Wow! What a wonderful whirlwind weekend. It was filled with festivity and fire… oh, and… retirement. It’s not exactly what you think. At 49, I’m a long way from actual retirement in the traditional sense. When I reached out to the financial planner that is enabling my friend’s retirement at age 59.5, I certainly had no idea that he could do anything for me in the immediate future. But when I expressed to him that I had exited the corporate world last year and how I felt that I could never return, he made a suggestion. He said that my hard-earned savings could start working for me now. There is apparently a provision provided by the IRS called 72T. It was utilized a great deal when the market crashed, and jobs became scarce. It enabled those who had to take lower paying jobs to access their retirement savings, without penalty, to receive a monthly income from their IRA until they reached retirement age. It only allows a small percentage, but could provide the opportunity for someone who lives rather simply to focus on, oh, say… becoming a writer – without having to sell her soul back to the corporate world.
Once that exciting new beginning was set in motion, it was time to focus on the really important stuff… the celebration of our beloved Lynn. We lost her to leukemia last fall, and it was time to celebrate what would have been her 68th birthday. So, her wife and I went shopping to create the festive atmosphere that would express the spirit of our bountiful harvest of gratitude. We don’t really experience the beauty of autumn here in Florida the way that states north of us do. In fact, our fall won’t come until February when the oak trees drop their dark green leaves and replace them with fresh light green leaves. So… we decorate on the inside, while the outside continues to insist we remain in the season of Summer. Lynn would have loved her birthday celebration on Saturday. The atmosphere, the intention, the music, and most importantly, the people. It was a small gathering of thirteen, a tiny fraction of those who loved our girl. We gathered, we shared a meal, we each wrote love notes to Lynn on strips of paper that were rolled up and dropped into a bottle of orange glass. She loved the color orange, and we loved getting to tell her what we loved about her and how she made us feel, and so we sent her our communal ‘message in a bottle’ as another form of prayer and gratitude. We each spoke of our memories of one of our favorite healers… about how we fell in love with her upon meeting, how she sang to us around the campfire, how she taught us to be better people, how she listened with rapt attention and made us feel completely heard, and better – understood. We sat in awe of how she expressed to us that her weeks in the hospital, as friends came from all over just to sit with her, were the happiest weeks of her life. And we cried. Some tears were certainly from the sorrow of our great loss, and for her physical absence. But to be clear, most of our tears were joyful… for the glory of having been blessed to have Lynn in our lives… and to still feel her presence, to this day. When stories were shared, we blessed them with song. Two guitars, two dulcimers, one ukulele, one tuba, and one rainstick along with thirteen voices made up our chorus for the Angel who used to lead our choir. None of us could do what she could do to lead a campfire circle of song, but we tried… and we could feel her smiling upon us – as we read lyrics from cell phones. She was the keeper of words, and without her, we simply have to make do. We had pie, and her grandsons blew out her birthday candles, knowing that her wish had come true in our togetherness. We finished the evening with creativity… manifesting our love and light through acrylic pour. She would have loved the way that you simply allow the color to flow onto the canvas and become what it becomes – without judgment or doubt… just appreciation. After all, that’s how she felt about each of us.
On Sunday, I returned to help with clean up and relaxation. The Autumn Equinox is a time of balance, when day and night are equal, and it is also a time for harvest. When I consider my personal harvest this year, I find it filled with more bounty than I could have imagined. I think I’ll save that declaration for another post, but I will tell you that the deepening of this friendship and being blessed to witness the grief, wisdom, and joy of my friend as she journeys forward from the loss of her beloved is at the top of my list. Together we discussed the beauty of Saturday’s gathering and how we could feel Lynn’s presence. Together we cried as friends and loved ones sent messages acknowledging the important date, and how she was being remembered far and wide. Together we shared leftovers with gratitude for the sustenance the Earth provides. And by the time we were either ready to head our separate ways for a nap or go deep into healing… we chose healing.
I spoke of nightmares and thoughts of past betrayals (personal and work-related) that had recently been plaguing my heart and mind… wondering why they were emerging at this moment, when I felt I was ready to move forward. My friend had her own sense of obstacles that were ready for removal, and she had discovered a useful tool through a meditation app we use called ‘Insight Timer’. The meditation was a Shamanic Journey called Rise of the Phoenix by Dakota Earth Cloud, and it was possibly the most powerful meditation / ritual I’ve experienced. It was more than a meditation because my friend built a fire and we called in the Elements and Spirit from Native American tradition. We called in our guides, our ancestors, and our loved ones lost. I could see the determined and supportive faces of my grandparents, my Aunt Beth, Windwalker, and of course, our Lynn. When the fire was blazing, and we were about to begin, I fed the names of my offenders to the flames. Not in a way that would be harmful or destructive to any of them, four women and four men, but in a way that would be transformative and healing. “Thank you for teaching me, I release these lessons and any need for more through the experience of betrayal – I trust myself now. Go in peace.” By Dakota’s lead, this is what I saw in that dimension where the mind takes you when you step away from the mundane and into the mystery.
I entered the portal to this dimension through one of my favorite entryways… a cave. When I go there, I start at the edge of a clear water lake atop a mountain, where I swim through the reflection of the stars above, downward into the mouth of an underwater crystal cave. I made my way through safe passage by torchlight, and when the path split, I went left (as I often do). I was met by my guides whom I call the Sacred Fourteen, and they surrounded me as I stepped into the fire that was burning in the center of the space. From there I called out the names of those who had let me down. There were three bosses and one female friend, three lovers and one male friend, and as I finally expressed how I had been wounded – I yelled in spirit for how angry I was that they would put me in a situation where I would feel badly about myself… opening a wound where self-loathing and doubt would take root. The breath of fire and a shamanic drumbeat raised the energy for transformation, and as I yelled on the inside, I sobbed on the outside. I turned my head to the left to inhale through my nose, tapped my left foot, grabbed with my left hand (the side of the body that represents the past) and then turned my head to the right to exhale through my mouth, tapped my right foot, released with my right hand (the side of the body that represents the future), and I pulled up and spit out nearly 40 years of contained anguish. At this point, Dakota instructed us to ask our guides for help with this healing fire, and the Sacred Fourteen stepped in closer, and raised their arms to strengthen the impassioned flame to completely consume me. And as the roots of destruction were pulled from my being and burned away by these flames, I noticed that others had stepped in. To take the place of three bosses who betrayed me, came three bosses who loved me through it all (and still do). To take the place of friends who left through shame, mutual hurt, and confusion, came friends who stayed and stepped up to help me heal. To take the place of men who had cheated, abandoned, stolen, and lied, came men who had proven to me with action and presence that it is not ALL men who cannot be trusted. As I cried tears of sorrow, my friend’s dog Maggie leapt into my lap, licked my tears, and settled into my embrace. She stayed until my tears turned to those of joy. Surrounded by so much loving support, including that of my friend – standing within her own fire – adding to my healing flame with her intention, I felt the flames burn clean. There was no more debris to be cleared, all that remained was the light of my blue-white wings, as I rose like the Phoenix. As I looked down upon the circle of my healing, I recognized the faces of my love with gratitude. As if she knew exactly when the magick would be complete, Dakota invited us to leave this sanctuary the way we came in… and so I did. Only this time, I was carried out in triumph by the Sacred Fourteen. They joyfully delivered me through corridor, now lit by my flaming wings, and to the edge of the cavern. I thanked them, and turned to swim upward through clear mountain lake, and rose above the water and into the stunning night sky. When we found ourselves back in our chairs by the fire’s edge, with our feet in the grass… my friend and I clasped hands, and thanked each other. We were both aware of the work that we had done for each other, but more importantly… for ourselves.
Great Spirit – Thank you. It is done. Blessed be. Aho!