“I had a dream about you, Marion,” I said. “I typed it up.” I handed Marion Woodman an envelope with the dream inside when we passed each other on the conference center stairs. I’d had this dream before arriving at a weeklong BodySoul Rhythm Workshop in 2003.
“We’ll make time to talk about it,” Marion said, taking the envelope. A few days later, she asked me to meet her after dinner. We sat knee to knee. She was wrapped in a soft grey and pastel scarf and wore little make-up.
“Tell me the dream again,” she said. I began.
In Canada at a Marion Woodman intensive, Marion sits in a cushioned chair in the middle of the room. I sit near the wall, making myself small. “Elaine, I’m so glad to see you,” she calls out. “Come closer.” I kneel at her feet and look into her eyes. She wears thick maroon lipstick, crimson rouge, and dense layers of sparkling dark blue eyeshadow. Her make-up is garish, like an ancient clown crone.
She leans forward, puts her open mouth on mine, and exhales into my mouth with a high pitched noise. I inhale her breath before exhaling into her mouth with a deep belly sound. We inhale and exhale into each other, until she slowly pulls away. She offers me a sweet and I take a cookie, but I’m too overwhelmed to eat. I nibble the crust and it dissolves in my mouth like a communion wafer.
Wind flies through open windows knocking over a jewelry display. Marion laughs, deep from her belly. I notice her maroon lipstick is gone, transferred to my lips. It’s a blessing and sacrament, but I can’t stop giggling.
“I have this effect on some people,” dream Marion says.
When I told the dream to Marion that evening and said she looked like a clown, she roared with delight, just as she had in the dream. I wondered if it was sometimes tiresome to be the revered teacher.
I told her when I worked with the dream image, I’d giggled until I peed my pants. Her clown face was hysterical and so was timid dream Elaine. We laughed about the communion cookie and flying wind, but the exchange of breath was different. Quiet and sacred.
“Your dream laugh was from the belly,” I said, “from the place where you recite poetry.”
“Have you heard the Dalai Lama laugh?” she asked.
“Many times,” I said. “Your dream laugh was like that.” The two of us chortled and grinned as she asked a few questions about the dream, but she wasn’t interested in interpretation. She wanted to enjoy laughing and being a clown.
“I love the blue eyeshadow and maroon lipstick,” she said, throwing her head back again and holding her belly as she laughed. “It’s good for me to look like a clown, and maybe it’s time for you to stop feeling small.”
(Below is a one minute compilation of the Dalai Lama laughing. I dare you not to laugh with him.)
Two decades later, I still need help laughing at my imperfections. Should I buy Magic Maroon or Hot Pink lipstick? How about some pointy elfin ears? It’s way past time to embrace the Fool.
How are you doing with taking yourself too seriously? Pandemic isolation and unrelenting hearing difficulties make me self-critical in a way that only made things worse. I’m working on self-acceptance, but hearing loss is isolating and frustrating. Can I learn to laugh at myself? Marion Woodman knew how to endure and also laugh at life. The Dalai Lama is an expert at perseverance and laughter. Can you laugh at yourself? How did you learn to do that?
For other posts about Marion Woodman, see The Black Madonna Wore Pink: Marion Woodman, 1988. For a post about struggles with hearing loss, see Hearing Our Determined Hearts. (With immense gratitude to Ursula Carsen for permission to use her photography of Marion laughing.)