The Light That Pierces Shadow

Today I was blessed to spend time with a dear friend with whom I feel safe to go deep.  We found each other at the beginning of my tenure at the workplace I left last June.  I had a certain bumper sticker that alerted her to a kindred spirit on the grounds, and I was delighted to find her business card tucked into my car window that December afternoon.  When I responded to the note she was already gone for the holiday, therefore our destined meeting was delayed.  We set a lunch date upon her return, and on that day I walked into the building and got onto the elevator with a stunningly beautiful, petite woman of color and between us a kind of electricity resonated.  Somehow, though we had only exchanged a note through email, we knew that we had just found each other without even trying.  This is how our story goes… time passes and we reconnect, deeply sharing and caring, mutually delivering epiphany and expansion… without even trying.

Neither of us left that place of business (after nearly two decades) by choice, though her departure preceded mine by a few years.  I remember something she said to me, as I was still recovering from the shock of my own forced leaving.  She shared with me a truth that is known only to those who have escaped the corporate world and managed to find their own way on the outside.  She said that in that place, they would reward us one moment and tell us we weren’t good enough the next, and that if I should choose to create a life for myself outside of that tyranny, I would discover that I am not really a failure, or not quite cutting it, or that I excel at one thing but disappoint elsewhere.  If I had the courage to create a future for myself that was beyond those confines, I would discover the glorious truth of my being… that I am quite emphatically… enough.

Today we chose to have lunch at our favorite bohemian spot downtown, before heading over to the ravine for a walk in nature that remains one of our city’s best kept secrets.  Something happened, that one would not expect in such an establishment, where most guests dine because there are no animals harmed in the production of one’s meal.  A woman entered the crowded entry and cut in line.  It was forgivable, since it seemed more like a mob than a line, but the weird thing was this woman’s behavior towards us… and more so toward my friend.  When she suggested that my friend should give up her designer purse to raise money for the homeless, and my friend gently declined (assuming she was joking), she was accused of not being Christian.  Now, neither of us happen to be Christian, but I would argue that she and I are certainly more Christ-like than this poor soul.  When my friend shared with her that she felt she was being inappropriate, she pulled out her phone and threatened to call the police.  It was the strangest thing I’d ever witnessed.  My first assumption was that this woman was mentally ill, but when I had a moment to reflect on my friend’s ability to stand up for herself… I realized that this behavior is something she has had to deal with her whole life.  This, my friends, is called white privilege.  In my lifetime, I have had the privilege of NOT having to deal with the poor behavior of racists.  Fat shamers, yes.  Racists, no.

When we sat down to share sustenance, I was expressing to my beloved friend my sense of rage, outrage, anger, and shame for what is happening in our country.  Not that this behavior is anything new, especially to those with skin tones beyond the shade of beige.  But the climate nursed by having a racist fascist regime in the White House is clearly giving rise to behaviors and atrocities that are also not new to this world.  In fact, we’ve seen this behavior within the last century.  It is sickening to me to be witness to this downward spiral of our beloved country.  Day after day our senses are being assaulted by sheer hatred and vapid ignorance.  One doesn’t have to be sensitive or even psychic to be able to see where we are headed. It is just so incomprehensible to believe that this goes on and gets worse each and every day, and that it feels as if there is no end in sight… until the day comes when they come for me… and there is no one left to speak.

I have struggled with the concept of not wanting to add negative energy into the mire of our destruction, feeling that my best action is to send it light and love with every fiber of my being to remind the Universe that there is still purity and peace on this planet, and that if we can all raise our vibrations in songs of love, rather than in screams of anger, we might just manage to overcome this darkness.  I expressed this inner turmoil to my friend, because the truth is that I am over the moon with rage, my anger could fuel a thousand suns, I could melt every weapon of death and destruction with my repulsion to their very existence… but I just don’t know how to express all of these things in a way that could possibly add positive energy to the pool of possibility.

Now my friend is very wise, and she assured me that I would find a way.  She reminded me of the ‘me too’ movement and how so many women remained silent for so long, and it only led to the harm of more women.  I have always hoped and believed that if I had been of age during the civil rights era that I would have linked arms with other humans to stand for what is just and right, because the truth is… we are all one.  And so, I find myself arguing with the me that longs to feel a sense of peace within her soul, and the me that wants to rise up with the force of every mother with fearless hearts throughout history who would stand up like Molly Weasley and say, “NOT. MY. DAUGHTER. YOU. BITCH!”

So, I may continue to focus on the light that I can bring into the world and try really, really hard not to allow the venom and cuss words that keep rising to tongue’s-tip to escape in a way that is damaging to my veneer of sweetness and light.  However, let it be known that what is happening in this country, be it bigotry, misogyny, racism, violence and discrimination against LGBTQ, or Muslims, or Immigrants, or Blacks, or Hispanics, or Jews, or ANYONE having a say about what I choose to do or NOT do with MY uterus IS NOT OKAY!!!!  And I am putting the patriarchy on notice!  THE GODDESS IS RISING AND YOU HAD BEST NOT MESS WITH THE SACRED BEING WHO GAVE BIRTH TO YOUR GOD!

Also, I am breathing deeply of the love that still permeates this great land of ours.  I am reminded that we can often take the light for granted when we fail to honor the darkness.  And so I want you to know that I see you, darkness.  I see you and I honor your will of destruction.  For if there is one thing I have learned through the study of the divine feminine it is this…  we must destroy what is no longer serving us in order to create something fresh, beautiful, and new.  So, finally…  here’s to the new beginnings, dear ones.  May we all survive to see the dawn of a new day.  So mote it be.

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Stream of Consciousness on Carbs

Tonight I gave into a longing for crunch, which I’ve not entertained for nearly two months.  Already feeling some regret, I started plummeting into an old familiar place of despair.  Instead of sitting inside of my Aquarian mind while beating myself up, I decided to open a page in Word, and type.  I’m not sure if this is fiction or prediction, or if this message is for me or for you.  But since I am on a foreign path of openness and exploration, following my guides who tell me to write and then write some more… I’m putting this out here for the Universe to see, since I’m not really sure if anyone else is actually watching.  This is what happened when I opened a page, closed my eyes, and gave my fingers creative license…

There is a place of darkness into which one alone sometimes falls.  There is an overwhelming sense of solitude, as if no one in the world could possibly hear your voice crying out for acknowledgment.  I am here.  Can you see me?  Can you hear me?  Where the heck am I?  What is that squishing between my toes?  

When you’ve been alone this long, it is difficult to imagine what it might be like to find yourself unexpectedly bumping into someone who is suddenly walking beside you.  What was that?  Did I just do that thing where I can’t walk in a straight line, and so I accidentally bump shoulders with someone who is simply walking in the same direction?  Oh, sorry!  Let me get back over to my side of the walkway.  But then, you find yourself bumping shoulders again, and then someone reaches for your hand, only you don’t look up to see who is there, because you are simply in shock for the sensation of your hand being filled with the palm of another…  Such a foreign sensation.  But it is not that you have never felt another hand holding yours, it is that there has never been a hand that has purposefully reached before.  There has never been one with a soul as pure as your own who has seen your light and been drawn to it like a moth to a porch light.  And yet, you look down and there is a hand that has most definitely reached for yours and his fingers are gently but firmly holding onto yours.  But he is not guiding you or pulling you onto his path, nor is he forcing himself onto yours.  This soul, is quite simply choosing to join you in a slow progression of forward motion.  Witnessing your evolution, while attaining his own.  And though you were previously feeling alone in the darkness, you are now witness to a blinding light that drenches this pathway with illumination that fills every crevice of darkness.  There is nowhere for anything to hide that might feel threatening.  Everything is immersed in the light.  All falseness is exposed and only truth can remain.  In this new place, where two souls have met, there can be only complete openness and honesty, authentic realness between souls. 

Having left behind the darkness of uncertainty, outdated and overgrown false perceptions of the past, a new hope rises from the mud and murk that once squished beneath your feet.  Your days were never meant to be absent of touch, lacking in connection, vacant of affection.  All that you never knew you yearned for is right here on this path that you’ve chosen.  When you are ready to shake off the shock of disbelief, you should probably take a moment to look up to see just who it is you’ve bumped into.

My soul-daughter and I were just discussing how we can feel a sense of deepening connection with our gifts, our authenticity, and adjusting our own beliefs about our connectedness to life, the universe, and everything.  At 22, she is just at the beginning of her journey, and at 49, I am past the midpoint… I imagine how much glorious, authentic living she will get to do, having this awareness now, rather than decades later.  But then… I think the same for myself… grateful to be finding it now, rather than… well, you know.

(Chalice Well Garden / Summer 2010)

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Sacred Ceremony

I was first introduced to sacred ceremony in 1992 at a workshop on feminine spirituality.  In my circle it is also referred to as ‘ritual’, but since those unfamiliar with the practice may have only heard the term followed with the word ‘sacrifice’, I prefer the above.  Sacred ceremonies you may be familiar with would be a child’s christening or a wedding.  If you consider how important these rites of passage are for the child / the couple, and their community, understand that there are many moments in all of our lives that deserve to be marked and celebrated… and that the act of doing so will make the milestone or accomplishment more sacred.  At times, there are obstacles to overcome, like a great loss, heartbreak, or regrets that get in the way of our own progress.  This is when I find the art of ceremony to be most rewarding, and deeply healing.

We lost a beloved member of our community to leukemia in November.  In December a conversation with her widow revealed that she wasn’t sleeping well, and that she was having trouble dealing with emotions of anger and bitterness toward an organization that had mistreated her beloved a few years before her death.  The betrayal our dear one suffered led her into a spiral of depression and a crisis of identity from which she never really recovered.  I assured my friend that her love left behind all of those worries with her body, and that she carried them no longer… which is what she surely would wish for those who survived her.  I offered suggestions for cutting off from that energy and asked her to let me know if she needed support in doing so.  At our next check-in she affirmed her desire for help in letting go.

So, we came together at the dark of moon.  Lakeside and surrounding a brilliant bowl of fire, we set an altar of our reverence with a photo of our beloved’s beautiful smiling face – radiant with sunshine, along with a few sacred symbols and her guitar, with which she had formerly serenaded us all at campfires past.  With the couple who had eagerly introduced our beloved to her wife a quarter century before, and another couple from their shared inner circle, this gathering was not a memorial for we had done that exceptionally well in the fall.  This was an intentional ceremony of release for those who remained to face life without the presence of a sacred soul held dear.

These were the words that stated our purpose and intention for this ceremony:
“We gather to reconnect this sacred circle, and to support one another in the process of letting go.  As we let go of that which does not belong to us, or that which no longer serves us… we are lighter and liberated for the work of mapping the path forward.  We honor the darkness, for it was surely illuminated by the light of love.  We have lost a great light in our lives for whom we grieve, but we find that while in the physical world there was rarely enough time to deeply connect… and now… beyond the confines of the body… we are able to commune with her spirit without interruption.  Lynn is no longer limited.  Our beloved is not gone from us, she is right here in this sacred space, and in our hearts.  Her smile is brighter than this flame, and her laughter and her song are lifted upon smoke and breeze.  The process of letting go allows us to pull her closer, as walls and barriers crumble and fall away.”

As I led our circle through a guided visualization, we journeyed into an ancient passage tomb where we would become aware of all that we carried from which we would now seek freedom and release.  As we emerged into the light and back to our circle, we each took the time to write down every thought and realization discovered.  We listed our regrets and our fears, our feelings of bitterness and sorrow, along with any words left unspoken to be carried to the expansive and ever present being of our beloved… no longer in human form.  When every last word was written, they were carried to the flames and set alight with our heart’s desire for transformation… each page burning into ash within a small stone basin, then carried to the water’s edge.  There, we symbolically cut cords attached to people who no longer would have ownership of our spiritual real estate, as we reached to the essence of water Herself… the Lady of the Lake… asking for Her mercy and Her love to receive our words, cleansed and purified by fire, to be blessed and consecrated then transformed and transmuted as dust became fluid.

We returned to fire circle, and we shared stories and sang songs… after all, this was one of her very favorite things… and then we concluded our work with these words:
“With open hearts and untethered spirits, we cast our nets forth into the wisdom of all that is, anticipating the limitless abundance the Universe delivers with grace and ease, for which we are eternally grateful.”  And so, we are.

I know that our ceremony was blessed with great love and that the one that we can no longer see with our eyes remains ever present.  She is in the garden with her love, she is at the fireside with dear friends, and she is sitting across from me as I write.  Her laughter rises on billows of incense, and the flickering candle is the twinkle in her eye.  It is not that we miss her any less than we did when the great void was opened that terrible day in Autumn, it is simply that we have chosen to carry her with us as we carry on.  We were so blessed.  We ARE so blessed!

(Psyche Weeping by Kinuko Y. Craft)

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Learning to Listen

Trust has been a life-lesson for me.  It even says so in Dan Millman’s numerology book The Life You Were Born To Live, A Guide To Finding Your Life Purpose.  For those of us whose birth date adds up to seven (7), he writes of our purpose being ‘Trust and Openness’.  The chapter opens with these words:  “Individuals working 7 as their life purpose are here to trust the light or spirit within them, in others, and in the process of their lives so that they feel safe enough to open up and share their inner beauty with the world.”  He writes (and I summarize) of the challenges we ‘sevens’ face in our personal evolution, as an early tendency to collect opinions from friends and family and to fill our libraries with books, as seeking guidance from the wisdom of others helps us to measure our own instinct against outside advice.  He writes that our primary fears are of being misunderstood and betrayed, and how our subconscious ultimately attracts those experiences.  He even uses Charlie Brown’s trust of Lucy to be true to her word ‘this time’ as an example… which explains why I cannot stand to sit through any holiday productions of the cartoon I thought I loved as a child.  In recent years I realized that I am no longer willing to be witness to Chuck’s choice to surround himself with so many people who simply did not deserve to sit within his light.

In truth, I have been betrayed… probably more than my fair share.  As a child, there was a neighborhood acquaintance, a friend of a friend, who stole the baby from my ‘Sunshine Family’ doll set, and I can recall being alone at the Saturday movies, and trusting two girls I didn’t even know to save my seat, leaving my bag of candy behind – returning to the story that some older kids came by and stole it.  In high school, a boy I had known practically since we were born and considered a close friend, orchestrated an all out attack on my home – toilet papering the yard, cookie-ing my parent’s windshields, and taping lesbian pornography on my bedroom window with slurs against me and my mother.  I was away that weekend, and my mother cleaned it all up without telling even my father.  She stayed quiet until the rumor had gotten to me, and I shared it with her – amazed at the silliness of it all… then, when I was on hold with that boy, she told me to just hang up… that the rumor was true.  At age 20, the boy I lived with who had won my heart chose to crush it when he came home from a college event with hickies on his neck.  I tried to find trust, but a few months later I moved him out – and frankly, never trusted men after that. Looking back, I realize it was in that same time frame that a childhood friend had stolen credit cards from my wallet, revealed when my mother called me to address the unauthorized use of her account, which I carried for emergencies.  The card was still in my purse, which revealed that someone had removed it and replaced it, after use… handwriting analysis of the receipts made identity simple to secure.

Analysis of these childhood wounds did offer me great wisdom, when I had gained the maturity to seek peace through forgiveness.  I realized that in each of these indiscretions, the offender was acting out of inauthenticity… they were pretending to be something they were not – a curse of the young or fearful.  It is much easier to release past hurts when we realize that the damage inflicted was never really about us – the recipient of harm, but about the one who acted out.  With this understanding, we may not be completely shielded from acts of betrayal, but we can definitely accept the circumstances, remove ourselves from the situation, and move forward with our lives, rather than dwelling in the pit of despair over what we must have done to deserve being lied to, stolen from, cheated on, etc.  Forgiveness does provide some level of inner peace.  In certain situations, the betrayal may feel too great to offer forgiveness, and if so, consider forgiving that it happened to you, until you can develop the possibility of compassion for someone who would act out in ways that seem to have such disregard for the respect and care of your soul.

I can see now how these life experiences kept me from trusting my own inner voice.  During one period of Mercury Retrograde a few years ago, I can remember coming to a huge aha moment.  I was talking to a friend about how I would never find true love, because I didn’t trust men… and suddenly it hit me like a bolt of lightning.  I realized that the truth of the matter was that more difficult than finding a man I could trust, was my ability to trust myself to choose well.  Talk about closing the subconscious doors of opportunity.  And so, I set forth on a path to rebuild that trust… in myself.

These days my practice includes paying attention to signs and synchronicities, so that if I cannot clearly hear my own intuitive voice, I can at least follow the direction in which the Universe might guide me.  An example would be the way that I found myself feeling this time last year, much the way I had felt 16 years before.  In my beloved workplace, I found myself feeling fearful, paranoid, depressed and distressed with the arrival of a new boss.  It was clear that she didn’t like me from the get-go, as I struggled to try to make her happy.  After multiple years with outstanding performance, I was suddenly declared completely unprofessional and inept. This sensation nearly left me fetal and unhinged, until…  my intuitive life coach asked me to reflect on when I might have felt this way before.  She indicated that for those of us who are empathic, we often receive information from our inner guidance through the way our bodies feel.  When I stopped to reflect on that sensation as something familiar, I realized that I had felt this way before.  In fact, it was the feeling that brought me to this place.  A very similar experience had unhinged me from my loyal seat in the company I was dedicated to for ten years.  Same scenario… new boss, lack of resonance despite beloved reputation throughout organization, deep dive of fear, self-loathing, depression and a sense of being hit by a bus, because the platform of love was suddenly gone and there was no one around to save me.  Fast forward sixteen years, and though I find myself reliving a nightmare of the past, I am suddenly thrust a life preserver… but not from someone else who had come to my rescue… it was my higher self!  She was right there, reaching her hand to me saying, “Okay… calm down and breathe.  Remember when this happened the last time?  Remember how you were frightened of what would happen to you?  Remember how you spent weeks drowning in self-doubt and fear of the unknown future?  Now, remember how it all turned out.  Remember that that moment of discomfort prepared you for something extraordinary.  Remember that you would never have left that place of mediocrity to find this place of wonder.  Remember how you were blessed to serve those who really needed you, and how greatly you were rewarded for providing your special brand of care.  Now, remember who you are.  Offer gratitude to those who would set you free from your own self-limiting beliefs, even if their methods were careless and unfortunate.  Forgive yourself for waiting so long to see the truth of your light.  Know that you are completely safe and protected.  Now, step out into the brightness of your being, and take all of the time you need to decide how you will choose to shine into the future.  Brilliance cannot be rushed, it must be cultivated.  Write it all down and then write some more.  Keep writing and speaking your truth until your truth becomes your path.  Then… when you are ready… you can stop following and start leading.”

As I near the one year anniversary of my liberation from that workplace, I find myself at the edge of a new path.  I still don’t know exactly where this path is headed, but I know one thing for sure… I trust myself to lead the way.

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WTF Menopause?

Since the day I got my period, when I was twelve years old and in the sixth grade, I have been counting the days until menopause would grace me with its presence.  I’ve waited 37 years for this, and now… you are failing me.  I have always held the strong belief that fertility should be a choice, something that if you really wanted the burden of childbearing, you would have to take a pill or flip a switch to endure.  I know this is not a popular belief, as there are actually some women who have gladly exchanged this inconvenience for the blessing of children, and others who would choose to bleed every day if only they COULD be so blessed.  But seriously, why should someone who never wanted children be forced to face month after month of discomfort, inconvenience, mess, and expense?  Nearly four decades later, and I am still rather miffed about this evolutionary slap in the face.

You’d think I would feel differently, having discovered the goddess path in my early twenties, but alas… no.  I would hear women talk about their ‘moon cycle’ or their ‘red tent’ moments, and try my best to adopt a positive view of what always felt like more of a curse.  “The curse has come upon me!, she cried… The Lady of Shalott” (makes me wonder what Tennyson knew about either bleeding or having children forced through a tiny hole in his gut)… now I think I’ll go lie down in the boat and wait to bleed out.  Sheesh!  I did find it funny to realize that in a certain faith, men and women were expected to give up something each year as a symbol of reverence and commitment to honor the sacrificial king, when women were literally giving up their life’s blood at the drop of a hat, or rather the drop of an egg.  Clearly, men should get to do a forced blood letting on a monthly basis in order to keep up with the species that is always giving more than their share.

Perhaps I would feel differently if the religious right felt the seed of man was as ‘holy’ as my own, and regulate and limit ‘his’ right to choose how he would spill his semen upon the earth.  But no… pregnancy by rape or by love, though unwanted is demanded to be carried as a stain upon a woman’s soul, while no burden or shame shall ever be placed upon the penis that put it there.  If you think I feel bitter and outraged, you are right!  I have been free from this bloody curse for an entire year… until the fall of midnight on the morning of June 11.  F you, menopause!  Now, the glorious countdown to freedom has to start all over again… and I hate math!

I guess I should be relieved that the gut wrenching pain I suffered several days back was not actually my body being empathetic to two friends having abdominal surgery that day, and that my nipples haven’t been aching because I’ve developed some kind of bilateral, fast moving breast cancer.  Shew… it’s not cancer, it’s just the f*ing curse of fertility, back to torment me… like Buffy being ripped out of heaven and brought back into the demon dimension of hell on earth.    Too soon?

Perhaps I would feel less bitter if I’d not lived most of my life feeling a sense of body betrayal and self-loathing.  With a diagnosis of poly cystic ovarian syndrome in my early twenties which blessed me with rapid weight gain and insulin resistance, I put on a hundred pounds in four years without ever consuming enough calories to put weight on the most sloth-like being.  Despite a hundred different programs, pills, and even surgery… my body never lets go of her claim on the fat cells she harvested through these lumpy ovaries.

Sigh… but alas… I have spent the last several years cultivating self-love.  I have worked hard to reprogram the negative voice that once lived inside my head, constantly reminding me that I am not good enough, that I am not thin enough, that I am not pretty enough, that I am not smart enough, that I am not working hard enough, that I am not sacrificing enough, that I am not worthy of being loved, that no man will love a fat woman, that I don’t deserve the happiness of others whose bodies never betrayed them, that never ending barrage of hateful, unkind, unloving language that would never roll off my tongue to harm another living soul… only mine.  That old voice has been silenced, finally.

So here’s how I shall interpret the swelling of my belly and the shedding of dark flesh from inside my womb.  I am transforming!  I am becoming something new.  I am leaving behind that which no longer serves me, and it is being scraped out from the inside… flushing away from this sacred vessel, cleansed by water and transmuted by Mother Earth, into something healed and refreshed.  In April, the shedding occurred on the outside, through an angry dermatitis, and now… the work is just being wrapped up, on my behalf.  Here you go, dear… let’s just be done with this bit of outdated flesh.  It can’t hurt you, if you just send it love!

Okay, then.  I’m marking my calendar, and unlike in my youth, when I prayed that my period would come… I’ll say a little prayer that the lining of my uterus and I will never have to meet again.  I shall commit it to holding.  Not holding the loathing and distaste of old, but of something much healthier.  Let her hold onto the light of my love, and the healing red of root and orange of sacral chakra energy, and from there… let her energy bring birth to creativity, with words that flow freely rather than blood, and new projects that bring enlightenment, empowerment, and prosperity for self and community.  I will take this life blood and pour it onto the earth as my prayer, as I did at the full moon in May of 2000 in dedication to Artemis, with a promise to “open up and let a piece of myself fall away”.  Okay, great lady.  I hear you.  I am allowing this last remaining bit of false belief and bitterness to fall away from my body, never to be entertained again.  I promise.

Beloved vessel of loving expression, I commit to you that all of my words shall come to you with love.  Body of the universe, I vow to hold sacred every curve and every curl.  Sacred being, I promise to love you, cherish you, hold you close, to always be honest and express my truth, and will never ask you to endure suffering from self or others, for you have done your time, and I am choosing to set you free.  With this freedom, I find a release of tension in my belly, and I am finally able to breathe, and perhaps to sleep.  The rage has passed, and we have earned a dark chocolate reward.  May peace be with me, and also with you.  Amen and Blessed be.

(The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse – my favorite non-living artist)

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Second Sunday Sensations

Bliss, joy, happiness, comfort, healing, sighs of relief, deep belly laughter, tears of shared sorrow, and the ultimate level of gratitude for these shared sacred days.  Many people get dressed each Sunday and make their way to a house of worship that meets their spiritual needs, and there, if they are really lucky, they find community.  I was raised Unitarian, but I’ve never really been a church-goer.  To me, the service was never as fulfilling as the community connectedness that would follow.  Long ago, I chose to cut out the middle minister.  There are still times when I may find solace in having that sacred place in which to connect.  On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, for example… I found myself numbly making the drive to our sanctuary, seeking comfort within a room of like minds and warm hearts.  Minutes from an executive airport and an international airport, I will never forget the eerie vacancy of the skies that could be seen through horizon windows.  I recall very little about what was spoken, but felt a sense of shared shock, fear, heartbreak, uncertainty, and dismay.  I do recall my own words… for my sorrow was mingled with joy.  On this terrible, horrible, tragic, no-good day, my Tribe sister was in Colorado giving birth to sweet Whimsy.  To me, she was a symbol of hope in the darkest of times.  In just three months she will be seventeen, and she couldn’t possibly shine more brightly… always our beacon of shining brilliance and great pride.

The last community trauma did not lead me to church, though many did gather there for comfort, for support, for counseling, to find someone – anyone who could help hold a shattered soul together until healing could someday be found.  It was two years ago this week… I remember that I had been visiting a friend in North Florida that weekend, and for some reason that Saturday night, I felt restless and chose to drive home rather than to stay another night.  I don’t know what was on my mind during that three hour drive, but if my thoughts were troubled or petty they would soon be completely annihilated… along with 49 sacred souls.

For more than a decade, a small group of committed friends within my circle have gathered for Second Sunday Supper.  Each month we assemble in someone’s kitchen, and there we cook together and wine flows into glasses, while our hearts are filled and overflow with pure love and adoration for the grace and beauty of our togetherness.  I believe that if there was no food present, we would still feel well-nourished at our parting.

Two years ago, we gathered in the home of dear friends who have since moved away.  That morning we had all risen with the most tragic news, and though we had a commitment to brunch together, we had to ensure we could still gather – as one of our hosts was a member of the police department.  In a different role, and gratefully never in harm’s way, he had not been called in, and we all felt it especially necessary to gather our hearts into one place, a group hug from which we would wish to never emerge.  Upon arrival, words were difficult to share through throats swollen from primal screams and flowing tears.  Reports were coming in from comrades…  20 confirmed dead…  23 confirmed dead… 30… 35…  42….  breathless and shattered… 49 monumental losses to our beloved community.  Tears would dry and fall again.  Together we waxed on about shared dreams of a world that celebrates the authentic beauty of every individual, where self-hatred and familial denial of one’s truth could only lead to such a violent atrocity in books of fiction, and the reality of an automatic rifle in the hands of a civilian was as far-fetched as Marvin the Martian’s ray gun, pointed at Bugs Bunny on the surface of Mars… only to be found in a world of cartoon fantasy.  A convoy of refrigerated trucks would never be required, for the inadequacy of space in the county morgue.

Gratefully, most of our Second Sundays are free from such horror and sorrow.  Music plays, friends gather, food is prepared, wine is poured, bloody marys are built, stories are shared, laughter is raised, and hearts are soothed and refilled with enough love and light to carry us through the next four weeks, until we recreate this glory in another kitchen.  These people are the sacred tenders of our communal hearth fire.  Embers could never be darkened with their careful commitment.

Today we will gather in my home, and I hope that tradition will serve the quote of a friend who once said:  “Walking into Melissa’s house is like walking into a hug.”  Each guest will be greeted with more than welcome… with more than nice to see you, but with overwhelming relief as pieces of hearts are reunited and once again made whole.  We are a tiny community, madly in love with the souls of one another.  Together, we are facing a battle with cancer and ongoing treatment, the continuing grief of a dear friend lost suddenly and way too soon, we will be missing friends whose home now requires a flight or a long day’s drive to reach, we will wait for the arrival of a friend in his 70’s who went back to work to make ends meet, we will provide updates of the health and wellness of our aging parents, as well as our own aging bodies and the surprises that arise in midlife, and possibly share stories about workplace drama – or the lack-of-a-workplace bliss, as the case may be.

But all of this seriousness will be soothed and comforted by the smiles, hugs, laughter, plans for a destination wedding in the fall for two of our beloveds, and the rapt attention of each sacred being who helps to fill this space, my personal house of worship, with the love that we seek, the commitment we sustain, and the light that we share.  Oh, yeah… and by the food and wine, too.  🙂

Wishing you a Second Sunday filled with your own personal version of soul-filling, heart lifting, voice raising, complete and utter bliss.

(The First Supper by Jane Evershed)

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My Favorite Tomboy

She was four and I was five, the little tomboy who lived around the block.  We met in kindergarten – the afternoon class with Miss Carlyle.  Things I remember about that particular new beginning are:  being walked to school by my Mom and our basset hound, Biggy…  crying from fear, as my mother prepared to abandon me to this place filled with strangers in a hallway that smelled of mimeographed pages.  It may have been less frightening to me, had I realized that in this tiny classroom I would find a true and lifelong friend.

Forty-four years have passed, but there are pieces of our shared history that could never fall through the holes of my memory.  Riding my yellow bike with the banana seat and training wheels around the block, where I discovered the little tomboy outside in her front yard.  Graduating to an adult bike, with a bar that taught me to toss both legs over the side for a running dismount, rather than risking losing my breath to the smarts of feet not reaching the ground and the bar crashing into a place you wouldn’t have guessed was attached to your lungs.  Sun drenched days, playing and riding our bikes, jumping over the mound of dirt that never did get moved into the backyard to build a garden.  And then there were the days spent on the floor of the bedroom she shared with her sister… a four-poster bed, a small record player with a stack of 45’s, playing barbies or ‘pancake kids’ as I called the Flatsies she had, and singing songs that children probably shouldn’t sing, but it doesn’t matter because to us, ‘afternoon delight’ was exactly what we were doing… spending the afternoon playing with the little girl who will surely be by your side until the very end.

After all of these years, I know this to be true… that we will be one of a significant few required to be present at the end of our days, may that end be eons from now.  There is a moment in time that we share that was marked by trauma, and that we survived it adds depth to our soul-connection today.  This story is significant in my journey of overcoming and becoming… from self-loathing to self-love.  I was reminded of it in 2005, when I happened to sit next to a Medium from California at a Broadway Play I was attending with friends.  I wrote about it in my not-yet-published book, the name of which I will someday reveal here, about the way that the Archetypal Feminine plays a role in my life.

Over the years, Artemis has continued to make her presence known to me.  She came through loud and clear in 2005, and that was possibly the biggest shift forward in my labyrinth of transformation.  I had gone to New York with friends, specifically to see Tim Curry on Broadway in Spamalot, but we decided to add another show to the itinerary to make the weekend trip worthwhile.  The show we selected was 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal.  It was there that magick happened, again.

There were three people in my party, an empty seat, and then a party of four in our row.  As we waited for Billy Crystal to grace the stage with his brilliant energy, a woman slid into our row and sat down next to me.  It was obvious she was on her own, so I struck up conversation.  She said that she had come to NYC from California specifically to see this show, that her family thought she was crazy for doing so, and that she was going to do some work while she was here.  Then, the show started, and Billy wowed us with his incredible gift of storytelling.  He talked about the remarkable life he lived in his youth, with his father and his uncle, who owned a record label.  His father was busy with work, but they had his undivided attention every Sunday.  They lost him too soon, and so Billy assessed that he had him in his life for about 700 Sundays.  The stories were incredible, and he was engaging.  Then, at the intermission, I continued talking with the woman to my right.  I asked her what it was that she does that allowed her to work on either coast.  She said that she was a medium, and started to explain to me what that was.  I stopped her and told her that I had been doing psychic development with my Tribe, but that I just couldn’t seem to receive.  She said:  “That’s because of what happened when you were nine.”  She continued, “Your Dad was yelling at you, and that’s when you shut down.”  She asked if my Dad yelled a lot, and I replied that he had a big voice, but that I never really felt he yelled AT me.  I asked the west coast medium (wish I could remember her name) what I could do about it, and she said: “All you have to do is fall in love with yourself, AND IT WILL ALL FALL AWAY.”  I stared at her and assured her I had received that message before, but that I was never sure of how to interpret the guidance.  So, here’s where the big aha moment for me appeared; my very next thought was… how can I fall in love with someone I loathe?  So, before I even left New York, I had written a list of common phrases that my inner bully beat me with, and when I got home, I called my therapist and engaged her in the endeavor of continuing the work that Artemis was patiently waiting for me to complete.

When I met with my therapist, I arrived with my list, and I talked pretty solidly about the message I had received, about the inner dialog that had plagued me for so long, about where it came from and how the only one responsible for perpetuating it was me.  We worked together for a few sessions, but I pretty much set my own plan for recovery, while she validated my journey.  I determined that anytime a voice inside my head said something negative, I would replace it by saying something positive aloud.  Most importantly, I declared that I would never say anything to myself that I would never say to someone I love.  And so, that’s how my path out of self-loathing continued… one step at a time, with constant vigilance and occasional course recovery.

When I got home from that fateful trip to NYC and recounted that conversation with the medium to my life-long friend, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, with eyes wide, she said, “I bet it was MY Dad who yelled at you!”, which totally resonated with me.  I recognized that there was a moment in our shared history that quite possibly had damaged something in my psyche.  Her dad, unlike mine, was rather intimidating, and we were both rather afraid of him.  I have a ridiculous sense of recall on this particular day, though I cannot tell you what I did yesterday without checking my calendar.  My friend and I are not sure of our age, because we felt younger than nine, but it probably fits. 

I can’t tell you if it was summertime or a weekend, but it was a warm sunny day in my childhood, when my Mom said she would take me to get lunch at Arby’s.  I asked her if my friend could come with us, and she said yes.  I told her I would run over to her house, and that we would be right back, if she could come.  She lived around the block from us, and I can’t say why I didn’t just call her on the phone.  For whatever reason, I walked, and quite possibly skipped around the block, past the ditch that ran between our streets, and up to her house.  When I got there, she wanted to go with us, but wanted me to ask her dad.  So, I held my breath and walked out to the Florida room where he sat in his recliner, and I asked him if his youngest daughter could come with my mom and me to Arby’s for lunch.  He looked at me, and asked, “Is it okay with your mother?”  I answered him, and we took to the task of getting her ready to go.  When I realized it was taking longer to get back home, I called my mom, and asked if she would mind picking us up.  When I hung up the phone, my friend’s dad was standing in the doorway of the Florida room, glaring at me.  He said, “I thought you said it was okay with your mother.  You lied to me!”  I stood there dumbfounded and in shock.  Did I lie to him?  Is it possible that I could have told a lie to a grown up?  What just happened?  My brain went fuzzy.  As my mom was pulling up outside, my friend’s father removed his approval for her to join me for lunch, and he forbid us to play together ever again.  I don’t recall what happened after that.  I really do believe I was in shock.  I don’t know why I didn’t engage my parents to argue for me, or stand up for my nature which was never to lie to a grown up… or for that matter, why I couldn’t stand up to my friend’s dad in the first place and simply speak the truth… that I hadn’t lied, and that what had changed was that we would not walk back around the block, but ask my mother to pick us up instead.  What I did realize, looking back at that moment in time, was this:  This event was very likely when self-doubt began.  To this day, I refer to my mind as having swiss cheese memory because it seems that I can have a memory, for example, that I had a conversation with someone about a certain topic, but I can’t recall any of the details about it, as if they had fallen through the holes.  I’ve always said that I am an amazing secret keeper.  Your secret is safe with me, because if I remember that we spoke, I definitely won’t recall many details.  This obviously does not bode well for the future, as I age.  

But seriously, it’s a shame that grown-ups are oblivious to the damage their words and actions are committing against the children in their lives.  Wounds may scar over, but the healing could take a lifetime.  As you know, my life-long friend and I did get to be friends again, but it was after about a year of being forbidden to play together.  She is an introvert, and didn’t have many playmates, and so her mother finally demanded an end to our exile.  My next memory of her dad was much different… he was dying.  He seemed much less intimidating by then, and he smiled when he saw me.  I didn’t get an apology, but we resumed our friendship, and he died in our 6th grade year.  I would get my apology many years after he was gone, either in a dream or a meditation.  To this day, my friend and I reflect on these moments that shaped us, and together, we stand committed to the overcoming of our perceived obstacles.  Like I said, it requires constant vigilance.

In the years that followed his departure, we were at times distant and close.  Through high school we had different classes and consequently, different friends.  In fact, after kindergarten, despite having attended the same schools through thirteen years of education, we never had another class together.  Weird, right?  But we eventually found our way back to the lap of our connection.  Even if a month should pass without seeing one another when life gets in the way, we are eternally bound by this childhood, shared.  She IS the sister I never had.  She jokes that I am an old soul, and that she, as a young soul, is just following my lead.  But the truth is, she is wiser than she lets on.  She has a gift of mindful reflection that enables her to see both sides of a story, and though she is passionate about her views, she is able to use her words to express herself without lashing out against the views of another.  I may have the gift of words, but this is not one of my strengths.  I tend to remain silent on the topics by which I am most affected, for my level of rage does not permit me such grace.  She claims that empathy is not her strength, as it is overwhelmingly one of mine, and yet her beautiful heart nearly bleeds for the suffering of any animal, be it field mouse or elephant.  Her beautiful heart dispels any false rumor she may be spreading about the age of her soul.

I shudder to think what might have happened if her Dad had been any different.  Without trauma that binds us, she might have been like any other neighborhood kid, fearless of the future and led far away from this place where geography keeps us close.  Our shared wounding in youth left me filled with self-doubt, and I believe her wound is similar.  Her father insisted that if she couldn’t do something right, she shouldn’t do it at all.  Therefore, her living room sat empty for the first ten years of her marriage, because she could not risk choosing the wrong furniture.  This is the core of many of our deep-dive discussions of overcoming.  Mine has been a long journey of seeking.  Through life-altering experiences that were fearful to start, but ultimately joyful at outcome, I have learned to have faith that the Universe is leading me along a path of discovery that will surely be for my highest good.  She has vowed to follow my lead, and year-by-year I am witness to her growing courage.  Next year we both turn 50.  I have no doubt that she is on the verge of her own fearless becoming.  After all, she WOWs me every day.  One day soon, she is going to WOW herself… and I’ll be right here holding the torch and cheering her on.  Oh, how I love and adore that little tomboy of my heart, now as girly as they get.  She is stunningly magnificent, and I am blessed to be in her tiny circle.

(as I imagine our future / Garden Afternoon by Marcelle Milo Gray)

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Holding Space

Since leaving the corporate world in October, the Universe has presented multiple opportunities for me to be of service to my beloved community.  On one hand, I wish that no one in my sacred circle had cause for suffering or need for support through the struggle of poor health or hardship, but on the other hand… I am so very grateful that this moment of freedom has allowed me the ability to be completely present.

The last several years in the working world were filled with traumatic change and overwhelming grief.  Survival was no easy task for an empath.  I recall having a friend in need for whom I could not be wholly present, because at the end of the day… I had nothing left to give.  I feel as if the Universe is giving me the opportunity to rebuild the karma of those lost opportunities through this sabbatical.

In the book I am writing, I begin with an explanation of what brought me to the path of studying to become an end of life doula.  That story begins with what leaving a toxic workplace gifted me… it gave me the world!  And best of all, it presented me with a sense of purpose.  I never really knew what I was meant to do with my life, the way that some people seem to graduate high school with a final destination in mind for college and career.  My mom chose my electives in school, which included typing and word processing, so that I would have ‘something to fall back on’, and so… I fell into secretarial work, when I decided the hospitality industry (you know, because I’m a people person) wouldn’t offer me a 9 to 5 job with weekends off.

But I was lucky in that regard, you know… in settling.  A friend shared my typing speed with the manager of the processing department where she worked, and they asked me to come in, and I was immediately hired.  Within a year or so, a secretarial position opened and I was promoted.  It was in that role that I was blessed to support someone who could see my light, and she nurtured my growth as my mentor for ten years, until the Universe guided me to what was next.  That particular bit of guidance is a different story, entirely!  But where it led me was to support someone who seemed to really need my particular energy and light.  He had worked with five assistants in nine years when the planets aligned to bring us together.  Sometimes I think that what he needed most was kindness, compassion, patience, and a smile that would inform him that everything would be okay.  He was under enormous pressure, some of which was self-generated.  I did see the side of him that made the others seek other work, but we worked through it.  I would ask if he was okay, and he would say, “I’m not sharing my stress am I, because I don’t mean to.”  And at the end of each day he would say, “Melissa!  Thank you for a great day!”  That made everything worth it.  We were together eight and a half years until he retired.  I was blessed to work with his chosen successor until her retirement, six years later.  She was a tiny woman with a powerful mind and a giant heart.  My blood pressure normalized during those years.  She suffered weekly migraines during the last couple of years, and I was there with honey-tea, with ice pack, and reminded her to put down what was stressing her soul and to feed her body.  I introduced her to a friend who commented to her about how positively I speak of her, and her reply was, “Oh, Mel and I just love each other.”  That’s not often heard in the corporate world, but I was blessed to have that.  I remain in touch with these three beloved work partners to this day.  I wonder if I was happy there for so long because they each allowed me to utilize my strengths to serve them.  I provided a little something that eased the stress of whatever they were dealing with.  In a way, I think I was holding space for them to do their work.

Now free from the enormous stress of a corporation, these days more beholden to shareholders than to their employees and the communities they serve, I have the opportunity to hold space… to bring comfort and support healing.  This is where my future lies.

During these days of freedom, I have been able to spend a magickal day with a beautiful friend who showed me what grace looks like at the end of life.  I have been the communications director for another friend at the beginning of her cancer journey, and only five minutes away, remain on-call for her assistance through chemotherapy and recovery.  I have been patient advocate and wheelchair maiden to dear friends, who are life-long support to one another, but are both facing health issues at the same time.  I’ve been able to be more present for my parents who are slowing down and needing a little more support these days.  Since my brother lives a few hours away, I’ve even been learning the art of PC and Tablet support, skills which may elude your average 80 year old.  And after the death of my beautiful friend, I was able to hold space for the healing of her heartbroken wife.  As I said, I wish that dear ones had no need of my presence in these ways, but I am grateful and heart-filled to have had the freedom and ability to serve.

Tonight I am working with a friend to bring expressive arts to a group of women in her circle.  The goal is to release what no longer serves us, and with burdens lifted to put focused energy into the art of manifesting the future we each desire.  A year ago, I was fearful of what life might look like without the burden of a job that I no longer loved.  As I look back at that time, I fear what I would have missed if nothing had changed.  It’s funny how perspective can be altered just by looking at something from a different level.  Spiral in…  spiral out.

Thanks for walking this labyrinth with me, dear ones.  May all of your burdens be lifted, and may all of your hopes and dreams be made manifest with grace and ease.

(photo found on pinterest w/o credit)

redlabyrinth

The Love of a Good Cat – Part Two

It was three months before I could bring myself to consider bringing new love into my life.  Whenever I imagined adopting, the first thoughts that came to mind were those of suffering and sorrow.  But one day, it happened.  I thought about having a new furry companion, and the fear did not come.  I posted that awareness on facebook, and got an immediate reply.  A friend had two cats that needed rescue.  They were not littermates, but had grown up together, two strays adopted by an elderly couple who could no longer care for them.  I saw the photos and learned about their story.  I wasn’t sure I was ready, but as I drove to the grocery store, I imagined that I would change their names to Morgan and Arthur, in honor of one of my favorite tales of ancient Camelot.  Driving home, I was arguing with myself about the prospect, and when I settled in to watch the next episode of a series I was watching, the episode that played featured a character that believed he was King Arthur.  Then, that same evening, while scrolling through my facebook newsfeed, I saw a painting that my friend had posted… it was Morgan Le Fey bearing Arthur back to Avalon with his mortal wound.  And so it was… I went to meet Morgan and Arthur, and there the three of us fell in love.  Released from their protective cages, he circled around me and stepped into the nest of my ‘easy pose’ crossed legs and curled up, closed his eyes and purred.  She walked around me and gave me a ‘wap-wap’, which is what I came to call her hip-bump gesture that is like a love nip, but gentler.  The carriers were on the floor and open, and she walked right into hers.  So, we closed the door, and placed Arthur into his carrier, and we were off!  They were both pretty skittish for a while, but they warmed up to their new home pretty quickly.  Within a couple of days, we were family… though it would take some time for Morgan to remain out in the open whenever an outsider would enter her domain.  If there was a knock on the door, she would run into the bedroom and hide under the bed.  That really didn’t change until Arthur was gone.  You see, Arthur was madly, possessively in love with me.  We had a morning ritual, and he would sit in my lap as I did my hair and makeup before work.  Whenever I was seated, he was there.  He had this way of curling into my lap or on my chest, if I was reclining, and he would look up at me with these eyes that are so difficult to describe.  Perhaps people who have had that deep kind of soul-love would recognize my meaning… but I had never felt so loved and adored as I did through his eyes.  I often wondered if he had come into my life to show me how it would feel when it arrived, and not to settle for anything less.  My new babies were already six years old when they came to live with me.  Morgan was extremely laid back, and very passive, while Arthur was the opposite.  He was much like the Winnie the Pooh character, Tigger.  He had springs in his toes, and he had boundless energy.  He would be lounging in my lap and then suddenly dart across the room, with my belly as his springboard.  If Morgan was ever on my lap when he arrived, she would quickly get the message and move out of the way.  I hated the way she was so submissive to him, but she wouldn’t go far.  He would be close to my heart, and she would be right by my side.  Then one day… everything changed.  It was February in Florida, and the weather was beautiful.  I had carefully stepped out the front door to get the mail from the box, and as I stepped back in, closing the door behind me, I announced to Arthur that I was going to open the window.  We called it cat tv, because the sound of it rising would bring both of them immediately to the window for their inspection of the external world.  Always.  I mean that Arthur would NEVER not come to the sound of the window being lifted… until this day.  It took only a minute for me to feel that something was terribly wrong, and my brain went completely fuzzy.  I think of it like the old days of television, when you would flip channels and there would be those that were empty, and only grey and black dots would appear, and the sound of white noise would ring out through the speaker.  That’s what happened to my brain when Arthur did not take his place at the open window.  Morgan didn’t come either, but she was asleep in the window seat in the library, where she is at this moment of writing.  I ran through the house looking for him, because it was absolutely impossible that he could have gotten out of the house.  I literally looked into the refrigerator three times.  Seriously… static and white noise.  I posted my panic on facebook:  “I CANNOT FIND ARTHUR AND I AM TOTALLY FREAKING OUT!”  My parents were buying a house up the street from me, but at the time they still lived 45 minutes away.  I called my mother in tears, as I walked up the street calling his name.  She asked if she should come, and I told her it would be okay.  The weird thing about my exploration outside of the house was that, although there were several stray cats on my block, not a single one of them was about.  I did not find Arthur.  As I was walking back to the house, my massage therapist was arriving for a previously scheduled appointment.  She offered to help me look for him, but I felt so sure (still fuzzy) that when I climbed onto the table, Arthur would appear at my feet, as he always did, to purr through my healing session.   But he didn’t.  A missed phone call and a knock on the door while I was on the table, revealed my knight in shining armor, Jim.  He saw my post, and put his nearly blind mother into his truck, and drove to my house to help look for Arthur.  He knocked on the door and said, he thought he might be in the side yard, and I dressed and stepped out to look.  There was a grey tabby cat in my side yard, and he looked quite panicked.  I called his name, but I think that what was happening to me must have been happening to him, as well.  I looked at him, never having seen him outside before, and my brain could not definitively be sure that this cat was mine.  The static just grew louder.  As I slowly tried to approach, his eyes grew wider, and he turned and dashed through a hole beneath the fence that is between my side yard and the elevated highway that runs beyond it.  The highway is a story above my land, so he was not in any danger, but there was no way to go after him, because there was no gate.  Jim had driven around to confirm, and then returned to my yard.  He was in my backyard when he saw Arthur, crouched down as if in a hole, his head peeking out, and panting.  Then he jumped and dashed.  As I was sending off my massage therapist, Jim came to the door and told me he thought he could see him, and led me to the side yard fence.  There, just on the other side of the fence at the base of a tree, was Arthur.  He was very close to a hole in the fence, as if considering to come back through, but he was no longer breathing.  He was dead.  I screamed and wailed the anguish of one whose heart has been yanked from her body.  Two hours had passed since he mysteriously escaped and the weird static moved into my head.  He was never in danger of being hit by a car, but he was gone.  I called my parents, but my mother was en route to my house, and my father had to listen to my cries for help.  I asked him to call his brother, Uncle Mike and to have him come with wire cutters.  I couldn’t get to the other side of the fence, and I had to get to him!  I tried calling Uncle Mike, but he did not answer.  Then, as I had reached my hand through the hole in the fence, I realized that I could touch his hind legs… therefore, I could pull him through to me.  And that’s what I did.  I tugged his hind legs, and I pulled the lifeless body of my sweet boy, the most profound and pure love I had ever experienced in my life, through the hole in the fence and lifted his body onto my breathless chest.  My whole body heaved with my sorrow.  None of this made any sense.  Jim and his sweet Mama endured my sobs, as they drove me to the place where we could take my beloved for cremation.  Eula had run her own funeral home for decades, and Jim had grown up knowing how to care for those who were grieving.  It’s as if exactly the right caregivers were delivered to me at my most dire time of need.  I was numb by the time we returned to the house, and I was grateful that my mother was there to greet us.  Morgan was safely inside, and I’m unsure of her awareness of her brother’s departure at that time.  Over the days that would follow, though, she began to blossom in the absence of Arthur’s oppression.  And though I loved him dearly, I was glad for the opportunity to see the side of Morgan that he would never let shine.  I was heartbroken for the loss of his love, but she and I came to fall in love deeply over the weeks and months ahead.  She eventually took his place next to my face at bedtime, when previously she had been relegated to sleep by my feet.  He was such a bully to her.  Without his presence, she became even more courageous upon the arrival of friends, and now she doesn’t hide for anyone.  We have our own morning rituals now, though they are different from the ones he and I shared.  Morgan climbs into bed, and next to my face, where she proceeds to give me my morning facial.  Then she climbs over me, to the back of my neck, and presses one paw against my skin, poking me like Simon’s cat (a popular animated character) until I give in and get up to feed her, be it 4am or 7am.

It took me quite some time to recover from the shock and horror of that awful day.  We were in a very uncomfortable era at work, as my beloved boss had stepped down after the takeover of our board of directors.  My new boss did not have empathy in her top strengths.  I cried as she unfeelingly expressed the death of her own family dog, and I knew she would have no patience for my inner turmoil that still plagued me three months after Arthur’s death.  So, I engaged a therapist who specializes in EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) to overcome my trauma.  After two sessions I was able to recount the story of Arthur’s loss without bursting into uncontrollable sobs, and I was finally able to fall asleep without my mind going to that place at the side of my house, where his body lay lifeless and my heart was ripped from my being.  Remembering one of the ‘signs’ I received two years before this moment, I searched for the image I had seen when I was talking myself through fear of illness and loss.  It was the painting of Morgan Le Fey directing the boat that would carry her wounded brother back to Avalon… where the mists would heal and protect the once and future king.

To comfort my grief, I spent the weeks following Arthur’s death doing meaningful retail therapy.  I had a ring engraved with “Arthur – King of My Heart”, and I ordered another ring with a pink stone called Morganite, that was coincidentally a stone for healing trauma, though I bought it for her namesake.  I already had a ring that I had made when Nightshade died, that had her name next to Gwydion’s.  And finally, I had each of their portraits printed on canvas and hung them in a place where they would be viewed by all who visit this sacred space… and it will always be known that THEY are my ‘happy’.

Upon mention of my need to write about these important losses, a friend affirmed that the loss of her cats were a far greater blow to her soul than those of her parents.  We both agree that there is something to the daily commitment, the unconditional love, the complete responsibility we have to our pets, and the inability to communicate with them to clearly understand their wants, their needs, and their suffering.  Without this ability to know for sure, we may make the mistake of selfishly holding onto them longer than is morally correct.  I definitely felt that way about Gwydion’s ending… I kept him too long.  It strongly effected how I dealt with Nightshade’s end of life, as she had not stopped eating when I chose to let her go, but she was waking soaked in urine fairly regularly, and it seemed beneath her great dignity.  Some would say that it may have been Arthur’s time to die, as many cats will leave their humans, to die alone – away from their sorrowful view.  But he was so young and energetic, I have not yet let go of the awareness that he would likely still be with me today, if he had not stared out that window for two years, thinking how AMAZING it all appeared from that safe and limiting place he was perched, only to find out that it was vast and terrifying to be on the other side of the window.  I feel that his heart couldn’t take the expanse, and I own some of that responsibility to this day.  As my fifth and only surviving cat, Morgan is probably the best cared for of them all.  I have learned a great deal about what to do, right and wrong, for their care.  I only wish I’d known twenty-five years ago what I know today.  Each furry soul has touched my heart in a special way… they are never far from reach.  Nightshade, especially, shows up in my dreams on a regular basis.

As I wrap up this chapter of loss, Morgan is standing before me, at the edge of my computer, awaiting my undivided attention.  Time to move forward…

(oil painting by Sandra Bierman)sandra bierman twobabes

The Love of a Good Cat – Part One

I am currently in the  midst of a deep dive of self discovery, which requires a review of my personal experience with death. I thought I had completed the task remarkably unscathed when another question in the curriculum was posed about comfort in receiving emotional support, such as a hug, from strangers.

At first, I couldn’t think of an instance… until I realized that I had only written about the humans that I have lost, and had not written about my beloved pets.  In my adult and independent life, in other words, since I moved out of my parents’ home, I have loved, nurtured, and cared for cats.  Of five furry babies that have blessed my life, I have lost four.  Each loss was devastating.  When I compare these losses to my human ones, I recognize that the suffering at their loss was extensive.  I imagine the reason is multi-tiered, and multi-teared.  First of all, I was completely responsible for their care and well-being.  If they suffered, it was because of my neglect or inability to understand their needs.  If only they could speak, or I could understand their language.  That leaves a world of opportunity for self-flagellation.  Secondly, unlike the people I have lost, my pets have been with me every single day, through prosperity and hardship, anywhere from two years to nineteen years.  Finally, unlike most relationships in life, they loved me without condition, even when I felt unlovable… and they each played an important role in nurturing my identity, and possibly my self-worth.

I must start at the beginning, though the first cat-love that I lost was not by death.  Stevie came into my life at precisely the moment that my whole life was changing, and in fact, she was a catalyst for some of that change.  I was living with four roommates, when this Sterling Persian beauty found her way into my parents’ backyard.  We figured she had been abandoned when someone moved away, but now that I reflect on how she appeared to us, and how she disappeared from my life four years later, I wonder.  My living situation at the time was up for renewal, and when Stevie appeared, it was clear that my roommates were not agreeable to bringing a house cat into the fold, and so it was that this tiny angel entered my life to change the trajectory of my youth.  I was 23 that year, and my parents co-signed for me to buy my own condo.  That condo was not just our home, it was the birthplace of my Tribe, the hub of my new spiritual journey, a meeting place for my young adult group, a nest to welcome a loving partner, and a safe place for dear friends to rest their heads when they were in need.  That level of independence enabled my freedom for growth and community building, which never could have happened while sharing a home with multiple people on different paths.  I shall always believe that Stevie arrived for that purpose.

A couple of years later, I brought home a tiny black kitten, that I named Nightshade.  Attention:  Never name a pet after a poisonous herb… it may just live up to the title.  Ha!  This girl was a tiny terrorist.  She was constantly getting into trouble.  I have heard mothers of toddlers repeatedly urge their energetic child to stop what they are doing, and Nightshade was my source of empathy for them.  I don’t think they ever really became friends, but Stevie tolerated the tiny tornado… for a while.  When we moved out of the condo and into a house, there was a hole in the wall where the dryer would vent.  We assessed it and foolishly believed there was no way they could get out, and in the morning, I was devastated to find that Stevie was gone.  She had been in my life for four years, the entirety of my time in the condo that housed my becoming.  I searched the neighborhood for her to no avail.  I sobbed and wailed for my loss and abandonment, and for my failure to keep her safe.  When I reflected on her time with me and why she had gone, besides the fact that I was sure Nightshade had pushed her through that hole, I determined that she was the resident angel to get me through that four-year period of transformation and growth, and that there was someone else in need that she was meant to serve.

In my grief for Stevie’s loss, came my partner’s desire for my comfort.  Interestingly, I ran into a former co-worker I had not seen in a couple of years, since I adopted Nightshade from her.  She shared that her daughter was moving back home, and that she had a kitten that she would not allow her to keep.  Enter Gwydion.  He was the yang to Nightshade’s yin… our bringer of light.  She was mischievous and he was curious.  She was independent and only allowed herself to be loved on her terms, and he was pure love and affection.  Nightshade was a black domestic short hair and Gwydion was a Norwegian Forest Cat with long white with black and grey fur.  The markings around his face, as a kitten, gave him a look that made you think of Barbra Streisand (I don’t know how, but I wasn’t the only one who could see it).   As a baby, my goddess daughter could lean on him and he would not move or run, but just sit patiently in her support.  After I had gone to bed, I swear he would call out to me, “Mama!  Mama!”  He would lie down next to his food dish and pull out one crunchy morsel at a time onto the floor, and only once out of the bowl would he consume his meal, which made for an adorable companion to Nightshade’s ‘water dance’, a funny way that she would tap her front and hind feet before she would drink from the water fountain.  At twenty pounds, Gwydion wasn’t a lap cat, I think he was aware of his mass, and so he would only sit beside you to receive your affection.  In his later years, I was finally able to convince him to sit on my lap.  He would come to my feet and look up at me with love and expectation.  I would lift him onto my knee, and he would sit, like a tiny human leaning against the arm of the comfy chair, with his elbow perched just so.  From this vantage, I could rub his fluffy belly, and he would purr with delight… as would I.  He liked to lie on the hardwood floor with his belly exposed, which is why my brother dubbed him – Throw Rug.  It was in his thirteenth year that everything went wrong.  It’s disturbing to me how many things I had missed in his decline.  We tend to think that they are just getting older when they slow down or start to limp… must be arthritis.  I had witnessed him lying down to pee once or twice, but his doctor and I assumed the typical male cat issue with UTI, and we treated with antibiotics.  I should have taken him in for x-rays immediately, but his doctor came to the house, and I felt I was saving him the stress of being carried outside of the home and into a strange office with other animals.  It wasn’t until I was sitting on the floor one night, stroking him as he sat upon the ottoman at eye level, when I slid my hand down his hind leg.  There beneath white fluff, was a swollen mass above his ankle joint.  My heart stopped.  I called his doctor, and she arranged for him to be seen the next day at our local hospital.  The tests reflected my worst fears… cancer.  The only logical solution for a young cat would have been amputation, but Gwydie was not young, and there was something happening in his belly that couldn’t be determined without further testing, but it was likely the spreading cancer, hot to the touch.  I am sickened to think about all of the things I could have done differently for his care.  I struggled to get pills into him, and so I often didn’t force it.  He couldn’t stand to pee, so I just kept papers on the floor.  It was only ten years ago, why didn’t I have liquid pain meds and absorbent pee pads?  My anam-cara, a soul friend I met that August in Ireland, had a friend who could psychically communicate with animals, and she sent me a written recording of what she received from her connection with Gwydion, as I sought his guidance for what to do for him.  I would have given anything to hear his voice in a way I could interpret and understand.  The following is what Mary transcribed:

“11/19/2008 pm / Communication with Gwydion for Melissa

I’ve been waiting… my person Melissa talks to me all the time.  I’m one lucky cat.
Q:  Are you in pain?  A:  Discomfort is a better description.  My kitten days are long gone.  This is my path now.  I am like a butterfly – metamorphosis is what I am doing.  Tell Melissa to notice butterflies, especially yellow ones.  I am like that.  I began as a cute kitten – became a loving cat – and now I am aged.  It is natural.  It is the design.  I will be like the butterfly one day – I will be light and free and I will fly away.  I’ll not be away from Melissa but I will fly away from this physical body that you see – handsome as it is.  Its time has almost come.  We’ll walk a few more trails together and face a few more trials together and then I’ll metamorphose.
Q:  Is walking difficult?  A:  This body cannot do all it could but it still serves me.  I do okay.
Q:  Ok if Melissa carries you?  Touches you?  A:  Love in any form is what I absorb.  I try not to cause sadness.  Now I am taking on a lot of Melissa’s sadness.  It is heavy for me.  I do not wish to bring her sadness.  It is the way of things.  I hear her tears and know she does not fully understand / grasp this metamorphosis.  I’ll be here until she does.  The shift will come and I will be free like the butterfly.
Q:  Message for Melissa?  A:  We journey together.  We always have.  We always will.  There may be a kitten in her future – sent by me (smile).  But I must save that surprise until later.  Blinky. Blinky. (note – no idea what this means and no clues were provided)
Q:  Do you want Melissa to help you move onto spirit?  A:  She has lots of helpers.  When the time is right, I’ll go on.  It may be spring – like the butterflies.  It doesn’t really matter that much – time – physical – cycling.  It is time now for me to slow down.  I don’t mind.  Business as usual, for now.
Q:  What can Melissa do for you?  A:  She is already doing everything for me.  I am warm, well fed, and happy.  This body will not last but I will.  Melissa and I will always share a special warmth – our hearts beat together now and in spirit.  WE are love.  That is our language.  Time for sleep now.  G’night.

Another intuitive friend at work told me she connected with him, and that he said I would know it was his time to go when he no longer cared for his food.

When that day came, I was terrified.  I tried liquefying salmon, but he refused to eat.  And when I came home from work that night, he was sitting beneath the Yule tree, and looked back at me as I entered from the kitchen.  I walked over and picked him up, carried him to the paper so he could release his bladder.  Then, I carried him to the water bowl for him to drink.  This was when I realized that the cancer in his leg had severed the bone.  His foot flipped in an unnatural position.  I screamed and cried, and called his doctor.  She would come the next day, but couldn’t arrive before 2pm.  I carried my beloved boy to bed, and there we would stay, our final spooning love fest.  On December 11, 2008, I sent an email to friends and family and attached a picture of my boy.  This is what I wrote:

“I let Gwydion go yesterday.  It was time… We had a love fest in bed for about 18 hours… we talked about our many blessings… we cuddled and caressed, and both felt completely enveloped by our love for one another, as well as the love of our family and friends.

Dr. Martinez came to us in my room at 2pm.  My parents and Julie (his beloved cat sitter) were there in person, and VJ, my Tribe, and others were there in spirit.  I curled my body around his, and placed my arm so my hand was over his heart and my heart was mournfully beating against his back, as I whispered ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’ into his ear with kisses.  He left his body in my arms at 3:32pm.  I was so lucky to have such a beautiful parting with him… not in some cold, bright office, but in the warmth and soft comfort of my bed… where I was safe to wail and sob, clutch and kiss him all the way to the other side.

I reflect on how he came into my life… and know that he was a gift from the Universe, and that somehow… our souls had chosen one another.  I am so lucky he chose me.  And we are so lucky that all of you love us… and we are grateful.  Now Nightshade and I are finding a new way to exist.  It is sad and quiet in our house… and so we invite you to stop by anytime to help fill the emptiness.

With great love and abundant gratitude for your love and support, Melissa”

I received dozens of supportive replies from family and friends.  All were compassionate, caring, and offered their loving support to help Nightshade and me through the darkness.  My sister-in-love often commented when visiting that last year, about how she witnessed my care for Gwydion in his infirmity.  In her email, she affirmed, “You gave Gwydion (she actually called him Gideon, and often called Nightshade Lampshade, but I found that terribly endearing) so much love… more love than I’ve seen humans give each other sometimes…”  I hope he felt it, because he deserved the world for all of the love he delivered.  When he was gone, and because Nightshade was so limited in her affection, I realized what a love-sponge he was.  I could pour everything I had into him, and he would receive it and reflect it back to me.  Life was a great deal lonelier in his absence.  But eventually, my girl and I found our way.

The day that came forward in my memory, with the question of how I feel about receiving comfort from strangers was a few years back when Nightshade died.  She had been with me for nineteen years, and she was a cat that only a mother could love.  She looked so inviting to pet, but then she would most likely snap and growl if you tried.  She would follow my friends into the bathroom, but then hiss at them when she realized they were not me… and then she would hiss at them when they were feeling most vulnerable, if you know what I mean.  She also had a thing for sharing her disdain with me by peeing on things.  Seriously, no one taught me more about unconditional love and co-dependency than Nightshade.  If she wasn’t happy, I wasn’t happy.  Ha!  She was an integral part of my identity, as I saw it.  When it was time to let her go, she was nearly two decades upon the earth, and had lost her vision and her continence.  I finally found the courage to have her doctor come, when she was waking each morning soaked in urine.  That was no way for a goddess, as she recalled the Egyptians to have worshiped her, to live.  Unlike my experience with Gwydion, I felt that this should be a more intimate release.  Nightshade really didn’t like other humans very much, and so it felt right for it to be just the two of us at the end.  She growled when the doctor arrived, she was never a big fan of her visits.  She received her shot, and I pulled her onto my chest as her breathing stopped and only one broken heartbeat remained.

The next morning, I woke and felt overwhelmed by the emptiness of my home.  She was so small, and yet she took up so much room.  I couldn’t breathe inside the vacuous space of her absence.  So, I got into my car and I drove.  I figured I would just go somewhere for breakfast, but it was difficult to focus.  I drove to one place, and they could not seat me… and so I drove to the opposite side of town, where I found a table and sat down.  It was difficult to prevent my tears from falling, and throughout my dining experience, I would find composure and lose it again multiple times.  Looking back, I feel sorry for the burden that must have been to other diners.  However, it was in this place that I experienced incredible kindness and humanity.  One woman came to my table and said to me, “If you would receive it, I would like to offer you a hug.”  I couldn’t speak, but I accepted.  She hugged me in a way that was not foreign or guarded.  This perfect stranger held space for me, and she literally held me in my grief.  When it was time to pay the check, I learned that a different couple had paid my tab as they departed.  It was one of those moments that was life affirming.  I know that had I reached, a whole host of friends would have come to my door to provide the love and support that I needed.  And yet, I was so lost and confused in mourning, that I could not manage the thought required to do so.  The Universe still managed to deliver exactly what I needed at that moment… a bit of kindness and compassion.  What a beautiful world.  So, to answer the question about my comfort in being hugged by a stranger… I am completely comfortable with the kindness and compassion of another’s embrace, be they old friend or new friend.

all-you-really-need-in-life-is-the-love-of-a-good-george-boot

The Beauty of Pilgrimage

Ten years ago this summer, I took a trip abroad that was quite life altering and life affirming.  I was finishing up my third decade with an epiphany; I am no longer going to wait for someone else to make my dreams come true.  I realized that I was missing opportunities to follow my bliss, because I was waiting for a companion to come into my life or for a friend to have the funds and vacation time available to join me for adventure.  I decided that year that I would wait no longer.  I booked a trip in February to be taken in August.  I thought about returning to England or Scotland, places I had been before and loved, but realized that I really needed to go to Ireland.  Through an online search I found a few groups that did tours that were geared toward Celtic spirituality.  I was not interested in wasting a single day doing something that did not resonate with me.  I didn’t want to be in this sacred country of my ancestors, and have to spend a day in the Waterford Crystal factory, when I could be spending that time among ancient sites that predate the pyramids.  The company was selected by the travel date that didn’t interfere with a corporate board meeting, and I was set for a solitary adventure.  I had nearly 6 months to plan, and I set about learning more about the sites I would see.  At the time, I knew very little about the country, beyond my love for their native traveling hit, Riverdance.  I was so glad to have the time to know more before landing on sacred ground.  I was given an alumni guide to the history of the island, that went back to the actual land formation around the ice age.  Here’s a little morsel of wisdom:  There were never snakes in Ireland.  They did not cross over the land bridge before the ice melted and turned it into an island.

The difference in being a tourist and a pilgrim is profound.  A tourist travels with a mission that carries a bit of expectation and stress, while a pilgrim is on a spiritual journey with the intention of experiencing wonder and being open to the magick of synchronicity and ‘allowing’.  Rather than scrambling to make things happen, one may simply allow the unfolding of the beauty and mystery that surrounds.

There are so many wonderful and amazing things that I was blessed to experience on that sacred journey, but I woke up this morning thinking of one particular moment that I’d like to share.  I call it my Monica moment.

We were about half-way through our two week tour when we made our way down to the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.  It was on the itinerary that we would see, among other things in this beautiful area, the Gallarus Oratory.  In my initial reading, prior to arrival, it was written to be a 12th century church of stone on stone (no mortar) construction that appeared in the shape of an upturned boat.  If you look it up online now, it has a few interpretations for its use by different archaeologists over the years.  One speculation I admire is that it might have been a shelter for foreigners, or another possibility of being a funerary space for the family that owned the property.  I rarely spend much time worrying about the truth of an ancient structure, and tend to simply be grateful that it remains standing for my witness centuries after its construction.

When we arrived at the Oratory, our entire group of 13 entered, and with hands clasped, we could stretch our circle to be touching the walls that encapsulated us.  There was no more than a doorway on one side of the structure and a window on the other.  This was a spiritual tour, therefore, everyone traveling with us had some level of interest in Celtic history, mythology, or were otherwise energetic healers of some sort.  At the time, I was struggling with my identity, and the best I believed I could offer was a passion for singing chants that I had learned over the previous 16 years.  So, I was asked to lead the group in a healing chant, and that I did.  I closed my eyes, and twelve voices joined mine to sing the first chant I had learned, which moved me enough to choose this path of feminine spirituality for my soul’s enrichment.  Raising your voice in an ancient place with fellow pilgrims is a powerful thing.  I can’t tell you how many times we moved through those words, but it was possibly five rounds.  When I opened my eyes, I looked up and found a face in the window looking in at us.  I said, “Oh, look!  We’ve attracted an Angel!”, and I snapped her picture.

I lingered inside the small structure for a few minutes, and when I stepped back into the light, I found my anam cara, a new soul-friend that I met on the tour, talking with the woman from the window.  I heard her say, “You should talk to Melissa, she’s our chantress!”  I walked over and smiled, as the Angel from the window spoke with a foreign accent.  “Hello.  My name is Monica.  I was so moved by your song.”  I replied, “Hi there.  My name is Melissa.  That song really moves me, too.  Would you like me to share it with you?”  And she nodded her head, and she and I clasped each others hands.  We looked into each other’s eyes as I sang: “I am a circle, I am healing you.  You are a circle, you are healing me.  Unite us, be one.  Unite us, be as one.”  As I sang to this sweet stranger whose spiritual path had just crossed over my own, tears poured from her eyes.  When the chant ended, she thanked me and we hugged.  It was quite possibly one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced.  A decade has passed, and it is still crisp in my mind’s eye, that moment of shared magick.  I am so grateful that I was mindful enough to snap that photo.  Monica still peers through to me from that ancient window whose image is perched in my library.  Sitting at my computer now, I wonder if she ever thinks of me… or if she tells a similar story to her friends and family about this amazingly wonderful thing that happened on her way to the Oratory.

When I reflect on that memory, I wonder why it is we rarely have these magickal moments at home or at the grocery store.  It seems such a shame to have to travel to a foreign land to allow the open heart and open mind to attract such an interaction with people we don’t know.  I think I will set my intention to attract more of this brand of magick wherever I roam, be it ancestral homeland or Trader Joe’s.

If you are blessed with the opportunity to travel beyond your home base, whether it be foreign or domestic, I hope that you will go forth with a pilgrim’s heart.  Be open to receive whatever blessings the Universe has in store for you, and if you ever have the chance, I hope you’ll take the hands of a perfect stranger and sing to her with genuine caring and love.  It will leave a permanent stamp on your soul that will bring you hope and healing even as it becomes a distant memory.  I promise.

monicamoment

A Spiritual Path Less Traveled

I have been asked on more than one occasion about the sense of comfort and calm that I carry.  One co-worker asked me if it was my spirituality that made me such a peaceful and happy soul.  I tend to think that my demeanor would be the same regardless of my spiritual path, and yet I surely would not be who I am today without it.

I started my spiritual journey in 1992 when I was in my early twenties, and feeling a bit lacking in direction.  I was raised Unitarian Agnostic, so had an openness toward learning about world religion and alternative paths of spirituality.  I had gone to church with friends while growing up, and had experienced multiple denominations of Christianity, but was never able to find a connection there.

As a teenager, and an adoring fan of a certain chiffon cloaked songstress, I developed an interest in learning about Wicca.  I recall asking my brother one day, “They call her a witch, but her music is uplifting and makes me feel good… so how can she be bad?”  His reply was that she wasn’t bad, she was a Witch to Wicca, as a Catholic is to Christianity.  In the mid 1980’s, there was little to be found in the library on that topic.  I found a brief outline in an encyclopedia that I photocopied, but it didn’t do much to help my understanding.  It felt too foreign and strange, and so I dropped my inquiry.  Then in February of 1992, my Mom signed us both up to attend a workshop at our church, called “Women in Religion – A Walk in Many Worlds”.   It was a weekend of experiential learning about Feminine Spirituality, hosted by Margot Adler.  I can still vividly recall the Saturday morning ritual that was simple in nature, but powerful.  There were 120 women in attendance, and Margot (the late NPR Correspondent, and granddaughter of famed psychiatrist, Alfred Adler) invited any woman who was going through some kind of trauma or sorrow to enter the center of the circle.  When I looked around, there were not enough women left in the outer ring to be able to clasp hands.  As we joined voices for my first healing chant, there was an unmistakable energy rising.  It came up through the soles of my feet and poured forth through the tears in my eyes… there was so much suffering in this circle.  I longed to hold them all in sacred space.  These are the words that we repeatedly chanted:  “I am a circle, I am healing you.  You are a circle, you are healing me.  Unite us, be one.  Unite us, be as one.”  I still find this chant to be powerful and incredibly moving, whether in a circle of three or three hundred.  At the time of this gathering, I knew one woman in that circle… when I would later reflect on that moment that changed my life for the better; I would realize that a good number of those present would become my people.  Aside from the healing chant, there is one thing that really stands out in my memory of that weekend. We were all invited to bring an item to place on the altar, and had a chance to explain the symbolism of our offering.  Margot spoke of the item she brought, which was a replica of a Neolithic age goddess image known as the Venus of Willendorf.  She dates back over 30,000 years, and here’s the thing… she is not a stick figure.  Willie is actually rotund by current standards.  She is full, and round, and fertile, with hips meant for childbearing.  Margot said that when she learned to see this ancient relic through the eyes of those who created her… with a sense of awe and reverence… she could begin to see herself that way.  Can you imagine – realizing that someone who looked like you was once considered divine and worthy of worship? There really might be something here for me, after all, I thought.

After the workshop, my mom found an ad in the paper for a six-month class on Wicca.  Again, she signed us both up.  Mom left the class when she knew I was safe (i.e., not getting involved with a cult), as this path was not for her.  I continued my weekly commitment from March through August of that year.  We learned about different mythological pantheons, sacred ceremony, herbalism, astrology, divination (such as tarot and runes, etc.), and more.  It’s funny to come from the perspective of skepticism and open mindedness.  It takes a really long time to move through disbelief and prove-it mentality to genuine knowing – even when you’ve been witness to real magick and minor miracles.  It helps to be a highly committed individual; you can just keep trying, until it clicks.  It also helps to have others with whom you feel safe to explore.  When the class was over, I was initially not sure I would do anything with what I’d learned.  There were parts that resonated, and parts that did not.  But, as fate would have it, I was invited to join a small group of classmates to continue this exploration.  These people valued my authentic nature, and did not judge my lack of education on the subjects into which we would grow.  With their confidence and support, I began to blossom.  I was their ‘maiden’, and the tarot card that symbolized my place on the path at age 23 was The Fool…  a curious soul at the beginning of an unknown and exciting adventure.

For me, what was most profound in this exploration was the ability to finally find myself in the divine.  For on this spiritual path, through Margot Adler’s introduction and the class on Wicca, I met the Goddess.  Before this, the only expression of divinity I’d been shown came in male form, and quite frankly, having been betrayed by a male at age 20 to whom I had given my heart, well… I just wasn’t interested.  How could I trust Him?  And so here, in the proverbial lap of the Goddess, I was ready to make my home.

Over the last 25 years, my personal definition of spirituality has fluctuated… a permanent state of evolution, as life and experience has changed understanding, and as I’ve gathered insight and traditions from many paths and religions, as well as Jungian psychology and the Archetypal Feminine.  I am grateful to have been raised with an open mind, not tied to a single belief system or dogma. I love that we all have the freedom to explore and ultimately define what it is that makes us feel safe, supported, transformed, fulfilled.  For me, an earth based, goddess centered path still resonates most clearly… but my understanding of consciousness continues to evolve, and today I define myself as spiritual, but not religious.  What I’ve gathered from every single path I’ve studied… is that symbolism is powerful.  We can find commonality in the Earth’s path around the sun through the changing seasons, and the cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth of nature.  And just as Mother Nature sheds her leaves each fall, we too can choose to drop what no longer serves us, be it an attitude, a toxic relationship, or a path that no longer meets our needs.

Whichever path you have chosen, and however you define it dear ones, I hope that your own sacred journey is paved with love and healing light, and that you are surrounded by a community of supportive, loving, compassionate friends who will take your hand when you need guidance through moments of darkness.  Knowing that I am never alone, and that I am surrounded by so much love has always been a great blessing to me… and from the center of my being, I wish to share it with you.  I hope you can feel it!

lamplightforest

 

Snake Woman Shedding Her Skin

In April I developed a dermatitis.  I can’t really remember ever having a rash before this development.  It was pretty fierce and seriously uncomfortable.  In my circle, when we have a physical ailment arise, we remind one another to ask ourselves – that would be our higher selves, guides, the consciousness that provides wisdom if only we know to ask – what does this mean or why am I experiencing this discomfort?  When I asked, the answer I received was loud and clear… “snake woman shedding her skin”.

In June of last year, I left my 16 year career with the arrival of new management.  I was immediately discovered and hired by another company, but it did not resonate with me so I departed after a few months and took the rest of the year off.  In January I put myself back on the market, but three months into the tedium of receiving multiple emails every day with job postings and recruiter reaches I had developed a sense of repulsion at the review of each job description.  In rapid succession the following events occurred:  I finished writing a book, I submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis to four publishers, I declared that I could not return to the corporate world, I could no longer stomach doing what I have done for the last 25 years, I discontinued every single recruitment tool from entering my inbox, and decided to devote my time to becoming a certified End of Life Doula.  And then…  my skin went into a flaming rage.  This is what I wrote about it:

It started small, in a place beneath my belly that never sees the light.  It spoke to me of nurturing, and I did it wrong.  I caused harm instead of healing.  I didn’t mean to… I promise.  I love you.  The wrong I had done grew with rage, and expanded the hurting beyond its meager beginning, angering everything it touched.  Bellies are meant to expand in order to bring new life to birth.  My belly expanded decades ago, and brought only shame and strife.  I looked at her with disappointment and longing… to become something she was not.  I degraded her with my thoughts at each passing of the mirror.  I didn’t mean to… I promise.  I love you.  Skin is the largest organ we possess, a full time job of holding.  How can it possibly work so hard for so little reward?  From the time we be-gin, until the time we cease-to-be this sacred container embraces every cell, every bone, every heartbeat, every thought – for better or for worse, the ultimate supporter.  Seriously, she deserves a bonus!  That anger is contagious, you know.  What started at the belly expanded to the thighs.  Then it just ran screaming, enflamed, throughout the body, from upper arm to lower ankle… as if the skin cells had been spreading rumors.  Can you believe what she did to the belly?, they said.  No love. No pride. No respect. No compassion. No tenderness.  Just shame and regret.  Well, we’re not going to stand by and witness such disregard for her own perfection.  We shall rise with the burning desire for loving kindness.  We shall itch and pull to the point of discomfort, so that sitting still is no longer an option.  When every thought of loathing and distaste has been burned away, a fresh, new beginning will be revealed.  The entire body, belly, thighs, and all will be loved and nurtured in this very form… exactly as she is… deserving of soothing caress, and quenching delight.  Outdated perceptions and false belief will be shed and left behind, as the former assumptions have grown too limiting, and no longer fit.  She is becoming something better and deeper than before.  I really mean to… I promise.  I love you.

The book I had just finished was about my own journey through self-loathing to self-loving, and I am quite sure that this burden was a kind of test.  For nearly twenty years I have been strongly influenced by the archetype of Artemis.  She is a Greek goddess of the hunt… the archer.  Her realm is mountain and stream, and she is fiercely protective of women and children.  One who is devoted to such a character of strength might ask herself in a moment of suffering, what would Artemis do?  Well, I can tell you that she wouldn’t bury her head in shame, and she wouldn’t punish herself for the behavior of nature, she wouldn’t pretend to be something she is not, and she wouldn’t suffer in silence… she would reach to her sisters for guidance and support.  And that’s what I did.  I am blessed to have a soul-sister who is a healer and practitioner of Chinese medicine.  In case you wondered… acupuncture can cure a rash, just so you know.

I believe I passed my test.  I chose to love my body through her discomfort, rather than to degrade her for what I would have formerly dubbed another episode of body betrayal.  Today, I love her even more than before.  I have shed the skin (the identity) that had grown tight and unbearable.  I have slithered into a new beginning that is shiny and smooth. I feel liberated, joyful and free.  I am hopeful for the future for the first time in years, and I cannot wait to receive the bounty the Universe has been holding for my discovery.  If I needed a sign from the Universe of my confidence, it came the other morning in the form of a black snake traveling from west to east across my front yard.  I was so excited to see her, and I rushed to get a photo before she disappeared into the brush.  In the Animal Dreaming Oracle by Scott Alexander King, it informs us that SNAKE is about Transmutation.  It reads, in part:  “… While embracing the promise of new life, the Snake can be seen as representative of the healing we must accept if we intend to move into the next phase of our life in a complete and fertile way.”  “… Snake encourages us to look at our baggage, our burdens and our pain and transmute them into new opportunity and new life.  She offers us the chance to physically rebirth ourselves by strengthening us emotionally and deepening our relationship with Spirit.”

Dear ones, if you find that your current situation has begun to rub you the wrong way and is making you want to crawl out of your skin, I wish for you the emancipation for which your spirit longs.  The unknown future may be scary, but it is also exciting… an adventure that beckons new friends, new vistas, and healing, glorious, delightful new beginnings.  I’m so grateful that I managed to find you here upon my new path, taken!

mysnake