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“When you become a lover of what is, the war is over.”- Byron Katie

In order to fully understand the significance of this illness in my life and to open to the possibility that it was, in fact, for my highest evolution, I engaged in conventional and unconventional psychotherapy, holotropic breathwork, energy work, as well as hypnotherapy to open to the bigger picture perspective of my soul’s trajectory. I understand that many people do not believe in reincarnation, so the concept of past lives might be be a stretch. In those situations in transpersonal psychology, perhaps it would be more acceptable to use the term “symbolic story.”As in dreams, the symbolism is never arbitrary. Through hypnosis, I was able to explore a past life, or symbolic story, where I was in Eastern Europe during the 40s. I was a wealthy Jewish woman who clung to her material items and was thrown into the street with all my neighbors, “like cattle.” I died in a gas chamber while I realized that I had focused on materialism rather than love. Then we fast-forward to when I was exploring choices for my present lifetime, I realized why I chose a catastrophic illness as a strong possibility, and how something as horrific as that could be for my highest purpose. The hope was that I would realize that I am not my body. The body is merely a vehicle that is chosen and used for the lifetime, then dies. I chose a strong, beautiful and dependable body in order to support my evolution and the evolution of others around me. It seemed significant during hypnosis that the element of surprise was added to shake people out of complacency. A major teaching for me in this lifetime was to feel deserving of love.

The information during this hypnotherapy session confirmed earlier insights regarding the illness. Early on, I’d “heard” internally the phrase, “With the symptoms, comes the Renaissance.” Although I was far from understanding this challenge as being regenerative at the time, this was consistent with that understanding. Since my life has always been about transformation and service, I felt joyful to do my part in forwarding the evolution of the planet.

The constellation of my life has changed tremendously since my diagnosis. Many friends have moved away from me, and some at lightning speed. I have compassion for them as my circumstances can elicit much fear; “if that happened to her, it could happen to me or my loved ones.” I myself can remember feeling that way about frightening circumstances. The people in my life, however, who could hold my experience, grew exponentially. Actually, everybody grew including the friends who left. When you see your limitations, that can be transformative as well.

Accepting the comings and goings has been a large part of letting go of will and moving toward acceptance. Through acceptance, I have felt liberated and moved into a state of joy and deep connection. Inner and outer connectedness is the likely outcome when one has the spiritual maturity to stay. Pema Chodrun, a Tibetan nun teaches a whole practice of “staying,” staying in the chaos of transformational change. When I realized that I could find joy in these circumstances, I knew I could find joy in any circumstances. After all, who gets to deconstruct their life one event or person at a time? Who gets to unpack and consider every aspect of their life one event at a time? This week was spent going through all of my clothing and jewelry choosing their destinations. This is for Casey, this is for Jordan, this goes to the Free Box in Crestone. I am concurrently grieving and celebrating every aspect of my life over a sixty year span. Also this week, I completed my end of life paperwork which will enable me to have an open air cremation that is legal in Crestone when the time comes, whether it be in ten years or ten minutes I have created my closing act down to the Native American flute and Taiko drums. Who gets to do that?

I don’t want to give the impression that this process has been easy; on the contrary, it has been fraught with much grief, thoughtfulness, and life review. What have I left incomplete? What relationships are less than clean and loving? I can even project into the future, to anticipate future needs of my children and grandchildren and communicate with them, like time travel. Casey set up e-mail addresses for her boys for me to date in the future so they will have communication from me.

How fortunate I feel to be able to be present with myself and with my children through this process. Really, who gets to do this?

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“Both the rational and the irrational lead to the same understanding. Truly, the path traveled matters little, the will to arrive is enough.”–Albert Camus

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In my opinion, multiple sclerosis is a catchall for different disorders. Medical science is in the dark ages when it comes to finding the etiology and then effective treatments for autoimmune illnesses. There are a great many imbalances in our culture that lead to even greater imbalances. The ravages of aggression over love is probably the greatest imbalance which needs to be addressed in order for greater wellness in our culture.

I believe that imbalances on the psychospiritual level create imbalances on the more dense levels. A valid and personal example is becoming more evident on the microbial level. I became aware that microbes and stealth infections were on the rise when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2004 and I underwent treatment. An eye-opening documentary titled Under Our Skin received critical acclaim for describing the imbalances that are accelerating and threatening many individuals. The documentary is offered free of charge on the Internet.

I was treated for a number of years by a world renowned Lyme disease specialist noted in the documentary previously mentioned. Sitting in his office in Seattle, other healthcare professionals and I discussed how many of his patients struggled with multiple illnesses including multiple sclerosis, autism, and other disorders were the contemporary canaries in the coal mines. Our culture, toxicity from irresponsible environmental practices and our lifestyle choices have elicited a proliferation of imbalances causing infections and insufficient immune systems that would  otherwise keep these microbes in balance.

Many of the friends I have met with serious injuries and illnesses are actually coming into greater balance through their challenges. I believe if people consciously choose to address their lifestyle choices, improve environmental conditions, and work through their emotional issues, this will bring them into greater balance and into a state of LOVE, love of self and others. With less struggle in the world, there will be more joy. That has been my sacred Path.

Just opening to the possibility of the bigger picture perspective for healing raises the vibration of each of us, for us and our loved ones.

Jazzfest04-3I previously wrote about my choir experiences, but I wanted to revisit this experience in a different way. I will try not to be repetitive, but I cannot reread my previous blog entry due to dexterity.

My two closest friends Mark and Diana introduced me to the choir. Mark was a tenor in the New Orleans Opera and Diana had been a musician most of her life. I had taken voice lessons from an accomplished soprano who had sung at the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter and piano lessons as a child, but I have never considered myself particularly gifted. Fortunately, when I began singing with the choir we did not have auditions. I was happy to drive an hour each way weekly for choir practice. During the early days, there were under fifteen singers. The soprano section of which I was a part included approximately four women. One evening, my greatest fear was realized when I was the only woman present in the soprano section. Knowing my horror, Mark sang soprano with me. Talk about having my back, Mark had my back.
 
Our African-American sisters and brothers had been singing in choirs since they were toddlers. For them, it was very much a part of their culture. For us Caucasians, it was our growing edge. We had to loosen our rigidity, which was both joyful and challenging for many. When Mark began singing solos, he was a courageous teacher for us to let go. Initially, Mark was stiff. Diana’s nickname for him was “white bread.” The humor in our choir helped tremendously in loosening up the white people and bridging racial divisions. It was actually infrequent that the divisions actually appeared.
 
Another challenge for us white people, was swaying to the rhythm of the music. It wasn’t unusual for some of us to be swaying in wrong direction. We literally had to designate Joe as the “sway meister.” When we would begin a song, all of my white sisters and brothers would focus on the sway meister.
 
These were some of the unseen challenges we faced as we broke racial and religious barriers. The joy of breaking racial barriers in the deep South, the solidarity we co-created was profoundly satisfying to my Soul.

“Each time we drop our masks and meet heart to heart… Each time we are able to remain open to suffering, despite our fear and defensiveness, we sense a love in us which becomes increasingly unconditional… Awakening from our sense of separateness is what we are called to do in all things.”- Ram Dass

The practice of caregiving is changing as our culture ages and evolves. An old paradigmatic understanding of this practice involves a unilateral, unidirectional expression of support offered from the caregiver to the subject. However, as one develops more sophistication about the energetic exchanges between people, it becomes apparent that much more is actually happening during the interchange. From my experience, it is impossible for two people to interact intimately and not have complex and often unconscious forces operating on the dyad. As the individuals become more sensitive to the subtleties, the caregiver may be in to notice either an infusion or depletion of the respective energy fields. It is the essential for the caregiver to explore these shifts in emotional and/or physical well-being if one is to be calm a more conscious care practitioner. It is only when these energetic shifts are perceived and acknowledged that the source of these effects can be understood. This is the process of self–reflection and Knowing Oneself. The better one knows one’s self, the more satisfying relating to others will be and the more effected the caregiving relationship.

I believe that an individual’s ability to render care effectively is directly related to his or her capacity for intimacy. This capacity is initially nurtured during infancy by the primary parental relationship. There is also a karmic imprint with which the soul is incarnated, but that is for a different discussion. Although the parents are central to influencing the initial imprinting once the soul is incarnated, there will be many subsequent surrogates throughout the course of one’s life who will contribute to this capacity. I believe that developing one’s capacity to love oneself and others is the work of most souls for the lifetime; the karma is the dharma.

In my personal experience, the identical imprints from my primary maternal relationship have recurred in every significant relationship where deep love has been present. In other words the unresolved issues from my primary relationship has been operant in every subsequent intimate interaction. As these patterns became more conscious, the healing of these issues was possible. This is why it is essential that one does their Shadow work if they are to evolve spiritually and have satisfying intimate relationships. As the unresolved issues become resolved, the amount of suffering the individual experiences significantly decreases.

My spiritual development involved both the physical body and the mind. Relatively early in life I chose the field of psychology as my life work, or what feels more accurate is psychology chose me. In my experience, many people choose psychology because it is they themselves who need healing and my situation was no different. As I have stated in previous blog entries, my relationship with my mother was complicated. Accordingly, every subsequent surrogate for healing this primal issue in my life reflected these complications, whether they were school teachers, coaches, therapists, husbands, or in my later years caregivers. Although my mother clearly cared about me, my relationship with her was neither warm nor nurturing. The resulting vulnerability required much psychological healing in order for wholeness to prevail. The subsequent surrogates provided a virtual tag team in order to assure future health and stability. A good deal of the unconscious material, the unresolved issues from childhood, surface with my husbands who provided much mirroring of my unexamined Shadow. It is important to note that this mirroring process is excruciating while the material remains unconscious. During my later years, caregivers would provide this mirroring in order for healing to occur. In such an intimate relationship, I cannot emphasize enough the need to become aware of unconscious dynamics in order to alleviate unnecessary suffering. Any assistance 1one can secure along the way can bring tremendous healing.

During his last year, I have attracted a circle of caregivers including five women and three men. We meet tri-weekly with a facilitator whose role is to mirror, reflect, and witness. She coined the phrase “care partnering.” As integral parts of the system we all give and receive healing consciously. Each individual is interested in his/her own healing and spiritual growth. It has become increasingly apparent to all in the members of the circle that we have come together to consciously co-create a new paradigm for caregiving. The care circle is a moving, growing organism that feels more like a hologram than a collection of individuals. With the collective intention for increasing awareness of our archaic wounds, the healing manifests and the group level as well as with each individual. There is a synergy that appears to be happening with this level of collective intention.

As baby boomers age, there will be more of a need for caregiving. It has been shown that keeping the elderly and/or disabled in their own homes is both economical and compassionate. It has been satisfying to witness the level of presence engendered by each member of our circle spread to other individuals in need of care in our community. I hope this can serve as a model for a new paradigm for offering care.

“My mind is like a bad neighbor. I try not to go there alone.”––Annie LaMotte

Recently, it was pointed out that in proper grammar you rarely use the word THAT. I notice that I used that quite often and I remember my strong and recurring belief that I am not a writer. I do not identify myself as a writer and some people find that interesting. I could say that it is a paradox, but that is not really accurate. If I detach myself from my early programming, I can see myself as good with words and somewhat of a word craftsperson. My programming, however, conflicts with that. So far I have used THAT nine times in the first paragraph. I’m glad that this is my journal and that I can do what ever I want. I can even be a bad writer. And that is pretty good when one has a Virgo Moon which often is expressed through perfectionism.

Although I am being playful, I need to also acknowledge that any feedback I get to correct my grammar, I really do appreciate. And I have to say that I appreciate it deeply, with much love. I think I remember that you are not supposed to start sentences with and and I just did that. And there is that again. Okay, here goes my rant.

Why is it that so many teachers squash the creativity in children with criticism? How valuable are those teachers who can turn that pattern around. My only memory in childhood regarding writing in elementary school was when a teacher corrected every other word in my writing so that there is nothing but red marks all over my paper. It was at that moment that I decided that I was a terrible writer. Cancer children are not easily corrected without annihilating their self-esteem. Teachers should be taught this! There is an art to correcting children without damaging their creativity.

Historically, my friends would frequently come to me in order to help them craft personal letters. I could say what they wanted to communicate when they themselves were unclear. I guess this was a manifestation of my ability to communicate love which was difficult for others. In school, I avoided writing at all costs. My boyfriend in high school and college frequently corrected my grammar. It did not help the situation. I remember in graduate school writing the most personal paper of my life, revealing childhood sexual abuse and when I let him read my paper, he had the audacity to correct my grammar, once again, but for the last time. She didn’t even comment on the content. This is the behavior I to to myself that felt acceptable from my history and from the belief that I was a bad writer.

I went to a large university where objective testing was how grades were determined. It was in my senior year that I had to write my first paper and I was terrified. Until then, I had been the president of the freshman women’s honor society, vice president of the psychology honor society, and now they were about to find out that I had been an imposter. Somehow, I managed to do well with that paper and went on to graduate school where writing papers was the main way we were graded. Having received nearly all A’s in graduate school led to my conclusion that Tulane University must have been an inferior program. Interesting that that was my only conclusion.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me and perhaps we can collectively look at the beliefs we all hold that limit our creativity.

“Ring the bells that still can ring forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”-Leonard Cohen

photo    Lynne Kaplan Artography

It occurs to me that I have a different concept of transparency than most other people that I know. I have this belief that we all have dirty laundry and it is only in the airing of the dirty laundry, that it can become clean. I do not believe that anybody in a human body is devoid of dirt, or Shadow if we use a Jungian term. These disowned parts of ourselves are kept in place through fear and self-hatred. It is in the healing of these painful emotions, that transparency and authenticity emerge.

One of my caregivers began to pose a question to me with, “you don’t have to answer this if it is too personal…” We both laughed hysterically, because I am blatantly honest about everything in my life and I responded, “challenge me.” I believed that being totally transparent is a virtue, although I understand that others might cringe and disagree.

When I look at what is in the way of me sharing something deeply personal, it seems to be reveal some version of shame. Shame is a feeling that both creates tremendous suffering and reveals an area where healing is essential. I do not expect others to share in the level of transparency that I live; it just surprises me when I find so little consensus. Because of this, I began to look at what was the difference in my development.

I instantly reflected on my life many years earlier while participating in intensive group psychotherapy. When conflict arose, it would be taken very seriously as a block to intimacy and we would meet with one of the facilitators to remediate the tension. In each situation, I realized that the conflict was based on distortions of the truth between us. When the distortions were clarified, connection was restored. Because there was deep trust in the group facilitators, the love between the group members grew exponentially. It was through this level of intimacy that I first began to believe in God. To me, God was not a punitive man spewing judgment from on high, he wasn’t a bearded pilgrim in sandals, IT was this feeling that began in my chest and radiated out to include everyone it touched.

It was in this community of beloved individuals that I realized that all anybody really wanted was to be loved, and once that was realized, to be able to serve. I came to realize that any conflict was merely confusion, either with one’s self or another, or both. It was during that time that I realized that any blockage to truth was merely misinformation. It became a sacred practice for me to dismantle my inner blocks to truth. To be able to speak my truth, unencumbered, was central to this practice. For me, the practice involved looking at the intention behind each statement I would make. I would ask myself what I was communicating and which of my needs it served; did it serve a higher need for integrity or did it meet a lower ego need; did the statement increase or decrease my vibration.

As I began to work with groups, my working theory was realized on a deeper level. The dictum of confidentiality is the foundation for creating safety within groups of people. I believe, however, that at a certain point a dictum can become a hindrance to intimacy. I also believe that the degree of openness is dependent upon one’s own personal development. Each person must decide for her or himself what they are comfortable with based on their own level of truth. Until that point, I honor confidentiality implicitly yet I am clear that I do not require the same for myself. On the contrary, I believe that my internal work when shared with others, can have the power to effect deep change in them. That is where my passion lies in pushing my boundaries toward transparency.

As I mentioned earlier, one has to achieve a certain level of development in order to have integrity and respect for self and others. One has to get right with one’s own shadow for this level of consciousness to be integrated. Without coming to terms with one’s own pain, collusion with other people’s pain will likely occur. This is the confusion I mentioned earlier.

I am coming to believe that as embodied humans, our Work is to uncover our wounding which will ultimately heal the pockets of self-hatred causing our suffering. It is through this sacred journey while embodied that self-love can be realized.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose.”–Janis Joplin

It doesn’t matter what you call it; just noticed what bodily sensation is elicited from hearing those adjectives. Personally, it makes my skin crawl to hear all three descriptions. Somebody referred to me the other day as bedridden, despite her meaning well. I felt like I had been punched in the solar plexus. Are those terms a physical description or a state of mind? Are they legal terms or something that determines one’s disability status? All I know is that neither I, nor any of my friends, can relate to those terms at all in relation to me.

I sit in my comfortable reclining chair twenty-two hours a day, seven days a week. Every few months I leave the house to go to an appointment. Does this relieve me of the description of being housebound? All of these questions, of course, are rhetorical. It seems to me that the usage of that terminology is reductive for my humanity. If someone didn’t know me personally, these adjectives might elicit pity or perhaps fear, which is always underneath pity, in my opinion. No one who truly knows me would ever consider describing me in any of those terms.

Last Christmas I had a traumatic experience that really made this whole discussion personal. I received a request on Facebook to have a visit from a group of carolers from Crestone. Christmas carols have been a part of my history despite being raised Jewish. For nearly six years during my time in New Orleans, I was an active participant in an interracial, interfaith, gospel choir. During Christmas we frequently sang at the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. Singing music during the holidays was familiar to me for connecting with the holiday spirit. At least that is what I thought would happen when I agreed to the request.

An hour after the carolers were scheduled to arrive and just before my next appointment, they made their appearance. It has been said that Crestone is made up of meditators, mystics, and misfits. I am sure that I could have received all three labels by different people at different times in my life. As thirty people straggled in, an hour late, my enthusiasm began to wane abruptly. On one level, I knew they were well-meaning, but the setup was disturbing. I should have been alerted to this possibility when the organizer mentioned, “we are a group of people who go caroling to the housebound.” I didn’t catch it at the moment, but later as I reflected, I noticed myself wondering who the housebound person was we were going to sing to. They filed into my round living room en masse and began singing the common, ordinary Christmas songs my choir never sang. I began to feel the depth of my disillusionment. As I looked around, the energy in the room felt “charitable,” to be generous. I could feel that the singers were singing to the “poor, disabled shut-in.” I had never seen myself from that perspective before, so I know it was not projection on my part . I started to compulsively make jokes to at least let them know that I was clever and that my mind was clear. The message I desperately wanted to convey was, “it’s okay! Really, I’m okay. It isn’t as dire as you think. It’s all going to be okay. This is just a temporary costume,” they looked so pained.

When they finally left, I felt diminished, marginalized, maybe even objectify. It took a few hours to clear the energy of their projections, both individual and collective. I shudder when I remember those feelings and I now know that it is essential that the people I surround myself with be responsible for their own projections and that they know who I am and that this illness is NOT ME. The visitors that Christmas day were in their role**of being charitable, magnanimous. They only saw my body; they were not seeing me, the brave soul undertaking this courageous curriculum to work through my deepest challenge of powerlessness to increase my love of Self.

I learned in an important lesson that day about projections. I learned that I am more vulnerable to other people’s unconscious projections than I realized. I learned that the terms shut-ins, housebound, and bedridden are merely states of mind and they can be dangerously reductive. I learned that one needs to be responsible for one’s own projections, the feelings beneath their benevolence. Many are not capable of this level of awareness so I need to be more vigilant, more protective of my vulnerability. I learned a lot that Christmas day.

I’m fortunate to say that everybody in my life on a daily basis sees me, beyond my costume for this particular role. I will use this as a teaching moment. Some of the most evolved souls enter the human body of seemingly vulnerable individuals, the homeless, alcoholics, the mentally and/or physically disabled, in order to grow and especially to serve humanity. When I was a small child, a religious woman who was close to me once told me that Karen, a mentally disabled child in the neighborhood, was an angel from God and that Karen would report back to God and let him know how she was being treated. Of course, there was the authoritative, punitive attitude placed on to a male God, but I received the message, both on a literal level and a metaphysical level.

Of course, these descriptions can be superficial and innocent, but they have power. We need to be responsible for our projections which I believe are mostly fear-based, fear of the unknown or fear that it might happen to me or one of my loved ones. Are we merely seeing the costume for this lifetime or are we seeing the Soul? If you would like to come to my home for a visit and you are able to see me beyond the level of the body, you are very welcome. Come, share, and be in Holy Communion.