Tuesday, April 30, 2013



She wanders cold and naked 
Through the ancient, dark forest.
Neither light nor warmth touches her breast,
Blood drips where spiky undergrowth scratches her legs, 
And tangled vines trip her toes,
Calling of an unseen bird in the far distance, 
Crashing and snorting behind her,
But   she   does   not   stop. 
She does not stop. 

Touching trembling, black bark of tree,
Feels water rising … rising. 
Joins the water, joins the impossible rising.
Up   up   up  toward the sunlight of blue sky,
Spilling out of leaves 
Becoming rain falling toward green earth
In the unknown, waiting world.

(c) Joyce Wycoff, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

What If You Were Forbidden to Write

This past weekend Pacifica Graduate Institute gathered writers into a Jungian container of myth and stories of the inner journey. Dennis Patrick Slattery was one of the leaders who held the space for us and he describes myth as being, "a loom on which we weave the raw materials of daily experience into a coherent story."

Dennis is a charming man dedicated to helping others find and follow the path of the writer.  He has a new book filled with over 80 writing meditations designed to help writers go deeper into the part of themselves that wants to be expressed in words.  At one point, he asked us how important writing was to us. "Would you have to die if you were forbidden to write?"  If the answer is yes, he said, "Your whole life must be built in accordance with this necessity."

That statement struck me.  I've always wanted to be a writer and writing is how I make sense of the world ... however, have I built my life in accordance with this necessity? How would my life be different if I did?  Steven King says that in order to be a writer, we need to read a lot and write a lot.  That's pretty easy, but how else do writers design their lives to be support their chosen paths?  Something to ponder.

Here's a link to a video of Dennis talking about his new book:
Riting Myth, Mythic Writing: Plotting Your Personal Story.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Flaming Feather

Last night was the first night of the writers' conference at Pacifica Graduate Institute which was opened by one of my favorites ... Michael Meade.  Michael came without his drum but filled us with lyrical rhythms of his stories and song and touched us with a call.

Michael told us to "sing into the emptiness between the world and ourselves," to awaken our unique voice, to re-create the world with our words. 

A tall order but by the end of the evening, we were ready to pick up the burning feather, a metaphor that came from another story he shared, that goes something like this:

Once upon all time, A young person was riding through an ancient forest (aren't all forests in stories ancient, dark and deep?), when her horse (a magnificent beast) stops just as a golden, flaming feather drops from the sky.  

As the young rider contemplated the feather, the horse murmured (because it was a horse of power, of course), "Do not pick up the feather or you will know trouble and fear." 

This could be a cautionary tale to avoid new things, to play it safe, but we know (because in the ancient stories, we are always wise and courageous) that fear is telling us where we must go.  The burning feather has to be picked up; we have to journey in the direction of our fears. 

And that was how Michael told us that our way is marked ... That we have to take the sword of courage in hand and make our way into the dark continent of our fears and psyche to bring back the boon of wisdom to be shared with the world.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hunger for Peace

JR won a TED prize with his wish to turn the world inside out with art.  In this TED Talk, he tells the story of how people are changing the world one picture at a time.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Language and Habits

It always intrigues me when science comes to a conclusion that confirms other teachings.  As far back as I know, positive thinking advocates have always recommended putting affirmations in the present tense … I AM trim, healthy and energetic … rather than I WILL be trim, healthy and energetic.

It seemed to make sense but I never understood the reasoning behind it until I read about a study done by M. Keith Chen, Yale University, School of Management and Cowles Foundation.  In this study, he proposes that languages with a strong separation of present and future tense create a mindset that causes people to be less likely to save money, exercise regularly, and eat healthily.  

Languages such as English, Czech, Russian, Persian, Turkish and Georgian separate the future from the present with verb tenses … I will go verses I go. Other languages such as German indicate the future with context … It rains tomorrow.  These languages seem to make the future feel more similar to the present.  Therefore, people treat the future more like the present … they save money today instead of putting it off until tomorrow.

Chen's study sparked conflict within the linguistic community and still hasn't received rigorous academic review.   However, it is interesting to contemplate how the language we speak may affect our attitude and actions.

More info:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Circling Back

When I was young, I thought I'd be a world traveller.  I had a plan.  After I got out of high school, I was going to take a tramp steamer to Europe and then backpack to Switzerland.  I still haven't been to Switzerland.  Life had other plans.  I went to college, got married, started working and here I am, closer to the end than the beginning and those unfinished threads seem to be waving at me again. "Hey, remember me?  Is it time to play?" they seem to be asking.

A friend introduced me to International Living, a magazine and organization that helps people understand the legal, financial and cultural intricacies of moving to, and living in, a different country.  And, I now seem to be circling back, thinking about those childhood yearnings, wondering what's stopping me from doing what I might have done then if things had gone a different direction.  What's keeping me from spending several months a year living in other countries, learning other languages, immersing myself in other cultures?

The more I think about the things that fascinated me as a child, the more it seems that "circling back" might be a strategy for this stage of life.  Maybe those interests and yearnings are like dormant seeds just waiting for the right combination of time and circumstances before breaking ground once again in our consciousness.

What do you think?