Clarissa Pinkola Estés: Untie the Strong Woman

October 18, 2011

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Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the award-winning poet, senior Jungian psychoanalyst, and cantadora (keeper of old stories in the Latina tradition). Dr. Estés is the author of the bestseller Women Who Run With the Wolves, along with over a dozen audio programs from Sounds True. Most recently, Dr. Estés has released with Sounds True her first book in over a decade, titled Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul. In this episode, Tami speaks with Dr. Estés about the different manifestations of the Holy Mother in many cultures, how our relationship with our own biological mother affects how we relate to the archetype of the great mother force, and what it means to live with “an unruined heart.” (64 minutes)

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The Courage to Stand Alone

The Courage to Stand Alone

It can be scary when we are called to confront our aloneness, the seemingly infinite depths of that empty, homeless feeling inside of us. When all our old protections fall away and the abandoned and neglected ones inside come begging for our love and attention. It can feel sometimes as though there’s nowhere to turn, like we want to crawl out of our own skin, urgently get out of the Now and into some other time or place.

It takes bravery to stop, breathe, and—slowly, slowly, slowly—turn back toward the lonely, dark, empty “void” inside (in reality, there is no void). To actually turn to face the sense of abandonment buried deep within our guts, to soften into the sense of separation that has been with us for as long as we can remember. We don’t have to make the feeling go away today, only lean into it, breathe into it, begin to make room for it, maybe even learn to trust its presence. 

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Perhaps loneliness is like a cosmic nostalgia, a preverbal memory of a deep womb-connection, with ourselves, with the planet, with every being who has ever lived. In leaning into our own loneliness, shame, and existential anxiety, we may be able to touch into compassion for the loneliness of every human being, for every heart longing to connect, for every grieving heart, every frightened heart. 

We are alone, yet never alone. This is the great paradox of existence. Our loneliness, when not resisted or numbed away, may actually end up connecting us more deeply to life and each other, like it did for me and my sweet father that winter evening. 

Let us learn to be alone, then! Alone, without distraction, which is true meditation. Alone, communing with the breath as it rises and falls. Alone with the mind and its incredible dance. Alone with the rain and the morning sun. Alone with the crackle of autumn leaves under our feet, or the crunch of winter snow. Alone with the hopes and joys and anxieties of this human form, living a single day on this remarkable planet. Alone with our precious selves, with this unfathomable sense of connection to all things, with birth and loss and death and their myriad mysteries. 

Alone, with all of life.

This is an excerpt from You Were Never Broken: Poems to Save Your Life by Jeff Foster.

jeff fosterJeff Foster shares from his own awakened experience a way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of “all this, here and now.” He studied astrophysics at Cambridge University. Following a period of depression and physical illness, he embarked on an intensive spiritual search that came to an end with the discovery that life itself was what he had always been seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

book image of excerpt on lonliness

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Tools for Opening Ourselves to Our Deeper Nature

A few months ago, I found when getting up from the table that I could no longer walk. A meniscus had ruptured and wedged itself against my knee joint. It was very painful, but luckily, thanks to my friends, I was able to get an MRI that same day and be operated on the following day. For the operation, whether I liked it or not, I had to submit to a general anesthesia, and I remained unconscious a little less than two hours.

Unexpectedly, when I woke up, I had a very enriching experience. I had the impression of not being completely there. I was in a light and luminous state of mind. My first thoughts went toward my spiri- tual teachers. For a good hour, their presence illuminated my mental landscape. I experienced a state of bliss, of devotion, and unalloyed trust. I was alone in my room, and I began softly to chant verses that reminded me of my teacher. My thoughts also went to other people who are dear to me.

I said to myself that if things go this well at the time of death, it won’t be too bad! Could anesthesia be a kind of dress rehearsal for dying? Could such a moment show us what is present in the profoundest depths of our mind when the thought processes that clutter the field of consciousness have been silenced? All in all, I was very glad to have gone through this anesthesia experience.

Later, I wondered if such experiences could be revealing about our basic nature. This feeling of lightness and bliss could perhaps result from not immediately reifying the world around us when waking up from the anesthesia. At that moment the mind is not yet distorted by myriad conceptual constructs. This is the antithesis of dwelling on thoughts; it is perfect simplicity. I felt like a young child discovering the beauty of life with a fresh and transparent mind.

— Matthieu Ricard

Toolbox for Opening Ourselves to Our Deeper Nature

MATTHIEU RICARD:

Keep your mind open. Experience the key moments in life with an open mind, welcoming the range of constructive possibilities for oneself and others.

Discriminate. Let what really counts come to the surface from the profoundest depths of consciousness.

Be confident. No matter what happens, you will find a way to utilize adverse circumstances as catalysts for making progress on the spiritual path and for manifesting greater compassion toward those around you. 

Inhabit the space of interdependence. Resituate the events that affect you in the much larger context of the interdependence of all beings and all things, who like you, experience countless joys and sorrows.

ALEXANDRE JOLLIEN:

Contemplate the little persona that you play all day long. Look at the labels, the functions you use to define yourself. Examine the outfit that you dress up in from morning till night so that you can go naked to meet your deeper nature.

Be aware of the heavy weight of education, of the mass of prejudices, of the heap of illusions that have ended up as an overlay on reality. Just identify this factitious layer so that you can take in daily life as it is without the intervention of ego, of concepts, and of the thousand expectations that shape your world.

Discover the deep personal aspirations that inhabit you. What do you expect out of life? What is it that you are running after so avidly?

Accept losing your grip. Ego defends its territory tooth and nail. It sets up boundaries, busies itself delimiting its world. In its folly, it isolates us, confines us to solitude, to distance. Opening your heart, going beyond the bounds of narrow individuality, means facing the experience of leaping into the void, of swimming in the open sea of freedom.

CHRISTOPHE ANDRÉ:

Discover your inner resources. The deeper nature we have been talking about is not just a theoretical matter, but a very practical one. We should do our best never to forget all the strengths and resources we have within us. They are not an illusion. Our mindset is such that we quite often underestimate our personal capacity to deal with adversity. And then there are the strengths and resources all around us, the help and inspiration that others can supply us. We are better equipped than we think. To access these resources within us and outside us, the best thing is not to shrink back into ourselves and dwell on our fears and bitterness or on our certainties, positive or negative.

What if nothing happens? What if no tangible sign of the existence or emergence of our deeper nature comes along? Well, it’s not that serious! In any case, it’s there. Let’s just not forget to live, act, love, work, and enjoy ourselves; to help others the best we can; and to continue to be open to this profound and universal aspect of ourselves that we all have within us.

This is excerpted from the newest book from Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien, Freedom For All Of Us: A Monk, A Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Freedom.

MatthieuRicard-AlexandreJollien-ChristopheAndré

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, a photographer, and a molecular geneticist who has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. 

Christophe André is a psychiatrist and one of the primary French specialists in the psychology of emotions and feelings.

Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and a writer whose work has been attracting an ever-growing readership. Together, they are the authors of In Search of Wisdom and Freedom For All of Us.

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Meet the Author of Dinos Don’t Do Yoga

The Author
Catherine Bailey is the author of multiple picture books, including Harbor Bound and Mind Your Monsters. For more, please visit catherinebaileybooks.com.

Dinos Don't Do Yoga CoverThe Book
Rex is a dinosaur with a rough, tough crew. But when a yoga-loving dinosaur comes to town, Rex and his fierce friends discover there’s more to strength than big muscles and bad attitudes. This fun-filled story features timely themes about kindness, friendship, and being able to see past our differences.

 

 

 

 

Has your book taken on a new meaning in the world’s current circumstances? Is there anything you would have included in your book if you were writing it now?

Dinos Don’t Do Yoga was written back during the calm and quiet of 2018. At the time, it was simply a funny story about a grumpy T. rex. Today we are living in a very different world. Things have changed dramatically in terms of how people interact with each otherfrom social distancing to increased activism.

So now when I read Dinos Don’t Do Yoga, the relationships between the characters are more meaningful. I hope my readers see kindness, acceptance, and connection (in addition to a funny story!). I also hope that the book inspires children to explore yoga as a physical means of dealing with the stress of these crazy times. Yoga is a beautiful way to get back to a happy mental space.

After all, if dinos can do itso can we!

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Send us a photo of you and your pet, and let us know if your pet had any role in helping you write your book!

Here we have a snapshot of the world’s most annoyed cat. I decided to share this particular picture because it reminded me of the Dinos Don’t Do Yoga cover. The illustrator of the book, Alex Willmore, brilliantly contrasted the highly disgruntled Rex (complete with eye twitch!) with his blithely happy costar, Sam. I laugh every time I see that artwork!

The same is true for this photograph of myself and our family cat, Chloe. This picture was taken right after her first (and probably last) bath. In my defense, I only bathed her because she had a small flea problem. She still has not forgiven me.

bailey cat

What is something about you that doesn’t make it into your author bio?

bailey 3

My author biography contains all sorts of fun tidbits, but it doesn’t mention this one cool thing about me: I am kid-sized! By which I mean I’m very short for my age. You cannot tell from (most) pictures, but even though I am an official middle-aged grown-up, I am only 4’8” tall. That is about the size of the average second grader! 

So why do I mention it? What’s so great about being super small? Well, a lot of things! But best of all is that it makes me empathetic and mindful of other people’s differences. And that makes me a better writer. For example, it was easy for me to create the characters of Rex (challenged by his petite arms) and Sam (a true “outsider”) in Dinos Don’t Do Yoga. It is true what they say—great things come in small packages.

 

Dinos Don't Do Yoga Cover

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