Let me tell you a tale of awakening...
During the days around the Spring Equinox, 1995, while lying in a hot tub under a cool and clear northern CA sky, I was gently pulled into a spontaneous process (uninvited and not orchestrated by me) around which I was lucid throughout; a process that I eventually understood as an initiation into the heart of the Goddess/Earth-Based Tradition. Having had no experience with this tradition before this fateful evening, I lacked any internal point of reference for it. Simultaneously, I was aware, from the beginning, that it fell into the category, it appeared, of the mystical.
Through this experience and the arduous teachings that followed, I learned to turn inside for solace and freedom from the tortures that the mental body is so adept at creating. Going inside; this is the critical piece. The comfort, the salve for my suffering was, and is, found by turning inward; but not without great willingness on my part to surrender to the processes that were pulling me there. In the next three or four years, I became quite familiar with and even comforted by the cycles of mystical initiation into the way of the goddess: birth, growth, death, regeneration. Over time I learned to move into and through these cycles as they presented themselves to me in various contexts. Quickly I figured out that to resist was futile; this kind of awakening is a gift; not something to be discarded or ignored, (as if that was even possible.) Through ritual and ceremony, writing, wailing, drawing and moving my body, I supported myself, lent a loose structure to an otherwise amorphous and profound experience. Those first years of this new relationship were a concentrated and nearly unyielding process where I was rather consumed with all that was changing within me. It became clear that there were no external answers or paths outward that would even come close to the healing and learning that was taking place. The jig was up; the answers aren't out there in a job or a person or financial bracket; they're not in a substance or a particular role or idea. Because of my willingness to stay with my challenging processes as they came up, I moved them to the point of resolution. As the inner material came up, (birth) I was able to engage it, explore it, experience it, (growth) then release it, (death) and settle into the eventual peaceful and ecstatic states that would follow (regeneration.) When I would drop in, the container never felt endless beyond my comfort; never too much space. I was and am repeatedly rather amazed by the massive expanse of the inner landscape. If I play with my breath or interact with a place of tension in my body (allowing a fuller breath to meet that tension) the 'space' into which I can energetically drop opens up and I experience the expansive self. My capacity for being in my depth and breadth has grown over the years. It has become clear to me that the only limit to the depth of this wild and wonderful internal expanse is oneself.
The initial days became, weeks, then months and eventually years (and now decades.) While lucid and tracking all of it, in my effort to understand what was happening to me, I wrote. These writings provided the structure I needed (because the false structures I had created over my lifetime were the purview of my personality; small and limited by definition, and were therefore being stripped away.) Writing became the external expression of the wild and often tumultuous processes I was faced with, and it helped me to continue living my life amidst these grand and often unexplainable internal movements that would require my tending. What began as a gentle rebirthing in that hot tub, became years of undoing and remaking; shapeshifting of a sort. Anything I identified with that wasn't reflective of my true nature, eg., my self beyond this personality, was up for grabs. My identity was shifting radically as the structures and ideas I had come to live by just didn't have the seduction they once had. It was terrifying, actually, to feel my identity dissolving in this way before I had clarity for what was coming to replace it. What was replacing it was this well of loving kindness, "a mother's true heart" I wrote in 1996 and I welcomed her most comforting and elegant container. I came to rely on this place as steady and indestructible; my emerging home; the unwavering presence that gave me the motivation to carry on and allow my known identity and limited thinking to fall away over and over.
Driven to track and follow this unfolding, amidst my fears and grief for all that I was called to release, I returned again and again to the seemingly endless well of love and utter safety. While in this liminal space, I traversed love and terror as a matter of course. Over time, as I saw the reliability of this safe and loving container, the fear diminished, thankfully. As I anchored in this greater understanding and experience, the more at home I felt. I was writing consistently as a way of remaining anchored in my human life while doing my best to integrate what was happening. (You can read some of my devotional poetry from that time here, if you'd like.)
Much of what poured through my pen did so then in those initial years; dictated from the deepest place within me and expressing poetically the nature, both the beauty and the fear, of what I was experiencing. It was a homecoming; home to a place I never want to leave. My place. Your place, too. For us all; familiar to me as ancient echoes calling me home. Home; a place that, until that period in my life, I didn't even know existed. I was the scribe for much of it, really, and the prose and poetry that came out of me at that time served to bring structure to the otherwise watery and boundless experience I was having of my life.
Why is this important and how is it related to my work?
Somewhere along the way, as my life has unfolded, it has become clear to me that I am inspired by transformation on a mass scale and am driven toward this more than any other impulse I've witnessed in myself. The human condition interests me greatly and how we each 'do life' is fascinating. The personal myths; the meaning-making each of us draw on to explain our lives and relationships are as varied and unique as each of us. We learn to make sense of things based on the storylines that have their genesis in the people and events that defined and shaped our early lives.
Life is often hard. Our beginnings can be full of great suffering and sometimes it seems there is no route to healing. Having had this initiation experience and being called to drop in more deeply than I ever had up to that point, I was faced with gripping fear that I never knew was within me. Thankfully, I had the container of my beloved to 'hold the space' for me as I allowed myself to engage these processes to their 'finish' resulting in freeing me from their grip. This level of release and liberation, the continuous unfolding into the truth of who I am, saved me from the trappings of my mind and from the emotional contractions embedded within me. This immense and limitless container has allowed me to go into my own suffering with the steady hand of my internal guide; always there, consistently loving and accepting me even when I struggled greatly to do so for myself. Shame, terror, anxiety were all there. And every single time I did the work to move through the debris of my own thinking and limited understanding, I was eventually met with states of ecstasy, peace, and my own expansive nature.
I began to identify a deep empathy within me for myself and also for you in the recognition that we have become so utterly separated from this place; our home and our birthright. The grief is immense. In my experience of all of this was (and is) the recognition that this place within me; this expansive and liberated haven, beyond the stories I had woven and those woven for me, beneath the entanglements of personality and the misunderstandings by which I was living--THIS place in me is also your place within you. It doesn't make sense that it's only true for me or for a select few who have these mystical experiences. What we have in common is much more significant here than what makes us different.
So while it is highly likely you won't hear me talk about this personal experience much, it informs me as a person, a therapist, a singer, an educator and I am rarely without this awareness in me. While I draw on it inevitably, I don't lead with it overtly.
Why does this awareness matter? Because the mass disconnect from this place inside; from this self beyond all selves is the cause of all the suffering we see around us, I'm sure of it. And it is in this repair, this return to identification of and experience of our true nature, that we will, collectively, heal.
I learned over the years that it's all about identity; where we 'hang our hat' so to speak. Where we anchor in our awareness of self has everything to do with how we feel in our lives and how our lives feel to us. What this means for me is that while the stories of my life matter, greatly even, they are not reflective of who I am, ultimately, in this way that I am describing here. This understanding allows me to move with greater fluidity in and out of the conflicts or challenges, designed by the personality and present in my living at any given time. There is less of a need to defend. Less need to control. More acceptance. Less self-criticism. More impulse toward acceptance and allowing as a way of welcoming my experiences. This is liberation! And I am committed to continuing to cultivate and deepen this ability in me (and in anyone interested) for the rest of my life while I meet and go beyond my various emotional processes, remembering who I actually am rather than thinking that I am who my personality has constructed. None of that is true. I know this now and can welcome and cultivate this place while I live the various roles of my life and heal the various wounds of my past and present whenever they show up. If this place is alive in me as the only real resource that has met and healed my wounding and limited understanding, it is also accessible and alive in you.