In 2009, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with Marion Woodman. Truly, she is one of the greats in Depth Psychology. Not only a woman who runs in a world that has been traditionally dominated by its male founders and successors, Dr. Woodman has an authenticity and joie de vivre about her that is unmistakable. She has done the work to engage the world through soul, and that has truly had an impact on me, and on the world at large.
I will never forget her saying she never sat down to write without getting into her body first and that the best way she'd found was to listen to Chopin's Nocturnes and let herself move. The next thing I knew, I was rolling around the on floor with Marion and 50 other people I'd never met before and experiencing myself in a whole new way. And she was 80 at the time! Truly amazing!
The following content comes from a book review on the site of the C.G. Jung Society of Montreal at http://sites.google.com/site/cgjungmontreal/book-reviews-winterspri...
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Volume XXV, Number 1
Bone: Dying into Life
New York: Viking Penguin, 2000. 246 pp.
In Bone, Marion Woodman writes movingly about her struggle with cancer, which began in the early 1990s. Written in a more accessible style than some of her books, this work shows how she was able to draw upon many resources in her struggle with the disease, and was able to maintain a gruelling schedule for much of the period.
The book is written in journal style, so it is easy to follow. Those familiar with Woodman’s works may find it a pleasant change from some of her heavier works, although the subject matter is far from light. It begins in 1993, when she first discovered she had cancer and would need major surgery, and goes on for about a year and a half, until at least the first stage of the battle appeared to be over. In it we learn a lot about Woodman’s private life, her former career as a teacher, her relationships with husband, family, many friends and colleagues. We learn how she was able to apply insights from her long experience as a Jungian analyst to the fight of her life.
She drew on sources of feminine wisdom to deal with a disease that targeted her female organs. She used the resources of modern medicine, but also those of the older feminine tradition of healing by means of energy, herbs and nutrients.
Woodman writes of the death of her brother from cancer, years before. She also details changes she made in her life to accommodate the illness—closing her analytic practice, cutting back on travel, settling into a new home. She writes with great feeling of her experiences as she awaited and recovered from both surgery and radiation therapy and battled certain patriarchal aspects of the medical establishment.
Woodman discusses openly her confrontation with aging and mortality. She notes that during her illness and treatment she experienced many losses.
The deepest loss of all was loss of my connection to the sacred union within—matter no longer permeated by spirit. I was no longer galvanized by the inner marriage that kept me alive, in life, consciously trying to articulate and write. With that loss of creativity went my power to heal myself. I could not connect with the life force. No energy could get past the darkness in my pelvis to go down into my legs. No connection to the earth. By the time I began to realize what was happening, even the sexual urge was not strong enough to pull me into life.
Still, Woodman appears to have a lot of energy at her disposal. Despite the illness and treatment, she keeps her journal, travels, entertains, speaks and keeps in touch with a large number of people. She notes that the cancer diagnosis destroyed the previous sense she had of knowing her own body, but clearly it did not destroy her determination to live her own way. She also writes of the many projections cancer patients are subjected to, those subtle ways in which they often get blamed for having caused their own disease.
By agreeing to be treated with radiation, Woodman worried that she was betraying the Great Mother, but she did it anyway. She generally experienced lack of comprehension of her soul concerns from medical personnel, but she also recounts incidents of great kindness from doctors, nurses and technicians. In one case, she ended a relationship with a doctor because she found him too pessimistic.
Toward the end of the book Woodman notes that
… simplifying became my total focus ... I believe that failure to simplify would lead me back into cancer because I could lose touch with my life vibration—my tone that sustains my life force … I must stay in touch with whatever keeps me focused on the still point—the place of exact harmony in body and psyche. Simplify life to that point where the dance can happen—the dance between consciousness and the unconscious.
For anyone who has had an encounter with serious illness, this should be an inspiring story. I was drawn to it because I had experienced a cancer scare that fortunately turned out to be a false alarm at about the same time as she was undergoing her trial by fire. Like Woodman, I found that the experience helped me to develop new approaches to life.
Woodman shows how cancer can be not just an ending, but also an initiation into a new and more authentic life. Faced with the probability of a fatal disease, she was able to re-orient her priorities and sort out her relationships in order to live more fully. In writing so openly about her disease and her own inner life, she has given a gift to all of us as we struggle to face our own mortality bravely.