Jean Raffa and I spent two days brainstorming and writing a workshop proposal. The night after I left Jeanie’s home, I had this dream:
I look down into the streambed on my land. My small stream is a wide deep river surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. Huge elephants splash in the water. Elephants here? On my land? Near the elephants, a large white stone with a black circle at one end protrudes out of the water. An elephant reaches out to touch the stone with its trunk, the way elephants bless people’s heads in India. The stone moves and rises. The black circle is a shining nose. A giant white bear emerges from the river, glistening, dripping with water. The elephants step back and watch the bear in reverence. So do I.
I’d met Jean Raffa in 2004 at a Jung workshop in Orlando, FL led by my husband Vic. I was awed by her deep understanding of Jung and her silver-haired feminine elegance. Jeanie’s personal warmth matched her deep red lipstick. I’d been a student of Jung since the 1960s, so we shared a passion.
After that meeting, I read Jeanie’s three books: The Bridge to Wholeness, Dream Theatres of the Soul, and Healing the Sacred Divide. Later, she wrote an endorsement for my book Leaning into Love. We also exchanged guest blogs—mine on mythology as a guide during grief, hers about embracing the wise crone.
I began hearing something Kim Kluxen Meredith would call a “whisper,” a small inner voice, an intuition. I want to do a workshop with Jean Raffa. The words circled through my mind for days.
Was it possible? Jean was in Florida while I was in upstate New York. We hardly knew each other. Would she be interested? Besides, we had no place to give a workshop.
The voice insisted.
Before Vic’s cancer diagnosis in 2006, my women’s mythology class spent two years studying Inanna, the Great Goddess of Heaven and Earth in Sumeria or Mesopotamia (~3000 BCE). Her story gave me an inner map for being with death and learning from grief before I knew I needed it.
Inanna’s Descent to the Great Below to be initiated into the Wisdom of Death made it clear that even the great goddess was not All Wise if she hadn’t experienced mortality. As I accompanied Vic through his illness and death, the myth reminded me that we were both being initiated.
I took a plunge and asked Jeanie if she would be interested in co-leading a workshop. Since she’s another woman who listens to unconscious prompting and synchronicities, she didn’t blink an eye. At least I didn’t see her blink. She said she loved Inanna’s story and had taught a workshop on it. I didn’t know that.
As our ideas unfolded via email, Jeanie queried the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota, FL. Yes, they were interested in a lecture and workshop about working with dreams and ancient mythology during illness, grief, and loss.
Why should we consider these dark ideas? Since we are mortal, we must deal with death, illness, limitation, and grief. In contrast to the ascending heroic myths of power and achievement loved by our culture, the Descent of Inanna prepares us for the deep soul lessons of loss.
Eleven years after our first meeting, Jeanie picked me up at the airport in Orlando. Creative ideas flew and flowed. That first night, I dreamed of a tropical bird—a spirit bird with long colorful feathers. My unconscious mind approved of our work.
In two days, we trusted we had a workshop and knew we could work together even if we still had plenty of planning to do on Skype and email. Our Friday night focus would be the wisdom of dreams to help us navigate grief and mortality. Saturday’s workshop would focus on Inanna’s Descent.
I paid attention to the affirming spirit bird the first night and told Jeanie the dream the next morning. Then tropical deep green vegetation showed up in my dream the next night. To make sure I got the point that I was moving in a fertile direction, my small stream became a deep river with sacred elephants splashing in life-giving waters, including an awe-inspiring white spirit bear.
I trusted I was on the right track.
Elephants have been a healing symbol in my family since Vic and I traveled in India in the 1990s. For another article about elephants, see Ganesha: Patron of Writers and New Beginnings. I encourage you to look at Jean Raffa’s website and explore her articles and videos. She’s a gifted teacher. I hope to see some of you on March 11-12 in Sarasota, FL for an exciting and inspiring weekend.