Thursday, May 1, 2014

God Doesn't Have Issues!

During the course of the 8-week online business program I've been taking, Marie Forleo (the instructor), has recommended a number of books to supplement the course material. Being a good student, I've purchased most of them.  Unfortunately, I hadn't read any of them.

Yesterday something 'called' me to pick up one of the books, the WAR of ART: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield, and begin to read it.  As often happens  when that 'calling feeling' occurs, it was just what I needed. The book is all about resistance, and Pressfield states that resistance is the biggest reason many of us never reach our full potential.

This morning, with my day clear of mundane household chores and babysitting duties, I marked it as the perfect day to dig down deep and work on researching information for a new website.  No sooner did the thought come up, than I was besieged by at least a dozen other thoughts about things I really needed to do before I started that research, all of which would take me out of the house!

Ah Hah! I thought, remembering what I'd read in Pressfield's book, resistance is rearing its ugly head!  So I decided to tap (Click here to learn more about tapping) on my resistance and see what happened.

What I've learned about tapping is that it leads me to places I never knew I needed to go, and beliefs I never knew I had, but which invariably were issues that were getting in my way and needed to be healed and released.

As I tapped this morning, starting out with "Even though I'm looking for reasons to leave the house and not do the work I know I need to do, I deeply and completely love and accept myself," other statements soon showed up, including the following: "I don't want to be accountable.  I don't want to be responsible.  My mother always said it was my fault.  My mother always blamed me when things went wrong.  She'd promise me things would be different and then she'd pull the rug out from under me.  Afraid I'll try and God won't support me.  Afraid that God will pull the rug out from under me. God isn't like my mother.  God isn't like my mother.  God isn't like my mother. God doesn't have issues!"

Somehow, I'd overlaid my relationship with my mother onto my relationship with God.  It was affecting my ability to trust God and take the next big step. My mother had issues, big issues.  But God isn't like my mother.  God doesn't love me from a place of woundedness and pain.  He isn't trying to relive his life through my own.  He isn't afraid that if I fail, I'll be a reflection on His good name.  God doesn't make promises and fail to follow through. God won't pull the rug out from under me.  God doesn't have issues!

As that last sentence, "God doesn't have issues." came out of my mouth during the tapping, the physical sensations that had been building in my body up to that point, let loose.  Tears came. Muscles spasmed and released. My entire body shook.  When it was all over, I felt this incredible sense of peace and calm.

Since this just happened, it's too early to tell what the long term results will be, but I do know the desire to run away today, to find something else to do instead of the research on my website, is gone. So I'm going to stay put, dig in and see where it leads.  If resistance rears its ugly head again, I'm going to tap some more and see what happens.  And for sure I'm going to keep reminding myself that God isn't like my mother.  He doesn't have issues!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Dirty Little Secret...

When I started this blog, I promised myself, and you, my readers, that I would be honest about my journey.  I promised I would share the good and the bad, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, because that's what a spiritual journey is all about: the roller coaster ride between the times when everything is going well (and sometimes even better than expected), and faith and trust are high, and the times when everything is shot to hell and we're in the pits of despair and can't seem to find the tunnel, let alone the light at the end of the tunnel, and we're doubting everything, ourselves and God included.  

These last eight months since I've moved to Nashville have been tough.  I don't know what I expected when I made the move, but I didn't expect that it would be this challenging.  I didn't expect that at this point in my journey I would be contemplating leaving it all behind and taking on a 'normal' nine to five job like most of the people around me.  

Yep, that's my dirty little secret. I've been thinking about quitting. I've been doubting myself, my gifts, my Divine connection and purpose.  I've been questioning it all.  The thought has even come to me that maybe I'm a fake, a fraud, maybe I've only been imagining that the work I've been doing has been of benefit to others.  Maybe somehow I've pulled the wool over every one's eyes, including my own, and the reality is, it's time to face the truth and get a 'real' job!

Am I scared of moving forward?  Well, given the nature of  my thoughts, I'd have to answer that with a giant "YES!"  Although I've taken leaps of faith in the past with very positive results, this time the size of the leap seems larger, and my faith seems too small to get me through.  

So maybe that's why this morning, even though I was in the middle of my spiritual practice, I answered the phone when it rang and God gave me a reason to remember another big leap of faith I took and how it all worked out.

The call was from a fellow Reiki master who was asking me how I decided to start taking an 'offering from the heart' as payment for my Reiki sessions rather than charging a set fee.  In answer to his question, I told him "The Sock Story," as I call it.

At the end of 2006, I decided to raise my rate for an individual Reiki session from $100 to $125.  All the various holistic practitioners I was using for my own healing were raising their rates, and since I hadn't raised my own since 2004, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I sent out an email letting everyone know that beginning in January 2007, my rate would go up to $125.  I also said that if folks wanted to buy gift certificates at the current rate of $100, I would honor those after the rate increase, so they could save a little money.

January first came and I put the new rates into effect. At the end of January, I had to have some minor surgery on my foot, and during the long weekend off, I was doing a more lengthy spiritual practice when I heard that little voice in my head, my God voice, say, "You know, you went the wrong way with that fee increase."  

"What do you mean?" I asked.  It repeated, "You went the wrong way." and then added, "The people who need you most can't afford that fee." "But you know I always make allowances." I responded. "But the people who really need you are too proud to let you know they can't afford you.  They simply won't call.  You need to start charging 'an offering from the heart.'" it replied.

"What does that mean?" I asked, my heart nearly beating out of my chest.  "It means that at the end of the session, you ask them to sit quietly, place their focus on their hearts, and ask God what they should offer for what they received."

I began to argue, "I can't do that. I'm already draining my retirement fund to keep things going as it is.  If I do this, I won't make enough to pay my bills.  People won't give me enough.  They don't recognize the value.  They won't listen, or they'll say they don't hear anything." 

And I heard, "If you do this for me, I'll take care of you."  "What does that mean?" I asked.  "Well, for one thing, you won't have to pay for advertising anymore! (God does have a sense of humor!) Once people find out what you're doing, they'll spread the word and everyone will want to come."

This is crazy, I thought, but how do you argue with God?  So I said, "Okay, I'll start it on Valentine's Day."  (Pretty appropriate, don't you think, asking for 'an offering from the heart' on Valentine's Day?  I thought so, and besides that, it gave me two weeks to get used to the idea, or talk myself out of it!) But The Voice said, "No, you'll start it on Tuesday when you go back to the office."

I drove myself crazy all weekend thinking about that conversation and what was going to happen, part of me wondering if I'd imagined it, but then realizing there was no way in the world I would tell myself to do something like that.  It had to be real. And if I believed it was real, how could I say no to God? 

So Tuesday morning I went into the office and was just finishing up the email to let my clients know about the change, when my first client showed up at the door.  As I was heading to the door to let her in, I was telling myself that since the email hadn't yet gone out, I was still going to charge her the $125. No sooner did I think the thought, when I heard The Voice say, "No, you'll make it an offering from the heart." 

My client was the CFO (chief financial officer) for a large company, and when I told her of the change, she looked at me in shock and almost shouted, "That's no f'ing way to run a business. You can't do that!"  I looked at her, pointed upward and said quietly, "But I'm not running the business."

After her session, as she was digging in her purse to find her checkbook, she asked me what she owed me.  I told her I couldn't give her an answer to that, that she would have to decide for herself. She became irate, and said "I can't do this. I need to have boundaries. You need to tell me."  When I refused, she angrily told me I was lucky she knew what I normally charged, forcefully wrote out her check, folded it in half, shoved it into my hand and walked out the door without another word, obviously distressed.  When I unfolded the check, I discovered she had paid me $25 more than what I normally would have charged!  I was dumbfounded.

My next client that day had a gift certificate, so I didn't have to worry about telling her about the new pricing.  After her session was over, she reached into her purse for the gift certificate, and when she handed it to me, also gave me cash.  When I reminded her that the session was covered by the certificate, she replied, "I know. But when I was leaving the house, God told me I needed to give you money too."  And then she picked up a plastic grocery bag that was sitting beside her on the couch, and said, "And I'm supposed to give you this too."

Opening the bag, she pulled out two pairs of brand new socks, one light gray and the other a light teal color.  Holding one pair in each hand, she studied them for a moment, and then extended the light teal pair and said, "I think these are the ones you're supposed to have."  As I reached for the socks, I began to cry.

In December I had gone Christmas shopping at Costco, and picked out a three-pack of these fluffy aloe-infused socks to give to my son's girlfriend, Tiffany, for Christmas.  She was always complaining about cold feet.  And since my feet were always cold, and the socks were so pretty, I decided to buy a three-pack for myself.  The only problem was, when I got to the checkout, I didn't have enough money and had to put my three-pack back.

Tiffany was thrilled with the socks, and all I heard during my visit each time she put a new pair on, was how soft and warm they were. I was berating myself for not having been able to buy any for me, and went back to Costco after Christmas to remedy that.  Of course, by that time, Costco was out of them. I was really disappointed.

The three-pack of socks that I had to put back that day, contained three different colors of socks: pink, light gray, and light teal.  Out of the three colors, the light teal was my favorite!

As I touched the pair of light teal socks my client held out to me, the exact same socks that had been in that pack I'd had to put back, in my head I heard The Voice say, "If I can give you the exact pair of socks you want to warm your feet, how can you doubt that I will take care of you?"

I continued to accept an offering from the heart for my healing work until I closed my office in Pittsburgh in 2012.  Interestingly enough, once I began that practice, I never had to take another penny out of my retirement monies.  

The money didn't always come in in the way I might have expected, and it didn't always come in from my clients for my work.  When I had my hip replaced in 2007, an old friend who had been out of my life for over fifteen years, offered me a $6,000 loan with no interest and no time frame for repayment to help me cover my expenses.  

Once it came in the form of a gift from my mom, and once it was a no-interest-for-a-year cash advance check from a credit card company. And in 2010, when I had my knee replaced, it came in bits and pieces in myriad get well cards from my friends, clients, and students!  

It really doesn't matter how it came, it only matters that it did.  And although I'm telling you it came from my clients, a friend, the credit card company, my mom, and all those wonderful folks who sent me those get well cards, they were really only the messengers.  Truth is, God was taking care of me just the way He promised that He would.

And if He made that promise to me in 2007,and did what He said He would do, and I'm still doing His work in the way that I feel I'm being guided to, there's no reason to think that He'd break that promise just because it's 2014 and I'm doing the work differently.  I just have to remember that promise and continue to trust.  

So I'm not quitting.  You won't be seeing my resume on or find me reading the want ads in my local paper.  I'm sticking it out and moving forward, and when I get big time scared again, because I'm human and I know I will, or I begin to doubt just how powerful He is and how much He cares, I'm going to log onto my blog and read this post again.... and again, and again and again, as many times as it takes.   But what I'm not going to do is quit!  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

He's Got My Back!!!

It's been a while since I've written anything.   For whatever reason, I just haven't had the words I needed to fill the page.  But a couple of things have happened lately that have made me remember something that happened in 2006, when we finally found a buyer for my mother's house, and somehow it feels like it's a story I need to share.

My mother got sick in March 2004, and although we hoped that she would be able to resume living independently once she got well, she never got well enough for that to happen.  So in 2005, I cleaned up the house and got it ready to put on the market.   A year went by without a single offer. We lowered the price a couple of times, and I was beginning to wonder what we'd do if we couldn't find a buyer at all.  Finally, in August 2006, I got a call from the realtor, who told me she had a buyer for the house and they wanted to close within thirty days.  

Although I'd gotten some of my mom's things out of the house by then, and had cleared out the attic, there was still a house full of stuff that needed to be sorted through.  I knew we'd have to have a house/yard sale, but with my only brother living in California, my son in Tennessee, my mom walking with a walker and not up to much physical labor of any sort, and no other close family to help, the bulk of the work was on my shoulders, and I had no idea how I was going to get it all done, especially when the realtor called again and said that the buyer had some kind of issue with his financing, and the sale could only go through if we could close in twenty-one days!

I remember being in shock, thinking there was no way in the world I was going to get it all done.  I went to see my chiropractor because my neck and shoulders were so tight my head felt like it would explode, and he asked me if I'd sent out a request for Reiki and prayers to help with everything I had to do.  I told him I hadn't even thought of it, and he thought that was pretty crazy, since I was always sending out requests for everyone else.

So I went back to my office and wrote an email asking everyone on my email list to send Reiki and prayers to help me get the house and its contents ready for sale.  I've never been very good at asking for help, so it wasn't an easy email to write, and I was relieved when I finished it and hit the send button.

I had several other emails I needed to write to let folks know I was closing up the office for a week and that I wouldn't be around.  I finished those and then noticed that there was still an unsent email in my outbox.  When I checked to see what it was, I was surprised to find out that it was my request for Reiki and prayers for myself.  All the other emails I'd written had gone out, and they were  written after my Reiki/prayer request!  That just didn't make sense to me, because usually if the first email doesn't go out for some reason, the ones you write after that won't go out either.

No matter what I did, I couldn't get that email to leave my outbox.  I tried retyping it, I tried reformatting it, I tried everything I could think of.  That darn email wouldn't go. I even wrote a couple of extra emails for other things and tried sending them, and they went! But my Reiki and prayer request wouldn't leave.

I finally gave up and headed home.  I packed what I thought I'd need to get all the work done, picked up my mom, and headed for Hermitage, PA. (That's the city her house was in, and the city I grew up in.  Funny, isn't it, that I now live in Hermitage, Tennessee.)  

When I walked into my mom's house that night and looked at everything that was still there (three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, garage and full basement all crammed full of stuff from over fifty years of living), I was overwhelmed with such feelings of hopelessness and impossibility that once my mom went to bed, I sat at the kitchen table and cried.  I couldn't figure out how I was going to manage to sort, price, sell, and clean out everything that was in that house in one week's time.

And then I heard this quiet little voice in my head (I've come to call it my God voice.) say, "Just pick a place and start.  Any place at all, just start.  It will be all right."  So I dried my tears, blew my nose, opened a cabinet in the kitchen and began pulling things out, pricing them and putting them to the side as I continued with the next cupboard and the next one after that, working my way through the house, one room at a time, over the next few days.

There's a lot more to the story of course, but the important thing is that I started all that on a Monday evening, and by Friday afternoon (with only some intermittent help from my son and two very special friends), everything was ready for the sale, and by Monday, only seven days after I started, the sale was over, the house was empty and cleaned and the closing took place.  As I left the realtor's office after the closing, I truly couldn't believe it was all done.

I took Tuesday off work to recuperate, and when I went in on Wednesday morning, the first thing I did was turn on my computer to catch up on emails.  And as soon as I opened my email, I got a message that my email had been sent.  When I looked at my sent messages folder, the message my computer had just sent, was my Reiki and prayer request, the one that wouldn't leave my outbox the week before, no matter what I did.   I remember laughing and shaking my head, and wondering to myself why that email could go out now, when all the work was done, but it wouldn't go out when I needed/wanted it to.

And then I heard that same small quiet voice in my head again, the one that I'd heard that night in my mom's kitchen when I felt so overwhelmed.  This time the voice said, in answer to my unspoken question about why that email wouldn't go out:  "You needed to know that I had your back. You needed to know it wasn't everyone else's prayers for you that were being answered, or all the Reiki that they sent.  You needed to know this was between you and ME. You needed to know that I heard your prayers. and I answered." 

I haven't thought about all that in a long time, but I think it came to mind now because a couple of doors that I thought God had opened for me, just closed, and I was wondering why He opened them in the first place, if He had no intention of keeping them open.  But just like He wouldn't let that Reiki/prayer request leave my outbox in 2006 because He wanted me to know He answered my prayers, and not everyone else's prayers for me, I think God closed these recent doors because I was counting on other people to answer my prayers, and God wanted to make sure I know that what happens next is because He's the one who has my back!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Self-loving vs. Self-soothing

This is my seventh week of exercising!  Not just the putting on my tennis shoes and going for a walk kind of exercise, where I can slow my pace whenever I'm distracted by the thoughts in my mind or the sights around me.  No, this is a dedicated exercise program that gets my heart rate up and my sweat glands working.  The kind of routine that requires a shower afterwards, and a cool down period so my breathing and my heart rate can come back to normal.

So what's the big deal?  There are lots of folks who exercise on a regular basis.  Problem is, I've never been one of them.  I've never liked exercise.  Even riding a bike when I was a kid wasn't fun to me. I did it because the rest of the kids in the neighborhood were doing it and I didn't want to be left behind when they took off to explore, but I couldn't wait to get back home and bury my nose in my favorite book.  (And probably eat a bowl of ice cream or a piece of pie while I did so.)

I've tried exercising like this before, I really have.   And each time I make it for about three weeks, and then I get sick. No kidding! Every time I've tried to change my eating habits and get into a regular exercise program, I've gotten sick.  Usually it's bronchitis that hits, and I have to get an antibiotic and I'm pretty much out of it for at least 3-4 days, and it takes a lot longer to be able to breathe normally.  And of course, by that time, I've gotten out of my routine and lost any and all interest in trying to exercise again.  Until the next time my clothes don't fit and I decide it's time to try again.   And no lie, I get sick again and it all goes down the tubes.

So what's different this time?  For one thing, I'm not looking at this as something I need to do just until I can lose weight.  I'm finally realizing that my body works better when it's exercised!  With a long history of arthritis in my family, and strong evidence that it didn't miss my DNA, I know that exercise helps lubricate my joints and makes it easier for me to move, once I get moving.  So if I want to continue to be able to keep up with my granddaughter (and I do!), then I need to do this for myself.

And I think that's the biggest difference: doing it for myself.  I'm not doing it to look better in my clothes, although I can already tell a difference in my jeans.  They don't feel like sausage casings anymore when I have them on!  I'm not doing it to have a better chance of attracting a mate.  I'm not doing it because someone else said I should. I'm doing it because I've finally come to realize that exercising is a way of loving my body, loving myself.  It's a self-loving activity, rather than a self-soothing behavior. 

What's the difference?  A self-soothing behavior is something that helps lower your stress/anxiety level, which is also what exercise does, but a self-soothing behavior often started as a spontaneous reaction (as opposed to a well thought out response) to a stressful situation when we don't have more positive behaviors available to us. For instance, a baby will cry when it's hungry, but if it doesn't get fed, might attempt to sooth itself by sucking its thumb.  It doesn't have the ability to get itself something to eat. So it does the best that it can to make itself feel better.

When things became uncomfortable for me in my home when I was growing up (Dad was an alcoholic.  Mom had a lot of emotional baggage and took her anger at dad's drinking out on me in a variety of forms of abuse.), I never thought to ride my bike or go out for a walk.  I'd never been encouraged to do anything physical, and sports programs for girls were just beginning to become popular in school curriculum programs, so I didn't have any experience of seeing how physical exertion could help with my stress.  What I did have were excellent role models for using food and alcohol as coping mechanisms (self-soothing behaviors), and when people overeat and drink copious amounts of alcohol, they're not prone to exercise while they're doing it!

Okay, I've known for a long time that exercise was good for me. But that never made me want to stick to it.  Something is different this time.  And I know that, because, believe it or not, three weeks after I started exercising, guess what happened.  I got sick!   This time it was a head cold, and I felt miserable, but I kept on  exercising! Every day.  Every single day. I just told myself I'd do it for as long as I could and when I couldn't do it anymore, I'd quit.  But I finished the routine each day.

And my mind set is different this time.  I'm not telling myself I have to do it every day, and do it perfectly.  If I miss a day, I don't beat myself up because I did.   And when I'm finished, instead of all the negative self-talk I used to have going on in my head about how much I hate doing this, and how tired I am and how much my body hurts, I thank my body for making it through and I congratulate myself for making the time and finishing the routine.  And I'm really proud of myself for doing it!  I also notice that when I'm done, the stiffness and pain in my body has diminished  considerably.  My mood seems brighter; I have more energy; and I find myself thinking about the next day's schedule and when I'll make time to exercise again!  

WHOA!!! Who is this person?  Where did she come from?  And why has it taken me so long to find her? 

Good questions, all of them.  I've been doing a lot of work on myself for a lot of years, trying to heal the wounds from the past.  Perhaps I've finally dug deeply enough through the layers to remember who I really am, and to recognize the difference between, and the importance of, loving myself into wholeness rather than soothing myself into complacence.  

Seven weeks isn't really a long time, but it's longer than I've ever managed before, and so to me, it's miraculous.  Something is definitely different.  I think I'm going to quit counting the weeks now and just relax into the routine.  I'm also going to find some other ways I can love myself better and see where they take me.   I'll let you know what I find.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Making Amends

Watching Twelve Years a Slave and writing my last post have really caused me to think about how I live my life, and how I might be able to live it better in regards to others.  So over the last week or so, I've been reviewing the past few years of my life and taking stock of how I could have acted differently, better, more appropriately, more compassionately, and who I might have harmed in some way along the way because my actions, or inaction, didn't really serve my highest good.

I have to say that I was fairly pleased with what I found, although I did find a couple of instances where I hadn't done my best, and in fact, may have caused harm, or at least discomfort to someone. Nothing that I discovered was anything really awful, but, still, I knew, in considering the situations (and one in particular) that I wanted to be accountable and take responsibility.  I decided to make amends. 

Making amends (compensation for a loss or injury) is a big part of the recovery process in all of the 12 step programs.  Step 8 requires the person working the steps to make a list of all persons she/he harmed and to become willing to make amends to them all.  Step 9 requires that direct amends be made to each person wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others. In other words, it's not acceptable to tell a third party to offer the apology to the injured party for someone else.  The person working the steps has to make the amends personally, directly.  They're not easy steps to take, because in doing so, the person making amends has to allow himself/herself to be vulnerable, and has no control over how his/her actions will be received.

During my trip to Alaska in 2012, I met a lot of truly good people. One was a woman who had a profound effect on me (and whose identity I will keep private just to protect her privacy), and who I had promised to keep in touch with after I said my goodbyes and continued on my journey.

For whatever reason, I never did.  At first I was just too caught up in the excitement of being on the road, exploring new places and being on my own in such a novel way.  Later, when I'd think about calling, it always seemed to be the wrong time: I was too tired, it was during her work day, etc. There was always some reason (excuse!).  And then, as more time went by, as the trip ended and I was back at home, I felt guilty and embarrassed that I'd waited so long, and that made it even harder to pick up the phone.

But I never forgot her, and certainly couldn't forget that I hadn't kept in touch.  Her name would come to mind at the strangest times, and I'd find myself wondering what she was doing, how she was doing, and, yes, probably most often, wondering what she was thinking about me! (I imagined they weren't very good thoughts if she was thinking about me at all.)

So last week I decided to right the wrong, and I sent her an email apologizing for not keeping in touch, asking her to let me know how she was doing and what she was up to, and even acknowledging that I'd understand if she didn't want to connect with me after all this time. I actually had a hard knot in my stomach when I hit the send button. But at least I did it.

Several days went by without a reply, and the self-talk in my head wasn't positive at all.  I was convinced that she wasn't going to respond, and I didn't feel good about it.  On Friday, as I was driving to Atlanta to do a healing circle, I heard that little voice in my head that I've come to recognize oh so well, say, "Really, after all this time, do you think a little email was enough?  You need to make a direct effort. You need to call."

It was one thing to send an email. A phone call was a completely different ballgame, and I could feel the unease in my gut just from thinking about it.  But I also knew it was the right thing to do.  So a short time later I stopped for lunch, and before I got out of the car, I made the call.  I got voice mail and my ego went to work!  "She doesn't want to talk to you. She's got caller ID. She knows who's calling and she's not going to answer."  Maybe not, I thought, but I could at least try, so when her greeting ended, I left a message with a very heartfelt and sincere apology. I really was sorry, and I did want to renew our connection.  I was sorry I had lost it to begin with.

I was busy over the weekend, but I was also very aware that she didn't return my call.  I knew when I sent the email that I didn't have any control over whether or not she responded, and I knew that was true of the voice mail message as well.  I had done what I could do to make amends.  It was time to let it go.

Making amends isn't easy, even when it's something as simple as just apologizing for not having followed through with my promise to stay connected.  My ego was hard at work with negative self-talk and my emotions were quick to respond to the words it was speaking.  And when the offense is something even more weighted, it goes without saying that the task of being accountable, of taking responsibility and making things right, is equally weighted in difficulty. I know because I've been there.

And having been there, I can honestly say that the weight and cost of carrying around that unfinished business is far greater than the temporary discomfort of making amends. The difficulty is, we don't realize that's the case until after we have the courage to own up. Until we do, that old stuff just sits in our guts, and in the buried recesses of our hearts and minds, festering, poking its way into our conscious awareness whenever it has the opportunity to do so.

It takes a lot of effort to keep it buried, a lot of energy to keep pushing it away, to keep reburying it each time it resurfaces.  That's energy we could be using for other things, things that could help us move forward. (Not to mention the good it could be doing for the injured person when we own our screw-up!) That old stuff, that old unfinished business, is just helping us to stay stuck.  And if we don't own up, there's no way that old stuff will heal. When we take responsibility for our actions and do our best to make things right, there's always the possibility we'll be forgiven, which makes room for even better things to come.  And even if we aren't forgiven, even if the other person doesn't respond at all, taking responsibility, holding ourselves accountable, lightens the load that we carry in immeasurable and unimaginable ways, and it frees our energy to take us higher, further, and to allow us to do more good in other ways.

It's been four days since I placed that call, and I knew I'd be okay even if I didn't hear back.  I can already feel a lightness in my gut and in my heart simply from having taken action.  And that negative self-talk is gone. The results are well worth the discomfort I felt when I sent the email and made the call.

Figuring it was all behind me, I decided to check my email one last time before I started this post, just to make sure there were no last minute responses for tomorrow night's workshop.  When I opened my inbox, there it was: her response!  She thanked me for the voice mail, especially because she hadn't noticed my email, and assured me she wasn't angry, never had been.  She wrote that she was delighted to hear from me, and had so much to share with me! She was overloaded with work but was on vacation next week and hoped to get in touch then when she had more time, so we could catch up. 

For eighteen months I've been carrying this around with me, spending my energy worrying, hearing all that negative self-talk.  I wish I'd had the courage to send that email and make that call sooner.  It sure would have saved me a lot of unnecessary grief, and would have given me the extra benefit of having this like-minded soul as a friend and resource as I moved to Nashville and started this next part of my journey.

Isn't it interesting how much energy we spend resisting what we know we need to do to make things right, and how much power we lose, simply because we're afraid to take responsibility, to be accountable, to make amends?

I'm going to keep a closer eye on myself from now on, and when I make a mess of things (and I will, I'm human), I'm going to make every effort humanly possible to make amends sooner rather than later.  I just don't want to waste energy anymore, mine or the other person's, when I have the power, and the responsibility, to fix them.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Heavy Heart

I have this heaviness in my heart tonight.  I think the last time I felt like this was when I had to transfer my mother from her apartment in the assisted living facility where she had been living, to the Alzheimer's unit because she needed more care and assistance than they could provide where she had been living.  

It wasn't the transfer so much that caused the heaviness, as it was my mother's response to the transfer.  She stood in the hallway of the Alzheimer's unit, supported by her walker, and as they moved her furniture into her new room, she screamed at me, her face contorted into an agonized caricature of the mother I knew, tears pouring down her face, "What right do you have to do this to me?  Who said you could make this decision without my permission? You're a horrible daughter and I hate you."

I knew my mother didn't really mean what she said; that her words and emotions were a result of her mental confusion and cognitive impairment.  But it was a difficult experience nonetheless, for so many reasons and on so many levels.  I rarely think of it anymore, but when I do, it's never without that heaviness in my heart.

So what happened today that left me feeling so much like I felt that night?  Believe it or not, I went to the movies.  I saw Twelve Years a Slave and when I left the theater, I was so overwhelmed by my feelings, I had difficulty speaking.  It was quite a while before normal conversation wasn't an effort.

I knew the movie wouldn't be an easy one to watch, but I wasn't prepared for the depth of my response. In fact, it's because this feeling in my chest is still so strong, so palpable, so presentthat I decided I had to write about it.  

If you haven't seen the movie, it's based on a true story about a black man, a free man, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery ( I believe it was 1841.), and remained a slave for twelve years, before he was freed and was able to return to his family.

All I could think about as I watched the movie (and sometimes I had to cover my eyes, because I just couldn't watch), was how could one human being do that to another?  And although slavery doesn't exist in this country anymore, atrocities just as terrible as what were enacted on that screen, take place every day somewhere on this planet.

I don't know why it took that movie to make me think about that, or why, now, that movie touched me at such a deep level of raw emotion.  I've certainly seen similar depictions of inhumane treatment before, and been affected by what I saw, but I've never been this affected.

Maybe it's because I'm so much more aware now of how connected we each are to one another, and how each action that we take against or for another, impacts not only that one person, but all of us on some level, known or not.  What I'm feeling tonight is making me reconsider my own way of being in the world, and whether or not I'm truly doing my best when it comes to my own interactions with others.

I can't personally stop the wars, or end hunger, or provide every person who needs a place to sleep a warm bed, but I can be more accountable, more responsible, for my own actions.  I can make a bigger effort to come from a place of love, a place of caring, a place of recognizing the importance and value of every human being that crosses my path and do my best to treat each of them the way that I would like to be treated, with dignity and respect.   

That doesn't seem like much in the grand scheme of things, does it?  But if we all did that, just that, every one of us, every day?  Wow!  Just imagine what a different place this world would be! 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Divine Synchronicities

A couple of weeks ago, actually, it was Saturday, January 4, the morning of my first float session, I went to a women's meeting at the church.  This is a monthly meeting on the first Saturday, and they usually do some kind of activity, or have a guest speaker.  I'd gone to my first one in December, and had decided that I would attend a couple of more and see if they had value for me. 

When I got the email reminder for the meeting, the notice said we would be making vision boards, and my first reaction was, 'okay, that clinches it, I'm not going.'  (If you're not familiar with vision boards, they became wildly popular following the movie, The Secret.  In the movie we were encouraged to cut out pictures of the things we wanted to have in our lives and paste them on a board of some kind, and then as we focused our intentions on that board, the Universe would bring those things to us.)  I'm not big on cutting and pasting, and I think part of me just didn't want anyone else to see/know what was going on in my mind at that point. 

But two days before the meeting, during my spiritual practice, I not only heard the message, "You need to go for the connections." but I also heard I was to offer to lead the heart chakra exercise I've been using in my own groups to help all of us attending the

women's group to have a deeper experience as we worked on our vision boards.  

"Really, God?" I thought.  "Are you kidding?  I'm new to these meetings, a stranger to most of these women, and you think they're going to let me to do this?"  God's response was: "No harm in offering!"

So I emailed the group leader but got no response. Hah!  They're not interested, I thought.  And to God, I said, "See, I told you so!"  I'm sure She was smiling down on me, smugly, of course, knowing I didn't have the whole picture.

I did what I was told to do, and went to the meeting. As soon as the group leader saw me, she rushed over.  "Did you get my email?" she asked.  "No, I didn't." I responded, with a sinking feeling in my stomach.  "I'd love for you to do the chakra exercise. It fits perfectly in the schedule." she said.

Okay, so much for my 'I told you so' to God!  So I did my part and lead the exercise (It brought some people to tears.), and then we started in on our vision boards.  I picked a table where no one else was sitting and began leafing through the magazines on the table, cutting out words and images that called to me.  Two others joined me, and as we chatted, I continue to do what I was supposed to do.  I admit, I really didn't put a whole lot of energy into it. 

All that sorting through and cutting out took a lot of time, and since we only had two hours for the whole meeting, most of us didn't complete our boards.  Mine was really only a pile of pages that I'd torn out of the magazines and placed in a pile on top of my piece of poster board, intending later to cut out the specific images and words that I wanted to use.  When it came time to leave, I was tempted to just heave the whole pile into the trash, but afraid that someone would see me, I decided I'd take it home with me and trash it there.  I was pretty sure I wasn't going to do
anything else with it once I left.

When I got home, I put the pile on my dining room table, made myself some lunch, and took care of some chores, all the time with my eye on the clock, anticipating my float session. 

I did the float session, had the first class with Rev. Denise, and found myself in the abyss that opened as a result.  That pile of stuff sat on my dining room table for several days at least.  A couple of times I moved it to the top of the cupboard because I needed the space on the table, but I never threw it out.  I never gave it much thought, either.

And then one night, around 11 PM, as I was rinsing out my teacup and getting ready for bed, my eyes drifted to that pile of stuff.  Normally, there's no way in the world I would have even thought of starting to mess with that stuff that late in the evening.  But something drew me to it, and I found a glue stick and a pair of scissors and began to work.  "I'll only spend a few minutes," I thought.  "Just get it started, and then I'll go to bed."  Next thing I knew, the board was done.

As I looked at it, the first thing I did was berate myself for doing it all wrong!  This was supposed to be a vision of the things I wanted in my life, whatever they might be.  But as I perused my board, there really weren't any things pictured: no new car, no vacations, no new clothes, no images of a woman with a smaller butt and leaner thighs! Nothing.  Just words, ideas, concepts.  What was I thinking?

But then I heard that God voice in my head:  "Look at it.  Really look at it.  What did you ask for?  What do you need right now?  What did you tell Rev. Denise you had lost?"  

As I listened to the words and stepped back from the table, what I saw on the board were words and images to inspire me!  I had asked Rev. Denise how I could get my inspiration back, and God had already been hard at work giving me exactly what I needed, even before I voiced the question, because these were words and images I had chosen before I even took that first class, before I ever asked the question, before I had even thought the question!  Sitting in front of me was a tool I could use to help me get my inspiration back. But until I refocused, until I looked at that board from a different perspective, I hadn't seen it.

I asked.  God provided.

I've got my inspiration board taped to the wall inside my walk-in closet, where I can see it every morning when I get dressed, and every evening when I undress, and whenever else I go in there to change shoes, or get the laundry out of the hamper.  At least once a day I intentionally stand there and read each of those statements as I send Reiki to all aspects of those images and concepts.  It only takes a few minutes of my time, but I can feel the energy surging through me and around me each time I do it.  And the feeling lingers long after I've moved out of the closet.

My inspiration board isn't the only tool I've been using to get me out of the abyss, but I do think it's one of the more powerful, just because I can see it and use it every day.  And the effects are obvious:  I'm more energized and focused; I'm more excited about my work than I've been since I moved to Nashville; I got some great Guidance about some new events to offer and scheduled them; I've gotten the paperwork to register my business in Tennessee, and I'm committed to completing the teleclass with Rev. Denise.  As that old refrain goes, 'I'm movin' on up!' and it feels great!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saying goodbye...

It's been a challenging week, a good one, but a challenging one none the less. 

I think the 'zone' I went into during my float session last week opened something up in me.  And then I had my first teleclass with Rev. Denise on  Monday night, and the crack widened into more of an abyss.

One of the comments she made was that to be able to move forward consistently, we need to be inspired, not just motivated.  She also noted that it's difficult to move forward if we are experiencing leaks in our energy systems that make it difficult to sustain that inspiration.  She urged us to look inside ourselves and see what leaks we might be experiencing.

Her comment about the need to be inspired hit home with me, and during the Q&A, I asked what we could do if we felt we had lost our inspiration.  When I was in Pittsburgh and had The Place for Reiki, I truly felt inspired in my work.  But since coming to Nashville, I've felt more dispirited than inspired.  

After a bit of discussion, Rev. Denise said that she felt compelled to ask me a question, and asked if it would be okay to do so.  I said yes, having no idea what the question might be.  In a quiet voice, she asked, "Are you happy?"  In the silence that followed, I could feel the tears threatening, and finally, in my own, even quieter voice,
answered, "No."

Funny thing is, until she asked the question, I didn't know I wasn't happy.  In fact, if someone had asked me if I was unhappy, I would have promptly answered "No," and felt quite truthful in doing so.  So it seems to me there is a netherworld somewhere between being happy and unhappy, that I had slipped into without my knowing.

By the time the call was over, I felt emotionally drained, and for some reason, physically exhausted, although I had done nothing that day to merit that.  Obviously her question had struck a deep chord and what I was experiencing was a result of that strike.  I went to bed shortly after that, knowing that I had work to do around this issue. 

You don't need a blow by blow description of what the week has been like, but in the course of filling half a journal and using more than a box of tissues, along with a lot of self Reiki, I've come to recognize that on some level I've been grieving the loss of The Place for Reiki and who I used to be when I was in Pittsburgh.

Once the realization hit, and I really gave it some thought, I realized that I had never intentionally grieved for what I had left behind.  I had closed the doors, packed up my things, and moved on, never giving myself the opportunity to say goodbye, or acknowledge, all that I was giving up.  But just because I hadn't intentionally grieved the loss, didn't mean that grieving wasn't happening.  It was, just at a subconscious level that was slowly, but surely, draining my energy, consigning me to that netherworld between happy and unhappy, entirely without my knowing, and certainly without my permission.

And I think because I hadn't said goodbye, hadn't acknowledged that I was leaving it behind, I had been holding on to the image of who I was, and how things used to be at The Place for Reiki, and trying to figure out how to be that same person and do that same kind of work here in Nashville.  The problem is, I'm not that person anymore and The Place for Reiki doesn't exist except in my memories.  In order to move forward, I have to let go of what was, acknowledge the end of all of that, and allow myself to become whoever I'm supposed to be on this next part of my journey.

The Place for Reiki was a container that gave me a space to become the person I needed to become back then, the person I would eventually need to be in order to make this move to Nashville.  And just like I had to leave my job at Holy Family completely to make room for The Place for Reiki and the person I became there, I had to recognize that it's now time to intentionally leave behind the way things were in Pittsburgh, in order to make room for whatever is coming in Nashville.

To formalize the process, to make it more real for myself, I decided to write a letter to The Place for Reiki, and to the essence of who I was there, not just to say good-bye, but to express my gratitude for all that happened in that space, and during that time.  As I wrote, the words came easily, as did the tears, and although much of what I wrote was not a surprise at all, giving myself permission to grieve the loss, to acknowledge it, to own it, brought up other things that were connected to that loss that I didn't even realize were connected.

It was a very powerful, very cleansing, very freeing experience, and when it was over, I could feel the difference in myself.  Yes, I felt lighter, but I also felt looser!  I hadn't realized it, but my whole body had been tense and tight for a very long time.  But until it wasn't anymore, I hadn't realized that it was.

To help my body acclimate to the change, I scheduled a second float session.  I may have zoned out again, although I'm not aware of doing so.  Instead, it seemed as if I was aware of every breath that I took for the entire time, and my body jumped and jerked, releasing and realigning as a result of the emotional work that I had done.  Some of the muscle releases were so subtle that I didn't even feel them physically, but instead felt the movement of the water that occurred when the release took place and the muscles shifted position.

I'm not sure what to expect now.  I don't have a clear idea of the next step to take, but since I've only just completed the work, perhaps it's too early to expect that I would.  I know transition is a process, and processes take time, so I'm going to be gentle with myself, and patient, and see where the process leads.

I do know that I'm grateful for the black and orange butterfly that showed up and guided me to Rev. Denise's class, and I'm grateful that she listened to the Guidance that lead her to ask the question I needed to hear.   And I'm especially grateful that I had the courage to answer the question honestly and to pursue a solution.  Saying goodbye wasn't easy, but it was something I needed to do.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Becoming One with Water

Saturday night I took off all my clothes, got in the shower, washed my hair, scrubbed every inch of my body, and stepped, naked, into a tank filled with ten inches of water saturated with a thousand pounds of Epsom salts. 
 The thing hanging from the top of the tank on the black cord is an emergency call button.

As I crossed the threshold into the 93.5 degree water (the temperature at which your body and the water become one and you can no longer discern a separation between the two) and pulled the door shut behind me, I was enveloped in total darkness and complete silence.  I let go of the door handle and pushed myself into the center of the tank.  As instructed by the owner, I laid back in the water, hands above my head, and let the water support my body.

This is the inside of the tank.  I never saw it until the flash from my camera went off when I took the picture after my session was over.

He told me the hardest part is the first few minutes, because it's something new and we're not used to an environment devoid of light and sound.  We're also not familiar with what it's like to be weightless, and so it's often difficult to allow our bodies to relax completely and trust the water to do what the water can do - support us and hold us up.

Surprisingly, I didn't find that part difficult at all - the floating part.  I've been swimming since I was a child, and one of my favorite parts of being in the water was just floating on my back and letting the water support me. 

The lack of sound and sight was a bit more disconcerting, and yet not unnerving.  I couldn't see a thing, and the only sounds initially were the gentle sloshing of the water as I slowly moved my arms and legs, acclimating myself to the sensation of total weightlessness in this black void, and the sound of my own breathing, which seemed inordinately loud. At first I thought I must have been breathing really heavily, and then I realized that it was the lack of any other sounds in the environment that made my own breathing sound so loud.  And then as I relaxed into the experience, I realized I could hear another sound - the beating of my own heart.

It took a while to get used to hearing my breathing and my heart beat (I have no idea how long.  In that environment I lost track of time.), but eventually even those sounds faded into the background. 

Then it was time to attend to my thoughts, which were a chaotic jumble: thoughts about being in the tank of course, but old memories, current concerns, faces of family and friends, wondering if this might take me to a deeper level of consciousness that might allow me to 'see' God, or experience the Divine in a more intense, more personal way.  Some were so fleeting they passed through with only the faintest of awareness, and others lingered until I forced my focus back to my breath.  I did find myself wondering if I could really do this for ninety minutes, which was the length of the session I had scheduled. 

And then I was gone.  I don't know if I fell asleep, or zoned out, or left my body.  And I didn't realize I was 'gone' until I came back.  I didn't come back with a start, feeling disoriented or confused.  Just all of a sudden I was once again aware that I was in the tank, and also aware that for a while, I hadn't been aware.

I stretched, and my fingers felt like they needed to pop, so I cracked two of my knuckles, and in that silence, it sounded like two champagne corks popping.  As I stretched, the skin on my stomach felt tight, and when I touched it, I felt the crustiness of the salt that had dried on my skin.  After my initial submersion into the water, once I turned over and laid back, the buoyancy of the water caused portions of my body to be above the water line, and while I was 'gone', the water had evaporated and left a crust of dried salt behind.

The next thing I noticed was a stirring in my bladder, and although I knew I could leave the tank to go the bathroom and then get back in, since I didn't know  how long I'd been immersed, I didn't want to get out with only a few minutes of the session left if I could wait it out.   And then I heard the music that signaled the end of my float session.

Having been weightless for ninety minutes, I found it challenging to get my arms and legs to move appropriately to put me in position to open the door to the tank.  I wondered briefly what would happen if I couldn't open the door.  But with a little extra concentration and effort, I pushed the door open and very slowly exited the tank.

I felt very heavy, and moving was an effort.  I took another shower to wash off the salt, and as I moved around to dry off and dress, re-acclimating to the force of gravity, I noticed, as my movements returned to normal, that I was more flexible than before my time in the tank.  I could bend my knees, and bend at the hip easier, and I didn't have any pain or discomfort in my body at all.  I couldn't remember the last time I felt like that.

I also felt very calm and peaceful, rested, and yes, drained. But in a good way, like I would have been content to just sit and do nothing for awhile, which is actually what I did in the waiting area, before I got in my car and drove home.  And that night I slept very deeply, and woke up the next morning still free of pain.  Today my body still feels better than it did before my float.  I also feel a deeper sense of commitment to the plan of action that I've set for myself, and it was easier to motivate myself to get an early start today, rather than languishing in bed after the alarm went off.  All in all, I like the results.

Float tanks, or sensory deprivation tanks, as they used to be called in the 70's, aren't anything new.   What is new, is that they are becoming more and more accessible to regular folks like you and me so that we can benefit from the experience. 

Research shows that after 30-45 minutes of floating, our brains begin producing theta waves, which are responsible for that state between waking and sleeping, that most people are only able to access after years of deep meditation practice.  Floating naturally increases the amount of dopamine and endorphins in your system, which boost your mood and enhance your sense of well-being, responses that can last for days after a session.  Floating helps to relieve chronic pain and stress, and when our bodies aren't fighting gravity and taking in a lot of external information, they have a lot of extra resources available to use for other things.  Many people report experiences of great creative and personal insight after floating.

For myself, the greatest benefits have been the deep sense of relaxation and the reduction in physical pain and discomfort.   But they say that the more often you float, the more profound your results may be.

I've scheduled two more sessions.  I'm hoping for some of those ah-ha moments of deeper insight and  greater meaning, something I think would be very helpful as I move forward and work to figure out where I'm going and what my life is supposed to look like next.  But I'm also proud of myself for trying something different, something that I've wanted to try for forty years, something that took me outside of my comfort zone.  Because when you're naked in the dark, surrounded by silence, floating in a tank of water and completely alone, it's like nowhere else you've ever been, except perhaps in the womb, and who remembers that?