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Friday, July 2, 2010

Mourning, Feelings, and Pema Chodron

Since starting Happy Ganesh in October of 2009, I've noticed something about certain parts of the healing field in general.  It seems like we encourage ourselves and others to have compassion. That's fine, ok. But all too often (at least in certain parts of the healing field) I feel like we're encouraged to have compassion in a way that actually sticks us firmly in the spiritual rather than really being HUMAN.

I also hear this a lot when it comes to grief. I've heard people in the healing field say to the grieving that the people they love are around them anyway, that they just miss the physical body. And that's true.

I feel angry about that idea. It  sounds like the reality of being human and feeling grief is being poo-pooed and traded in for a loftier, more spiritual model. Grief is grief. Love is love. Grief lays us low. It takes out of us everything we had to give --- and if we follow the path of grief, it really can bring you back to life. My experience with grief is that it destroyed me - and it showed me what I needed and what I didn't need. It showed me who I was, my own sense of humanity, my own terrors. It allows me to understand that I am alive. That, five years after my father's death and three years after my mother's death, I want to be alive.

If you are reading this and have lost someone, trust your grief. That's the best advice I have for you. Trust your feelings and trust the process. Since I started HG and started seeing mediumship clients, I've noticed that sometimes the session becomes open space for a lot of things to be worked through. I've had clients come in and tell me again and again that they "shouldn't be so sad because they just miss the physical body."

Somewhere along the lines, if my clients are really active in the healing path, they seem to feel guilty about their human losses. It's been five years, or two months, or ten years. Why do I still miss my husband/sister/mother/wife/father? Why can't I just look at their death as energy and be done with it?

Being human is the root of all of this. That means being in some of the most uncomfortable and scary emotions ever. It also means being in joy and happiness. My prayer is that we all find the courage to grief. To really grief for what's been lost. To get in there, get to the root of it, learn about it, and come back up, refreshed. And to go in again and again, if needed, to get to the root and then rise up to joy.

Pema Chodron, Buddhist nun and author, wrote a fantastic book called The Places That Scare You. In it, she basically talks about the danger of, basically, having a special set of neuroses that develop as a result of practicing bodhichitta (the awakened heart). In other words, in trying to *feel* our feelings and be *on a path*, we can drive ourselves a little nuts! If we're hard on ourselves in areas of life, we'll be hard on ourselves as healers, as humans, as people who are mourning, etc.
"One way [of developing neruroses] is to [...] use the training as just one more way that we don't measure up. If we train to become good or to escape from being a 'bad' person, then our thinking will remain just as polarized, just as stuck in right and wrong. We will use the training against ourselves." (p. 106)

In other words, rather than just letting ourselves feel, we'll put ourselves in a category and leave ourselves there. Good/bad. Good/bad. Should/Should Not. Fake BS concepts of spiritual/unspiritual. Being spiritual does not mean giving up being human. It - as I am learning constantly - means rooting yourself in your humanity. (Whew. What a ride.) It means doing it constantly. It means allowing yourself to be human because that is what you are. Your emotional system guides you to where you need to be.

Once, I had a newly grieving woman tell me that she knew she 'should' be over the loss of her husband because she'd read books on energy - and she knew that his energy was released. And she felt guilty for feeling as she felt. Was her husband released into energy? Sure. Did she have every right to miss his human form? Absolutely. To be human? To feel the depth of her own grief without shame? Yep.

Grief is not something that our culture teaches. Feeling feelings is not something that culture teaches. Letting yourself feel grief may be the hardest thing to feel. My first year without my mother was terrible. I leaned on friends. I was numb. I got washed out and washed back in again. And I went deeper into my own soul and into the reality of myself than ever, ever before.

In mediumship, I found -  very recently - that I had been totally submerging my own feelings of grief by buying into the whole concept of "I'm a medium. The fact that I can talk to my dead makes it better. I'm fine." It makes it easier and gives me a sense of spiritual connection, yes. But, what I learned was that I'd hidden certain parts of my very human grief and exchanged it for the purely spiritual. Working with people who have lost loved ones got me going deep within my own grief - and still gets me moving through it.

I hope I never stop.

I hope I can keep moving through my own process around grief and rage, loss and life, joy and gladness. Excitement to joy. To being fully human and accepting of my losses and excited about my open heart and its capacity to feel. This might take me until I'm 97 to really have it down to a science, but I'm willing.

I hope you can too. I hope that, for those of you reading this who are in mourning of some kind, whether its from a death, a letting go, or a moving on (such as an end to a personal relationship, friendship, move, or another big change), that you can keep following and trusting your own heart and your own process. Move through your grief. Let it come and go. Follow your uncomfortable feelings, your pain, and your grief, to your joy and your humanity. Your process is holy and sacred, and different from every other person's on this planet. It's different from mine. It's different from your neighbor's. And let your intentions be what they will be for you.

But for all that, to quote Stephen Sondheim from the musical Into The Woods, "No one is alone."

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Balancing Mediumship with Knowledge

Balance is important in every aspect of life. I have never noticed it as accutely as I do being in the "business" of spirituality. If I neglect myself, my heart, my needs or my own ability to stay grounded, I can see a difference in the way I connect to everything around me, including my clients. The way that I connect to myself comes first. It's the cornerstone of this work, so that in my own connection, I can exist. Once that connection is made, I hold space for clients.

Today, I stopped by the library and, now, a huge stack of books awaits me. Everything from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's classic, On Death and Dying, to books about American Medium Edgar Cayce, and books on manifestation. If I see how others navigated their own spiritual questions, surely I can understand my own path.

Books and learning help - but when I step into a mediumship session and it's on and the air is alive and someone's loved one is talking to me, well, there is no book to guide me through that.  There never has been. In those moments, mediumship (or channeling or reading for someone) is like the working definintion of Present. As in "I am present." Being somewhere else is out of the question because I am connected. We are - all three of us in the room - me, the dead person, the client - all connected.

We become connection.

The truth is that we are all connected, I believe. The dead don't leave us, ever. We only think they do. We become fixated on the physical - of course we do! I know that I do, and have. Of course we miss our mother, our father, our child, or spouse. We miss the physical presence, don't we? The holding, the hugging, the words that we can hear, the face we can touch.

In almost every mediumship session, the first question a client asks is "Is my loved one ok?" In my experience, the answer is always yes. Not only do they not leave us, but I believe that if we think about them, they come. All the cliches are true - as close as a breath. Nothing leaves us.

But in that is also very real grief. When people come to see me, it's there. It's a part of this type of work. I understand that. It's also there for me, some days, too - "healer, heal thyself".

I'm committed to this path. I am not sure exactly what it means and I can only see the angles I can see today. But I am here to learn and understand, and to connect, and to hold space for you to connect.

Thank you for reading.