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

 

Witness to Healing

It was exactly six years and two months ago that one of my soulmates entered my life.  You may know that a soulmate is anyone in your life who speaks to your soul and helps you to grow… they are not always a romantic partner, but sometimes, if you are really lucky, they may become a life partner… one soul you would choose to have at your side through all of the ups and downs, highs and lows of this great journey we call life.

She was kind of a mess at that time, but you wouldn’t know it to see her… as she was a master of disguise, much like many survivors of childhood abuse.  Whether it was my empathic gift or our souls’ recognition of one another, she had the great courage to remove her mask whenever we were alone.  The very first time she came to my home, we sat together on the couch and she looked at me with fear in her eyes, because she could not believe that she was confessing to me all of her deepest, darkest secrets of her childhood horrors.  She said that it had taken her eight years of weekly therapy, to get past the crushing silence and tears of her shame to speak of these things to a professional… and there it was, spilling forth from her being like a flood gate had opened.  It was a great honor to me that she trusted me with her truth, especially since she didn’t actually know me, at that point in time.  Here’s one thing I know for sure, if you have the courage to go deep with someone, to share your truth, be authentic, and vulnerable… you will have no choice but to become bonded.  Know that I am not betraying her trust by writing of my courageous, warrior soulmate here, because she has given me permission to share.

Here’s the really amazing, wonderful, miraculous thing about my joyful sharing of this piece of our shared history… my beloved friend and soulmate, who once would go fetal at the mere thought of her abuser, or who would lose her shit over a tragic anniversary, or who might punish herself with self harm of any sort, because she was drowning in the tidal wave of shame, fear, and self-loathing… is now completely healed.  It wasn’t a spontaneous lightning bolt of healing, it was several years of dedicated hard work on her own behalf.  She saw a therapist at least twice a month, and every week, if she needed it.  She took her medication religiously, and never stopped her practice of self-care with her daily vitamin regimen.  She sought and engaged a therapist who practices EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), which is pure magick that reprograms the way the brain deals with trauma and PTSD.  She is Christian, and so she engaged with groups at church that were focused on healing and coping.  And most of the time that she was really struggling… she would reach out to me, and we would talk through it.  When I asked her to see a psychiatrist to help with her chemistry, she made a promise and followed through.  It wasn’t easy for her to do all of these things.  Even making a phone call, or answering the phone was a hardship, at times… but she always found the strength and courage to accept that lifeline.

One of those days that she reached to me for assistance was when her group therapist assigned each survivor of childhood atrocities to write a letter of loving support to herself.  Though I have no doubt she could have done that for someone else, at that time, she simply could not find the words for herself.  So, she engaged her friend with a gift for words.  This is the letter that I wrote for her.  She told me that she shared it with her group, and that another member of the group asked if I would write one for her… and so she took my letter and adjusted the greeting.  It went like this:

Dear [Friend]~

Have I told you lately how very proud I am of you?  You are a warrior woman, goddess incarnate.  The word victim has no place in your personal vocabulary, for you are a survivor.  Heartbreaking atrocities occur every day, but it is not every soul who chooses to stand up and fight for her freedom from internal conflict and for wholeness.  YOU are that woman. 

At times, as you face these nightmares from the past – with your inner child, you may feel alone and helpless.  The truth is… you are never alone, for we are all one.  When you are in the midst of darkness, I shall be your torchbearer… shining a light on your truth, that you are whole, worthy, valued, loved, adored, and perfect – exactly as you are, until your own light is able to shine more brightly to illuminate your path of enlightenment.

I, too, have been through the darkness, in my own small way.  As you know, I dwelled in self-loathing for over 25 years.  Until, one day I decided that I deserved to be treated with loving kindness and respect, by myself as well as by others.  It takes constant vigilance to choose the right words for one’s healthy self-talk, instead of the negative, nasty words we learned from others.  It is absolutely worth the energy, time, and commitment to ourselves.  We deserve what we accept… and we teach others how we deserve to be treated by our own actions…  by what we tolerate.  Never, ever tolerate abuse, disrespect or a lack of kindness… especially from yourself.  Ask yourself, when you are speaking to your own reflection – would I ever say “this” to someone I love?  If the answer is NO, then you MUST replace that thought or statement with something loving and kind.  This is what I learned, and how I continue my own practice of self-respect and loving kindness.

With this important work you are doing, with such commitment and dedication, you are moving beyond being a survivor… you are becoming a THRIVER!  Darling, precious, sacred friend…  I can see your light and I look forward to seeing it shine more brightly.  Go on – remarkable woman of strength and healing…  SHINE ON!

Here’s my challenge for you…  I dare you to make yourself feel as loved by you, as I do.  I know that you have it in you, because you make me feel valued, appreciated, loved and adored.  And the truth is… you deserve your own love and compassion more than anyone in the universe.

Love, blessings, and awe… 

If this letter resonates with you, I hope you will fill in your name where [Friend] is written.  The one for whom this letter was originally penned no longer needs it, though I know she holds it among her healing treasures.  One day last winter, she received news footage of her childhood home, and the room that was hers… a virtual hall of terrors for one beautiful little girl, had burst into flames.  She sent me the footage, and told me what I was seeing.  My reply:  “Oh, wow!  Do you know what this means?”  Her reply:  “Yup!”  This image, the symbol of her childhood trauma engulfed in flames, was her sign from God (the Universe) that her healing was done.  That wounded past was being cleansed and purified… like when the forest floor is set alight to clear away old debris, and allow the pine cones to break open and spread their seed of new beginnings.  Today, she no longer struggles with depression, and as of this morning, she is off of medication, after months of weening with her doctor’s and therapist’s guidance and support.  She is my great symbol of hope.  In her new beginning, she has become MY torchbearer.  She has informed me that if I never give up on myself, and if I am willing to remain committed and focused on attaining my goals, someday… I might just become a writer.  😉

Fireplace 11-20-2013

Embracing Your Inner God/dess

Several years ago, while working in a large corporate office, one of my co-workers invited several executive assistants to a dinner with a theme.  It was called ‘Girlfriends Night’, and we were each to bring a wrapped gift for a type of white elephant gift exchange.  In other words, the gift would not be given to someone specific, but would be selected, randomly, by someone at the gathering.

I decided that I would not bring something that I thought someone else would love, but more importantly, to share something that I loved.  The goal was to share a part of myself with the recipient… and I guess, it may have been about being seen and heard.  After all, how often do we get to be our authentic selves in corporate America?  When I read the letter that I had placed with the gift, it occurred to me that I was practicing vulnerability long before Brene Brown became a household name.  Here’s what I wrote:

 Dear Girlfriend:

Symbolism plays a major role in my life.  I find strength and wisdom in the ‘signs’ I interpret as the divine affecting my life.  Artemis, a Greek Goddess, the archer, carries significant symbolism in her archetype.  As a hunter, she actively seeks her desires, with her Bow, she stands firmly planted / grounded on the earth and with clarity of vision takes aim, with strength of will she pulls back her bow, and with faith in attainment she then sends her silver arrows flying swiftly toward her goals. 

I wish for you to see your true path clearly illuminated.  That you have a vision for what brings you bliss.  That all of your arrows fly swiftly toward your goals.

This gift I have selected with purpose.  I have spent many years of my life feeling inadequate.  After years of self-loathing, I finally had my awakening just about two years ago.  Now I realize that like all women, I too am a sensual being.  This music touches my soul, and connects my being with that misplaced sensuality.  I invite you to dim the lights, light some candles, and bathe or dance or receive/give a massage to this music.  Let it remind you that everyday, you are a woman of great beauty, desire, grace, wisdom, healing, and sensuality.  You are a goddess.  I kneel before you in reverence.

Brightest Blessings…

So, now… I address this message to you, dear friends – female and male – regardless of spiritual path… may you recognize the divine that resides within you, and allow it to glow so brightly that it illuminates the path that surrounds you.  May you find clarity in this present moment, and allow your inner voice to lead you to the important work of cultivating joy and happiness in your life.  May all of your hopes and dreams be made manifest with grace and ease, and may all be well with your soul.  You are stunningly beautiful to behold, exactly as you are… and I kneel before you in reverence and gratitude for sharing this sacred moment with me.

vasofferings

And so it begins…

Writing into the light…

Over the years, friends have suggested that I write a book. I could not deny a gift for writing, and at times, for providing words that heal at the precise moment that a loved one was seeking a symbol of hope. However, much of my life was burdened by self-loathing and self-doubt, and I found it impossible to imagine such a path opening before me. And yet, it seems that the Universe was unwilling to abandon me, the way that I had abandoned myself. Thank you, dear Universe, for your continual nudge in the direction of the manifestation of my soul’s true purpose, delivering me from darkness and into the light – again and again.

The thing about writing a book, in the current era, is that a writer apparently must provide her own following for a publisher to find interest. While I do have an extremely supportive community connected through social media, my world has previously been rather limited. So, here I am, dear world, offering my light to each of you, with a dream of expansion beyond the crumbling boundaries of my former false belief. I would be so thrilled to have your company on this next phase of my journey. Will you take my hand and join me for a peaceful stroll of reflection and illumination?

We are never alone, for we are all one. So grateful for your presence on this path.

20171219_072258