Friday, December 16, 2022

The Biggest Life Change

Before the quarantine I was living my best life, volunteering as a researcher of wild orangutans in Indonesia. My return to the US was just four days before all airports would be closed to international arrivals. I had become so relaxed in the life style of a traveling wildlife volunteer, that I couldn’t have imagined it would end. When I decided to take that four-month world trip, I had no idea that Covid would happen and I would lose my livelihood and have to start over. When Covid hit I had been nomadic and living single for three years. Living a nomadic lifestyle wasn’t something I had planned necessarily and it was not always easy. It was hard to find others like me traveling alone abroad. Sometimes someone would ask me where I lived but then get very uncomfortable when I’d tell them “I don’t have a home”. Knowing that I could not afford to both pay rent and travel the world at the same time, I chose to sacrifice a home and to become nomadic. I had dreamed of traveling the world extensively since I was a child and I was finally doing it. Travel was important to me, so a little discomfort did not matter. The thought of not being nomadic and working to pay rent each month was more discomforting. Arriving back to the US when covid hit, I got depressed, like everyone else. We were afraid for our lives and for those of our loved ones. And on top of that, many of us had lost our livelihoods and our jobs. For me the seasonal festival business that was my main income may not be open for years. Right when I had finally reached my goal since childhood, it had ended abruptly. Suddenly I had no income and international travel was off limits. It was time to start something new. This was not the first time that I’d had to begin a new life. Already, three times before, I had lost almost everything I had. The first time was as a young adult, when I moved from Georgia to the west coast, trying to help a partner escape heroin addiction. Then again, ten years later when I evacuated New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. And once more a few years ago, when my partner and I split up, and we had to sell the earthship home that we had spent the last several years, and every ounce of our income, blood, sweat and tears, to build. Each event was as heartbreaking as the last. When Covid came along it was my fourth time starting over. It is never any easier than the time before. The only difference now was that starting over was not new to me. I began to wonder, “Why does this keep happening to me?” and “What am I supposed to learn from this lesson?”. It was difficult every time I was sent down a new path and forced to start a new life. Once again, I was heartbroken for a life now gone. The sadness was overwhelming. I needed to know what the universe was trying to teach me for this to keep happening. Eventually, I began to understand. I remembered the other times that I had lost everything and what had happened next. From my tragedy always came a renewal, a rebirth. I finally began to see that after each loss there was always a better path ahead, and often a much healthier one. That realization would give me the strength and courage to keep going each time. Choosing to trust that everything would work out, relieved so much worry and sadness that may have stunted my growth moving forward. I feel fortunate to have had those difficult experiences now. They taught me that there is no reason to believe that things will not work out because they always have in the past. Today, those memories of times of loss are a reminder of that. That each time I have had to start over, an even better life than before lay ahead of me.-
Published in Natural Awakenings Atlanta for the column "Walking Each Other Home", November 2022

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Slaying Worry

When I was a young independent artist, I became worrisome. I worried I would not have enough money for rent or for food. I would worry that my art was not good enough to sell. My worries became so cumbersome that my anxiety took over my life. My thoughts were hijacked by those of fear. It was a terrible way to live and I knew that I had to change. The only way to do it was to rewire my mind to focus only on the positive. With focus, after a few months I was much more at ease, my worries had subsided. Another time, when my anxiety became unbearable, a miracle happened to stop me from worrying so much. I was living in an old school bus in the Sonoran Desert, developing a solo art show. When I was down to my last few dollars and I had no idea how I would afford more supplies, the stress over took me. Sobbing for days and feeling powerless, I finally resigned to stop worrying. Within a week an unexpected check for $500 had arrived in the mail. My aunt, knowing nothing about my plight, had sent money to help me with the show. By stopping my negative thoughts, I had escaped my anxiety again and everything worked out fine. Years later, and just when I thought I had conquered such fears, my worries returned. Living in New Orleans, I was working as the first henna artist in the French Quarter. Henna temporary tattoos became popular quickly with the tourists. The other artists in Jackson Square could see that I was making good money fast. That is when some of them became envious and the harassment began. Feeling my livelihood and income was being threatened, the anxiety set in again. This time I was affected in a physical way too. A terrible staph infection developed in my forehead, dangerously close to the brain. Then I really got worried. A trip to the public health clinic included a painful lancing of the large swollen infection, draining it and stuffing it with cotton, along with the strongest antibiotics. This helped to clear up the infection but not for long. When it came back, my body was resistant to the antibiotics. After some research about my condition, I learned that one of the main causes of staph was often stress related. I was back to dealing with the same issue of too much stress in my life. To start relieving the stress, meditation and retraining my mind to think positive became a regular routine once more. Yet the infection persisted. It was clear that this time I would have to do more to heal myself than just change my thought patterns. Not only my mind but my body was now being affected by my anxiety. I knew that in order to be completely well, I had to change on a physiological level too. From my facial expressions to how I held my body, I discovered that even the most common behaviors, affected my health. Acts such as keeping my back straight, not slouching as one would if feeling defeated, and smiling, when I found myself frowning for no reason, were my focus. Practices such as sitting still frequently, getting enough sleep, and eating regularly all became critically important if I was to heal. Sometimes I noticed that I was not breathing but was holding my breath instead. It was clear that even this could cause dis- ease. Finally, after a few weeks, by committing to changing my thoughts and especially my behavior, and without the use of medication, I was well again. Today I understand that my thoughts and actions determine how my body will feel. I know now that it is important to behave and express myself in a way that is uplifting for my mind and my body. Though I still get anxious on occasion, I am more at ease than ever before. And gratefully, the infection has never returned. ---- Published in Natural Awakening Atlanta for the column Walking Each Other Home, April 2022

A Recapitulation Story

As a teenager, my journal was my best friend. I could trust it and tell it anything, knowing that my secrets would never be shared. I used my journal to work through my life problems. I consoled in it when I was sad or just happy to share something. I have been journaling ever since. It is perhaps the greatest tool that I use in my adulthood today. Later in life, I read a Carlos Casteneda book that taught me about the shamanic method of recapitulation. The naguals of Mexico believe that in recapitulation you can retrieve energy you left behind in an experience and leave behind the energy you took with you from it. For them, it is a very healing process that must be completed before becoming a Nagual (shaman). It could take several years. The Nagual’s apprentice would have to recall every detail of their life in the recapitulation process, before moving forward in their training. I had wanted to write a memoir for a long time. Many years of journaling showed me that I had a story to tell. I knew that the recapitulation process would help me to write my memoir because I would have to remember everything that had ever happened to me. I realized that it would help me to work through painful events from my past, allowing me the courage to be able to share them later. I believed my stories could be an inspiration to others on their spiritual path. It took years before I found the will or the courage to start that process. And I declared that I would not write my memoir until I had first written my story for myself. When I finally began, the recapitulation process was nothing like journaling. It took me to a much deeper place of reliving my life than I ever could have imagined. It was a very difficult process. Remembering the painful times was intense. But it was also joyful and inspiring to remember the beautiful times. It took me ten years to recapitulate most of my life story. After that, writing the memoir was just as difficult because I relived every experience again in the editing. Then I relived it again and again, as re-editing happens many times in the process of writing a book. Some memories were wonderful to relive, such as witnessing supernatural phenomena and visiting exotic places. But the hard ones, like almost drowning and being in love with an addict, were difficult for me to feel again. Though it was a very hard project, writing and editing my story was a profoundly healing process. It was also a deeply spiritual experience. Through the recapitulation process, I was able to see that my past does not define me. It allowed me to let go of the shame that I felt for previous behaviors. I understood that we are constantly reinventing ourselves. I realized that all of my life experiences had helped me to grow, no matter how hard they were. It allowed me to have no regrets for my past. Through my recapitulation, I realized what the naguals of Mexico understood. That to re-examine my life, and to be unafraid to look at my traumas, allowed for essential healing from my past. And reliving the lovely moments showed me just how special my life had been. I understood that every experience has led me to who I am and every challenge has helped me to be a better person. I could have gratitude for everything that had ever happened to me.
And now as before, journaling continues to assist me in processing emotions and reevaluating life circumstances. It is a powerful tool for me for transformation and self-expression. Knowing that my journal is a safe place for me to say anything gives me the courage to examine my life thoroughly. Journaling helps me to be grateful for all of the beauty and challenges that my life brings.---- Published in Natural Awakening Atlanta for the column Walking Each Other Home, January 2022

An Open Heart

Three times in my life I have felt true bliss when my heart blossomed like a flower from divine love. The first time was when I called my ex-husband, after many years of seeking the courage, and I forgave him. When I hung up the phone, I felt a magnificent release of resentment and heartache. I thought I felt my heart grow in size. I was warm inside and my whole being glowed with a newfound peaceful energy. Bliss set in and I cried deep sobs of joy for the release I was having. I had no idea how much I had been holding on to. The second time was in my first ayahuasca ceremony. I faced some hard lessons and after hours and hours of purging, something moved inside of me and was released. I felt myself fill with love, starting from my heart center. I knew this was spirit on its highest level, reaching down to encompass me with its divine light. I felt my heart open wide as if a rose had blossomed there. My whole being became warm, radiating light. I sat in bliss and cried tears of joy. I knew I had been blessed with divine love. The third time was when I met the guru Amma Sri Karunamayi. I had come to a meditation retreat but was skeptical throughout most of it. A number of the shamans I had already worked with had turned out to be of low integrity and I was not going to fall for that again. I could not understand anything Amma was saying. Her words were incomprehensible to me. Yet when I went to my car to leave, something told me to stay, even though I had already been there seven hours. I realized my skepticism and asked for guidance to help me see what I was there to learn. I let go of my doubt and came back inside to the ceremony. Immediately I noticed the loving energy that had been building all day. I could feel it pulsing through my veins and I suddenly could understand everything Amma was saying. She had many spiritual truths to share and I wondered what I had missed when I was unable to hear her earlier. Only the devotees were left by now and soon Amma stood up and began to leave. Everyone crowded around her, hoping to have her blessing in the form of her touch. I moved along with the crowd until an opening came and I found myself right beside her. She reached out and laid her hand on my forehead and in that motion, I felt the loving energy of the divine. Streaming down through her and into me, pure unconditional love reached my heart and it again blossomed. I stopped and stood there feeling this bliss and tears fell from my eyes once more. As I cried tears of joy, I held my hands over my heart, feeling the warmth and power of love. I knew I had been blessed again with the ultimate love of spirit. It gave me hope to see the human potential that was possible in Amma. Each time I have experienced this bliss, was when I was finally able to let go. Allowing my heart to be open to any possibility. Each time, something had been peeled away and a breakthrough had occurred. I could have called my ex only to have him hang up on me. Or I could have gotten in my car and left Amma’s ceremony that day. I could’ve turned away from the teaching trying to reveal itself in that ayahuasca ceremony. Thankfully, in those moments, I was fearless enough to meet it head on. Through these experiences I have been able to see the possibility for connecting with my inherent divinity and to be more open to what the universe has to offer me. I just have to be receptive to it. Now just imagine how blissful my life would be if I could be that open hearted to every challenge life presents me with.---- Published in Natural Awakenings Atlanta's column Walking Each Other Home, November 2021

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Great Reset

Can we please just call this the great reset?
Have you grasped the gravity of this yet? Not even a war could dismantle every single system on the planet like this virus is doing.
This is prime for creating the greatest human change we can imagine. On every level.
Don’t go to sleep now! Believe in the best possibilities for our future once we cross through this darkness.
You have a choice in what you believe after all. Give your energy to the best possible outcome rather than the worst.
Why not. You have nothing else to lose now.
If you truly believe in how energy works then you know how important it is to stay hopeful and not succumb to the fear.
That still means keeping yourself and the public safe by staying indoors but not allowing your fear to take over and keep you from believing in the greatest possible outcome for us all.
I believe that anything is possible.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Be Still Now

YOU have never had the time to sit and be in silence. 
NOW you are being given that time. 
This is the time to BE STILL. 
Humans are in this predicament because they lost the CONNECTION to nature a long time ago. 
We lost it because we became so distracted by our wants and desires that we forgot our need to connect and the need to be still, to sit in silence and commune with nature. 
NOW is the time. THIS is how you will reconnect with your inner self, with nature and mother earth. 
This is how you will find HEALING on so many levels. This is how you can help humanity right now. 
BE in the silence. 
FEEL your connection with the natural world again. 
For you, for us and for them.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Abalone Shell

I have always had a strong intuition that has led me throughout my life. I feel very blessed for this. It led me to my spiritual path.
Sometimes though, I doubt myself. I am human after all.
I have followed a Native American spiritual path for many years now which has given me the gift to pray with a sacred pipe or channunpa. This is a very honorable tool to have and I am still in awe that I have been given permission to be a pipe keeper.
Sometimes I feel unworthy though. I am human.
I am a white woman, born American of a melting pot of different cultures. I do not know who my blood ancestors are. I think of those of us who did not grow up with an ancestral heritage. It’s unfortunate.
I often think of the many natives who know their heritage but have lost their traditions. Some forced out of it, being told this practice was devil-worshipping and to stop their traditions or die. I think about those who are afraid now of their ancestors' sacred ceremonies. I think of the few who still practice these ceremonies but do not want whites associated with them at all. I wonder if they know how blessed they are to know where they come from.
I am incredibly grateful to those natives who do know. To the ones who shared their spiritual tradition with whites. Believing they were a way to help keep these ceremonies from dying out. These native elders taught us that Great Spirit does not discriminate for who can pray in this way. That the channunpa was brought by White Buffalo Calf Woman for all of the people. They tell us that anyone who is drawn to this path can pray in this way if they are respectful.
No, I did not just decide it was my right to be a pipe keeper. I was given permission. I earned this privilege through commitment to this spiritual path. Through believing in the power of these ancient ways. In honoring the earth. In knowing that we are all related, which in Lakota translates- Mitakuye Oyasin. I earned it through years of commitment to these sacred ceremonies.
Though I was not raised on any ancestral traditions, I was taught similarly that we are all created equal. That no part of nature is any less than any human being. Just as my mother was taught and her mother and her mother’s mother. And my spiritual path has taken me into an even deeper understanding of Mitakuye Oyasin.
I love seashells and I have collected them on beaches all over the world. I find that each place has its unique shells that may not be found elsewhere. I have found many different kinds of shells but there is one that I have never seen on any beach. The abalone shell has been used in Native American tradition for ceremonies for eons. It is used to burn sage in for purification and to represent the sea. The ones I own I received as gifts. I somehow never felt right buying one. And I never had one small enough to travel with.
While I was abroad I spent a lot of time praying by the seashore with my channunpa. I thought a lot about what I was doing there. I wondered again, who I was to think I had the right to practice this tradition from a culture that was not even mine.
I was doubting myself again. Then came the gift.
In Malaysia, I was staying in a dorm with other volunteers and one day I came in to find many of them had left. The Europeans who were there before did not spend time collecting shells on the beach. They were backpackers just moving from place to place. All of their packs were gone and the room was practically empty.
           There beside my bed was a very small abalone shell. A perfect shining specimen of the most sacred shell of Native American spiritual practice. It appeared out of nowhere, not even from this continent. And it was the perfect size for travel. I knew it was a gift from creator. A reminder that I am worthy of following this sacred path. That yes, my intuition has served me right and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Reminding me that every being on earth is sacred, including this small shell. We are all created equal. We are all related. Mitakuye Oyasin