Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Alive in spite of myself

I took a brief shamanic journey yesterday at the request of Sheila Pearl, my life coach and coaching trainer. The topic at hand was to think of a significant situation in my life and find the gifts in it. I had already found so many gifts from the event I brought up, it seems like there's nothing left to find, but all things have so many layers to them, we can always find new meanings and new purposes if we look again. The event I brought up was of a period in my life where I hit "rock bottom". I'll go into it more, because not everyone has been to rock bottom. I took a shamanic journey back to my rock bottom. If you've experienced rock bottom it may be very different from mine. Or it might be the same. Please share in the comments! My brief Middle World journey back to Rock Bottom yesterday: I had no trouble finding my Rock Bottom -- since Sheila and I were actively talking about the journey I had taken there, it was palpable, just within reach. I closed my eyes, and drumless, only my heartbeat and my breath there to take me to the otherworld. But I often walk with one foot in each world. Only a slight twist of my inner eye, and I was there. It was a dark place. But not the dark of void. It smelled of loam, of rich earth of the forest floor. It was a deep vertical shaft, a pit, and only the very barest hint of light like your eyes at 3 am could barely pick out objects in a pitch black room. I could feel, touch, and faintly see the materia* laying in the bottom of this earthy shaft. It was not rocks, it was fertile soil, disintegrating wood, nitrogen rich, nutritious and dark and oh-so-ready to bring forth life. The ether hummed in this place with the pain, the loneliness, the crying, the tears, the torn stuff of the soul that I had lost there, the possibilities so limited in this narrow space. I wrote about it, "At the bottom there is a richness of emotion of feeling of exquisite negative fodder." When you're at the bottom there's only one way to go: up. "In depths of pain and despair we can fuel our return to the fullness and possibilities of a renewal of life & positive energies," I continued writing. But there reliving my moments in this pit with the clarity of the Shamanic experience, I realized what I had done with myself. I didn't climb my way out. I didn't claw my way with bloody torn fingernails. I gathered the fuel. I set it on fire -- a mystical blaze of energy and renewal. I took a long time to rebirth myself. So I wrote, "Like the phoenix, I simmered in the ashes of a ruined life -- alive in spite of myself. And with the carcass of love at my feet. It was no instant journey to rebirth & renewal. It was a hard journey." I might explain. I am alive in spite of myself. My journey to Rock Bottom was hard and long. I'd been there, or someplace like it, so many times before that day. But this time it was different. This time, Rock Bottom had taken the life of my lover -- boyfriend, best friend and confidant. I was the sole survivor of a suicide pact. It took 9 years to start to forgive myself, but that is behind me. It is now almost 23 years ago. I've moved on. I'm moving on yet farther. Forgiving and never forgetting. I am not Christian, I do not have conversations with God in a Judeo-Christian sense. He has only graced me with His voice once: I lay in the hospital, in the aftermath. I am only just coming to, raw and open like a bodiless heart laying on a gurney in the ICU. The room has not yet come to me. My whole body is coalescing around me, transparent like the manifestation of a body through a transporter beam. I have the dawning realization that I'm still alive. And I have the utter gall to ask, in the overdose-induced haze and only dawning self-awareness, but with the ever-present, full and overwhelming burden of all my mystical and Shaman gifts at the tender age of 16. In that moment I reached out, bewildered. "Why?" I asked, "I tried so hard. It would have been so much easier to let me go." and He replied, although not quite in words, "You're not done yet." Since then I have spoken with many gods, of many religions. Gods who you can dine with, gods who will massage your back when you are tired, gods who will hug you and hold you when you are weak & cold. I have channeled gods, and I have been given great gifts by them. But that Judeo-Christian God has nothing to say to me after this one day. Perhaps He has no great love of me, if He takes those he loves the most early. Or He loves me most dearly and refuses to face the hard work He has put before me, and in staying His Hand and saying, "Sit! Good dog!" was all He had the heart to give to me. It is clear to me that I am my greatest church, my best temple, and that all the sparkling facets of divinity are free to come and go from my life. That is not enough, but it will do. For a time. My Shamanic journey ends in the present & future tense, so I write, "Arisen and on fire, I dried my wings & soar -- I now lead a flock of phoenixes like geese to ignite a new direction -- to bring the rebirth of the planet -- to give hope & love & healing." The most amazing thing is that without intending to, I realize I've done a spontaneous soul retrieval. It's not recommended to do your own soul retrievals, but it was not my intention and I'm not one to listen to other people's rhetoric & dogma anyway. I understand soul retrievals are very very dangerous territory, but I considered myself very safe in the loving presence of my Life Coach Sheila, and I am so very happy to have another part of my big soul puzzle back. That I spontaneously recovered part of my soul (in the Shamanic sense) explains why I felt wonky when I left. If you're interested in learning more about Soul Loss and Soul Retrieval, I have an article I wrote many years ago on the topic. Thank for for being my Witness. *In Latin, herbals are called materia medica.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Are we causing our nightmares?

"Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. And lo, no one was there." -- unknown

May I coach you?

As individuals we have no control over our national or worldwide economy. Anything causing us to feel out of control is a source of anxiety to us. And anxiety is a perpetual level of fear.

I hear about people afraid to open their statements for investments. I hear about people afraid to part with their money. I hear about people living in fear of the economy.

Fear is an unsubstantial prison warden. When we fear, we shrink into ourselves. We no longer are self-actualized, although we continue to be self-determined. Look at those words, because hidden in them is the crux of the situation.

Actualization is the act of bringing dreams to reality, or in this particular moment, the act of facing reality. Self-Actualization is the realization of the basic human drive to become who and what we want to become, or the act of facing reality in this very moment and being at peace with it. As long as you are running away from your financial reality, you cannot be self-actualized.

Self-determined -- we are all self-determined whether we like it or not. This is the act of determining or causing our own reality. "To be the decisive factor in..." is the dictionary definition I'd like to focus on. We are all the final deciding factor in our own realities. We each have the last say about who and what we are. Are we fearful? Or are we faithful?

So let me say this again: When we fear we are no longer self-actualized, although we continue to be self-determined. When we fear, we impose limitations on our ability to dream & grow. When we fear, we are making ourselves into something fearful. Often, even worse, when we fear we make ourselves into something to be feared. When we fear, we are bringing our fear into reality, but it is the reality of our nightmares, not the reality of our dreams.

I listened to an interview of a financial coach the other day who said (to paraphrase) that running away from our financial reality is only going to attract more financial uncertainty. We can't get money unless we face the current reality of how much money we have. Guilty as accused, I immediately did as he suggested and made my financial map. I split a page into 4 boxes. In one, I put my current debts. In another, I put my current liquid assets & immediate accounts receivable (checks in the mail). In another I put my accounts payable (and in some cases a due date). In the 4th quadrant, where most people would put their investments & large assets (perhaps a home, retirement accounts), I jotted down decisions of where to move my liquid assets to cover bills. My whole financial picture fit on one page. My payables & debts far outweigh my income, but facing that reality is the important part. I'm not going to get out of my current financial conundrum from hiding from it or being afraid to pay the bills. The financial coach in the interview says that people who face their finances every week find that their finances correct themselves within 6 months. I'm prepared to do that, and I am prepared to remove fear from my life.

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place last night. I purchased a book last night: "To Sell is Not to Sell" by Greta Schulz. One small section stands so apart from the others I flipped through so far. It's about our civic duty in the midst of wars, famines, financial hardship. It is the duty of our soldiers to fight. It is the duty of our firefighters to protect. They face overwhelming decisions in-the-moment and simply have to plow ahead and do what they do -- they cannot allow fear to immobilize them. They work to protect, to make secure. And they do not ask a leave of absence simply because they are fighting overwhelming odds, or because they may not live to see it through. In the aftermath of 9/11 Greta was immobilized. To paraphrase: How can business go on when the firefighters are digging through the ashes for survivors (I add, "or breathing toxic fumes that will haunt them for years...."), and our soldiers are being deployed? she asked. How can we do "business as usual" when our country is under attack?

Then a realization came to Greta -- she realized that it is the duty of a firefighter to find the survivors, to fight the blaze. It is the duty of the soldiers to fight for our freedom & to protect our country. Surely they have a healthy fear, but -- to get patriotic and pragmatic both -- it is the duty of the business owner to go back to business as usual, to protect the economy that funds those soldiers, to contribute to the tax base that feeds those firefighters. I will take it one step further: It's the duty of the consumer to continue to purchase services and products (no matter how much more choosy they will be about it) to complete that cycle.

Business must go on. We have a terrific country, and if you're running from financial reality through fear, you are in the way of both the progress of yourself and others. You are contributing to the financial instability of our country. It is your civic duty to purchase goods & services, to provide goods & services, to give this country economic stability. And since we're all self-determined, we must start with ourselves. We each can only change our own outcomes -- that is self-determination. I refuse to buy into the recession: I continue to purchase goods & services.

To allow the fear to control us is a lack of faith. We have a "Chinese menu" of whom we are committing our lack of faith against: God or higher powers, our President, our country, our economic system, our state, county or town, even our children's future employability. To quit spending money is a selfish act against our neighbors, it is entirely about thinking of ourselves and our family first before thinking of the needs of others. And lastly, spend it now because the value of your liquid assets may dwindle further if you don't: what good is holding on to the money? If the money isn't flowing, if people are holding on to their money, there is nothing that can stop the spiral. The only way for our money to keep its value is to keep it circulating, otherwise it's a pile of empty promises & the bad debt our money is backed with, rather than a means of economic exchange.

I face my financial reality, that frees me up to be self-actualized, because to live out my dreams, I must not fear.

I have lived my life by this memorized chant by Frank Herbert, from Dune: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn my inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."