Sunday, October 30, 2011

Inviting Everything In ...

O  n  e   H  u  n  d  r  e  d. by Tomasito.!
O n e H u n d r e d., a photo by Tomasito.! on Flickr.
There is a meditation from my Healing teacher that I have been working with, entitled: "Inviting Everything In".

The intention is to welcome all parts of ourselves: the small frightened parts; the courageous parts; the selfish parts; the devoted parts; the parts that are "standing guard".

This meditation has been working me more than I am practicing it.

As the day unfolded, I found myself getting increasingly indecisive, which then resulted in me getting very irritated and cranky. I couldn't even decide when I was going to take a shower or what to have for lunch ! I kept leafing through the AA meeting list book and unable to pick a meeting or a time. Finally, I moved into the shower and I was on the verge of tears as I lathered my hair, feeling like something in me was cracking. I made a simple salad for lunch because I couldn't figure out anything else even though there were a variety of potentially interesting options.

I got on my usual Sunday call with two heaing classmates and I shared exactly where I was at. This led to a discussion about the meditation and inviting everything in. One of my classmates noted how she's aware of how I had been trying to "let go" of some of the rigid ways I've adopted and always needing to have my days filled up. The other classmate saw my indecisiveness as a friend, a teacher --offering me an invaluable lesson about being unstructured. Just then the insight slammed into me: I had been viewing the part of me who was indecisive as a difficulty, a nuisance, something that I wanted to get rid of. Right there in front of me was the real trouble-maker: my own resistance. I didn't see this part for the gift that it was. I was holding onto a story about worthiness tied to being productive, busy, having my day planned out. The inability to make decisions was a comfortable chair being pulled out for me to rest and relax into -- to not have to rush to somewhere or to do something.

As the discussion went on, another insight bubbled up. It was about being a kid and not being able to go out to play with the other kids until I completed my chores. When I was tall enough to reach the sink, I was directed to do dishes. And then vacuum. Eventually, mow the grass and use the hedge clippers. I, like my mother then, had to accomplish a number of tasks to have some assemblance of order, control and even worth. I had a memory during this discussion about really wanting to go out with friends on their bikes on a sunny summer day and my mother having me vacuum first. I tried to rush and she followed me and pointed the tip of her sneaker at the pieces of dirt I missed. I was fuming inside and ran the vacuum right into her foot on purpose ! She was furious and immediately forbid me to leave the house and I was banished to my room for the day. I stewed and cried and wished her dead.

The part I invited in today was the one in me that stands guard and is quite fearful -- an inner tyrant. I had her make friends with the indecisive one who showed up earlier who was requesting that she "Back the fuck off !". My classmates and I had a belly laugh at the tyrant's expense !

I got off the call without a plan for the rest of the day. I walked the dog, then surfed the Net looking at car reviews and interesting boots. I read. I really wanted to go to an AA meeting and flipped open the book randomly and chose one that was in another county - about a half hr away. On my way there, I got lost. I stayed the course and trusted my sense of direction. It literally just "popped up" ! It made me smile inside.

It was a Step meeting and tonight was Step 4. I almost burst out in a fit of giddiness at the absolute rightness of being there and getting exactly what I needed. "A fearless and searching moral inventory" translates to: "Inviting Everything In". I still can't stop smiling ...

Inside-Outside Confusion

Time by
Time, a photo by on Flickr.
My body is in its preparation for dropping temps and putting on sweaters and acclimating to autumn. My body became quite confused yesterday, as the outside plummeted toward the freezing mark and snow and sleet pelleted my windshield. It was only October 29th !

I look out my window today and I see the familiar colors of changing leaves AND snow on the rooftop ! Once again, my inside that says it's October 30th and it's Fall cannot seem to make sense of the white coating that does not match.

I had a well-spent hour on the phone yesterday with someone about the very nature of inside-outside confusion. How in our alcoholic thinking, especially those of us who grew up in homes where behavior by family on the outside didn't make sense to our insides (i.e. what we expected those family members to be doing). In my family, the greatest place of confusion was to look outwardly at faces that didn't match mine when I still believed that the tall people around me were my real parents. I would later learn that I was adopted and this was no longer as confusing, but the aspect of believing it for the better part of my 1st decade of Life would turn out to be more disturbing to my system than I'd ever imagined. For the person I was speaking with, brothers are expected to behave in a variety of ways toward their sisters except they are most definitely NOT supposed to have sex with their sisters. Especially when the brother is 15 and the sister is 11. The inside becomes terrified and deeply confused about what is happening on the outside.

These kinds of lasting body-memory experiences are hard to shake loose as adults. For many of us, it fucks us up. We translate this confusion to every scenario in our lives that doesn't make sense in our interior. The woman I spoke with yesterday is not able to trust most men, even as someone in her early 40's, because of the inside-outside confusion created by the experience with her brother. Every action that seems "misleading" on the outside by a man is instantly translated on the inside for her as a potential threat of harm. She is recognizing this and doesn't know how to break the cycle. We spoke about just having the confusion in our awareness is the first step.

The greater aspects of my inside-outside confusion had to do with watching my father arrive home in one way and then once he started putting the amber liquid from those brown bottles down his throat, he was a completely different way ! And this could change from hour to hour, night to night. I thought Daddies were supposed to pick up their little girls and put them on their laps and talk to them or brush their hair like I saw on TV. My inside longed for this kind of daddy but the one I saw on the outside had no interest in being near me. He cuddled those bottles close to him and that was the only thing getting that kind of contact. He never even got within 4 feet of my mother, his wife. The ones on TV would hug and kiss and say "I love you". I never saw this. I believe this is why I clung so tightly to teachers I had because I was desperately trying to find a match on the outside for what I craved on the inside.

My relationship with men, however, didn't result in mistrust later in life. In fact, quite the opposite happened: I trusted them so much that I allowed myself to be used in every way by them -- mostly sexual. Perhaps the confusion got translated like this: my inside longs for closeness to a "Dad" and even though I am not sexually attracted to men (and clearly a lesbian), I'm going to be promiscious with men to try to meet that inside need. My inside longing to be loved did not match my outside actions of surrendering my body to the gender I had no desire for. And didn't even like sex with !

It is good to have clarity today.  As a kid,  I was powerless to the actions of the outside.  As an adult,  I'm still powerless to the actions of the outside,  yet the difference is that I know what I want on the inside and I seek that for myself in my outside actions. And when these actions aren't aligned, I get the signal: "Houston, we have a problem." It's a pretty cool thing. My healing and recovery work, my connection to God has offered me this gift.

The roof still has snow on top as I look out on this October morning and for now, I tell my inside that sometimes the elements in Nature line up like this. Maybe just to shake things up a bit ! But not to confuse our insides with the outside. We humans do that all on our own.

Friday, October 21, 2011

No More Cross to Bear ...

Crossing the Vineyards by Vainsang
Crossing the Vineyards, a photo by Vainsang on Flickr.

A thread of an awareness about a particular Truth got illuminated today in a healing session with a dear friend/classmate.

"I don't have to save all the retarded people."

In fact, I don't have to like all of them or work with them.

I have had a gnawing at my interior around inauthenticity. It began, actually, last week when I was illustrating the use of a Genogram and using my own family tree as the example. On my dad's side of the family, there is extensive alcoholism and depression. Except in 1 person: my aunt Judy. Her primary "flaw" was being born with mental retardation. My students asked me: "Do you think there's a relationship to the alcoholism and depression and the fact that a child was born into this family that perhaps brought stigma or shame?" Fantastic question. I had never connected up these pieces before.
I responded: "I don't think it's necessarily linear - meaning one caused the other - but I suspect that there is a relationship in the co-arising of this stressor (my aunt's disability) and the other patterns."

And then, as I drove home from seeing clients at a new agency this week, I feel this place of falling out of integrity, not living in my Truth arise. This is how I begin my healing session today. I got into this field, working with people who have developmental disabilities, out of an affinity for my aunt Judy AND from a place of wanting to rescue. I watched kids make fun and bully her in the neighborhood. I witnessed the maltreatment of her by my grandfather and grandmother, my Uncle and at times, even my own father. I never understood fully, until today, about this burden I had been carrying -- a duty, a sense of moral obligation to advocate and protect people with developmental disabilities. Perhaps because I couldn't save my family from the dirty secret of my Aunt Judy. Or the even dirtier secret of all the hidden alcoholism.

There is a guise of goodness, upstanding citizenship because of doing work with these "special needs people". Hell, it was what I hid my own alcoholism behind ! And, I am increasingly more aware that this is no longer the cross I need to bear. I don't want to abandon people with disabilities completely AND I do want to be clear about which folks I no longer desire to work with and cannot help. I don't want to be with people who wreak of urine. Or who pick at their legs til they become grossly infected. Or who bang their heads on pavement. Or who drool profusely. I am no good for them ! I want to engage with the folks who can -- there is something very alive in this for me and THIS is what feels true. I can no longer pretend to be the "friendly visitor", feigning a compassionate face while cringing and nauseous on the inside.

There is tremendous freedom in the allowance of the Truth that is staring me in the face.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


The Golden Voyage by adrians_art
The Golden Voyage, a photo by adrians_art on Flickr.
The unfolding of my snake dream is quite astounding.

Over the course of a couple of days after the reptile offered its guidance, I realized that what was here for me was much larger than me ... it was turbulence and chaos of my surroundings that I began to become sensitive to. This ranged from controversial correspondence among colleagues at work to video equipment malfunctioning to traffic gridlocks. My irritation level was rising and my ego thought it was now in charge.

In a highly frustrating traffic detour on my way home from work on Thursday, I receive an unexpected call from my ex. For a few seconds, in between rings, I quickly churn: "What the hell does she want? Fuck! I don't wanna talk to her !" And, in a split second after that mini hissy fit, the snake is right here, insisting that I pick up. I listen to good orderly direction and I do.

After brief small talk, my ex tells me that she has called to make amends. Some things she hadn't said to me previously. I am dumbstruck. She apologizes for abandoning me in our relationship, for being emotionally unavailable, for being secretive. I sit silently, my heart opening in awe, and she asks: "Are you still there?" I reply: "I am quite here; I am simply receiving you." She is relieved. We chat more and she shares news about a former mutual friend's recent diagnosis of stage 4 liver cancer and asks about our dog (the one I have custody of!). Before we're about to hang up, that pesky serpent is slithering by my ear and I listen again. There is an opportunity here for me to also make an amends that I had not previously. The growing irritation and story-making of the week has brought me to this moment. I say: "I did not get to say to you that I was very rigid and critical of you in our relationship. I didn't allow you to be exactly who you are. And for that, I am sorry." I hear her crying softly. She tells me how healing this is. I concur.

The allowance of everything to have a place, to have a right to exist, to be felt and named offers tremendous freedom from control and from fear. I can be more of who I am because I am letting others be more of who they are.   In order to do this,  I have to listen deeply,  with all of me.  And follow each thread of guidance,  trusting where it will take me.

THIS is the illumination.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Serpent Smarts

I had a dream last night that I was face-to-face with a colorful snake; I originally thought it was a coral, but after some research online, I found this photo of a Kingsnake which most accurately depicts the one in my dream.

I had a contraption that was much like the hand-held garbage pickers that people use who clean up street trash for a living and I used this to choke the snake right at the base of its head, aware that I didn't want its poison.
I am not actually sure that I killed the snake, but I do know that I experienced a fearlessness that I have not typically had with THE nemesis of all of my phobias !

Some time after this dream, I was woken by the force of my own inner God-voice, my wise sage-- "Tiferet" is the name used in Kabbalah. The voice was more like an annoyed tenant with a Brooklyn accent: "C'mon ! Get your ass up and listen to me ! I'm takin to you !" I sat straight up. What got illuminated for me was a series of conversations and events in which I dismissed the red flags, the wise inner knowings. How often I deny or quickly bypass the Reality of situations as a defense strategy. The snake dream was a direct link to this experience. In animal medicine, not only is the snake about shedding the old and bringing in the new, but its presence is also about wisdom.

I was guided this morning to talk with my sponsor and then a trusted healing classmate. More was revealed for me. How I still don't fully trust I can hold the Truth of what is here and how my "story maker" steps in (a guise of the ego I suspect) and taints the opportunity to uncover the real meaning, what is larger than just the parts of what is in front of me.

Something big is looming here for me and perhaps for those close to me. I am excitedly anxious. In this moment, I have been challenged by my classmate to let all the pieces come alive and to breathe into all that I am feeling and sensing from the painful and fearful to the wildly passionate.

I am shedding my skin. Gotta listen within. And get me some serpent smarts.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Live Every Day Like You Got a Brain Tumor

Jump! by TGKW
Jump!, a photo by TGKW on Flickr.
I have a new friend -- a friend and work colleague of healing classmates -- who has an inoperable brain tumor. I get posting notices almost every day from her online journal. She lives every single day to its fullest potential, celebrating nearly every moment, regardless of its seeming insignificance to the outside world.

i just read her recent post and she was rejoicing and shouting on the proverbial mountain top about the fact that she had her wig trimmed, got to see her kids off to school, and had extra time to spend with her husband.

I am taking notes and a getting a lesson here.

Do I wish for a brain tumor ... Oh Hell No ! Do I want to embrace every nugget of my Life and not let even the smallest things pass by --- YES! I want that.

Last night, I sat having a wonderful cup of coffee with a sponsee who is striving to let go of anger and irritation. She re-visits Steps 3-7 on a regular basis because her defects rear their cranky selves often. And, the great thing is she is catching herself earlier and making different choices in what she acts on. We laughed aloud at her foibles and her successes. And I want to be there, receiving her. We go on to an AA meeting and I am pleasantly surprised that yet another sponsee is there and she's the one sharing her story. Full of grace and free of shame. She embodied her sobriety and I was overcome with joy in having watched her struggle and fiercely resist this program and admitting she is an alcoholic. I sat next to a guy I adore and a woman I used to see at a meeting I no longer attend. I thought about how former Friday nights were spent alone and isolating and how I have a family and a home to go to anytime I need and want. As I arrived home, I got to spend a few minutes on the phone in connection with my sweetie and hear about her meeting and experience a shared gratitude for our individual recovery paths. And then I watched my Phillies in game 5 of the playoffs and unfortunately they couldn't pull out any runs to surpass the 1-0 lead held over them. The better team won. And I could embrace that too.

I can't assume I get another day on earth, so I better get good and awake loving this one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fire in the Belly

yo yo
check it out
gonna scream
gonna shout
got fire in the belly
got fire in the belly

chantin til I drop
expressin til I pop
no restin for the ambitious
feed my soul
give it all that's nutritious

wanna write like a
yeah that's right
like a motherfucker

don't wanna drink
just a sip of those thoughts
that I think
spit out what's no good
my mind's a dangerous 'hood

lettin go of resentments
don't want them pilin up
like pup tents in
my head or my heart
everyday's a fresh start

get down on my knees
thankin God
for my breath, for the day
that I got

right before me
is all I have wanted
nothin to search
nothin hunted

I got a fire in my belly
a flamin blaze in my belly

goin out to live this life
this IS my only life ...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Holding Light Around Another ...

hold me pls...

I went to an AA meeting last night where I spoke a couple of Sat's ago.  It is a meeting whose membership is often very blue collar,  rough-around-the-edges,  yet very REAL.   As some say in the rooms,  it's a place where "they keep it green".    People are not hesitant to share what is really going on,  like the details of how seduced they became by a thought of a drink or how they have made themselves crazy with their alcoholic thinking.

One woman,  who I've never seen before,  shared how she's been in AA now for a little over a year and how the pink cloud is long gone.  She feels as dissatisfied in the meetings as she did in the bar,  so a drink is looking pretty good right now.  She questioned the suffering of the world,  if God actually exists and what the hell is there to be grateful for and please don't anyone tell her to be thankful for her breath or she's gonna punch you out.   I believe she was quite serious about that threat too !

Normally after a meeting like this,  I would exit quickly and head to my car.   I stayed and I waited to talk to that woman who shared.   I thanked her for being so honest and for naming exactly where she is.  Her response to me was:  "So what do I do now?  Is this all there is?   How can there be a God when so many people are in pain, including me?"  I had no answer,  just a nod,  a slight smile,  and an enormous light emanating from my being to hers.   I finally did say to her this:  "These questions you have are so alive!  Stay here and then see what happens!"   She gave a little smile back and then asked me to walk outside with her so she could light up a cigarette.   I knew deep inside that if she's asking questions of God and God's actions,  then she is absolutely in relationship with God.  She just doesn't see that right now.   Should I say this to her?   I wait awhile as she smokes.  A couple more people stand with us and they smoke too.   I usually have no tolerance for this,  yet this time I just adjust myself and back up a few feet so I don't get consumed by the fumes.   Others tell her that they relate to her and how the 1st year or so is hard and that it gets easier.   She's having trouble taking it in and then gives herself an exit.  Many of us tell her to keep coming back and try new meetings,  meet new people.  She yells back:  "I think I will!"  

As we all begin to head to our cars,  a woman I see at a couple other meetings walks with me.  She normally has a scowl on her face and appears very unapproachable.   We stop near our cars and she says to me:  "I like listening to you.  You seem really connected to God."   I am taken aback.   She goes on:  "It was hard for me to hear tonight how the speaker was suicidal and then 2 others spoke about that too.   You know my husband was the one in our fellowship who shot himself last year."  My heart sinks.  I feel sick inside ... not because she's sharing this,  but because I never knew that she was his wife.   It happened close to this time last year and many of us were shocked at the news.   We were told that he left behind a wife and a son who were both in AA.    I never knew it was her.  Everything came together in a flash and I understood now what must have been going on inside and how I judged her from the outside.   She continued to talk and it started to rain lightly and she asked if it was too much and I said  "No, not at all"  and she poured out her guts.  She told me of how they met and how he began to dabble in prescription meds after a back injury.   And then came the psych hospitalizations.  And then thoughts of suicide.  She never thought he would carry it out.   She was the one to find him and she recalls calling her sponsor and how she was brought to a meeting that very night.  As she spoke,  I saw her strength and all that she'd been carrying.   It was she who initiated an intervention for her son and now he's a thriving member of AA.    And she continues to have faith.   Amid all of this tragedy,  she said that while she could relate to the other woman who shared,  she's never questioned God's presence and plan for her.   She said she'd pray for that woman.   I was awestruck by the end of our conversation.   We hugged and then parted as the rain got harder.

This is what we do in AA and as compassionate human beings:  we hold the light around another until they can shimmer on their own like the stars that they are.