• nancy willbern

Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is an ancient Greek word for breath.

It also refers to the vital spirit, soul or creative force of a person.

Listening to or watching the news these days is overwhelming -- the years of desolation in Yemen, the thousands of displaced refugees across the world, wars, famine, territorial feuding, the rise of authoritarian dictatorships, the continued race disparity here in our country, along with our current debilitating political polarization. The news-hour comes to a close and I ask myself, “What in the world can I do about any of this?” I have no idea. I am left feeling powerless and heart-broken. The magnitude of all of it literally takes my breath away.

Last week, I listened to an interview with Jungian analyst, master story-teller and myth expert, Michael Mead. In the course of his sharing he spoke of a not-so-obvious but relevant relationship between George Floyd’s now iconic final words, “I can’t breathe,” to the deleterious effects of the Covid-19 virus leaving its victims also gasping for breath. In recent times, there has also been much talk about our loss of Soul. I don’t think this is a mere coincidence that these three phenomena are occurring at the same moment in history. I think they are inextricably intertwined. Each is a symptom of an underlying crisis, a crisis of separation.

In the creation story as relayed in Genesis, God creates all of the heavens and earth, all of the creatures of the land, air and sea, including humankind. And then He breathes his breath into Adam and the man became a living Soul. And there it is, the first connection between breath and Soul.

It wasn’t long after that that Adam and Eve were tempted to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which according to the serpent, the one with forked tongue, would make them as wise as the gods, able to decide for themselves, to think on their own. God, however had told them that eating from that particular tree would surely lead to their death. Disregarding God’s warning, Adam and Eve decided to go it alone and take their chances. With that fateful first bite, it’s as if they decided to breathe on their own, cutting themselves off from the creative Life-Force that birthed them into existence and their very Soul-connection.

We, those of us living at this particular moment in history are suffering the long-term consequences of that original severing. It is no wonder that we are surrounded by victims of suffocation. We have lived too long breathing in our own stale, recycled air. We have lived too long disconnected from each other, our earth and our animating Source. Without those connections, we are left lost, empty, overwhelmed and embattled. We are left Soul-less.

Trying to come up with solutions for national or global problems is overwhelming. We can’t do it on our own. It’s all too big. But there is something that we can do. We can realize all the gifts that have come from our ability to divide and sort, categorize and evaluate, to know our own minds, but now at this juncture, in our time, we can turn around and gather in all that has been divided. We can choose to reconnect to the Creative Life-Force that breathed us into existence and kindled our sacred Souls.

For more on practical suggestions for how to do this, stayed tuned to Pneuma: Part Two

Image credit: Gerd Altman on Pixabay

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  • nancy willbern

Updated: Jun 3

Poor Cinderella! She ran to the garden behind the house. And there she sank down on a low stone bench and wept as if her heart would break. But soon she felt someone beside her. She looked up, and through her tears she saw a sweet-faced little woman. "Oh," said Cinderella. "Good Evening. Who are you?"

"I am your fairy godmother," said the little woman. And from the thin air she pulled a magic wand. "Now dry your tears. You can't go to the ball looking like that!"

Fairy tales live for centuries, not because they are true, but because they carry archetypal truths about the human experience. For example, they invariably begin with orphaned children -- children who have either literally lost one or both parents, have been emotionally abandoned or have parents who want to kill them or keep them captive. Scary!

Think about it – Cinderella, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel. This is because all human beings have experienced some degree of abandonment, enmeshment, neglect or abuse. Some worse than others, for sure, but most of us can feel that twinge in the stomach when we recall feeling alone, ignored, judged, scared or not loved quite enough, feeling less than or the opposite, too much of something. In other words, we all know what it feels like to not be fully accepted just as we were. Fairy Tales start there and tell it like it is.

They are also explicit with another all too human experience – the moment when the hero or heroine of the story is met with an impossible task – “Spin the straw into gold before morning or you will be killed.” … “Take her out into the woods, kill her and bring me her heart!”… “Sort the grains of sand from the poppy seeds by morning.” Or, as in the story of Cinderella who, with invitation in hand, no matter how hard she tried could not get herself to The Ball. In these moments, the protagonist tries and tries and tries to complete the task but is literally incapable and eventually moves into exhaustion and despair. And it is right there, when the struggle is given up that a friendly animal creature, an elf or some other-worldly-being comes in to save the day. An animal, like the ants that come in to sort the poppy seeds from the grains of sand represents the instinctual self. And the otherworldly being , like the Fairy God Mother in the tale of Cinderella represents deep intuition or some form of Divine Presence.

Although fairy tales can be really scary, filled with demons and dragons, devouring witches or trolls, their basic message is one of hope. The orphaned children always get saved and find they are not really all alone, after all. Someone or something always comes in to scoop them out of harm’s way or take them to the bounty. The point I am trying to make here is not that we will all eventually live happily ever after or all of our daily problems or ills will magically be poofed away. But what I am saying is that whenever we find ourselves, which all of us do, facing an impenetrable dead end, an unsolvable problem – being diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, being in relationship with an active addict, living in a dysfunctional marriage but too afraid to leave, continuing to live out of a fear-based part of the self in spite of all the psychological or spiritual work we have done – there is always more than we can see, more than our problem-solving minds, our personal strength of will can come up with.

There really are unpredictable powers that are ready to come to our aid. So, next time, after repeatedly struggling to find our way out, we can just slide down, put our backs against the wall, sit down and be still. We can stop our getting-nowhere-effort-ing, fully admit that we really don’t see any solution and call upon Unseen Grace to show us the way.

Fairy tales aren’t just stories for children. They carry powerful Universal Truths about what it means to be human. They expose the ubiquity of human futility, as well as the freedom that comes through unimagined providence.

Image by DGlodowska in Pixabay free images

Quote taken from Walt Disney's Cinderella, Golden Press, 1950

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  • nancy willbern

Updated: Nov 1, 2020

This morning I listened to a guided meditation on the topic of forgiveness and soul connection by Bree Melanson on Insight Timer. **

You start with visualizing a person that you would like to forgive. Confession: Donald Trump instantly popped into my head! (Please visualize Nancy Pelosi, if you are from the other persuasion. And if you are neutral in this polarized moment in history, you don’t need to read any further. And… may I kiss your feet?) I could see his orange face. I could hear his sarcastic, self-righteous tone. I could see his now, so familiar mannerisms. And as I watched, I felt my body tighten and cringe in response – my, all too familiar, habituated mannerisms.

As the meditation continues, you see yourself surrounded by Divine Presence. You can visualize being flanked by Angels or just joined by the Creative Force of the Universe. Then you ask yourself, “In what way has this person been sent to teach me something?” As I let this question sink in, still focused on Donald’s face, I could feel myself pulled off course, all jangled inside, angry, outraged at what I perceive he is doing to our country, his narcissism eclipsing its soul. I feel some part of me beginning to scream, scream at the top of her lungs, “THIS IS CRAZY!!! THIS IS SO WRONG!!! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Believe me when I say, this part of me is passionate about her take on things. And she believes that in the face of this unwanted, seemingly impenetrable force that sits in the most powerful seat on the planet, there are only two responses: to become completely hopeless and despondent or to fight it with all her might.

I repeated the question to myself, as I experienced this inner reaction. “What has this person come to teach me?” My reaction to him exposed the lesson he was bringing. In the face of Trump, no matter which option of the two I choose, I give him my power. I - me - I give him my power. I react as if he has the power to steal mine from me, to steal my ability to choose my own authority. We could word it differently, I treat him as if his claiming all the power means he actually has it and my job is to wrest it from him. And in those moments of passionate reaction, I treat him as if he were the Ultimate Power. I am the one who hands it to him while screaming, “No!!!” I let him hook me. I allow myself to be pulled off my center, to disconnect from my own soul. He doesn’t have the power to do that unless I hand it to him. And that’s the lesson he brings. And, he’s doing a fantastic job at being my teacher, I might add.

There is a wisdom shared by many of the wise ones, “Don’t fight the darkness, bring in the Light.” I have been under the assumption that Trump and what he represents in my personal movie can only be rendered impotent by willfully opposing him. When I bring in the Light of greater awareness by simply asking the question, “What has he come to teach me?” I release my grip. My heart stills. I align with my self-chosen Divine Authority. And I say, “Thank you, President Trump for playing your part so that I can awaken to the Greater Truth, to the unwavering Loving Presence of the Power of the Universe that cannot be taken from me.” Amen

** Insight Timer is an app you can get on your cell phone, suggested to me by my sister, Robyn Whyte. It has all forms of meditation on it. I use it daily.

Free image found on Unsplash - HD Fire Wallpapers

For details on how to comment, go to my blog posted on June 27, 2020.

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