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Photo by Kevin McElheran

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in…” ~ from the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen

In the blog post titled “Follow Your Bliss” (May 14, 2013), I write about a tree in a dream, followed by a string of synchronicities that led to my attending a week-long women’s retreat at the Ocamora Center in Ocate, New Mexico. The retreat, Feeding the Moon: Creativity and the Divine Feminine – facilitated by Jungian analyst and author Monika Wikman and “Holotropic Breathwork” specialist Diane Haug with support from Kirsten Kairos, body, breath, and sound healer – was so much more than I’d hoped for that I could not put into words here all that I experienced. So, bear with me as I work to bring only a few of the pieces together that are relevant to the theme of this post.

Speaking of bearing with me…there was a bear!

On the day of our arrival at Ocamora, many witnessed an adolescent black bear strolling toward us on the path to our cabins. After chasing Bear off with some noise making, we decided that her appearance heralded the Creative Feminine energy we 11 women retreatants (as well as the three facilitators) were bringing to Ocamora.  It was also a sign that the bears were hungry this year due to spring weather conditions that destroyed much of their food sources (Monika began working on a solution to that right away). I was reminded of Bear’s entrance into my house in a dream I had last summer when the bear actually did find its way into one of the Ocamora cabins that had food in it that evening!  That shook us up a bit, and caused us to engage in more thinking about the meaning of Bear energy and what it represented in our individual lives. For what were we hungering? In my own life, as stated in the “Heart of the Matter” post in this blog (August 28, 2012), Bear symbolizes in part a connection to my inner wildness and longing for the ‘living water’ of my own instinctive and natural life rhythms. The desire to reconnect with these parts of myself for which I did indeed hunger was the primary reason I was at Ocamora. So, a big “Thank you!” to Bear for showing up at our retreat! That being said, I am grateful that it wasn’t my cabin he/she chose to break into – once in a dream is enough!

One morning during retreat, we brought our dreams to Monika to work her magic on and discovered creative and negative Animus symbols (masculine archetypes within the psyche) that were connected to Tree imagery in many of our dreams. Because of the confidential nature of our work together, I won’t go into the specifics of the participants’ dream sharing other than to rephrase some of Monika’s insights into the tree images that were showing up:

·      The “World Tree” is in danger of being cut down by the actions of the “Negative Masculine” as it is being played out in the psyches of both men and women at this time in our quest for more and more production and acquisition of ‘stuff’ as we disregard the impact this has on the biosphere

·      Trees have root systems that pull nutrients from the ground soil and waters just as the chthonic webbing in our psychic depths pulls up the “Living Waters” of our dreams, visions, instincts, and intuitions that support consciousness

·      A tree symbol depicts the Divine Marriage between the creative Masculine and Feminine principles because of its connection to both the ground (body/roots) and spirit (branches reaching toward the heavens) of beingness

·      Trees are grand examples of being of service in the Web of Life as well having their own inherent existence that we humans may know nothing about

In another discourse, Monika explains the three birds of Alchemy – Blackbird, White Bird, and Redbird – each being a metaphor for a process of psyche within the parameters of Analytical “Depth” Psychology.

1.     Blackbird/Nigredo ~ Not knowing, being ‘lost,’ rebirthing, darkness, depression.  This descending into the Dark is the first step in the Transcendent Function. Here, we are seeking, suffering, diving into the Shadow material and other contents of the unconscious before we can see through to the light of higher consciousness. This is the work of our animal bodies, emotions, and feelings where we begin to get in touch with our instincts again.

2.     White Bird/Albedo ~ Height, peaks, outside of matter, spirit. This stage, following the psychological work of the nigredo is where the transcendent function begins to manifest. Here in the ‘opposites’ within the conscious and unconscious realms are brought together in support of wholeness. New life within the psyche begins to flow again.

3.     Redbird/Rubedo ~ Reddening, grounding, birthing our new consciousness into “the red blood of life.” We know we are in the ‘Red’ when we become aware that “new instincts are being born.”

The the alchemical processess of descending, ascending, and grounding are in constant circulation in our lives. The shadow work of uniting the opposites eventually brings light and rich red color back into the areas of life that need healing. In Jungian methodology, this is likened to the “Philosopher’s Stone,” the combined alchemical processes that are capable of turning base metals into gold or silver. In Monika’s words, “Rejoice if your stone goes black, for that is the beginning of the work.”

That’s encouraging because we have plenty of work to do. Today, there are places in modern culture where we are darkly out of control and causing suffering, hurting our environment and ourselves. Our work, then, is to head fearlessly into the dark of our personal and collective Shadow to bring up the disparate pieces of our alienated selves and shine the light of consciousness therein. As in the picture of the church above, the light often shines through what is broken, needing dissolution and restructuring. This is not about perfectionism, far from it. In her book “The Woman in the Mirror: Analytical Psychology and the Feminine,” author Claire Douglas writes: “The alchemists emphasized completion rather than perfection, good combined with evil, matter combined with spirit, and the feminine with the masculine.”

I am thankful to have had mentors like those at Ocamora women’s retreat who have created the space for us to begin the work of digging in the fertile muck of our lives to bring forth something that will nurture our hungry spirits as well as allow – without judgment – the light to shine through the broken places within. Now that I’m back home, whenever I need to be reminded of this important work, I just ring the little bell that was a gift for each of us to take home from the very talented Holotropic Breathworker and sound and body healing musician, Kirsten. I have not covered in this post the breathwork that Diane Haug and Kristen led us through…but stay tuned!

I leave you with a quote by Jung:

“…the heart glows,’ and a secret unrest gnaws at the roots of our being…”



Monika Wikman website: http://www.monikawikman.com/

Ocamora Retreat Center website: http://ocamora.org/

Diane Haug on GTT webpage:  http://www.holotropic.com/bios-gtt-staff.shtml

Kirsten Kairos Page on Holotropic Breathwork Intern’l page: http://www.grof-holotropic-breathwork.net/profile/KirstenKairos