Our fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
The past couple of years have been almost exclusively about conquering, dismantling and letting go of my fears. I’ve been afraid of so many things. Risk. Love. Success. Failure. I feared if I looked at my own shadow side, it might swallow me whole. Ironically, I was equally terrified of my light. I often overlooked what was present in favor of focusing on what was missing.
Coming from that place of lack, it is no wonder that I did a lot of circling the drain, examining my reason for being here, for suffering, for continuing to focus on what I didn’t want instead of what I did.
That’s something we’re often taught by our parents. Mine experienced too much trauma as children to ever really trust the world. My mother grew up in a violent household. She witnessed her mother and siblings being beaten. She learned to hide — in the cupboard, under the stairs, in the woods out back — in order to survive. She and all her siblings have struggled with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) without ever realizing that it what it was, their whole adult lives. My father ran away from home multiple times, often getting into hot water for rebellious behavior that was directly related to the strictness of his home life. (He once got a licking for painting his best friend purple. True story.) Everything had to be ‘just so.’ As an adult, he made bad choices, time and again, and was bailed out by his parents repeatedly. He was dyslexic and had trouble reading and writing, even late in his life. In lots of ways, he still had the mindset of an adolescent in 2003, the year he died.
As a result of my mother’s experiences, she taught me to brace myself against loss; to distrust life; and to often resist what ‘is.’ Because she was afraid, I became afraid too.
I realize now how futile any of those stances are.
Loss is the gig.
Life is always about loss (as well as deliciousness, joy, and every juicy experience).
Trust is crucial.
Distrust stems from the position that we simply ‘cannot handle’ what comes our way.
Again, not true.
We can and we do.
What you resist, persists.
And the most pointless of all my self-protective stances was resisting life as it was. The more I resisted it, the more the situation festered and grew. When I finally started to learn the lesson of acceptance and gratitude and grace, I freed myself for the first time.
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. ~ Havelock Ellis
My best friend and I often discuss these changes, in an attempt to unravel the mysteries that we face. So much is shifting and changing that I sometimes feel like there is absolutely no solid ground beneath us. Of course, I know that is not true, but when my fear kicks up, it is hard to reason with my internal hysteria. The thing is, that is happening less and less. I feel more solid and more sure and more grateful for all aspects of my life every single day. Changing this has been the hardest work of my life. Trusting that if I open my door to another person, they will value and respect and cherish me, is not something that I am used to feeling. However, this is where I find myself.
I look around my life and I see a vast network of visible and invisible support. I feel the deep love of my friends and family. I listen to the contented sigh of my dog as she naps near my feet and think, what could be better than this life I have? I am doing meaningful, creative, interesting work. I am writing. I dabble, read, cook, and plant things so I can watch them grow. I talk to students who are sometimes lost, and sometimes in need of direction, and I am able provide that for them.
I have this well inside of me that is constantly re-filled by my spiritual practice and my ability (finally) to trust my intuition. When my intuition says ‘yes’ to someone or something, it is right. When it says, ‘no,’ I had best heed its sage counsel.
The thing is, I trust myself now. I embrace (rather than resist) who I am — a woman in her fifties who finally gets it. I understand that loss can be a great teacher. It can create a place in my life for something beautiful and new.
I see now how my mother has softened like an old cashmere coat as she has aged. She is luminously lovely, open, and true to herself. Instead of calcifying in her aging process, she has walked through many of her fears and found the other side. She is vibrantly alive and her courage is infectious. I want to grow up to be just like her.
An ending is also a beginning.
To me, that is what Rilke meant when he said that ‘our fears guard our deepest treasure.’ My life is truly just beginning. I have so much to savor and enjoy and love in the coming years.
What a gift to realize that there is nothing about any of this to fear.
This week, I had the opportunity to go back to my old apartment and get what I wanted. I carried my largest suitcase on a bus and two trains armed with the sole comfort of a doughnut stuffed into my purse. I began to review where I was when it had been time to leave off.
In the months leading up to losing my home, I was grappling with the movement of Saturn into a place of opposition with my natal midheaven (ambition, the image of ourselves we project into the world, career). Saturn, whose glyph is the Scythe, is the ancient Sower and Reaper. He is our teacher and taskmaster, father of Jupiter, dethroned by his own son.
Saturn rules the final day of the week, the Sabbath, and governs mid-life crises and the ultimate rest of the silent grave in which we must all one day repose.
Saturn removes the unnecessary. He forces you to look at yourself and what you’ve done, and rewards you with the harvest of the seeds you planted and tended…. or didn’t.
Those months of the approaching opposition, every attempt I made to rescue myself, had failed. When I opened that apartment’s door for the last time this week, I was struck by two details: The place smelled entirely of me, but the person who had been living there was deeply depressed.
Before, I couldn’t admit that weakness. I’d tell friends I was “getting over a tough time emotionally,” but I was never still going through it. This moment, however, stepping over the artifacts of my former life, I saw it: I could barely take care of myself.
For a couple hours, I continued reviewing my condition, gathering pieces of my life that I knew were important to my present foundation: a rosary, holy cards, prayer book, the pen tossed forgetfully on a coffee table when a man had been courting me, a piece of lace, a few books, my cardigan, a knotted string, watercolors.
This week I also learned another important fact. The lawyer I consulted just before I lost my home had spoken falsely. She had said without money I had no rights in practice. She was looking at my body with a sideways glance. She was saying something cruel: that I wasn’t woman enough.
That day I broke.
A few weeks later, I was gone.
Saturn is the great Teacher. They say you will never forget his lessons. I was packing my suitcase this week and I knew I had exactly what I needed. I knew I had nothing to fear. I knew I had a history, and a people, and a path.
When I reached the sidewalk, I thought how heavy the suitcase had become. How taking these belongings meant accepting the responsibility, owning their value, history, and potential. Saturn is Responsibility.
The Greeks called their ancient god Kronos, Time. Saturn is Time, the limiter and restrictor, the reviewer, the Sower and the Reaper. Today we say that time heals all wounds. Saturn takes the unnecessary away, and slowly we heal. Saturn heals all wounds; and ultimately, we dissolve in Death, the greatest Transformation.
Saturn’s opposition to my midheaven recently became exact. The stripping-away stopped, and I am rebuilding on my strongest foundation. In a few years, I’ll face my Saturn return, when he reaches the same place in the sky he was when I was born, and he will ask me to account for my work and give me my first harvest.
I will meet him with thanks.
I am a writer, a director, a painter, artist, actor, singer, dancer – a soul of creative endeavor. What could I possibly have to confess? The truth may surprise you. I am a woman who has come to a strong conclusion that has left me with a burning desire to transform so desperately that I have actually arisen to the occasion, stepped to the plate and yelled “play ball!” It starts with this simple statement.
I am worth it. You are worth it. We are worth it.
When I was little, the world was a bright and brilliantly dizzying display of visionary sweetness. Everything was so fresh. I was young and happy to simply be experiencing life. I remember backyard summer days laying in the grass staring up at the oak trees, leaves rich with dark lush green hues and the velvet yellow sunshine dancing across my face. I remember our deck with the red barn slatted hues, and white butterflies dancing in the air. Rich garden soil was complete with bright, yellow, orange golden pom pom flowers I swore were miracles.
I remember my parents laughing and working together to build their home and their brilliant little family. I can still hear the clinking of glasses and family celebrations. They were united in their desire to cultivate our family. I remember backseat car rides and gigglig with my sister as we drove to Florida for vacations. Freezing in the backseat had never been so fun. I remember racing matchbox cars with my cousins on the linoleum floor under the feet of hustling bustling aunts, uncles, and grandparents as they prepared dinners.
The thing that I remember most about those early days was this amazing sense of power and freedom I felt. I was love and I knew it.
In fact the love in our family was so strong it was palpable. The rhythm would sweep me up and I would be overwhelmed with the desire to express it. I was always singing, dancing, and playing my little organ. I would make up songs as I swung on the swing set my parents put together. Blue and white diamonds whizzed by as I took to the sky, finding my place in the trees with the birds. I remember the joy radiating so deeply as I sung with every bit of passion I could manifest as I expressed my gratitude to the universe.
Over the years, my song faded. The joy seemed dimmer. The rhythm of love and happiness slowed. Somewhere I lost the melody. I missed the freedom and the joy. Who could have done this? Who or what could be responsible for darkening my sunshine?
Here’s the truth. I am responsible, the culprit. In order to maintain happiness one must maintain their sense of gratitude! That is what is missing! It’s the lack of dreaming that had been killing me. My confidence as a child came from having a clearly defined sense of self. I could do anything because I knew my family loved me. They were proud of me. I was their ray of sunshine. I was proof of their love and miracles. My zest for life was one that had been earned. Being born hadn’t come easily. My first moment was almost my last, but I fought, I struggled and I won. I had not only survived, as a child, I thrived.
So when did I loose this gift I had been given of understanding the precious privilege is is to be among these people at this exact moment in history?
It was the moment that I chose to be aware of someone else’s point of view so strongly it superseded my own vision. Perspective is everything. Give up yours and loose your identity.
These days I am taking back my vision. I am standing firm in my perception. I remember the dreams of my childhood. I hear the song of my soul. I feel the rhythm of love and I am sharing it! I am sharing it with every open and receptive soul who is willing to listen to the in stirring beauty of sacredness. I am spreading the joy through color and creation of my expressionistic zest for life. I am encouraging my brothers and sisters of the universe to unite, to encourage, to uplift. Gathered in support and love of one another, we can restore the balance of appreciation for ourselves and the miracle of existence.
This is the song of my people and I shall sing it out loud to the corners of the universe:
I am loved! You are loved! We are loved! We are worth it!
I have a confession to make. I want to be wealthy and famous. My inner critic has just chastised me for saying this aloud. “Aren’t you supposed to be more evolved than that? What happened during the 8 years of yoga? A spiritual person should…”
Please inner critic, shut the fuck up. You’re out of your element.
I have always wanted to be well-known and loved for something. When I was a kid I wanted to be an actress, or more accurately, a Hollywood star because I felt fancy and glamorous on the inside and needed that validated for me out in the world. I wanted to sing and be a pop star and go on tour when I wasn’t filming my blockbuster hits. As I matured and valued the need to expand my mind, and after trying to break into the Hollywood scene, I realized that I didn’t want to lay waste to my soul and lose my feminine power. But the desire to have it all never left me.
It is a hunger in me that I still cannot ignore.
Now that hunger is in the desire to teach, write, coach, and share my insights with the world. I want to take my magic and touch others souls with it in a profound way. I want to do all of this while wearing my vintage glamour of course. I seem to be doing all of this now except for the Oprah level wealthy and famous part and I am getting impatient.
My desire isn’t happening fast enough, in fact most of the time I feel quite rushed. I credit that feeling inside to watching my mother die at forty-two years old. She waited till she was forty to graduate college. I feel as if I am in a race against time to make something of myself and bring in the cash. I have to know what I am doing. I have to show myself that I am worthy of being here, but to whom? Where inside me does this mania generate?
For so long I have wanted to get rid of my desire because this line of thinking has brought me pain. I have felt inadequate in pretty much all of the things I have attempted and have a wasteland of unfinished projects in my backyard. The ticking sound of my internal metronome says “come on, produce!” Sometimes I feel like a slave to my work, my goals and my purpose.
I wonder how other people do it, how they become. Why don’t I feel as good as they seem to feel? I want to feel at ease with my purpose and gifts and have a profile picture that makes you believe it. I want my intelligence and hard work validated. I want to continually evolve, ever unfolding, from beginning to end to beginning again. Do I do that? I don’t know. I am really very insecure.
I don’t get much feedback from the outside world, at least, not enough to my liking. How do I know that I am doing it right? What was “it” again? I guess I just have to trust myself. Now that is quite the task.
I want my life to be easy. I have gone through enough hardships already. But if I heal, I am strong enough to grow. If I grow, I can grow my life and belief that I can repeat this process with each challenge I am given. There is no other way it can be done, believe me I have tried to live on Easy Street and my house burned down (bad wiring).
Sometimes I want to huddle in a little ball and hide from the world. Instead, I stay inside the house, inside my shell, and compare myself to others. After that, I compare others to others. I also compare myself to myself. I look around and see all of these powerful voices and feel I should be alongside of them and later question if I deserve to be among their ranks. How did it turn out that I am struggling to get there? This is why I have a hard time finishing projects and afraid to leave my house. THIS is why. Well also this question: How do I get to magnify my voice to the world without paying a publicist $3,000 per month?
When I die, I want to know that I used my life until it was tired, withered and worn. Why else am I here but to do just this? Why have I been given this magical charisma, firepower, intuition and above all else, an OVERWHELMING love inside of me that cannot be quenched? ( It isn’t there for me to be known as the woman who could leave the neatest pattern of vacuum tracks in her rug that no one ever saw or cared about.)
I need to own all of this in order for my questions to be answered.
I have not owned my desire to be famous because fame has become a gross misrepresentation of life, especially for women. Self-involved floozies are turning the world into their glorified shopping mall and tanning bed experience. I could care less about those vapid things. I don’t want to be known for who I am wearing but what I have come to say. When I get old I want to be the crone that lovingly advises women that are burdened by this same hunger to go out there and change the world.
The fact that I have not owned my desire has made me become Woody Allen level neurotic. I have placed a stigma around my own intuition. I came into the world knowing I was special and I flat out denied it. I made an inadvertent life purpose out of fixing abusive men, using myself as a teaching tool, emotional baggage receptacle and a punching bag instead of chasing my dreams and believing I was worthy of their fruition. I spent years pretending I was more than I was, imprisoned by false bravado when what I needed was to focus inward and speak my truth.
Ah the beauty of hindsight…but I digress.
I will no longer deny my desires. I speak them now into existence. We women have a distinct magic for performing the impossible magic of making life happen even when we don’t think we are capable of so much power.
I will no longer hide from my truth. Enslavement is still slavery even if you think you are free. I will no longer justify my choices or question my ideas. This is the core of trust.
If you want something name it. If you do not want something, don’t focus on it. Work hard, be kind, and inspire others with your truth.
The sun is in applying conjunct with Chiron in Pisces.
Of course you feel like crying.
That’s been my response to the persistent question I’ve fielded from astrology clients the past several days. You are entering a period where your strength shows, and yet the Sun, your ego-consciousness and the heart of who you see yourself to be, is drawing near the inter-planetary asteroid, shining light on the place where you were wounded and have learned to heal yourself and others.
The Greeks knew Chiron to be a centaur, with a legendary ability to heal wounds and raise boys to be heroes. Yet in spite of his incredible powers, he suffered forever from the poisoned barb of one of Herakles’ arrows. His pain and his mission have ever since been intertwined, as he endured his own wound while healing and guiding men to change the course of history.
Among his famous protégés was Asclepius, considered the patron of all healing arts. The origins of this character shed a powerful light on the Wounded Healer’s power, as you will see through the ancient Sicilian poet Pindar’s ode, Pythian III.
But, mark you, she wanted things that were wanting: such things many suffered. There
is a kind among men, most empty, who despising things in hand look after things far away,
hunting with fruitless hope what is borne on the wind. She caught such a great delusion, the
desire of beautiful-robed Koronis: for when a foreigner came from Arkadia she lay in bed.
But she did not escape the notice of the watcher: and although Loxias, king of the temple,
happened to be in sheep-accepting Pytho, he heard, persuading his heart in the presence of
his straightest partner – his mind – which knew all things: he did not fasten himself to lies:
neither a god nor a mortal deceives him, neither by deeds nor desires. And then perceiving
the stranger’s lawless adultery and deceit, those of Ischys son of Eliatus, he sent his raging
sister with irresistible force to Lakeria, since the maid dwelt beside the bluffs of Boebias.
And the hostile daemon turning to evil conquered her: and many of her neighbors had a share,
and at the same time were destroyed, even as much fire on a mountain leaping out of a
single seed lights a forest. But when (her) kinsmen placed the girl on the wooden pyre, and
the furious flame of Hephaestus was running around (her), then Apollo said, “I will no
longer suffer in my soul to destroy my own relation by the most pitiable death of his mother with
deep suffering.” (Pindar, Pythian III, my translation)
To clarify: Apollo took the princess Koronis as a lover. Out of the union, she became pregnant with Asclepius. Apollo disappeared for a time, and left alone with her pain, Koronis had an affair with a traveling foreigner.
When Apollo learned of these events, he sent his sister, Artemis, to destroy the princess and those around her. And yet when Koronis’ body was placed on the funeral pyre, Apollo recognized that his child was still in her womb. His statement, “I will no longer suffer in my soul to destroy my own relation by the most pitiable death of his mother with deep suffering,” indicates that he had had enough. Justice has been served, and his own child should no longer suffer. He removed the infant Ascelpius and then gave him to Chiron to raise. From Chiron’s upbringing, Asclepius became one of the greatest healers of all mythology.
How many of you have encountered the divine, only to feel deserted and alone afterward? I know I have. When I translated this passage years ago, I remember being struck by the deep injustice I felt had been dealt to Koronis all these years. And yet in the end, the god is the one executing some higher order of justice and mercy.
The female of this story succumbs to the great Female Goddess, Artemis. Have you ever felt desperate and inadequate as a woman, pursued by the tormenting arrows of the female archetype from whence you come? Who will ever be good enough to meet the standard of perfect womanhood in the face of a world of injustice?
In the end, Koronis, with all her imperfections, is destroyed. So must our idea of ourselves as women eventually be consumed by divine fire. Yet out of this corpse, the corpse that once felt the touch of the divine, is a seed of potential. The divine knows this, and will entrust your own transformed new life to the part of you that knows how to tend and heal through the pain.
That’s Chiron. The mysterious, mythical, half-animal healer. The healer who received the wound and did not flee the pain.
As the Sun (Apollo) now approaches this great healer, we are reminded of our wounds. We also see our strength. In watery Pisces, the depth of these aspects can feel murky and tearful, but don’t despair. We are greater than this moment. And at our core, through the injustice and inadequacies and hurts, we are very strong. We can change the course of history in the people we raise, tend, and touch. And while we may never fully heal ourselves, we will go on to heal many others.
I fell in love with a ghost once
He was, but a shell of a man
Shattered dreams scattered on the floor, my heart he tore
But you, a man of health
Found the dust pan and swept me up
And in your eyes
That what I thought was broken
Never really was
It simply was in the process of being made.
Whether it is a relationship, a job loss, an illness, or a loss of a loved one, it can feel like a soul quaking experience. These are the moments when our strength is tested and the true determination of our spirit is challenged. How do you not only survive, but rise to the occasion?
First, breathe. This is essential to life. Your breath is your proof of life. You have survived whatever calamity that has befallen you. Congratulations, you have just done the seemingly impossible. You have made it through to the next step of rebuilding.
You have confirmed you are stronger than you thought, but now what? Nurture and be kind to yourself. This is critical. You will need to heal. This includes giving yourself plenty of time to rest, eat good food, exercise, and be outdoors.
Surround yourself with music, television, movies, books, and art that make you feel good. All creative works have the potential to heal by making you feel understood. Creative expression is one of the greatest gifts of our universe.
Once you have begun to emerge from your cocoon of grief, be selective in who you surround yourself with. You are in a very sensitive state. It is important that you align yourself with healing energies. Seek out the company of those who are understanding, loving, and make you feel safe. They will help you strengthen your inner resolve – encouragement does that.
Give yourself the gift of time. In all matters of healing, time is critical. Be generous with yourself. Healing times vary and there is no exact science to the amount you will need.
I promise you, if you focus on these steps with all of your intent, there will come a day when you realize that you are a brand new beautiful creature. Wounds do change us, they have the potential to make us stronger, more understanding, and more loving if you let them. Embrace your scars it’s your body’s way of reminding you of the changes your soul has made.
The year I graduated college, I was raped.
It happened suddenly. We were on a date, someone had warned me about this man, but I was feeling determined, and then it happened.
My first reaction was to bury it. But the man hadn’t had enough, and started stalking me.
I won’t give more details than that. They’re moot. I ended up going through a long court case to protect myself. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced, telling a whole courtroom in downtown Chicago the gory details of how it happened, feeling the judging eyes and hating myself. When my lawyer saw the man, she looked shocked and mouthed the word across the room: “Him?“
When I finally got the restraining order I fought so hard for, I remember opening the unexpected letter. I still remember how my lawyer said it was best we settled. It was okay he never confessed but agreed to stay away. I remember thinking, But nothing is better. This didn’t un-rape me. And that was the moment I understood the truth that I couldn’t just fix what had happened. It would take time to heal, and I didn’t know who I’d be in the end.
The following years were filled with pain. I couldn’t be intimate. I fell in love with abusive men and at times I thought I had lost my mind. The world was filled with danger to me, and I felt very alone. I was angry and hurt and everything intimate was painful.
I’m thinking about it now because I’m going through another phase of my life where I feel like I lost everything, and I’ve started from scratch. There’s no instruction manual for how to rebuild your life, it’s just something you do while you grieve. It’s a series of moments where you face a choice between bitterness or gratitude.
My biggest struggle over these years is to understand what will heal me. In the beginning, I had a feeling if I could get a confession from the man who wronged me, then I would be okay. Or what if he got hurt? Would that make it better? Can anyone be hurt enough to balance out my pain?
Crafting your identity as the woman you know yourself to be involves a lot of these questions. We live in a society that knows woman’s power, but often fears it. This means we are tasked with facing the world’s pain, whether or not we want it. We have to face it and develop a way to handle it, to change it, to challenge it. That is not an easy task when we’ve been fed the lie that the only way to deal with pain is by creating more.
This is not to say that justice is useless. It has its place and it can be necessary, even if we don’t want to go through with the process. That’s not the issue at hand though. What I want to know is, how do we heal when we’re struggling to grasp who we are in the midst of hurt and injustice?
People have often glibly related to me that, “Bitterness is like taking poison so that the other person may die.” I think that statement has truth, but it rarely heals when slipped through the self-righteous lips of a person who has no understanding of your struggle. I know it kills me, but what can I do with this pain?
In my experience, there are two vital pieces to recovery. The first is to build your life again, piece by piece. When you think you can’t go on, you do whatever it takes to care for yourself. When you can move a little, you start with tiny things like clearing all those soggy Kleenex piled next your pillow, or scooping the cat’s litter because he’s pissed at this point. Without noticing, you begin to touch on big things, like emptying your fridge or putting something in it. Maybe you’ll find yourself running errands, albeit in a daze and all kind of snarly when people try to be nice. Whatever it takes, you start participating in your life and you realize it’s been yours all along.
The second element is gratitude. I have at times raged between abject hatred towards the man who raped me, wishing he died a violent death and were left to rot in a gutter, and (near) total thankfulness for how he stepped into my life and steered me into a chaotic path in which I was forced to grow. Neither position is easy to take, by the way, but I find that gratitude is fruitful.
As I said before, I have been struggling with my feelings as I am now rebuilding my life from homelessness. Oh, I am angry at how I was treated and deserted and told I didn’t have rights like other humans. But then I look at where I am and know I would never be writing like I am now, I would never be working like I am now, I would never be happy and open like I am now, had I kept a home that had become a prison to me.
Of course, there is no way I can map out your own journey for you. You must discover that for yourself. I do hope that my own experience may be a light as you search for your own, sisters. May love touch your heart when all you feel is hate, and may we learn that they are really just two sides of one principle.
One morning I awoke to Anjana’s lovely smiling face just inches from my own. I smiled and thought how lucky I am to wake to this exquisite creature every day. She was visibly happy, but I could tell that there was something of great importance on her mind. She said “I want to shave my head today.” I said, “yes? Tell me your thoughts.” She told me how writing her memoir about the life and death of her mother had helped her break thorough barriers in her consciousness that had been there her entire life. These blocks had prevented her from ever opening up or from feeling safe to connect to anyone in an authentic way. She said that now that she is in a relationship where she knows that she is safe and loved, she can face these topics honestly and dig to the roots of her consciousness.
She told me how she felt a powerful physical change after doing this soul work. She noticed that her feet were warm and that her circulation was improved. She had a lightness in her consciousness that she could not ever remember feeling. She told me that she felt that her entire life up to this moment felt half lived, clouded by her repressed feelings of loss and despair.
She had been her mother’s helper and nursemaid for most of her young life as her mother slowly and agonizingly succumb to cancer. She had always lived on the hope that her mother was going to get better. Instead Anjana had become a mom and nurse to her. She learned too young about catheters and colostomy bags. She changed and washed bedding and clothing soiled by feces, and body fluids. She also had become the healer for her mother’s broken spirit.
Anjana was thirteen when her mother died, but she was never allowed the opportunity to grieve the loss. She lived in a severely dysfunctional environment with broken people. They were completely overwhelmed by their own suffering and could only bring about suffering for everyone around them. She was not safe to show emotions. Life was perilous under the hateful and ever present eye of her grandmother Nan. Her older siblings, who had long since lost the innocence of youth sucked it up and disappeared into their chosen vices.
Never giving up her inner child helper, Anjana instead became a healer and undertook a quest for broken spirits that needed saving. After twenty years of life on this path, through her writing, she finally was able to identify the root cause of her own suffering through healing work within her own consciousness, and thus she smiled.
We went into the bathroom without speaking. I brought a chair and she sat. I took out the clippers and got started. After one pass I hesitated, a bit apprehensive about the task at hand and its implications. I asked “are you sure?” She just said “Yes, cut it!” I then surrendered to the process of cutting off her hair, free from any sense of guilt or worry that she may not like the outcome. I felt that we were entering together into sacred space. We were doing healing work of the highest holy nature, as if we were in the flow of the Ganges, I, a priest and she, a renunciate. With her hair falling away from her head, I felt that I was cutting away years of pain and frustration, cutting away an old paradigm to make way for a new way of being. In that moment I felt a tremendous rush of unifying energy. We were one, closer than ever before.
“Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex; but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past [...] and make peace with them.” ~ Iyanla Vanzant
Haven’t Got Time for the Pain
Unpacking pain is part of our life’s work. I am still often amazed by just how far and how fast I am willing to run, in my completely pointless attempts to avoid pain. Eat a whole pizza to placate my agony? I’m there. Sleep through an entire decade of my life? Yep. Been there, done that. Spend too much money on shit I never use after I buy it? Guilty as charged.
In fact, I spent years hanging on by the skin of my teeth simply because I was unwilling to open the burgeoning bag of bullshit I was dragging around. No matter how heavy that crap got, I was prepared to drag it around because opening the vault was so terrifying that paralytic depression set in to stop me. I didn’t want to poke the beast that I’d relegated to the basement of my life. I figured — out of sight, out of mind — right?
My capacity for enduring pain rather than processing it, is momentous. Truly.
Yet, I know all too well what I’ll find if I open Pandora’s Box: Those daggers I’ve yet to dig out of my bloodied back. My slippery, rainbow trout heart, hook still embedded in its flesh. The pieces of myself that I gave away cheap.
Well, shit. Who wants to look at that?
“Child. Listen to me. Open up your heart for a moment and listen. You don’t need to banish your anger or bury your grief and sadness. The fact that you may feel anger about some injustice or inequity; the fact that you have the capacity to feel grief and sadness means that life still touches you. Learn to trust the wisdom-river flowing beneath the river of these emotions. Learn to walk with your depression, your anxiety, your anger as a teacher and a friend. The fact that you feel means that you care. The thing you really have to watch out for is indifference. The ones who don’t feel anything are the ones who are destroying the world.”–doña Río de Gracian
The Elephant in the Room
My pain is simply an indication that there’s something I am not seeing or acknowledging, something that needs my care and attention. No matter how fast I run, I will never escape from that agony until I actually turn and face it. The way to peace is through the pain. The pain is the doorway. The scars open the portal, the trap door, the leaking, oozing basement latch. Unless we step through that door, we cannot ever really have peace.
A couple of weeks ago, as part of the work I am doing with a friend, I did an exercise that required I draw an erroneous belief I had about myself. Almost on auto-pilot, I drew a doormat.
I started to sob when I looked at it.
Wow. After years of Buddhist practice and years of working with my negative self-talk and years of rebuilding my sense of self, there is still a part of me that felt like a doormat. On the drawing in my journal, I wrote:
Hi, I’m a doormat. WIPE YOUR FEET HERE. I am ugly and only worthy of being used. Always betrayed and abused. Unworthy. Wrong. Never enough. Ugly…
The diatribe went on, but you get the idea.
After I recovered — which I admit, took a while — I wrote, “This makes me so sad. It makes me feel so awful for the beautiful spirit/soul that I am.”
To Thine Own Self, Be True
Then, the exercise asked that we draw a picture of our true self.
Again, without knowing what would come forth, I drew an elephant with long luxurious eyelashes and a sweet face.
All around it, I wrote, “I come from a lineage that goes back 50 million years…I see deep into the past and deep into the future. I am wise and resolute. I trumpet loudly. I have confidence and joy. I am deeply bonded to those around me. I am large and lovely. Nothing can pierce my soft, wrinkled, thick skin. I am invincible.”
One of my close friends pointed out (when I told her about it) that I was finally embracing the bigness of my life. The space that I inhabit. That I was seeing myself as the old, wise being that I am.
What amazed me about this particular exercise and what spilled forth, was my wholly unconscious sense of myself, both in positive and negative terms.
Drawing myself as a doormat made me see that there was an aspect of my old pain that had remained obscured and hidden for all these years. Now that I saw it — now that the darkness was made conscious — I could release it. I said goodbye to the part of myself that felt victimized by life.
This Little Light of Mine
At the same time, I saw my true self clearly, for, perhaps, the first time.
My life is huge. My light is enormous. My capacity is limitless.
So, hidden in the muck and mess of all my anger and loss and pain, a jewel emerged. I pulled it forth. I did that. I am both delighted and a little terrified to discover so much beauty and so much light and so much power inside of me.
Don’t Dim Your Inner Light
Our pain is a portal. Our scars reveal our true strength. Our wounds carry our stories, our solace, and our answers.
Don’t be afraid of the dark.
The process of becoming a wise woman is beset on initiation. The trauma we experience in our lives sets us apart from the world of safety and security. We see beyond the veil of guarantees into the deep grit of life’s inner workings and if we can stand it, we become wise from what we have seen, discovering that we are the point of origination for the turn of the world.
The hardships in our lives are the gateways to initiation, the fiery doorway of transformation. As we walk along the road, we subconsciously leave clues for us to find our way back to the life we already know. Our breadcrumb trail is our link to our pragmatic selves. Standing before the doorway, we become aware that this is the same door we have seen many times in our dreams. It is the star gate, the mouth of the cave, and the cliff that we must jump. Our inner wisdom has prepared us for the moment to walk through it since the time of our birth, to be initiated to our real lives of intuitive womanhood.
“We took them to the edge and bade them fly. They held on. Fly we said. They held on. We pushed them over the edge. And they flew.” -Guillaume Apollinaire
We women need permission to do everything. We ponder the ideas of risk and take a step backward, allowing the overprotective mother energy that guides our minds to stifle our path. We become anxious when our nest is threatened with change and yet, it is change we crave. This counter intuition has been given to us courtesy of the reminders from the women before us. In our collective sisterhood, we learned that intuition is to be quieted, for it is not useful in this world and comes with great risk. We allowed our spiritual healing journeys to be co-opted by doctor visits, our repressed emotions replaced by chronic illnesses.
We stayed in unhealthy relationships because we worried about how the other person will carry on without us to wash his clothes, to prepare his meals, and provide him physical comforts. We busied our minds with duty, while our life force was covertly sucked away by a predator at our teat feigning the need to be nurtured.
And we have told ourselves each and every day that what we are doing is good. It is good for our children; it is good for the future. It is good for us. We labor in the act of convincing ourselves that our dying embers are a normal part of life, and the quieting our fierceness comes with maturity.
This is the root of trauma.
The choice to look at this truth allows the initiate to discover that the opening to the fiery doorway is worth the risk of being burned. It is in understanding that strong decisions create a downwind of raw feminine power, subduing the flames, widening the narrow path to the other side while creating a storm to decimate the mundane. Her courage seals the portal from the other side so she won’t be tempted to return nor rationalize her reasons for staying.
Initiation is in the observation of the sacred land of the self. It is in the refusal to compromise the importance of your spiritual gifts to please others. It is in being an orphaned child and forging your own path. It is the burying of your spouse, and sometimes your children. It is the ability to say “I was raped” aloud. In the deepest moments of grief, our losses are compensated with the ability to see through time.
Our psychic link to all life that exists is heightened and becomes a fortress of healthy boundaries in relationships and a deeper inner dialogue with the lost aspects of ourselves.
We then are able to come face to face with the apparitions of our foes who once were large and harrowing. The journey to confront them is that of the hero, as we delve into the bottomless world of our mind searching for clues to find and destroy them.
We discover our greatest healing power has been usurped by psychic wire-tapping – recordings left from traumatic experiences. These are the way that your captors can still have a hold on you even when you are convinced they are out of your life. They have turned your dials through the implanting of ideas, slowly and unnoticeably changing who you are, tweaking what you think and feel. These changes continue to ripple into the far reaches of your life until you sever the connection by allowing your intuition to guide you once again. You have evolved from the naïveté that could not see the ills of your greatest virtues captured, when you free your subconscious from the influence of your predator.
Your predator may take on many forms, but its goals are universal: subdue the illuminated one.
What has held you back? What has become a cancer in your life? Cut it away. Remove it all so that it doesn’t come back with a vengeance after a brief remission. Pull out the shards of pain and use love to stop your soul from hemorrhaging.
This is the heart of initiation.
Many women who have come to me for my intuitive guidance have said “I wish I could see what you can see.”
What can you not see? What are you turning away from? When did you forgo the ecstatic dance for normalcy? When did you tell yourself that you were not worthy of being complete? When did your life start living you?
It is in those questions that her envy is quieted and windows to her world are cracked, allowing fresh air to clear the intuitive fog.
Being intuitive is not something that sets one person apart from the other, making them better or more masterful than any other person. It is the result of survival, the most visceral initiation, through unbearable processes of life. A woman’s intuition matures when her deepest relationships are severed through death, making the only viable communication through her spiritual connection fueled by her love. Her intuition heightens when she stays with the searing pain of childbirth, gripping at life as she deftly harnesses her power to bring life forward. It is in the quiet mornings that she lets her heart speak to her, as tears roll down her cheeks. It is in her being able to feel the word yes in her bones, never uttering its sacredness unless it feels right each and every time.
Initiation is the voracious search for the aspects of your soul left along the trail as unrecognizable orphaned children and yet, you still look upon them fondly with love, giving them a place to heal, be loved, and grow.