I’m still knocking around with the effects of our pilgrimage back to Flagstaff where I set down the unfinished PhD I’d been carrying in my emotional baggage for years.
And here’s what’s happening now that I’m home.
I’m shedding… not just skin… not just layers… but a whole way of relating to the world.
I often think of myself in relation to nature, and I understand this relationship in terms of totem animals. I’ve been aware for more than a decade (no, it’s been almost 2 decades!) that I’ve been walking with Turtle. She has been a lovely companion providing me with safety, slowness, processing, and the ability to take my internal journey to my soul. I’ve been in and out of my shell for a loooonnnnggg time.
But, now it’s time for her to move into a secondary role. She has happily taken up residence in the north of my medicine wheel where she can be part of the foundation of truth, safety, and support for the gems I received on that interior journey.
I shed my shell… my too-tight jacket… in ritual with sisters recently. I am trusting that the tools that I have learned to protect my heart (that don’t involve shells) are working for me. I now have a capacity that once I did not. And that is empowering.
Turtle has joined, eagle in the east, coyote in the south, and spider in the west, to support me for the time being as a council. I don’t have a primary totem anymore, and not sure if I will get another or not. I’m learning how to take what I’ve learned on my interior journey and to apply it to my relationships with others. I’m learning how to speak my truth, my way of seeing and being in the world, and sharing it.
May each of you travel gently with your guides, may they support you in your journeys. May you find trust and help with them when you are struggling to see where to place your feet. The forest taught me that once upon a time… that you must trust from your heart that your steps are the right ones… and then go. Adjust later if you need to… but take that step.
And, if you want to take those steps with others, join us for the July Body Wisdom Healing Circle call (Sunday morning at 9am Pacific) where we’ll talk more about relating to others from your heart. You can sign up for the call number here.
My kids and I were sitting in front of The Hula School in Santa Cruz waiting for the keiki (children's) class to start, when a guy in a straw cowboy hat walked up to a guitar repair shop next to us. The man inside was busy with another customer. This self-described "old hippie" was thin, had a gray ponytail, and a friendly voice. He asked us how long we'd lived in Santa Cruz... I said we'd been here on and off for almost 20 years. He told us he'd been here since 1963. He also freely dispensed some advice from his grandmother... and it sounded to me like it hit the nail on the head... so I thought I'd share it with you.
Grandma apparently told him that there were really just three rules in life that were important.
1) Use your imagination. Or at least use your brain. Turns out that's one and the same.
2) Life should be fun. What's fun spelled backwards? N-U-F. That's right. If it ain't fun then that's 'nuf of that and you should move on.
3) Be nice. As much as you can. 'Cause we all gotta live here together.
I'd say Old Hippie's Grandma was a wise woman.
This year I celebrated Dia De Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) and for the first time, I really sat and thought about my ancestors and what they'd been through. Somewhere, recently (this happens to me all the time... I hear something really profound, ponder it slowly for days/weeks/months and then when I try to tell the story I can't remember where I first heard it! Gah!)... I heard/read that just by virtue of the fact that we are here we have an unbroken line of parentage (first I focussed on my matrilineal line, then patrilineal, then a funny energetic "choice" line back... I'll get back to that). When I pondered that unbroken line, I realized that there was something that these people had that allowed them to survive, to nurture their children (at least some of whom also survived, since I'm here), and to adapt to whatever situations they moved through in their lives. My ancestors were pioneers. And while most of my life I'd focussed on the things about them that I didn't appreciate, like, or agree with... this was paradigm shifting for me to consider them as having strengths.
I don't have a lot of information about the lives of my ancestors... not the details of daily life, anyway... so I imagined how it might have been. My kids are in 2nd and 4th grades, so I have learned a bit about the pioneers through them... and hearkening back to my days in college when I took a history class on Early Colonial America... I made up my own story. And lo and behold I understood a little more about their strengths, sacrifices, and the spirit they must have had to have survived and even thrived. Now, I'm not going to condone all pioneer behavior or anything... I was just thinking about individuals. I felt their fortitude, persistence, and love of their children. I felt their strength being summoned within for mere survival. I imagined cold Mid-West winters and their flexibility and adaptation around simply living.
The ancestor I probably feel closest to is my paternal grandmother. She grew up on a farm in Iowa, then raised nine children on a farm with her husband only a few miles away. Though I was still a child when she died, I felt connected to her in a way I can't describe with words. She epitomizes the strengths of the ancestors in general for me. She kept a large garden that fed her family of 11 most of the year. She worked hard, took everything in stride, and still somehow had time to be a devout catholic and fulfill her roles as mother, sister, wife, friend, aunt, and probably midwife (I know her sister came to help her birth her children... I imagine it went both ways).
These are qualities I can be proud to possess... and I am grateful that I come from such a line of loving individuals who were committed to working together to make things better. They had their own version of that dream... and I have mine.
There have been discussions going on around me about using the word "healer" since I first got into this work about five years ago. Having come from a long background in academics (my kids understand my almost-PhD as 23rd grade)... I came down firmly in the camp that I could never call myself a "healer". It made me so very uncomfortable... and someone else using it made me wince. Really. My aversion to the term was intense.
So, each time this conversation inevitably came around (funny how those things we really need to come to terms with will follow us and give us repeated opportunities to do so)... I would consider the term again... and find its users full of hubris, of self-importance, and most offensively, claiming a power they most certainly did not have. I judged them harshly... and as unworthy of the term... which was how I judged myself. I searched for all kinds of terms that I could use to describe what I do... body translator, physical intuitive... but all of them required further explanation. So time wore on, and I learned to navigate the waters around the iceberg that is "healer" without causing any major damage to my ship. However, I did become aware that my mental controversy around the term was showing itself in my inability to talk with ease about my work. I would always hesitate when someone said, "What do you do?", because the first thing that my brain always did about half way through the question was to begin the dance around the language. It meant that my first sentence about what I do was always stuttered... and it cost me confidence.
Somewhere recently, though, between the consideration of how our breath is the metaphor for life... that conjunction of body, spirit, and mind... that drawing deep and real breaths is the first act to fully inhabiting our lives... and how shame inhibits that life so dangerously... that I realized that I have to claim the word "healer". In fact, even more than that, I WANT to claim the word. It is not that I consider myself a healer of others... not directly... but that I claim my truth as a healer of myself. I stand tall in my truth... and offer the possibility to others that they can embrace their healer too. I reflect "healer", and as such I am a healer. I am not unique in this... I don't have any more power than anyone else... we are all healers. The power is in the willingness to live life fully... to give voice to the shames that keep us small... that is healing. No one can do that for you. Healing is a door you must step through alone. But if you are willing to do it... by virtue of your healing, the invitation to live life fully goes out to others around you... and in that way we will all heal others by healing ourselves.
So here I stand, with my energetic roots in the ground, my weight in my feet, the support of the earth rising through my body to hold me tall, my heart open and full of grace... and I'm here to say...
I AM A HEALER
Which came first... the belief or the truth? Are we really taught to believe in the truth? Or are we told a story, a convincing one... that many people around us believe... and then we assume that it's true? How do you know when something is true anyway? Because someone tells you? What if someone tells you... "I love you!"... but then checks up on you wherever you go... or yells at you about being too fat/lazy/slow... not enough. Is it true that they love you? Does it feel like love? Or do you know when you see truth because you can feel it... experience it... like it comes from your bones?
When we believe something with certainty... no doubt about it... it becomes our truth. If we believe that we are not enough, we will experience ourselves as not enough. Our beliefs are so strong... so magnetic... that we find evidence only for what we already believe is true.
Healing, then... takes place when we develop the relationship with ourselves... really look at the voice that we use when we talk to ourselves. Does that voice make us feel like it's telling the truth? How does that voice get so distorted that we have lost sight of the perfection we were born with... that still resides inside of us? How do we rekindle that relationship... the one we had when we were small... when we lived from our truth... before we learned to hide it? It is not easy to pinpoint where and when these distortions became a part of our story.
The reason I believe that healing depends on each of us, is that it's critical to assess the inner voice... to find out what it believes is true... and to cultivate a relationship with that inner self. The relationship we hold within us... that voice that tells us that we're doing things well... or we're screwing up royally... that either gives us the compassion we need, or it criticizes us heavily... THAT is our most crucial relationship. We cannot get away from it... except to make ourselves numb. Many people take the route of numbness through excessive alcohol, drugs, working constantly, or by watching TV for hours on end. They do it because they don't know how to come to terms with that voice. They don't know how to change the relationship that dwells within.
Sometimes this requires someone to help us identify what our beliefs are... which ones get in our way and when. It's not easy to see your own beliefs. They are taken-for-granted... never questioned... many times simply because they have been there for so long... and are reinforced by others in our lives. I often find with clients that walking around these beliefs... asking if they're really true... today... personally... can bring much enlightenment and ease around the choices that they're making.
In the end, it comes down to cultivating self-compassion and trust with that voice within. That relationship magnetizes other relationships that are just like it... so that the relationships that you have with people around you are likely pretty decent reflections of the relationship you have with your inner self. Is that true for you?
I guess Emily Dickinson answered the questions I posed at the end of my last post. What it would be like to find yourself at the top of your To Do list? It would be ceding from the union that is our cultural consciousness. It would be sovereignty... like wearing a crown... like becoming the queen. It would be acquiescing to the truth that in order to live your life... to make your choices... must set down the definitions and names others have handed you... in favor of your own truth.
I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs
Oh, the element of fire... action, movement, expression. Fire is the luminescence that comes from within... it is our own life force. Fire carries Wood into action... pulling the intentions and visions into manifestation... taking thoughts and making them reality. Fire also interacts with Water to create the living force of flow and warmth... our blood.
A balanced Fire Element might resemble a hearth fire... full of safety and trust, emanating warmth and comfort, nurturing and sustaining life. The Fire Element is about finding that personal, individual, unique "home fire" that burns within you. Fire people tend to be highly intuitive and easily mingle their energy with others... so without good boundaries (Metal Element) it can be difficult to tell your own truth from the ideas you've received from others.
How do you know your own truth? When you state your own truth it will make your body feel light and buoyant. Someone else's truth... particularly if it suppresses an innate truth of yours, will feel heavy in the body... you might feel like hanging your head, looking down, or dropping your shoulders forward if the truth belongs to someone else. These are subtle feelings, and require us to really listen deeply to our bodies and our inner Fire. The body is constantly giving you information... at a whisper. The world is often moving loudly and rapidly, making it hard for us to hear the voice that comes from within. To stay in balance, fire energy requires us to periodically slow down, listen deeply, and care for ourselves with compassion and self-love. These actions of recovery and contemplation are not valued in our instant-gratification culture... but necessary to keep our Fire Element in balance.
I said earlier that I'd tell you a story about me... related to my challenging elements, Fire and Metal, as they came up. Well... the energetic pathways that are associated with the Fire Element are heart, small intestine, circulation/sex, and triple warmer. They all stand for some aspect of the Fire Element... heart is love, primarily self-love, I think. Small intestine is what we are willing to release, and it often holds the secrets that we believe to be true about ourselves, but are ashamed to admit. Circulation/sex is about interactions with others, it is full of the beliefs we have about our place in the world. And, last, triple warmer holds our sense of trust, in others and in ourselves. I can tell you that I've worked extensively with each of these meridians... and it all came down to a sense of honoring my own truth. I had to be willing to define myself... not only by rejecting what others erroneously thought about me... but to embrace and fully step into what is true for me. The hardest part has been sharing that with people. For years as I studied the healing art of Bioenergy Balancing I worried that my friends, used to me living from my academic Conservation Biology background, might think I'd lost my mind... working in alternative healing. But it's my truth... it's what I do... it's what feels in alignment with my inner luminescence... my hearth fire. My dad, a classical physician, believes it's all hooey... and that has become OK for me. I sense his disappointment that I didn't finish my PhD in Forestry... and it floods me with all of the other disappointments I've caused him. And yet, those belong to him, not to me. Maybe it's true for all people... but I attribute it to my Fire... I just HAVE to be who I am. I don't have any other way of living a meaningful life.
I'm an explorer of inner realms, a pattern observer, and an invitation maker. I believe that healing the world starts within.
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