Our body is our beloved, and our destiny is found in our dreams:
“Where are you?” asked Marjorie.
“On a boat off the coast of The Big Island of Hawaii,” I answered as a dozen dolphins took flight into the air on both sides of the tourist boat.
“What are you doing there?”
“I came to meet Marion Woodman. I’m studying with her for the week and wanted to give her a copy of my script Beginner at Life. It was inspired by her writing.”
“She’s a famous Jungian analyst, and author of Addiction to Perfection. She’s worked with Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda. Marion’s been a big influence on my work and life. We did this exercise with dreams yesterday, and I discovered this new kind of love inside of myself…”
“Cool. About the 2007 Mom Egg…”
As I hung up with my co-editor, Marjorie Tesser, I noticed myself in an unfamiliar state of being. Joy? Joy, to me, had always been a foreign land that only issued visas to the spiritual elite—an assembly to which I had yet to make the cut. But now suddenly, I began to sense this light vibration, a feeling that I suspected was known as “joy!” not just radiating within the dolphins, but — within me.
Only two weeks earlier, I had taken my own brave leap upwards into the air out of dark waters and booked a ticket to fly further westward than I had ever been before. Usually a confident traveler, as I flew over the Pacific Ocean and looked out into the pitch-black darkness, I felt an unexpected fear. What would happen if I did not successfully make this expansive crossing-over? I prayed.
Different kinds of fear, requiring more than prayer, brought me to the books of Marion Woodman in my late twenties. Then inner destructive forces pursued me in the guise of post-partum ailments, settling a sense of death upon my shoulder. As I simultaneously tried to care for my infant son, tackle a master’s degree in medieval theology and sort out my personal history in an autobiographical novel, Marion’s voice from the pages of her powerful books navigated me through those deep waters, and eventually brought me to a new land: a place of greater unity between my body and soul, matter everywhere with spirit.
Despite feeling indebted to Marion, it had never occurred to me to write her a letter or seek to meet her face to face. When the student is ready…
One night at a drumming circle long after all the leaves had fallen in 2006, Janice Rous, with tambourine in hand, danced over and introduced herself to me and, within minutes, we discovered that we both knew Marion. I, through her books– Janice, personally! She told me about Marion’s workshops, and, at the first opportunity, I was on a plane.
I arrived early the first day to the workshop at Kuhina Wellness Center. Both empty and full of expectation, I entered the enormous room on the top floor of the massive barn-like structure. My eyes quickly rested on a radiant presence with loosely gathered gray hair at the northern point of the circle; with tears streaming down my face, I suddenly began to laugh, because I knew I had made it– made it home.
When my turn came to introduce myself, I told the truth: Each July, from 1999-2002, much like a hermit, I sequestered myself in a bedroom at my sister’s home in Toronto, and, while my son attended day camp, I delved body, mind and soul into one of Marion’s books. The reading was arduous. But, by 2002, my master’s degree was completed; by ’03, my divorce in process; and by ’04, I was performing early drafts of Beginner at Life in East Village bars.
I landed in Hawaii thinking it was an ending, only to discover it was a new beginning in my relationship to Marion and my own creative journey. Marion saw my bout of post-partum atypical anorexia (like all addictions) as a potential doorway into a much more expanded, daring, soulful life if I was prepared to make an even deeper commitment to mining my dreams and unconscious. Marion saw anorexia as a metaphor: you simply will neither eat nor digest the world that has been given to you.
In one dream exercise, I learned that the deep cellular love that I had experienced in a pivotal dream almost ten years prior actually resided within me and was available for me to draw upon at will through active imagination. This love was not external to me, locked-up in some heavenly storehouse or within the ephemeral body of the dream image, but lived within my very being. Within our dream images is healing energy, but it often takes just as much courage to embrace the dreams we receive by night as the dreams that we work towards by day.
By the end of the workshop, I still had one remaining question, “Marion, The Pregnant Virgin? Who is she inside of me? I am Jewish.” Marion explained that our essence, a.k.a., “the untrammeled forest” is the Virgin part of the artist that can be wholly at one with the Divine or the Muse long enough to receive creative inspiration (i.e., penetration), carry the divine child through gestation (nine months), and birth the new life into the world. In secular terms, contain our own creative process to the very end.
The Eden Trilogy has taken me much more than nine months to birth. But thanks to the skillful midwifery and generous support of Marion and her husband, Ross, I was able to witness the first breaths of the three plays on a single night in New York City, June 18, 2012.
Alana Ruben Free is a playwright, poet, and writer. She was founding editor of The Mom Egg, and is the producer of the documentary, “The Last Stand”. Her play, “Beginner at Life”, part of The Eden Trilogy, has been produced in Australia, Israel, Canada, USA, and Italy. http://www.beginneratlife.com