Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen is a psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, and an internationally known author and speaker who has deep ties with the Feathered Pipe Ranch, hosting women’s workshops in Montana since the 1980s. She is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and is the author of thirteen books in over one hundred foreign editions, including Goddesses in Every Woman and Like A Tree: How Trees, Women and Tree People Can Save the Planet.
Jean has been an outspoken feminist activist for decades and is an NGO Permanent Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women from the Women’s World Summit Foundation in Geneva. She also represents Pathways To Peace, The Millionth Circle, Earthchild Institute, Women’s Perspective, and the International Public Policy Institute.
In today’s conversation, we float through topics as if riding a leaf down a stream—beginning with her upbringing as a Japanese American during World War II, her first memories of recognizing injustices and privilege, moments of divine connection and humility, the Age of Aquarius and so much more. We discuss the possibility of transformation during this liminal space of global pandemic–a topic she covered in a recent TedTalk titled: Crisis as a Turning Point: The Gifts of Liminal Time.
Perhaps most synchronistic is the thread that weaves itself through our entire conversation: The Dandelion Effect. It was Jean who coined the phrase and gave us permission to use it to name this podcast, so its extra special to share this time with her on the show and hear her interpretation of the phrase.
Help us spread the word and leave a review here!
This program is brought you by the Feathered Pipe Foundation and its kind supporting community, who has been inspiring positive change in the world since its inception in 1975. Please consider joining us with your kind donation.
Andy Vantrease 00:17
Welcome to The Dandelion Effect podcast a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that help them blossom into their unique version of this human experience. This podcast is a production of the Feather Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community and empowerment.
Andy Vantrease 01:05
Hi, friends welcome back to another episode of The Dandelion Effect podcast. I’m your host, Andy Vantrease. And today I have the absolute honor of speaking with Jean Shinoda Bolen. Jean is a psychiatrist Jungian analyst an internationally known author and speaker who has deep ties with the Feather Pipe Ranch, holding women’s circles and workshops in Montana since the 1980s. She is a distinguished life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and is the author of 13 books in over 100 foreign additions, including Goddesses and Everywoman and Like a Tree: How trees, women and true people can save the planet. Jean has been an outspoken feminist activist for decades and is an NGO Permanent Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women from the Women’s World Summit Foundation in Geneva. She also represents pathways to peace, The Millionth Circle, Earthchild Institute, Women’s Perspective and the International Public Policy Institute. Now you know why I say especially as a woman, it’s an honor to be speaking with Jean.
Andy Vantrease 02:08
In today’s conversation, we float through topics as if riding a leaf down a stream, beginning with her upbringing as a Japanese American during World War II, our first memories of recognizing injustices and privilege, moments of divine connection and humility, the Age of Aquarius, and so much more. We discussed the possibility of transformation during this liminal space of global pandemic, a topic she covered in a recent TED Talk titled “Crisis as a Turning Point: The gifts of liminal time.”
Andy Vantrease 02:37
Perhaps most synchronistic, though, is the thread that weaves itself through our entire conversation, the ‘dandelion effect’ — how ideas begin as seeds, and you don’t always know where they will land or how they will grow and who will nurture them, but you send them out into the winds of the world with hope anyway, and simply watch what happens. It was actually Jean who coined this phrase and one of her newsletters last year and gave us permission to use it to name this podcast. So it’s extra special to share this time with her on the show and listen to her talk about what the ‘dandelion effect’ means to her. Without further ado, please enjoy this conversation and help me welcome my friend Jean Shinoda Bolen.
Andy Vantrease 03:18
I tend to ask guests a bit about what they would consider to be their origin story. And for some people that reminds them of the people and the ancestors that they came from. It reminds them of events in their young life and their childhood. So when I asked you that question, tell me about your origin story, how would you begin to describe that?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 03:42
I’m thinking back to the beginning of World War II, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and it wasn’t too long after that, that President Roosevelt issued a presidential order, executive order, to get all people of Japanese ancestry away from the west coast of the United States of America. And since most Japanese Americans were in California, that was the state that had felt the largest impact of what we call, “The Evacuation.” And under The Evacuation, what happens is that parts of California were declared under martial law. It didn’t matter that we were American citizens, that my parents were born in the United States, that my grandparents came to the United States, and that we considered ourselves American citizens and were up until the time of the Presidential Order 9066 after which we were treated in California only, as if we were all enemy aliens. And because I have a doctor, mother, a businessman, father, people that had a sense of being able to make decisions, I mean, my father had an activist side, he tried to get the Japanese community in Los Angeles, to consider appealing to the President, before the martial law was actually enacted. But the Japanese communities there decided that, to prove our loyalty, we would go along with the presidential order, which was not something that my father and mother wanted to go along with. And so we moved out of the LA area, just before martial law applied, and we moved to another part of California, so my father could get papers to get us out of the state. Which he did. And so when the papers came, we went through Los Angeles through Union Station, and nobody stopped us and nobody asked for the papers. Once we’re out of the state, we were free American citizens again.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 06:16
Now, this is family history. I was probably about five or six then. For me all these moves and getting on the train and going across the United States with a train, it was an adventure. I was not aware that we could have had difficulty getting out of the state. And if we had, what could have happened to us happened to the majority of Japanese American citizens and their parents if they were not citizens. And so we went across the states between California in New York, my mother was born in the east and her parents and siblings were in the eastern part of the United States.
Andy Vantrease 06:58
Wow, what was it like for you, when you left California? Do you remember any of the experiences that you had or feelings that you had?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 07:06
Travelling there, there weren’t very many Japanese faces. So lots of people thought we were we were just Asians, meaning Chinese or something. And during the war, my father worked to get his relatives out of the concentration camps. They were called relocation camps, but they, they were out in nowhere land really out in the mountains of Colorado and Montana and various other places where they were surrounded by barbed wire. And there were, they were tar paper and, and wood barracks, and they were surrounded by armed people.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 07:49
Now, the reason for bringing this up now is one that you ask your question, but I’m aware that one of the reasons for thinking about it is that the Congress just passed a declaration supporting Asian American Pacific Islanders, and being highly critical about the hate crimes that have arisen in this recent past year. It’s because our last President Trump kept calling the Coronavirus, the Asian or the Chinese disease. And it somehow gave people who have prejudices and anger and otherwise feel impotent, that if they can then lord it over or beat up, during this pandemic, a lot of Asians were pushed and beaten. And often they were they were elderly. And so this is a reason for thinking about how that began quite a long time ago. It then got quiet and now it’s up again. And like Black Lives Matters as well, there’s a sense of actually addressing the issue of prejudice, a hierarchy in which a white male especially is privileged and can beat up on push around and feel superior to someone whose skin color is darker or, you know, that’s where we are now.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 09:22
So that had a big impact on me, our otherwise have grown up in Los Angeles. I didn’t grew up in Los Angeles during the war years, we moved about six times. I went to about four or five different elementary schools within the first and second grade. And so I was a new kid who would come in to a new school with my Japanese face. However, it was in New York, it was in in Colorado, in Denver and and Grand Junction and in Blackfoot, Idaho, where I was more a curiosity, then the face of the enemy. So it had an impact on me and being my natural, friendly self, because I grew up as a loved first child, and felt comfortable in the world I was in. And so then when all the war years went on, and it was one school after another, I was sensible enough to recognize that I didn’t know how I’d be welcomed when I entered a new class. And I kept entering new classes mid semester.
Andy Vantrease 10:34
Jean Shinoda Bolen 10:35
And it turned out to be quite fine. I really was, if anything, you know, either accepted as a new kid or the curious new kid. And so, with one or two exceptions, during the war years, I did not run into personal prejudice.
Andy Vantrease 10:53
It’s always so amazing to me how much children pick up one. And although you saw these moves as an adventure, I’m sure that there was a growing knowledge at least or growing awareness of why you left and then like you mentioned, having to almost prep yourself for “Okay, I’m the new kid again, here we go,” and what that is going to be like, and it seems like rather young, you seem to very resilient and also very open to life and to people. And I’m curious where that bigger picture mentality might have come from, if you have any insight on that?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 11:38
Beginning in the late 70s, I think it was towards the end, when we watch on our small TV sets back when they made that first trip to the moon. And the whole point was to show our superiority as a country and as technology, our technology by landing on the moon, which was amazing. But the thing that moved us human beings, were seeing the Earth from outer space, and seeing our mother the Earth, and she was beautiful, and one. And so that sense that we are this planet Earth, with all the diversity of human beings, and animals and birds, and all that there is on this beautiful planet. And we saw that there was black space behind the planet. So this is home. And this is a home that we are sharing with other races if we are thinking just about humans, but with all the diversity. So that was one sense of consciousness raising that had to do with a sense of everything alive on this planet shares this one home. The trees are to human beings and all life on this planet that breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, that the trees do for us what the placenta did for each of us. When we were held in the womb space of our biological mothers.
Andy Vantrease 13:23
Oh, gosh, that’s such a beautiful image.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 13:27
It truly is. You know, the placenta brings in oxygen, as our lungs are formed as our every cell forms. And over nine months, or almost nine months, we grow from an egg and a sperm into a fetus, on the verge of coming out as a newborn. And once we have the capacity to take a breath, once we get through the birth canal, and we enter the world and we take our first breath and cry probably. At that point, we shift from being inside our personal mother into the womb space that is called, the atmosphere of our planet. And so now this is a time for activism about growing trees and not cutting them all down and giving women reproductive rights to decide about having children. Because [with] not enough trees and too many people we’re creating a situation of global warming. And we only have a matter of of years if we keep it up. We will have used our growing intelligence to end the life that we could have had on this beautiful planet, because global warming would make that not possible. So we were on the edge. Will we evolve? Or will we devolve? And we have about maybe 50 years or less.
Andy Vantrease 15:09
Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard as well, if that. Where did your spirit of activism start? Do you remember moments where you were looking around and thinking, “This isn’t right,” or “I need to do something about this?” Where did that begin for you?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 15:27
Well, you know, I’m a Jungian analyst. It helps to sort of have an appreciation for how people come into the world with an innate quality of extraversion, introversion, feeling or thinking, or a sensate capacity to take in, or an intuitive capacity to take in. With a strong feeling sense, it’s easy to feel outraged when bad things are being done to good people and stuff like that. That and role models of parents who acted with integrity. Both of my parents were that kind of people. And so to sit by and not say something, when it seems just really unfair, is something that I’ve had to deal with in myself, because I’ve had a tendency, even…I mean, very much I was, I was thinking of the one that made the biggest difference probably was when I entered high school, and in the city of Los Angeles. The high schools are fed by junior high schools that in turn come from elementary schools. That’s how it works. By the time you get to a high school, a high school, such as I went to that was named after a Supreme Court Chief Justice–this is John Marshall High School in Los Angeles–the discrepancy between kids that came from the high-end socio-economic public schools versus the ones that came from the equivalent of the wrong side of the tracks. And watching a major organization that was supposed to be open to all kids who came into that new high school and seeing the favoritism towards the upper and upper-middle class kids, I was bit outraged at the unfairness about saying on one hand that any 10th grader who would be interested in being a member of this organization would be welcome. And then watching it not be true. And I watched that happen. And I spoke up. And I spoke up because I was I was really feeling it was unjust. Well, I was in the vice principal’s office and nothing flat.
Andy Vantrease 17:53
How did he respond to you.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 17:55
Well, the vice principal thought that I had misbehaved. And she wanted an apology from me. And she wanted me to go to apologize to the sponsor that organization. And I said, I can apologize for how I spoke up and what I said, but I am not going to take anything back about why I said it. She said that I could go sit sit in the chair out in the hall. Well, I did. I sat in the chair and sat in the hall and was supposed to think about how I I should go apologize, say Mia culpa equivalent or something like that. But I didn’t, I was very clear. Well, I sat there for, I don’t know, it seemed like a couple of hours, and then the school bell rings in the schools over. So that that apparently ended that. But the vice principal was, by the way, the head of student government. So in two or three more years since I’ve always been somebody who did well academically and I also ran for office. And I also did things like writing for the newspaper and below ever. So by the time I was a junior and senior, I was very much a class officer. And then I became a student body officer. And the vice principal by then was also in charge of that. And she held it against me, what I did back when I was a 10th grader. Here I was this person who was such a high achieving person. See, I’m in that birth group in which there were less kids born. To be in my generation, you were born towards the end of the major depression we had in the United States of America. And so it was a smaller cohort than any time since. And so we pretty much if we were doing really well in high school, that we could get accepted into the most colleges. There wasn’t a lot of kids competing for each place.
Andy Vantrease 20:01
Jean Shinoda Bolen 20:02
I was confident enough to only apply to one college. And when I was turned down by that college, it didn’t make sense. And my father who I could count on him to have my back, he went up to the college to find out why his daughter was rejected. And it came out that it was rejected because this vice principal who had had me sitting out in the hall, and was the head of student government sponsor. She was a sponsor for student government. She had written a negative a referral. So I learned something about power.
Andy Vantrease 20:44
Oh, my goodness. Wow. That seems like a very, very long grudge.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 20:51
Well, it did. And but, but, you know, I had, I had really thought that I had proven myself. And I guess one of the things is that maybe it was also my own wanting to appreciate that she might have to take back her, her earlier impression, which she obviously didn’t. But I thought that was a important lesson. You know, the journey actually is kind of a…I think of it as a spiral journey. As we go through life, it’s not a straight line. And you learn along the way. And you learn, learn what your own susceptibilities are, and you learn that when you run into difficulties, that they are opportunities that can change you for the better or for the worse. You can grow bitter, or you can grow stronger, or you can learn from things. One of the things that I think I learned was a certain degree of humility, there, which I had much more to learn in that period between high school and college when one decides what you’re going to do with your life.
Andy Vantrease 22:04
Oh, that period of time. And you know, I always think that’s so early to decide what you’re going to do with your life at that point. But what were you on the path for after high school?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 22:15
I was going to go into law because I was a national debater in high school. And everybody in the, among us, were going into law. And I had no intention to going into medicine, though my mother was a doctor. Her side of the family had two brothers and two sisters, my mother included, who became doctors and my grandfather was a doctor. So it was certainly seem that it was just natural that I am a doctor. But it really wasn’t natural at all. Back then in high school, when my skills were, were ones that could easily take me into law, and I’m not scientifically minded, I took minimum math, pre-med requires a great deal of science and math and physics and a few other courses like that, that I never loved. Towards the end of high school, when I was on my way I thought to be going on to law school, I had another major sort of sense of humility at making a decision around feeling, in some ways, kind of full of myself because of all of the awards I had won and the talents I seem to have and all of that. And I had a realization up in the mountains at a religious camp, that every single thing that I was good at had been a gift. It hadn’t been that I deserved it or that I be full of myself because I could win these sorts of things, and all When I realized that I could just as easily have not had these abilities. And somehow in in that it was a spiritual mountain experience. One does feel closer to divinity up in the mountains. I’ve always done so I’ve always felt it out in nature is why am I talking about the archetype of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and who’s whose symbols are such things as the bow and arrow and the moon, the goddess who’s at home in the wilderness much more than Athena is at home in the city. To be up in the mountains for me is to feel closer to the sense of spirit of soul of the wonder. To be up in the mountains to see the Milky Way for the first time was extraordinary. You don’t grow up in Los Angeles and ever seen much of a star at all. Having that sense of being part of this divine gorgeous universe, rather than it was up there, and I was just watching it, I made a decision in that sense of gratitude for what I was given that the decision was to serve. And in that decision, I got a strong intuition that I should be a doctor.
Andy Vantrease 25:32
Did that throw you off?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 25:34
It threw me off. I had said, you know, I was talking to my sense of divinity of God. Now I think of God-Goddess, all it is, I mean, there’s, I’ve no question. But there’s something inside of us and outside of us, that has this divinity quality. Every religion has gotten a little piece of it. But it’s far greater than anybody could ever fully grasp, or any one religion can say, “We know what it is, and it is right and right.” My senses is that it is so much larger than any human being can fully grasp. But one takes it in from in the heart, and soul. And so I, I promised that I would serve in my humility and thankfulness for the gifts I had, that if I got this insight that I should be a doctor, I would do so even though these are not my talents to, the pre-med ones. But I did take pre-med throughout my college years, struggled with them, took courses that I loved in history, and in various other courses that where the liberal arts. Either the visual arts, the developmental art, history, politics, that sort of thing. Those are my natural tendencies, I really got them. Well, I struggled through and, and I said I would do this, so I did. I persevered. And then I got to where I applied to medical school, and I said, “You know, I could have made a mistake back then. If I don’t get into medical school, I’m gonna say it was a mistake.”
Andy Vantrease 27:19
I completely understand, I have a similar preference for liberal arts. And I went into college as pre-veterinarian. And my first year was like, “What am I doing here?” It just doesn’t come naturally, the physics and the math. And I kind of hear how we’ve both both eventually went the route of what naturally interests us.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 27:44
I went my interviews and the first, first interview I went into, I got to self revealing and too personal, because I got interviewed by one was by an unfeeling surgeon, who I felt probably didn’t think I was a great choice to go into this medical school. And the next person was a psychiatrist who got me into tears. So I thought, as I left that interview, well, I guess not that school, that’s for sure. But that was the University of California at San Francisco, and I was accepted into medical school there. So it’s been a very interesting journey. Because, again, when I went into medical school, I had no idea that I didn’t have a psychiatrist. And I didn’t make that decision right away at all. And so to be where I am, and look back, I mean, one of the things about watching your own journey is you can see it better, as you live longer and look backwards. You can’t see it as you’re living it forward exactly. So the path I’ve taken has brought me to this time in my life. There’s a lot that I am doing now, which is ended up being part of the ‘dandelion effect’.
Andy Vantrease 29:04
Can you talk about what your view of the ‘dandelion effect’ is? Because obviously, we got our podcast name from this idea of the ‘dandelion effect’. We got that from you.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 29:17
It is what I had talked about to Crystal who is taking her mother’s place. India Supera daughter Crystal, did not seem to be somebody who was going to take over the Feathered Pipe, because she was living in Amsterdam, was was a mother. But when India died and and Crystal came with her family, and we all were honoring her mother, it was clear that this was a calling that Crystal has. And there’s something about the sense of of calling that when somebody unexpectedly, I mean, the zigs and zags, right? When I think of my own zigs and zags, or curves, and I think about the journey is very much like the labyrinth, not the Seven Cycle Labyrinth that you see in the western United States. I mean, there’s been like a labyrinth carved into the Anasazi ruins in Colorado, New Mexico, which is different than the labyrinth at ??? Cathedral. On a big labyrinth, you enter it, and you feel as in life, that you’re on a straight line, you think or you know, you have a sense that, well, you’re on the path and you’re going along, and it’s going to be, you know, it’s just headed in the right direction. And then there is a sudden curve, and it’s that moment of “big oops.” It’s like, is this a dead end? What next? And then you find yourself continuing on that path. And then I think in the ??? Cathedral, there’s something like 22 major, big turns. It’s whenever you think life is smooth, and then “Whoa. It’s not smooth. Big change. Now what?” And those “now whats” are the key points in my own life, where I did not expect that whatever happened, would happen. And then adapting to the change, and feeling the loss and feeling lost momentarily, and then trusting that the path will continue to open up. And so this liminal time when we are in a time in which you can’t go back.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 31:48
The shutdown began in March. And I had just come back from my last big conference in 2020, which was the women economic forum or WEF in Cairo, Egypt. And so I come back from Egypt in March, I scheduled, I’m scheduled to see patients in my office. I’m in my office one day, when there’s the official shutdown. And sheltering in place was now the new way of being. So I’ve been sheltered in place ever since, meaning that I’ve been doing all my, my analytic psychiatric practice, and all my meetings and conferences on zoom. And it has felt as if I have been doing and calling it the ‘dandelion effect’. I say what I’m saying in the moment, it’s like blowing dandelion seeds out over internet winds, trusting synchronicity, that it will, if there’s anything that I’m saying, that will mean something to somebody who tuned in either accidentally or on purpose, and got the words that help define something in themselves, that supports them to do what is truly meaningful for them, even though nobody in their immediate environment supports that. Because time and time again, you can be born into a family, where they don’t get what [is] your innate talent. You want to be a musician. You can’t be a musician. You want to be a business person. Nobody in our family as a business person. And so whatever it is, that was unacceptable to the family, or to the culture or to the gender. You know, “Girls don’t do that.” Or, “Boys don’t do that.” Or, “You can’t do that.” “Nobody in our family has ever done that,” blah, blah, blah. Then what happens is that our natural talent then is suppressed and you adapt to what the family wants you to be. And if you’re fairly good at it, you manage. But now in this time of pandemic, and sheltering in place, and having maybe probably being out of work, or whatever you are doing at home, this is a time when you actually can be in touch with that which got squashed growing up, but it’s your natural talent. And this is a possibility in this year plus of of liminal time between what was and, we can’t go back to it, and what next is not yet clear. It is during this liminal time that is actually possible to remember, in your dreams, in your memories, the kinds of things that you really had a natural talent for, that you really loved to do at one time in your life and how you got discouraged. You can bring it back into your life.
Andy Vantrease 35:07
Yeah, this idea of utilizing the liminal space to almost reflect and take inventory of your life. This sounds a lot like the TED talk that you did, just recently, right, the gift of liminal space and crisis as a turning point?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 35:25
Ordinary language that I use, it’s how to become who you were meant to be, who you were meant to be has so much to do with the natural talents that you came into the world with, whether they were acceptable or not, and what happened along the way that you learn was important or not important. And so this liminal time, which is a word that comes from the Latin meaning “threshold.” We’ve got this extended threshold, or like the baby that is about to drop into the birth canal, because it’s time to go out into the world. And the one danger time is when you’re in the birth canal. And if you make it through the birth canal, which is like this liminal time, say, and you get born into the world of having used this liminal time to get in touch with those parts of yourself that, that are who you are, and can help you to become who you were meant to be, at a time when you as an individual are part of the humanity that we all are, and this limited time that we all have before global warming, might really bring an end to the evolutionary potential that we have as human beings.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 36:50
So this is what I’m doing, I’m saying yes to this specific program, which is called The Dandelion Effect. It’s all originated from a from the Feather Pipe Foundation and the Feather Pipe Ranch that I’ve been connected with now for decades. And every time I’ve been to the Feathered Pipe, it’s been a new opportunity to be again, up in the mountains, but around kindred souls. And this is this is what often is so important, is the kinds of things that, that not everybody or anybody, as your immediate group, or family or whatever would thinking about doing but you think about doing. And so what’s interesting is sometimes seeing and meeting people at the Feathered Pipe Ranch who’ve come to this particular event that they’ve come by themselves. Some people, of course, always do things with other people. But the person who just decided she’d come all the way to the Feathered Pipe, because something said to go and she wasn’t certain about it. I remember the first time I did a Feathered Pipe event, I had never been to Helena. I had no idea what I had signed myself up to do. And I found that the first women’s groups that came, that every single person felt exactly the same. They had made the choice to come. I had, I had been, by, by then I was the, was most noted for writing Goddesses and Every Woman. And so they, they, they knew me, as you know, they related to what I had written, written. And they’d come out to wherever Helena was, at each of them had a in case this doesn’t turn out, well. This is what they might do.
Andy Vantrease 38:43
Oh, like an escape plan.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 38:49
And Feathered Pipe turned out to be a wonderful place. The Ranch house was, India Supera was an amazing, most, she may be the most individualistic person that I’ve known well, over years. She’s an original, what I call an original.
Andy Vantrease 39:12
Oh, gosh, she is the most original person that I perhaps have ever known in my life. And really, every time I think of that very cliche, little saying, you know, dances to the beat of her own drum or your own drum, I think of her. So I appreciate, you know, being able to bring her up in this conversation and just have some of those memories. And I do want to talk a little bit about the Feather Pipe. So you’re coming back this summer, and have a women circle again, after many, many women’s circles at the Feather Pipe Ranch over the decades. What is it about that place that keeps you coming back? What is that relationship to the land? What is that relationship to the people?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 39:59
It’s one of these things. One is the beauty of the place. To be moved by the beauty of the place and by being in the mountains. And having both time to be in a circle, where speaking from the heart, is the practice. And because so many of the women have always come from different parts of the country, and whatever their expected persona is, that’s a persona and Jungian terms is, is sort of like the clothes you wear, but it’s the image you have among the people that know you. And then if you come all the way to Helena, and then up to the mountains, you know, you’re free to be yourself. There isn’t like, people expecting that you should be the way they think of you being because that’s a model that you kind of grew into becoming. And so many people, so many women, end up being shaped by what other people think of them, and to then be able to, to remember the kid inside of you to remember what she you know, if you went to camp as a kid, now you are a grown woman, but it is like camp. And then it’s like the adolescent who dreams about what she could do with her life.
Jean Shinoda Bolen 41:23
And see, once you’re in a circle of trusting women, anybody in the circle, who can touch off something in yourself, and out of my experience, over time working with circles of women, I, I ended up putting a major source of my activism into the idea of a circle with a spiritual center, a circle that has a, well, if you go up into the mountains, you have a campfire, in the middle of your circle. There is a symbol of light and warmth in the center of a circle in which everybody is equal. When you’re in a circle. It’s not hierarchical. And that model, I wrote a very small book called, The Millionth Circle: How to change ourselves and the world. And I wrote it, I think in something like 1999, and it was used as kind of a seed, like the seeds of an idea around women who had been active in the United Nations, three, gathered, and the Parliament of world religions is interesting meld. And I asked permission to use one day, I got called up and I was asked whether they could use the name the man circle and what I come to the first organizing meeting of it. And that was 20 plus years ago. And it brought me to the United Nation with where the whole next phase of activism, which is about forming a 5th World Conference on Women, and bringing this idea of circle of support to women all over the world in order to fully move into the Age of Aquarius. The Aquarian Age began 20 years ago, but it was just the beginning. And now maybe we’re getting into it. And the Age of Aquarius is that it’s an equal time. We went from the matriarchy to patriarchy. Now how about going into this phase, which would be equality, equality, gender equality, racial equality, if we could in the next several decades, become a sense of humanity in relationship to everything else on this planet, that we also aren’t meant to dominate everything. But we carry certain gifts that no other species has, and with gifts come responsibilities. So you know, I just think that this is an amazing time that if we, as humanity, could learn from the pandemic, could learn from the Coronavirus, that there’s no such thing as national boundaries, that protects us from each other, that we need to become as if we are one humanity. Having been given the gift of this beautiful planet, will we grow up and take care of it? Or will it continuing fights between countries or actually, it’s always between the leaders. It’s like gang warfare in high school. And the maturity of women and women joining together to alter and change this particular outlook could make all the difference. And it may be happening now. I think it could be happening now. I think it’s happening certainly within the worlds in which people communicate, as we are on, on Zoom, because what happens is that families who were separated in different cities, and maybe there was a standard patriarchy that only the guy, guys spoke. But then once you have, communicate on Zoom within a family, and it didn’t matter what age you’re in, and everybody speaks, and they meet regularly, which a lot of families are doing, what had started out is a pretty patriarchal family can start to become increasingly egalitarian. And the kids have their voice. So I’m very hopeful.
Andy Vantrease 45:44
I’ve never really thought of communicating on Zoom or using technology as a way to bring more voices to the table within a family. I think about that on a larger scale, of course, but within a family, I’ve never thought about that. And I like that idea, because I certainly talk with my friends and family members a lot more now. Even through the pandemic, actually, I think I talked to them a lot more. I’m checking in a lot more on Zooms, and we’re just planning different things using these platforms and these devices in ways that we weren’t doing before. So thanks for bringing that up. It’s a really interesting point of kind of decolonizing the communication even within families.
Andy Vantrease 46:34
One thing I wanted to ask you as well was, I think one thing that I typically grapple with, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this is how to individuate, as you mentioned earlier in our conversation, as the definition of becoming who you were meant to be. I feel like there are so many coaches and programs out there that are helping people to become the person they’re supposed to be and find your passions and harness your gifts that you came here with. And also I get confused about how that can fit into the collective. I tend, I think to want to respond to what is going on in the world, rather than finding it very easy to follow my unique path no matter what. So yeah, just curious, from your Jungian perspective. What is the advice for somebody like me who has this type of question?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 47:37
Well, it has to do with what the natural talents and archetypal patterns were built into you, when you came into the world. It’s like we are not a blank slate on which our parents write our personality upon us or something. It’s so clear from the time you see babies in the newborn nursery for that matter, about how there’s the ones that wiggle and cry out, and the ones that are sucking their thumbs and very silent, or not sucking their thumbs, or whatever they’re doing. You can see the patterns before kids learning, even learn how to talk. You can see their energy even see that they start out was certain kinds of innate qualities. And that’s true for everybody we come in with innate qualities. And they are then either welcomed or they are forbidden, or they’re suppressed depending on what gender you are in, how you were expected to behave. And that shapes, either your passivity or your activism in growing up. But then by the time you get to be an adult, and especially during a time of sheltering in place where you actually have time to dream, and remember the dreams that you had, and remember the energy and the dreams. And what did you do with that? So I’m saying that to individuate and become who you were meant to be. That it also is very important that you find a circle of support. That’s why I think the combination of of individuation, and circle, or and a deep friendship, or a deep connection in marriage or whatever it is that that where you are free to be yourself. I remember at the beginning of the women’s movement, there was a child book called, Free to be You and Me. And that is the question. If we could be free to grow into who we were meant to be, then there wouldn’t be a hierarchy as there is where power over. In watching the Biden talk last night about the economic family kinds of proposals set forth, that there is something wrong with the idea that certain people are hugely wealthy, and certain people don’t have enough to eat. And so there’s something about that also, that you can start looking after the collective. You can start seeing, saying, you know, I could have been that person. I could have been born to those parents instead of my parents. I mean, as soon as you start to have that awareness, you can have some gratitude, if you’re on the, in the privileged group, and not think you deserve it, because you’re somehow much better than that other kid who was born at the same time that you were born, but were born in a different class of people of color, of gender, of whatever. You ask the question about collective. And I think that one of the things is exactly that is to become who you were meant to be. But also to not think that because you have more privileges, or more education, or more wealth inherent, including that you earned it, that you somehow shouldn’t bother to support the kinds of things that would provide good nutrition to kids born to another kind of family and another kind of situation.
Andy Vantrease 51:17
You know, you mentioned in in another interview, you did that you were asked what do you want your legacy to be? And in realizing that you, you drew your memoir back from the publisher, because you said I’m not done yet. So the last question I have is just what is bringing you hope these days? What is what’s keeping the fire lit within you and keeping you going?
Jean Shinoda Bolen 51:39
What’s behind I’m not done yet has to do with, I think it’s both a responsibility and a great privilege in this pandemic time to be able to, with the help of synchronicity, which was the first book I ever wrote way back when called the Tao of Psychology Synchronicity and the Self. And it’s still probably the most readable book, small book, and understandable book about what synchronicity is because Carl Jung coined the word “synchronicity.” Otherwise, there was no word for the combination between something going on inside and something that responds, or supports, or reflects back to you from the outside that you couldn’t have brought about yourself. It isn’t cause and effect. It’s synchronicity. It’s about the level of meaning. In this pandemic, that which I can do only one to one in my office and overtime, I have an opportunity to send feelings and thoughts and images or whatever out on internet winds, which is this ‘dandelion effect’, and trust, that if there’s somebody that needed to hear one little thing, in order to hold on to it. You know, remember Dumbo in the feather?
Andy Vantrease 53:05
Jean Shinoda Bolen 53:06
He had he was given a feather to hold on to with his trunk and told that it was magical and he could flap his ears and fly. He could fly. But he didn’t know he could fly. And that little feather gave him the belief that he could fly that he didn’t have before. And then of course, once he began to fly, he knew he could fly. And this is what, what the internet winds are for me. It’s like it brings the idea that I might send out on the winds and somebody will tune into a radio broadcast or something for just a short while, hears it and it support what they are just on the edge of, of doing that goes from inside out. And if everybody had that kind of calling from inside out encouraged, their lives would be different, and their influence would be different, and change would be coming through individuals, being true to themselves, the possibilities that is innate in them.
Andy Vantrease 54:20
Jean Shinoda Bolen, a fierce and determined soul who was so outwardly honest in this conversation that it really made me want to take a look at my own life with that same transparency. Most of the interviews I’ve heard from her focus on archetypes and her work, but I really appreciated her pulling back the veil on her upbringing in her personal life, and sharing some tough personal realizations. Namely, the times that Nature, The Divine, The Higher Power, however you want to describe it, infused her with the humility that she needed at the time. That realization that everything in her life that she was good at had been a gift and being born into her particular family with the talents and skills she had. All of that comes with responsibility and an awareness about timing and synchronicity play a huge role in who we are in this world. I know I’m sitting with that idea for a while moving forward and asking myself the questions, what is my responsibility and showing up with my particular gifts? And what does it look like for me to individuate and serve the collective.
Andy Vantrease 55:25
For more on genes work visit jeanbolan.com, where you can find her TED talk and other videos, buy her books, read articles and blogs and much more.
A special thank you to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers, whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how ideas move through the world.
This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a 501c3 dedicated to healing, education, community and empowerment. If you’d like to help support this project, please visit FeatheredPipe.com/gratitude or leave a review on Apple podcasts and share with your friends. Be sure to tune in to our next episode in two weeks. We cannot wait to share another amazing conversation with you. Until then, have a beautiful day.