well. We don’t have to be remembered in an Ego sense in the annals of time, although many do leave behind blueprints to follow (like you with your books)…it’s also enough to know that we are part of a beautiful whole as we live our lives true to who we are, utilizing the gifts we were given. Then, we are each playing our part like an orchestral choir that makes beautiful music throughout the cosmos.
    Wow! Thanks for leading me down that road, my friend.

    1. Oh my, Jenna! I am so inspired by your ego’s ability to let your soul speak its truths. Modeling an authentic life, making our own lives a work of art, seems to me to be the most important gift we can give to the world. Being “remembered in an Ego sense in the annals of time” seems so inconsequential compared to being an authentic individual. I feel known and affirmed by you, and I thank you for the gift of this comment. Hugs back, Jeanie

      1. Sorry friends. There’s something going on with wordpress tonight that is mixing up the comments and replies. For some reason I can’t respond immediately to some of the comments or eliminate the demands to respond to a non-comment! And some of my responses are appearing much later than the comment that elicited it! Phooey! I hope you will understand and forgive. I’m doing my best to create sense out of this particular bit of chaos! Actually, chaos is good by the way. It keeps us alert and human! 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your experience of the conundrum so many of us face. Beautifully expressed. I can honestly say that the reason I didn’t attempt suicide a second time (back in my 20s) was because I found a stray dog — she needed me and I needed her; she saved me for 15 years until I was strong enough to recognize what you say, what Debra comments, that my life counts. I won’t go on and on. Thank you to everyone who speaks up on this topic. Blessings!

    1. Debra, I’m glad to hear that angels come in the form of a dog. Actually, maybe I already knew that. :>))
      Blessings to you for rising to the need of another being until you were strong enough realize that your life counts on so many, many levels. I bet it would boggle your mind to how many people’s lives you’ve touched in a positive way. I am one of those people, now reading your words.
      Big hugs,

      1. Jenna, something weird is still happening with wordpress. As I write this, there is no comment from Debra in my list of comments. So I don’t know what she said. Maybe it will show up tomorrow?
        Or maybe you meant to say Darla? Anyway, I, too, am open to the idea that angels can come to us in the form of a dog. I had a golden retriever named Bear who often took me beyond ordinary awareness and left me in awe. He’s gone and I miss him terribly. But a new golden retriever will accompany me to our summer home in two days and I already know that even though she isn’t Bear, I’ll soon be feeling the same awe and wonder again….
        Darla, your story about the stray dog touched me deeply. I never attempted suicide but I can assure you I contemplated it. And I resisted the impulse because of those who needed me and whom I needed until I finally got the message that my life counts too. There was a sweet little terrier mix in my life in those days, so who knows what she might have contributed to my decision to stay here? I certainly don’t, but I have come to cherish the mystery of it all!
        Thank you so much for writing.

    2. Darla, do you sometimes think that dogs are angels in disguise? What is it about them? Their unconditional love? Their loyalty? Their admiring gazes no matter how little time and attention we give them? Just saying….. The Mystery certainly seems to be using every possible experience and feeling to drum it into our heads that our lives count, doesn’t it? And yet we have such a hard time getting the message. So are dogs smarter than us? I don’t know. Just saying…. 🙂

  4. Dear Jeanie,
    Like several others here, your post comes to me at the perfect time. As I delve deeper into my dreams and jungian analysis, as part of my new role at work, I am very much overwhelmed by the layers of depth and despair that surface. As a fellow “deep-feeler,” I can be pretty overwhelmed just walking through the grocery store sometimes, let alone doing authentic inner work.
    Yet, the gifts I receive from fellow bloggers who courageously speak up about their own paths, really comforts me. One of favorite bloggers really touched me quite deeply recently, probably more than she will ever know, by sharing her own forays into questioning why we are here and her own attitudes surrounding the inevitable suffering we all experience at some point in time. In that sense, even despair itself is incredibly beautiful, for it weaves our web in such intricate ways that really leave me in awe.
    As I am in my late twenties and quite “in the thick of” my own healing, I feel containment is quite an important thing to honor right now, but as I become more and more integrated with my own process, and decide to share more of it, I will look back at you, Jeanie, and my other blogger friends with sincere heartfelt gratitude and admiration for sharing their wisdom here.
    Thank you so much for shining your light, Jeanie.

    1. Dear Amanda,
      You are wise to protect your tender new insights from others at this stage in your life. The time will come when voicing them will be of benefit to others. You will know when the time is right. Until then, absorbing and learning from the wisdom of others who are taking this deep-feeling journey will serve you well.
      I agree that even despair can be incredibly beautiful. Suffering is an affirmation of life, the ultimate miracle. And suffering is also a prod to experience more of life as fully and honestly as we can. Learning this truth is a major lesson along the path.
      Thank you for sharing your heart.

    1. Yup! Thanks. I just saw that! I was focusing on “ptero9” until a minute ago when I saw that “Debra” was the signature. Thanks for keeping me up to snuff. It’s getting late here in Florida and I probably need to go to bed! Hugs!! J

  5. Maybe you are this Knowing, this One Mind, Jean. Maybe everything is made of this. It would account for much 🙂

    1. Wow. What a mind-blowing thought! I suspect you may be right, which means, of course, that you are also this Knowing, this One Mind. It would indeed account for much. How else would we come to this realization if we were not part of it and it were not part of us from the very beginning?

  6. In times of immobility and emptiness, it helps to know and feel that despair is just the mattress and not the bedframe we lie upon. And even at our most disconnected, to have had access to the Mystery brings a gentle touch to the rawest of pains.
    I consider myself fortunate in the knowing and hope it has taught me gentleness over the years. Tough though that can be, at times. 🙂
    The amount of times your posts speak to what’s happening in me, I thank you Jeanie.

    1. “…despair is just the mattress and not the bedframe we lie upon.” One who had not had access to the Mystery could not have written that, or known about its gentle touch to the rawest of pains. It gives me pleasure to know my posts so often speak to what’s happening in you. Your poetry does the same for me. I suspect the explanation is that we are are in a similar place on the same journey. Having had access to the Mystery we want more of it, and we’ve been using our writing to understand and purify our souls that we might be worthy of it. Perhaps we’re alike in another way too? That we’re beginning to realize we already are? Blessings, Brian.

  7. Serendipity. I sat down to read your post last night after coming back from my elderly parents’ home, feeling despair at their despair and that too-familiar feeling of “what’s it all about, anyway?” Reading your honest and heartfelt post soothed and calmed me, made me sob, and left me feeling drained and energized at once. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    1. You’re most welcome, Diane. Like Deborah, you are another sensitive and artistically gifted friend I admire who understands the heights and depths of psychological and spiritual striving. Thank you for your affirmation of me and my work. Love, Jeanie

  8. Dear Jeanie,

    I’ve read it all! Viv’s post and all her comments, the link you posted in your reply to her, this post and all the comments and replies here. All achingly beautiful and deeply moving words! What a morning it’s been as I’ve ‘fallen apart’ and ‘come together’ so many times, myself. Indeed, the never-ending dance of these two archetypal energies, these polarities, goes on and on!

    Yet, as your post so beautifully illustrates and illuminates, when we choose to open up and share our difficult emotions with a small group of like-minded people, we can touch so many minds, bodies, spirits and souls in ways we cannot even begin to imagine! How loving and affirmative and healing that can be for them, ourselves, as we feel less alone, and hopefully less despair.

    Love and light,


    1. Dear Deborah,

      Thank you. I’m touched and impressed at the level of your determination to find your way to wholeness. It’s a difficult path for all of us, but moreso for those who are as deeply sensitive and artistically gifted as you. Having a rich and creative emotional live is both a blessing and a curse, as Jung demonstrated with his extraordinary life and powerful works. Yet despite the suffering it entails, it’s infinitely more satisfying and ultimately more rewarding than the apathy that plagues so many today.

      Love and light right back to you, Jeanie

  9. My dear Jean, this article, as you said, is an excellent lesson for many today. Because I think the term “despair” is a dreadful monster in everyone’s heart.
    I have a tiny young friend in Iran whom I recently got to know on FB. She is brilliant in English and a true Jungian. But as you might guess, she is in a fight with her despairs, and as we talked a few days ago, she told me that she felt very down at that moment. I tried to calm her by telling her my way of looking at the reason for our existence, which I have as an idea that we may live to take our exam, a test that we must pass! Honestly, I don’t really know what it is, though I hoped to calm her heart. I suggested that she apply for a scholarship to leave Iran. I believe she deserves it, but she needs to find the courage to make it happen.
    Returning to your excellent post, it brings to mind Jung’s well-known response regarding his belief in God;
    >The word “belief” is a difficult thing for me. I don’t believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it – I don’t need to believe it!<
    Have a lovely time, my dear friend.

    1. Dear Aladin, I deeply sympathize with your young Iranian friend. She must feel so alone and powerless in a struggle against a power complex that’s generations older than she is and the deeply entrenched ethos of her country. Her story reminds me of David and Goliath, the small shepherd boy pitted against a giant enemy. It also reminds me of the little girl, Rosa Parks, who violated Alabama’s segregation laws in 1955. Her courageous action ultimately felled the giant in a November 1956 decision that bus segregation is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

      I don’t have a belief about the name or nature of Sacred Otherness either. I simply know it exists. May your friend come to this knowing too and may it bring her comfort and courage.

      Blessings, Jeanie

    1. Dear Karen,

      Thank you for your kind response. Knowing the similarities between you, Aladin, Deborah and Diane, who’ve also commented on this post, I’m not surprised that this piece speaks to you as well. Thank you for letting me know, and blessings on your work. Love, Jeanie

  10. Thanks to you and Carl Jung. I’ve been in medical limbo for a few years with no confirmed diagnosis resulting in no helpful treatment. The idea that the life I have known for 72 years is almost finished because the new life is is just around the corner is very reassuring! I’ve assumed it was death waiting but much prefer the possibility of a new life, filled with grace. Many thanks for your perspective.

    1. Dear Janet,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry about your illness and the despair it brings. You might like this quote from Jung near the end of his life: “There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions—not about anything, really. I only know that I was born and exist, and it seems to be that I have been carried along. I exist on the foundation of something I do no know. In spite of all uncertainties, I feel a solidity underlying all existence and a continuity in my mode of being.”

      Also, near the end of his life he had a near-death experience and wrote that it was so “unspeakably glorious” that he didn’t want to come back. When he did, for a month afterwards he “suffered from black depressions because I felt that I was recovering. It was like dying. I did not want to live and to return into this fragmentary, restricted, narrow, almost mechanical life, where you were subject to the laws of gravity and cohesion, imprisoned in a system of 3 dimensions and whirled along with other bodies in the turbulent stream of time. There was fullness, meaning fulfillment, eternal movement (not movement in time).” He wrote his in a letter to a friend. it’s in his Letters, Vol. I, pp. 357-58.

      I hope you find this helpful.

      Love, Jeanie

  11. Thank you, Jeanie. This is exquisite and takes me into your heart as well as my own. I have to look and see if you ever received my last comment and if you didn’t, maybe I’ll need to sign up for your blog another time.

    As you probably remember, my father also died when I was young and it was handled with silence by my mother, so I lost him and I lost a sense of protection from her. It wasn’t tragic in the way that tragedy strikes some people. It was just life and my mother doing the only thing she knew how to do and me also trying to forget. So much of that grief came around again when Vic died, although I had a sacred quest and a Jungian quest by then and that held me up. And Marion Woodman who warned me of the danger of despair, fortunately before Vic’s death. I don’t dream much these days after a lifetime of dreaming, so my way of dealing with life’s disappointments (hearing loss is harder than anything for me) is to be in Nature and take part in the magic of it all, year round. Again, I thank you and I’m off to read Viv’s post. I honor the deep work you’ve done without a teacher holding your hand. I must have needed teachers since that’s what life offered me. The best of teachers in person and in books. With love.

  12. Thank you, Elaine. I never did receive your last comment. But yay! I got this one.

    I do remember that your father died when you were young. My experience was similar to yours. My mother was silent too. No crying. Nothing. She just told us and that was that. I had cried hard when they divorced, but when my father died 3 months later I didn’t. It still surprises me to realize how hard my ego worked to build the dense persona of a stoic warrior so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain. It was there all along, of course, and made itself known to me sometimes, but I contained it with self-discipline and willpower. I’ve always had teachers in books, but longed for help from a Jungian analyst for years. When I finished The Soul’s Twins I was exhausted and ready to face my grief. I’m very thankful to have a teacher holding my hand now. 🙂

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