Based on a friend’s referral, I looked up the work of Marnia Robinson on the internet today. While I did not do too much digging, I discovered that Marnia’s work delves into sexuality and relationships. Relationships have been the focus of my writing group’s work for the past 6 weeks. Understandably intrigued, I pulled up a recent interview Marnia gave to a local west coast news program.
As a result of her research and study, Marnia finds that sexuality, while great and necessary for relationship, is not enough to glue it together. Long lasting relationships are characterized by deep bonding similar to the bonding that occurs between mother and infant. Soft caresses, skin to skin contact, sustained eye contact and murmurs of contentment signal the limbic brain that this is a relationship to nourish and creates long-lasting desire.
Another friend this week asked me if in my work as a massage therapist and Reiki master if I had ever encountered a person who I did not want to touch. This is a question that comes up from time to time and it always reminds me of my first night of clinical work at massage school.
Fluttering between nervousness and excitement, I went to greet my client. A middle-aged single woman, she was exceedingly large with heavy rolls of body fat. The massage session was a birthday gift to her from her sister and I told her I was honored to be able to help her celebrate her special day. As we walked to the treatment area, I noted she had that stilted walk of the obese, legs apart to allow for the sway of the low-hanging stomach, arms a bit out to the side to maintain a steady balance.
As this was her first massage, I relaxed a bit knowing she had no benchmark against which to compare my work. I talked her through what the session would entail, and then gave her privacy so she could undress and get on the table.
As I worked with her, I softly explained everything I was going to do, seeking her permission before using any techniques. I inquired about her comfort. She was nervous at first, but I felt her relax and open to the experience.
Near the end of the session, I finished up with effleurage, a soft but firm gliding technique, along her back. She heaved under my hand. I asked her if she was okay and she mumbled yes. As I continued, I suddenly realized she was crying. Again I asked her if she was okay and if she wanted me to stop. But she demurred and I continued on for a bit before bringing the session to a close.
I provided her with tissues and stepped out of the room to give her privacy. I returned a few minutes later with a cup of water for her. I knocked on the door. She gave me permission to enter. Tears were still rolling down her face.
“I can’t let my sister see me like this.” She said. “I don’t know what got into me.”
“Take your time. These are good tears and I think your sister will understand.”
We sat side by side on the table for a few minutes while she composed herself. Then she turned to me and said “may I give you a hug?”
I opened my arms and we embraced solidly and firmly for several minutes.
The next night our instructor asked for feedback on our first night of clinic. All I could say was “It was humbling.
To my friend who asked me the question, I say “all people need loving kindness.”
To Marnia Robinson I say “I agree”.
Did you know that 93% of communication is based on body language and tone of voice? Only 7% of communication is verbal. I picked up this tidbit when I completed the module on effective communication, part of the training for the in-home hospice program. For kicks I decided to check out the impact of the 93% on Saturday.
As I walked down my block, I took note of the sky, the brown spots left by the dogs on the grass, the unhappy flowers on this crisp morning. It felt more like autumn than August. The concrete was stiff and unyielding beneath my squeaky new shoes and I regretted wearing them. I crossed the street to the athletic field and saw a black and white cat stalking a squirrel. The squirrel is an old friend known to me from daily walks, but the cat was new, and I silently cheered the squirrel on as he sped along the top of the fence. Maybe it was my imagination but that squirrel was laughing at the cat’s frustration, unsure of her ability to navigate the fence top.
I pulled up short at the field to watch a rugby game, a sport I had never seen before. I think it was rugby as the players all wore striped shirts with long sleeves and white collars. The ball looked like an ostrich egg, all shiny white and slick. I stood and watched for a few minutes without a clue as to the rules. The men reminded me of a little league soccer game where the kids all run in a clump after the ball. A man in a wheelchair sat outside the fence watching the game. His intent stare and crossed arms indicated to me that he took this seriously and understood what was happening. I thought to ask him to explain the game to me, but I sensed a force field around him and finally walked away.
I continued on. An orange pigeon waddled in front of me and I wondered what kind of toxin the mother must have got into to cause this strange colored mutation. The pigeon strutted. He owned the sidewalk, forcing me to step around him.
When I reached Roosevelt Road, I saw a man walking toward me wearing a floppy clown suit, his stomach bellying out as if a hula hoop was secreted inside the loops of his pants. Like a mime, his shirt was striped black and white, but rather than a red tie around the neck he wore loops of chains and white beads hanging low beneath the triple chin which sported a perfectly formed goatee. His hair really caught my attention. It reminded me of the trees in my old backyard after the ComEd crew came through, hacking chunks away to clear the power lines with no thought of esthetics. His oddity was riveting and I wondered if he looked in the mirror before he left home. But he strolled along with a straight spine and a forceful step. No one would mess with him and I made a point to steer clear.
Arriving at the Green City Market, I immediately sensed something special was going on. Rachel Ray was wandering the outdoor market, a film crew trailing behind. Her bright smile, her laugh, her expansive gestures invited people to rush to her with excitement. People responded to her every welcoming move and I, too, could feel the pull of her energy, how wonderful she was.
I stopped at a vegetable stand manned by teenagers. Part of a city-sponsored gardening project, the kids offered up their produce with shy smiles. There were so many professional farms represented but I was drawn to these kids who beamed with pleasure while I inspected the turnips. The pros had better looking veggies, but the smiles sold me and I filled my bags from the kids’ stand. The young man helping me dropped one of my turnips on the ground and he flushed bright red. He stammered and asked if I would like to pick out another one but I laughed and told him I planned to wash it anyway. Then his ear splitting grin made me laugh again.
Walking back home with my treasures slung over my shoulders, I took deep breaths of the blue sky and warm sun. I felt so good it must have been written all over my face. People, strangers, nodded to me and many said hello. I wondered what it was about my own body language that prompted their greetings. And I thought about my reactions throughout the morning. The crossed arms and hard stare of the man in the wheelchair, the forceful walk and odd clothing of the clown, even the quick strut of the pigeon put me off. But the warmth of smiles drew me in.
After relating a story the other day, a friend said to me that it amazed her how I find importance in the smallest things. I wasn’t sure if I should take that as a compliment or not. But she’s right. I do. I am hyper-sensitive in that way. It could be a double-edged sword I suppose. But I can’t help it; the smallest things go right to my heart.
This weekend I begin my training to provide Reiki treatments to in-home hospice patients. The online training, which I must complete before in-person orientation, includes modules on communication, HIPPA regulations, home visit safety, signs and symptoms of death and the trajectory of illness/the stages of dying.
Another friend said “Why do you want to do this? Why involve yourself with the dying?”
I had no immediate answer. Nothing was on the tip of my tongue. It frustrated me and I wondered why do I want to do this?
I am no stranger to death having experienced the loss of friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, my father and my brother. The hardest funeral was that of a two year old cousin, the oldest person was my great grandfather who lived into his nineties. All felt equally tragic.
Earlier this year I worked with a gentleman, Bob, who was near death. In fact, a week after our session he passed away. Even though I had only met him once, even though we spent little more than an hour together, I cried for him.
When I walked into Bob’s home and met his family I could see the pain and stress of caring for him lining their faces. They looked at me with hope. I sat with them for a time, telling them the most I could do through Reiki would be to give him a few moments of peace and rest.
I entered his small room, shelving and furniture pushed to the walls to accommodate the large hospital bed that dominated the center. The air was antiseptic and the lights were low. Once this had been a large robust man, now thin and wasted. Bob was weak but his voice rattled a response when I said his name in greeting. I explained Reiki to him and asked his permission before proceeding. His moist blue eyes blinked and he nodded his head yes.
I turned on some gentle music, flute over breaking waves. His family hovered, uncertain if they should stay in the room or go. I told them they could take a break for an hour, or if they wished to stay and hold space they were more than welcome to do so. They wandered out of the room but remained close by, curious and protective.
I set intention and offered my prayers as I placed my hands on Bob, cupping his head. Within seconds, he took a deep breath and as he exhaled, tension drained from his body. Drawn to his heart, I moved to the side of the bed and knelt down. Taking his hand in my right hand, I placed my left over his heart. Like soft wax, my hand melted into his heart, it pulled me in flowering under my touch. Compassion flowed and he seemed to shimmer in a soft light.
He spoke softly and his daughter came into the room. She leaned close and heard him whispering greetings to loved ones who no longer were part of the earthly plane. She apologized for her tears, but I told her they were welcome and together we sent energy and compassion to Bob. Finally he fell asleep, his formerly ragged breath even and deep. The next day I called to follow up. His family told me that later when Bob awoke, he asked for me. He felt relaxed and peaceful.
After the session, I refused the money they offered. It wasn’t generosity on my part but rather thanks. The small moment, that brief time I had with Bob may have provided him some relief but it provided me so much more. The tears I shed at his passing expressed both loss and gratitude. As his heart opened, so did mine. The compassion I felt that day from Spirit was compassion for us both. I had a glimpse of a man who had lived a happy, productive life. And I had a glimpse of the loving person within me. I felt honored that Bob had allowed me to share a small part of this most important time.
So I guess I do take the small things to heart. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
1. Walking past the UIC Forum today, I smelled the manure spread in the newly landscaped garden. It reminded me that God is a farmer. She too gives us shit to help us grow.
2. In her book A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman defines happiness as the absence of pain. I think happiness comes when we recognize the value of pain, accept its lesson and thereby overcome it. See #1.
3. I discovered the poetry of Mary Oliver this weekend. What else have I been missing in my life?
4. For the last line of her poem Phillip’s Birthday Mary wrote “You give, and you are given”. Yes.
5. Facebook gave me a suggestion to add a friend. It was an ex-boyfriend and a good reminder I need to purge my gmail contact list.
6. There were six squad cars at the end of my block Friday afternoon. I saw four squad cars at the corner of Roosevelt and Halsted Sunday morning. I do not like this trend.
7. A young man I am acquainted with recently started his own blog to document his spiritual journey. His first post was full of obscenities. I didn’t get it.
8. I was referred to another blog, a daily blog. Some entries are just one profound thought or sentence. This I got. Less can be more.
9. I hope that if someone doesn’t “get” my blog, that they will have the kindness to tell me so I can improve.
10. When I was young I always thought you had to be old to be wise. Now that I am older the wisest people I know are young.
11. I finished reading Jonathan Tropper’s book This is Where I Leave You. It is the story of a man sitting shiva for his father right after he discovers his wife is having an affair. I discovered that emotionally men are not so different from women after all.
12. Often I cleanse the energy of my home, smudging with sage and cedar. But even after that, there is nothing better than a good scrubbing with Murphy’s Oil Soap.
13. As part of the work I am doing in my writing group, I set my intention or vision for the future. It made me realize that there is a soul companion who has been lurking in the background in my dreams. I haven’t seen this person yet but he keeps showing up. In my next lucid dream I will remember to say hello.
Life is sticky. As we move through our days, the dust settles on our skin, the grime adheres to our feet and the unkind word embeds itself in the spirit. The Cherokee Nation has a lovely morning ritual called Going-to-Water. Every day upon rising, they go to the nearest pond, lake or stream and immerse themselves fully seven times to celebrate the seven sacred directions. This is similar to the Christian rite of baptism, but I like the Cherokee idea of a daily cleansing ritual as a means to refresh and celebrate life.
Prompted by the self-improvement work my writing group is doing, I decided to perform a cleansing ritual of my own to release the issues of the past. While I think I have done a pretty good job of forgiving and releasing old wounds in the last few years, those pesky old dark times still creep back in from time to time, like a mosquito that buzzes your ear in the middle of the night. You swat and swat thinking you’ve finally chased it away but just as you resettle back onto the pillow, bzzzt! It comes back. My spirit was in need of a good scrubbing. It was time to get my ego out of my soul’s way.
I prepared my space simply, lighting a candle. I used the candle to light a leaf of sacred sage. Placing the burning sage into a small bowl filled with sweet grass, I held the bowl up and offered my prayer, reciting it out loud, to each of the sacred cardinal directions: East, South, West and North. Then I repeated my prayer to Sacred Mother Earth and offered it up to Father Sky. I closed with the prayer to the direction Within. That night the Great Spirit responded with a dream.
I looked around my dream home. It was not my home but it felt familiar to me, a comforting place surrounded by open fields. My children were happy and playing. A deliveryman knocked and I opened the door. He also was familiar to me as he has visited me in my dreams before. He smiled kindly, gave me a box and said it was a gift for me. Inside the box were very fine bath linens of the highest quality, soft and luxurious. Compelled to take a bath, I brought the children outside to the yard. Under the oak trees stood an old-fashioned bathtub with claw feet, filled to the brim with clear, hot water. The kids played in the yard; they had no interest in the bath.
I placed the open box of linens next to the tub, removed my clothing and stepped into the scented water, sinking up to my chin. I smelled gardenias pure and sweet. Tension drained. I picked up a large bar of soap and began to scrub, first slow then picking up speed. I scrubbed and scrubbed, faster and faster. An inch of skin sloughed off. The hot water seemed scalding against the new skin and after some time I knew it was enough. I stepped out of the tub and wrapped myself in the fine bath linens, silken against my reddened new skin. They fit around me perfectly. The kids were still playing oblivious to my bath. I turned. The water in the tub shocked me. Murky brown, it had the consistency of sticky molasses. Looking at it I felt disgust.
The alarm clock rang. I startled awake with panic. I had to finish this dream! I had to drain the tub! Grabbing the clock, I set it for 20 more minutes then eased back down under the blanket. Breathing into a meditative state, I re-entered my dream.
Everything was as I had left it. I plunged my arm into the tub and pulled the plug. The water drained and to my surprise there was no residue. Both the tub and I were sparkling clean.
The sparkle stayed with me through the rest of that day and continues to spill over into my life. It’s as if my soul is encased in a bubble of light. I feel light. I feel clean. Since then each night I repeat my prayer of release. Each morning I go to water and stand under the shower with thoughts of gratitude to maintain this sacred circle of release. To the Great Spirit I say:
I release my soul from the clutches of my ego and give it the freedom to pursue our potential.
I give my soul my trust and willingly allow it to be my guide.
I accept my soul as my teacher, my companion, and my heart.
I release my soul so that it may truly lead me and be the driving force of my life.
I surrender to my soul so that I may fully know its joy, the joy of a life of purpose, beauty and grace.
I release my soul to love and rejoice in a love that is unconditional, open and without reservation.
I embrace the love of my soul fully.
I surrender to the inner voice knowing it is for my highest and greatest good.
I received some junk e-mail yesterday, nothing unusual about that. I usually hit delete but every once in awhile I do open a piece of junk. Something catches my eye. Yesterday’s e-mail hook was “mind movies” based on the Secret and the Law of Attraction. It all boils down to the power of positive thinking, putting it out there and waiting for the Universe to respond.
The e-mail contained a little video from two folks in San Diego who are promoting mind movies as a way of utilizing the Law of Attraction to manifest and realize desire. For a fee they will produce your mind movie. I am the first one on board with the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking. So I watched a bit of the video.
The host, whose name escapes me (he was that impressive), went to a mind movie client’s home to get her testimonial and the results from her mind movie. As a result of her mind movie, she manifested $7,500 and a new place to live. The money was repayment of a loan to a former boyfriend and the new place to live came about through a referral. As she was not expecting to be repaid and the referral came out of the blue, her mind movie worked.
My first thought was “this is marketing genius!” People want things and they want those things to come to them without effort. That is the great appeal of the Law of Attraction. We write down our goals, we write down our dreams, we write down our visions and we put it out there. I do it all the time. Because people have faith in the power of the universe to fulfill our dreams, the mind movie developers see this as an opportunity to make a quick buck by convincing the general public that they need help to do what they can already do for themselves.
The Law of Attraction, the power of positive thinking, daily affirmations, it is all the same thing. It is prayer. We pray for the things we want and expect the Universe, the Higher Power, whatever you want to call it, to give it to us just because we asked for it. I believe, though, that the Universe helps those who help themselves. I believe that the Universe doesn’t just hand us things on a silver platter. It likes to know that we have a plan of action, that when we put something out there we also put ourselves out there and do the work to attain it. It’s not Burger King where you can place your order and have it your way. The Universe wants to see commitment.
A few years ago, I was in desperate need of a receptionist for our office. I brought in a temporary worker to cover the desk while I conducted interviews for the position. After a month or so, I realized that the temp, Jason, was better than any of the candidates walking in the door. I also understood that this young man did not want to be a receptionist. Jason wanted to be a film maker. So we struck a deal. If he would give me a year’s worth of work at the reception desk, I would be flexible with his time when film opportunities came his way. We both put it out there and were clear about our desires. I needed a good receptionist. He wanted to work in the film industry but needed money to live. What happened?
Jason worked for me for over a year. During that time, he managed to land a part-time job in the evenings teaching film making at Columbia College. He kept his end of the bargain and worked hard. I kept my end of the bargain and gave him flexible hours so he could pursue his film making career. The Law of Attraction worked for us both and finally he was able to afford to make his leap. Together we committed to the plan, we achieved what we wanted, and it was to our mutual benefit.
What do I now wish to manifest? I want to write creatively. And so I write. I write in my job, I write as part of a writing group, I journal and I blog. I made a personal commitment to myself to write and post to my blog twice a week. Even more specific, I made a commitment to post something every Tuesday and Friday. The Universe recognizes my effort and is willing to help me along.
· Saturday rolls around and I start thinking, “what am I going to write for Tuesday?” I scribble out a few paragraphs but they don’t sing to me.
· Sunday morning comes and panic starts to creep in “what AM I going to write for Tuesday?” I open my senses to pick up an insight while I go about my day.
· Morning turns into afternoon. Afternoon turns into evening and I think “Ohmigod, I have writing group Monday and I won’t have time to write my blog. I need to do this now and I’ve got nothing!”
And then the Universe steps in. It sees that I have a desire to write, it knows that I have a plan and that I am committed to that plan. So it sends me a sign….like a piece of junk e-mail about mind movies. Suddenly my mind clears and I connect the dots. I write my piece, I have my say and Tuesday night I post.
And for a brief second, I feel good. I feel accomplished.
And then the edginess starts in again, “What am I going to write for Friday?”
This is beads of sweat on the forehead effort! And that’s okay. Because I know that the Universal Divine Mind is with me and will see me through.
Will I get suckered in and make a mind movie? No way. I already have a direct connection to the Universal Divine Mind, in fact we all do!
The reason I won’t get suckered in is because I have faith. I have faith in Divine Connection. I have faith that whether or not anyone cares to read my words they are healing words for me. I have faith writing makes me a better person. I have faith that by setting goals I will manifest my desire to write. I have faith that whatever my needs and goals may be, I will formulate a plan to achieve them. I have faith the Universal Divine Mind will help me out. That faith is my commitment. And I have faith that the Law of Attraction will work if I have commitment.
From the crest of the Roosevelt Road Bridge, the clouds stretched west layer upon layer, sun bright white tops over slate blue-grey bellies. It looked like the angels had snapped a freshly laundered quilt that rippled across the sky. It reminded me of Georgia O’Keefe’s painting Sky Above Clouds, a simple painting of clouds stretching to a pink horizon.
Standing on the bridge, I edged on tiptoe mesmerized that the painting had come to life. The sky teased me. With a running jump, I imagined stepping high, pulling myself hand over hand onto the misty blanket. Wading from one cloud to the next, I peeled back each layer to climb higher and deeper at the same time. The mystery drew me in. What was behind and above? Where were the exact point of the sun’s kiss and the birth of the wind’s breath? I wanted to lose myself in the clouds until every sense came alive with soft white light. I knew if I could do that I would find my soul.
When I arrived home, I went out on my balcony to catch another glimpse but by that time the wind had scoured the sky. Only a few wisps remained.
Feet firmly back on the ground, I thought how easy it is to get caught up on the treadmill of society’s expectations and standards thereby losing connection to my own needs. My head aches from stress or desire. I don’t know which. Perhaps it is a combination, the stress of desire unfulfilled.
A recent soul work exercise I came across in Caroline Myss’ Entering the Castle is to write down ten of your hidden talents. Not the obvious ones, but rather the hidden secret ones that you are not even aware you have. A few months ago when I attended a training class in integrative breath work as an icebreaker we went around the room exchanging first impressions of each other. One woman said to me “in you I see hidden fire.” And now, in time-delayed synchronicity, Caroline was urging me to find it.
I sat pen in hand looking at the paper for a good thirty minutes. Nothing came to mind. So I started with a list of talents I already know I have hoping it would get the ball rolling.
Organized, calm, good listener, connected to nature, avid reader, pretty fast on the keyboard….a list of ordinary things. Instead of uncovering secrets, however, I jogged a list of things I wished I could do but can’t.
· I enjoy music but can’t play or sing a note (well, I can but trust me you wouldn’t want to hear me).
· Fine art inspires me but my attempts to draw and paint fall short.
· I’m athletic but no star.
· I need a pre-baked frozen crust to make a pie.
· I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Merlot and a Riesling.
It was time to play hide and seek with myself. In a meditative state, words came to me but as each one did it was shouldered aside by doubt. I couldn’t bring myself to write anything down. That gave me the first answer on my list. My greatest hidden talent, what I am best at doing is self-doubt. And then I thought, isn’t that true for all of us?
So what do I need? Like that cloudy sky I need a great wind to come along and scour my soul, ripping away the clouds of self-doubt and unveil the brilliance of internal light.
So I am putting it out there. The way I figure it, if the Divine Mind, with all she has to do, could take the time to paint a beautiful sky that day – a sky that lasted only for a few minutes — I have to believe she must have taken the same care when she painted me. I need to trust that I am good at something, to find it and to use it.
The piece I originally wrote for today’s blog was about potential and my desire to actualize it. But after learning my friend and co-worker’s 16 year old son is facing brain surgery it seemed unimportant.
Here is a child on the brink of exciting possibilities now faced with a life of hearing impairment and limitations. How do you tell a child that this milestone, negative as it is, may eventually have a positive outcome and provide opportunities for a fulfilled life? How do you tell a child that loss of hearing can be overcome? That if the outcome is facial paralysis that this will not make him different despite the reactions of strangers, family and friends? How do you tell a child that this event will give him the strength to endure whatever life throws his way? How do you tell a child that life will go on?
I know these questions are at the forefront of my friend’s mind. I know he is in pain. I can see it softening his features and quieting his normally robust voice. Another friend told him not to dwell on it, to act normal. That friend told him to treat his son as if everything is normal and, honestly I can see how those words lifted him. How they helped him to contain the ache and regain some control. But is that the right thing to do?
At the age of 13, my daughter, Jill, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. To say my heart broke does not even begin to describe the pain and helplessness, the total loss of control. The ache was all encompassing. I felt it in my bones, in every intake of breath, in every step, in every word, in every thought. I moved through the days on auto-pilot, doing what needed to be done, knowing that the cure itself would cause further pain to my child. I did what was best, knowing it was not good enough.
What did I tell my child when she asked me why?
I told her the truth. I told her I did not know. Then I let her see my tears.
I told her that she was my love and my life. That she had been from the moment of conception. Her smile started my day and her laugh brought me joy. I told her that I was there for her always and in all ways. When she cried, my arms opened. When she raged, I allowed it to wash over me. I told her that my love for her and her brother, my children, surpassed my love for anyone or anything else in the world. I told her there was nothing they could ever do that would cause my love to end. That everything I did was out of my love for them and that I would fight to have them with me forever.
Jill is a successful adult, cancer free. I am grateful for that but even more I am grateful that we shared that long ago time together, that we held sacred space for each other, allowing our emotions to flow.
I asked my friend what I could do for him. His reply,
“Just put up with me.”
I can do that. I can give him sacred space.