Into the Forest

 Posted by on February 25, 2013
Feb 252013

In our first gathering  i talked about the fairy tale The Queen is Missing
that Deborah and i used in the book we were writing about the experience of being a woman growing older in this culture

In the story when the Queen’s first wrinkle appears she falls under a spell
And disappears into the forest-
We don’t know exactly why
Was she banished?
Did she go of her own accord?
And what will she do there?
Look back on her life to sort out what has happened?
Or perhaps
She simply wants to find solitude

As we grow older
Many of us long to step outside
The demands
The rules
And the patterns in our lives
That are no longer  working

We  need time and space to reflect

These words from Maria Von Franz have been important to me
The woman has to retire into her own loneliness
And must realize that
For although it looks as  though she had a husband and children
Or a job
She is not yet really alive
For much of her life  she has replaced her instincts with the rules of the collective
And now must return to the natural world to retrieve them

There are times in our lives when we
Like the Queen in our story
Need the shelter of the forest
We need to slow down
To contemplate
To grieve

For many long days and nights the Queen lay still and silent  
No one can tell the great gray stone under which she huddles
From her own living body
Mourning the passage of youth is not easy
Nor is it over soon
A woman must sink deeply into the feelings of loss
Of vulnerability
Even of death

She must let go of everything
And seek her own experience

Though a woman in such a depression
Experiences only blackness
And a frightening paralysis in her conscious life
There is nontheless a vital force activated
In the rich dark soil of the unconscious

The forest the inner life is a place of growth and regeneration

If a woman can tolerate the emptiness
The loneliness

The inconsolabale sadness
Something real within her can be born

Outside the kingdom
Away from the culture’s beliefs in lies and hyperbole
The pressures to be something she is not
An acceptance of her genuine nature becomes possible

The hero’s journey is the cultures metaphor
For psychological maturtion and individuation
We have taken it for granted that we as women follow some version
Of the hero’s course
Thrusting forward
Slaying dragons
But perhaps folowing the masculine model distances us
From our essential feminine nature

For a  woman
A more accurate description
Might be to move inward
We might think of the feminine quest as a gestation
An introverted process
As opposed to an extrovered active one
If we could allow ourselves to trust the feminine way
Perhaps we would find
The birth of a new part of ourselves
Can arise from such a holding
The forest symbolizes this feminine holding
It is a place of unconventional inner life
It is where a woman drops into her innermost nature and finds out
Just what that feels like

It is important to explore what the metaphor of the forest looks like internally
For each of us

For that task  we will need solitude
We will need silence

Mother teresa defines prayer
As listening to the silence of one’s own heart
Listening with the bodily ear
With the imagination
With the heart
Or with the whole being

Silence is vital because
It invites the truth of our own experience
To arise within us

The words solitude and solace have the same root

In solitude the external is calm
It doesn’t move and shift
The soul needs not to be disturbed or distracted
The outgrown self can rest
And the space can open
To be occupied
By a deeper
More vulnerable
Part of the self
That can begin to live and breathe
And speak to us
The feminine way
Has a layered
Not visible to the outer eye

Though the woman continues to move about her daily life
Her heart and mind seem to live elsewhere
It can appear to those around her that her life is stagnant
She is going through the motions but it looks as though nothing new is happening

But in reality this time of incubation
Is when a deep internal split is cured
And inner problems are solved

As i look back
I can see that happened in my own life
I was in my early fifties and i was exhausted
I had become too entangled in the lives of my family and friends
I felt overwhelmed
I seemed to be the center of everyone’s life
Except my own
I had been on energetic over-ride for years
Always pushing myself to do more
If i had been willing to be honest with myself
I would have had to acknowlege i was almost always in pain
My own needs were on the back burner
I didn’t have enough energy to go around
On an energetic level
I couldn’t afford the life style i was living
But slowing down didn’t seem to be an option

After several years of living in an urban high rise my husband and i moved to sonoma and rented an art studio in the country
It was early Novemeber
I hadn’t realized how starved i was for the earth
I began to walk each day
The time of flowering was over but
That made it possible for me to notice
The bare stark seedpods
That adorned many of the bushes and grasses
It was as though this part of the plant that i had never noticed before all at once reached out and grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me go

I took photographs of papery gray-brown casings filled with scarlet berries
I drew the dark hard husks protectively covering nut-like interiors
I painted circles filled with translucent dots
I collected poems about pods and wrote some of my own
It took several years for me to realize why the seed pod
Had become so resonant for me
Something in me felt dried up
But the pod itself held a teaching for me
One that i desperately needed

The parable of the pod is that what seems to be without life is holding
The life that is yet to come

As i began to listen to the message of the pod
It elaborated itself
A pod needs the dark quiet holding space of winter
And ultimately the seed needs to go underground to wait for something
New to be born

Only later did i link the image of the seedpod
To my changing ovaries
In the slowing down
I began to see that i too
Am part of the natural world
And that death is inseparable
From the very essence of life itself

The natural world teaches us that nothing exists independently
Though we perceive multiple phases of the moon waxing full waning and even The dark of the moon
In reality the moon is always there
It remains itself complete and whole regardless of what phase we might be Experiencing
Placing myself within this larger perspective
This in-the- forest place
Helped relieve some of my anxiety

Growing older no longer felt like disappearing
Like i was somehow falling off the edge of the world
I began to see that i was moving gently and seamlessly into another phase of the Continuity of life

I’m shocked when i realize that this experience happpened to me
Almost 20 years ago
And if i am honest i have to admit that i still struggle with recalibrating my Nervous system to a rhythm that is truly my own

That makes me realize what a demanding pull the energetic field of the culture Has on each of us
How much has to be done to shift away from those patterns
And into something more attuned to our own nature
And the natural world

I am aware of how imortant it is to enter the forest to create a nurturing Compassionate inner holding to slow down

To find our own zero point

The forest is a place of spontaneous life a safe and fertile sanctuary where our Bodies and our souls can re-organize and heal

Audio Post


AnnAnn Nix holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology and is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Group Facilitator in Sonoma, California.

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