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When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe. There can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are made for. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

When I was a young girl, my father had a 1923 Ford Model T antique touring car that had a crank on the front that needed to be turned to start the engine. I’d heard you had to be careful it didn’t jerk your arm out of socket when you cranked it, it had quite a kick! The purpose was, in my seven-year-old understanding, to create a spark for the engine to start.

In looking back over the 40 years since completing my masters degree to practice psychotherapy, I recognize that I have played that same role with the people I served, to create a spark to get their psycho/spiritual engines going. This is neither a responsibility I take lightly, nor has competency come easily. It is a sacred task so deeply-rooted in my being that I believe I must have agreed to it prior to incarnating. My desire to serve has been just that pervasive throughout my personal and professional life and the joy I experience when their metaphoric engine gets running is profound!

Learning to hear the call of this sacred assignment began while I was still in single digits of age. In order to be effective, however, I had to reach a level of confidence that was not easy to come by. This journey toward self-love was wrought with many challenges, but I came into this world with a fierce desire to serve and I came to realize that in order to serve others, I first needed to heal myself. With this awareness, I started a life of seeking that led to many teachers and disciplines to help overcome my limitations. I’ve spoken before of my greatest teaching – to learn to trust my inner authority, which I believe is the only way to truly know one’s power. The experience of learning to drive a manual transmission in the late 60s served as a useful metaphor for understanding and developing this teaching.

Our parents and our older siblings serve as our first authority figures to help us practice vital lessons of personal power. When my brother was 21, he became my instructor and his 1968 GTO with a clutch that was about to fail became the instrument of my education. He knew the clutch could fail if handled recklessly and, believe me, he let me know it. What a set up for high tension. I knew if I didn’t learn fast, I’d be in serious trouble with my brother. What a perfect metaphor. My lack of confidence in life manifested as a fear of my own power (acceleration). Engaging the clutch unskillfully would immobilize the engine abruptly and infuriate my brother. Immobilization (shutting down) was my go-to strategy for warding off anxiety. My brother amplified the voice in my head creating reluctance, (fear). He taught me about the friction point, the point where the clutch and acceleration meet for forward motion. When met with accuracy, there was no damage to the clutch. To add to this tension, I was learning to drive a manual transmission in the hill section of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Engaging the clutch with your left foot on an incline could cause the car to roll requiring quick use of the brakes, also with your left foot. If there were a car behind me, catastrophe could ensue. The tension was great with the potential for collision with another car. You get the picture.

This mirrored a conflict that I refer to frequently in my life – immobilization versus empowerment, clutch versus accelerator. Applying the brakes offers more control, but I only have two feet! As I became more proficient at driving a stick shift, I felt less immobilized in life, less afraid of my power (acceleration). This has served as a good example of meeting my fears at the exact point where acceleration is required, to avoid stalling in the middle of traffic, to avoid a collision with fate, or my brother’s rage.

Another powerful metaphor was learning to waterski on one ski. Learning to ski on two skis was elementary growing up on a lake, but learning to slalom demonstrated the next level of proficiency. Learning to slalom, one needed to be able to shift one’s weight from two skis to one. This required shifting one’s whole equilibrium from two points of contact to one point of contact. Having the tendency to lose myself in relationships, the kinesthetic sense of balancing over my own center of gravity reminds me of learning to slalom. I often felt this shift after a divorce. After processing through the stages of grief, I always felt empowered when my center of gravity shifted over one ski, my ski!

And there is the snow ski metaphor when you have to lean forward as you ski downhill in order to navigate through the snow without losing your balance. Intuitively, we lean backwards to compensate for the downward slope. Leaning into issues sometimes means going against one’s intuition and one’s comfort zone. Thank you for indulging me in exploring these teachings.

Having spent most of my life in my body learning kinesthetically (in motion) to be still and listen deeply has been a huge gift that my ego would never freaking have chosen. Nevertheless, it has served me well. This carnal (physical) curriculum is not for the faint of heart. If my heart were anymore faint, I could never do terminal illness nearly as gracefully. As I live this end-stage form of neurological illness, I can see things in slow mo. My life force is growing exponentially as my body is weakening. My identification with this blessed vehicle is shifting to a greater me, the part of me that is more aware of other dimensions. There are times when my perceptions and my sense of love is so heightened that I know that transition to Spirit will be a minor step. Each time I experience this, fear of the unknown diminishes.

In their published work, James Lawley and Penny Thompkins assert that “metaphor is an active process which is at the very heart of understanding ourselves, others and the world about us.” I have much gratitude for the teachings that surround us when the intention is self-reflection that leads to empathy. After all, teachings that lead to having greater compassion for ourselves and others is the essential work of this time. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes so beautifully reassures us to not lose heart, because We were made for these times.

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Feeling good is not the point – it’s being connected so that the highs and lows don’t matter. You spend less time at the mercy of all those heavy negative thoughts. – Krishna Das

My brothers were born four years apart and five years later I was born. They slept in a bedroom together and I slept alone. I don’t know when the terrors started, but I had a very hard time getting to sleep. In the new house where we moved when I was three, I was on the opposite side of the house from my parents. I would call to my mother, sometimes frantically, and she never came. I cried myself to sleep every night and sucked my thumb until I was eleven. I didn’t like being alone every night in that solitary room, where the lights from the traffic would shine across my wall and keep me awake.

One time my father came to my bed and asked me how I was feeling. I talked to him about how my legs hurt and he told me they were growing pains. I shared my deepest secrets about how afraid I was of the teachers and how I could not go to sleep at night. He taught me a self-meditation technique to help me sleep; I still use it to this day. Although he came to me only one time, I remember it like it was yesterday. I wonder if they consciously considered whether to talk to me or let me learn to self-soothe. I doubt the latter, because there was little conscious conversation in my home growing up. They just didn’t have the capacity. My fears escalated along with my anger.

I began to refuse to go to school; my teachers were too scary. My mother pretended to call the truant officer to report me, so I reluctantly went. Tough love. My mother was tough and distant, emotionally. It wasn’t until my 50s when she was dying that I actually realized she’d always loved me. Some people never know, so this is not a complaint or a tragedy, it’s just what often happened growing up in the 50s.

Being born in July had its advantages; we lived on a natural lake during the summer. It was a simple, intimate lake, before it became a resort area. I was happy there and so was my family. However, being born in July when the sun was in Cancer meant I had the potential to be hyper-sensitive, moody, and overly dependent/clingy. A clingy child and a touch-me-not mother created quite a challenge for compatibility and connection. The casual lifestyle at the lake nurtured my more positive traits: spontaneity, athleticism, in a community that loved nature. I didn’t fear being alone in my bedroom at the cottage, but when we moved back to city life each year my whole body contracted. The isolation, the inactivity, the stark school with the scary teachers were overwhelming.

My pillow was my transitional object and I kept it until well after I was married. During my early life, I avoided being alone at all costs, and the costs were dear. I clung to unhealthy relationships much too long. I did, however, experience a great deal of self-love when I finally had the courage to leave. Finding the courage to leave unhealthy situations seemed to be the edge I needed to meet what some call the Great Aloneness. There is an expression – we come into this world alone and we leave this world alone. That used to sound sad to me, but once I was able to hold grief long enough to fully feel it there was a shift and I was able to finally feel safe and to begin to love myself, deeply. I see that only by feeling everything, instead of feeling good, can self-love really be acquired. One must grow into it. I certainly had to.

It was only through experiencing the Great Aloneness that I began to understand that in our core we each want the same thing, to feel loved, and when we mature spiritually we begin to know that we are loved. If we follow this thought and are able to stay with it, our Awareness grows and we find that we are Love. When we internalize this, we open to the Knowing that we are all one. I was working at a community mental health center in Louisiana when this awareness began to take root. I remember the timing clearly, because my supervisor asked me to propose a password for the state computer system. I offered, “Allone,” imagining that in our area of the state of Louisiana, at that moment in time, everybody would be using Allone as their password to enter the mental health system! I love that irony/synchronicity. Don’t tell anybody, but this is still my password, or variations of the theme.

The moments I have felt most connected to my heart, connected to my Beloveds, connected to the Universe, have been the times that I Know that we are all inextricably linked, all one being, and that we are only separated by the belief, a mental construct, that we are separate. Many people fear loneliness, but loneliness is never about another person. It is and has been only through the felt-sensation of Oneness that I know this to be Truth.

I don’t for one minute believe that one has to be facing the end of their life to enter this Knowing that we are all one and we are all in this together. Crises can accelerate this awareness. They have a way of cracking open the defensive hardness that appears to separate us. By practicing empathy and forgiveness of the self, the boundaries of protection fall away.

Then, all that is left is Love. And, it is love, that we truly are all in together.

**This essay is dedicated to Kirsten Schreiber, my dear friend, sister of all ages, who nudged me to finish it.

“Our holy grit… it’s the sandpaper in your psyche that rubs you raw until you make it conscious.”  – Jacqueline Small, on Shadow

Lake Winola

Lake Winola

Karen turned sixty this month.

I grew up on a glacial   lake at the end of the Endless Mountains in Pennsylvania during the summer months. Karen lived with her parents and three brothers in the cottage next-door. My best friend, Cathy, rented the cottage behind them, at least her parents did. The circumference of the lake was approximately three miles, so children knew each other for long stretches that were walkable from their cottage. The lake was a friendly community where families looked out for each other and their children.

Being born in July, this lake was my first home. Sometime during the 60s my home became a state lake and everything changed. But prior to this, the lake was serene, the people familiar and it was a safe, aesthetically beautiful place in nature to grow up.

Our neighbors became extensions of our family. Karen lived next door and since we grew up together, I didn’t notice the developmental delays. Karen was mentally disabled, but we all thought she was odd. From a child’s perspective, there was just something different about her, damaged, maybe. Children were unkind to her, but not her brothers. Karen always liked me. One day, however, I joined the heartless descent as she walked in front of the trajectory of the swing I was on. I didn’t stop abruptly as I could have. I knocked her down. Fifty years later I remember that moment and I cry with so much shame. Perhaps I can understand the other children’s cruelty by understanding my own. Karen was an external manifestation of the damage I felt inside of me, the damage the other children must have felt, as well. Christians might call it Original Sin, Jungians call it Shadow, the unlikable parts of ourselves we hide until we have the inner resources to heal these parts and integrate them into a more forgiving personality.

Cathy’s family was very religious. Her mother, Lucy, told me children like Karen were sent here by God and reported back to him about how others treated her. Now, from my perspective, I can believe some of Lucy’s story/parable. Karen and her sacred curriculum was a mirror for people to look at themselves through. Not everybody liked what they saw.

Soon after that, Karen no longer lived next door. She came home on visits and loved to go for a boat ride with me. Karen never held a grudge. Her older brother became a minister and I worked with disabled children for a couple decades, as a teenager and an adult.

I wonder if Karen knows how much she affected the others around her or how much she taught people something about themselves, that they probably didn’t want to see.

Karen turned sixty this month. Happy birthday Karen. From my end-of-life perspective, I now understand the careful selection of the costume you chose for this lifetime and I know you are what some call an angel and I know, without equivocation, that you were my and many other children’s sacred teacher.

**One of my very favorite books on the subject is: Expecting Adam – A true story of birth, rebirth and every day magic by Martha Beck.

 

“Joy is something deeper than a feeling. Joy is a gift deep within. It cannot be rocked by the sound of an alarm clock or by pain.” –Elise Charbonnet Anglette (Casey’s beloved childhood friend fiercely confronting aggressive breast cancer with her husband and 6 beloved youngens. Google her, she will change your life.)

5 Days in the Life of an Addict:*

Day 1– I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I feel lost… I feel helpless. It isn’t my fault! I’m not responsible. It takes forever to find a way out.
Day 2– I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I and I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m back in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. I don’t feel responsible. It takes a long time to get out.
Day 3– I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in… it’s a habit. But my eyes are open, I know where I am. It is my fault. I am responsible. I get out very quickly.
Day 4– I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Day 5– I walk down a different street. This parable is profound when we take it in deeply. I will discuss this more later.   ~Author unknown

 *Note: Addict, to me is anyone who is in a human body. My favorite definition of addiction is anything that is between you and God or Source.
by Kathryn Greene Brady

by Kathryn Green Brady

 

In the afterlife and near-death experience communities it is almost cliché to talk about life review, but for the initiated, life review is an essential part of returning to the Spirit world, our true and eternal Home. For those who have had near-death experiences or NDEs life review is a way of integrating the work of the lifetime just completed. It is a time to assess the work done, how it was done, what is still to be learned and more. During this time, our guides and ascended Masters meet us in loving collaboration. During that time, from what I have read and experienced in meditation, there is no judgment. The only judgment we experience is our own internal remorse that we may carry. From what I understand, there is only unconditional love at Home. It is coming to this Earth school in human bodies where judgment is experienced.

Having this long-term, intractable illness has allowed for an elongated process of life review for which I have received much assistance. I have gratitude for all the support I have received throughout my life which has allowed me to be of help to others. Receiving help and helping had gone hand-in-hand. I have much gratitude for my helpers along my journey, both incarnate and discarnate. Without the assistance and my openness to that assistance I would have been much less helpful to others. So for my helpers, my openness and helpees, I am deeply grateful.

The hole represents a questioning of whether this illness was necessary or whether it caused needless harm to myself and/or my loved ones. Just entering the latter thought makes my stomach turn with grief and anxiety. That is my hole. In a totally open, vulnerable moment in my life I acknowledged to a beloved teacher, while practically on my knees in a proverbial sense, that, “I want to give more than I take while in this life.” I had never consciously thought about this, but it came from the deepest part of my heart and soul. Likewise, it reveals my deepest vulnerability, that perhaps I did not fulfill this prayer, this deep yearning.

This inner questioning has provided an opportunity to explore the value of this illness in my life. It has stimulated a deep exploration that has required much meditation and dreamtime; this process has yielded much benefit. I cry with deep gratitude as I describe this sacred process. And this is what I have learned thus far:

One of my newest helpers, a shamanic practitioner, while in trance acknowledged that I, in fact, did not have to have this illness which triggered much emotional material for me to grapple with. Ironically, I found myself in the very hole the author described in the parable above. I was humbled to see that the hole is still a vulnerable place for me. I was both appreciative and humbled to have this opportunity to revisit this vulnerability, mostly because when I leave, I want to be as complete as I am able.

Not much is in my way of a conscious, liberating transition into Freedom. That is what I am going toward; that is what we are all going for. In my opinion, any vulnerability can be an obstacle toward this freedom. And obstacles are places where deeper self-love can be cultivated.

In the parable, it occurs to me that this illness afforded me the opportunity to become adept at traversing Day 4. I can now see the hole and perhaps even walk around it. Maybe I have not walked down a different street, which may represent a life with perfect health, but a lifetime perfecting Day 4 is pretty damn awesome. I can know that I will no longer get lost in this hole of my ego’s creation. How liberating it is that?!

So thank you my Beloveds, my helpers, my helpees. As I tell my children, I will still be connecting and sharing. You just have to become better listeners.

“Having progressive MS isn’t enough, you have to have THAT, too.”–Sage Brown

12997006-charleston-sc-plantation-live-oak-trees-spanish-moss-azalea-flowers-blooming-spring-bloomsSage is one of my closest friends here in the community. My friends don’t just spout superficial pleasantries to merely make me feel better, they go right where I am and feel WITH me. That’s just the way it is here in Crestone, in this community of compassionate souls.

People never die of multiple sclerosis; they die from the complications associated with multiple sclerosis. Secondary infections like pneumonia are a major culprit. Hell, Christopher Reeves died from bedsores that became septic. My decubitus has cleared since I began riding my stationary bike a few times a week. You have to die from something, right? But really, guys, a hemorrhoid?!

Everybody has got their issue and many of them are where the sun don’t shine. Why is it that so many people have trouble loving their bodies and for many, it is the southernmost regions? Is it our cultural toilet training methods? Is it just where our self–hatred is housed?

There is an expression, “God is the wound.” I have seen so many people dislike their bodies until they begin to fail. Mine began to fail while living in the deep South. This is geographical, not biological. I began a rigorous program of reclaiming and reconnecting with every part of my body. It was like a wave of love and care that continues to this day. Is that part of the design? Does one’s body have to scream to get our attention?

North, South, East or West, Love is what it’s all about to me. Whether the entry point is through nature, a Beloved or THAT, as far as I’m concerned, whatever it takes.