When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

Rumi do no seek loveIf you read this blog regularly, then you know that I’ve struggled over the last couple of years with living on my own. The loneliness tends to creep in around dinner time and sticks around until I fall asleep or numb it out with one of my three go-to additions (TV, food, booze). I’ve tried to remedy this unpleasant feeling in other, more productive ways – meditation, working and playing hard (basically keeping busy), and working with two wonderful Huichol shamans (more on that soon) – but I remain susceptible to its pangs more often than I care to admit. Nevertheless, I think it’s a basic human necessity to share your life with someone with whom you share a special intimate bond.

However, a recent sojourn into that tricky realm brought to my attention that, more often than not, there is a barrier between me and the rest of you that makes having a healthy relationship difficult, if not impossible. It’s nothing unique. I’m pretty sure there are others who have constructed, knowingly or not, a wall between them and the rest of us too. I picture mine as constructed of red brick, old clay bricks, crumbling to create a substantial pile of red rubble on the ground near its base. Large chunks of mortar are missing and the corners of the walls are uneven and lower than the rest of the wall. It’s old and failing, but it still separates me from you. Sometimes I can’t even see or hear you on the other side.

Your wall might be made of stone, concrete, straw bails, or maybe it’s just a sheet of plastic that you can pull down in one fell swoop, but it’s there, separating us, keeping us from connecting. You say I’m just writing in metaphor, but I say it may as well be real because there is nothing more powerful in keeping you from what you want than FEAR.

Fear keeps me bottled up too often. I don’t write more because I’m paralyzed by fear. I don’t reach out to more people because I’m afraid. And fear keeps me from expressing who I really am, in so many ways, far too often.

The blessing is that whereas I’ve been oblivious to its influence on my behavior for most of my life, I see the fear now, recognize it and my attempts at subverting it. I see now how I’ve hurt myself, lost sleep, and a lot of hair trying to outrun the fear. A lot of my actions – like surfing hard, stressing over my body image, and needing to know all the answers – are just me trying to cover up my intense fear that you’ll discover I’m imperfect and therefore unacceptable and unlovable. I’m so afraid of rejection that I do back flips in an attempt to prove to you that I deserve your love and attention.

The funny thing is that I had to be rejected to see how much my actions are motivated by my keen desire to avoid that very rejection.

I fell for someone recently, and as is typical for me, I fell hard, fully, unabashedly, and, it turns out, foolhardily. At first he seemed to be falling too – we were two people falling into the fuzzy abyss of love with big smiles on our faces, holding hands on the way down. We seemed to read each others minds and synchronicities abounded when we were together. For the first couple of weeks I couldn’t walk down the beach without finding heart-shaped rocks. Not just “a” heart-shaped rock, but rock after rock. One of them, about an inch across and pink, was almost perfect. My interpretation? Our love was divinely orchestrated.

But then he let go of my hand and I kept falling.

I fell for a while before I realized that I was on my own in feeling the way I wanted so badly to feel and to be felt about. I was pretty deep down in that hole when I finally  accepted I was alone down there with a goofy grin on my face, holding on to nothing.

That was hard. It felt a lot like someone kicked me in the stomach with steel-toed boots. I guess it was the impact of hitting the hard reality waiting for me at the bottom of my free-fall into unrequited love that knocked the wind out of me. What really happened was over the course of several weeks the other person’s actions (like his reaction when I gave him that pink heart-shaped rock) and what those actions said about how he felt sank in, and I had to admit to myself, “He’s just not that into you.” Yeah, no one wants to hear that, even if it’s your very own heart gently sitting you down and telling you like it is for your own good.

I cried a lot that evening. I took a walk down the beach as the sun was setting and felt the hurt and the anger bubbling up to the surface despite my attempts to keep them down. It all came out in a big blubbering, tear- and regret-filled emotional waterfall. I was angry with myself for being such a fool, for jumping into the deep end of a relationship once again, for wanting it to be what I’ve waited for so badly that I rushed in without giving things time to cure, without giving either of us time to discern whether this was the path forward or not. As the anger dissipated, it was replaced by sadness as I felt, once again, the hole in my heart where loneliness lives.

“Oh, it’s you again,” I said with resignation. “So, tell me, when are you going to leave for good?”

“As soon as you learn to look for love within.”

“I’m working on it,” I said, looking up at a sky filled with so much beauty I knew my thoughts were heard elsewhere.

This experience taught me something that I’ve been unaware of until now. It turns out I’m scared a lot. I’m running scared shitless of what other people think, afraid of people’s judgment, and especially their rejection. My whole life story is driven by avoiding rejection. I’ve said it before, and someone wiser probably said it long before, fear is a poor motivator. It’s a lot like running from your own shadow. You can never outrun it. And I’ve tired of running.

The good news is that somehow during this experience, I realized that this heart of mine is full of love. As I ran over in my mind what happened and how things had fizzled so fast, I considered my actions in both romantic and other relationships and saw that they are more often than not caring, giving, and kind – all demonstrations of love. Gratitude, appreciation, and empathy are all rooted in love as well and these are emotions I experience daily. This made me realize that the fear that has driven me so often is not so much solid like a wall, but merely a smokescreen hiding the love that has always been right here inside me. To transform it and pass to the other side where we can all connect, I just need to turn that love inwards and recognize that I deserve my own loving embrace as much as anyone else does. So far, I mostly know this intellectually, but little by little I’m beginning to feel it in my soul.

thinklessfeelmore“Think less, feel more” was one of the many wise things my lover-turned-friend-and-teacher said to me during our courtship.

I can feel it right here in my heart, that unconditional love that I keep looking for elsewhere…I’m getting close, so very close.

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One of the miraculous sunsets we’ve been treated to lately.

 

 

Mystic in Mexico Part III: The Blue Deer

Venado AzulThis is the third in a multi-part series. Here is where you’ll find Part I and Part II.

We were then instructed to stand before Guadalupe so that we could be blessed. The sky was dark now, but a soft orange light glowed on the eastern horizon. As Guadalupe blessed the other participants, I kept my eyes on the horizon as the light grew stronger until finally the moon crested. Gradually, it rose to cast a long shaft of soft orange and then yellow light across the sea’s smooth surface. It appeared enormous so close to the horizon, powerful, and surely blessed the occasion with its presence. The full moon happened to be in my astrological sign, Gemini, that night. I watched it rise to the sound of Guadalupe’s soft chanting behind me. Crystal called me when it was my turn and I stood quiet and still in front of Guadalupe as he moved the feathered wand first to my left, then to my right, placed it between my hands as he brought them to my heart. Finally he held it to my forehead. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer for guidance.

Now that we had been blessed, we were permitted to eat our first piece of peyote. Mario had carefully cut a golf ball-sized button into wedges. He showed us how to pick the small prickly hairs off the outside skin before eating it and explained that they made the cactus taste bitter. I imagined they also didn’t feel very good stuck in the roof of your mouth and tongue! I cleaned my piece thoroughly and put it in my mouth. I’d heard that peyote can be so bitter as to make you want to vomit and that some people do indeed. Mario instructed us to chew it down to a pulp before swallowing it. As I did so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it tasted much better than I’d expected. It was not bitter at all and had a texture and taste a bit like a cucumber, but with fibrous strings mixed into the soft meat. Next I noticed it also had tiny hard pieces in it, like sand particles.  When I’d chewed it down into the texture of baby pablum, I swallowed the pulpy mass down.

It was time to enter the temescal. Crystal invited me to enter first. I removed all my clothing except for my bathing suit and a light cotton sun dress I wore over it. The night air was fresh and humid, the sand soft and cool on my bare feet. The sweat lodge is a low structure constructed from PVC tubing and boughs of a local shrub called Palo de Arco (literally “bowed branch” because, like willow, it is easily bent and shaped into bows). The PVC might seem incongruous, but it is practical. The dome-shaped skeleton of soft branches and plastic tubing is covered with many blankets and tarps all the way to the ground.  The result is a pitch black cocoon-like space that retains the heat and steam of the hot rocks. There is a hole in the ground at the center of the tented space that is about three feet by two feet wide and almost three feet deep. This is where the hot rocks are placed. I squatted down low and, duck-like, entered the lodge where the tarps and blankets were thrown back to create a low doorway.

One by one, my fellow travelers joined me, gradually forming a circle around the pit. Once we were all inside, Crystal asked each of us to say our name and tell the spirit of Hikuri what our intention was for being there that night. One of the participants asked to be helped in his quest to quit drinking. As the other participants spoke, I turned inside to see what intention I carried in my heart. When it was my turn I shared what I’d found there, “I seek knowledge of the spirit world and to open my heart.”

Fernando began to bring in the now white-hot rocks one at a time. As each rock was dropped into the pit, we all chimed, “Bienvenida abuelita! (welcome little grandmother).” As the rocks were placed, I could feel their heat snaking up out of the pit and across my legs. After seven had been delivered, Fernando came back into the lodge with a bucket of water and the door was closed tightly behind him. Crystal took the bucket and after chanting something I didn’t understand, poured the water onto the rocks in a constant slow stream. A strong blast of steam rose and enveloped us. Outside, Guadalupe continued to chant his mysterious prayer songs.

The first thing I noticed was that the steam did not burn the inside of my nose when I inhaled, like it had the first time I participated in the temescal. Others were breathing quickly, as though under stress, but I settled in and felt the heat enter the cells of my body. Crystal began to sing a spiritual song. I closed my eyes and began to move slowly side to side in time to the beat of her song.

Once the steam dissipated, Fernando left the lodge again to move more hot rocks from the fire into the pit. Again, we sang out, “Bienvenida abuelita!” as he dropped the rocks from his shovel blade, one by one into the pit. This time he brought 13 rocks in total and I felt the energy in the small space rise as we all anticipated the stronger heat they would create. Another bucket of water was brought and, once the door was sealed, poured over the rocks. The intensity of the steam was acute, yet I felt remarkably comfortable and hummed along as Crystal sang. Someone began to chant Om and I joined in. Mystified at how comfortable I was, thinking I had not even broken a sweat, I reached up to feel my face only to discover that I was, in fact, sweating profusely.

I guess this is an effect of the peyote, I thought and was grateful that I was more comfortable in the sweat lodge this time around. I closed my eyes and appreciated the feeling of the humid, heavy heat.

At one point I opened my eyes and saw an oblong blue light above our circle. There were two dark spots at the top of the shape, where it was widest and a dark line running vertically down the lower three quarters. I knew it hadn’t been there earlier, but guessed one of the blankets on top of the lodge must have blown back to allow the light of the moon to glow through a blue tarp. But when I listened for the wind, I heard nothing.

When the sweat lodge ceremony was over, we crawled out of the small sandy space one at a time. I removed my dress and, as instructed, poured cool fresh water from a 50 gallon barrel over my head and body to cleanse myself of the toxins I’d just sweated out. The water was quite cool, but I enjoyed the sensation of it washing over my body.

I dried off and put on warm clothes. One by one, we gathered around the fire while Fernando busied himself adding fuel.  Blankets were laid out around the fire to sit or lie on. I joined Crystal on one and wrapped myself in a heavy blanket I’d brought to guard against getting chilled. The heat from the fire felt good and I turned slowly in a circle so it would warm my whole body and help dry my hair.

Guadalupe and Mario remained seated on the white plastic chairs on the South side of the fire pit where they’d been when we entered the lodge. Guadalupe continued to chant quietly and I wondered if he would do it the entire night. We chatted amicably amongst ourselves until I heard Mario telling Mauricio, “Yes, you may take more Hikuri.” I looked to Crystal for guidance. She nodded and said, “Yes, you may take Hikuri as often as you want. Let your intuition guide you.”

Mario added, “It will help you if you find yourself getting tired.”

I took another wedge, cleaned it, and chewed it to a pulp.

Guadalupe paused from his chanting, got up and stretched then. He looked around and asked no one in particular, “How was the temescal?”

Ayax, the cardiologist, replied, “We were visited by the venado azul.” (the blue deer)

I looked at him in surprise and repeated what he’d said, wondering if I’d misunderstood, “Blue deer?”

Guadalupe looked at him intently and replied, “That is an auspicious sign.”

Ayax continued, “Part way through the second round, I saw a line of small blue deer prancing around above the heads of the people across from me.” As he spoke he pointed away from himself and motioned with his hand up and down. “A line of four small deer trotting around the circle.”

Guadalupe said quietly, “El Venado Azul is the messenger. It is a good sign.”

I turned to Ayax and asked, “So it was not the moon shining through one of the tarps that I saw?”

He smiled mischievously at me and asked, “What did you see?”

I described the blue light I’d seen and turned to Crystal to ask her if the moon had shone through the roof of the lodge, but even before she answered, I suddenly realized I’d had a vision of the head of a blue deer.

The Venado Azul is the guide, messenger, and guardian of the sacred land the Huichol call Wirikuta, where the peyote cactus is collected. This spirit deer also symbolizes peyote and their names are sometimes used interchangeably. The Huichol refer to “hunting the blue deer” when they go on pilgrimage to Wirikuta to collect peyote.

I sat and questioned what I’d seen. My mind, the product of years of scientific and western dogma struggled to accept what I knew on a more visceral level to be true. Ayax’s vision was so similar. I felt a wave of understanding pass through me and acceptance of their explanation seemed to make me feel lighter. I felt my chest open and expand as I decided that the vision of the blue deer was a sign that my quest to know Hikuri was not misguided.

In Part IV: The Portal Hikuri extends an invitation to travel to another world. Will I go?

Potential Energy

I’ve lost my way. I’m like a little girl out in a misty forest full of strange sounds and prickly bushes. I came here looking for something, but when the fear grabbed hold of me, I got disoriented and turned around. I’ve been wandering around looking for my destination, but all I’ve found is muddy holes, impassable creeks and a big patch of poison ivy. My clothes are tattered and my legs and face are covered in scratches. I haven’t given up though, and I know there is a way out of this tangled mess.

Once a week I am joined here in the forest of my life by Andrea Mauer, my wonderful and talented life coach. She takes my hand and walks the twisting paths with me. I show her the paths I tried and she helps me see where I went wrong. She points out the similarity between these paths and the ones I’ve already taken that led to impasses. She saves me from going down paths she is already familiar with or that she points out are rife with obstacles before I get too far along. Every once in a while she invites another wise person to join us in our search for my destination.

Andrea introduced me to Amy Oscar’s blog several months ago. Amy describes herself as a Soul Caller, an intuitive, a life coach and a teacher. Amy is deeply spiritual and connected to the Spirit World in a way that few people I know are. Like me, she believes in angels. But Amy has a connection to angels like no one I’ve ever met. You can read more about her here.

Recently, Amy invited readers to join her in a month long Writing Circle. I’ve joined in the hopes that her connectedness to the Spirit World and a connection to the other writers participating will help me find my way out of this dark forest of self-doubt, fear and resistance, to reconnect to my purpose in life and bring me to that place where my writing is full of inspiration and passion.

Yesterday’s prompt spoke to me and the eloquence with which Amy writes was inspiring. She wrote:

There is a place between here and there, between mystery and science, between staying and leaving, between choice and becoming: a place where most of us do not want to stay very long. We want to name and explain everything. We want to understand, to know – so we can put things in their places.

And yet, sitting in this space of not yet, of “I don’t know,” can be the most powerful place of all. For it is here, having departed the familiar and not yet arrived at the ‘who knows where,’ that anything is possible.

Not knowing is something I’ve never been comfortable with. It’s the reason I went into the sciences where the security of a “right” answer gave me something to hang on to and I did so for dear life. As a child, my greatest rewards – praise, love and attention – came from “knowing.” Naturally, it took me almost forty years to get more comfortable in the grey areas of life. The one area I was still severely challenged in was the realm of relationships.

I’m a serial monogamist – my whole adult life I’ve been in and out of relationships, but have been in them more than out. I moved in with my boyfriend when I was 18. I’ve been in a committed relationship for 21 of the 25 years that followed. I was 32 the first time I lived on my own for any considerable amount of time. I’ve been so uncomfortable with those in-between times that they have typically been filled with anxiety, depression and serial obsessions with first one man and then the next and the next, until something sticks and I’m back in a long-term relationship.

Not this time.

I find myself in that in between place now, the place Inyala Vanzant calls “the meantime,” that time between staying and leaving, between the choice I made and becoming whatever it is I will become. This time there is a difference though. I am still not completely comfortable here, but I notice I am more at ease than ever before. Anxiety is an occasional visitor rather than taking up residence in my soul. Andrea’s coaching has been invaluable in helping me find this place of acceptance and calm. When we started working together, I was already walking a path that hugged a jagged cliff-face overlooking a bottomless pit. She talked me off the cliff step by vertigo-inducing step, gently helping me figure out I was once again on the path to self-destructive relationship behavior, and then helped me figure out where to put my feet.

This is my chance to change the pattern of making choices that are not in my best interest and to stop hitting my head on the relationship brick wall. This time I am going to get quiet, turn inward and listen to my soul more. This time I’m going to take care of me more and worry about who “he” might be less. This time I’m not going to let myself fall head over heels in lust with someone I barely know. This time I think some “dating” and getting to know the person before I move in with him sounds like a good idea.

Perhaps more importantly, this time I’m not going to sweat the alone time. I’m going to use this time to work on me and my writing. When so many of my friends are juggling full-time jobs and kids, I am in the envious position of having only myself to worry about (six dogs and Felipe the caretaker hardly rate in comparison to 9-5 and a family).

Like Amy says, it is from this place that anything is possible. There is an energy in these in between times that is palpable – the potential energy of possibility, like a seed on the forest floor waiting for an opening in the canopy so it can to burst forth and grow. And so, I will be here waiting for the sunlight while I connect and create – me, myself, my soul.