art, beauty, hope, inspiration, life, writing

Paris; Love, Beauty, Inspiration, Joie de Vivre, Will never be beaten down.

IMG_2632Like so many others, the first time I
saw Paris, I fell in love.  In many consequent trips, I continued that love affair; always a little different, but never less thrilling.  I wrote an historical novel: the Nobility of the Robe, about a real woman who was the abbess of Port Royal Abbey in 17th Century Paris that allowed me to return several times.  I’d planned to return this spring, for no other reason than to remember myself as a french woman.  My mother was french, and I had discovered that heritage was very much alive in me; i walk differently on the streets of Paris; I breathe and sigh more passionately, I am more fully feminine.

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I took up the habit of writing poems on napkins in the cafes as I ate my croissant and listened to the melody of French conversations at nearby tables. On that first mad, divine, trip with no paper to write on but the napkin on my table, the waitress smiled when she saw me and said, “For your great novel?” We both laughed and I knew I was home; home to the creative artistic spirit that is the quintessential attraction of Paris.

Though I traveled alone, I never felt alone, never felt at risk walking at night, often in the rain, carrying my heavy photographic equipment.  Paris is even more wonderful at night in the rain.

When I returned from that first trip I created a photographic show of the images from that time.  They’re still some of my favorites.  All of the images in this post are from Paris.

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This one from the Luxembourg gardens is a normal sighting of those who spend time there.

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The wedding dress image was a surprise.  I was walking along the Seine and shot the display in the store window.  I didn’t know until the film was developed how much more had been captured.  I’m dating myself by admitting to film.  It was a while ago!

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In the Rodin Museum, another surprise moment caught my attention.

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Outside Notre Dame, I was fortunate to come upon an unusual mime that I felt captured the spirit of Paris completely; whimsical, musical and melancholic.  What I’m saying, is that my artistic spirit is so moved in that environment, things just happen.  There is nowhere else in the world where I have been so free..

That said, I am saddened far beyond these words can express by the assault on Paris this last Friday.  Will any of us who love, and, or live, in that magical city ever experience such freedom again? Will the dark overcome the light?

The answer is a resounding NO; say NO to fear, say NO to worry, say NO to doubt, say NO to the pain others cannot help but inflict on life, love and beauty.

        Say NO

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inspiration, life, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

Connect With Your Creative Muse; for fun, for help with a problem, even for Directions.

There are so any times, and so many reasons, we need help from a source greater than ourselves.  As 12 step programs say, we need to understand what is in our control and what is not.  However, when it is not, that’s when I make the call.  Jungian Psychology names that force: the anima or animus; the contra sexual part of the psyche that supports the ego when it is at its wits end; when we need to know what we don’t know.

The best examples in my life have been when I’m traveling. greece3

 

I was alone in Greece doing research for my novel, Echo the Ancients, and had rented a car to drive to Delphi from Athens.  If you’ve ever driven in Greece, you’ll know what an adventure that is; the signs are all in Greek.  After a magical day and night at the site, I was faced with the daunting task of finding my way back through Athens to the car rental agency.  I was definitely at my wits end, and so, had a tearful conversation with my animus to please get us there in one piece and without getting lost.  I hate to get lost.  Maps would do no good, as the street map of Athens is a labyrinth of twisting turns, one way streets and streets that end with no warning.  I knew that there was no choice but to drive, and hope and believe that my unconscious would do its job because I’d asked for help.

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You might call it, being on auto-pilot.  Within minutes of arriving at the city limits I drove directly to the rental car agency.  I called it a miracle then, and still do.

That was not the first time or would it be the last that I found the help I needed when traveling alone. For those of you who are like me; intrepid lone explorers,I know you’ll understand; when we have companions we turn to them for help, when we’re alone, we turn inward to a power far greater than ourselves.

The fun part of relationship with the Muse is on creative projects.  My favorite example is when I was in love with a place: The Yucatan.  My first trip was with my daughter and friends to Isla Mujeres: The Island of Women off the coast of Cancun.  On our visit to the archeological Mayan site at Tulum, I went alone into a cave and envisioned a Mayan girl who’d gone there to be alone.  That was the beginning of 20 years of research about the Maya, of 12 visits to the area, of several newspaper and magazine articles about the place, and my novel, The Jaguar’s House.

Several years into my intoxication with The Yucatan, I went alone to photograph images and capture the magical spirit of the land.  I’d taught myself how to photograph in a way that part of the image was transparent; that would represent the spirit.  It was the most fun I’ve ever had.  I went to each of my favorite places; the beach at Isla, Cenote Azul off the coast, Tulum, of course, and the inland archaeological site at Coba.  Using my new technique, I played with the land and the spirits that lived there. The following images are from that time.Ruins 4 Cenote 5

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I was never alone, but always with my dearest love; my animus, my muse.  Whatever name I call that force, it is with me always and most evident when I’m alone.  At home in everyday life, it arises when I’m sad, or especially glad and in need of inspiration.  I believe that at root, it is inspiration; an uprising from the unconscious of something that wants to come into being.

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childhood, health, life, parenting, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

How Stories Can Facilitate Psychological Health

greece13Many years ago, when I’d been working as a therapist for several years,  I came upon an ancient Greek tradition where people suffering from an illness (whether physical or mental) went to healing caves for a cure.  At the site there were caves where the patient slept and then healers aided their patients in interpreting their dreams.  A healing dream is a story that speaks in the language of symbol to directly impact the conscious mind. The key to the cure is that it is the unconscious that heals.

The greater part of my work with clients was working with their dreams, so this ancient process had great appeal for me.  Excited to learn more, I literally went in search of the places where this had occurred and found the best example on Crete where the Minoans had once lived from 4000 to 1500 BC.

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Thus began my 20 year fascination with a culture that appeared to have been amazingly balanced between the masculine and feminine principles.  The Minoans are considered matriarchal but my research has shown me otherwise.  Most scientists who’ve come across them have automatically classed them matriarchal because most cultures in that time period were.  They hadn’t the vision to realize that everything in their art spoke to a highly developed consciousness.  It was not one-sided.

once heard that if we haven’t seen something before, we can’t see it at all.  An example given was that when the first ships arrived on the east coast of the United States from Europe, the indigenous population couldn’t see the ships; they were invisible to them.  It was the shaman who revealed these odd new forms to the people, which he could do since he traveled in the unconscious on a regular basis.

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I knew by then that simply telling someone something goes in one ear and out the other; it has no real impact on the psyche, but stories do. Many great and small teachers over the years, realizing the powerful impact for change in parables, myths, fairytales and stories of all kinds, have used these tools to create a change in the point of view of the listener.  There is no erase button in the psyche but there is an add button.

Keeping in mind that a story is a waking dream, I set out to tell the story of how a young girl was healed by her encounter with this culture that was based on feminine values; love, nurturance, connection, play, art, and beauty.  I created a situation where a young person with a ‘bad’ mother was renewed and given hope for her life through her exposure to the ‘good’ mother.  Her mother’s dark world was all she’d known, now she could see what had previously been invisible.

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As a healer my job is to show people what they haven’t seen before.  My favorite method for doing that is to tell them stories.

My novels, Echo the Ancients, and The Jaguar’s House, A Mayan Tale, were written with this in mind,.

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childhood, health, life, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

Mothers Milk is Mother’s World.

The first truths are taught to us by our mothers. 

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They are the truths that support all others; the people I see, the earth at my feet, the plants and trees around me, the sky above, are neutral until given meaning, and the original meaning comes from her.  Our mother gives us access to the world.  Her beliefs are transferred to us like the formation of our first cells in her womb. We drink the milk from her breast and ingest her emotions, how she sees the world, and how she sees us.

This process happens before we have the consciousness to know that it’s happening.  We are utterly dependent on this information to understand our world. We must have it just as we must have her milk.  And then, worse yet, we forget.  It is staggering how important this is.  No wonder, we, both men and women, are both enraptured and frightened of the feminine.  She does, in fact, have the greatest power.  As the Indian Vedas say, She is the creator and the destroyer.

In the beginning, we see the world through our mother’s eyes not ours.

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If we’re lucky enough to have a ‘good’ mother, she will also teach us to believe in ourselves; to find our own answers that may be different than hers; to constantly seek our own experience and meaning.  In other words, she will point us back to ourselves, freeing us from the limitations of her mind and into the vastness of our own; she will nurture the creation of our own selves.

If we’re not so lucky and have a ‘bad’ mother  (by bad I’m referring to a person whose limitations prevent them from nurturing our individuality) All of the above will happen, however, she will not point us back to ourselves.  Instead of nurturing our unique world view, she will destroy it, insisting that hers is the correct way to see.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.  Our personal mother is not the only feminine force in the universe.  As important as she is to our early life, many people with ‘bad’ mothers naturally turn toward Mother Nature.

A story I’ve heard over and over again from clients with difficult early home lives, is that they found such solace in nature; trees, birds, insects, animals, rivers, all became their friends where they would go to feel some aspect of nurturance.  Because nature is not personal their needs for self awareness could not be satisfied, but they did feel momentarily better.

One of my earliest memories serves as an example: DSC_0142

I was five and had been following the creek down the side of the mountain, jumping from rock to rock in and out of quaking aspen that bent in close and, somewhere, sometime unbeknownst to me, led away from the cabin where I was staying with my mother, father and little brother.  It led to a morning full of meadow.

I remembered the names of Columbine and Indian Paintbrush that I found there, but they were only a few among a myriad of other, as yet, unnamed mountain flowers and grasses that smelled both sour and sweet.  It was beautiful beyond imagining.  I thought that the many drops of lingering dew captured in the plants had been left by the stars the night before.

I was entrance, but also, realized I was lost.  Suddenly I saw a fawn and its mother.  I held my breath. The grasses came above the fawn’s legs as she pranced behind her mother.  She didn’t know yet that her mother’s power was not hers.  She owned it all.  More than anything, I wanted to follow them across that wide expanse of wet wild wonder; that green and purple field of love, where snaking creek waters gurgled, murmuring soft phrases of reassurance.

As the doe ran ahead, the fawn followed, a delighted shadow yet to be solid in her own right.  When the mother stopped and turned her head to her child, I saw her eyes; brown orbs of everything.  I got up from where I’d collapsed on a piece of granite and ran toward them, but before I could catch up, the doe bounded through the barrier of trees, and her fawn, stopping a moment to feel me behind, leapt also.

At the spot where they’d disappeared, I found the creek.  I knew if I followed the creek, I’d find our cabin.  They’d showed me how to get back.  I never told my parents about the meadow; I already knew they would take it from me.

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The memory of that experience was so important to me as a child, I thought about it hundreds of times and would remember the details as clearly as I was able.   Most summers our family returned to this place in the High Sierra’s of California.  The first thing I would do when we arrived was to go in search of my lost place.  I never found it again.  As I grew older, I doubted that it had ever happened.  I had taken on my mother’s dark view of life so fully by then that I called it a silly dream and stopped looking.  However, though I didn’t actively look for it as I once had, I was always on the lookout for it.

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childhood, health, life, parenting, psychology, story, writing

What parents need to know about growing a healthy child.

There has been a monumental change in human evolution.  A new balance has emerged over the past decadeHippyPollard family 1970 which sees father’s more and more involved in the raising of their children from infancy.   With this newly found balance, children born today have a greater chance of psychological health than ever before.

As has been said before me, It takes a village.  However, most of us in the modern western world don’t have a village.  At most what we have is a mother and a father, and hopefully, a grandparent or two or four.  But the core is, a mother and a father.

In conversation with my sister recently we were remarking on how involved her son in law is with the raising of his son; a story I hear regularly about new parents. Father’s today are changing diapers, getting up at night for the feeding of the infant.  At the very least, they’re supporting their wives in the daunting task of caring for an infant.  This was not the case when we were raising our children.  Father’s at that time followed the example of their father’s before them; they went out in the world and left the raising of children to their wives. No matter how good a mother is, their child also needs a father.

CO profile2Whatever the gender of a child is, to be balanced, the feminine and the masculine principles need nurturing, and sooner works better than later since the first three years form the core of identity.

Most of my work as a therapist is reparenting; simply put, the problems an individual faces as an adult usually arise from some aspect of early development that is missing.  Though it’s true that abuses in childhood cause problems, what is more often the case, is that one or more areas of development got skipped.  When both parents are involved in raising the child, there’s a better chance that one of them will be able to compensate for the limitations of the other, raising the possibility that the child’s needs will be attended to. IG Mime9It’s has also been said that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.  I would be out of a job if that wasn’t the case.  But it’s so much easier to do it right from the start and do away with my job.

As parents today are taking more responsibility for the health of their child; as they’re taking their jobs seriously, I’d be glad to see the end of the need for so much reparenting.  But that time has not yet arrived since there’s so much cleanup to do for the failures of the last generation.

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inspiration, life, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

4 Reasons People Love Stories.

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One reason is that we are each a living story and the meaning of our life is based upon that story.  As children just forming a sense of self and the world, stories are extremely important.  At that time the psyche is still connected to the unconscious; the place from which all stories originate, and the physical world is not more important than the imagined one.  Stories validate our experience and give us a way to understand that the unseen world has its value.   We love to hear about the life of each creature we’re currently enchanted with; we imagine the life of an ant or a horse; we want to hear about the life of our parents and all those we meet; we want stories of adventure and life lived differently than ours.  These form an essential identity.

It’s all preparation for the creation of our own story and the eventual reinventing of the self.  As adults we’re drawn to stories that our outside of our own experience; again, it is a striving for a larger meaning.  If we’re lucky, and our ego’s are intact and healthy, we will keep using stories to expand our sense of self to include more and more possibility; our identity grows and changes.

Through a story we may find an attribute of a person that we want to emulate.  Children and teenagers do it all the time.  When my daughter was 3 she loved the stories of cats and went through a period of “being” a cat.  What teenager doesn’t have an idol, often going through several, who they’re emulating? The reason that person has become important to them is because they see something in their story that they want for themselves.

A story, no matter how simple or complex, is a template for the use of the psyche to grow and become all that it wishes to be.

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Another reason is that as social beings we’re interested in the experience of the world around us; people, animals, bugs, you name it, we want to understand it. By hearing the experience of an “other” we can empathize, we can find compassion for their particular challenges which forms a bond between us.  Stories of other times, other cultures, other life conditions, further our connection to the larger world making us better humans through the appreciation that life is much much larger than our one unique story.

We’re the only one, but we’re not the only one that’s the only one!!

Another reason is to nurture and grow our imagination.  

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When traveling in the Yucatan, I was so moved by the magic of the environment that my imagination was enthralled and I created a series of photographic images based on what I imagined in that place.  It was pure fun, so entertainment is another important reason for stories in our lives.

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