IMG_1716detail from “Why not become fire?” acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage, 2015


While we need to be as responsible as possible with our words and actions, we do not know what or where our influence might be.  It can reach far farther into the wilds than we imagine.

I’m now back from my yearly pilgrimage to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Mysterium training for helping professionals.  Her teaching, as usual, was inspiring, thought provoking, and mind expanding (perhaps a little mind-blowing, too!).  This year’s event was also highly emotional, because it’s the end of the five years of the Mysterium.  While the topics changed each year, and many new people came each time, Dr. E. designed the five years of the training to cover a particular curriculum regarding psychoanalytic techniques and cross-cultural understandings of the psyche that is based heavily on her training to become a Jungian analyst.  Although there is no degree or particular certification that has come out of this education, the knowledge base, combined with my own study, has been a huge treasure, the privilege of a lifetime.

Out of about 100 participants, there were 18 of us who had been able to attend all five years, another 20 or so attended four of the years, and another 20 or so three of the years.  Although I do not particularly keep in touch with “my people” throughout the year, it’s always been a blessed reunion when I catch up with those whom I’ve studied with in previous years.

Which brings me to my deeper realization of how our individual influence reaches out in ways we do not know and cannot foresee.  Person after person made comments about how something I’d said last year, or a couple of years ago, had made them reconsider some big decision in their life.  Or that even though they never left any comments, they read my blog every time I posted and was so inspired by my paintings that it was a reminder that situations can change in a person’s life, no matter our age or years of doing one thing rather than another.  Another person commented on how she used the photo of one of my paintings to get her through a difficult time.  I had no idea that my comments or art had had any of those effects.  It was only the electrified atmosphere of the once a year deep meeting of souls that allowed me to know that at all.  (Of course, we can also do incredible harm and not know it.  So many of us are healing from unintentional or truly ignorant woundings.  Unintended or not, the pain is still deep.  That is why we need to live our lives as clearly and as lovingly as we can —- this is how we can be responsible, as far as humanly possible, that our influence is at least not harmful.)

Dr. E. unknowingly reinforced this learning for me.  She exhorted each of us, repeatedly, to do our work; that if we put it out into the world it will find its audience, the “lone soul” who needs that particular encouragement or idea.  Truly, we cannot measure our effectiveness when what we want to do is to encourage soul life; we cannot judge the quality of our work by the immediate or visible response to it.  Our work is to do the work, to do that which we are pulled to do, and to do it in as disciplined, whole-hearted, and responsible a way as we can.

To be a freelance lover of all the world, to nurture liberty in the hearts and minds of those with whom I interact, this is my life and work.  I know my intent and my effort; I will never know all the effect.  We do not know what we do.