Tell me how you’ve changed. If you haven’t, tell me why.

I was immobilized by shock and fear when Trump won the election. That week, it took a lot to get moving again. When I did move I went on a bike ride to one of my favorite spots. I got off my bike and realized something fundamental had changed inside of me.

Usually on visits to my favorite spot I reflected upon concerns surrounding myself, my life and my relationships. But not anymore. A new, more menacing concern was with me- concern about my larger home— our country, our world, our planet and its people. This isn’t to say I had none of these concerns before, but now, the weight of them was heavier. It was almost too heavy and I wanted to go back to the days of only trying to manage my issues. Unfortunately, living in the west with my head just above the middle-class lifestyle, I had no idea this was a privilege.

Since those early days of November, I have since accommodated to this change. The shock has worn off and my fear has dimmed to a consistent concern for the broader context in which we live. Sometimes these concerns are in the back of my mind, and sometimes they are front and center. What I do in my life hasn’t changed all that much. I still get up, do my yoga and meditation. I do my homework, go to classes, spend time with family. I still get on my bike and go to my favorite spot. But now, when I drive up to order my half-caf iced coffee with almond milk or sit at a restaurant deciding if I want a salad or a burger, I realize the freedom I think I have to do these things can shift dramatically at any time. Think, The Handmaid’s Tale (for anyone who watched it or read the book). Watching it felt all too possible.

So, now that I have shared my experience I want to know yours. Tell me what you have noticed since Trump was elected.  Are there changes in your life? Your mind? Body? Emotions? Relationships?

When I look around it seems on the surface everyone is doing just fine, and I wonder is everyone asleep? Aren’t people concerned? Then, I think if they looked at me while I ordered my half-caf iced coffee they would think the same. So, where are you with all this- if you like Trump or not- how has it changed you? And if it hasn’t, tell me why.

Thanks,

The Soul Reporter

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The Month of September

fall

Once, many years ago, while going through a particularly difficult time I got this idea in my head I would die on September 16 (0f that particular year). I was reminded of this today, September 16, on my walk. Suddenly, I smelled something foul. I looked to my right and there was a dead racoon in the grass. Several steps later, once I arrived in the woods near my house, a dead squirrel on the path. The bodies were still fresh. Was this a sign?

I thought: death is all around us. I remembered all the death that has surrounded my family and myself since December. On December 11, just as my kids and I were about to watch A Christmas Story, my dad called. He was not himself. He said, Mary Lou died. Mary Lou was my step-mother. Then, in January my husband’s last grandmother passed away. It snowed in April when Price died alone in his elevator. June took Uncle Mel and then, his wife, my beloved Aunt on September 6.

September 6 is now shared with September 24, my father’s birthday, when my best friend from Kindergarten died in a car accident when she was only 27 years old. Along with September 11 and September 29. On September 29th, 2011 I was driving my white Toyota Matrix on a Los Angeles freeway. My mother and 11-year old daughter were in the backseat, my 19-year old daughter in the front seat with me. We were listening to Enya and playing the alphabet game. Suddenly, a large truck with glaring headlights was in my rear view mirror. Before I could finish my sentence about what I saw, that large truck hit my car. The car flew and flipped through the air several times until it finally landed on its side. I remember wondering, am I going to die?

car

The Toyota Matrix

I have told and written this story many times, and this year, five years later, I notice the story no longer holds the emotions and trauma it once had.  Now, what seems to be unfolding are the lessons and awakenings from that day that changed everything. Death is all around us.

But, what does this mean exactly? And, is it death or just change? Here’s what is becoming clear for me— life. I think I have been so afraid of death and that impending shoe drop (in my case a tow truck that comes out of nowhere) that life has been cumbersome. I noticed this heaviness after I returned from my aunt’s funeral. Prior to her funeral, I sat with her for four days while she went through the process of death, of change. I had never been this close to the death of another human being or for so long.

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Me and Aunt Flo

Before I entered her home, I was afraid of what I might see. But, all my fear went away when she opened her eyes and smiled at me (and my dad and daughter). All I felt was love. I knew I loved her, but those four days I felt my love for her. I was able to tell her she mattered. This experience is invaluable to me now.  But there is a physical, mental and emotional price, at least for me, when going through something like this. That price felt heavy. It felt exhausted. It felt sad.

After the car accident, I carried heavy, exhausted and sad for nearly 5 years.

I feel lighter now. Life is becoming more clear, but not because I have figured anything out. But because I’m not taking it all so seriously and maybe because the desire to live life finally outweighs the fear of living life. I am moving, once again, toward curiosity, beauty, wonder and listening. Listening, as I did on my walk today, that I needed to get grounded. This looked like me stopping in the middle of the forest doing tree pose and volcano breath. This means committing to creating a life that will match my desire to stay in harmony with my higher self and nature, and not the day-to-day grind of this current culture.

I also intend to move more toward what my aunt taught me—love. And, believe me, I am a newbie to love. It’s always been inside of me, but it’s the emotion or state of being that I resist the most. At the least, it makes me feel awkward. At the most, it frightens me as if I might be swallowed by it. But, while my aunt was in  hospice I had a new experience with love. As I stroked her hair, held her hand and kissed her forehead as I said goodbye and I love you, love comforted me.

Love is a comfort, not a burden I need to protect myself from. So yes, death, the unexpected, change surrounds us—not to stop us or scare us or burden us, although it can, but to notice it, wonder about it, learn from it and let it guide us to more clarity of life, comfort of love and truth of being.

The Soul Reporter

Going Against My Grain

What is my grain, currently? Currently, I am afraid. I hold back. I let myself off the hook, and rather easily. I can work hardGrain as a mother, as a daughter, as a wife, as someone who takes care of her home, as someone who works with myself toward greater growth and transformation. I have even shown I can work hard at being a middle-aged student. But—I don’t work hard at my desires—my desires to become a published writer, to be a business owner with any one of my good ideas. I also don’t work hard at making my overweight body healthier even though I have high blood pressure and thyroid issues. I guess we all have our weak spots. Here are mine.

 

Grain3

The issue is I could get by with only working in the places I am strong, until now. Now, I face a body that has to get healthier or it will only continue its decline. Now, I face another fork in the road—follow my desires that are still very much alive inside of me or not. Both choices, right now, terrify me. All week I have faced myself in these weak places and mostly, I’ve been resentful. I resent the inertia I have created. It’s a tangled mess of weakness, fear, anxiety and doubt. It’s a place that has been accumulating for 20+years. It’s a place I have been avoiding for at least that long, and have always known is there.

 

Grain2On the bright side, yesterday, on a walk in one of my sacred spaces I could actually feel myself aligning with my desires. I know it’s time to walk through the tangled mess, fight and claw and probably love my way through until I stop for a moment and realize: I’m through. And, I’m through with doubting my abilities. I’m through with questioning the desires of my soul. I’m through worrying if my actions make a difference or not or where they may or may not take me. I’m through with anxiety clouding my intuition and instincts that move my desires forward. But, I’m not through yet. I’m still here, doubting, questioning, worrying—and still, moving forward anyway.

 

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

Don’t Be Afraid—of Anything.

Don'tBeAfraidDon’t be afraid of anything;

Be at peace about everything.

This is a practice and a promise to adhere to…..

I wrote these words— and then I had a panic attack.

For five days I was in a dark space, consumed by the ailments of my middle-aged body. High blood pressure, irregular menstrual bleeding and apparently a pulled muscle from participating in new activities to combat said, high blood pressure. The pain immobilized me, thus the five dark days. For two of those days I popped muscle relaxers and waited for lab results from my doctor visit. Any thought of doing anything normal like cooking or walking or going out to eat was met with fierce resistance. The light of day and of my life became darker and smaller. I was trapped inside my own worry, fear and pain.

Thankfully most of my test results were normal, but the pain continued. I took myself off of the muscle relaxers because I was dizzy, groggy and sleeping too much. My body needed to move. I did small things at first then, I went for a walk.

The sun’s brightness overwhelmed me. To seek protection, I walked to a forest path near my house. The trees did protect against the sun, but not against my thoughts. Before I left the house I was itchy. It felt like gnats biting. It worried me. The constant attention on my body and not trusting it over the past few months was destroying my peace and taking my joy, which wasn’t much to begin with.

Then, I began disassociating—the experience of feeling I was not where I was—that I was unreal or the world viewed through my eyes was unreal. Then I began to itch more, and my limbs felt weak and tingly. My heart began to race, my breathing became labored, my mouth, dry and I thought: I am going to die right here. I walked faster and faster so if I were to die it would not be in the forest where no one would find me.

I was having a panic attack (I used to have them daily) and called it out of its destructiveness and deceit: Goddam panic attack!

I walked out of the forest and into the sun. My breathing slowed and some saliva returned to wet the inside of my cheeks. I listened to the cars pass. I read a sign: For Sale. $75 with a ladder underneath it. I made eye contact with a man in a car. I needed these signs of life. I needed to know I was still a part of it. I began to think about the past few weeks of summer while not working and going to school. My intent during this break was to focus on my health and my mind.

I began this process by calling my dad who also has high blood pressure. He says anxiety is a major contributor, and so I began to work with my anxiety. I know it well—every morning greeting me before I open the shades. But I usually don’t work with it. Instead I fight it or I am so used to it I think it’s normal and move on with my day. One morning, I sat with it to pinpoint its location inside my body. It helped itself to the inside of the v-shaped area where the abdomen and ribs meet. Working with this, along with my breath I felt something release in this area, as if someone came to take away a chunk of my anxiety.  In that moment I felt no resistance inside my belly. I could breathe full, round breaths.

Also during this time of focusing on body and mind, I signed up for the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation challenge. Every day I repeat a mantra and sit in silence. I’m also reading a book by Katherine Tingley, The Voice of the Soul. She speaks of our divine nature and the “path of self-directed evolution.” She writes:

You must be true to the inner quality of your own nature—the divine spark, the ray of Universal Life. Be true to that, and all other good things will come to you…..

The path of self-directed evolution is evolution directed by our own higher nature….

I am absolutely assured of the essential divinity in man, of his power to conquer conditions and make the whole world over again.

I read these words and many just like them every night before bed. I’ve no doubt they, along with the silence of sitting in meditation, stir something within. One morning I woke up knowing I am safe. I am okay. I have something indestructible inside of me—and its everything.

Then, that pain—followed by that panic.  Is the pain a part of adjusting to the space inside of me where anxiety used to hide? Is the panic a part of adjusting to the truth that I am safe?

In this culture we tend to make everything a medical condition and do not consider we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Anxiety is a battle for most, and it is rare to recognize it as a symbol of transformation or at the very least an indicator that a shift is needed to serve us on our “path of self-directed evolution.”   Therefore what we call panic attacks may be a sign of spiritual transformation and what we call pain could be a result of something emotional in our bodies being released or needing to be released. When we ingest something new the old must break down. Surely there is a consequence to this.

In the sun again, after declaring a panic attack, I ask, through tears: why does change have to be so scary? I don’t want to be scared anymore. But, the truth is I feel unsafe. I feel unsafe. This was the truth of the moment and I declared it. Instantly this truth set me free—at least for the time being—and opened me to another truth I felt just days ago: I am safe.

Sometimes we need to call out what is in the shadows and bring it to the light before we can fully embody a new truth. I went into the light of day after days of darkness and feeling unsafe and the light overwhelmed me. I went to the forest so it could protect me, but nothing outside of myself can protect me from my own mind. Only I can free it. There is a promise and a practice to adhere to: Don’t be afraid of anything. Be at peace about everything.

The Soul Reporter

Finding Joe. Finding Me.

JoeF

Finding Joe~ A Review

There is one story within all stories, and in the documentary, Finding Joe we, for many of us, rediscover it is what Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey.

It seems since What the Bleep there have been several documentaries which try and do what Bleep did: have a cast of  experts in their fields and spiritual teachers speaking in between a story line of some kind. For me, no other documentary did as well as Bleep until I watched Finding Joe, a documentary about Joseph Campbell, but more about The Hero’s Journey.

While watching, this theme of The Hero’s Journey hit home. I’ve been living my own hero’s journey, which goes something like this~

First, there is a call to adventure. For me, this was to abandon my cul-de-sac life in the suburbs for another lifestyle on the island of Maui. From here, there is a series of events—a meeting of obstacles, which test the core of who we are and everything that surrounds that core. Again for me, I never made it Maui, but instead met many monsters and dragons upon my path.

Upon facing these dragons, there comes a point when we begin to make a turn, essentially we come back to tell of our adventure and what we have learned. Finding Joe tells us that it is better to have a story than an explanation. The story is the gift.

Finding Joe is also a gift for those who watch. I promise it will speak to you wherever you are on your Hero’s Journey. Here are the insights I had while watching:

  • It confirms The Hero’s Journey is an inner one where we confront our inner barriers and claim our inner resources–and on this journey we are seeking to go beyond illusion to what is real and true. This is the most heroic journey we will ever take. 
  • It reminds that on this journey we must allow ourselves to keep dying and unfolding, and transcending the worst that has happened to us. This is how we evolve.
  • It reveals new questions to me in regard to following my bliss: What makes me different and what were the things I wish I did? It reveals a question about where I find myself presently: Why would I build this current situation I am in, and then look at it and say—I can’t. In asking this question, I realize I can’t give up. I must move forward despite my fear and continued unknowns upon my path.
  • I gain awareness of what my biggest fear is at this time: What if I am left out. What if I don’t matter. Within this awareness is also the wisdom, strength, love, patience that I have gained so far upon this Hero’s Journey and I can use all of this to knock that dragon out.

Are you living your Hero’s Journey? See if you can’t find what your holy grail is—what is your call to adventure? Have you had this call? Are you ignoring it? See if you can find the arc of your story. Where are you in it? What dragons have you met? What dragons do you fear you will meet? What treasures? Lessons? Gifts? And, how can you express this story and change lives? 

To learn more about Finding Joe, go to the website.

To be a fan, like their Facebook page. 

To order the DVD go to amazon.

If you’ve seen the documentary or have a Hero’s Journey of your own, please share here.

The Soul Reporter

 

 

 

Do You Know Fear?

Today’s Soul Report: Fear

Fear. Perhaps as great a mystery as love. As God.

A man approaches me, and asks me for a ride. Fear. A stray dog in the path I walk. Fear. Too much caffeine. Fear. Out of the blue. Fear. My only remedy: get present.

Notice the white butterfly on the path. In the dead of night when fear grips. Feel the cool sheets under my hand. Get present.

If you can control fear, you either dont know it or are an enlightened master. In my fear the sound of a small lizard in the grass sounds like a mountain lion waiting to prance. A man walking could be a rapist.

Do you know fear?

The water feels like a friend. I walk beside it. As I walk, I open up more fear. As I walk, it releases. As I walk, I open up more spirit. As I walk, it releases.

Whatever is your mystery, Fear, you’re a viable opponent.

***Words, which surfaced and photos I snapped during my walk today.

Nikki

Don’t Look in that Box- or Do

Today’s Soul Report: Seeing & Going Deeper

“Mom, I need to show you something. There’s a dead cat in a box.” (Yes, Rhonda I am writing about it)

Lilli, my 11-year old was outside, and came across a box in the middle of a sidewalk. She  seemed a bit traumatized.

“Okay, Lilli I will look.” But, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see, or smell a dead cat in a box.

We took the walk, and I could see something black sticking out of a box. Was it black fluid? Was it a garbage bag? Was that even it? 

We got closer. I’ll spare details.

Later, Lilli took my oldest daughter, Alyssa and their father to see. At first Alyssa didn’t want to see. She said, “I don’t want to see anything I might regret.”

When they returned, I asked how it went and what they thought. My husband said it was a dog.

How each of us responded to the dead animal in the box got me thinking- and of course composing a post in my head. How we respond to this sad and grotesque image might say how we respond to all that is sad and grotesque inside of ourselves.

My husband: just looked. It’s a dog. And that was that. It’s done (or so I assume).

Alyssa: stood further away, peered, afraid she might regret what she might see.

Lilli: traumatized and wanted everyone to see. She is the instigator and because of her age is almost intrigued by things like this.

Me: timid, but curiosity brought me closer. Gross and frightening, yes, but I wanted to know more. What is it- a dog, a crow, a cat, a human head? Who did this, and why? I was so curious, I wanted to dig deeper, open the plastic bag it was in. I wanted to know its story- now, before and after. But, it didn’t seem safe. Disease…germs…and I walked away.

There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. ~Carl Jung

Making the darkness conscious~

How do we do this when our response to darkness/pain/the scary, the grotesque, the ugly, is in our way? First, we need to know how we respond.

  • Drama/victim response: Are we aware of our pain, but use it for drama? To get sympathy from others? Often to get through our dark spaces, we must completely immerse with them, but we do this to understand, and ultimately free ourselves. If we aren’t learning from our pain, and making connections, and find our self continuously seeking more pain or not moving through it, we may have an agenda for drama more than for freedom.
  • Regret of what I might see: Alyssa has big eyes, and I tell her she can see whatever comes to her. But, as I have shared she is afraid in case she regrets what she might see. Why might we regret seeing something? For fear we cant’ handle it? For fear of how it might change us? For fear of it making us feel? She shared when she was little how sensitive she was…maybe we are afraid to be vulnerable again?
  • Rational responseIt’s a dog. I asked my husband why someone would do this- his answer: not everyone feels the same way about their pets. This is so true- such a rational response. But rational can be a safe place to stay. Rational means hey, it is what it is and that’s all that it is. But there is always more.
  • Timid response: We might feel so afraid, so timid we may not even go to the darkness. We may hide for as long as we can, playing it safe, but not really living and surely not growing.
  • Imagining figures of light: I don’t know exactly what Jung intended with this. I interpret it pretty much how I interpret the new age movement- it came around to remind us we are made of more than sin- that we are light, love, GOD, but then it continues to encourage us to stay in the light. In fact, one of these teachers who I just read today, said “Constantly be in a state of kindness…stay in the incredible state of love, joy, peace…come from a complete state of loving everything and everyone…” Wow. That sounds like a lot of pressure to me. Are we really ready and prepared for this constant state of joy, kindness, loving everyone and everything? I would say, we have more darkness to make conscious, unless of course we are in a constant state of grace, but I know no one like this. (But, I can go off on this tangent forever, so…..)
Okay, now that I have some insight into how I respond to pain/darkness, now what?  

I’m reading a spiritual memoir. She writes: “What would happen if I opened myself….into the depths…? I wanted to climb all the way inside the questions and see what is there.”

This is curiosity- the next step. This kind of desire she writes about is what moves us deeper- to climb all the way inside and see what is there. The desire must be more than the fear. More than what we fear we might find. More than those safe places we stay in that I shared above. We must be curious enough to move beyond our typical responses to what calls us to look.

As I looked at the grotesque image in the box, my curiosity far exceeded the feelings of what this image brought up. It was only because of the obvious of germs that I did not go further.

My husband said I could have gotten a stick. Believe it or not, I almost did- and if we want to go deeper, there must be some preparedness before we do. Tools. Insights. Wisdom, all which come from going deeper.

And you? When will you begin the long journey into yourself? ~Rumi 

How curious are you? Does your curiosity exceed your fear, and in what areas? Do you really want to crawl deep inside, poke around, ask questions, open your eyes and see?

How do you respond to stories you hear about the “misfortune” of others? How do you respond to opportunities in which you are unsure, that you have no context for? The answers provide clues of how ready you are and where you are on your journey.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter