February 15, 2022

Marion Woodman and the Path of Pleasure

Marion Woodman and Elaine 2003
Marion Woodman and Elaine 2003

I tell my mother I want to go to a Marion Woodman conference–except my dream mother is none other than my Jungian teacher Marion Woodman. Dream Mother-Marion sits wrapped in a flowing silk scarf as I stand in front of her.

“I need something more,” I say.

“So why don’t you go?” Mother-Marion asks me.

“I want to go to a week-long BodySoul Workshop,” I say, “and it’s expensive. Marion is dead so she won’t be there.” Then I realize another problem—I won’t be able to hear well enough to participate.


With my mother Iva, 1949

And then I wake up, joyful to see Marion in a night story. Like many dreams, this one is filled with opposites–my mother and Marion, dead and alive, hearing and not hearing. When I work on the images with my dream therapist, she notices a shift in my Negative Mother complex—the inner critical achieve-at-all-costs attitudes that follow me years after my mother’s death.

Some old struggles remain: fear about not enough resources and fear of failure. Can I let them go or take them under my wing and calm them? Will I let my fears stop me?

My biological mother was an anxious woman who became emotionally frozen after my father died while Marion’s feelings flowed with creativity and generosity. And it’s true hearing struggles limit my ability to participate in workshops given by others, in person or on Zoom. I need to do this work or workshop on my own.

Marion Woodman 2007 (photo by E Mansfield)

During the last BodySoul Workshop I attended with Marion in 2007, I got a call that my mother was dying. She’d had Alzheimer’s for many years, but died while I packed my bags to go home. So, I stayed at the workshop where the group helped me create a ritual of mother loss.

The following year, my husband died and Marion soon stopped leading workshops, but we stayed in touch through letters. She wrote often as I grieved Vic’s illness and death.

“Marion, I dream of you as I work on a book about my beloved Monarchs,” I say to inner Marion. “I need self-confidence and motherly encouragement.”

“Do It!!” inner Marion says. This is what she said when I wrote my first book Leaning into Love.  I still have her card on my altar in big capital letters: “DO IT!!”

“I know the excuses,” Marion of my Imagination says. “I don’t have time. It’s too hard. I’m too old. I’m not a scientist. I don’t know enough. I have nothing to offer.”

“You love Monarchs and want to save them,” Marion says. “Your passion is the key. You’ve learned so much from raising and studying them for five years. They give you beauty and faith in transformation. Is there something better you need to do?” she asks. I imagine her intense blue eyes penetrating me. “This work doesn’t require keen hearing. Let joy be your guide. Write for pleasure.”

Monarch Mother with caterpillar (Ed Binkley Artwork)

“My biological mother didn’t value pleasure, Marion.”

“Let me be your mother,” inner Marion says. “The Butterfly Goddess Psyche gave birth to Voluptas or Pleasure, the child of Her union with Eros. Make Soul music with words and photography. Grow wings and let your imagination soar.”

“Do it! Share what you love and offer it to the world. Don’t wait. Is there anything more important to do?”


Do you need inner and outer support to manifest your projects? Tell me how you keep your self-confidence and creative energy fed? I’m proud of artist friends who have ideas and get their writing or painting out into the world. I’m listening to Marion’s voice within: “Do it!”

For a post about the workshop with Marion when my mother died in 2007, see Dancing with My Mother’s Death. For another post about guidance from dreams, see The Color of Forgiveness.


  1. March 1, 2022 at 6:06 pm



    Oh, what a dream, Elaine! I read this 2 weeks ago when you first posted it and have been thinking about it since (and meaning to reply sooner). It is a gift of a dream and also hard won. Makes me think of these lines by Emily Dickinson my mother used to say:
    “Luck is not chance—
    It’s Toil—
    Fortune’s expensive smile
    Is earned…”
    You have obviously done so much inner and outer work to be given this dream, and it clearly beckons you to DO IT, both for yourself and your beloved, magical monarchs.

    I have been having so many dreams lately in which I have finished school (or not even applied to college) and feel a huge void and sense of panic at not knowing what I will be doing next. I know the dream mother is calling me to move away from valuing doing over being; academic pursuits over creativity; following the collective instead of my own path–and yet I don’t know what that looks like. Maybe that’s the point– to keep asking “How would love move now?” and trusting whatever shows up in the moment.

    1. March 2, 2022 at 11:09 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Wow, Anne! Your mother quoted Emily Dickinson! That’s an incredible gift! My mother quoted political headlines and stock market reports.

      It’s true I’ve done lots of inner work–psychological and spiritual–due to the good fortune of many inspiring teachers and a compatible spiritual partner (Vic) and community since the late 1960s. I have a lifetime of wisdom and practices to call on and absorb. I’m grateful for those practices and teachings at times like this and inspiration comes from new teachers. I had never heard of Pema Chodron until around 2000 and I recently read Sharon Blackie and Robin Wall Kimmerer for the first time. Kimmerer helps me understand my relationship to nature in a way no one else does.

      Sometimes those repeated themes in dreams make us pay attention. I can’t tell you how many anxious dreams I had of losing my wallet, identification, car, maps, or purse after Vic died–many clear notifications from the unconscious. I’m glad to say I haven’t had one of those dreams for a while because there was often panic when I woke up. I now know I have to write something about Monarchs that’s bigger than a blog–a teaching piece with a touch of inspiration and love that will encourage others to take care of natural habitats for butterflies and other insects, but the large amount of material I’ve written is stubbornly disorganized with a need to balance the personal and the objective. I hope for an Ah-ha! moment that will help me pull it together. Meanwhile, I trudge along working on what I have and will talk to my book development editor soon because she always has good and encouraging ideas. Somehow it will happen. I love your question: “How would love move now?” I’ll borrow it. Blessings and peace and thank you for the beautiful heart card in February.

  2. February 17, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    susan scott


    Just lovely Elaine, thank you, and the thread of comments. Two simple words – Do It. An encouragement for me as I do battle with my WIP … or rather, that I allow distractions to keep me from my task. Or, fear of failure may be as true …always, a nagging self-doubt.

    I do know though, that when I sit at my lap top and start writing, that the words may have a halting start but a rhythm or a muse presents itself and it comes easier, new ideas, new ways of getting them across. And then I wonder why I don’t get down to work more often and invite the muse as a companion.

    We all love your blogging posts on Monarchs. Moments of beauty enter into our lives and we are enriched by them. So carry on please and just DO IT.

    1. February 19, 2022 at 11:22 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      I know all those roadblocks, Susan, but if we have the inner call, we need to follow it–no matter what the outcome. If we don’t begin, the Muse won’t come. Sometimes I need a day or two off to figure out where I’m going next and then the idea shows up. I’ve written many pieces about Monarchs I haven’t shared, feeling I had to do something more. Now I’m trying to weave all the pieces and new writing into a whole. I run into gaps in explanations and understanding. I’m grateful I took many Monarch photos the last 5 years because they tell the story and give the timing–plus they inspire me. Last night, I had to get out of bed and write a few notes about the winged goddess Psyche and her child. I keep a notebook and pen handy for those late night inspirations. Yes, DO IT! And you, too.

  3. February 16, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    Sera J Smolen


    Thank you Elaine
    It’s really lovely

    1. February 16, 2022 at 3:36 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thanks for your kind comment, Sera.

  4. February 16, 2022 at 6:36 am

    Aladin Fazel


    Your passion is the key; our passion is the key! I have to keep that in my ear.
    I’m still thinking that you’re so lucky to have such a brilliant inner mother on your side, my dear friend. I lost my mother when I was eighteen, and the only consolation for me was Al, who also sought comfort. However, “Do it” is a good keyword! Blessing.

    1. February 16, 2022 at 11:24 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Yes! Psyche’s child Voluptas was a child of Love and passion. I’m grateful for those years when I saw Marion and corresponded with her, Aladin. Although it was too brief and your life was full of trauma, I’m glad you experienced deep mother love. And your love for your brother is exquisite–even as mortality is so painful. Still, whatever it is we think we have to do, we must “Do It.” Life is short. I imagine you writing about your life as a child and the frightening disruption of political revolution and having to flee, plus family deaths. And then meeting Jung and other philosophers in your heart. You have an amazing story and I hope it will be saved and passed along. May everyone in your family be well now. Blessings back to you.

  5. February 16, 2022 at 1:36 am

    Deborah Gregory


    Dear Elaine,

    Just do it Mama Monarch and enjoy the journey, however long or short it turns out to be! For in the words of Ursula K. LeGuin, “It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Nothing has been more difficult or more wonderful in life for me than birthing my poetry books. Soul work at the deepest level for many writers.

    Your dream speaks clearly of learning how to “Mother” and how perceptive of your therapist to notice this shift within, as you learn to take yourself “under your own wing”. A Psychean led task for sure but oh, what nurturance! And what beauty the Monarchs bring as you “Mother” them and yourself, all the while your new book, a thousand butterflies, metamorphoses within.

    Yes, I require both, inner and outer support in order to manifest. For me that’s a few like-minded souls who in the words of Rumi, “set my life on fire and fan my flames”. Within, I water my creativity daily with the wisdom I’m finding on my journey and write entirely for pleasure alone, having no need for large audiences or irrelevant book stats. For me it’s a journey of soul.

    Love and light, Deborah.

    1. February 16, 2022 at 11:13 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Deborah. It thought this book would be straightforward because I’ve written about Monarchs for many years in blogs and journals–but now I have to consider what others need to know since I hope to help save these precious transformers and their habitat. So far, they seem to be doing well in Mexico and they’re becoming more active. Within a few weeks, they’ll begin their northward journey in search of milkweed plants where they can lay eggs. I’m grateful Vic and I decided to protect our land from development and keep some fields from becoming forest. I knew we were preserving the views from tall trees, but I didn’t consciously realize we were creating great butterfly, insect, and wildflower habitat.

      So much of mothering myself is about love. It’s easy to love the Monarchs and they teach me to love myself. How sweet it is on spring mornings to go into the fields before breakfast with the dogs, inspect milkweed, see Monarchs floating from flower to flower, and collect a few eggs. Disco can be unruly on a leash and has to be reminded repeatedly not to pull, but she was brought up running off leash in the fields while I searched for Monarch eggs and other treasurers.

      Writing is deeply satisfying as a journey of soul, but I still believe you have gifts, insights, wisdom, and beauty to share with a world that needs your insights and inspiration–so I’m glad you’re working on a 3rd book. In an early dream many years ago, I told a little boy writer, “Write every day even if no one else reads it.” I still write for him, but I want to share Monarch magic because saving their habitat saves habitat for many wild things. So there are inner and outer reasons and I try to hold on to both. Sending you sweet love as you go through a life transition. May the English Robins sing for you and the flowers bloom. I saw a huge Mama Oak on my walk on new trails in the National Forest yesterday and I thought of you. I’ll have her image later today. With love and peace.

      1. February 16, 2022 at 12:30 pm

        Deborah Gregory


        Thank you for such a rich reply Elaine and for mentioning my poetry in your reply to Fred. Please feel free to ignore, and maybe it’s because I’ve been following the moon’s cycle these past 16 days, but I wondered if your book would follow a cycle too, like from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly? Exploring the pre “egg” stage (dark moon) to egg (waxing crescent) and so on but alongside each phase or stage you could write about your own parallel, transformative stages too? Wow, it’s amazing that you and Vic saved those wild meadow habitats, knowingly or not all those years ago, for deep, joyful future lessons in mothering.

        Aww, thanks for nudging my own girl writer within, the one who went to school and won all the writing prizes one day. Her prize was to choose three new books from the winner’s table. Oh, how she floated over! Your forthcoming Monarch book is going to be ab-soul-utely brilliant. Why? Because it’s you that’s writing and what’s not to love about that! As I wrote earlier, enjoy the ride or maybe I should write the long flight home to Self or New Mexico. Great, I look out for Mama Oak later.

        1. February 16, 2022 at 4:36 pm

          Elaine Mansfield


          Fred is a dear friend since ~1970, Deborah, and he’s a mystic and a poet. I thought he’d appreciate your poetry.

          I’m working with a yearly cycle–from June until October. This follows the migration cycle of 4-5 generations of Monarchs from my land to the mountains of Mexico and back again. The progeny of butterflies that leave here in September or early October are the ones that return. Monarchs have an irregular cycle compared to lunar cycles as the moon goes on her travels in predictable ways, although the angle to the earth changes and the lunar path changes and isn’t the same each cycle (unlike the planets in our solar system). Monarch cycles and timing differ every year, plus there are 5 caterpillar stages between egg and chrysalis. Summer Monarchs focus only on egg-laying and live 4-6 weeks while later ones are larger, migrate, and live more like 8 months. They winter in Mexico before moving north to lay eggs before dying. The arrival date on my land depends on weather and warmth but is usually in the 1st half of June or late May. Their migration schedule is strongly influenced by the angle of the sun at solar noon (between 57 degrees at leading edge of migration and 46 at trailing edge). They’re also strongly influenced by the earth’s magnetic fields–and wind direction on earth since they glide on the winds to travel long distances. Then there’s the constant influence of temperature and changing food supply. I’m learning all I can, but they’re complex creatures and much about them is not understood. California Monarchs on the West Coast have a different cycle and don’t migrate great distances.

          I love thinking of you as the girl who won all 3 writing prizes in school. I imagine your shy smile. How encouraging when life was hard! Finally, not New Mexico which is a state in the US, but more distant mountains deep in Central Mexico that have the right trees and weather (similar to a rain forest). Like you, they lead miraculous precarious lives. And now you know more than you wanted to know, but I have an outline (or a start) of how to handle the science of this plus a few more articles I want to read. I should have been a lepidopterist.

          1. February 17, 2022 at 2:28 am

            Deborah Gregory

            Wow! Thank you so much Elaine. You’ve taught me more here that I’ve ever known about Monarchs and their annual cycle. I’m deeply intrigued! Oops, to “New” and “Central” Mexico, being a lazy Brit meant I didn’t double check what I was saying. Besides this, I’m ab-soul-utely loving the outline of your book and look forward to hearing more about the seasons and cycles of the miraculous and precarious Monarchs. Yep, head in the clouds or in a book, that’s me.

          2. February 17, 2022 at 9:34 am

            Elaine Mansfield

            It’s confusing to have a state called New Mexico within the US. I know nothing about counties, parishes, and the political districts in England. No reason you should know the structure here other than that we’re still regionally divided in alarming ways.

            This isn’t an outline of my book which is much more personal and I hope poetic in my relation to the Monarchs, but the science is part of their magic and I want to include some of it in a readable way. They are precarious but they’re also survivors. They’ll head north in the next few weeks, ride north on a south wind to Texas, find milkweed plants, and lay eggs. Then they keep moving north, spreading, and multiplying as weather warms and milkweed is available. (I have no idea what I’m doing, but I keep plugging at it and all the science came in because of your questions.)

  6. February 15, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    Fred Weiner


    I talk to myself often, alone at home, or on walks in the desert, and rather than worrying about the onrush of senility, I call it now ‘talking with my daemon,’ borrowing that terminology from a community founder here, Jim Corbett, who called it that while he was walking in the desert with his goats. Your dream/Marion/mother reminded me of that, how the storehouse mind contains wondrous characters who come around to help us muddle through. And wow, that Ed Binkley drawing! His website holds a gallery of miraculous images. Always good to be thinking of you, looking out on that lake through crystal-cold air . . .

    1. February 16, 2022 at 10:54 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Do you talk to yourself? Good, then I don’t feel so nutso. Sometimes I notice how much I talk to my dogs. Willow is mature and philosophic–an excellent listener. Disco is silly and wants jokes and tickles. Inner conversations with myself tend to be silent or sometimes in writing. And in dreams. Talking with the daemon is a good way to think of these inner conversations and a recognition of the wisdom we experience within when we pay attention. Marion is my inner wise woman and when she speaks, I listen.

      Isn’t that Ed Binkley image amazing? I saw and shared it a few years ago but responded by noting the fanciful “science” of it and the image of the woman in the chrysalis. Why doesn’t the chrysalis woman have her head down like a Monarch in chrysalis or a human baby? Why is a Monarch mother holding her caterpillar with love whereas in nature the Monarch ignores the caterpillar? My friend Deborah Gregory (comment after yours and I suggest you visit her website and check out her poetry) sent it a few weeks ago and I had to go through that process to get to the symbolic holding of the Butterfly Goddess Psyche or the Monarch or Nature Mother. The growing caterpillar in me being nurtured and protected. I often have to remind my sensation based mind of a more symbolic perspective. I’m grateful to Deborah for sending this image and encouraging me to rethink it from where I stand now. I’m glad you liked it. I think you’ll be moved by Deborah’s poetry. I look forward to the warmth of spring–and butterflies. Much love to you in the warmth of the desert.

  7. February 15, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    Marian Beaman


    “I need self-confidence and motherly encouragement.” That is so true for me since the dawn of 2022.

    Several lines here resonated with me as I have set aside my project temporarily in order to entertain houseguests: two sets almost back to back since last Wednesday. These guests are friends whose comfort is important to me, but in the back of my mind I have struggled with the same misgivings you voiced in this post. In addition, I lack energy and my focus keeps changing. I too need “inner and outer support to manifest my projects.” My friend Colleen has agreed to have a short session with me before she leaves tomorrow with the aim of clarifying the parameters of the project.

    Elaine, I think we are in the same boat at the moment, so I will accept the clear dictum Marion Woodman offered you, “Do it!”

    Often in the doing the work comes into being what it was intended to become. Let’s hope so, Elaine. What a timely post!

    1. February 16, 2022 at 10:26 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Marian, I’m glad you’re talking with your friend Colleen today. It clarifies. I’ve had a few conversations with Jill Swenson who was the book development editor for ‘Leaning into Love’ and has also become a close friend over the years I’ve worked with her. She always clarifies with great questions and we’ll talk next week. Yes, “Do it.” For me, it’s surprising how those lousy first drafts don’t look so bad the next morning and give me something to work with. I like the editing process once I have the basic bone structure. And I love Monarchs! It’s hard to imagine them flitting around the gardens as I look out my window at fields of snow. I wish you joyful time with friends followed by joyful writing.

      1. February 16, 2022 at 2:49 pm

        Marian Beaman


        I have no doubt whatsoever that your Monarch story, already developing wings, will fly at just the right time.

        1. February 16, 2022 at 3:38 pm

          Elaine Mansfield


          May it be so! Thanks for your faith in me, Marian. I have a complicated mess of versions I’m trying to turn into one narrative without leaving anything important out. It feels impossible, but I know it isn’t. One small step at a time. I hope all goes well with your work, too. You’ve taught me so much.

  8. February 15, 2022 at 8:11 pm

    Karen Zeiders


    Loved reading this post Elaine. I’m looking forward to reading more about you & Monarchs already! I love the dream & inner Mom Marion.

    1. February 16, 2022 at 10:15 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Karen. I have two first drafts and I’m working on weaving them together. It may happen. I was thrilled when I woke up from that dream. Marion is my Wise Woman and apparently my Mother, too. It’s so, so sweet hearing from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *