Shamanic Journey (5th One Posted)

With the intention of inquiring about how I can participate in feeling and being more united with the All, late last month I journeyed deeper down into the Lower World. I flew over hills covered for miles in assorted large hostas, like what grow on one side of my house. Soon, I reached a valley, then mountains, then islands in the sea, all of these lands lushly carpeted in plants and trees.

Eventually, I rose to the Upper World, joined by L_________________, Her peacock feather pattern eyes filling the star-filled cosmos, as if this were Her gaze reflected back from a dark pool. She psychically guided me into a dim forest of trees and ferns, where I’d been with Her before. “Treat others the way you wish to be treated,” She said out of the silence and background drumming.

In my relaxed wandering among this verdancy, I came upon the Green Man, Who stood behind a tree. His form had just solidified into a human shape covered in ivy-like leaves, which also grew like a beard down His chin. He took my hand. I enjoyed noticing the dirt under His leaves, His skin a mix of wood and soil.

I resumed journeying in the air over more landscapes of forest and jungle. At the very end, I arrived at the edge of a city at night, countless lights stretching far and wide below. I then sensed clearly that it is through focusing on engaging with plant life around me how I’m steadily growing more grounded and connected on both Earth and within my body. From there, I can and will focus more on heart-open connection with people and, hence, being more united with the All, of which there are so many layers, domains, realms.

One’s Social Bubble

I’m aware of how I live in a social bubble of my own making, with much or perhaps even all of its components having been handed to me through privilege combined with some lack thereof. It’s fascinating, these social bubbles in which each of us belong and foster, whereby some of them directly interlink/overlap/are largely within certain others’. But, I am acutely aware of how I stand outside of others’ bubbles to varying degrees, including that of friends’ and (more apparently) neighbors’. I’m doing my best to not let my bubble of familiarity, comfort, and safety stay the same and keep me from letting new people and information into it. It is so easy to subconsciously, or otherwise, keep one’s bubble unchanged or largely/overly-closed wherever one goes, whatever one does. Biases, prejudices, assumptions, dislikes and likes of people, places, and things can easily remain unexamined and even entrenched in reaction to any attempts to examine and re-evaluate the usefulness of them.

Perhaps I’ll write more on this later.

Thoughts on America’s Current Civil Unrest

It is very possibly the design/intent of many of the current vandals and looters in assorted American cities to throw off the central narrative of the urgent need for racial (and economic) justice. However, we each have the choice to keep this recent heinous crime born of racism at the forefront of our minds in the face of what’s going on and to insist others do the same. We privileged white people owe that to our long oppressed Black and Brown fellow humans. Please don’t let all the smoke blur/confuse your mental vision or moral compass around the changes that need to happen. This latest ground swell of violence all started from yet another lynching of a defenseless Black man (George Floyd, pictured) and the lack of justice against this hate crime. There are surely agitators involved who wish to keep the status quo of systemic racism and there are the usual criminal opportunists out looting for their own immediate material gain. And then there are both the nonviolent and violent protestors who are sick of this oppression. Please let’s speak and act up against these ongoing wrongs, and not choose to be inactive so as to simply avoid being associated with violence and criminality when nonviolence is one’s preferred ethical course of action. Such deliberate inaction is acting from out of white privilege, or so I’ve come to understand.

I did see some film footage and accompanying written narrative of peaceful Black protesters in Minn. trying to dissuade white people from vandalizing and looting. Again, please don’t lose site of what’s at stake, especially for people of color.

I want to add that, coupled and intertwining with ongoing system racism, America’s economic structure has been strained to a breaking point. To my understanding, civil unrest such as what we’re currently seeing is what eventually arises from more and more disenfranchised people being juxtaposed up against increasingly concentrated wealth and power of a few. In my lifetime, this imbalance has only grown more extreme. And Drumpf’s divisive words and deeds keep just fueling the pent up rage and anguish so many people are going through, as misdirected as these visceral emotions are for some. This current chaos is a storm of a sort fueled by the need for a new and better, fairer order, racially and economically. The status quo won’t hold because it can’t, not at least if enough of us collectively want a truly working, thriving democratic republic.

Crescendo of Spring; My Full Cup

Today, on my walk through the neighborhood, I felt a crescendo of the season, which began when I spotted some lavender lilacs in bloom. Finally, I thought, they’re here. Now, May and springtime seemed complete. Turning a corner, there were more lilacs, then more a little further on. I took a picture of a select bush of them standing tall under a clear sky. Further on, trees gently shook in the breeze.

I grew full from all the verdancy around me, such thriving, joy-provoking leaves and blooms everywhere. And the sorrows lingering inside my mind and body welled up, folding like a wave into a stronger, confident fount of thrill and gratitude. Not for the first time, I thanked the trees and plants for their bountiful splendor; the cared-for homes all about (including my own); the big-hearted, gentle man I have for a husband; the meaningful job I have; and on and on. I was not dismissing the mountains of pain in this present, uncertain world or sad and anguished moments strewn over the path of my own past, some of which still overly-inform certain relationships for me to this day. Rather, I felt like a vessel with room inside to hold all of this. I was a container fashioned of gratitude and awareness of the present, beauty-filled moment, soaking in the richness of my surroundings. All of this became like a substance spreading out from the edges into the depths inside me, my bones, my heart. This could and would sustain me now and in the days ahead, this here-and-now sense of presence, a wealth beyond measure.

“Remember this day, these moments,” I said to myself as I gazed upon a Japanese maple, its almost burgundy and rust-red leaves shimmering in the sun.

I wistfully wished I could share this time with some others in my life in addition to my husband. I walked along in this paradox, a sense of joyous unity with everything around me yet awareness of prolonged separation from particular people with whom I share strained histories. Such is life for many of us, perhaps even everyone to some extent these days, this happy moment of clear connection in which we find ourselves that also holds lingering sad ones of disconnection. That is what it is. But, again, all of this was folded into me, bathed and held by an ocean of gratitude, a sense of aliveness, and then, also, I realized, hope.

Today, finally, I understood more clearly a truer, deeper meaning of “My cup runneth over.” And my cup is part of an ever-larger cup.

Another Shamanic Journey (2nd One Posted)

I went to the Upper World into a mass of warm white energy in the cosmos. I met up with Light Being, a tall male figure simply comprised of white light, one of my main spirit guides. I asked him how my own inner light comes forth. He responded by transporting us to a place of redwoods with pristine, red-topped Amanita muscarias carpeting the deep brown forest floor. He told me my open heart holds much light, expressed through care and empathy of others, allowing them to heal. I also got the sense of how my love of beauty all around is light. Briefly, Light Being then telepathically showed me some (likely/possible) alien humanoids issuing forth from a giant tube made up of organic matter, like a hollow vine. These were beings, teachers, comprised almost entirely of pure light, mixing with the rest of humanity, helping to evoke the unique inner light from each of us. Perhaps they are invisible to the naked eye.

My attention returned to the surrounding redwoods. Through the trees ahead, I gazed out upon a sweeping valley and mountain range beyond, all under a bright sun in a clear sky. A cluster of butterflies flew by. Clarity and unity spread before me in this crisp, fresh day, bringing me both calm and excitement. The play of light from the sun and shading from the forest embodied my love of joy and beauty found in nature, particularly now that it is spring. The wondrousness of light was held next to shadow and form, as it is in each of us.

I returned from this journey feeling a sense of completeness and satisfaction.

On Living From My Heart

My work gives me a pulse on where a cross section of people are at during any given time. Many are tired and emotionally frayed more than they were just a few weeks ago. They’re also valiantly facing each day doing whatever needs to be done as best they can. I’m honored to witness, support, and otherwise heal where I can. The burden of this pandemic is a heavy one to bear for a lot of us, no matter the amount of silver linings there are to be found from out of this crisis, and there are indeed many.

One thing for sure has happened for me recently: I finally more deeply understand the true meaning of living and speaking from the heart. And, thanks to this pandemic reminding me of how fleeting life is, I fully intend to get better at doing these with every passing day.

I wish everyone reading this safety and wellness.

Physical, Not Social, Distancing

Please consider replacing the term “social distancing” with “physical distancing.” The latter is more precise and focuses on the actual activity everyone needs to do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The former term wrongly implies the concept of socially isolating from others, which is the last thing that should be emphasized. As human beings, we need social connection more so now in these scary times than ever. Language shapes narrative, which, in turn, shapes culture and society. Let’s foster a sense of connection with each other as best we can. One way of doing that is emphasizing the need to be physically distant from people, for the time being until this pandemic is over, but not at all socially/relationally apart where and whenever possible.

A Strong Hope

In regards to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis here in the United States, my frustration and sadness over not only the lack of presidential leadership but absolute detrimental, minus leadership from out of the White House are felt acutely of late. But, these feelings are placed right up against a strong hope that solid leadership from other quarters, including by some governors, congresspeople, doctors, nurses, and many others around us will somehow be enough to see us through.

All in This Together

Three days ago, I started posting short videos of myself on Facebook, where I talk to my friends and, by the second one (of three at this writing), anyone in general. Due to this pandemic pandemonium, as I’ve been calling the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve felt a need more than ever to be seen and heard, connected and not alone. In a span of five days, my mood state has especially soared up and down, hopeful some days, discouraged the next. I’ve made it my clear intention to remain open to the new possibilities arising from this strange, distressing world situation. This has already borne out some positive experiences and understandings, for which I’m grateful. However, with so many drastic changes happening at once, I find adjusting to them a mix of intriguing, surprising, fulfilling, scary, and unpleasant. Hence, why some days feel better than others. I think this is to be expected. Many of us are undoubtedly experiencing a similar see-saw of emotions.

Just a short while ago, I was soberly reminded of how people besides myself are feeling painfully challenged. Standing first in line with a shopping cart, purple rubber gloves covering my hands to protect me from the corona virus, I waited with several others for our local Trader Joe’s market to open for the day. A sixty-something-year-old woman took a cart and then stood near the entrance, opposite the queue of people. I mentioned to her that the line started over where I stood, to which she angrily snapped, “I understand, but I’m not getting in it! Everyone will be able to go inside anyway!” A short while later, a worker came out to place disinfectant wipes by the carts. He turned to the woman and matter-of-factly reminded her where the line was in order to enter the store. She let fly some “f” bombs at the man and explained that she comes to the store every week, recently had a knee replacement, and would let other people go by to get inside. She just was not going to go all the way down to the end of the line. I chimed in, “So do we,” in response to her fact of frequently shopping at T.J.’s. She then swore at me as well. I gestured with my index finger before my mouth, releasing a “Shhh.”

I take no pride in how I responded to this woman. There I was, not only speaking for myself (as, indeed, I do shop at Trader Joe’s every weekend), but presumptively for the twenty or more people waiting behind me. Such an angry and seemingly entitled response evoked my own “us against you” reply. Having been bullied at school during a good share of my childhood and adolescence, I know all too well how it feels to be singled out and “put in my place” by a group. But, that said, I spoke this morning from a protective, reactive part of me I rarely ever express, getting caught up in this poor woman’s polarizing, angry part of her psyche that spoke from actual pain and difficulty she’d been enduring.

In a short while, I found myself thinking how it was sad this older (than I) woman felt such a need to lead in public from a place of vitriolic anger. Perhaps she could have explained to the Trader Joe’s employee and the rest of us there that she was experiencing some difficulty from having her knee recently replaced. Would it be alright if she didn’t wait in line, but enter the store first so she could then get off her feet that much sooner? This I would have understood and compassionately permitted. She was probably at least sixty-five years old. And gods know what else was going for her in addition to this world health crisis. I wouldn’t be surprised if the worker would have allowed her inside right away, perhaps even a bit sooner than the rest of us. After all, I’ve read about some stores allowing elderly individuals to come in and make purchases an hour or so before the mad rush of shoppers flood in. Of course, all of this is mere speculation, since the scenario did not happen that way. Very likely, the angry individual had already been shamed elsewhere for simply having needs, be it recently and/or repeatedly in her distant past. Clearly, this particular morning, she felt an inner pressure to lead her life as if prepared to fight against the rest of the world. I’ve certainly been there too now and then.

I came away from my shopping trip reminded yet again, more than ever, that many human experiences are greatly shared, including ones that have yet to arise in the future for some. Such circumstances and events have simply not occurred for those people– yet. While it wasn’t me in the moment feeling particularly hurt inside to then harshly defend with anger a deep sense of vulnerability and intense need like this woman customer clearly was going through, it certainly has been me in other instances. If I live long enough, my body will remind me too that I need to get off my feet sooner than those who are younger or have stronger knees. But, I trust I will do all I can to set my anger to the side and lead with a gentler voice and words to advocate for my needs. With age has come some wisdom for me to draw from, should I choose.

Reflecting on standing in that store line, I recall looking behind me more than once at the growing stream of people waiting in the bracingly cold wind of early spring in Massachusetts. We were all in need, coping as best we could in the face of incredible uncertainty, there to get food and other basic supplies. I was impressed with how well-behaved everyone else was being, each and every person undoubtedly filled with concerns about their own and their loved ones’ future. Yes, I was at the head of the line, but well aware how we are all in this together.

Addendum update: Since the above writing, a mandate by the Commonwealth of MA went into effect whereby people aged sixty and older must be allowed the first hour each day of shopping in a grocery store, at the exclusion of everyone else who is younger. The disgruntled woman customer I wrote about can rest easy from now until this pandemic crisis is over whenever she waits in line, first thing in the morning, at Trader Joe’s. She has been fairly and duly accommodated. I hope for her sake that this makes her life a bit easier, enough to hopefully begin to facilitate improving her behavior in public.

Keeping Perspective, Staying Open

Previously, I wrote about the economic strain the COVID-19 virus is and will be causing across the U.S.A. For me, as a psychotherapist in private practice, I’ve had to stop seeing people in person, per the need for social distancing to remain uninfected, towards “flattening the curve” of overall infection rate. This week, I’ve just started to feel the economic effects of doing this. Even with the remote/teletherapy option I’m offering to everyone on my caseload, more of my clients than usual are canceling their appointments. This is to be expected, given how the pandemic is upending people’s lives. In response to this precipitous drop in revenue, I’ve already started to tighten my budget where I can. I’m not a big spender, so there hasn’t been a lot to trim back. Fortunately, I’ll be able to pay a smaller amount for my next quarterly tax installment, due in June, since I’ll be making less money. Still, anxiety about my financial future lurks around the edges inside me, reinforced by the knowledge that my retirement savings in the stock market have been shrinking of late. I know these money worries are arising for many people.

Others have it a heck of a lot harder than I do. There is still so much I have to be grateful for.

This new normal is bound to go on for months. What is already quite challenging is the restriction in movement to which I’m having to adjust. My husband and I would probably still be out to dinner somewhere on our Tuesday date night. Of course, this can’t happen anymore, except at home. Just watching Petula Clark sing “Downtown” on PBS a short while ago felt oddly sad.

I’m curious to see how I evolve in response to these big changes in life and routines. I think a key plan here is to do all I can to live from that place of open curiosity as much as possible. And I need to remember to treasure the small and large expressions of beauty to be found everywhere, including what the advent of spring offers. I just need to keep my eyes and heart open to readily notice it all.