Mundane miracles


Dang it’s been a long time since I’ve written.  I have been quite aware of this; on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I am accustomed to writing, having an urge to sit down and do it.  Yet, it just seemed like I didn’t have much to write about.  I was in a pretty good routine of doing normal life things.  I wake up and meditate most mornings, go to work, and listen to audio books by people like Caroline Myss, Richard Rohr, Brene Brown, and Carl Jung while I’m driving around.  I spend a little time with friends but more often than not I’m out on the mountain scoring cheap re-usable materials on Craig’s List to make my patios, and building a fence so my dog doesn’t run away.  In the evenings I read, or watch documentaries on Netflix.  Pretty normal, right?  Not much to write home about.

But then, in the midst of all this normalness, something started to happen.  Some things started to shift.  Spaces began opening up that were so natural for me to flow into.  It’s sort of like when you put and upright glass into a tub of water.  The space of the glass starts to push aside the water, creating a bit of a void.  Eventually, as the glass is lowered further and further into the tub, a vacuum is created and the water can’t help but start spilling in over the sides of the glass.  It can’t help but flow into the space that has been created.

This is how life started to feel for me.  An invisible space started to open up in the vortex of my existence, and my energy couldn’t help but start spilling in, taking me and my normal life along with it.  I’ve written before about my mantra, of sorts, “let go of the banks.”  Sometimes (most of the time) I am in this raging river of life trying so hard to cling onto the river banks as if my very life depended on it.  I use all of my energy to hold on, trying almost to control the river and how I will live in it.  In the mean time, tree branches and other loose debris are smacking up against me, massive currents tearing me apart, and occasionally a trout or two will take advantage of my static state and start nibbling away at my worn flesh.  But, BUT, when I trust and let go of  the banks something miraculous happens.  I am thrust to the middle of the river and I begin to float downstream, carried away by the currents.  I no longer have shit knocking me upside the head, and I don’t even notice the fierce speed and strength of the waters, because I am carried effortlessly along with them, a very piece of the river and everything in it, now part of the very thing that was before so dangerous and scary.   For me this is a great analogy for how I would like to live this life, how I wish to allow my ego to loosen it’s grip on trying to control everything in life, thinking it knows the “right” way, and to simply trust and allow my heart, my soul, to take me where it may.

So, as I started to flow into this emerging space, some amazing things began to happen.  Things started to “come to me” that I have been wanting, thinking about, preparing for – but that I didn’t really think I had the means to get at this time.  For example, I’ve been thinking about and planning – knowing that I will definitely do this at some point – turning my bedroom into a space where I can start a private therapy practice.  That little casita is a perfect place for so many reasons.  However, this also begs the question, where would I sleep?  My fantasy has been to purchase a geodesic dome.  They have kits for livable domes that have a huge (like, a third of the entire dome) window, and I dream of laying in my bed watching the stars and storms.  However, domes are really freaking expensive and I just didn’t see it happening.  But true to my nature, I fantasized on.  Next thing I know one day I’m going through my daily Tiny Homes  e-mail and there is a 20 foot dome for sale… at about half the usual price!  The journey of getting this dome has been a fun one, and it took a while, but that’s for later.  The UPS guy delivered my dome a couple of weeks ago.  Who wouldda thunk?!?

Another example, along similar lines of financial fears, has to do with wanting to go to Chicago.  It had been two years since I had been back, and it was looking like I was going to have to wait another winter as I just wasn’t able to take time off of work and absorb the expense.  This was incredibly sad for me.  I am quite settled here in New Mexico, but that doesn’t keep me from missing my friends terribly.  Well, long story short, an unexpected opportunity opened up, everything fell right into place, and I was able to spend a week in my old home.  Again, completely unexpected and unpredictable!  But fantastic.

There are other, smaller but equally cool and spontaneous, examples.  And on top of all that, I began to notice that I was starting to hear voices, and drums, and music again.  A very welcomed but scarce friend.  I’ve also started to see my intuition sharpening in some very real ways.  It is not uncommon now for me to randomly have a friend pop into my mind, and minutes (sometime seconds) later there they are – walking across the street, sending me an e-mail after months of no contact.  One day as I was headed to work, I was flying down the mountain in my car, as is typical for all of us who commute early in the morning to the city.  But I was running late and was alone on the road.  A pretty unusual thought came to me, “I better slow down or I might get a ticket.”  There were never cops giving out tickets on this mountain road!  But I trusted my gut, slowed to the speed limit, and I swear sitting at the corner of the bottom of that very hill was a cop, radar gun pointed right at me.

I believe this super natural vortex that has opened up to me and beckoned my soul to enter was created by the very mundane day to day things I thought too common to write about.  Occasionally the mystical will burst out though the fabric of the matrix and slam us with a wild ride.  I think Spirit does this to get our attention, because we are likely not paying attention at all.  At least I think that is what happened/s to me.  But the truly mystical life, the soul journey, is brought forth by the small, seemingly mundane, choices we make every day.  Like, should I get up and meditate, or hit snooze and sleep in?  Should I play video games on my phone, or should I watch this really amazing documentary my friend told me about?  Should I spend my weekends in the city, shopping and hanging out with friends, eating and drinking the evenings away just to get home so late that all I can do is crawl into bed?  Or should I carve some time out for myself, to read, to eat simple healthy meals, to wander through the woods, to just be with the land?  Should I spend my extra income on stuff, or should I use it to enroll in classes and workshops on mindfulness, Jungian symbology, intuition, the tarot?  Should I listen to the radio while I drive to and from work, or should I listen to audio books that feed my soul and stimulate my soul journey?  Or even better yet, maybe I could just sit in silence and just be with the beauty and life that is right outside my windshield?  Such small choices that lead to monumental outcomes.




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The beautiful hurt

“Death is, really, quite a beautiful thing.  But it sure does hurt.”

Karla Ismay


This week I walked into work and received a call that another of my clients had died.  She had been in the hospital on the psych unit for about a month, and not doing so well.  She was manic, but didn’t recognize this at all.  She was angry and hostile, desperate to get out, she fired me and threatened to sue everyone.  Then 20 minutes later she would call me back, crying, telling me I knew her better than anyone, and just wanted me to go spend some time with her.  She was fighting with other patients on the unit, irritating the hell out of the staff, and blowing up the phones of everyone.  Literally.  I would get between 10 to 20 calls every day/night.

Mental illness is no joke.  And it was painful to see her like this.  Because when she wasn’t manic – she was a caring, intelligent, funny, insightful, out-spoken, glass-half-full kind of a woman.  She was a joy, really.  As her therapist I would go to her house every Tuesday at 1:00, and she would share with me the most extremes of her life; the greatest pains, betrayals, fears, regrets, angers – some of the deepest parts of her shadows.  And she would also share the extremes on the other end as well; the greatest joys, and hopes, and loves, and celebrations.  She allowed me into the sacred realm of her life, and together, with the rest of our team, we worked to try to keep her from becoming manic.

Because of the nature of this particular job, however, we did more than therapy together.  I visited her in the hospital after her knee surgery, and would take her grocery shopping because she wasn’t able to get there by herself.  I even unloaded her groceries and put them away.  I know what is in every cupboard and drawer in her kitchen.  On hot days she would always give me a popsicle out of her freezer, and we would sit in the cool shade in her back yard to do our work.  I became friends with her cats, Lucky, Skippy and Panther, and when she went into the hospital I got the extra house key from the secret hiding place and made sure they were fed and got some loving every evening before I went home.  I would also grab a popsicle out of her freezer, and call her on the psych unit to let her know that I was stealing them.  This made both of us feel good somehow.  She has shown me the old outfits she wore as a professional dancer in her younger day – and when she would finally ‘come down’ after a manic episode, I would go to her house and help her put back together again everything that she had destroyed and trashed.  Some of her most humbling moments.

And now she is dead.

I gave up the extra key to her son, who drove down from Denver, and who I also know quite well.  Skippy and Lucky and Panther are going to live with her sister, I think.  And next Tuesday at one o’clock, and for many Tuesdays at one o’clock to come, I know that she will continue to hold that space for us, even though the space will now feel so empty.

This woman, Angela is her name, is a client.  She’s not a family member, or some life-long friend.  She is a client.   At the end of the day, our relationship was a professional one.  While she allowed me into her home and life and was willing to share so much of it, she really knew relatively little about me.  It was not a reciprocal relationship.  And yet.  And yet her death has kind of shaken my core, and made me feel incredibly sad.

I was talking about Angela’s death with my therapist yesterday, and my experience of it.  It was quite the existential discussion, as I tried (as we both tried) to wrap our little heads around the true nature of death, of relationship and connection, of emotional pain – even when it’s connected to “just a client,” and why death is such a painful experience for the living.  Because, in reality, I truly believe that death is not the end, but another step in the journey that allows the soul to fully return home to source, to emerge again with creation.  I see death as a sort of ecstasy, actually.  If I know in  my heart that death is a beautiful event, why does it hurt so much?

As I sit here writing, I’m realizing that I’m experiencing my tears as the blood of my soul, so to speak.  It’s kind of ridiculous to ask “why.”  When there is a cut to the flesh, it bleeds, cleansing out the wound actually .  Eventually the bleeding stops, depending on how severe the cut.  We don’t sit and ask in wonder, “why am I bleeding?”  I’m realizing it’s just as ridiculous to ask, “why am I crying for a client.”  It’s just what happens.  It’s the way things work.

As I’ve gone though my days this week, and found myself thinking about Angela and another young client who died recently, I’ve realized that I always say to them, quietly, “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry I didn’t know this was going to happen, I’m sorry I didn’t do more.”  But it’s not “I’m sorry,” that I want to say anymore.  Death happens, it will to all of us, probably when we least expect it.  And it is a beautiful, miraculous part of our life here on Earth.  Really, what I want to say is, “thank you.”  Thank you for being a part of my life, and allowing me to walk a length of your journey with you.”

I’m also not going to say ‘rest in peace,’ Angela, because I know you are doing anything but resting right now!  You feisty, powerful, courageous woman you.  But I will say I’m going to miss you down here.  I’ll be seeing you soon.

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Just when I thought it was completely unsafe…

Sometimes I feel like I am being buried by hate and greed and narcissism in this world.  Just within the last month or two there have been some horrific things happening that should clearly explain why.  Racially motivated mass murders and burning down of churches, an unending flow of women being enslaved in the sex trade –  AND IN THIS COUNTRY!, wars of hate and intolerance raging all over the globe, and our own troops killing themselves at a rate higher than the actual American death toll from the wars they were fighting, our own politicians shouting out rally cries to deny citizens of basic health care and civil rights, and all the world’s oceans being decimated because we don’t want to stop using fucking plastic grocery bags!

I kind of just don’t get it.  My little head can’t quite wrap itself around why we are continuing on this trajectory of hate and destruction.  The answers seem so simple, and really not all that hard.  If we could just move beyond our greed, and sloth, and self-centeredness, and illusions of power and control.

Just when I fear that the scales of this pivotal time we are in are tipping in the “wrong” direction, and the tides are receding so low it seems as though they will never recover, hugely small little miracles happen that pull those waters back like a tidal wave of love and hope.

In the last couple of weeks alone,  the Supreme Court rules in favor of love and makes marriage available and legal for all, Bree Newsome climbs a flagpole and takes down a raging symbol of hate – standing as a courageous and non-violent leader with the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., Misty Copeland becomes the first black Principal Dancer in the history of the American Ballet Theater, and thousands of people every day wait in line to get a hug from Amma.

I have heard of Amma, the hugging saint, for several years now.  And I’m not gonna lie,  part of me thought it was a little hokey.  I mean, come on now… how can a woman giving out hugs change the world?  But a good friend, who is on a similar path as I,  and who has gone to get a hug from Amma every year for the past 5 or 6 years, invited me to go with her.  Since I respect my friend so much, and since part of my journey is about being open to whatever brings me closer to my soul and the divine, I agreed to go with her and check it out.

I drove the hour and a half it took me to get to the casino that was hosting the event, and when I got there learned that my friend was unable to make it at the last moment.  But I had made the space in my weekend to go get this hug, so I stayed.

I found my way into the hall outside the ballroom where Amma was to dole out her hugs.  It was jam-packed with people exploring and waiting in line at the couple dozen tables that displayed East Indian art and spiritual wares, East Indian food and drink, and posters and brochures giving pictures and information about Amma and the numerous charities she has started over the years.  It looked and felt like I had walked into an East Indian street market, alive with colors and smells, and the noises of excitement and expectation.   When I finally maneuvered my way into the huge ballroom, I saw that it was set up with long row after long row of fold-up chairs, leading to a stage at the far end of the room, with a large screen on either side.  There was a morning session of Amma, and an evening session.  I was there for the evening session so was quite surprised to see Amma, sitting in the center of the stage with people still waiting in endless lines to get their hug.  Some random person standing next to me commented that they might have to cancel the evening session, as way more people than they were expecting showed up at the first session and there may simply not be time.  I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel on that nice stranger’s  comment, plus, I had become sort of mesmerized watching the quiet, unassuming events that were taking place on the far stage.  I can’t explain it really.  I felt like my head, my 6th chakra actually, was opening wide up and energy was pouring in and out in an uncontrolled manner.  It held me there for several moments, fixated on the calm and quiet combustion happening all around me.  Fairly quickly the immense energy in the room gave me a shooting headache and became too much for me, so I made my way back into the hall, determined to figure out how to get that hug from Amma.

It would be difficult, and probably incredibly boring, for me to describe the events that took place that night leading up to my hug.  Because it took 8 1/2 hours to get it.  Eight and one-half hours of nothing.  Nothing but waiting.  And standing in line.  Standing in several lines.  For very long periods of time.

There.  That pretty much explains the whole night.  I was able to get a chair massage that alleviated my headache, and frankly made it possible for me to remain wrapped up in that immense energy (that did not dissipate the entire night, I might add).  In a very comfortable way, the boundaries between me and everything else relaxed, coming very close to that ever-elusive concept that “we all are one.”  And I tried to take in and understand why it was that all these thousands of people, of every age and race and socioeconomic background, were willing to wait HOURS in lines and on uncomfortable fold-up chairs, just to have an 8 second experience of getting a hug.  I mean, what?  Huh?!  What the WHAT!?!  We’re talking about Americans here!  We don’t want to wait for ANYTHING.  If there is more than one person in front of us at the grocery store checkout, where we get our basic nutritional sustenance to keep us alive I might add, we become inpatient, and indignant, and cry out to the manager demanding that they open up another line.  And here were people, many with young children in tow, joyfully willing to stay up until two in the morning waiting for a hug.  Joyfully, I tell you!

Why were they all here?  Why was I here?  Are we all so starved for the simplest and most basic form of pure love and connection that we would subject ourselves to this torture – that turned out not to be torturous at all?  Have we really come to a place in this world where we have tried so long and so hard to fill ourselves up with material things, and food and drink, and busyness and money that we are this desperate for just a few drops of true soul-nourishment??  It was so hard for me to fathom.  People were smiling, and laughing, and meditating, not one word or tone of complaint or discontent the entire night did I hear.  Not even from the youngest of kids!  All for a few quick moments from this simple, yet magnificent woman who gives out hugs; who gives out hugs and won’t stop giving out hugs until every last soul there has gotten one.

I got my hug at about 1:30 in the morning.  And there were plenty still happily waiting for theirs.  I estimated that it would probably take about another hour, until 2:30 in the morning, until Amma would be able to give her final hug of the night and retire.  Until a few hours later, at which point she would wake up to run a retreat.

As I drove the hour and a half back home, through the darkest time of the night, frankly not feeling tired at all, I was both consumed with sadness at the absolute starvation of man/womankind for love.  And yet, at the same time, I was filled with unexpected joy and hope that so many people are still willing to seek out real love in this world, are still knowing that this is a value worth sacrificing for.  Thirty three million people, in fact – the estimated number of people world-wide willing to suffer through what we would otherwise consider the unimaginable, all exercising hope that this can, and will be, a different world.

Sadly, Amma barely made mention in the local news, as there was no room for her amidst the onslaught of murder, and child abuse, and arson, and natural disaster.  This is why I typically don’t consume the news – it perpetuates fear, not hope; hate, not love; greed, not  stories of compassion and sacrifice for others – that are frankly abundant in this world.  We just have to make a little effort to find them.  But if we make that little effort, we will find them, right in front of us all the while.



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Drive through spiritual awakening

I fear I am starting to really dislike (I wasn’t allowed to say the word “hate” when I was growing up, but it might apply here if I were) the word “mindfulness.”  To me it is growing into the next pop-culture buzz word to encompass the newest and trendiest way for being healthy and evolved.  You know, it’s starting to fall into the same little family as “self-help,” “co-dependent,” “significant other,” or “politically correct.”

(vomit here)

I imagine that all of those terms initially represented something that had the true potential for profoundness.  But, like everything else in our culture -EVERYTHING – we require it all to be tidied up, trimmed up, stripped clean, polished,  wrapped up in a neat little package, and ready for us to pick up at Wal-Mart.  We demand not just fast food, but fast everything.  Forget 12 steps, damn it, who has time for that?  Give me three or it is no longer marketable.

I feel so grateful to have been part of the generation that was allowed to still have one foot in the pre-technological era.  When I was young, I walked twelve miles uphill to school in 100 degree temperatures.  Both ways!  Just kidding – I took a bus.  But it was a value, a given, that all the really true and good things in life took time, took some effort and some work.  I expected to have to go to school for years, start at the bottom, live as a starving therapist for many years, work my way up gaining experience and knowledge as I went, hoping beyond all hope I would someday make enough money that I could actually have a little to stash away for retirement.  Today, kids finish their bachelors degree and expect to be making $80,000 a year.  The first year.  Not knowing shit.  Trust me on this one, I’ve been supervising kids just coming out of college for about 20 years now.  I have personally witnessed this cultural transformation.  Actually, I feel better calling it a cultural gross disfiguration.  One of my own nephews, who I love dearly and is brilliant in every way :) got his first job after high school, not a college credit to his name, and announced – in all seriousness I might add – that he would be vice president of the company in two years.  I kind of don’t even know what to say about that.

Of course, the job and salary situation is only one teeny-tiny example of what I am talking about.  Somehow, at some point in time, the value of ‘hard work and experience’ took a freaking 180 degree turnabout to now be ‘faster and easier is better.’  Thank god I am old enough to have a really hard time wrapping my little mind around that.  I fear this will be the demise of us.

(I step off my soapbox and away from the vomit here)

Somewhat sadly and with some difficulty, I am finally letting go of the idea that there is going to be some big event that propels me into being a mystical healer.  There will be no moment when the skies part and lightning strikes and I suddenly “awaken” (another emerging buzz word) into an advanced spiritual being.  There is not a book or speaker on the face of the earth that is going to be able to open this door for me.  I know I had some good reasons to believe that this was the way it was going to happen, but I have to admit to myself that one of those reasons is that I, too, have been riding on that wave of the age of immediate gratification.

So, while there will be no powerful, sky-splitting, spiritually-awakening moment in time, I am starting to see that if I set my expectations aside, there will be many.  Millions actually.  Limitless – more than the number of grains of sand on the earth (its hard for me to break away from my Christian training).

I took a vacation a couple of weeks ago.  The first time I have taken off in almost two years that did not involve taking care of or tending to my mom and/or dad.  It was much-needed.  I spent 6 nights and 7 days driving up the pacific coast on Highway 1/101, camping my way through the journey.  I set an intention to make this a soul-based vacation, immersed in some of the most beautiful nature we have on this continent, and working on being fully present, “mindful,”  in every single moment.  I’ve been setting this intention in more and more areas of my life, because, if I’m not going to get “there” via some magnificent spiritual awakening, or by taking a class or reading a book, then I’m probably going to get there by fully experiencing each and every moment as present and as fully as I can.  For years.  After all, that is what those who have come before me have taught.  For millenia.  So in this vein I made some commitments to myself: 1)  no radio, no Facebook, no e-mail, no internet.  None of those modern-day staples of distraction.  2)  only whole, fresh foods.  If I couldn’t look at it and truly see with my eyes everything that would be going into my body, then I wouldn’t eat it.  And only water to drink.  I wanted, even if just for a short period of time, to totally break free from those addictions that I use to numb myself out.   3) I would actively work on being present every moment.  When I caught my mind wandering, I would bring it back.  I could meditate on what I was feeling in my body, I could listen to each breath I took, I could really see the details of the beauty that surrounded me.  Whatever the technique, the trip was about fully experiencing every single moment of it.  And that was it.  Simple, right?  It was only a week – anyone could do this for just one week.

The technology thing was a little challenging for the first day or so.  I learned that I have an ingrained, unconscious response of turning on my phone whenever I have a few empty moments.  Like when I sit on the toilet, am waiting for gas to be put in the car, when I stop to take a little breather, when I set everything down and start to go to sleep.  It is as though my body and brain have colluded together to automatically and unconsciously keep my brain activated, bombarded, and nauseated with constant stimuli.  I have been programmed like a robot.  So when I caught myself doing that and shut down the programming, I found a bit of anxiety raise up through my body, starting in the souls of my feet and surging upward, racing in erratic circles in my brain.  “Oh god, what am I supposed to do now?” was the question that seemed to accompany the surge of anxiety.  But as it turned out, the peace and immediate dissolution of that frenetic energy felt so good.  It took very little time for me to stop missing that junk at all.

I did really well with the eating too, for about the first half of the trip.  Eating whole fresh foods felt great to my body – and they tasted good!  It wasn’t like I ate wheat grass and quinoa for every meal.  I had some really good stuff.  It just wasn’t over processed with chemicals and other unrecognizable “ingredients”.  And I found that being really present with what I was putting into my body, I didn’t need to eat nearly as much as I usually do to feel full and really satisfied in a great way.  It was actually pretty exciting.

And the mindfulness was, as I knew it would be, a constant practice of bringing my mind back.  But the point is… I did it.  I didn’t just think about how great it might be to practice being mindful 18 hours a day, I actually practiced it.  And that, my friends, was hard work.  I’m not sure I can even describe what this felt like, as it was an experience of mind and body that I have never had before.  But what I can say is it was exhausting!  I wanted to stop so many times.  I wanted to let my mind wander, fantasize, make up stories, think about what was going on back home.  I wanted to just take a break, just for a little while let myself numb out.  But I didn’t.  The exhaustion I felt, while no English word I know of is adequate, was some kind of melded experience of my brain and body conjoining into some nuclear reactive process that emitted a wild kind of energy that infused and enlivened my soul, but wore the rest of my ass out.

That alchemy of energies that was taking place – just because I decided to “be mindful” and eliminate distractions, and be in nature – resulted in some kind of freaky and totally unexpected gifts.  I mean, aside from an almost magical sense of happiness and wholeness and connectedness that is really hard to quantify, I started having some of the more mystical experiences I have wanted to be having all this time, but have been a bit more elusive than I was hoping for.  I started hearing things, which really isn’t all that uncommon.  But prior to this experimental journey, the voices that had slowed to a bit of a trickle steadily began to flow to the point where I almost began to expect to hear them regularly.  And I did.

The other thing, that was even more startling to me, was what I can only call an increase in intuitive hits.  Perhaps this has been going on with me all along and I just wasn’t paying attention, but a thought would pop into my mind, or an image in my head, and no shit – within a matter of 5 seconds or less it would happen, or there it would be!  For example, I saw a variety of animals as I drove, but at one point I randomly thought out of nowhere… “it seems like I would be seeing deer on this trip, when am I going to start seeing the deer?”  I kid you not, maybe three seconds after that thought, maybe long enough to take a breath and let it out, a deer ran across my path from one side of the road to the other.

On one of the nights as I settled into my little one-person tent, I wondered if there were coyotes in the area.  I hear packs of coyote howls almost nightly at home.  Five seconds later?  That’s right – coyote howls.

However, as time and miles progressed,  and that exhaustion I spoke about started to settle in, somehow a slow but gradual slide was triggered, moving me just a little further away from the pure, so to speak, present experience I set out to have.  I didn’t completely throw it out the window, mind you.  I was able to stay away from anything internet-related, and probably the majority of time I continued to practice mindfulness, making healthy choices for myself, etc.  But I have to admit it became easier and easier to run into the gas station and get an ice cream sandwich, or beer for later, when I stopped for gas.  Eventually the radio came on, playing songs stored in my cell phone.  That was about the time I became cognizant of how exhausting the practice of being present and aware all the time is, and how hard it is to change practices and habits of living that are decades in the making.

I was a bit disappointed in myself, but I tried really hard to focus, instead, on the lessons of this entire experience.  One of those lessons brings me back to what I started out rambling about on my soapbox at the beginning of this story, and my growing irritation at a culture that is trying to sell spiritual awakening and connection with Soul in 5 easy steps.  It reminded me in a very visceral way that it is going to take a very long time, like – a lifetime, to unlearn all the lies that have been piled upon me for 48 years.  To, piece by piece, remove the layers of junk that keep me distracted and numb and disconnected.  To remember who I am and who I was made to be before I was force-fed the capitalistic, economic, peer-pressured version of what I am “supposed” to be.  And until, as these things gradually unfold, my connection to the divine becomes clear again.

It was also an astounding and lasting lesson in how we, I, have tossed aside and taken for granted the week and miniscule present moment.  I mean, what of any significance can take place and transform in a millisecond?  But the accumulation of milliseconds, the fairly rapid accumulation of milliseconds, when experienced as I believe we were initially created to experience but have long forgotten, take on a power of such we know nothing about, and from a place we have long excommunicated ourselves from.

Now I am a thousand miles away from the beautiful Pacific Coast.  My 5:30am alarm has been reset.  I am back in the “real world,”  which for me is becoming more and more of a fabricated, cheap plastic world.  And I am focused on finding ways to live moment to moment, clear and open, undistracted and un-anestitzed, in my day-to-day life, every day.


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More on feelings. and courage.



Even though my therapist might not quite believe this, I’ve really been blessed with pretty amazing parents.  The older I get, and the more families I experience, either through work or my personal life, I can so clearly see that they took the responsibility of parenthood seriously.  Embraced it even.  I now know they gave up so much of themselves, their lives, their aspirations, their desires – for us.  For me.  So that we could have every blessing, and every experience, and every  lesson, and every joy, and every security that money simply cannot buy.  Thank you Mom and Dad, and the village that raised me.

With everything my parents taught me and prepared me for in this life, this last weekend I discovered two that they did not.  And it’s probably not fair to even put that on them.  I think to a very large degree our society, maybe our world, has been inadequately prepared to face these two things that slapped me in the face and weighed me down all weekend.  Although my family is certainly the poster child of the phenomenon.  These two things are:  feeling feelings, and having courage.

I was brought up in a family where I was very poignantly taught to do everything I could to make life nice and easy.  Don’t rock the boat, don’t cause troubles, prepare yourself and plan, take the road most traveled, don’t take risks, don’t step out of line, don’t question authority, do things the “right” way.  These were words that floated around my house like the air we breathed.  And it all sounded pretty reasonable and good to me!  I can remember watching the other kids as I grew up ditching school, and pulling pranks, staying out late and going to places they weren’t supposed to go.  I remember thinking, “why are they being so stupid?  If they would just follow the rules they wouldn’t get in trouble and things would be so much better for them.”

Turns out “better” is a really fucking subjective word!

While I was walking the straight and narrow, which was actually sort of like living in a long, never-ending narrow box with high walls, they were jumping off cliffs and having one hell of a good time.  And probably learning how to deal with adversity, regret, sorrow, pain.  That takes courage.

So back to last weekend.  I made plans to go visit my dad for the Memorial Day weekend.  Over a month prior I had lied to my dad to get him to the memory care facility where he now lives, and left him there against his will.  And I am ashamed (feeling) to say that I had not so much as called him, not even once, since doing that.  Day after day I would think about it, plan on doing it, and berate myself when I would not.  As I drove to Tucson I tried to identify exactly what it was that was holding me back.  Even though I knew I had done the right thing, I felt so guilty (feeling) making him do something I knew he didn’t want to do, still doesn’t want to do.  And even though I knew damn well that he would have forgotten the entire incident, probably 15 minutes after it happened, I was afraid (feeling) that he would be angry (feeling) with me for doing this, maybe even hate (feeling) me.  I had this constant uncertainty (feeling) of what he would be like when I actually talked to him or saw him.  I have heard reports that he has had periods of being agitated (feeling), and has been a bit desperate (feeling) to try to escape.  Would he have some expectation (feeling) that I would be the one to free him from his prison?  Would I feel pressured (feeling) to do this, knowing that I can’t?  And certainly I had been wading around in an ocean of helplessness (feeling), knowing that there is truly not anything I can DO to help him.

I finally got to Tucson and let myself into his house.  I looked all around, inspected every corner – realizing that I was just putting off the inevitable.   The avoidance strategies were simply causing worry (feeling) and anxiety (feeling) to rise up like flood waters.  I think it was about this point that I heard, “just feel, just be.”  WTF???  That was like asking me to jump off a cliff!  Hmmm.

I sat in the middle of the floor to meditate, and did just what I was told.  I felt.  It wasn’t super pleasant (feeling), but I realized I could dive right into the middle of the tidal wave, and just body surf it in until it dissipated.  It wasn’t killing me.

So I got up and immediately headed out to see my dad – before my fear (feeling) made me change my mind.

That’s when the next wave started to come in.  That anticipation (feeling) of what would or would not happen was almost overwhelming (feeling).  Based on how bad his cognition had gotten, I was uncertain(feeling) that I would even know how to talk to him, or what to say.  And most dreadful (feeling) was the possibility that he would not recognize me or even know who I am.

Turns out he didn’t know who I was.  Some of the time.  At other times he did.  When he knew who I was he would announce to all the staff that his daughter had was there, and a wave of guilt (feeling) would wash over me for having taken so long to do something so simple that could bring a moment of joy (feeling) to his otherwise pretty sad (feeling) life.  But there was also a stream of pride (feeling) and gratefulness (feeling) at being a daddy’s girl and for the loving (feeling) relationship that we had managed to build over the years.

I went to see my dad several times throughout the long weekend, took him out to eat and to other places I thought he might enjoy, and spent time with him in his new home.  I can honestly say there was not one. single. moment. that was not bursting with feeling and emotion.  Intense feelings and emotion.  Some pleasant, some not so pleasant, some wonderful, and some downright gut wrenching.

At least three lessons (at least!) came out of that weekend for me…

1)  I was acutely aware of how much courage it took me to muster up to keep diving into that tsunami of raw emotion over, and over, and over, and over.  Each day I would wake up honestly not wanting to go to that nursing home.  But every day, a couple of times a day, I did.  I knew it was going to be painful (feeling) and scary (feeling), and a hundred times over I would call up the courage (feeling) from somewhere deep in my belly, and make the decision to dive in.  And it was all so wonderful.  Even the painful parts – wonderful.  Wonderful in the sense that true, raw human connection is wonderful.  And needed.  And takes courage.

Lesson 2)  I gained an entire, newfound appreciation for living in the moment.  Yes, I already knew that projecting myself into the future, worrying about what may or may not happen, conjuring up the worst case scenario – is a perfectly good waste of life.  But over these three days I also had a prolonged experience of how rich, and powerful, and soulful just being, and fully feeling each and every moment can be!  And in this case – I almost had to be.  My poor dad’s cognition would change, not just day to day, but in some cases moment to moment.  Literally, we would be having a conversation that clearly told me he had no idea who I was, and not five minutes later he was calling me by my name.  I never knew what to expect!  So for the mere necessity of surviving the weekend, I really did just have to be open and aware and really paying attention to each moment, and just respond in the natural way I found myself responding.  I couldn’t prepare, or rehearse, or plan to say and do the right thing.  I just was.  I have to say it was quite exhausting!  But priceless.

Lesson 3)  That business of “just be”…   despite how monumental I’m making the trip sound here (and it really kind of was!), I initially had such a greater sense of confidence (feeling) of being able to carry out the “just feel” order than being able to follow “just be.”  Forget tidal waves, this would require diving right into the center of a giant whirlpool, so huge and powerful it could suck me into human-doing world, never again to see the light of day in the human-being world.  This is a trap I have been actively working to break free from for the past few months.  I have been bound and determined to feel a sense of self-love (feeling) and self-worth (feeling) simply because of who I am – not because of what I can do to earn worth, or love, or friendship, or anything else.  I was so dreading (feeling) the visit knowing there was really nothing I could DO to relieve him from his misery (feeling) in the facility.  And I hated (feeling) every moment that I could not rescue him and take him away and make his life better.  And yet… he still loved (feeling) me anyway.

Its odd that I work in a field in which I sit with other people in their raw emotions every day.  I literally have tears in my eyes almost every day at work, either from fear, or pain, or joy, or gratitude – because I have learned that to be vulnerable and present in the raw emotions of others is a gift.  I did curse my parent’s names, a few times, that they never taught me to do that with my own feelings.  And here is where, I suppose, the Soul work takes place.  Soul Journey 101 – remove the multitude and magnitude of filth and debris that keeps us from just feeling.   Just being.

Side Note:  I identified each of the feelings I experienced, not to be sarcastic – but as a personal exercise, really, in becoming more familiar and aware of my emotions.  When I came home and friends asked me how it went, my impulse was to say something like, “crapy.”  Or, “hard.” Or the ever-popular, “OK.”   But the experience was so much more rich than that.   The richness comes from the infinite array of raw human emotional experience.  And so I name it.

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Feelings suck. sometimes.

Several years ago I had a therapist (yes, that’s right, this is not my first therapy rodeo), and she explained feelings to me once in a way that I have never forgotten.  She painted a picture of a huge black, iron cauldron boiling over an open fire.  The cauldron had a heavy lid on top, keeping the contents locked securely inside.  Our feelings, the entire range of human emotion that can possibly be experienced, are what’s trapped so tightly inside, bubbling madly away, all intermingling together in the pot.  In order to access one of those feelings, I would have to open up the lid.  Obviously.  However, it isn’t possible, she explained to me, to open up the pot and think that only the “good,” and pleasurable feelings are going to come out.  If you choose to lift that lid, you will get to have some fantastic feelings.  But you will, also, necessarily experience some really painful ones as well.

“You have to choose.  All.  Or nothing.”

I don’t remember at all what I was talking with her about.  But what I do remember is that I spent a huge majority of the first half of my life unconsciously working my ass off to insure I would not feel anything.  I think I probably thought it was the wise way to go.  It wasn’t.  I was depressed and kind of lost.  Looking back I’m sure that part of the reason I was so damn determined to not feel was because I had some pretty horrific experiences as a young kid that resulted in feelings that I just couldn’t deal with.  Nor should I have had to.  I disassociated and that was that.  No more feelings.  Much safer and easier, that little girl would say to me as I grew up, to not feel anything at all.

The other reason, though, is this is what the world taught us – and still teaches us!  In fact, it was probably about my generation that was the first to be brainwashed into believing that everything in life is supposed to be easy, fast, wonderful and grand.  Who decided to start convincing the world that this is the way it is all supposed to go?  My jaded, off the grid, 98 percent, conspiracy theory self believes whole heartedly it was marketers.  What better way to sell a product or service than to convince us common folk that it is all we need to instantaneously land ourselves on easy street.  Greedy bastards.

I really don’t want to get started on my soap box about how I think greed is one of, if not the, most corrosive elements in society.  Its not the point.  Although I do believe it.  The point is,  this has kind of become an epidemic of sorts.  Look around.  Everywhere we turn we are being told that we can, and should be able, to have everything we want quickly and easily.  Immediate gratification.  Life should be happy, and if its not then we are doing something wrong.  Sadly, nearly every institution has bought into this pile of crap.  TV, movies, magazines, our education system, even our churches.  Even the “New Age” churches!  The philosophy of the “power of attraction,” that we have the ability to create our own existence, somehow got twisted, in my opinion, to the idea that this divine gift is there solely that we may manifest that six-figure job and the red convertible we want so badly.

(Not the point, but I just have to point it out… greed).

So what’s all this have to do with my soul journey?


While certainly I can say that I have worked hard throughout the second half of my life to learn to feel and experience all that life has to offer, this has absolutely been accelerated over the past few years.  After all, much of this journey  thus far has been about peeling away, one by one, the millions of layers of filth that have “protected” me like the walls of an ancient city.  Layers made up of lies, fears, insecurities, societal brain washing, trauma, pressures to be what the world tells me I should be.  Each layer that has been lifted, or burned off as it sometimes feels, gets me closer and closer to revealing my true divine nature – who I was born to be, and why I am really here.  How, then, could I possibly hear the soft whisperings of trees and spirits, and help others reach the core of their own souls, if I cannot feel and experience all that life has to offer?  I hear and read the word “intuitive” to describe a lot of what I experience.  The definition of intuitive is, “using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive.”  Based on what one feels.

Last week I drove down to Tucson to see my dad.  And to put him in a memory care facility.  Against his will.  I have been dreading this day for the past ten months, since my mother passed away and it was clear that my dad would not be able to care for himself for long.  Seven long hours I drove, the urge to just turn around and avoid the whole ordeal growing and growing as I got closer and closer.

“Just feel,” I heard.

“What?  Are you fucking crazy???  Why would I want to feel this shit??”  Sometimes I talk back to the voices.

“Just feel.”

I didn’t want to, but I knew it was the wise way to go.  I employed all the hours of meditation practice and work I have done to embrace my divine self – and I felt.  I breathed, and just sat in my feelings.  All. week. long.  I felt the fear of the ultimate unknown of this necessary task.  I felt the desperate longing of wanting everything to be different, just to have my dad back, knowing that we were getting drunk and watching sports together for the last time.  I let the tears role down my cheeks.  I felt the exhaustion as I woke up every morning feeling, well – exhausted.  Despite sleep, I was exhausted.  I felt the shame of feeling like I was letting my dad down, and forcing him to do the one thing he absolutely did not want to do, leave his home.  And I felt the single, saddest moment of my entire life when my dad, finally realizing what was happening after I lied to him to get him to the home, looked right into my eyes in disbelief that I could possibly be leaving him here.  Daddy’s girl.  Such a betrayal.  And since that moment, I have felt grief.  Finally, grief of my mother’s death that has eluded me all this time.  Grief over my dad’s existence, utterly gone before he even has a chance to die.  And then grief over a client, who we found the day I got back from this trip, dead after killing herself in her hotel room.  Grief has surrounded me and clung to me like a thick, muddy fog that creates a relentless resistance to every move and thought I try to make.

It has all been painful.  And it has sucked.

But you know what?  It didn’t kill me!  Seriously… what do we really think is going to happen if we feel something that is painful, uncomfortable, undesirable?  The end of the world?  A zombie apocalypse??  I mean, we avoid this shit like the plague!  But really all they are,  are feelings.  They come.  We feel them.  And then they go.  Just as the pleasant feelings do, like joy, and passion, and excitement.  They come, and then they go.  And then others will come behind them.  They will give us feedback about life, act as a mirror to our existence, let us know what is really important in life.  And then they leave.  What an amazing thing!  What god thought to make it work like this?  Brilliant!!

As I allow myself to have more and more of these painful experiences, I start to understand that sucky feelings are not “bad” at all.  In fact, its the stuff that being alive is made of.

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Dying off

Today marks my 6 month anniversary of moving into the yurt.  Since that time, I have managed to kill off almost every single house plant that I own.  That’s a lot of house plants!  Plus, the three that have managed to stay alive are all hanging on for dear life.

I haven’t tried to kill off the plants, mind you.  In fact, it seems so antithetical  to my move out here, and the whole of my existence at this time.  I mean, I wanted to be immersed in nature.  Friends (some) consider me a druid.  I talk to trees for god’s sake! What the hell am I doing killing off plants?

I was going to the bathroom this morning – which is where I do some of my best thinking, apparently.  Anyway, going to the bathroom in my place is a bit of an experience, and probably not for the reason you are thinking.  :)  My toilet is situated right next to a large window.  That window can’t help but draw the one sitting there to gaze through it.  From that vantage point, I can see the yurt, but so much more than that I can see the Earth.  It is a window, literally and figuratively, of the ever-changing, bursting to the seams with life, little patch of nature that I am, indeed, immersed in.  And since I’ve been out here I have noticed an awakening, a sharpening sense of that life, both in the micro and the macro, in both the minute, and the gargantuan.

I am aware of the snow and how it changes the pattern of the landscape.  Where the wind builds high drifts and where the shadows of the trees imprison patches of snow and ice long after the rest of the Earth has absorbed the white gold into its pours like a sponge.  I hear every footstep as it lands, whether on snow, on dirt, on rock, in mud, or on crackling ice – and I know I am with the Earth, such a contrast to my previous life of always moving through life atop silently false and contrived pathways of concrete and asphalt.  I watch the migration of birds, some staying for a short time to feed and move on, while others have obviously made a permanent home with mine.  And joyfully, I see that the bunnies are, predictably, multiplying, as the number of the cute fuzzballs coming out of their dens to feed on the seeds I put out every morning and every evening increasing.  And how they never seem to be bothered by the cold or the wind.

And the trees…  ahhh, the trees.  The varied evergreens who, like their bunny friends, never seem phased by the snow and ice and wind, taking every load dumped on it, branches bending mercilessly to the point where I am certain will break them off their core.  And yet, doesn’t.  And the oaks, with long dried up leaves hanging on, ancestors saving a place for the next generation to take watch.  And the little saplings, taking root, often under the protection of their towering parents, already assuming a proud stance in the spot they will dwell long after I am gone.  I often sit in a particular grove of these beings, whom I affectionately call “the professors,” and simply absorb the energy, and life, and wisdom they so freely give away.

But, even more so than the trees, it is the skies that capture my attention and suck me up into the unfathomable wonderment of creation.  I have written of the oceans and oceans of stars that light up the dark and float on the tides and currents of the heavens.  And I am beginning to organize my life, albeit in small ways, around the cycles of the waning and waxing moon.  And I am mesmerized by the clouds, whether stark white and fluffy, or dark and heavy and thick with moisture, as they too, move with  invisible currents in the sky.

And this brings me back to the toilet.  Each and every time I sit there, taking care of business as we do, I just get carried away by the universe’s tide.  I can’t tell you how amazing it is to stumble to that stool in the middle of the night just to look through the window pane and see the stars and planets surrounding me like warriors, protecting, awakening me instantaneously to the ever so tiny spot that I call mine.  Or to gaze up and watch the clouds be carried away, like a lazy meandering stream, or an angry raging river – like I’m watching a sweet love story, or an action packed thriller.  And it was just such a movie that I was watching play out before me while I pee’d, when I suddenly realized why all my precious plants are dying.

The tides… they are a changin’.  And they are carrying not just the clouds, but me, with them.  I have spent my entire life living in the realm of caring for others.  In my work, with my friends, heck – even with strangers!  I am quick to rush in and take care of, rescue, save.  I extend much of my soul’s energy to nurture and nourish others.  I have come, and frankly I think many others in my life have also come, to simply expect me to be that rock, that endless river of love and unconditional acceptance, of support and nourishment.  Because I have been. And I am quite certain that I will always be to some degree.  It is part of my calling.  It is who I am.

But…  but the tides are changing indeed.  It is time for me to be nourished, to be supported, to be wrapped up in the strong arms of unconditional love and support.  Not only have I started to become aware of what people and institutions are able to give this to me and not, but equally powerful I am feeling and fully embracing the power of this living Mother Earth to infuse me with such energy.  And how wonderfully my poor pathetic house plants symbolize this!  This is a time for me to shift my attention and effort from nurturing and keeping plants alive, to sitting in the grove of the professors and allow them to enliven me.  It is time for me to stop rushing in to save others, and instead it is time for me to stand naked in the waves of the universe’s oceans washing over me, to allow myself to float with the currents of nature, my soul, and trust they will take me exactly where I need to go.

So, I am sorry houseplants.  I do love you.  And it hurts my heart to let you go.  And yet I also know that for new life there must also be death.  To create a space for the emerging, I must allow a bit of destruction.  The alchemy of my soul transforming into gold.


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Finding shadows in the dark

Lately I’ve been waking up between about 3:00 and 3:30 every morning.  And not just to pee.  I open my eyes, and in an instant I am wide awake.  Brain on, sleepiness gone, internal engines revving.   Personally, I’ve been thinking this is because I am way past due for my hormone replacement therapy, and menopause sucks.  However, if I look past the obvious, it is also said that this is the “bewitching hour,” 3:00 am, the time that the veil between the physical world and the spirit world is the thinnest.  One of my friends says this is why I am waking up at this time every night, because the spirits have something to say to me. While it is sometimes fun to embrace that bitchy menopausal woman in me, I have to also admit that I do get a pretty steady stream of hits while I am laying there hoping to quiet my mind and get back to sleep.  I’ve pretty much quit trying to figure out what they are trying to say to me and what it all means; that tossed noise salad of words, familiar sounds (like bells, telephones, and computer alerts), and bursts of partial statements…  I figure that when I am supposed to understand all this, I will.  So I use these times to work on my listening skills.  The auditory listening part is easy, but I am finding it is a true combination of skill and art to be able to set the ego-listener aside and open up every cell of my body to the very heart of my being and hear, not just the words and sounds, but also the energy, the color, the weight and shape and texture of what is coming into me.  Is it possible to hear colors and shapes and textures?  I believe it is.

So this past Wednesday night/Thursday morning I was practicing just this when I realized there was a constant high-pitched ringing underneath all the other sounds I was taking in.  I tuned into the ringing, as it was unusual.  And when I did actually get up to pee, I realized this was not a sound coming from the spirit world… but from the basement underneath my bedroom!  The basement is where all the inner-workings of the compound are, and my solar converter’s alarm was going off.

Fuck.  The flow of sound-bites came to a screeching halt as I realized I was going to have to go out into the freezing night to get to the basement and turn off the converter.  It’s no big deal, really.  It has happened a couple of times before, and we had had several days of clouds, snow, and minimal energy.  A flip of a switch, and once the sun starts to shine again, I turn it back on and the system automatically re-sets itself.  The big deal, of course, was in having to get dressed, tromp through the snow, and freeze my toots off.  I would never fall back to sleep, I thought.

I wasted no time,  “let’s get this shit over with.”  I pulled the snow boots over my bare feet, put on the hoodie that was hanging on a hook, and grabbed a flashlight.  As soon as I swung open the door the arctic blast hit me.  But it didn’t knock me over and piss me off, as I expected.  It felt as if the cold fresh air passed through my body, cleansing and energizing every cell that I have.  Immediately I felt the ginormous dome of a billion stars hovering protectively around me in the middle of the woods.  I looked up and was taken away.  The moon was in a waning phase, and the sea of stars popped through the vast blackness.  I just stood and stared, for I don’t know how long, with my neck cranked back and my eyes roaming the ribbon of the milky way that stretched from one far edge of the dome to the other.

At some point I pried my gaze away from the celestial explosion happening above me, and took the steps down from my deck towards the basement door.  With the first step onto the icy, snowy earth, I heard, and felt, my foot whish through the inch or so of fresh, powdery snow, then crunch through the brittle frozen layers of previous snow-falls,  my foot settling solidly on the crushed rock path of the earth underneath.  I stopped, listening to the symphony of sounds that one, simple step made.  And I mused at the vibrations that one step created through the rubber boot, penetrating the souls of my foot, and running up my leg.   I looked around me and saw the flock of  strong, stately trees standing watch as I inched my way into the night.  Slowly, purposefully, I took one more step, absorbing minute details of the orchestra playing to every sense I have, now awakened to an extraordinary dimension.  One glorious step at a time, I made my way around the side of the casita to the basement door.  It was almost a let-down to have to step out of the cold winter night, into the relatively warm basement below.

When I arose, however, back into the night, like a rabbit pushing its way through the tunneled earth to the open air above, I was immediately engulfed by the night woods.  Oddly, I had no interest in heading back into my warm, snuggly bed – and instead I was drawn through the snow towards the trees.  I can only imagine that my daily practice of mindfulness meditation had been prepping me for this very night.  I was more awake, more present, more aware of every miniscule element around me, my senses alive to every awestruck moment.

I walked, again for I don’t know how long, through my earthly home.  I couldn’t stop.  The flashlight I was carrying cast a wide, but soft, light into the woods around me.  The night breeze made its way through the trees, lifting up tiny particles of powdered snow off their branches, carrying them with it.  Invisible in the dark, this magic powder came alive in the arena of the cone of light – sparkling and glimmering like thousands upon thousands of fairies dancing around me in the night sky, some landing softly on the surface of the snow, doing their own sparklie jig.  How could I possibly leave this?!?  I followed the song of the fairies, feeling completely safe and protected like I was born to live in the dark night woods.

I eventually wandered back towards my little bedroom.  First my left foot, and then my right, sunk deep into the icy snow, almost to the top of my boot.  So much deeper and dense than the rest of the snowy earth I had been walking on.  I looked around me and quickly realized that this small splotch of earth had been covered in perpetual shadow all day long, day after day, the surrounding trees not allowing the sun to warm that spot.  It was completely dark out, no moon to light up the night sky, and yet I was standing in a shadow.  I was walking through shadows in the dark.  It struck me as profoundly and divinely significant somehow.

As I stood back in front of the casita door, I knew I would be stepping out of a magical land that I can only liken to Narnia.  I was young Lucy passing back through the doors of the wardrobe, leaving a magical land behind, wondering if I would ever be able to go back again.  I took one last, long gaze at the Milky Way, thanked the trees for keeping me safe, and stepped back into the “normal” world.  What a gift!  What started out as an annoying pain in the ass, turned out to be an unbelievable mystical adventure.  It may have lasted an hour and a half, or it may have been ten minutes.  I can’t know for sure.  But as I pulled off my snowy boots and snuggled back under the covers (suddenly feeling cold for the first time), I thanked God for waking me up in the middle of the night and calling me outside.  And then I quickly fell asleep.

This.  This is why I moved out here.


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Letting go

The weather in Albuquerque and the surrounding areas has been exactly as it’s supposed to be this time of year; wintery. Some would say the weather this past week has been “dreary”, or simply “cloudy and wet.” But in my mind it has been quite beautiful, particularly in the mountains where I live. Yes, it has been cloudy all week, but those clouds are what brought two big (in my book) snows, each time covering everything in about four or five inches of sparkling white snow. While it tends to make me want to stay inside and hibernate, the truth is life in the snowy winter mountains goes on just like it does during the other seasons. Every morning I wake up to the birds and bunnies waiting patiently for me to get my ass out of bed and feed them. The packs of coyotes still howl every night off in the far, or not so far, distance. During one of the heavy snows one night I grabbed my trusty lantern, pulled on my snow boots, and wandered around in the woods seeking out all the variety of animal tracks that are so easy to see in the snow. Yes, even in winter it really is quite magical out here.

Along with this winter magic, a very keen part of the magic, comes the need to let go of some things I have become quiet accustomed to. Like light. And running water. And alarm clocks. And daily showers. And internet, or even my lap top at all. Really, anything that requires electricity. Because when you live off the grid, and it is cloudy, well… you’re basically shit out of luck.

When I tell my friends and co-workers about this they typically give me a look that is somewhere between shock and pity. Like they are thinking, “holy shit, I’ll bet you’re sorry you followed this crazy dream now. Poor thing.” But occasionally a few, and I’m talking a VERY few, will smile and laugh. Because they get it. Because they see that I am actually lighting up a little when I tell the tales. Because they believe in me and my crazy dreams. Because they understand that letting some things go, that seem so important in our society, is chump change compared to what fills the space that is created by that which is released.

One thing I have always realized since starting out on this blind journey, one thing that showed up so clearly from the bottom of the thick, dark murky waters of my ego – is that it was absolutely necessary for me minimize, if not eliminate, the layers and layers of distractions that we have wrapped ourselves up in as if our lives depended on it. All of the things that distract me and make it impossible to just sit and listen and be in the presence of the mystical divine.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with electricity! Really!!  In fact when I got home last night and directed my flashlight towards the small little dial on the wall underneath my cabinets that shows me how much, if any, power I have from my solar system, I did my own little happy dance in the dark then immediately turned on the over-head lights. I stoked up my laptop, and… get this… I even flushed the toilet before I went to bed!  And yet – and yet, I truthfully and in short order turned off the lights and went outside, my down jacket zipped all the way up to my chin, and spent a large chunk of the evening staring up at the blanket of stars lighting up the night sky, those thick clouds finally clearing for met to enjoy.

I am not a Mennonite, and I do not want to go luxury-less for ever. But I do cherish those times when they present themselves. At night I come home and turn on my lantern and light the oil lamps and candles I have strewn around in strategic locations. I can cook – because I have propane for cooking and heat – but sometimes I find myself holding a small flashlight in between my teeth so I can see the veggies I am chopping, or to determine if my food is cooked to my liking. When I am finished eating, I usually take my lantern up to my loft and I read, and meditate. Because really, what else is there to do?!? When I start to get sleepy, whatever time that might be, I blow out the candles and lamps, and take my lantern to bed with me. Every night when I turn off that lantern, feeling so snuggly under my covers, I can’t help but think how much like camping those evenings are. It was, after all, one particular camping experience that ignited this whole yurt-living dream (see post, “Yurt so good,” 6/12/12). My life in those moments are stripped down to the basics and there is nothing to distract me from divine offerings that the earth is handing to me in every moment. It is exactly what I was looking for living out here.

On a less-than-magical note, I am also discovering some other things that I am necessarily having to let go of as I pursue this soulful path I feel so drawn to. Some things that don’t feel quite so wonderful. I’m having to let go of certain conveniences like having essentially whatever I want, when I want it, because I can’t “just hop on over” to the nearest store because I don’t have any eggs. There is no near by store. Even more painfully, I am having to let go of being right smack dab in the middle of social opportunities, and am either having to be more selective about the social activities I do, or even harder, sit in the sadness of being left out of some activities. These kinds of struggles have been difficult. And I imagine there will be more to come. But in the midst of these struggles I try to sit in the faith of what I said above, that letting some things go, that seem so important in our society, is worth the wonders that will fill the space that is created by that which is released.

I have to be honest. Sometimes when I think that, or say it, or write it, I think to myself – “what the FUCK are you THINKING!” It’s hard to explain, even to myself sometimes, the strength this relentless calling has on me.


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Entering the shadow

It is the face of our own shadow that glowers at us across the Iron Curtain.

Jung; Man and His Symbols

A funny thing happened immediately after moving out to my little sanctuary in the mountains.  Not funny “ha-ha funny,”  but funny “interesting funny.”  Funny that I have not ever realized this about myself.  Funny that this surprised me so.  My very first night alone out here I discovered that I am afraid of the dark.  At first I thought maybe it was just a case of first night jitters.  But then it came again the second night, and the third night, and the fourth…  The simple act of walking 20 feet outside in the dark, from the kitchen to my bedroom sort of terrified me.  And god forbid I forgot something in my car that needed retrieving.  My breathing quickened, my heart would race, I was in full-on high alert with every bodily sense I have.  I was almost (ok, not almost… I WAS) afraid to shine the limited beam of light from the flashlight into the reaches of the dark, lest I catch sight of something waiting in the shadows to eat me.

This response has surprised me.  And made me feel ridiculous.  I have not ever, in my recollection, been afraid of the dark —- albeit the dark out in the woods is a thicker, heavier, denser dark than in town.  Without some source of artificial light, the wooded black quickly swallows up all who enter it, after only a few steps from the perceived protection of light.  It has been so unnerving not being able to turn off the wondering of what might be out there that I cannot see, and all the different ways it might tear me from limb to limb.

Furthermore, what’s worse (almost) than this unexpected experience of fear is the fact that I am so aware that I am missing out on some of the greatest stuff about being out in the wooded wonderland!  I do catch the sunsets, but beyond that I miss out on sitting on my deck or the steps to my yurt, watching the colors of the earth and sky change from varied vibrancies, to blues and greys, melding first into a soft charcoal dark, and then to a black as alive as the forest contained in it.  I miss out on noticing how quickly the feel of the air against my face and body changes from sunshiny warm, to evening cool, to crap – I need a jacket!  I miss the changing smells and wafting scents that seem to wander by, following the sun as it drops out of sight to the west.  And perhaps most of all, I miss the nothing-less-than-astounding light show of stars that blanket the black night, with the Milky Way lit up like a path, carrying me out into the vastness of the universe where they live.

I’m not sure, but more than anything I think it may have been the lost experience of the stars that brought me to a place of knowing I had to develop some comfort with the dark.  I knew my half-hearted plan of installing solar movement lights throughout the compound would only serve to create the same kind of limited experience that I had living in cities.  If I truly wanted to experience a life that is in tune with the rhythms of the Earth, then I had to find a way to allow myself to float along the currents of the night, wherever they might bring me.

Caroline Myss, who I love, talks a lot about learning the language of Spirit – which often comes across as symbol.  So as I’ve thought about my need to face my fear of the dark, I have been keenly aware that this is not simply a matter of becoming more comfortable walking to my car in the dark, or sitting out star-gazing late into the night.  I have listened to Spirit and know that my fear of the dark is symbolic of my fear of looking into the depths of my own shadow.

Carl Jung says this about the Shadow:  “It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism…  Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is…

When I first started on this journey a friend wisely told me that in order to become a healer, I must first heal myself.  Frankly, I thought to myself then, I have worked most of my life on healing the wounds life has inflicted upon me.  I am realizing, however, that the depths of true healing dig much deeper than the visible scabs and scars that appear on the surface.   True healing digs deep into the black corridors, right to the heart of my Soul.

And let me be the one to tell you — this sucks.

As soon as I allowed myself to wander down into the depths of my shadow, I’ll be damned if I didn’t find something “positively demonic.”  I suddenly found myself disclosing an issue to my therapist that has always been lurking, but frankly was too shaming and scary for me to even acknowledge existed.  But it’s going to be ok.  Because while it is a scary and painful process, starting to shed a little light on this “demon” somehow also loosens up the chains that hold it captive in dark corners of my life.  I can only believe that when I eventually drag that sucker out into full sunlight, the chains will be broken and it will be free to leave forever.

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