Pacifica Graduate Institute Celebrates 40 Years
My doctoral alma mater, Pacifica Graduate Institute is celebrating its 40th anniversary. A truly magical place, where students of Mythology and Jungian Depth Psychology are held in the bossom of the foothills overlooking the Pacifica coast and the literary legacy of great teachers and mentors of mythology and depth psychology. The school houses a number of archival collections including those of Joseph Campbell, Marija Gimbutas, James Hillman, Marion Woodman, and reknown classicist & Pacifica professor, Christine Downing. In honor of their 40th anniversary, Pacifica alumni have published a book collecting memories and tributes to our beloved alma mater. Below is a reprint of my article.
Tending the Mind and Soul at Pacifica
More than fifteen years before entering Pacifica, I wrote my thesis for an M.A. in English on Flannery O’Connor’s work. While I delved into the fascinating world of O’Connor’s themes and character’s, hoping someday to write great works, I found myself jealous of her extended stay at the Yaddo writer’s retreat in New York where she was enveloped for a time in a world of supportive peers and mentors.
It was about midway through my second semester at Pacifica when I realized that I had unwittingly found my own creative retreat. Yes, the schedule was rigorous and the standards were high, but for three days each month, the rest of the world was put at bay while the pursuit of knowledge and our passions became paramount. Always arriving in the mantle of burn out, the Pacifica setting and community never failed to foster a rejuvenation of my spirit and objectives.
Perhaps this was especially important since the Pacifica curriculum functions as a sort of medicine wheel process in which we not only accumulate knowledge, but also activate our inner workings. As we delved into many of the most profound questions, ideas, and stories of humanity, we had the support of the comforting campuses, the caring faculty, and the shared experiences of our cohorts. For example, right from the start of the Folk Story class I was in the grip of powerful archetypes. As I worked on my presentation, I became so caught up that I would work ridiculously long hours on it, even more than thirty-six hours straight as I finished. It was only a ten-minute presentation. This was absurd, and of course, I ran over time and had to be cut off, and I could have sworn that I was only speaking five minutes when I was stopped. After my presentation, we took a break, and I went into the garden and cried—but not alone. Few words were needed as friends sat with me while I finally found myself slipping from the grip of the archetypes. I would never have survived this journey alone. Yet, it absolutely helped me to evolve into the kind of person and writer that I had hoped to become.
Though I’ve been gone a little while now, I still treasure the special friendships and professional liaison’s that my time at Pacifica yielded. We cannot share a soul journey such as this without making deep friendships along the way.