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Quotes from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and some reflections

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"The craft of questions, the craft of stories, the craft of the hands - all these are the making of something, and that something is soul. Anytime we feed soul, it guarantees increase." (p.14)
"The nurture for telling stories comes from the might and endowments of my people who have gone before me. In my experience, the telling moment of the story draws its power from a towering column of humanity joined one to the other across time and space, elaborately dressed in the rags and robes or nakedness of their time, and filled to the bursting with life still being lived. If there is a single source of story and the numen of story, this long chain of humans is it." (p.19)

The richness of Estes's language and the depth of her imagery sometimes make it difficult for me to quote less than the entire book.

"We find lingering evidence of archetype in the images and symbols found in stories, literature, poetry, painting, and religion. It would appear that its glow, its voice, and its fragrance are meant to cause us to be raised up from contemplating the shit on our tails to occasionally traveling in the company of the stars." (p.29)

"Each woman has potential access to Rio Abajo Rio, this river beneath the river. She arrives there through deep meditation, dance, writing, painting, prayermaking, singing, drumming, active imagination, or any activity which requires an intense altered consciousness. A woman arrives in this world-between worlds through yearning and by seeking something she can see just out of the corner of her eye. She arrives there by deeply creative acts, through intentional solitude, and by practice of any of the arts. And even with these well-crafted practices, much of what occurs in this ineffable world remains forever mysterious to us, for it breaks physical laws and rational laws as we know them." (p.30)

"...[W]hat Jung called 'the moral obligation' to live out and to express what one has learned in the descent or ascent to the wild Self. This moral obligation he speaks of means to live what we perceive, be it found in the psychic Elysian fields, the isles of the dead, the bone deserts of the psyche, the face of the mountain, the rock of the sea, the lush underworld - anyplace where La Que Sabe breathes upon us, changing us. Our work is to show we have been breathed upon - to show it, give it out, sing it out, to live out in the topside world what we have received through our sudden knowings, from body, from dreams and journeys of all sorts." (p.31)

This book breathed upon me in any number of ways; hence these pages of quotes.

"The creation Mother is always also the Death Mother and vice versa. Because of this dual nature, or double-tasking, the great work before us is to learn to understand what around and about us and what within us must live, and what must die. Our work is to apprehend the timing of both; to allow what must die to die, and what must live to live." (p.32)

I find it ironic that this what-must-die-must-die philosophy seems so foreign to American culture, when we are such a warrior culture in so many ways: so quick to use guns to protect ourselves, so ready to send in the Marines. We empathize so readily with whatever is to be killed that we lose sight of the need for things to die in order for other things to be born. Children's stories tell poignant tales about adorable baby bunnies who fall prey to big, scary owls, while other stories could be told about adorable baby owls whose parents feed them bunnies. That life includes death in a grand cycle is paid lip service in the occasional Disney movie, but the parents whose child dies in a freak ice-skating accident are far more likely to sue the rink than they are to see their child's death as a mysterious necessity of fate.

"I'm always taken by how deeply women like to dig in the earth. They plant bulbs for the spring. They poke blackened fingers into mucky soil, transplanting sharp-smelling tomato plants. I think they are digging down to the two-million-year-old woman. They are looking for her toes and her paws. They want her for a present to themselves, for with her they feel of a piece and at peace." (p.33)

I first read this book in 1998, and finished about half of it. I picked it up again in the spring of 2001, and when I came upon this passage, I had just finished creating a garden in my diningroom.

"In a single human being there are many other beings, all with their own values, motives, and devices. Some psychological technologies suggest we arrest these beings, count them, name them, force them into harness till they shuffle along like vanquished slaves. But to do this would halt the dance of wildish lights in a woman's eyes; it would halt her heat lightning and arrest all throwing of sparks. Rather than corrupt her natural beauty, our work is to build for all these beings a wildish countryside wherein the artists among them can make, the lovers love, the healers heal." (p.38)

I read in this passage the risk, at least for writers like myself, in analyzing and dissecting archetypes rather than letting them simply live through me.

"When women open the doors of their own lives and survey the carnage there in those out-of-the-way places, they most often find they have been allowing summary assassinations of their most crucial dreams, goals, and hopes." (p.53)

I, and many of the women I know, began by thinking that the men around us were to blame for the carnage. If we spotted our own complicity, we were tempted to blame it on the older women who modeled complicity for us. Once we learn to accept the responsibility without shame — which changes 'blame' to simple ownership — we have food for a lifetime.

"Because women have a soul-need to express themselves in their own soulful ways, they must develop and blossom in ways that are sensible to them and without molestation from others." (p.57)

If your heart or spirit holds a frail seedling, protect it at all costs. Often we hear that it is good to trust, and that it is wicked to distrust, and so we put our tenderest being in the hands of those who are unable to hold us gently, because they themselves were never held so.

"One of the least discussed issues of individuation is that as one shines light into the dark of the psyche as strongly as one can, the shadows, where the light is not, grow even darker. So when we illuminate some part of the psyche, there is a resultant deeper dark to contend with. This dark cannot be let alone." (p.58)

The healer who draws a novitiate into healing work may be reluctant to describe the journey in detail, for fear the novitiate will turn and run.

"I have heard all the excuses that any woman might knit up: I'm not talented. I'm not important. I'm not educated. I have no ideas. I don't know how. I don't know what. I don't know when. And the most scurrilous of all: I don't have time. I always want to shake them upside down until they repent and promise to never tell falsehoods again. But I don't have to shake them up, for the dark man in dreams will do that, and if not he, then another dream actor will." (p.72)

"When the soulful life is being threatened, it is not only acceptable to draw the line and mean it, it is required." (p.75)

"Like the word wild, the word witch has come to be understood as a pejorative, but long ago it was an appellation given to both old and young women healers, the word witch deriving from the word wit, meaning wise. This was before cultures carrying the one-God-only religious image began to overwhelm the older pantheistic cultures which understood the Deity through multiple religious images of the universe and all its phenomena." (p.96)

"If you are surrounded by people who cross their eyes and look with disgust up at the ceiling when you are in the room, when you speak, when you act and react, then you are with the people who douse passions - yours and probably their own as well. These are not the people who care about you, your work, your life." (p.115)

"So often we entertain the fantasy of being fed from the deep nature, through a love affair, a job, or by money, and we hope these feedings will last for a long time. we would like not to do any further work. In truth, there are even times when we would like to be fed without doing much work at all. In reality, we know nothing of value ever develops this way. But we wish it anyway." (p.146)

While one could conclude that a human is inherently lazy, I prefer to think that humans survived in part due to a wise reluctance to do work that might turn out not to be needed.

"We are all afraid. It is nothing new. If you are alive, you are fearful." (p.157)

When I'm afraid, what comforts me most is hearing that others fear also.

"A person who has untangled Skeleton Woman knows patience, knows better how to wait. He is not shocked or afraid of spareness. He is not overwhelmed by fruition. His needs to attain, to 'have right now,' are transformed into a finer craft of finding all facets of relationship, observing how cycles of relationship work together. He is not afraid to relate to the beauty of fierceness, the beauty of the unknown, the beauty of the not-beautiful. And in learning and working at all these, he becomes the quintessential wild-lover." (pp.158-159)

From "Who Loves the Rain" by Frances Shaw: "Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise,/Who loves the rain,/And loves his home,/And looks on life with quiet eyes."

"What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know should die, but am hesitant to allow to do so? What must die in me in order for me to love? What not-beauty do I fear? Of what use is the power of the not-beautiful to me today? What should die today? What should live? What life am I afraid to give birth to? If not now, when?" (p.159)

What door must I close that I may find another door to open? What option must I forsake?

"The only trust required is to know that when there is one ending there will be another beginning." (p.163)

"Seventy-five percent confident will do nicely. Seventy-five percent is a goodly amount. Remember, we say that a flower is blooming whether it is in half, three-quarters, or full bloom." (p.185)

This sounds so good.

"What is the basic nutrition for the soul? Well, it differs from creature to creature, but here are some combinations. ... For some women air, night, sunlight, and trees are necessities. For others, words, paper, and books are the only things that satiate. For others, color, form, shadow, and clay at the absolutes. Some women must leap, bow, and run, for their souls crave dance. Yet others crave only a tree-leaning peace." (p.210)

"Being able to say that one is a survivor is an accomplishment. For many, the power is in the name itself. And yet comes a time in the individuation process when the threat or trauma is significantly past. Then is the time to go to the next stage after survivorship, to healing and thriving. ... One can take so much pride in being a survivor that it becomes a hazard to further creative development. ... Once the threat is past, there is a potential trap in calling ourselves by names taken on during the most terrible time of our lives. It creates a mind-set that is potentially limiting. It is not good to base the soul identity solely on the feats and losses and victories of the bad times." (pp.210, 211)

This expresses well my sense of the chief risk in twelve-step groups. They are tremendously helpful in bringing someone to a healthier frame of mind. Once the individual has reached it, however, the group can become a stifling influence, particularly through an insistence that any attempt to grow beyond the group is a sign of denial.

"Do not cringe and make yourself small if you are called the black sheep, the maverick, the lone wolf. Those with slow seeing say a nonconformist is a blight on society. But it has been proven over the centuries, that being different means standing at the edge, means one is practically guaranteed to make an original contribution, a useful and stunning contribution to her culture." (p.212)

Our educational system claims to bring out the best in our children. And I wonder, how many young Einsteins are scolded into conformity?

"If you want to create, you have to sacrifice superficiality, some security, and often your desire to be liked, to draw up your most intense insights, your most far-reaching visions." (p.239)

"The impulse to play is an instinct. No play, no creative life." (p.251)

In his later years, Jung was known to play in the stream that ran from his property into Lake Zurich, building dams and bridges, villages and so on. Not many of us have that kind of courage.

"Psychically, it is good to make a halfway place, a way station, a considered place in which to rest and mend after one escapes a famine. It is not too much to take one year, two years, to assess one's wounds, seek guidance, apply the medicines, consider the future. A year or two is scant time. The feral woman is a woman making her way back. She is learning to wake up, pay attention, stop being naïve, uninformed. She takes her life in her own hands. To re-learn the deep feminine instincts, it is vital to see how they were decommissioned to begin with." (p.272)

If your path includes a divorce, it may take years to locate all the thin threads that bound you to your spouse.

"The difference between comfort and nurture is this: if you have a plant that is sick because you keep it in a dark closet, and you say soothing words to it, that is comfort. If you take the plant out of the closet and put it in the sun, give it something to drink, and then talk to it, that is nurture." (p.350)

"If you've lost focus, just sit down and be still. Take the idea and rock it to and fro. Keep some of it and throw some away, and it will renew itself. You need do no more." (p.361)

See also Books and CDs We Recommend, a bibliography of books, CDs and tapes related to personal growth and spirituality, at the Shadow Work® Seminars site.

Copyright © 2001 Alyce Barry. All rights reserved. Opinions and beliefs expressed are those of Alyce Barry. This page last updated 1/27/03. Contact me



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