Telehealth and Pandemic Reflections…

This blog is inspired by a conversation I had on video last night with one of my closest friends. Lysette Herrera is a psychologist who has been seeing clients for many years now in Seattle, New York City and currently in Portland where she has worked for a group practice the past chunk of years. She sees mostly teenagers and has formed strong bonds with her clients whom she has been working with long term.

Upon switching to tele-health, like many therapists, she was nervous and unsure how sessions would feel over a video versus in person. We tend to see technology in a negative light and to think that screen connection is less intimate. Yet to her surprise, Lysette found her sessions to be very intimate. She discovered clients having an easier time being vulnerable when sharing from the comfort of their home and she has met many of her client’s pets too, which as we all know, are important family members.

Lysette has found that video sessions are not more intimate, per se, but differently intimate. I have found this to be true too. Lysette named the experience I have had this past week using tele-health. I too have experienced that differently intimate experience of connecting from our homes. The power of place is real. Home is a safe place and a comfortable place. When we feel safe and comfortable we tend to open up more and this allows therapy to go deeper.

Lysette mentioned that another positive aspect is that a certain amount of formality is shed through video sessions. This speaks to how I feel the pandemic is stripping away the persona and the formality in us all. The roles we put on in order to communicate are changing. Our humanity and vulnerability are coming more to the surface. As a result, sessions feel more powerful. Add the video element, allowing both therapist and client to connect from home, and the intimacy does feel very differently powerful.

I feel no less of a connection through having video sessions. The screen does not get in the way. I have not asked my clients about their experience yet but I imagine it is different for each person. Some people are more sensitive to screens and technology and others may actually prefer it. I can only say for myself, in many ways, I prefer video sessions because I enjoy the differently intimate experience that it creates. I also enjoy working from home.

I do miss going to my office and having a special physical space to see clients. My office is filled with crystals, cards, incense, and the vibe I work hard to create. I share my office with a friend and we share office space with another therapist we rent from. I love our physical space and location. The three of us create a very harmonious healing environment. Video sessions do not replace the in person experience but now I now know that tele-health is complimentary and not just a “plan B”.

Since the pandemic I have been spending a lot of time connecting with friends through video as well. My days in quarantine are spent sitting in my special chair where I video everyone. In-between connecting with clients and loved ones I do yoga, walk, get groceries, watch Netflix, meditate, read, journey, reflect, and pull cards. I am finding my new routine. I empathize with everyone who lives alone needing to find a new routine in the aloneness.

Living alone through this time is very surreal. All of my connection with others is through video except sometimes I take a walk with a friend nearby. I don’t have any physical touch, nobody to “prepare for the worst” with, nobody to be with in my home. Solitude takes on a new form that often feels too hard or like it’s too much. Anxiety can creep in. There is a lot to manage being alone. Therapeutic skills are extra vital as is keeping a routine.

I am beyond thankful I can continue to see clients through video as it is grounding to be of service. I am thankful to be able to continue to work. Many cannot and surviving monetarily is a real concern for many. This pandemic is going to force us to find new ways to be resourceful and take care of each other. It is forcing us to care more about community and our neighbors and not just for the self and immediate family. I think of my father who is all by himself in his eighties. I think of the service industry people out of work right now. The chain reaction of the virus will create much needed structural change on many levels.

Being connected through video is my life’s blood right now and I am learning to embrace the screen more through this challenging time. My intention is to highlight the positive to bring balance to the more prominent negative lens that tele-health and video connecting is somehow inferior or less connected.

During these challenging times tele-health is needed more than ever and my hope is that it becomes more of a norm in society. My dream would be for our licenses to be national or even global. For as therapists we are trained to work with humans, not just humans in one area.

 

 

Reflection on Manifestation, Surrender and Music….

I am sitting in a cafe with a blog idea in mind as the song, “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac plays and I am taken into a special place in my heart. A nostalgic and warm feeling seizes me and I think to myself, “music inspires and heals”. Instantly I try to connect this thought to my blog topic in some fluid way…

Like how music is often made to express pain and unmet longing, showing that life is not just about manifesting our desires and that there is beauty and truth in loss. I think of my father telling me how he listens to certain songs from his youth when he is missing his wife. Music heals him in his time of grief and connects him to his heart.

I am uncertain where to put paragraph breaks because I am flowing like a poetic song and not writing like a logical therapist trying to emit a message. Through music the message of truth and beauty in pain is felt and understood without explanation. How many of us love the sad songs? This love is meant to be as much as the happy songs…

The rise I have been feeling this past week is how many people are on the “manifest your desires” train as if that’s the only truth, purpose and reason to live and the only solution to an inner feeling of lack. It bothers me because life is about so much more than making pain go away by getting everything you want.

Life is about learning how to be of service. Life is about surrendering. Life is about learning soul lessons. Life is about transforming and growing through loss. Life is about becoming more caring and loving through healing the self. Life is about growing through suffering. Life is about love and love is about pain and pleasure, not just about desires being fulfilled all the time.

Music reminds us that life is about love and love is about everything on the spectrum of loss and gain, birth, death, illness, pleasure and pain. The universal experience of being human is understood through music. We all share the same wants and pains. Yet we all have different karma within the collective soup.

The natal chart in astrology is one way to discover your individual life path and karma. Numerology also is a great map.

For instance, in my numerology, I understand that I am here in this life to help reduce suffering in humanity, to take on great responsibility and sacrifice personal desires for the good of all. Therefor, if I don’t manifest my dream of being a famous artist, it is not because I need to focus more on the light, raise my frequency, or anything of the sort that will “fix” my inability to manifest this dream. It is because I am meant to surrender this dream due to a deeper calling in my soul.

The callings are the karma as much as healing wounds is karma. We let go of heavy wounded feelings from past lives and this life and this is karmic healing. We also get in touch with our inner truth of why we are here and this is also karmic healing.

You may not be here to help humanity. You may be here to experience manifesting all you desire. This is why we cannot compare and make a belief system the only lens everybody looks through. If your calling is to experience manifestation then the create your own reality/manifestation belief will serve you well. If you are here to learn to surrender and be of service the same belief may not help you as much.

We need more variety and understanding how important honoring variety is when it comes to truths and beliefs.

Numerology or the natal chart mysteriously spells out individual karma but you may not believe in it and that’s ok too. Variety. You can find your own way of becoming clear about your inner truth and calling without such maps.

You can become clear through what gets you emotional on a deep level. A teacher of mine used to say that “whatever brings you closer to your own broken heart,” is your calling.

I used to desire to be a famous artist living large in the big city but this path did not bring me closer to my own broken heart. I spent years trying to make it as an artist, finally moving to NYC to test out this dream but upon being there I felt an emptiness in my heart and realized my desire for fame was more about projecting self love onto the world. The calling wasn’t to be found. I knew then that I was meant to let that dream go. It took years to let it go because I had identified with it for so long.

Surrender and letting go is as positively powerful and life changing as manifesting what you desire. This is what I have learned.

When I think about helping humanity, when I sit with my clients, and when I read or watch stories of human experience, I am brought closer to my own broken heart. I feel the calling. The feeling resonates deep beneath the ego projecting into the world hoping to “get the cookie” in order to feel pleasure and worth.

Key word: broken. The sacred broken heart is a poetic phrase that honors the suffering we experience in the collective and through the bloodlines because so much injustice, tyranny, abuse, and needless suffering continues. The balance is lost and the systems are broken and need repair. Nobody is free of this. We all need healing. You might be able to distract yourself through focusing only on your self centered wants but in the shadow is your broken heart too.

I don’t mean to moralize being of service or shame being self centered because humans are supposed to be self centered. We are supposed to live out our individual karma and be a unique character with specific wants. Service to others and self fulfillment are not mutually exclusive. They go together. Some of us have a more service oriented karma than others but we all have our own unique balance of this within families, community, humanity, or in our jobs.

Callings may be to help humanity, raise a loving family, enlighten, manifest desires, learn balance, experience sacrifice and loss, create strong boundaries, be alone, find self love, experience true love, be an artist, inspire the world, invent something, devote to your craft…on and on and on and on. Callings are always changing and evolving too.

The point I want to make is that only you know. The calling is an inside job.

Back to music. Music seduces the heart into expressing feelings you cannot get to otherwise. Music inspires the heart to feel your calling too. The song “Spirit Bird” by Xavier Rudd connects me to my calling deeply. Any song by Stevie Nicks connects me to love I have not manifested that longs for expression. Some music helps me make peace with the pain while other music inspires my calling.

Our hearts yearn to be understood, seen and heard and music gives this to us.

I am writing this blog under the Pisces Mercury retrograde new moon cycle so these words are flowing like a song and like thoughts that swirl around a strong and stable heart center that longs to express wisdom, love, and inspiration.

Do not think something is wrong with your vibration if you are not manifesting what you long for. Sure, you might need to work on yourself to line up and manifest your inner calling but you also might not be meant to manifest what you desire at this time. Lost dreams are teachers. Surrender is a teacher…

Surrendering to spirit is a powerful transformer when you are forced into it because you cannot “do it” on your own. Spiritual surrender leads me to think about surrendering to a higher power with addiction or any form of chronic illness and suffering. We can surrender to the transpersonal when pain, addiction, loss, and life itself becomes too overwhelming.

Surrendering ego to the transpersonal is an act of strength and empowerment. We are not separate entities plucked from the whole, meant to do everything on our own. This belief is actually an avoidant attachment wound speaking. We are meant to be interdependent creatures living symbiotically with all of life, including the forces larger than us.

I have surrendered to spirit over and over again in my life and experienced spirit take my pain each time. They call this the miracle and in my life journey I have experienced a handful of miracles. Who would I be if I had not been forced into surrender because I manifested everything I ever wanted?

How neurotic are people who do manifest all their desires and get everything they want? Where is their self love? Having all the things you want does not make you self loving or content. Self love and contentment stem from finding inner peace and acceptance, not from having everything you want. Inner peace is achievable if you are on the path of healing and understanding your inner truth.

The spectrum is real with those who have and those who don’t have. With everything from relationships, jobs, money, health, children, every fundamental human experience and craving. We are meant to experience both having and not having. What we make of ourselves and our lives from not having what we most long for is just as meaningful and important as getting our desires met.

And then there is music to comfort, heal, and inspire…

Widen the lens of your belief beyond manifesting your desires as the central core of meaning. This line of thinking is more rooted in western capitalist thinking but that’s a whole other diatribe. Your perception is your power.

I want to inspire you to grow beyond the narrow gaze of holding only one belief as truth. I wish to restore the variety. Fundamentalist thinking shows up in conservative religious ideology as much as it does in the new age.

Our hearts are complex and life is a myriad. Music understands this and not the logical mind that tries to solve and remove pain. Pain is also fruit. Pain is also needed. Pain is a teacher. Pain is a trickster. Loss is a trickster. Our characters are the riches.

 

Mercury Retrograde Blog

Mercury is about to go retrograde on the 17th in Pisces and is now in the shadow phase in Aquarius so it’s a good time to begin reflecting from an Aquarius place. Mercury retrograde is all about reflecting on who you have been, understanding why and how you have impacted others. It’s a time to understand by looking into the past. Sure, communication gets a bit wonky, computers mess up, and travel plans may find complications but that’s just the side effect of this powerful cycle we go through three times every year. Powerful because Mercury helps us gain easy access to inner awareness and meaning.

Seeing the big picture of how your personal story is also a collective and archetypal story is the Aquarius shadow phase protocol. We all go through similar experiences at the universal root but we express the universal in a very individual way. Everyone wants love, security, happiness, and freedom. Everyone goes through loss and gain, pain and pleasure, life and death in very archetypal ways. Our little life stories are also collective classic tales. As an Aquarius friend of mine always says when speaking of her personal life, “it’s a story as old as time.” What part of the universal story are you living in?

I am living in the universal tale of building resilience with my life’s purpose. I am living the collective story of learning how to surrender and “relinquish the fruit” through self-restraint with my autoimmune disease. I am in a classic dark night of the soul story as I grieve my mother and family system. I am in the collective story of standing in my personal power to create a life aligned with my true self. I have the privilege to live in thriving stories and I do not take my privilege for granted. Not everyone has the opportunity to live aligned with their inner truth.

I see from a zoomed out perspective that the loss and discomfort I experience daily is building me into a the new me who is still forming, which is the classic story of self rebirth.  I call out to joy and more light hearted times as the dark night turns into the grey night as I make my way back into the daylight. I see how I have avoided love with stories that aren’t true for me anymore but now appear as masks covering a deeper fear of intimacy that I open myself to experiencing, which is the universal story of heart healing.  This is my Aquarian shadow analysis I share to give an example.

Moving into the full retrograde in Pisces…it is time to dive into the sea and feel. Pisces is the unconscious where most of self actually lives even though ego likes to think it’s much bigger. In truth ego is a tiny chihuahua and the unconscious is a vast sea of who we are filled with dormant potential at all times. Pisces is the nebulous feeling of oneness and connection. Pisces is compassion and unconditional love. In shadow, Pisces is the escape and avoidance of feeling through addiction and dissociation.

With Pisces, you either feel your truth or you escape feeling your truth. Pisces truth is rooted in love and speaks from a place of wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge mixed with love and experience. When you have wisdom you understand yourself, your loved ones, and life in light and dark and can make peace with life’s vicissitudes and losses. You can let go and accept what is. Pisces at its best is the serenity prayer: Universe (God, Goddess, Nature, Spirit, Being, etc) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

As we dive into the unconscious sea of feeling it’s like searching for the treasure chest buried on the ocean floor. You cannot will the treasure chest into being. You must swim and feel and follow your intuition and see what happens and trust the strange non-linear process.

Ego must relinquish control and arrogance and be willing to meet the truth of the soul that says, “this is what I need, this is who I am, this is what I truly long for, this is who I truly love, this is what really hurts, this is what needs to be released and forgiven, this is what’s leaving, this is what must be done,” on and on. The treasure is found when ego is ready to find it. The wisdom is gained when the heart is ready to receive it.

If you want to brave the adventure and use this retrograde fully, make an intention, say an invocation, do a ritual, it can be playful and spontaneous or elaborate and thoughtfully crafted. Say in your own words, “Universe, Mercury, Pisces, true self take me into the sea of my being and show me the way, reveal the wisdom I need to see, help me to let go and embrace the new.”

Pisces is also about endings. Completion. Wholeness. What is ending in your life or needs to end? A way of being? A way you have identified with yourself (I am like this, I am like that)? A relationship? A phase of life? A job? A habit? This retrograde will show you all you need to understand in your heart.

The water signs (Scorpio, Pisces, Cancer) represent the realm of feeling and heart. Heart is the core translator of true self or soul. Heart reveals to us what we need to know through feelings.

There is a difference between feelings and emotions. Reacting to the constant borage of stimulation and relating in the external world is emotion. Going within to access your intuition and foundational sense of truth is feeling. To feel we must go within. To go within me must pull back from emotionally reacting to every little thing, person, and circumstance. Mercury retrograde asks us to take a break from the external emoting and to dive into the inner depths and feel the feelings living inside that don’t care about success or failure.

True self feelings, wisdom, and longings do not care about results. Only ego cares about outcomes. Results and outcomes are important too, ego is a necessary aspect of self but ego should not be driving the self. Soul should be driving the self. And to get soul into the driver’s seat we need to go within to discover soul’s longings, feelings, and wisdom continually because we are always changing. Nothing is static. This is why we retrograde on the regular. To go within and catch up with true self so we can stay aligned with who we are and live from a place of inner truth.

This alignment is fulfillment at its best. True self seeks to experience for the sake of experience and does not need the security of successful outcomes. For instance, your soul may want to experience deep intimacy with a romantic partner. Where as ego wants to make sure that the partnership lasts forever because ego needs validation of being loved and the security of not being alone; soul seeks only the experience of intimacy whether it lasts a lifetime or has an end.

True self is not fearful of loss or failure but actually embraces loss and failure as a tools for growth. During this retrograde we have the opportunity to let go of ego’s constant need for results, security, and validation in order to go deeper and discover the latest sense of true self and soul longings that are asking for expression out in the world. It is up to ego to bring latent aspects of self out of dormancy and to give permission for new life to take form. Pisces Mercury Retrograde Blessings to you all.

 

Mindfulness and Transpersonal Practice Reflection…

Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts and knowing you are not your thoughts. You are your breath, you are this moment, you are a separate ego-identity connected to the collective energies that are connected to oneness…

Collective energies coalesce in many ways, becoming more individuated beings like like Russian dolls inside of Russian dolls…the largest doll is Oneness, Source, God, Goddess, call this Force what you will.

You can turn Oneness into a human like being to help you feel close with it, you can feel Oneness as nature if you tend toward atheism. You can see Oneness as many gods and goddesses if you are earth based in the way you feel connected. Doesn’t matter, so long as you feel the connection to Oneness.

The intellectual word for Oneness is the transpersonal. Beyond self. Bigger than self.

The next Russian doll inside of Oneness could be a group soul, a star system, a galactic system of some sort. Doesn’t matter. Just a big fat system we are all connected with all of the time.

Keep going….Russian doll inside Russian doll and eventually you reach the bloodline. The collective dragon that is your ancestry. There is also the collective being that is the human race. There is also the collective being that is Earth.

This is not science and I am not describing these Russian dolls as facts. I am using metaphor to open your imagination and help you feel your connection to the collective nature of life that constantly individuates into specific forms and returns to Oneness in a continual infinity symbol of movement…

We are not separate beings having to do all of the work, shoulder all of the weight, and figure it all out. We can surrender to the larger forces. We can ask our ancestors, spirit guides, Oneness, whatever words work- to take our burden, to control our addictions, to bring support, to offer truth, to bring clarity, etc.

We can ask. Ask and ye shall receive is an infamous line that speaks wisdom. But in our American society we have a belief system that says if you ask for help, if you surrender to the transpersonal, if you admit you are powerless, that means you are weak and being weak is bad. I call bullshit on this belief.

The human ego succumbs to the forces of nature. We are supposed to succumb just like any Earth creature.

You don’t scold a little doggie for not knowing when to stop eating. You don’t expect a lab rat (I know, sad) to not get addicted to the thing being tested on it that is addictive. You don’t expect an abused animal to be strong and accept love like a well taken care of animal. Humans are the same. We are Earth creatures that are constantly being overpowered by nature and nurture. Be it a storm, a chemical reaction, cravings, fear, sickness, hunger, longing, our upbringing, conditioning, and the family system….all of the reactivity and and all of life’s powerful forces are natural.

Mindfulness is watching the thought stories that develop in the mind that tell you that you (or they) are bad, not enough, wrong, need fixing, etc. These thought stories develop based upon what we have been taught and also based upon what karma we bring into this life from previous lives. None of these ideas, beliefs, or feelings define you.

You are not your thoughts and feelings. You are this moment. You are breath. You are not the separate ego-identity that thinks you must shoulder everything, that avoids, distracts, tries to fix, solves, and figures it all out. You are larger than the ego-identity.

There is a line in the latest Star Wars sequel that I love. The Emperor says, “I am all of the Sith,” to Ray as he is trying to destroy her. Ray responds, “And I am all of the Jedi.” Both the force of pure evil and pure light know they are not separate ego identities. Ray and the Emperor know their ego-bodies are avatars of the present moment but that all of who they are is all of the Sith and all of the Jedi.

This reminds me of how I feel astrology to be true. I always say that human beings are the dreams of the stars and planets and astrology is how the stars and planets we are communicate with the dream ego pretending to be human.

Science is awesome for figuring out the world of the five senses that we experience. For prolonging health and life and understanding life. Science has its place in comprehending so many aspects about life. And it is important to remember that the five senses are human faculties. We see with human eyes. Hear with human ears. Feel with human hands. Taste with a human tongue. Know with human thoughts. Speak with a human mouth. Understand with a human brain.

The capacity to comprehend all of reality far exceeds our human faculties and science is limiting as a result just as spirituality is limiting. You would not want to perform surgery based upon spiritual knowledge!

The only way to know more about reality is to feel more. Experience more. Have a connection with more.

Some develop this connection with a spiritual belief that turns into a felt experience of faith. As Victor Hugo wrote, to love another person is to see the face of God. Some people feel the transpersonal connection through love and relationships. I feel my soul beyond this life. I feel my guides. I feel the other side. This does not make me crazy. This is not woo woo. This also does not give me super hero powers or make me better than you. We all have ways to connect with the transpersonal.

No need to glorify or make fun of anyone’s version of connecting with the transpersonal.

The thoughts go to extremes of glorifying or ridiculing because the feelings feel scared, threatened, hurt, betrayed, desiring, needy, on and on. The feelings when not accepted, turn into extreme black and white thoughts. All good. All bad. Religion bad or stupid. Metaphysics woo woo or crap. Atheism reality or cut-off. And this goes with everything.

Mindfulness is observing the feelings and then learning how to accept the thoughts that rise up without believing in them. Eventually you can accept the feelings too. Mindfulness is really about tolerance building. You build tolerance to accept heart break without believing a story that you or they aren’t good enough or that the world is doomed or that love is crap or whatever the story may be.

Tolerance building is for the ego. We have egos because we are creatures. Ego allows us to function as creatures in this world. Mindfulness is ego training. It trains the ego to continually turn toward presence and not the story. Presence is another name for Oneness too.

The whole shebang is constantly about connecting to the transpersonal so you don’t get stuck in finding who you are, who others are, and what life is, in the mind or in the thoughts or in the story. Same same.

Letting go is accepting and accepting is mindfulness. Letting go does not mean you no longer feel the hearth break, anger, sorrow, or whatever difficult feeling you wish to be free of. Letting go means you accept the feeling and build tolerance for it happening inside you without believing the thoughts you are telling yourself about the feeling.

This is why the practice is key. Be it meditation or yoga. Practice builds tolerance for the feeling of discomfort in the body while not giving in to the thoughts that want to stop the practice.

So much of healing is about consistency of the practice to build more tolerance and awareness so you can have the choice to not buy into what the thoughts are selling that stem from painful feelings you are attempting to avoid. Feelings come first and then the thoughts arise which exacerbates the feeling which then intensifies the story and ego’s sense of self lives in this vicious cycle when not mindful and connected to the transpersonal in some way.

Sometimes we have epiphanies in the practice. I had a mindfulness a-ha moment that changed my life forever…

I had only meditated a handful of times so I call it beginner’s luck really. I  began mediating the Vipissana way, focusing on my breath and watching my thoughts float by in sentences as clouds because I am very visual person. All of the sudden, I felt a strong feeling. The only way I can describe it is that it was a feeling of my me-ness. I felt this feeling of being me in my breath. At the same time, the thoughts rising up did not feel like me. In that moment, who I am reorganized itself within me. I knew I was my breath and not my thoughts because I experienced it.

After this meditation I no longer needed to meditate as much anymore because I no longer sunk into my thoughts to the point where I felt my self as my thoughts. Don’t get wrong, thoughts still have great power over my ego. I think all the time and I react to my thinking at every turn but at the same time I am witnessing myself doing this.

The witness watches the thinking mind.

This is why yoga is my practice. Because yoga builds my tolerance to have thoughts without reacting to them. My witness is strong since that a-ha moment but my tolerance for the thoughts that rise up needs building because I still desire avoidance and escape from discomfort.

We are all different. You may need to meditate every day for life to not sink who you are into your thoughts but you may have a natural ability to tolerate discomfort and face fear. Every ego struggles to find equanimity in different ways.

I can very easily watch my thoughts, knowing I am not my thoughts, while still reacting to the discomfort in many ways and losing equanimity. I accept this and this is why I practice every day or most days. This is why I also surrender every morning to the transpersonal.

Each morning, I open the directions, call in the names and all of my angels, ancestors, and allies and say a prayer/intention for myself, all of my family, all of my friends, and all of humanity. When I do this I find my anchor, my truth, my strength, and my love in the transpersonal. Ego on her own is way too fearful!

We all have different ego personalities. I like to compare them to litters of puppies because this metaphor helps to understand that our temperament is our temperament.

My ego is the scared runt in the litter. I know this about myself. I know I avoid fear to find comfort. I am the pup hiding behind the couch while some of my brothers and sisters are in the front lines barking and being tough. Other brother and sister pups are just following along, not leading or hiding. And so forth, you get the idea.

I know that yoga is what helps my ego learn to be more brave and equanimous in each moment of scary life. I know that surrendering to the transpersonal every morning gives my ego strength.

I rely on my connection to the transpersonal every day. Every single day. I stress this point because spiritual and mindfulness hygiene is as important on the daily as brushing the teeth. You go one day without brushing your teeth and they get gross. You go one day without connecting to the transpersonal and practicing mindfulness and the ego can fall into the rabbit hole of whatever is your personal hell hole. We all have our personal hell hole and it’s alright. No problem.

 

 

Stream of Consciousness Healing Blog

I write the following blog with the intention of my stream of conscious writing to be a catalyst of inspiration and healing, if you enjoy reading in this style.  It is meant to be one big long paragraph where I did not think before writing or craft the writing, I just typed and allowed the unconscious to do the expressing. Raw material direct from within. You may want to try it yourself. Don’t think, just write or type and let it all out…

My mom’s one-year death anniversary is Thursday. She feels so gone. Doesn’t show herself in signs or dreams. It’s so weird to feel how gone she is. It’s weird how natural it feels that she is gone. I suppose I expected to feel suffering, but I don’t. Grief is not suffering. Grief sometimes is worse than suffering but often grief is beautiful. There are many faces of grief and we all grieve differently. I speak of my experience. The dark abyss of endless longing for somebody you will never see again is a face of grief worse than suffering. It is the face of an endless heaving creature pain that pummels the nervous system. Nature never makes that last more than the body can survive it or more than the heart can survive it. But the mind can always glom on to the pain and create stories of life not worth living anymore. For elderly spouses this can be a common story. We are only human after all and this story is tender and deserves compassion. My story, per usual, is always one of healing. My mom’s death has catapulted me into healing the multigenerational wound in the female line. Body shame. Let’s face it, what woman do you know that does not feel some kind of shame about her body? Anyone? Our pain is not unique. It is collective because collective forces have enslaved our inner power. Feminine power in both men and women equally. Females are the avatars, but men are enslaved just as deeply. They have more power to run the world, but they run a messed-up world from an enslaved mind that does not comprehend how sick the world is. They are the avatars of power imbalance. Women have less power in the world, sometimes no power at all, but women talk about their feelings and bond emotionally with each other and therefor are much more empowered in the heart. Men are disconnected in the heart. These are sweeping generalizations made by the magical child’s commentary. It’s ok to let her voice out too. No fear. Then you have all those who don’t identify with these labels of gender and sex identity at all and may these types navigate their own course of identity, pioneering and catapulting evolution. Room for everyone in the variety, is my motto. I cannot write about it all though. I write specific. The beauty of grief I feel is how deeply I can love my mother now that she is free of the human suit. Nothing says love like I will never see you again. I hear her laugh in my head. She is light and happy as a spirit guide. She lets me know this all the time. I flipped the cushion of the chair I always sit in last night and said, “see mom, I did it, ” knowing she would be proud. Felt her in that tiny moment. It’s the little things even after death. Grief is beauty because she is inside of me. A piece of her soul landed inside those closest to her. I got some of her elegance, pragmatism and humor. Back to the healing aspect, I also got her unprocessed human pain and I am discovering how to let it go. How to heal that multigenerational wound that lived in her. How to process her anger and shame that mingles with my own. It’s through letting go. Always. I am beginning to understand on deeper layers how to let go. Not buying into the negative mental story. Not expecting life to provide fulfilment. Forgiveness that is felt and not just known as some ego-should to obtain. Radical acceptance which is the only act that leads to genuine forgiveness. Radical acceptance is not expecting life to be different than it is and allowing pain as much room as pleasure to exist as a fundamental aspect of human life. Accept what is. Every single aspect. The abuse of power, the positive force of the human spirit and everything in between. This pain is meant to be happening. The feelings say, “no it shouldn’t”. The creature hurts and doesn’t understand hurt. So soul needs to play mom and dad within to child ego, child creature, the very human part of us. Soul needs to play god and goddess within and guide creature. Soul needs to comfort and validate creature’s hurt, leading the way through the dark night. Soul has her dark night too though and needs to express lifetimes of karma, the deep well within of all she has endured. The she within every man and woman. We have all of these stories as movies, poems, novels, plays, songs, paintings, carvings, sculptures, meals, gardens, every creation that stems from pain. Beautiful expressions that release the pain through sharing it. We know we are not alone and we are meant to endure it. The paradox is hard to digest mentally. Sweet ego, always trying to make logical sense when only about one quarter of life can be reduced into the tiny cup of logic. Half of life needs the skills of mindfulness. unconditional love, a strong consistent practice. liberation of addiction, bringing order to chaos, rewriting the narrative of self, healing the multigenerational wound through letting go and making up a new myth of humanity. But you cannot exist fully in skills. We are not supposed to be healing robots. We are human beings and half of us is wild, the feminine spirit in every single body, the creative unknown, the pioneer, a body still quite unknown to science, so much still to know and explore and so much we will never know. We need creative expression, freedom, sex, sensuality, connection, newness, evolution, dreams. We need to remember the power within that is us but more than us. The transpersonal is the power within, call it what you will. We are connected always to the transpersonal force that courses through bringing us into life, love, intelligence, and awareness. We heal to touch upon this. We heal to remember this. We heal to grow. Healing is the structure that supports living, healing is not the point of living. Sometimes we get so bogged down though. We are weary from healing. We long for new stories to begin. Remember in your weariness that the act of enduring is meant to be too. Pain is a teacher. Grief is a teacher. Enduring is a teacher. Meaning and inspiration can rise from pain as much as from light and expansion if you touch the raw tender center with your mind. I know that sounds vague, but it will make sense over time. No need to avoid any aspect of life. Welcome dark to tea as much as light.

 

The Journey of Grief

The inspiration for this blog comes from wanting my journey of grief to inspire and help you on your journey of grief. I want to pioneer more therapists sharing their own life stories and reflections because those of us who have been through it to be a guide for others have much to offer from our personal experience. We can speak in a universal way in order to connect with others on the healing path and to release muck from the collective unconscious.

On January 9th it will be one year since my mother passed away. The experience of her death is a treasure in my memory as my sisters and I sent my mother into death with our words and comforting presence. A rare opportunity. This was my first experience of sending a human into death. I did this with a doggie and the feeling was similar. Peaceful. My mother was not scared to die. She was ready and trusting. She felt spirit and soul to be real, not in a religious way, in a way she could feel on a personal level. Her felt experience gave her inner peace. She was only scared of the actual passing moment and she called her daughters to be witness and help her transition.

Although the few days she was in a coma prior to dying were two of the hardest days of my life, I am beyond grateful to have been a death guide for my mother. I asked her in the hospital, days before her death, how she wanted to die. She said with certainty, “at home, surrounded by my family.” I told her we would make that happen and the conviction in my body was so fixed nothing could stop me. I learned a lot about that feeling of fixed conviction. I learned that it is a transpersonal and archetypal force that rose into my ego to make my mother’s death be as she wanted. We have help from the transpersonal/archetypal realms whenever we need it.

Her year and half battle with cancer was brutal toward the last six months. I have thought a lot about it since her death. I have thought a lot about my behavior. I worked very hard to accept her battle and accept how she wanted to proceed through it. I remember distinctly learning the lesson of letting go of trying to control her in order to make myself feel better. The lesson of surrender is deep and life long. I did the best I could and I don’t harp on myself. I showed up with a lot of presence. I also recall all the times I was irritated with her, angry with her, wishing she made different choices and all the ways I reacted without presence and surrender. Part of grief for me has been going through each memory and forgiving myself for every time. It’s a process.

I also have needed to go through the awful memories of her vomiting and in pain with me as witness. I have felt so much pity and pain for her when these memories rise up. I then hear my mother in my head say, “I am free of that now, don’t dwell on the pain,” and I know she is right. This is a hard lesson for me because I feel so strongly how she did not deserve to go through all of the pain she went through. The anger for her having to endure cancer and the battle to kill it,  flares up strongly in my heart. I then tell myself all the crone wisdom: life is unfair for everybody, life is suffering, life is dark and light… and it helps. I make the intention to release the anger. Again, this a process and it just takes time.

What is important about grieving is that every step is treated as important. You cannot rush grief. Everybody grieves differently and for different amounts of time too. I cannot control my father’s grief and my sisters and I grieve each in our own way. Grief control us, we don’t control grief. You must let grief have its way with you and not judge others for how they grieve. Grief will teach you to endure loss, surrender and become much more aware of time and the shortness of life if you let it do its magic. If you resist grief you will become more addicted to the things you are addicted to: shopping, hustling, working, drinking, eating, controlling, whatever it is. People resist grief all the time and dive into doing all the things and escaping in all the various ways.

I have learned that grief comes in waves. I have cried the hardest for missing my mom about ten months after her death. In the beginning, the tears were more violent and deluging storms of shock. Once I accepted my mom’s death (stages of grief) about six-seven months later, the tears have become about missing her versus being shocked she is gone. I did not think about it until these new “missing her” tears…about how the longer the loved one is dead the more you miss them because the longer time passes without them. A very logical thought that I did not consider. Grief is not logical. I miss her presence so much.

I miss my mother’s voice, her scent, her sayings, her mannerisms. Grief has taught me that love for others is much more about their particular essence and much less about compatibility or beliefs. My mother and I were very opposite personalities but we found connection when shopping, watching television, having morning coffee, sharing our love of animals….but it’s not the connecting I miss about her. I miss her. Vivian. I miss her being in this world. The lesson this teaches me is so potent. I realize that love really is about love. It’s not about what I get or give. Sure, I miss how she nurtured us with her domestic ways and I miss giving her my love too but what I really miss is literally her presence as a living human being existing in this world.

I come from my share of abuse, dysfunction, and trauma like most of us do. Yet I am also very lucky that my family knows and gives unconditional love. I got very close to my mother over the last twenty years and we healed our stuff. I know me being a healer had much to do with it as I stubbornly pushed for healing in the early years. Yet also, my mother was open and healthy enough in her psyche to go through the healing journey. Many mothers do not have the capacity to heal or even relate. Many loved ones are so mentally ill that their children and siblings need continual distance and hard boundaries at all times. Grief may be very complex with the pain and mental illness involved in family systems. This still does not tell you how you will grieve though. Grief will surprise you.

Grief transforms you, a friend and fellow therapist told me. He has been through a lot of death. That sentence sticks with me. I have witnessed myself transform over this past year. Solitude is something I need much more of since my mother’s passing. It may not always be this way but for now, I don’t feel like being very social like I used to be. I have become a ghost friend. I know those who love me and are closest accept me for my ghost phase and those who cannot accept me, I let them go. I need a lot of space around me and a lot of time to go within. I don’t feel like doing much of the “fun” things either. I don’t want to go out much. I go to bed early. I am more serious, somber, and internal. I am sure this will balance out over time but for now, I need what I need.

One of the biggest transformations is that I no longer care what other people think of me, for the most part. I used to be much more concerned, as many of us are, about being liked and accepted by others. Now, I don’t care. I have an attitude that feels like, “if you don’t like me that’s fine, whatever.” All shame about being me has vanished. I feel a major increase of self love. I also feel more shit cutting, pragmatic, and honest with myself and everybody. I am not trying to people-please and any ideals carried over from my twenties have dissolved in the grief journey. I want to continue to dream, grow, and live with fulfillment but it comes from a much more grounded place inside now.

Again, my friends who are close honor this change in me. The people who count allow me to change as I give the same allowance to them. If we need to grow apart, that’s ok too. Those who needed me as I was before, I release. It feels really wonderful to be free of needing to be liked or to hold on to relationships that don’t serve me or them anymore. The self love increase is nourishing too. I am so much more gentle with myself. It feels as if my mother’s soul went into me and is helping me to become more gentle and balanced.

I feel that when the soul leaves the body, a piece of it enters those who were close. I feel the piece of my mom that went into me is her dignity, her shit cutting attitude, her grace, her pragmatism, and her love for fashion. Not all of these traits lived in the conscious world of my mother’s personality but all these traits lived in her being nevertheless. I feel these traits mix with my own and make me new. I have worn more make-up since her passing, feeling her love for make-up and being lady-like in that New York city way. I feel her quiet grace and earthy poise become a part of my former stormy celestial sparky self. I feel her shit cutting wisdom permeate my ethereal attitude. This makes me feel close to her too as I transform.

As we approach the year marker of her death, I feel a sense of joy. I feel joy that she is free of her body and her life here. I have connected with her on the other side. She is actively becoming a spirit guide and very happy with her life choosing to not reincarnate but to be a soul guide for the incarnated. Not every soul gets this choice. You have to die with enough peace in your heart to see the choice in the first place. How we live in this body continues after we leave it, with the same continuity of emerging into unknown possibilities and choices whether we are human, in another kind of body, or not in a body. But I will save the esoteric for another blog. I feel joyful for my mother’s happiness.

At the same time, I feel sorrow for my father being left without her. This is the dark side of love. Somebody will grieve the other when you get into these long partnerships. The lesson returns of not controlling. I cannot control his grief. I cannot control his life. I have learned so much about how we want control others when they are hurting because it hurts so much to feel their pain. Through my mom’s cancer battle, her death, and my father’s journey now, I see how much I want to take away the pain of those I love with my solutions, my way of seeing things, my way of healing. The lesson is to let it go. Allow others to experience life as they need to and only show up to help as asked. Pain is not bad and pain should not be avoided. Surrender.

Surrender means making peace with what is. Making peace with what is means making space for what is. Making space for what is means not saying or believing things like, “this should not have happened” or “this is wrong and unfair.” To make space means to allow all of it. ALL. I have discovered how to allow life to be grief, pain, hurt, and loss just as much as growth, pleasure, gain, and expansion. It means letting all of life express itself, the good, the bad, the ugly as they say. It means letting go of controlling the cycles. Paradoxically, you must put effort forth to self-care, heal and grow to allow yourself to let go of controlling the natural vicissitudes of life.

I always recommend the book, “Dark Nights of the Soul,” by Thomas Moore. He inspires me to find the richness in the dark night, whatever it may be. What bothers me is the collective ignorance of “turning the frown upside down” or bypassing the stages of grief (denial, bartering, anger, depression, acceptance) with sayings such as, ” don’t be sad, she’s with you in spirit.” These sayings are so the sayer can control your pain so they don’t feel afraid of it. It is vital to go through the grief journey with all the frowns, tears, stages, and for as long as you need. The difference between getting stuck and moving through the stages is that the former comes from resisting the stages of grief and the latter happens when you surrender to the stages and allow them to pass through you.

 

 

A Psychological Reflection on Autoimmune Disease’s Effects on the Body and Psyche

That’s a long title up there and living with autoimmune disease feels like a long road. I am writing this blog in the spirit of sharing my personal journey to inspire you if you are also on the path of living with autoimmune disease.

I have lived with an AD since I was eleven but I did not know it was an AD until three years ago when a doctor causally said, “Oh you have Hidradenitis Suppurativa,” while giving me an exam. Before that, I only knew that I had some skin curse with no cure. I lived with it by ignoring it even though I was always dealing with it. Denial is strong.

My particular disease is ugly, insidious, painful, and a fucking cross to bear. I have immense compassion for anyone bearing the cross of AD because whichever one you have tends to be incurable and wreaks havoc on the body and psyche.

My disease caused me to feel shame my entire life. I have worked through shame by feeling it with love and letting it go. I am free of it now and it wasn’t easy to release but I did it.

In my mind, I tell myself that we all bear our crosses, all bodies are imperfect, ugliness is an aspect of life, and that being a brave advocate who knows my beauty is what can bring myself and others inspiration. I rewrote the shame story into a story of empowerment and acceptance.

I could not release shame and rewrite the story of living with AD until I got mostly in remission. Remission of my symptoms led the way for the healing of my psyche.

I say mostly in remission because I still go in and out of remission but overall I would say I am in 90% remission and it is completely connected to food and going on the AIP and ketogenic diets as a lifestyle for the long term.

I am no longer a “normie”, a term addicts use to classify those who can use alcohol or drugs in moderation without being addicted. I feel there is a big of a distinction when living with AD.

The first year I knew I had HS, I ignored it. Denial is powerful. I was in grad school and my mom was battling the cancer that would kill her a year and half later. I had no room in my psyche to face my disease. But then I did have room. I was ready in the summer of 2018.

I looked up HS online and found blogs, forums and a lot of people finding remission by going on the autoimmune paleo diet or AIP for short. I started this diet the very next day. I was desperate because my flares were so bad I was willing to try anything.

The AIP diet eliminates all sugar, grains/rice, nightshades, caffeine, seeds, nuts, alcohol, and dairy. Basically everything but organic meat (grass fed and free range), fruit, and vegetables. I switched my diet in one day, eating only chicken breast, apples, carrots, greens, and a fruit smoothie to start me off the first week.

Being a genuine food addict my entire life, I battled not having “my foods” on very deep levels, much deeper than somebody who is not addicted to food. Every day for a year I felt despair, anger, and every uncomfortable emotion yummy food had been stuffing down. I also felt isolated from my friends because I could no longer eat out or have a few drinks and I was used to doing that most days of the week.

What gave me strength to stick with it was that I went into immediate remission within weeks of staring the diet. It was a sheer miracle!

The remission did not last and new flares appeared but far less flares cropped up and they were far less severe. Remission from the severity began and has stayed with me since I began the diet and so began my journey of figuring out all of my trigger foods.

I went to a naturopath to get some help and started the journey of learning I have a huge yeast allergy and needed Vitamin D, along with other aspects I won’t get into that have helped me to deepen remission with healing the gut.

To make a very long year and a half journey short, I learned that yeast, nuts, seeds, grains, dairy, sugar, beans, fruit and many vegetables are trigger foods. I learned that I need to not only do AIP but I need to go ketogenic because insulin is a trigger. I need to cut out all fruit completely and keto adapt so my body uses fat instead of glucose as fuel. This has greatly improved remission.

I reintroduced alcohol the night my mother died in the beginning of 2019. I learned I can drink hard spirits with nothing added but I cannot touch beer or wine. I learned I can eat eggs (so far). I can also have coffee in moderation.

I tried nuts and bacon but after a few months they became triggers. This happened with avocado and broccoli. Some foods cause immediate flares while other foods build up and then cause flares. The journey is constant and never ending.

I learned that lectins, phytates, and oxalates are poison to my body and this is why vegan foods harm me which is another aspect I have had to grieve. I have the heart of a vegan. I spent many years of my life eating vegan and vegetarian unknowing of how sick it was making me. Now I am a carnivore. I had to let go of my treasured belief system so my body could be healthy.

I have grieved and continue to grieve the loss of food as addiction, celebration, and comfort. Emotional eating is over. Eating out with friends is over. Eating to “treat myself” is over. Normies say that all the time, “treat yourself”. But if I treat myself with food I get a huge flare and it’s just not worth it. The treat is poison.

Those of us with AD who go AIP, keto or both to heal cannot treat ourselves with food because it makes us feel like complete shit. I tell myself that food is fuel and nothing else. This is my new story.

Don’t count me in when you make celebratory food plans. I have no desire to celebrate Thanksgiving because I can’t eat the food and from now on, I am done thinking I need to partake of any holiday with food. When I travel food will not be part of the adventure. When a partner comes into my life he will have to live with food being only fuel for me too.

I like the foods I can eat. I like eggs in the morning, salmon, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, chicken breast, coconut milk, burgers, steak, and arugula. I am satisfied when I eat even though not a day goes by I don’t crave cheese, bread, hot pepper, beer, tacos….I mean, the grief is real and the loss is daily. I compare myself to an addict in sobriety taking it one day at a time.

What feels amazing is being mostly in remission all of the time. My body is healing on deep levels too, beyond just remission of symptoms. I am healing my organs, gut, skin, bones, losing weight, and all anxiety is completely gone. Within a month of the AIP diet all anxiety left my psyche as anxiety truly does live in the body. Within a month of being keto and AIP my ability to focus greatly increased and my energy levels began to even out. The healing continues.

I love that I eat like my ancestors. I feel that how I eat connects me to them. I feel more rooted to the earth. My sleep is pristine and I no longer suffer from insomnia. I have become strong and disciplined in every aspect of my life. I exercise five to six days a week. I do what I say I will do in terms of my daily and long term goals. I can handle anything, is what it feels like.

I have no anxiety, no procrastination, no split in the psyche where what I want and how I behave are out of alignment. I have come into a much more profound sense of self love, ease, and integrity. My psyche has never been healthier and more at peace.

Funny, how each day I feel loss and cravings but each day I feel at peace with myself.

I no longer respond to loss and cravings with fear or resistance. I have learned the power of surrender. I accept loss, pain, and my AD. Grief is not something I need to avoid anymore. I am no longer in denial of the dark side of life. I am at peace with my limitations, the ugly, and all that is hard.

For now, I have whisky, mezcal, and coffee with coconut milk as pleasures I can still indulge in. I cannot overdo it so I drink in moderation and I am also willing to let these drinks go the moment my health needs it.

I have become so emotionally strong that I no longer depend on any food, drink, or substance to keep me feeling ok or to enjoy life. I cannot stress what a big deal this is as I have been a food addict and hedonist my entire life, always using food as comfort and enjoying the party. Now, I can find comfort and enjoy the party in a new way.

I am in the process of learning how be a hedonist in new ways that are good for my health. Sexual expression is something most people never explore fully and is one of our greatest gifts as human beings. No shame. What possibilities exist to explore and merge with another soul on a sexual level and experience deeper levels of pleasure, replenishment, and love?

How can my body express through any form of movement that brings heightened pleasure? Dance, hiking, sky diving, fire walking, floating, strolling….

There are many possibilities.

I find hedonistic pleasure in essential oils, incense, crystals, flowers, the beauty of nature, fashion, putting on make-up and dressing up. I find hedonistic pleasure in gazing at art, listening to music, and reading books. There is so much to imbibe and indulge in that is not food and drink. I also feel immense satisfaction when I paint, write, sing, and express myself creatively.

AD has transformed me for the better.

I know in my heart of hearts that AD is connected to multigenerational trauma. Interesting that my mother and father both had the same AD as me.

My mother had it killed with near lethal amounts of antibiotics from a certain doctor in Vegas who had his theory. I believe this treatment destroyed her gut and led to many health issues to follow. She eventually got colon cancer. I do not follow in her footsteps with my AD and for very few has antibiotic treatment worked. My father said he stopped having flares in his fifties and that it just went away. I can only hope for such a healing to happen to me. I cannot count on it.

For now, I must eat keto/AIP to stay in remission but I am thankful for this diet beyond being in remission because I am healing my body completely, healing multigenerational trauma, healing completely from anxiety, and healing food addiction all while transforming into a stronger, more centered, disciplined, equanimous, and poised individual who is no longer dependent on “the cookie”.

It has taken a year and half to get to this place of love, strength, balance and health that is not static or fixed. Like I said, I still get flares and have to figure out why. I still feel loss for food and cravings rise up all the time (though going keto took away 80% of all food cravings). There’s always work to be done and progress to be made in body and mind. Just like in a yoga pose, you need a constant focus to stay balanced.

If you are reading this and have AD, I hope to provide you with some inspiration from sharing my story. Food truly is the biggest culprit of many if not most of AD symptoms.

AD seems to be rooted in generational trauma passed down through the DNA and from diet. The AIP diet works and for some of you, keto will also work.

Western medicine still looks down upon all holistic routes but go ahead and let them. If you dedicate yourself to trying the diet for 30-90 days you will experience the results for yourself. You can reintroduce certain foods after the initial period and begin cultivating the exact diet that works for you.

Will power gets easier over time as you adapt and your body feels better as it adjusts too. Anxiety will diminish and you will become more disciplined and emotionally independent.

Grief is real for no longer being a normie and getting to eat what you want but there is liberation in no longer fearing grief. Life is suffering, Buddha said. If we face the suffering with an open heart, willingness, and a mindful approach that does not resist limitation, pain and loss then suffering will transform your soul from a mud ball into a pearl and your body will be a sanctuary living with illness.