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We are all beads strung together on the thread of life. – Amma

I was a determined willful child, not easy for a parent to raise, but with these qualities I developed the necessary skills for living life well with extreme physical challenges. In my household growing up, I wielded a lot of power which does not make for a happy child or a happy family. Parents who are secure in their authority teach their children surrender, a necessary skill to avoid becoming an egocentric adult. We often learn to surrender to a higher power when we have a masculine influence who is in right relationship with his/her authority – not dominating to create powerlessness in the child, but confidently guiding the children toward empowerment and respect. As this quality is modeled, the child grows up with self-confidence and self-respect. Our culture is confused about authority and healthy balance rarely evolves naturally. When a parent is unclear of their own power, the child must learn with surrogates to learn their ego is not the center of the world. In a culture where egocentricity is the norm, many different forms of addictions develop. Fortunately, there are many paths and programs to help individuals surrender to a power greater than themselves. Life has a way of dancing us into the rhythm of a spiritual life, whether it happens consciously or not.

I grew up Jewish, but I received my first holy Communion in a Catholic church when I was a tween. My best friend, Cathy, came from a religious family where many of her aunts and uncles were nuns and priests. She and her brother were adopted from St. Michael’s Children’s Home very early in life. We were inseparable during the summers where we lived at a lake. Her family recited Stations of the Cross every night and I knew the Lord’s prayer and Hail Marys by heart. I often went to church with them on Sundays. We went everywhere together and it seemed natural to follow her when she went to the front of the service for communion. When I realized not everybody was following us, I looked back at her family who looked shocked, but motioned to me to keep going. I received the host that day. There was no fanfare, but looking back at the many different initiations in my life, that was surely one of them.

During my years of exploration, I also received a Gohonzon, a sacred scroll in Nichiren Buddhism tradition, I received 2nd° reiki, which is an attunement of the heart for activating a healing technique that transmits Universal life force energy through the body, and, in my teens, I was confirmed in the Jewish religion.

Although I received these different initiations through my 20s, I refused to believe in a God that was imposed on me, externally. Having read some of the Old Testament, I refused to believe that God was a man in the sky with a beard who doled out punishments to those “he” felt deserving. I would not suspend my innocence for such a harsh teaching. At this point, my will overrode anything I deemed irrational.

In my 30s, I participated in a progressive psychotherapy community which involved attending three groups per week and five-day intensives at the Gulf Coast beach. Through this concentrated experience, I was able to access my own authentic understanding of what God is to me. As I looked around the group and felt the love and acceptance I had always yearned for, I realizing that I no longer felt the depression that had been with me my whole life. I realized in that moment that all everybody in my circle wanted was to be seen and feel loved. In this circle of beloved souls and while learning to resolve any conflicts that separated us, I learned that love was the medicine that drew out the poison of what ever ills were in the way of our connection to ourselves and each other. In that way, I understand what Ram Dass means when he says, “All sickness is Homesickness.”

With this realization, an internal shift happened and I had the felt-experience in my heart that God is love. In this circle of my Beloveds, I witnessed one person after another transform fear that might have taken the form of anger, resentment, or hatred into love. My whole worldview shifted in that circle and I have not deviated from that belief since.

Knowing that love and fear cannot occupy the same space and having experienced much fear in my life, I have become adept at seeing the many forms fear takes by understanding all the forms of fear I experience. When I feel separate from others, either through anger outwardly expressed or inner self-loathing, I notice there is always a thought that triggers separating behavior. Identifying the thought that precedes the reaction can be transformative and restore the desired connection. Once this is mastered, compassion just happens. This is not an easy practice, but a necessary one to restore love and compassion for self and others.

My willfulness served me well to find my own experience of God, the Divine, Source. I was not one to follow others blindly. I believe everyone must arrive at their own experience of God and this perception will change as we change. It is not something that can be imposed on another person, in my opinion. Arriving at one’s own sacred sense of the Divine is one of life’s greatest teachings and surrendering one’s ego to a power greater than ourselves, no matter what one calls this power, is the only way to true liberation.

By finding peace inside of us, one person at a time, we can come together as a collective in peace. That is the medicine that is so needed at this time. Namaste. I bow to you.

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crestone-eagleMany years ago, a close friend who was a hospice social worker asked me to cover her hospice clients while she was out of town. I told her, “I don’t do death.” She then taught me something that was way beyond my 40 years. “Hospice is not about death, it is about life.” Because I had been experiencing subtle neurological symptoms for years and I feared a degenerative, life-threatening illness building in my body, this concept peaked my curiosity as it assaulted my logic. How could dying be about living? Almost like a Zen koan that evokes enlightenment by showing the inadequacy of the logical mind, I had the next two decades to contemplate this paradox, because two weeks ago I became a client of Hospice del Valle in Alamosa.

When I was considering entering hospice, I received desperate messages from friends around the country who had heard I was actively dying. After all, I must be actively dying if I was in hospice. This is one of the major misconceptions hospice workers encounter. Families usually consider hospice only in the last days or weeks of a person’s chronic or terminal illness, which, in my opinion, does a disservice to the patient and greatly limits the level of care available through the organization. The main purpose of hospice is to provide palliation to chronically, terminally, or seriously ill patients (not expected to live more than six months), which includes attending to their medical, psychological, and spiritual well-being and those of their families.

Living in a culture that is death-phobic, no one wants to mention the H word to a person who still has some life in them. What if hospice involved helping to reduce the suffering of persons deemed terminally ill, but still living for many months? The illness I have been living with is a slow, degenerative illness that has only affected me from the neck down. The effects have been devastating, but from the neck up I have been able to maintain a quality of life that is different, but regenerative in nature. Having been a psychotherapist for thirty years, my work has become more selective but much deeper, given my spiritual growth directly informed by what I consider my “spiritual curriculum.”

I had considered hospice for the last year, but since I was not actively dying, I did not consider it seriously. My most experienced caregiver who had worked ten years in a hospice told me that about 10% of her hospice clients lived an average of two years. Working through the necessary emotional stages, I engaged the closest hospice serving Crestone. To my surprise and tremendous relief, I have received care on every level I could imagine—physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual. They are an interdisciplinary team: MD, RN, CNAs, chaplain, and Family Support liaison. Whereas in home health, improvement needed to be noted, with hospice I could let go and receive care on all levels. This is supporting my dreamtime, depth of meditation, and, I believe, allowing me to begin a conscious death with open communication to my Guides on the other side. Intuitively, I have been able to let go and begin my journey through the Bardos.

I imagine that choosing to work in hospice naturally screens out individuals who are not comfortable “doing death.” My experience with each professional is that their level of skill, compassion, and care have surpassed my high expectations. I now know what my friend was saying; hospice has been about improving my quality of life, even though I can die within days. I can also live months and perhaps a year or so. That was never a possibility before I engaged hospice. I am a natural strategizer or I would never have been able to live alone while quadriplegic, but their expertise has taken this to a new level.

I will likely see 2017, but perhaps I might see 2018! With the help of my care team and now hospice, I can continue to lead my psychotherapy group on Skype, share my growing wisdom gained from living in stillness, and perhaps I’ll live to write another book!

“Transcendence can not be accessed through the mind, but through direct experience with the numinous.” -Ilene Aliyah Alexander

Woman-hiking-in-nature

The diminished physical ability I have been living with is becoming increasingly more limiting leaving primarily the autonomic nervous system. When I acknowledge the disease progression and how some functioning is becoming nearly impossible to do and my strategies are no longer effective, I feel grief and need take time to mourn for what was and will never be again in this glorious body that has taken me so far. Usually the grief lasts a few hours to a few days. This is very different, because it used the last for years. I have evolved emotionally and spiritually with the understanding, the profound revelation that I am not my body, nor am I my strategizing mind. My empathy and love for self and other is growing exponentially. This curriculum has given me the opportunity to live more from my Soul.

Some people call my journey courageous; some people call it miraculous. I just call it what is. I can either kick and scream (although I can literally do neither) or I can just choose to say yes to the new level of functioning, my new baseline. What I am finding with this accelerated curriculum is that with loss always comes a new awareness I had not been previously able to access prior to the limitations.

I am not a saint and I am not an exception. I am just no longer interested in suffering on a day-to-day minute-to-minute basis. If I am unable to control anything physically, I can control my reaction. And that is about all I can control.

Being alone nineteen hours a day, sitting overlooking the 14,000 foot mountain range called Sangre de Christos, I am realizing the importance of the spiritual teachings of Ram Dass and others. As a collective consciousness we are moving from the third dimension to the fourth dimensional reality. The latter involves unitive consciousness. The field of unity is already around us. People are gradually being able to access this field  to eventually reach a critical mass where the rigid boundaries of duality will be rendered unnecessary. We are moving into Love.

I am realizing the wisdom in choosing this curriculum as a default in order to assure the integration of this teaching. This is a very different response from feeling victimized by a random, mysterious disease constellation. As I let go of each ability on the physical level, I open to a new ability on the subtle level. From this perspective, I wonder what disability really means. The liberation possible from reconfiguring the evolutionary potential of suffering is immeasurable.

I am seeing that whatever the challenge that may seem catastrophic from our human/ego perspective, there is always a gift on the other side. Fully experiencing the grief is essential and once on the other side of the seemingly endless grief, there is the opportunity for transcendence. Transcendence is beyond the five levels of grief Elisabeth Kubler-Ross generously illuminated. For me, I now understand that this rigorous curriculum was perhaps the most expeditious way and perhaps the only way for me to access this state given the trajectory of my choices during this lifetime.

The surrender into transcendence is where the fourth dimension lies. I’m convinced that this is what my father who had been a lifelong atheist described on his deathbed, “heaven, a place of tranquility.” I am realizing that whatever the challenge that may seem catastrophic, there is always a gift on the other side. The opportunity is that we reach this place beyond acceptance into transcendence where suffering may no longer be necessary for growth. Many are being called to this expanded state of consciousness, the dimension where love and unity are the only reality.

“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” -Rainer Maria RilkeBald_Eagle_Portrait

Before turning forty, I was traveling to New Mexico multiple times a year to do very deep inner work. The symptoms had begun a couple years prior and I was determined to unravel the mystery of these internal alarms that were reverberating so profoundly through my system.

During these retreats near Taos, New Mexico, I met a medicine man with seemingly unlimited powers for healing others. His name was Gordon and he was the only white man I’d heard of who was allowed and actually sought after to treat the native chief and elders of the Taos Pueblo reservation.

Gordon was an electrical contractor, well known in his community. He also had a profound gift of healing. I remember a story where a fellow electrician had been electrocuted and Gordon mysteriously returned him to life. Extraordinary experiences such as this did not go unnoticed; nevertheless, Gordon resisted the pleas of others to practice his healing gift. Finally, perhaps to assuage the inner and outer pressure, he stated to the powers that be, that if he would experience three miracles he would stop his business and follow this path. Soon after that he was sent three people with terminal illnesses who healed miraculously. Gordon dutifully surrendered into the unknown.

Gordon worked out of a makeshift garage transformed into an office with a small waiting room. Walking into his office transported us into another realm of consciousness. When I initially met Gordon, he could not relate to the name Ilene and he called me Maybelline for the many years we worked together. It was obvious after working with Gordon that my whole energetic field including my body was totally different, and different in a very good way, yet uncomfortable. I remember asking Gordon what he did to me the last time I had been there, because for two hours I felt completely undone. His response was, “I just take out the garbage, I don’t look in it.”

On one such visit I had gone to him with extreme fibroid tumors in my uterus. My mensas was late leaving me hormonally distraught. Medical doctors could give me no relief. Gordon worked on me, sometimes with the help of sacred feathers and rattles that were gifted to him by Chiefs and elders. After working with him my complete energy field including my emotional and physical bodies were completely altered. I returned to Louisiana and within twelve hours began releasing huge blood clots on my uterus. If I had gone to a medical doctor at this point they would have insisted on a hysterectomy. I called Gordon and he told me, “they had to go somewhere…” I felt reassured and curious about this cleansing happening to my body. I learned to trust Gordon implicitly when the bloating in my abdomen normalized.

Gordon had a sense of humor. He could be working diligently on a part of my body and there would suddenly be a sound in the wall or ceiling joists. He would say, “oh, there it goes.” One time when I was waiting in the waiting room of his garage for my turn, I heard the song, “oh Maybelline, oh won’t you be true…” I figured he was playing a CD, but I noticed the music was coming from a transistor radio! When he came to retrieve me I pointed out the music. I told him, “Gordon, the weirdest things happen in this office.”

Gordon had a way of looking into your eyes that penetrated every layer to your core. During these moments I knew he was performing ultimate diagnostics. Looking into his eyes he would shape shift; I would be looking into the eyes of an eagle. I had a picture on my altar of an eagle that represented my connection with this medicine man.

Unbeknownst to me, the last time I saw Gordon he told my friend, Sandi, “that was the last time I will see Aliyah.” And as always, Gordon was right. To this day, I recall all of my friends and clients I brought to Gordon of incredible healings. I explicitly remember the pictures of women on his wall who could not have children through conventional doctors, but became pregnant with Gordon’s help.

Last night I had a dream where I met a man unknown to me sitting next to me in a circle. I stood up and hugged the man. In the embrace, I knew it was Gordon. I said, “hello Gordon” to this stranger. He told me, “you are in your way of your healing.” Yesterday, I had been disconnected all day, desperately trying to get out of the muck to connect internally. I woke up this morning feeling connected and went right to this blog entry about Gordon I had forgotten about.

I feel Gordon right here in my heart chakra and I know we will forever be Maybelline and the Eagle.

“I was immature; I became experienced; I was consumed. -Rumi

What would it feel like to live each moment in unitive consciousness, including the whole continuum of life and death? There would be no loss, nothing to strive for. Love would be all there is and that would be true perfection. The Spirit world is like this, I hear, but there is no contrast in which to experience duality and therefore, accelerated growth. We come to “school” for those teachings.

Astrologically, the past month of April was projected to reveal extreme highs and extreme lows. Astrology has always been a Sacred helper on my Journey. It has become increasingly clear through the ups and downs of April, that I have been living much of my life with the proverbial one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the brake. The events of the month were grueling and have revealed my exhaustion and, perhaps, some denial that I actually do have a progressive, degenerative illness, complications from which will eventually end my life. A hospice chaplain friend succinctly reminded me that this athletic regime I have created is not so much about healing my body, but the healing I am truly seeking will come with the surrender of death and that process is directed by my soul. I really needed to hear that. Sometimes I get so caught up in strategizing, that I forget what is truly in charge.

What is the expression, “Life is what’s happening when you are busy making other plans?”  Well, perhaps, physical decline is what has been happening when I’ve been busy making other plans. April has brought a rude awakening to my ego, the part of me that has been doing fitness training with a life-threatening illness. No matter how much I have been training, a physical downward spiral has been steadily progressing.

What is the alternative? The alternative is not to merely stay in a place of helplessness or despair, but to feel it all; to feel the depth of the grief and the occasional panic, to feel it all. Allowing myself to feel the despair, though challenging, can be a pivotal point where transcendence can be accessed. In my experience, attempting to grasp onto hope can be an illusory detour if it is keeping one from hitting the proverbial bottom of no hope. It is after one accepts that there is no hope that true transcendence is available through surrender. Weathering the pain of hopelessness is where spiritual maturity is required.

Surrender has never been easy for me. I have been told that the purpose of this illness is to treat my willfulness by five disembodied monks. After I thought about it, it made perfect sense when I think about all the times that I used my will to push through which ended up not being be healthier choices in my life. What better way to learn the limitations of my ego, but to get an intractable, progressive illness. True to form I have tried everything to heal imaginable and then some. I’ve had no choice, but to let go, to open more to the illness, what it is teaching me and to ultimately have gratitude for the deepening of the love in my life. Becoming comfortable with stillness was not something I would have chosen from my ego, but big gifts have been immeasurable.

I recently watched Ram Dass’ documentary Fierce Grace once again about his experience post stroke and he acknowledged that when he was “stroked” he did not have one spiritual thought. Upon this revelation, his reflection revealed, “I have more work to do.” Well, I have more work to do. Surrender, on a significant level, still feels like resignation, giving up. What is being required is an acceleration of my spiritual work, letting go more into Trust. That is my next big piece. Opening up to the freedom that comes from that. I suspect if we all could do that, we would all be beamed up into Spirit. We will meet in that “field” together that Rumi talks about. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”  

Well, the limited amount of functioning I have had is becoming increasingly more limited leaving just that of the autonomic nervous system. When I realize some functioning is becoming nearly impossible and my strategies are no longer effective, I feel some grief and mourning for what was and will never be again in this body. Usually the grief lasts a few hours to a few days at this point. That’s very different, because it used to last a few years!

Some people call it courage; some people call it miraculous. I just call it “what is.” I can either kick and scream (although I cannot literally do either) or I can just choose to say “yes” to the new level of functioning. What I am finding with this accelerated curriculum is that losing something always has some new awareness I hadn’t been able to access, before.

I am not a saint and I am not an exception. I am just not interested in suffering on a day to day minute to minute basis, if I have any control over that. And that is about all I have control over!

Being alone nineteen hours a day, sitting overlooking the 14,000 foot mountain range called Sangre de Christo, I am realizing the importance of the acceleration of the spiritual work Ram Dass talked about. As a collective consciousness, we are moving from the third dimensional reality to the fourth dimensional reality. The latter involves unitive consciousness. The field of unity is already around us. People are gradually being able to access this field to eventually reach a critical mass, where rigid boundaries of duality will soften.

I am realizing that as I let go of each ability on a physical level, I am opening to a new ability on the subtle level. So I ask myself, what really is disability?

I am realizing that whatever the challenge that may seem catastrophic, there is always a gift on the other side of the grief. We can reach that place beyond acceptance into a place of transcendence, which is where the fourth dimension lies. Many are being called to experience the expanded. awareness of the fourth dimension. Rumi and Ram Dass are great teachers beckoning us to this dimension of heightened love and unity.

I will meet you there.

“It’s the stuff God hits your ass with, when he doesn’t want to kill ya, he just wants to slow ya down.” -Richard Pryor on MS

Leanne_Spiritual_Heart.341200433_stdI believe that people take on catastrophic challenges for different reasons, because in our deepest Being, we want to wake up; we want to evolve and we want to effect the collective evolution of humanity. That is not small potatoes. Otherwise, the Universe would be seen as an uncompromising, sadistic force, which I do not, cannot and will not ever believe; that is too antithetical to what I feel in my heart. Without my cumulative felt-perceptions nurtured over many decades and perhaps many lifetimes, I might have the consciousness of a chickpea, not meaning to disparage a chickpea. Sorry Rumi.

My belief system has been nurtured by my evolving love for myself and humanity. How could this curriculum be for anything but my betterment? When I feel moved to look deeper into the etiology of the illness I feel like an investigator looking for clues. Either we volunteer for these rigorous curricula or they are arbitrary, the latter of which I don’t believe for a minute given the outcomes I have witnessed and experienced. I also believe that we set up reminders along the way when we might be deviating from our chosen course. At these points, like breadcrumbs along the path, we face crossroads where free choice can be exercised to alter the trajectory.

I can remember making choices during my life that, in retrospect, were not in my best interest. Rather than seeing these choices as failures or even tests that would imply right or wrong, I see these moments as opportunities for my Soul to catch my attention. Based on the curricula chosen by the Soul, these nudges are instructive and they become louder and louder when ignored.

Working on surrendering my egoic willfulness, I suspect that I created a failsafe plan to get my attention that would not allow for error. Early in the illness, I felt punished and ashamed. Now I understand that the opposite is really true. Because I am a courageous soul with fierce determination, I set out a curriculum where surrender was the only option.

I can remember example after example of times in my life when I deferred my own judgment to other people’s opinions. I can remember denying my own intuitions and desires to meet other people’s needs. The most representative example of this self injurious behavior was after a marital separation where I was left emotionally devastated. It took two days to get myself out of bed and back to work, after six weeks of singing Amazing Grace for an hour each day while driving over the causeway to New Orleans, I gradually brought my life back to a place of joyful homeostasis. I began to dream of finding a small house for myself and the children that was only mine.

When my husband sensed my joy he requested  a reconciliation, I pivoted away from my dream to reconcile. I began having anxiety attacks like I had never experienced. I remember being unable to leave the car, but still I ignored them. In retrospect, these felt like wake-up calls that I systematically ignored. What could my soul do, but make the alarms louder? That was when the symptoms were beginning. But it is never just one incident; there are often many unheeded calls. Remember, the illnesses or injuries are not punishments. They are sacred breadcrumbs to assist your return to your chosen path.

Around this time the symptoms had begun. Instead of abandoning my dream, I needed to turn toward my dream, to empower it, to empower myself. Only in retrospect do it realize the significance of ignoring the prompting from my soul. I gave my soul no choice but to intensify the constriction. This was a loving gesture, like a parent creating instructive containment to assure healthy development in their child. There is no judgment regarding the required curriculum on a Soul level. Challenges and resulting behaviors are met with neutrality. What is most important is the return to a deeper sense of self-love. “God does not want to kill ya, just slow ya down.”

People design specific karmic lessons during their pre-birth planning to focus on developing particular traits, i.e. self-esteem, generosity, compassion, becoming more self-referential during their mortal lifetimes. I believe that becoming self-referential was central to my learning and being willful was in the way of making better choices that would deepen self trust. Okay, enter progressive degenerative illness  to affirm to my ego that my soul is in charge. From the perspective of this singular life, it seems like a big deal, but from the scope of thousands of lifetimes it is a mere speck in the bigger picture.

The hope and promise of a life fully lived brings with it the perspective of seeing our lives from the bigger picture perspective. With this understanding, suffering can be greatly reduced and deep joy and satisfaction attained from the knowing that we have done our best. It is for this intended outcome that I continue to log my Journey.

half-cracked-3-500x360As they say in Louisiana, “it’s a gone pecan.” Now you have to pronounce the nut like the previous word so that they rhyme. It’s gone and nothing can bring it back.

I wrote a blog entry about The True Meaning of Healing. I worked long and hard, doing most of the editing myself, manually, which is not an easy feat these days. I felt proud and encouraged. I chose to delay the publishing for a later date to allow for more time between entries and to give myself a rest. Yesterday, the blog entry about the meaning of true healing disappeared into thin air. I waited for a caregiver to try to save it, but unbeknownst to me, it was merely a phantom of the draft I had laboriously crafted. With one click, it disappeared into cyberspace forever.

I spent the evening in what Elisabeth Kubler-Ross clearly delineated, bargaining, depression, anger with a faint hint of acceptance on the horizon, perhaps in a day or two. Not only was my beautifully roasted pecan gone, but the uncertainty of how this could possibly happen has stayed in the air. What is to keep it from happening again? I am once again thrust into the experience of impermanence. The ego vehemently affirms the existence of matter, no matter what.

During week two of The Presence Process, we are asked to spend the week sensing how we become triggered by reflections in the present moment that have roots in the past. Even though I am on week three, I am experiencing the felt-perception of loss. The sense of helplessness was overwhelming after I acknowledged that the blog entry was gone forever. Nothing is going to bring it back, nothing will restore the nerve pathways from my spinal cord to my muscles; certainly not during this lifetime or in this body. Gone pecan.

All that can be done is mourning. People avoid mourning at all costs. Without the ability to mourn, one cannot move on into something greater. In my meditation, unrelated to the presence process, I heard that it was necessary to strip me of the healing blog entry, in order to be raw for another writing about the lack of physical nurturing in my early life. Did I like to hear this? No. Does it make sense? Yes.

It would be easy for me to go into the story of, “I have lost so much, why now this? Why me?” And that story leads into, “it’s just not worth it, why don’t I just give up now?” Fortunately and unfortunately I cannot get away with this archaic sort of drama anymore. I have developed too much presence for that.

So, for now I will continue to mourn my blog entry, the wonderful quote I selected that introduces the entry and the energy it took to complete it mostly myself. That is all gone and I will listen to the nudging of my inner voice to bring my rawness, vulnerability and authenticity to a gut wrenching entry about Touch, or the lack thereof. So, goodbye to the gone pecan. I hope you will be happy wherever you are, lost in cyberspace.