Grief and Guilt

“Every feeling fully felt leads to Love” — Grace of Mt. Shasta

I lost my Mother last week, which as everyone knows is a huge transition, and even though I know it was her time, I still feel grief arising, in waves that sometimes build and sometimes ebb quietly away.  Occasionally the grief has a quality of extreme pain, other times it is soft and warm.  I can still hear my Mom’s voice, speaking my name and wonder how long that will last.  I saved her final voice message to me on my computer, but alas that computer died and with it – the message… letting go is the message, while remembering to give thanks for her long life, and for the time we had to mend our fences and open our hearts to each other.

What is the pain of grief?  My experience is that when grief is allowed, invited, even welcomed that it is a portal to exaltation, to the rainbow realm, the living grace of this world.  I have experienced this and so speak from there.  But why then is grief sometimes so crippling and painful?  The difference, I believe, is guilt.  When guilt sneakily attaches itself to grief, huge pain erupts.  Thoughts such as   “If only I had….” or “why didn’t I…” begin to surface and with them comes enormous pain.

I once read a really interesting book – Power vs. Force and the statement made in that book is that our feelings have vibrations.  Guilt and shame, say the author, are the lowest vibration.  Lower vibrations (below love) are uncomfortable and make us sick, they bring “dis-ease”.  That means that feelings of guilt are necessarily unhealthy for us and our close ones.  How do we let them go?  Ahhhhh, this is the big work!

I love the word “awareness” and perhaps I overuse it these days – but it does seem that awareness is the first step towards change.  After all it is impossible to make a conscious change from an unconscious place.  That seems obvious but is truly worth consideration, since taking the first big step of awareness often brings pain.  In order to face our uncomfortable habits, thought patterns and neuroses takes courage.  Heaps of courage.  I for one have a hard time pricking my finger for a little blood sample, why should I want to poke at the demons of my unconscious wounding?  Well, awakening the sleeping demons means we will need to tussle with them but let’s for one moment feel confident that we have tools to overcome the challenges of our inner lives.  I know we do!  You got this!  Let’s do it!

Ok so the guilt has been brought to the surface.  What is the way to shift and change unconscious patterns?  It is remarkably similar to the way we change our bodies – it takes repetition.  But unlike building physical strength with emotional re-programming it takes repetition with emotion.  Finding the old thoughts and judgements that have created the guilt with us is a huge step, and the painful emotions that are stirred by those thoughts can shift in an instant with new more supportive thoughts.  Feeling deeply into the new thoughts creates a new way to respond and the old patterns can drop away, recycle, compost and reappear as grace.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again – this is no easy task.  I have noticed that when I need to face something uncomfortable in myself that all the little things undone around the house immediately becoming compelling – the vacuum cleaner beckons, the deep cleaning of the closet must happen – on and on the procrastination continues.  It takes huge devotion to make space to sit and contemplate.  Right now, in the middle of the Shelter at Home I hope that you have found the time and space for your inner life.  The world right now is a huge metaphor for what is needed in our inner lives…just be with yourself.   Begin Within… Again…

 

If you want to heal it, you gotta feel it…

 

My inner voice said repeatedly: “Okay self – you got this, you’re good, you’re balanced and happy.  You keep calm under stressful circumstances.  Years of meditation, spiritual healing and “inner work” seemed to have done the trick and helped keep your emotional life stable and simple.”

Surprise!!! Life conspired to prove me wrong about this – as my comfortable, sweet and friendly world was recently turned upside down – without my permission, I might add. Not just in one way, in many ways simultaneously.  I experienced shock. My inability to stay calm, respond rather than react and generally feel good was imperiled. I raved, I cried and squealed.  I lost touch with my center and spiraled into places I haven’t visited for years. Some of them were new and exotic destinations, wholly unimagined.  It has been a deep dive into the ocean of emotion. But I’m a snorkeler, I said to myself – you can do this.  Just remember to keep breathing. Try to remember which way is up. Follow the bubbles.

I’ll confess I gained a lot of compassion and understanding for others during this unraveling.  I also gained a powerful desire to understand in more compelling ways how to change my inner landscape to be what I genuinely want it to be.  To respond in different ways means changing those pesky, troublesome unconscious thought patterns.  If I’m making that sound easy, please forgive me, I’m sure it is not, it is one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my earth walk.  How do we alter what is unconscious?  Years of societal conditioning, childhood and adult wounding and ancestral patterns have been stored inside us, and are the unseen, often troublemaking programmers of our operating systems.

To correct the glitches in our subconscious minds, it calls to me to seek advice from on high. The Vedas – ancient Hindu wisdom scriptures say it this way – there are two paths, the wisdom path, and the devotion path.  When they are brought together, our inner life is enriched, we are connected to all-that-is, and find our life on earth to be vastly improved and more meaningful.  That is my interpretation, anyway.  Bringing their esoteric teachings into modern life is our challenge.  The “path of truth” has been paved over for centuries.  Discernment, contemplation, courage – finding these inside myself is a step by step process. A wild ride!

Wisdom is always present.  Some claim to hear a ‘small still inner voice’ that urges an even deeper listening.  Sitting still, letting it be heard is so important and also presents a monumental challenge.  Ironic, paradoxical and really hard – the wisdom side of things is always available to us.  At this time in history, we have so many teachings that can appear at the flick of a finger.  There’s no need to buy anything if you have internet access – the sages are all present there!  Free Webinars abound if you will simply sacrifice your email address.  And yet, it seems obvious that most of us would rather play a game or enjoy a meal than sincerely seek the wisdom of the universe.

Alongside wisdom appears devotion aka dedication.  The subconscious mind blossoms and changes encouraged by repetition.  Here’s where the two paths meet – the wisdom path is about re-training the conscious mind and the devotional path is about re-training the subconscious mind.  There is another profound tidbit that has just appeared to me – it isn’t just about repetition.  To truly reach the subconscious mind and guide it to behave differently it needs feelings – strong emotion.  So it’s repetition with emotion is reputed to be the magic key.  Absentmindedly repeating a prayer or affirmation doesn’t make much difference to our inner world, but add some powerful emotion there and Shazam – the inner self wakes up and pays attention!

Recognizing these simple truths is part of what can be called “awakening”.  Living consciously means finding the nooks and crannies of our subconscious that are little rebels without a cause – and teaching them to behave in alignment with our higher self.  It’s mind yoga – and as much as the physical side of yoga has swept the world and become mainstream – the yoga of the mind is likely more important especially to our emotional and spiritual well being who are walking hand in hand, or mind in body…

How does this all come together?  Most of us know that to create a new habit takes some weeks of repetition.  On my quest to understand healing and change I recently saw the results of a study that showed that when play is included, the mind learns more quickly.  I would make a leap of faith and say that the unconscious mind may also learn more quickly from a playful attitude as indeed the happy people of this planet show us.  Success seems to love joyful beings!  Unhappiness, in general, is not the direction any of us truly want to go and finding our way through the darker times in life could be called “the quest”… or “enlightenment” since light is a lot more fun than dark, for most of us.

One of the most miraculous and lovely ways to “practice” is to “play” music!  It’s not an accident that making music is called play.  When ambition is airlifted from the area – and music making is merry making, surely that is one of the higher emotional states available to us.  Why do birds sing at sunrise?  I surmise that they are delighted to welcome a new day – and also find their family and friends in the nearby shrubs and trees.  Music also brings us together, unites us in a common energy field, which usually also feels really good.  Just right, comfortable, and fully present.

To recap I am working to feel my emotions more deeply, to understand when I’m acting from unconscious wounds, to reprogram my subconscious with affirmation, repetition infused with emotion all the while in a state of joy and love.  Let’s get started!

 

Love and Devastation

When a love relationship turns to hate, or dislike or disharmony – what is that about?  This is one of the most troubling, painful and challenging situations in life for me.  I imagine it is the same for others.  One of my spiritual mentors said it this way: “In order to love you must be willing to face the devastation”.  A Buddhist friend and I were pondering this turn of events and he relates it to the idea that in the light there is also the dark, in happiness there is sorrow – it is the yin/yang truth of life.  Absolute duality.  In the emotional realm it makes sense that once again the idea of attachment and aversion is where the suffering lies.  Attached to “good” feelings and afraid of “bad” feelings – there is also an unconscious awareness of the pain embedded in the pleasure.  True freedom is acceptance, but that is not a Pollyanna-ish idea.  Acceptance includes everything.  Leave anything out and it is not acceptance.

These spiritual “basics” are bandied about frequently in my world.  The basics don’t change but my relationship to them and understanding of them does continue to deepen and expand.  Contemplation and experience, rinse and repeat.  The cycle becomes a spiral…unwinding towards understanding, and then acceptance.

There was a time when I mourned my lover’s death while he was alive.  Deeply entwined in a long term relationship I feared its ending – and sometimes felt I should leave before he left me or died.  I imagine this is not an uncommon way to react to intimacy and love.  If I push it away then i can save myself from the pain of loss.  Well – that is a losing game!  It is not win-win, it is lose-lose.  Perhaps it is easier to avoid intimacy and love altogether, and so avoid the pain of loss.  Pondering that it is easy to see that life then collapses into pain, loneliness and depression.  There is no the easy way out.

So, what is the way out?  My experience is this – the way out is through.  Through the pain, through the difficult emotions, through the grief and through the loss.  Remembering all those I have loved and lost, the grief remains but the love, wow, the love was so good.  My life was so enriched by the loss, by the love and continues to be enriched with the memories.  Happy, happy memories.  Ironically it seems that happiness is easier to remember than pain.  Is that true for you, too?

Emotions are tricky turf.  Our coping mechanisms and addictions seem to be born from the desire and need to suppress what we are afraid to feel.  The British culture was molded from the idea of “stiff upper lip” which is shorthand for “show no emotion”.  What happens to feelings that want to be felt but aren’t?  Where do they go?  One theory is that they turn into themselves and cause disease (dis-ease, duh). I see the possibility here.  The psychiatric diseases are clearly seen as suppressed emotion and energy.

How, then do we feel emotions?  It takes so much courage to let the painful feelings be felt and pass through.  The more deeply and completely they are felt, the more quickly they pass through, at least that’s true for me.  I consider this process to be the sacred fire, as the allowing of intense emotion seems to burn something – and there is a purification that completes when a feeling is fully felt.

A wise person once said to me “Every feeling fully felt leads to love”.  I have experienced the truth of this – the complete and utter bliss that lies on the other side of grief.  The Tibetan Buddhists belief is that we have the possibility to attain a “rainbow body” – and the process of burning off all that is not true, all this is not love, leads to this illumined state.  Bring it on!

 

Learning from Nature

“Nature is my religion”

To me, this means – that the natural world, the wilderness is a divinely beautiful system, in harmony with itself – self-regulating and wondrously complex, intricate and sacred.  It is unfathomable, well-organized and astoundingly beautiful at both the micro and the macro levels.

Nature operates more on a rhythm than a calendar.  Her processes of change are interrelated and subtle.  How do two trees growing side by side interact?  They obviously intertwine their roots, and often give space to each other’s branches and accommodate one another.  Until, at some point perhaps one has an advantage and outgrows the other, one grows and one withers.  It’s a chance of fate, of birth and species.  A Douglas fir will eventually overshadow an oak, transforming the forest from hardwoods to softwoods, from deciduous to coniferous.

The Sufis says that the leaves of a tree as the pages of the Bible.  I have taken  time to meditate with trees, and with their leaves.  These otherworldly beings begin their lives as a seed, and absorb, transmute and alchemize themselves into trees, using sunlight, water, air and food.  Somehow they know to do this, it happens, and to intimately witness that miracle is a true spiritual awakening.

We share this planet with so many other kinds of beings.  The sheer variety is more than my human brain can possibly assimilate.  Like a hummingbird, I witness the activities in my garden by casting my awareness around from flower, to leaf, to shaft of sunlight to critter movement to stillness.  Tonight I shared a moment with a raccoon, yesterday a small spider and before that a family of quail who live in the blackberry thicket right off the driveway. I know that the animals and many of the beings that live on this land with me for the past 20 years watch me, know my habits and accommodate themselves to that.  At one time there were three crows who watched as I fed the outside cat (she won’t come in even though she’s welcome) and patiently waited until the cat finished eating to empty the dish.  These days a fox does that job…

After a time spent in nature as my mind returns to its smaller, more human concerns it has become much easier to cast aside those pesky self-limiting and self-judging thoughts. A new perspective has been gained that is more open – more kind, more accepting.  To find myself being a part of the natural world is thrilling, and at the same time since it is actually the natural state, it also feels, well, natural.  Simultaneously relaxed and alert.  Refreshed and reinvigorated.  Renewed and Restored.

One of the purposes of meditation for me is to slow down enough to be able to perceive the subtle activities of the natural world.  To watch the chrysalis open, to catch a closeup view of a butterfly.  Have you ever looked closely at a butterfly’s face?  They are heartbreakingly adorable.  They are little fairy creatures, some of them have polka dotted bodies, other have little multicolored striped antennae… Dragonflies have great big smiles – Bumblebees are all different, some tiny and mostly black, others plump and more yellow.  Why?  This I cannot answer!

What else is to be learned from this holy book?  Patience, allowing, trusting – as the natural world’s processes are so well organized and effective, then is it possible that we, too are so well organized?  That we have an innate program that will choose our place, will allow us to be created into what we really are?  The best healers I know guide the body to listen to its own innate wisdom, for the blueprint for health is already contained within each of us.  That includes the blueprint for physical, emotional and spiritual health.  It all comes back to learning how to listen, deeply, honestly, truly listen.

 

 

a morning meditation

To receive the most from this meditation, I recommend counting to four while breathing in, holding for four counts and breathing out for 8 counts;

Breathing in, I fill my body with light
Breathing out, I give thanks for this divine moment

Breathing in I forgive myself
Breathing out I forgive everyone else

Breathing in I love myself
Breathing out I love everyone else

Breathing in I rest in awareness
Breathing out I rest my mind

Breathing in I feel light and free
Breathing out I release all that is holding me back

Breathing in I fill my lungs with light
Breathing out I forgive everyone who has harmed me

Breathing in I open to the divine light of love
Breathing out I forgive everyone I have harmed

Breathing in I recognize the Divine in all beings
Breathing out I send healing love to all

Mitakuye Oyasin
All My Relations

 

To Lyme Disease and back again –

It started at ground level (an apt metaphor, to start with a bang!).  I’d planted a daffodil bulb, my first ever.  When its blindingly bright bonnet of a blossom unfolded like an origami miracle, my life began. There was no turning back, the spell was cast!  I became  enchanted by plants.  I dreamed plants, breathed plants and spent every moment I had in the garden, in the nursery or reading whatever gardening book I could find.  I continued to toil in a career for which I was increasingly unsuited until I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I left a lucrative high-tech career for the simplicity of a rare plant nursery and minimum wage work.  Happiness!  Heaven! Each day the plants and I communed, learning each other’s language.  I spent my meager pay on plants and committed myself full time to a life of nurturing of living beings.

Fast forward – 15 years or so – when I purchased a rundown old farmhouse on 10 acres.  This place was my dream palette, and I began planting all my dreams in that Gold Ridge sandy loam soil.  I opened my own country nursery- Wayward Gardens – specializing in plants for hummingbirds and butterflies.  My days were spent in the sunshine, propagating, pricking out and potting up.  I was satisfied, fulfilled and on fire with passion.

And yet, some parts of me were held back.  I loved my work but other parts of my life weren’t so fulfilling- my marriage was on the rocks, my nephew/ward was troublesome and delinquent and my inner being was inconstant turmoil.  I knew there was something missing, a state of being that felt more contented and happy.  I didn’t know how to find it, or what to even begin looking for…

As usually happens in these kind of times, I overworked and became ill.  It was Lyme disease.  I suffered for two years – bedridden.  My doctors were the best, and the treatment was the worst.  I survived, somehow and began rebuilding my strength.

After about 6 months in bed, filled with self-pity and suffering I had a spontaneous vision.  It was a vision of all the suffering people on planet Earth.  I felt connected to them, I saw them – they were in hospital beds, or poor homes, and they had no hope.  I was in a nice home, with full support and yet still I saw I had joined the ranks of the truly suffering.  I was one of them.  This was my turning point.  I had a spiritual re-awakening and realized that healing is a gift, healing is grace, which is bestowed or not.  I also knew that there were ways I could participate in this healing – that I could make better choices in my life to facilitate easier healing.  I needed to pray, and to choose love.  Love for myself, love for others – and to choose gratitude and positive thoughts.  I also made a prayer – “If I receive healing, please show me how to serve”…I saw that offering my life into the service of humanity was the way to receive healing.  I said “Please make it really clear”, a prayer I often make, which does seem to help a lot in manifesting what is wanted or needed.

I spent more time in my healing process, but had more courage since my re-awakening.  I felt humble and thought I might end up in a wheelchair for life, or be seriously handicapped.  I felt OK with that, as long as I could find my service.

After about 6 more months of treatment, I decided I couldn’t endure the antibiotics any longer and the doctor and I decided it was time for me to quit them and see how I felt.  It turns out that the side effects of the antibiotics and the Lyme symptoms are somewhat similar – fatigue and digestive distress being at the top of the list.

Lo and behold I did not experience the Lyme symptoms anymore once I quit the antibiotics.  Hallelujah!  I could live life again, I would be gifted that!  I could still walk a bit (about 5 minutes) but devoted myself right away to walking down my beautiful country road every day until I could easily walk for an hour.  That took about a month, my body was eager to live again.

At this point my marriage had severely deteriorated.  My years of illness had taken quite a toll on our intimacy.  My husband was angry that I had been in bed for so long.  He didn’t like the direction my life took when I was healthy again.  I started helping a meditation teacher.  His work had helped me to a wonderful new place in my life, he said to me “there is so much love for you in this world, Leana”… and I knew I had to find out what that meant.  I knew I hadn’t truly felt love or loved.  I wanted this more than anything.  I trusted him and began helping him almost full time.  He invited me to move to Hawaii and start a community there with him.

I moved to Hawaii and began an intensive self-reflection and healing process.  I was experiencing love in ways I didn’t know existed.  My own emotional body was opening, facilitated by many things:  dolphin swims, Hawaii sunsets, fresh tropical fruit and intensive meditation.  I also used herbal medicines and teas.

One day I sat in front of my computer to write in my journal.  Intense personal transformation seems to call for journalling – since it is a good way to be able to reflect back on one’s progress, and as an aid to compassion for others.  This way we can remind ourselves of the places we have come from.  The stages of heart opening are similar for many of us, it seems.

The stages are something like this, from my experience:

1.  The Realization that something isn’t right

2.   The search for the truth

3.  First encounter with higher truth

4.  The “washing machine” of transformation, which may takes days, months or years during which time life as we know it vanishes and staying present and grounded is a big challenge.  This is a very difficult time, we need a lot of support during this time.

5. The comfort zone – which continues to expand and contract with presence and lack of presence.

6.  Samadhi – the promised land!  (I’m not here yet but do feel it from time to time)

 

bless you all – stay on the path, every moment you give to the Great Work of awakening is worthwhile.  Just remember “Choose Love” and all will be ok.