june musings

The thought occurred to me yesterday that I hadn’t yet written for the month of June. Life for us has been unfolding steadily, slowly. I’m in a season where I am being directed to learn new things.

I’ve spent some time this year reading and encouraging my inner child to heal.

I’m no psychologist or psychoanalyst, but I am drawn to those who are.

I am curious and fascinated by what makes humans do and say and behave the way they do. I became aware of this fascination when I turned 24 and experienced a spiritual awakening– what I would now call, twelve years later, my first awakening.

I now wonder if these awakening experiences are simply my own soul experiencing and observing what it is like to be human, open to transformation, collaborating with Spirit, working together to create this human anew. In stages and over the span of a lifetime, perhaps.

I once heard a story about a man married to a woman, who underwent several transformations in her lifetime. By the time their relationship had come to a close the husband said it felt for him like he had married 8 different women!

I love this story because somehow I relate to that woman. She emerged from her cocoon 7 times in her lifetime! I have only begun to emerge a second time. I wonder if I will experience this five more times. It is a fascinating thought full of wonder.

For now, I will be here. And I will continue to slowly emerge from my cocoon. I might have grown attached to the chrysalis this time. It is so beautiful, I don’t want it to break open yet.

a lovely spring walk

She opens her front door and steps outside. Pausing, she breathes in the fresh spring air around her. She started taking regular walks through her neighborhood, leaving her phone unused in her pocket most days. She walks with the intention to connect with nature and the present moment. Today, she notices how much her perspective has shifted since the start of the year and she pauses inwardly to give thanks for growth. Walking has turned into a spiritual practice for her, a time of deep reflection and communion with God. Today, she feels grounded and at peace and she gives thanks for being present to her emotions. She remembers that today is the Full Moon Supermoon and remembers the spiritual practice she learned recently from a book she has been reading. So she presses in to the moment, asking herself to reflect on the past two weeks.

She has been releasing a lot of fear. Love invites her to let go of fear, but it hasn’t been easy. Her heart knows to trust in Love and this trust has somehow begun to take root and grow within her. This time of reflection has been healing for her soul and she closes out her spiritual practice by opening her heart, making room for the mysterious unfolding of life.

a reflection for lent

One of my favorite daily rituals is opening my email inbox to find a daily meditation from The Center for Action and Contemplation. Last week, I happened to receive not one, but TWO emails and the second one was a brief note on Lent, the season that is now upon us.

I come from a Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian upbringing and one thing I never learned about in church was the Christian calendar. We celebrated Easter and Christmas, but there was not much mention of Advent or Lent. In fact, as I write and reflect, my perception was that Lent was a purely Catholic practice. And I once believed that Catholicism was “bad” and “wrong”. I’ve grown a good bit since then, thank God! Anyway, I have come to appreciate spiritual practice as I age and Advent and Lent are two that although they seem to creep up on me before I’m ready, always tend to find me anyway. Ash Wednesday came and went and I did not spend much time reflecting. And now here we are, what – two weeks in already? Oy vey. I’m grateful for the emails I get from the CAC that help me remember to pause and reflect during these seasons. Each email I get from them seems to hit me on a profoundly deep spiritual level, sometimes one that I am not ready for in the moment but will spend time with in the days, weeks, sometimes months following. I’m still contemplating an email that was written for Advent and it’s been three months. But that is the beauty of contemplation, isn’t it? We come across something so deep and meaningful, something that our soul is fascinated with and finds terrifyingly true, yet it takes time to settle in to a psyche that is conditioned a certain way.

What I wanted to share with you is something I continue to learn. From the email last week: “the word Lent comes from the Old English lencten, time of spring and new life. Of course, in the contemplative tradition there’s an awareness that in order to allow new life to come forth, we have to go about the inner work of recognition and letting go – of ‘dying before we die’ (a quote attributed to the Sufi poet, Rumi, as an invitation to live fully – the way we would if we knew we only had a few more breaths to take.” These words spoken by that wise Sufi poet call to me, beckon me to make this choice to live this way for the rest of my life. Interestingly, I have been drawn to the Scriptures a lot recently and happened upon Psalm 90:12, a verse my brain is connecting with Rumi’s philosophy: Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Wisdom teaches us that life is short and not a lesson we learn via the intellect alone. It is a lesson we learn with our whole being, a lesson of mind, body, and heart. This lesson has presented itself to me yet again in this more recent season of my life. It has presented itself before, and I think it slipped out of my awareness for a little while, but it is returning again and I am paying attention now.

A meditative prayer for your soul today:

Teach me to realize the brevity of life so that I may grow in wisdom.
May I be open and not afraid.
Help me to trust so that I may be free.
Open my eyes, help me to see.
Help me to die before I die,
To let go of what I cannot control.
If I’m honest I am afraid,
But I will trust anyway.
Oh great Love, carry me today.

Penelope & Billy

Penelope and Billy have been friends from the time she was 3. They love to spend time together, and invite her to join them all the time. She joined in for many years until she started to realize what was really going on and began to discern some things about these two that she never realized before. So yesterday, she started to call them out. Penelope and Billy didn’t like it at all. Not one bit. But because of that reaction, she knew she was on track and is now using her voice to call them out when they show up telling her stories that scare her. She is using her voice to challenge them and they don’t like it, but the stronger the reaction of the dynamic duo, the more powerful her voice becomes. She is realizing that she can reach down into herself to draw from the Truth that lives in her already.


Story Explanation:

Andy and I went to a show the other night called Say Yes – A Liturgy of Not Giving Up On Yourself, by artist Scott Erickson. At the beginning of the show, Scott defines the word liturgy to mean story of the people. His show was created around this definition and in collaboration with others, he tells a story through visual effects, poetry, art, and the lived experiences of others both good and bad. It was a lovely show, packed full of healing messages for my soul. One thing he said that stayed with me was how he personifies his fear, calling it a name, and therefore decreasing its power significantly. So I decided to put this idea into practice for my own life and that is how Billy and Penelope came to exist. Penelope has existed for me for a little while, but she has evolved from being the voice of the critic in my head to simply being the voice of the false self, varying with degrees of intensity in the energetic stories she tells me about who I am, what I am now seeing as false stories. This story is about how I am learning that Penelope and Billy are codependent and can’t live without each other. So when they show up, I can name them for who they are and see what is really going on in me.

a poem for waiting

It’s different this time, you know

But It feels so familiar like I’ve been here before

Penelope can only fear and dread

Yet there I am at rest in the chaos and uncertainty

I guess this is what it’s like to be human

Waiting

Waiting

Waiting

Penelope, she fears and dreads

But April

She trusts

She is at rest

She dwells in peace

She loves the process of transformation

This is where her heart knows

There is no fear in Love

something new

Hey guys! So, in my last post I talked about my experience with panic and anxiety during my recent experience with a sinus infection and then trigeminal neuralgia following the illness. What I didn’t talk about was everything I heard about this condition and that this can also be a symptom of other things underlying. I heard from a few people that trigeminal neuralgia can be debilitating and I started to do that thing where I obsessively looked it up and heard story after story about how terrifying and debilitating and excruciatingly painful it can be when it attacks. I was terrified. All I could see in my mind was that I would be debilitated for the rest of my life with never ending excruciating pain that would hold me hostage inside the prison of suffering. And then I relaxed and started to recover from this first attack and the panic and anxiety that accompanied this new thing I was experiencing. I started to return to the present moment. I started to realize I wasn’t actually debilitated right now. I started to realize, again, that this experience and the nature of fear in it was telling me a different story than what I was experiencing in reality.

My nervous system is recovering right now. I am incorporating things to help with this like deep belly breathing exercises every day and contemplative prayer. What I am learning in this is that stress management and self care are very important things to figure out. In hind’s sight, I could see how I accumulated stress from 2019, which happened to be a more stressful year than others. With the increase of that stress and my own ways of coping with stress, it became clear to me on the other side of it that I need to do something new to manage stress in my life. So at the peak of the panic and anxiety, I started doing yoga. I wasn’t sleeping, but I had more energy than I ever thought I had. I did yoga. I went to they gym and walked on the treadmill. I tried the elliptical. I walked around my house. I got moving. Movement and connection to my body in this way has always been a struggle for me. Inactivity was a more natural way for me to cope, but it is not serving me in a healthy way anymore. I realize now more than ever how important it is to move my body. Even doing basic yoga stretches for 15 minutes is enough. So I’m not going crazy with this. I don’t do it everyday yet, either, which is a goal I am working toward.

Meditation and contemplative prayer are also practices I started a few years ago that I am seeing an even greater need for now. There is a lot of buzz in our culture about meditation and mindfulness and for good reason. It is so very needed in our mind-driven intellectual way of showing up. I am learning that meditation is a practice that helps to train the mind to calm down. The mind is an energetic powerhouse, but it cannot be the only one from which I draw. My body and heart are also energetic powerhouses and alignment in all three areas takes discipline and practice. It takes a lifetime of discipline and practice, actually. And there is no such thing as arriving anywhere with it. The mind is the mind. I am learning so much about the nature of the mind and the stories it crafts around my experiences. So far I have experienced a lot of mental chatter around this new experience and I am learning to observe the thoughts and then allow them to vanish into the cloud of forgetting. As I do this, I experience peace. As I was driving into work this morning, I experienced a great peacefulness even though I see this terrible threat approaching.

In my last post, I talked about a dream I had and in that dream I could see a threatening E5 tornado heading in my direction. This new thing is a threat to my ego. My ego doesn’t like another diagnosis and the possibility that my body can experience excruciating pain if this nerve were to attack me again. My conditioned self has also made an appearance and I am learning to challenge these stories now as they enter my mind, instead of being carried by the stories as factual to my current experience. Yes, I am experiencing new things in my body that I don’t like and that quite frankly are scary. But you know what I see right now? I see that I am a participant in the human experience just as you are. I see that people experience terrible things all the time and receive terrible diagnoses from doctors all the time. I see that we are all connected to each other through the pain we experience– the physical, mental, emotional pain we all experience. And you know what? That brings me to a place of peace and interconnectedness that I haven’t experienced before as a whole being. I have known with my mind that we are all connected to each other, but this experience is connecting me more deeply to my fellow humans on a deep heart level.

But guess what, guys? These things we experience that we can perceive as threats to our existence are not truly threats at all. What is divinely true is that we are held together in Love’s cosmic energy and nothing can stop the flow of that Love toward us. Nothing. No bad news or medical diagnosis, no pain, no fear or shame, or even the experience of our own hell on earth can stop Love. Not death. Nothing can stop it and we are not separate, but joined to it whether we know it or not. Something I continue to learn is that when I suffer, I share in Christ’s suffering and therefore the suffering of all of human kind. We share it. We are joined together by it. We grieve through it, together. I also am familiar with the ache in the soul accompanied by trauma and loss and acquainted with the part of that process when the mind and heart can grow numb to words. Words don’t matter at the peak of our grief and suffering. I can say that there is no fear in Love or that there is nothing that can separate us from Love, but sometimes words make the human experience worse. I am learning that the energies of Love and compassion and grace and kindness flow from the depths of our being into someone else’s being simply through presence. The presence of Christ dwells in us. We are carriers of this presence. We do not need to ask for it to come. It is with us and in us one hundred percent of the time at all times, whether we feel it or not. All we can do is trust it and let it carry us like a great flowing river into the wild and unknown of life. Love and peace to you, friends.

May you be at peace
May your heart remain open
May you be aware of your true nature
May you be healed
May you be a source of healing for others
May you dwell in the breath of God

Prayer by St. Theresa of Avila

panic, anxiety, and sinus infections

So, the thing that has pushed me into this transformation season is a sinus infection that led to something else that led to a nerve in my face getting angry. That nerve just so happens to be the trigeminal nerve– the one in charge of three areas of your face and can effect your eye, nose, tongue, and jaw/chin. What I have experienced so far with it is a lot of pain and pressure and burning in the sinus area. When I get a headache, the inflammation causes the nerve to inflame as well and can ache along with the headache. I want to be completely honest and open about how this new experience has affected me. Perhaps you’re also in a similar situation, experiencing something new and totally freaked out about it. Well, you’re not alone, friend, be it emotional, spiritual, physical, or all of those things. This experience has connected me more deeply with the human experience, which is a good thing because I know it is developing deeper compassion and empathy in me, and for that I am grateful.

This all started back in November after the sinus infection and whatever else I had going on in my body at that time, although it is a mystery. I went on an antibiotic and that helped the sinus infection clear up, but I still had fluid backed up in my ears, and an ache in my left ear, particularly. I went to see an ENT doctor and he couldn’t find anything wrong. I went to the ER twice and the second visit got me closer to where I needed to be, which was a neurologist, which was super intimidating. Before I move on, I’ll say that the sinus infection (first time for one of those, by the way) triggered my sympathetic nervous system and I went on high alert with panic attacks and anxiety reaching a level I don’t remember experiencing before. I was very close to putting myself on anti-anxiety medication. I went through several weeks of that. I couldn’t sleep. My body was pumping out adrenaline keeping me awake, and I was frustrated at my body for not letting me sleep. I experienced all kinds of emotion. Eventually, the panic attacks lessened and my body has been recovering after this period of about two months or so. During that period I was also performing my own investigation into this trigeminal nerve situation. I was reading stories and experiences other people had with this nerve and it was terrifying. In short, I was stuck in this vicious cycle of panic, fear and anxiety.

I went to see the neurologist, who doesn’t think this is anything serious. So my analytical mind took over, based on my own investigations. How can she know for sure this isn’t something more serious? This “research”, a.k.a. typing my symptoms in Safari on my phone, has shown X, Y and Z can be happening, doesn’t she know that?! She put me on some medication and told me to call her back in a month to let her know how I am doing. I call back because I desperately want to stop taking the medicine, and she says to keep taking it for three months and to call her again at the end of March. Ugggghhh! In other words, she needs to wait and see how my body responds to this. It is in an unknown stage for now, which means I have to wait. Wait and trust and cultivate patience. It was very hard for me at first, and it is still hard. It is only February 10th for goodness sake! We’ll see what she says in March, but I will be going back in for a follow up in person in June.

What have I learned from this? Well, for one, Dr. Nicole La Pera who calls herself the Holistic Psychologist, says that anxiety and panic are our teachers. Anxiety comes up to show us what needs healed, that we have work to do to face it and then work to do to heal it. She teaches methods that help individuals do their own soul work, and recommends doing breath work, meditation (which I will talk a lot about soon), mindfulness/awareness, exercise and nutrition. She also recommends doing these things daily which is something I have had a hard time with ever since I started a few years ago. Consistency is important for producing lasting change. But it’s hard to start a new regimen without our own inner resistance. And resistance has definitely come up for me.

So what I want to emphasize here is that I am learning that this requires a lot of work, that anxiety, fear and panic have surfaced to show me something else below the surface. For me, it has been facing fear of death and illness and recovering from an overload of accumulated stress from 2019. The anxiety was also present because it is the start of a brand new decade and we are currently in a season of transition as a family. All I can see in front of me is the great, vast unknown. But as I wake each day and step into the unknown, I am learning that it is okay to settle in to this discomfort of not knowing what is ahead. I am learning that real peace is experienced even inside of the tornado and that God speaks out of the storm. After three months, I am more at peace as I wait and actively participate in the unfolding of life. I had a dream a few weeks ago that Andy and I encountered this massive tornado. In the dream, I was completely at peace, even with this tornado in view ahead, a direct threat to our safety. We turned the car around and went back to the house where we were. As we checked the house for a storm cellar, suddenly the sky turned blue and the sun came out and the threat vanished completely. I have prayed about this dream, seeking God for meaning and application to this current experience. All I can muster is the wisdom that tells me that the thing I see as a threat might not actually be a threat at all and that I can trust in Divine Mystery, the Source of Love, to guide my life. I plan to update the blog as life unfolds this year. We are on our own journey and I know you are, too. It’s good to be on this journey with you.

In the meantime, to be an active participant in life’s unfolding, I have been focusing on nutrition. I’m learning some things about the gut-brain connection and about the importance of nutrition. So what I am doing is cutting out sugar (almost completely, except for fruit), increasing the amount of vegetables I eat, and cooking all of my meals at home. I have tried the meal planning thing before, but failed while listening to Penelope who is that limiting narrative in my head, telling me “I can’t”. Well, maybe Penelope can’t, but my True Self knows I can. So I printed a meal planning sheet, and have begun to plan out our meals ahead of time. I am also incorporating exercise and yoga, and lots and lots of contemplative prayer and meditation. Again, I will talk about meditation in another post. As I get into the swing of meal planning and prep, I have given myself until the start of spring to keep this as a focus until I feel more comfortable and it becomes my new habit. After that, I will begin to focus on yoga and exercise. My goal with exercise is to develop a daily regimen. I still have to figure out how it will work for me, but that will be what comes next this year. I have to say, I am finding myself thoroughly enjoying the meal planning and prep project! It’s fun perusing Pinterest for inspiration and I am opening up to creating new dishes that are good for our bodies. And I am learning new things as well. Asher isn’t enjoying this project at all, though. He is challenging with his eating, so I need to get creative and figure out how I can disguise his veggies. I found a recipe for chocolate spinach muffins. I’ll let you know what he thinks about them!

in the midst of transformation

At present, I have found myself invited again by God into transformation. At times I feel like it’s happening whether I want it to or not; whether I like it or not. It is for good. It is a trustworthy process, too, even though fear tells me another story. Even when ego wants to protect me from it. God calls it good and so it is good. My human mind calls it scary. My human body calls it painful. It is a very human experience. It is different this time, though. This is a new layer, one I haven’t uncovered before; a new depth I haven’t yet traveled. But that’s the process: death to the old and then birth to the new. From moth to butterfly. Some may call it reincarnation while others call it resurrection.

Today, I’m still the moth in that dark cocoon. I usually like to process and reflect first before I write, so I can neatly organize the story and deliver it perfectly and neatly wrapped with a bow on top. But I’m done with that. So this time, I am sharing as I live it. Real time. No processing first or analyzing or figuring out what I’m going through first. No waiting until I’ve reached the other side, because quite frankly, when I’m on the other side of this experience, I won’t have arrived at perfection or wholeness yet. The story never ends, it just has chapters and sections. One of my dearest spiritual teachers, Richard Rohr, teaches in his book Falling Upward that there are two halves of life. The first half is spent laying a foundation and building a container of self (ego) on that foundation. The second half fills up that container. I have also heard the concept of the stages of life. I think these ideas can blend together well. There are stages within the two halves. I’m not exactly sure what stage I’m in or if I’ve begun the second half of my life, but wherever I am at present, I am being transformed. Wherever I am, I find myself admitting that I don’t know much at all, and realizing that life is lived as this series of events that unfold, wrapped up in mystery. Mystery seems to be something that the mind and ego sees and desperately scrambles to figure out before it happens. At least, that is how I am observing it. I can accept mystery as a concept, but living, embracing and leaning into it are practices that take time to develop.

And this is where I find myself presently, in the midst of this practice of leaning in to mystery and uncertainty. Another teacher I am fond of describes this as being comfortable with uncertainty. Ha! Comfortable. But when I stop and contemplate that idea, it reminds me a little bit of what Jesus says about how we are given peace that can’t be explained. I have come face to face with the awareness that life is a great mysterious unfolding and I won’t be fully prepared for it all the time. This can look a lot like chaos to me and when I see chaos, Penelope freaks out (Penelope is the name I have given my ego narrative). When she freaks out, I have inner turmoil and unrest — exactly the opposite of the peace of Christ. Maybe the peace that the world gives is the so-called practice of preparing for the worst as this mystery of life unfolds. But I have discovered in the midst of this present moment that preparing for the worst keeps me in a cycle of fear and not in the peace of Christ. If I need to prepare myself for the worst, my mind imagines the worst things that could happen and spirals down into a darkness of which it is not easy to come out. But I wonder if dwelling in the peace of Christ might be experienced as being an active participant in the unfolding of life, unafraid of those what ifs, unafraid of “bad news”. I don’t know yet. I have not yet arrived at that level of spiritual maturity.

Wherever you are in the unfolding of life, know that we are closely connected. My experience is different, but we have something to teach each other along the way. And maybe we can also just relax together in the midst of the uncertainty and just find ourselves grateful for that connection, too.

from fear to faith

I have been trying to write a blog post for the month of January and just keep accumulating drafts. I suppose I don’t have all that much to say this month.

But I am determined to write one post a month! It is a challenge I have given to myself, because I love writing and expressing myself this way. And it feels good to be writing again after taking a decade long break from it. I am not who I was 10 years ago, that’s for sure. I used to think I could teach people about spirituality. I had quite the inflated ego back then. Since then, I have discovered that I am not so much a teacher of others but a learner of lessons that I wish to share with others. So for my January post, I will share with you one thing I am learning right now.

I have spent a few posts mentioning fear recently and this is the topic I talk about most with God right now. I have spent a lot of time in the Bible in the past month or so and it is beginning to come alive again for me. The last decade of my life was a fallow one when it came to reading the Bible. I can go into detail with that in another post, because that is a story in and of itself. But reading it again has been a comfort to my soul. In addition to reading, what I have been learning is a new practice. Any time I am tempted to be afraid, I am practicing turning that fear into faith. How it works for me is simply when a fearful thought comes into my mind, as quickly as I can catch it before it spirals, I say the word faith and hold it for a moment or so until the fearful thoughts move on. I am no expert on this, but it is something small that has been helping me in a huge way in this season. This practice has been inspired by something I read in Hannah Hurnard’s Mountains of Spices. In the preface to the book, she explains the names of the characters she writes about being “the personifications of the unhappy and tormenting attitudes of mind, heart, and temper”, like “Craven Coward”. She writes a paragraph in this preface that I keep returning to as if it is God speaking through her directly to me right now, and I will share that here as a quote.

I was born with a fearful nature– a real slave of the Fearing Clan! But I have since made the glorious discovery that no one has such a perfect opportunity to practice and develop faith as do those who must learn constantly to turn fear into faith. One must either succumb to the fearing nature altogether and become a ‘Craven Coward’ for the rest of one’s life; or by yielding that fearful nature wholly to the Lord and using each temptation to fear as an opportunity for practicing faith, be made at last into a radiant ‘Fearless Witness’ to his love and power. There is no middle course.

Hannah Hurnard, Mountains of Spices

It is not an option to succumb to the fearful nature when I know that my true nature is Fearless Witness, secure and confident in my identity as God’s daughter. I have seasons where fear can feel more intense than at other times and this season it seems to be that way. Maybe it is that way for you, too. And if that is so, know that I understand. So much. And I am holding you in my heart in the flow of the love of Christ alive and strong within me. But know also that fear is not who you are. You experience fear, but your true nature in Christ is first of all love and all of the abundance of the fruitfulness of the Spirit in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control! So go then and put on your true nature and know that fear does not control you anymore, but the Spirit of Christ does!