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The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. – Joe Klass

Ram Dass and Reb Zalman

I have always been an independent person. I have jumped off mountains in California and Maine with rappelling gear, I rode my motorcycle to Key West alone for weekends in college, and I learned to jump my very large thoroughbred horse when I was nearly fifty years old.

Today, I find myself unable to move from the neck down with continued weakening of any peristalsis in my body’s alimentary canal that moves food North to South, or East to West if lying horizontally, an asana I assume throughout much of the day and night.

My sense of autonomy has always been important to me and is fiercely defended by my will – condolences to my parents and gratitude to my husbands. One of the most difficult parts of aging and/or disability is losing one’s autonomy. 90% of the people who choose to end their life using medical aid in dying (MAID) is due to loss of their autonomy.

Erik Erikson, a German-American psychologist whose work was covered extensively in my Masters degree program at Tulane University in the 70s, developed a theory of human development comprised of eight stages from birth to adulthood with each stage ending with a developmental crisis that led to the next stage. He was best known for coining the phrase identity crisis.

Stage II of Erikson’s model involves developing a greater sense of self-control. It has been commonly observed that when individuals age, they revisit the psychosocial stages of development from childhood. Often children end up parenting their adult parents either physically, emotionally, or both. I believe multigenerational healings can occur during this reversal of roles, when unresolved issues from the past resurface to be healed. Occasionally, the trauma is too great to be reworked or it is just not time, which can be overwhelming. Families get through this time the best way they can. Perhaps, if people can cultivate a sense of empathy, either through counseling or other support systems, working with these crises can be extremely restorative.

In this essay, I will explore my own personal experience of how Erikson’s second stage Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt has manifested to clear residual shame and doubt during the end of my life. Each stage has its own particular challenge, it’s crisis of identity, but each stage moves toward healing, interdependence, and communion/love.

For me, letting go of control has always been a challenging requirement in this theater called life and often I do it kicking and screaming, with sometimes bone shattering consequences, quite literally. During major transitions, letting go and trusting the natural process of life has been a challenge for me. Giving away my power to external sources of authority in lieu of trusting my own inherent wisdom has been a related and recurring life lesson. Mediating between the two tendencies of deferring authority and needing autonomy during this end-of-life time has been challenging.

Last week, I experienced a sense of anxiety so huge that with my level of frailty, it could have ended my physical life. Nevertheless, I decided to sit with the fear, not an easy ask. This is probably one of the hardest spiritual practices, to sit in the place of not-knowing. (Ironically, all I really can do is sit, but I could have distracted myself, or quite honestly, having the lethal prescription, I could have chosen this as my exit point, if the suffering was too great.) There is no right or wrong decision. Each has their own sovereignty to decide for themselves. Instead, I decided to just BE with it to see what would emerge. Fortunately, I also have been given healthy doses of determination and stamina to meet these areas of limitation.

I sat and felt more and more fear until it was beyond overwhelming. I called my very skilled caregiver/fellow traveler to be with me, revealing yet another challenge in my life – asking for help. I just knew I could not go there alone. She tenderly affirmed she was there, completely present, and available for whatever I needed. With someone I trusted deeply to hold the container, I went there.

It was like entering a dense orb of anxiety that had been suspended in time. I was transported to the pregnancy with my first child, which had been one of the most joyful times of my life. Once it was time for her birth, however, I found myself feeling completely alone and unsupported, with no sense of trust in the natural process. Feeling that vulnerable, I asked the doctor for a cesarean which started a series of events that spun completely out of control. I was given a general anesthetic that upon awakening left me in tremendous physical pain and completely disoriented – Where is my baby? Two days later, when the confusion began to clear, I demanded they bring my baby to me and called my mother who got on a plane immediately. The doctors threatened me, because that was the 70s and they didn’t yet have the practice of rooming in, nevertheless, I persevered – alone, helpless, and disoriented, I persevered. Two days post cesarean, I developed a postpartum depressive reaction, the likes of which I’d never before experienced. I just did not have the internal resources to integrate the trauma. This was before midwives and doulas were welcomed in hospitals. I felt completely ill prepared for the onslaught of feelings of fear, helplessness, and shame.

Just recalling the memory makes me cry all over again. Then I realized that this orb of unresolved feelings, now relegated to my unconscious, were familiar and had recurred a few times later in my life. Each recurrence left me with the exact same feelings – fear, helplessness, and shame. It began to make perfect sense that it would resurface as I was preparing for another major transition – dying! With this awareness, I felt gratitude that this ominous trauma had reemerged into my awareness. I felt in awe of the natural order of life during this auspicious time. When confronted with the end of one’s life, the holes in our souls caused by past trauma can become more evident, along with the neurosis that had taken up residence. These are the places that most need our love and acceptance for healing. In our culture, I’m sure these karmic appointments often get medicated away. Again, no right or wrong. For me, this was an important piece to clear before my final transition of birthing myself through the doorway called death.

At this point, I would like to digress to the timely issue of aid in dying in our culture. Personally, I am grateful to have the safety net of having the prescription in my possession, whether I choose to use it or not. I am grateful I was able to open to my greater suffering necessary to meet the emotional crisis presented at this sacred time of transition. When I secured the prescription, I made an agreement with myself that I would not use it to avoid anything emotionally uncomfortable, but because I was ready to go forward. I intuitively know I don’t need to endure needless physical suffering. It is my style to confront obstacles for my greater good. I wouldn’t begin to make this decision for others or take it away. One of Erickson’s criticisms has been that he excluded the emotional and spiritual aspects of development. I don’t have that limitation in my toolkit. If you know me, you know I am fierce with passion and determination to fill these holes in my soul with love and joy (and anybody else who crosses my path).

During the aging process, losing one’s independence and sense of control in life can lead to despair as the body deconstructs. In his own words, Erikson reflected on his view of his life now in his 80s, You’ve got to accept the law of life, and face the fact that we are disintegrating slowly. Deconstructing the developmental stages that were so hard won when we were young is a mirror image which requires acceptance and letting go of will. From a spiritual perspective, one needs to shift from the egoic level to the spiritual, which is not a path for everyone. Sometimes, what is called for is just planting seeds and that is enough.

In their ninth decade together Erickson and his wife, his lifelong collaborator, expanded their theory which included issues that arise during the old age years. They identified the conflict during this stage as Integrity versus a Sense of Defeat (despair). The fruit of this tension can ripen into wisdom. The Ericksons further posited that the lessons during this time of life involve developing empathy and resilience, that having the courage of our convictions to move toward greater wholeness dispels the ominous sense of despair that so plagues many elders. This is not unlike Viktor Frankl’s theory of attributing greater meaning to adversity, a practice he developed while in the concentration camp with his family in the 40s.

In his seminal work, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi described the importance of mentorship in one’s older years, or as he called it spiritual mentoring when he wrote From Age-ing to Sage-ing. (It should be noted that Reb Zalman was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi until he experimented with the “the sacramental value of lysergic acid” in 1962. His experimental style along with the cross-cultural influence, which included feminism and LGBT rights into Judaism, mysticism, and a rainbow prayer shawl he designed, inspired me to reconnect with my Jewish heritage in the 80s.) He traveled with other rabbis to India to meet the Dalai Lama. His holiness was interested in knowing how the Jewish people had survived with their culture intact, a significant issue for the Tibetan Buddhists in exile. If this interests you, read Beyond the Ashes, written by a rabbi ordained by Reb Zalman and Jew in the Lotus, a book that chronicled this journey.

If you read my last essay, you likely understand when I describe the anomalous quest of those of us who need to reach the summit of the Himalayas. Having been a psychotherapist and in therapy myself much of my life, I have had the privilege and opportunity to develop a huge capacity to ride the suffering with the faith that in doing so, I would eventually find liberation.

During the height of my anxiety, my prayer was for PEACE. Reb Zalman spoke clearly about anxiety, how it helps the ego become more translucent and transparent, to remove the opacity so the divine light can shine through. These words hold such TRUTH for me now.

It is my hope that anyone facing adversity find the same comfort I have found during this sacred time. Here is medicine for all who are facing life’s sacred transitions. It is a trailer from Ram Dass’ documentary Going Home:

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Dedicated to my cousin Doris for reasons she will understand–

When we awaken the ego does die, but it is not what many think. The caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, dies to its old form and can never go back to being a caterpillar. Yet, if you look closely, the main body of it still retains its caterpillar form. ~ Atreya Thomas

During the White Awake workshop described in the two previous essays, we were encouraged to mend the fabric of the inevitable disconnection with our ancestral roots. When I did, I began to realize why my family had been silent about their histories. Not only did I encounter their overwhelming religious persecution, but I began to understand my grandparents’ abject rejection of speaking about anything related to the old country, as they desperately tried to embraced a whole new culture of becoming Americans and all that meant to them. For them, it was about basic survival – a new beginning in a new country. Severing ties from everything that was familiar to them, including their parents, aunts and uncles, their grandparents, and their whole way of life was a prerequisite.

During the late 1800s in Lithuania, pogroms (organized massacres targeting Jewish communities) were instituted which resulted in mass emigration to America. Some emigrants chose acquiescence, desperately wanting to assimilate; whereas some who had become revolutionaries in the old country brought that energy of resistance to America. The latter group had sought to unite all the Jews in Lithuania in a class-based fight for social reform. They had organizing to demand: an improvement in living standards, a more democratic political system, and the introduction of equal rights for Jews. They were revolutionaries, socialists and communists. My grandfather brought these ideals with him to America. In his 80s, my father first acknowledged to me that he had gone to the Workmen’s Circle, a socialist camp during high school. He explained that there was a communist camp and a socialist camp and he attended the latter.

I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have told my grandfather that, perhaps through osmosis (or DNA), I had received the teaching that hatred of other, whether expressed as racism, classism, sectarianism or anti-Semitism, was something to fiercely resist against! I would have told my grandparents that their suffering was not in vain, that I got the message. My whole life has been about dispelling hatred in myself and others. And now, in the 21st century, many of those socio-political issues are still present and growing. Dad, you prepared me well. Although, I didn’t understand all of what our ancestors endured when we had this intimate, revealing conversation just a few years before he died, I did begin to piece together why our home was secular, devoid of God. Many of the revolutionaries from Eastern Europe who had experienced such trauma became atheists, at least my father, and I suspect, my grandfather did. I don’t know how this trauma manifested in his older brother Azer, the firstborn, born into a family of immigrants, trying to piece together new lives amid the catastrophic trauma from which they fled, to carry-on in America. The firstborn often carries more weight than the other children, more responsibility, and more of the raw, direct trauma from the parents and grandparents, whether physically present or not.

My grandfather, who arrived in America around the turn-of-the-century, was a craftsman who built furniture and started selling his creations and used furniture along the railroad tracks in Pennsylvania where the trains would bring them to his storefront. My grandmother was more of a pragmatist who chose to not eat their limited rations during the Great Depression so her children could. After bankruptcies and dire survival struggles, my father began working with his father while still in high school. As I mentioned in the previous essay, I suspect my father (who was a bit of a mama’s boy) rejected his father’s ideology and became a capitalist to save his family. He would sacrifice a great deal not have his siblings, wife, or children starve as his family had. With a high school education, my father provided for his family and left a legacy of abundance and philanthropy, not scarcity and financial hardship.

I suspect he rejected his father’s gentle, humanistic way of being and saw it as passivity, and maybe it was, as trauma can take the form of immobilization. I see these polarities of capitalism versus socialism, revolutionary versus pacifist in myself. During our present, tumultuous times, having this internal conversation between the polarities of ourselves is necessary preparation for contemplating how we want to express ourselves, both personally and politically. Understanding our ancestry is an important part of our identity. If you understand epigenetics, trauma from previous generations actually can change the expression of our DNA and manifest in devastating and mysterious ways. For an interesting article click here.

When I knew him, my grandfather had advanced Parkinson’s disease. Having been the only two people in our family with progressive neurological illness, I have developed a kinship with him that only increases as this illness progresses. I can viscerally imagine the despair this loyal, enormously strong man felt as his body began to fail him. He was known to have carried an iron woodstove up a staircase by himself, something no human I know could accomplish. As his body weakened, he had to surrender to his somewhat caustic, but faithful wife who likely didn’t understand how past trauma may have manifested in herself and her husband. I remember my grandmother’s fierce loyalty caring for her husband as he grew more disabled and her unwillingness to place him elsewhere, regardless of the excessive demands on her. Love and trauma, trauma and love. There are no heroes or villains in this Sacred Work that is Life.

I consider myself spiritual, but not religious. I dutifully attended Hebrew school and synagogue in my early years, but there was little continuity at home which seemed to reveal a fracture I didn’t quite understand until later in life when my father finally admitted to having been a staunch atheist his whole life (until his death which I described in previous essays – our most intimate moment).

I found the Old Testament scary, presented by a rabbi who had little rapport with children. A punishing, threatening God was more of the stuff of my worst nightmares than a power that informs and heartens me. When I later learned of the atrocities perpetrated in the name of the church, this further reinforced my resistance to organized religion. The Jesus that was talked about in my early years, the prophet who was killed by Jews, created further shame in me for being different, for being Jewish.

Always having been a spiritual person by nature, the more mystical aspects of Judaism appealed to me when I later studied Kabbalah. I found that the mystical aspects all major religions seem to converge at the same point, the point where Jesus and other masters spoke from – Love. When we live from the soul, there is no other; there is only We.

The spirituality that I gravitate to is inconclusive, profoundly compassionate, deeply mystical, and emanates from my heart and not my head. That being said, I came to realize through the workshop that I had blatantly and aggressively rejected all aspects of the religion in which I grew up – the baby with the bathwater – and with that I had rejected significant parts of myself and my lineage.

The facilitator explained our relationship with our ancestors brilliantly – like with any intimate relationship, if one person has not achieved wholeness, they are like two halves of a whole, but two whole people can move past duality and co-create.

Today, we live in a world where capitalism has run amok and we have forgotten how to take care of each other. We have work to do. I am so grateful to stand on the shoulders of those who went before me, to reintroduce myself to them. The courage, the grief, the fortitude is quite a legacy they left for me to recover, by my willingness to feel shame and grief fully. This is what I contemplate when I sit at my altar to my ancestors.

The fight against racism [anti-Semitism, xenaphobia] is our issue. It’s not something that we’re called on to help People of Color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because really, in truth, they do. ~ Anne Braden

A month ago my hospice physician gave me surprising news that I would likely be around a while longer! I realized how I have been living week to week, hour to hour, injury to injury. I took a shallow breath, which is the best I can do, and thought – How do I want to live this more time? The answer was not forthcoming; sometimes just asking the question is more catalytic.

A few days later, while trying to sleep, I slipped into a four hour riveting download. Downloads seem to happen more frequently during this end-of-life time. I believe we are continually receiving downloads, we just may not be aware of them. Our guides and loved ones on the other side are constantly trying to assist us. Sometimes my downloads involve life review and sometimes they are a direct transmission prompting healing that can take place while I am still embodied, should I be willing. These communications always leave me with tremendous gratitude, determination, and awe.

Unlike my usual meditations or downloads, I was met by an Ascended Master (so I knew it was serious), as the quality of the input was clearly from that high of a frequency. I was riveted for four hours, hearing that the next stretch of my life will be about FIRE. Fire is neither an element I am comfortable with, nor is it easily accessible to my gentle soul, in this particular incarnation. I understood that to embrace my fire, I had to go beyond my fear of disapproval from others and consciously enter the fire of eternal love, a fire that burns away the obstacles to fully embodying the Divine.

I was about to publish my previous essay – The Shadow of My Shadow is My Friend – and I was told that that essay would be the beginning of this accelerated stretch. I knew that times were dire and the Sacred Feminine would be greatly needed to get us out of this mess we’ve created. We have recklessly squandered our inner and outer resources and, as I mentioned in my aforementioned essay, a critical mass of people would be necessary to restore Love from fear. It is heartening that She is emerging through #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, #neveragain, and other movements to bring violence out of the collective Shadow and into the light.

The following day, after a brief contraction, I began receiving communications from many people that confirmed the veracity of the download. It is necessary that I have compassion for my contractions, because I need to take my ego along with me, as I am not yet free of this body curriculum.

Then Allison, my dear friend and primary caregiver asked me if I wanted to join her in a workshop she was participating in titled White Awake – Before We Were White. I didn’t quite know what Before We Were White meant, but I knew that growing class inequality and racism were issues I have always felt deeply in my bones, connective tissue, and DNA.

Participating in a workshop with hundreds of like-minded beloveds was something I believed was part of my past, however now video technology could bring it right into my living room. Although my voice was too weak to be audible, I had a visual presence and Allison generously offered to speak for me.

The workshop spoke of colonialism and the resulting genocide of indigenous peoples perpetrated by white people. It dispelled myths, particularly our American origin myth and explained white privilege in a way I could deeply ingest. I was surprised to hear that the concept of whiteness and the power hierarchy of skin color was a strategy propagated during the 1600s. The purpose was to sew hatred and division by a few, intent on staying in power at any cost to the vulnerable. (Sound familiar?) The workshop was presented by white people to mostly white people in order to hold all of the grief, shame, and complicity necessary to create a collective shift in awareness. The shame turned into deep acknowledgment/responsibility which turned into empathy for all the victims including we white people, who have been so victimized that we ourselves have become victimizers!

In keeping with my previous essay where I described the Karpman Drama Triangle as a destructive expression of conflict when it is unsafe to express our own authentic vulnerability, we assume one of the three faces of Victim – Victim, Perpetrator, or Rescuer. In the case where fear of other is stoked (xenaphobia) and we succumb to the fear, we risk becoming reduced to the role of Victim, either by being victimized or by doing the victimization.

During my last essay, I described my consequential  breathwork session where I was able to reach deeply into my unconscious Shadow and cathect the Nazi archetype. I found liberation by releasing this suppressed energy that had accrued over many lifetimes. Through this process I was able to understand white supremacy from the inside out. By dissecting the pathology of this distorted fire energy, it became less frightening as it is once again manifesting in the world today.

I will conclude Part One now. During Part two, I will describe my own particular process of ancestral recovery and its importance to me. During the process I developed the flu and I wondered if I would survive the physical and emotional demands of this sort of recovery. I thought I was merely signing up for an interesting workshop. I now understand the power of ancestral relationships, family constellation theory, and the illness that can come from unresolved fractures. I also understand the liberation of healing this family multigenerational family structure.

I request help from my ancestors to complete this two-part essay. Thank you for your continued support. May you realize how important your support has been to my process. We just never know how much we affect each other, do we?

For more information about White Awake: https://whiteawake.org/about/

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. ~ Anaïs Nin

Much has been written about The Shadow, originally described by Austrian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, a pioneer of Depth Psychology, an approach to psychotherapy close to my heart that includes the exploration of the unconscious and transpersonal aspects of the human psyche. The Jungian construct of the shadow involves those parts of the Self that we deem as flawed and unlovable, often due to early trauma, and therefore, relegate them to our unconscious. Eckhart Tolle describes it as the painbody, a semi-autonomous psychic entity of old emotional pain not faced, accepted, and let go of in the moment they were experienced.

Encountering the Shadow

Often these traumas have roots in our childhood, transferred by the unexamined (shadow) aspects of those in our family of origin whom we most trusted. Delivered as criticism or rejection, we learn to deny these injured parts to avoid further pain and, ironically, end up attracting to us exactly what we are trying to ward off.

Our shadow reveals our deepest wound, which also holds the key to our greatest healing. Our unexamined pain accumulates and combines with that of others’ to form a collective shadow. Wars have erupted due to our unconscious collective shadows. I believe by working to bring these aspects to consciousness, one person at a time, we can not only lessen the conflict in our own lives, but ultimately achieve world peace.

Robert Bly describes the shadow as the bag we drag around behind us through our life and when aspects of ourselves appear that create discomfort, we throw them into the bag as unclaimed, unlovable parts of our persona. The bag becomes heavier and heavier until we develop the courage to begin to take each dissociated part out to bring it into the light of consciousness.

In shamanism, the shaman, or healer, is seen as one who can walk between the human and spirit worlds to retrieve our discarded parts in order to restore balance to the soul, whether the imbalances are caused by fear, loneliness, addictions, or other ills.

Dancing With the Shadow

If we are courageous enough to enter into long-term, committed relationships, it is likely we will encounter the proverbial mirror that forces us to see our shadow projected onto our beloved. Discerning what is ours from theirs is the crisis and the opportunity of deep intimacy. For me, it took a series of divorces to realize who the common denominator was. During my first and most tumultuous marriage, it was easy to shrug off any criticism as his projections, but when I encountering similar criticisms during my second marriage, I began to recognize recurring patterns.

I don’t believe my rigorous life path of learning through relationships has been arbitrary. I believe it was specifically designed for me to learn and teach others self-love through the healing power of intimacy. As a psychotherapist, being of service has been a large part of my mission and doing my own personal work has been an essential prerequisite. I remember asking my former mentor, “Do I have to experience everything in order to be of service to my beloveds?!” Not everybody needs to experience a curriculum as extreme as mine, but as a psychotherapist, you can only take other people as far you have already gone.

From another former mentor, Werner Erhard, a complicated but significant leader of the “human potential movement,” I learned that in order to truly have a relationship, you must be willing to not have that relationship. To me, this meant that in order to truly have an intimate relationship with another person, I needed to be willing to risk it for my own Truth. This is not an easy principle to follow, especially when the ego is invested in maintaining status quo at all costs, but it is a tenet I have learned to follow more and more as I have matured spiritually. As Maya Angelou eloquently stated, “When someone knows better, they do better.” Choosing our Truth over our egos’ desires is the difference between feeding our shadow or feeding our authentic Self – choosing Love over fear.

Opening to the Teachings

From this end-of-life perspective, sitting still twenty-two hours a day, I have opened into what could be called my life review. Those who have entry into what some call the bardo or the life between lives, either through dreams, meditation, or visions, are able to begin a broader process of self-reflection over their lifetime and begin to identify the themes the soul has come in to work on. My many years in non-ordinary states of consciousness through Holotropic Breathwork, both as a practitioner and a facilitator, has helped me to access these healing states.

Throughout my earlier life I struggled with feeling victimized by energies outside of myself over which I felt powerless. This common pattern is often an imprint from the family of origin. My mother was my initiator in this journey of duality (drama). I was terrified of her and then of my teachers and went on to attract relationships that affirmed this worldview.Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer are three different expressions of victim in the dramatic triangle. (For more information, see the Karpman Drama Triangle – three faces of Victim, a must for psychotherapists and addictions counselors!)

Drama vibrates at a low frequency and like attracts like. To maintain a low vibration, which serves to keep vulnerability at bay, a victim can only draw a persecutor or a rescuer, which then always switch roles. Shadow Work involves bringing each role to consciousness to allow vulnerability and intimacy, a high frequency.

Breakthrough From Drama to True Self

During my breathwork visions, for years I was a Jew in a concentration camp. However, one day, to my shock I suddenly became the Nazi – feeling the power/control of oppressing, enslaving, and murdering others. (This collective shadow, by the way, is the core of racism, or othering, a fear prevalent in the world today. A critical mass must be reached to bring this hatred out of the shadow, one person at a time.) I let myself marinate in these excruciating feelings until I felt the energy complete itself. I didn’t know what to think afterwards – feeling shame mixed with horror that shifted into empowerment, and even liberation.

For me during breathwork, as in life, the most arduous part of the process is learning to stay with uncomfortable feelings. I learned firsthand that it was much more comfortable to experience Victim than Persecutor; the latter forced me into shadow of the motherwound. However, by avoiding the pain, I suppressed my natural fire energy – creativity and passion (joy). I was so afraid of being my mother that I couldn’t fully be me! After this breathwork retreat, I knew my life would be different.

Staying in drama temporarily lessens anxiety, but the cost is one’s true power. The role of Victim (the one down position) was familiar to me. When people emulate the childhood abuser who appeared to have more strength and power; the Persecutor becomes their go to persona during conflict. The Rescuer (the one up position) feels the illusion of safety from the messiness of intimacy, by staying above the fray. Feeling less than was my shadow and Persecutor was the shadow of my shadow. Only when I allowed myself to fully experience this repugnant role, replete with abuse of power, shame, and fear, could I liberate myself and experience Wholeness. In that way, I was my own shaman.

Integration

During this sacred time of life review, I want to honor the teachers in my life of which I have only mentioned a few. I especially want to honor my mother who chose to play this role with me in this lifetime. Mother, I know you are with me and I look forward to dancing with you soon with less fear and more joy.

You are a drop and God is the ocean. Just allow yourself to fall back into it. – Michael Brown

Healing means different things to different people. For some people, healing means that the body ceases to have physical symptoms that were causing discomfort. Once they heal physically, they may choose to inspire others who are suffering. Healing on this level can bring physical and emotional relief and inspiring others can be a valuable contribution. Many of us experience this level of healing, frequently.

Some people who heal physically also heal mentally (thoughts) and spiritually. They often have a broader story of healing to model and to teach others.

Some Self-selected individuals may have taken on challenging curricula in order to heal personally and to accelerate their soul family’s journey, called soul contracts. (Many are not aware of this consciously, but that doesn’t negate the likelihood.) Often these people heal mentally and spiritually, but not physically. Myself and, I suspect, many people I know with progressive, incurable illnesses have chosen these rigorous paths while in Spirit. Not for the faint of heart, these distinct teachings can reduce the emphasis on of the ego in the physical world, if embraced with awareness. Our personalities are egocentric and limiting our identification with the ego can open doors to the numinous. In my experience, the more catastrophic my curriculum has been, the more liberating. Living this curriculum with grace can spread these teachings through the collective, to the seen and unseen worlds.

Occasionally, I come across others who appear to have similar curricula for whom I feel an instant kinship on an intuitive level. Marc Stecker, AKA Wheelchair Kamikaze, a fellow blogger, profound in his scope, humor, and development over time, is one such individual. If interested, you would do well to follow his blog.

Some healers who have healed physically, mentally, and spiritually have developed their own processes to help bring the collective forward in our development toward finding peace in our lives. One such teacher is Michael Brown, who I have spoken of in previous blog essays, because I find his work profound. Fellow psychotherapists/colleagues have used The Presence Process with their clients to deepen their therapeutic work. He has many YouTube videos along with his book to guide people through his teachings.

Michael often uses different parables and sacred Stories in his teachings similar to the stories disseminated by indigenous cultures. Here is one of my favorites:

He teaches about the three stories we tell ourselves. The first story, is of the “bad” one—about our damage, our victimization and how this shaped us—even how it might have driven us to doing some good things in the world, but how we were driven by the ghosts of our childhood or loss of parent figure [literally or figuratively, perhaps searching for the nurturing (mother) or direction (father) we’d never had], at some juncture, to enter the world in search of the missing parent in the external world. That’s the first story.

The second story is the flip side of the “bad”–it’s the “good” story of what we found on our search for our missing mother or father figure and how when we got down to the bottom of it—the details of the story dropped away and we met this energy inside, not outside of ourselves—and we felt a foundation of self-love at last.

The third story includes his spin on the word “Legend”—-he says after living the “good” and “bad” stories in a lot of fullness, we are completely freed from the history of those—we don’t carry the wounds in the same way, we don’t organize our waking moments around the same obstacles or false longings—and everything is different and we aren’t questing in the same sense—instead we just enjoy being as we symbolically stand on the ledge of our life, on the very end of the ledge of our life. And then we step off—and we live our own ” ledge-end.” We are free to define ourselves, our work, our resources, our abundance, our relations—in any way we want that serves this open-endedness we have stepped into.

When we are in our “bad” or “good” stories, there is work to do that can be grueling, because we must feel the grief of each story fully.

We each have our curriculum that is sacred and perfect for our lifework. From healing the issues with our mothers, or those who may be a surrogate for mother, we learn to nurture ourselves. From healing the issues with our fathers, we understand our perspective on God, the Divine, the Source of Universal Love. To do this, we must pass through the illusion of separation Stephen Levine described it well when he called it, “learning to opening your heart in hell.”

Whether we access this Knowing now or later in our development, our Beloveds have entered an agreement with us, soul to soul, for the well-being of all. And it is through this level of awareness of the soul, beyond the ego, that opening our hearts in hell is possible and finding peace can be a true reality.

Death is a fiction of the unaware. There is only life, life, and life alone, moving from one dimension to another. – Sadhguru

Woman-hiking-in-nature

When my symptoms first started thirty years ago, I made a conscious choice to explore healing on every level available to me: body, mind, and spirit. For three decades, I turned over every proverbial stone in an effort to heal, holisticly. What ever was in the way of perfect health was what I courageously explored. If I listed the healing modalities I pursued, it would take many pages, and maybe be a novella.

Along the way, I helped many others in their healing journeys. The wounded healer is a powerful archetype, intimating that all humans have frailties and limitations; we are works in progress. The wounded healer is a model based in shamanic teachings where a person struggling with physical, mental, or emotional dis-ease, or imbalance and once they heal the imbalance can show others the way of healing. I assumed that I needed to heal physically in order to be of help to others. In my case, healing physically proved to be unnecessary for helping others heal, though honestly, I would’ve preferred a completely healthy body. Ironically, the wound has rendered me more effective in helping others heal, even physically.

All of my efforts to heal physically brought much foundational and constitutional healing, but the disease process continued to progress. After much self-reflection and anger, I came to the conclusion that with all of my work, there was a higher purpose for this rigorous and sometimes heartbreaking curriculum. This understanding helped me to reach acceptance, psychologically and move into a state of transcendence, spiritually, but my nervous system continued to deteriorate.

I’ve recognized that the two trajectories, one of bodily healing and strengthening, and the other, of the disease progressing, were at cross purposes. I feel grateful that I can understand this consciously, as well as knowing there is a higher purpose. Nevertheless, I recognize a scenario where my body will continue to thrive while my brain and spinal cord continue to deteriorate. An infection, and injury, or choking can be lethal at any moment which would render a death with much more suffering for myself, my family, and my caregivers. Many other people facing death have much more acute diagnoses than my own.They deserve a choice on how they will die when death is imminent within six month.

I am not a proponent of prolonging life at all costs which I believe will prolong suffering. I do believe my body is a loving vehicle for this lifetime. However, I believe my soul will live on. Suffering has its value, but having the wisdom to know the difference between necessary and needless suffering is essential and can only be determined by the self in concert with the soul. Being pro-choice is across-the-board for me. I believe a tenant of love is that we have free choice. Becoming informed and in right relationship with our own truth is an inside and an outside job.

Proposition 106 is on the ballot in November. I believe everyone should have self-determination. I believe we learn from our choices, ultimately. I believe that God or a higher power also resides in all of our souls and we are constantly informed by the Source of all existence.This is not up for litigation, in my opinion.

There is a choice on the ballot that we must consider that will allow others self-determination and in situations where individuals are not clear, they will have support to reach a decision that is right for them. It is all about choice and letting Source inform our personal decisions. Honestly, I don’t know what my personal choice would be, but knowing I have the choice would make all the difference between feeling helpless and empowered.

Vote YES on proposition 106 in November 8 in Colorado or when it comes to your state, which it will, because having a CHOICE is an idea whose time has come.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor FranklTragedy

At the age of thirty-five, I was raising two children, struggling in my marital relationship and at an impasse regarding my career. I wanted to practice as a psychotherapist, but was seemingly stuck in a Catch-22; in order to attain licensure I needed to secure professional supervision in a job I could not secure without my state license. I felt like I was in a vice and could not move forward. I remember walking out to my deck and desperately screaming to God, the Universe, to anyone who would listen, “Please let something change. I would do anything to get through this hopelessness.”

It was soon after that that the subtlest neurological symptoms began to appear in my body. I was able to stave off major anxiety until my husband returned home for the holidays, and then I lost it completely into a state of high anxiety. It was as if I could immediately imagine the outcome of the illness, with all of the devastating limitations. Either I remembered the pre-birth planning of this possible challenge, or the option that terrified me more, my greatest fear would be realized-catastrophic illness. After all, I had heard the new age theory that thoughts become reality. If the latter option would manifest, I would be riddled with shame and helplessness. I desperately sought any strategy or support that would render me innocent, innocent from ruining my mission in life to help change the world into a better place, innocent from abandoning my children when they most needed me, and innocent from disregarding the life I had been given. With this shame riddled process, debilitating anxiety was assured.

In retrospect, I can see how all of my self-hatred was being brought to the surface to be dealt with. I lost thirty pounds that I could not afford. However, I was also completely present to my process of plunging into the depths of my soul. My meditations were rich with instructive symbols and messages. I knew that if I didn’t move forward, I would die. I could now see that I didn’t incarnate to merely tread water. Despite constant anxiety attacks, I secured a job with a community mental health clinic as a psychotherapist. In addition to being a therapist by day, I would assess after-hour emergencies, many of which were people surviving suicide attempts or dramatic circumstances. In the midst of my own crisis, I remember telling my friend and colleague that I could not become suicidal, because I would have to call myself. My humor has been a tremendous gift throughout this ordeal. In the midst of facing my greatest fear in life, I was able to detach enough to also be a witness to the process.

Having been raised in an atheistic, though culturally Jewish family, there was no God in my house. However, I had always felt a deep, spiritual connection to nature and animals, recognizing these connections as greater than how they appeared on the surface. This Knowing of the interconnectedness expanded to include humans while I was in intensive group therapy in my thirties. At this critical time, this spiritual connection became internalized. Perhaps this ordeal was necessary to trust my inner Guidance above all else, in order to ascend spiritually for myself and others. It was becoming clear that the symptoms were a call for me to balance the love in my life that was too outer directed and needed to be redirected internally as self-love.

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who encountered his transcendental ordeal when sent with his family to a concentration camp during the 40s. Dr. Frankl, being the only survivor in his family, became a leader in existential and humanistic psychology. He posited that it was essential to find greater meaning in all of life’s circumstances, especially those that were more brutal and catastrophic. It is only by attributing greater meaning to these horrific experiences that one could lead a meaningful life.

Today, there is much suffering in the world that is getting purified by souls who are willing to live a meaningful life with catastrophic injuries and illnesses. I would like to spend the rest of my life reminding myself and others of this higher, Sacred purpose for what we would otherwise believe to be unnecessary suffering.

“I admire that you are not willing to sacrifice life, for survival.” – Harald Kasper, physical therapistperson-sitting-on-cliff

When I was two years old, I was standing in the front bench seat of our 1955 automobile when we ran into another car. My mother broke her pelvis, walked around to be sure all the children were safe, sat down and could not stand up. There were no seatbelts those days and there wasn’t yet an awareness of the lethality of motor vehicle accidents. As we integrated automobiles into our culture, the need for safety came to the forefront. During my generation, car seats for children became a necessary commodity. Some people wore their seatbelts and others did not. It was a choice, until it was not. When people were sustaining injuries and dying, wearing a seatbelt became law. Some laws evolve with the technology and some laws become obsolete as the culture evolves.

Recently, I have been criticize for choosing a lifestyle that is unconventional for someone as disabled as I am. After all, I cannot move a muscle from the neck down. I am completely dependent on my care team for every bodily function, except breathing. And I live in a remote mountain town that is considered the frontier, not even rural, which would have more medical services.

I have always lived on the edge of this paradigm we call life, but it has never been as obvious as now when I am breaking all the rules of what one should do when one is critically ill. From pushing my limits as an adolescent to riding my motorcycle to Key West during college (yes, I wore a helmet with a visor!) I have always pushed people who love me to their edge of reasoning, past their comfort zone. I don’t mean to sound cavalier about this at all. A lot of me wants to stay safe in the old, familiar ways of living life. I have to trudge through a lot of difficult feelings to summon the courage of forging new ground.

First, I have to feel the uneasiness of moving forward from a place I could call familiar, but as I’ve become more sensitive, I notice and incongruence. When I think of taking an an alternate route that feels more authentic, I have to wade through the density of darkness. When I dissect this darkness, it not only includes my own remnants of self-hatred, but also ways I’ve absorbed other people’s fear of the unknown. For me, fear is always a catalyst for entering this level of blackness. Being able to bear the pain at this level of malignant, self-hatred and, instead of retracting, going one step further and creating expansiveness around it allows the blackness to begin to lighten. Peering into the light, I can see the anatomy of this old, familiar feelings of unworthiness. Memories of all the times I’ve betrayed myself from deferring to other people’s truth. In deeper exploration, I was able to see the many times I was  willing to sacrifice my life for mere survival, which translated into sacrificing my significant need for autonomy for either of two reasons: to avoid feeling my greatest fear – being alone and helpless or to alleviate other people’s pain. Although the former is more conscious, the latter might seem noble, but, believe me, it is more insidious.

So, yes, I am on the leading edge of the natural death movement, something I hope will lead to “a good death,” not unlike the natural childbirths so inspiring in our area. And yes, it does push the old boundaries of the medical model, making people fearful of the issues like liability . I followed the medical model with my childbirths and I had two cesareans and general anesthesia. As many of you know about me, I don’t want to be fearful in this new birth.

I have always taken myself to the edge and rallied the resources to push a little further, so it would make sense that I would do that with others, especially being in the capacity of psychotherapist. My astrological natal chart reflects one of a powerful revolutionary with heart. It is ironic that when I cannot move a finger, I am still projecting that energetic essence. My daughter once told me that I go to places that scare her and show her that it is safe. During this time when people are creating a new paradigm for living and dying, it’s important to illuminate and dismantle that which keeps us from our birthright, living life and death fully and authentically.

Love and grief are two sides of the same coin. – Derived from talk by Stephen Jenkinson 

GriefThe hint of a life-threatening illness when I was thirty-five years old was almost too much for this young, vibrant woman to bear. In retrospect, I have deep compassion for my younger self’s initiation into this accelerated curriculum and I now know how essential it is for my soul’s evolution. Coming to terms with my mortality at that age was a tall order, living a mortal life while being in touch with its transitory nature was almost more than I could bear and has taken me more than a decade to integrate.

When I really think about it, how can we live fully if we cannot contemplate our impermanence? How can we fully live if we can? The human condition is quite a paradox. This is why mystics acknowledge that being human is not for the faint of heart. There is crescendo and there is de-crescendo, inhaling and exhaling. How do we  be with this human condition that feels so out of control to our egos without becoming completely overcome with fear? How do we not connect these fears with the cultural epidemic of our time – fear of death? How do we hold death with equanimity, as truly a part of life?

What I have come to understand is the only way to hold both is to feel  it all. Feeling the difficult feelings in our culture is not encouraged. Numbing or distracting behaviors are pervasive. Allowing oneself to sink into the grief of this illusory existence, to essentially face one’s fears of death is not an easy undertaking. The pun is intended. In my experience, only by following grief and despair to completion can the heart lighten and the healing power of humor emerge.

Grief is better tolerated than despair, in my experience. Despair implies hopelessness. I guess the question is: “What are we hoping for?” Are we hoping for immortality? It is painful for me to be with someone who is dying, but wants to live at any cost. The ego wants to convince us that if we succumb to these feelings, we will never get out. There are so many archetypal dramas in literature that demonstrate this primal fear. When one finds the courage to bear the grief, liberation is assured. Allowing oneself to fall completely into grief is the only way through this dense, vibrational field. Despair can be treacherous, becoming an impenetrable wall if you are at all ambivalent about your leap. I liken it to bouldering. You cannot have ambivalence when jumping from one boulder to another; you cannot look down, you just leap focusing on the boulder ahead.

Stephen Jenkinson, once the leader of palliative care counseling at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, has written extensively about the prevalence of “death phobia and grief illiteracy – how they distance us from one another, our planet and our world crisis.”

Grief can become a wall or it can be a portal to a deeper way of Being. Once we have come to terms with the illusory nature of the personality as our totality, the fulcrum tips. Only by leaping fully can our toe touch the boulder of the numinous.

“One works on oneself as a gift to other people so one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as I work on myself and I work on myself to help people.” -Ram Dass

1-brighworldI’ve written before about my intuition that this illness is an opportunity to heal a very specific developmental fracture in my life, one involving attachment. I also have cited four other cases where individuals with progressive multiple sclerosis incurred early trauma from provocative maternal relationships. This connection has always been of interest to me, but a superficial study of five individuals does not prove a hypothesis. Nevertheless, exploring this anomaly in my own life has been extremely compelling, especially since I spend so much time in my chair allowing such an inquiry to evolve, with little distraction.

I keep thinking that I am complete with this lifetime, that I am in the throes just prior to my transition. I have completed my will, had the talks with my family anyone would wish for, arranged for my celebration/cremation. I even selected a master of ceremony, family liaison, created a CD to leave for loved ones, distributed many of my material items, and much more. However, more emotional/spiritual material seems to be surfacing.

The other day while I was re-experiencing a level of grief that was so familiar and primal that it had to be primordial, I experienced a visual that maybe gave the grief some context. I realize that I may lose some people at this point in my reporting. Being a visual learner and having practiced a form of breathwork that traverses non-ordinary states of consciousness for over fifteen years, intuitions seem to come to me in visual form. I understand that others may not access the source of teachings in the same way. Please bear with me.

The vision was presented as if exploring a geographical location with Google Earth; it was like traveling through a wormhole from the macro to the micro of my physiology. It also traveled through my development, the point of destination being a tiny pinpoint spot on my neural tube. The understanding I received was that there had been a fracturing sustained, not only during my pre-verbal stage of development, but pre-birth, probably during the first month of pregnancy before my mother even knew she was pregnant.

I had been feeling for the last months that this condition of my body had reached a plateau of sorts. The goal-oriented part of me wanted to be done with it, done with this rigorous curriculum and the inability for any outward bodily movement to happen volitionally. Being completely dependent on others had become tiresome. This plateau was feeling like treading water. This vision completely left the illusion that healing was not happening in its tracks. I clearly saw this pinpoint place in my nervous system, this place where early fracturing did not allow for the necessary emotional attachment to occur. With this vision came the realization that though I feel nothing significant is happening, actually some of my deepest healing is, in fact, occurring in my nervous system.

Perhaps this illness provided the most expeditious way for this fracturing to heal so that wholeness could be attained. My mother had been both complicit and a central part of the healing. I was shown that this fracturing was an accumulation of unresolved traumas from previous lifetimes.

With this vision came much peace and gratitude, gratitude for the strength to see this illness through and to appreciate my helpers along the way, both embodied and disembodied. This vision further revealed that once this fracturing was healed, it transformed into a portal to the infinite, to other galaxies and to the multi-verse. Ironically, five weeks ago I asked my caregiver to draw a symbol that would be lovingly fabricated by a local artist onto a plaque for individuals cremated ceremonially in our beloved community. The symbol that came to me was of two ellipses intersecting. There was a small circle in the intersection that represented my present life. The horizontal ellipse represented my temporal life and the vertical ellipse represented my Spiritual life. I now understand much more about this circular pinpoint.

Two months ago my three-year-old grandson and his father constructed a spaceship out of recyclables. This is the text he dictated to his father to write on the spaceship:

August, 2015
Dear Gram, I love you so much, Gram. you are like a miracle. Model aircraft blasts off, it goes to fifteen galaxies. I’m giving this to you as a present. I love you so much, River

The greatest gift I could give in this lifetime has been to be of service to others. With the healing of each internal fracture comes more love and forgiveness for all sentient beings. Continuing this sacred healing journey for myself and others is my gift and my prayer.

VISIT THE BLOG FOR MY NEW BOOK – MEET ME BY THE RIVER!

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Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. more...

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