Feeling Out Loud!

Once again, having a variety tools as well as a wonderful support system have lead to healing and growth, and I am grateful.

The kids and I have been getting settled into our Image of a pile of boxesnew place over the last month. Now the rest of the boxes needing to be unpacked are all piled in my room! All in all it’s feeling pretty good.

We’re in a condo now. This is so not the kind of living situation I’m used to/generally desire. I’m not a fan of apartment living, and I’m definitely not a fan of HOAs. The biggest consolation was the pool. I love the water!

I had only been in it once for about 15 minutes during the first week. It closes at sunset. On a Friday evening I decided to just slip in there anyway and swim some laps by moonlight around 9 o’clock last night. It was beautiful!

I only got about 5 minutes in before a neighbor decided to take the law into her own hands. She came up and ordered me to get out.

I was still angry about it this morning.

I get triggered when people create or enforce rules for no other reason than to make someone else feel small and themselves feel powerful, but I didn’t know what the root cause was.

I felt myself getting madder and madder over the next two days, seemingly out of all proportion, so I gave myself permission to let it out. I cried and screamedImage of closed eye and kicked and punched with all my might. The release went on for something like 20 minutes. It was obviously linked to something far deeper than the bitch at the pool, but I don’t know what.

I felt much better than I had, but I was still at loose ends. It seems like I missed an opportunity. I asked for some guidance from a dear friend and mentor, Freyja Inanna. She told me, “Go into meditation and connect with that emotion…feel where it comes up in your body and let it fill you and then travel back to the earliest time you felt that way…whatever comes up is perfect. Feel it and release it! Just follow the thread.

Later that night, during a guided meditation about emotions, I stopped the recording and went to my 6 year-old self. I stroked her hair and told her outloud that it would be okay. I thanked her for standing up for her little sister and told her that we could all go together to find mommy and daddy for a minute. Then I took them back to the nursery and got them cookies and juice and dried little Niki’s tears. It felt good to give myself what I needed, to honor that little girl’s feelings and needs. That process was healing, but it still wasn’t done.

I knew it was time to let go of the hurt brought up by my nosy neighbor. I tried writing and speaking affirmations of letting go, but the process still wasn’t complete.

I started having disturbing dreams and would start shaking out of nowhere. Last Saturday I turned to my feeling wheel to help me see what was going on with me emotionally. Not surprisingly, the words that popped for me were mostly in the wedge related to fear. I spent time with the fear, giving it place. I reached out to a friend, but we kept playing phone tag all day.

Image of the feeling wheel (looks like a pie with the biggest pieces labled fear, anger, disgust, sad, happy, surprise and related feelings divided within those bigger pieces)
Image source: http://i.imgur.com/tGgCSCN.jpg

That night I went to a Moksha Magick gathering. Our intention for the ritual that night was creating harmony in our relationships. The magick we created that night shifted the relationship with my neighbor and with myself. I still have work to do with the little girl who felt so dismissed and overpowered. I imagine it will have a lot to do with expressing the emotions that have been buried for so long.

I am thankful I have such effective tools and so many knowledgeable and compassionate people in my support system. The combination has given me the courage to heal by feeling out loud.

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Lessons of a Sick Healer

In the last several days I have learned some interesting lessons about being sick. The first day or two I was very frustrated! The depression, allergies, and cold I’ve been battling have been kicking my butt.

I am doing some serious healing work through Explosive Sexual Healing with my mentors Michael and Freyja Inanna. With their guidance, major breakthroughs have blossomed one  after another after another.


Sick Woman Sneezing into Tissue

So why did I get sick a few days after our most recent session?

Two reasons that I’ve recognized so far: one is that my body is telling me I need to slow down and rest, and if I don’t listen to the subtle hints, it will make me slow down and rest whether I like it or not. Okay, point taken.

The second reason I am feeling so crummy actually has me excited! I feel very strongly that it is time for me to learn to take my healing to the next level! I am 100% certain that the healing modalities I practice (Reiki, Access Bars, Moksha Magick, etc.) all have the ability to 100% cure any illness of the body, mind, or soul in an instant…but why don’t they do that all the time?

There are a lot of answers to that question, but one of the most prevalent is that we don’t let them. Why wouldn’t we let them? In many cases it’s because even though we want what we’re doing to work, we just can’t acknowledge deep down that it will.

As I have told my students and clients many times, we are POWERFUL beings! We can use that power to create miraculously powerful change…or we can use that power to block the powerful healing energy pouring through us.

Now on the surface, it seems like an easy decision to make: choose miraculous powerful change over blocking powerful change. Unfortunately for most of us, it isn’t that simple.
That’s why I always encourage my students to do whatever they can to help the person they are guiding towards healing into a receptive state.

And I’ve got to say, some of my students and colleagues are better at it than I am. Some people already accept the ability to change and heal at a deep, deep level. They are able to do this so profoundly that the trust they have in themselves and the Universe pours into the recipient and through that person’s blocks like magick.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve never healed anything through energy healing. I certainly have! Either by myself or through the facilitation of others, I have gotten rid of headaches, insomnia, nausea, a constant post nasal drip I had for years, chronic fatigue, mental triggers, emotional wounds, and more. I’ve seen all sorts of similar healings with my clients. I’m also convinced that the hypothyroidism and chronic depression I’ve been treating with pharmaceuticals for years would be much worse without this healing work.

Picture of me with the words: Ask, Trust, Allow

But you know what? I’m done! I am ready to embrace my full power and the healing of the Universe! I don’t know what it’s going to take to get me off those meds and into that state of health that I know is possible, but I’m sure it’s coming! I am ready.

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Leadership Through Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” – Brené Brown

Man walking tightrope over sharks

On January Second, 2015, in front of witnesses, I looked directly into my own eyes and told my reflection, “I love me,” in a clear, compassionate voice.

While that seems like a simple act, I’m sure that anybody who has tried it will agree that doing so is anything but easy. To make that proclamation, especially in the presence of others, normally would leave me feeling very vulnerable. However, in this case, I felt empowered instead. I felt empowered because I had allowed myself to show my vulnerability rather than hiding it. In that sharing, I was set free and found that rather than weakness, displaying my vulnerability led to strength.

Over the past few years, I have come to appreciate that allowing our vulnerability to be seen can be an incredibly empowering experience for myself and those around me.

There were two experiences in the last eighteen months that really brought home to me that expressing my vulnerability as a leader empowers and heals both me and the members of my community who witness it.

The first experience centered on a ritual my partner of the day and I created as a tool for healing. I created the ritual as part of my healing work regarding sexual trauma. I had made a huge breakthrough near the beginning of December in which I did some powerful writing around forgiving the girl who was so scared and confused and ashamed about the situation surrounding the rapes. However, in the weeks that followed I came to realize that I had not forgiven all of me; I had not forgiven my adult-self who had made questionable decisions and chosen harmful paths in an unknowing result of what I experienced.

It was important to me to have witnesses and people to hold space during the ritual. Sharing struggles and triumphs is a human need. That need is a major reason why ceremonies like weddings and funerals are such important religious and secular events. I wasn’t thinking about the greater context at time I invited my friends. I just wanted to share my fears and celebrate my growth and healing with those I hoped would acknowledge and accept me.

In the ritual, I shared with my friends some of the specific things I had done for my healing and how utterly lost I had been for the past several months: the hours spent crying, the days spent shaking and rocking, the inability to take care of my children in the way I wanted to. Expressing those fears was an important part of taking back my power and my confidence in myself.

My partner then took us through a meditation about seeing forgiveness not as releasing guilt, but in accepting ourselves and our choices.

After the meditation, I took a jar and put in some important symbols representing different parts of my development. Looking back on it now, I think the most important item I placed in that jar was a piece of pyrite (fools gold). pyriteIt represented my fear that people perceived me as gold, but if they really knew what was inside me, they would be disappointed and see me as a fraud. I was a healer and a leader in my spiritual community, after all. What if people knew how dysfunctional I had been in the previous few months? What if people knew how full of doubt and fear and shame I was? Part of my intent in that ritual was to bury that notion and to begin to perceive myself as gold.

After I buried the jar, the others formed a line and took turns telling me how they saw me and appreciated me. I was brought to tears, not only by the beauty of the words, but by their sincerity. I wouldn’t have been able to accept their words as  genuine if I had not shared my fears first.

That ritual was a seminal moment in my life.It helped me to move back into my roles as healer, teacher, and leader with confidence.

About a year later, I was hosting a Moksha Magick ritual at my studio. It had been a long day. There had already been two other events at Circle of Light that day. The previous group had run late. Two people arrived early for the Moksha group, and I hadn’t had a chance to eat yet. My partner and I had just had a tense moment. I was hungry, tired, and on edge.

We went ahead and ate our dinner while the discussion topic was introduced. As the discussion wrapped up, we began to get ready for ritual. My partner met my eyes and asked if I was in a space to participate. The question stopped me in my tracks.closed eye I sat down and burst into tears. The old shame rushed up to greet me. What kind of leader was I? The gathering was in my space. I had suggested the day and time. I was the high priestess, for heaven’s sake!

Then something monumental happened: I was able to think clearly enough to ask myself what I would do if it was someone else in the same situation. I realized that I wouldn’t hold it against another person at all, even from a host and a leader. I would assure them it was okay and ask if there was anything I could do to help. I was able to express this revelation to the small group and then express what would help me without waiting for one of them to ask.

What I wanted was to just be held and nurtured. Instead of creating the ritual we had originally intended, we created a beautiful, powerful ritual that perfectly met the need of the moment.

I realized later what a blessing it would have been to have witnessed leaders in my own life show this level of vulnerability in a similar  situation. I was blown away. What a gift! A gift I gave myself and those who shared that space with me.

Brené Brown says, “When we meet someone, vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you, but it’s the last thing I want to show you in me.” In other words, we admire those who are able to embrace “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” However, we fear others will judge us when we do the same.

That really doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? It’s a paradox. Maybe we admire those who are willing to show their vulnerability because we want to be able to do the same. We allow our fear of weakness to hold us back from embracing our greatest strengths. Perhaps just recognizing this double standard we have for others and ourselves will allow us to begin exploring the expression of our own vulnerabilities. In doing so, we begin to courageously accept our own strength.

 

 

 

 

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Breaking Through – Part II

breakthroughopening

In my last post, I wrote about how the Breakthrough program helped me to further develop my sense of trust in the Universe and myself.

I just want to take a moment to share how the last week of the program and the final concert continued to change my life.

During that final week of the program, instead of meeting just once a week, our group of singers and seekers came together five times. Mick and Tess gave us an amazing amount of support, expertise, and genuine caring. I felt so loved and cared for by the entire group that just experiencing that support was worth the entire program.

On the day of the concert we gathered together and shared with each other our intentions for the evening. I spoke my intention of facing my fear to sing and share from an authentic space instead of wearing my performer’s mask.

When my turn came to share my song, I also seized the opportunity to share about what it meant to me. Admitting that my parents were human and made mistakes made me extremely nervous…so just giving that little speech about taking risks was a risk in itself.

And then I sang my heart out, communicating with song, with words, with movement what my very soul wanted to communicate.

happy

Our songs were chosen for us, first by Mick, and then eventually by the group. Thank you Mick, thank you everyone for taking care of me so well, and gifting me with this song that spoke to my soul so strongly. They gave me Happy, originally recorded by Leona Lewis. Thank you, thank you dear ones.

If you would like to hear what I had to say and sing, click here and enter the password nikisings

The next Breakthrough concert is on March 20th at the Unity Church in St. Petersburg.

If you are ready to break through and let yourself shine, don’t miss out on this fabulous opportunity!

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Breaking Through

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it tblooming roseook to blossom.” – Anais Nin

2015 was a breakthrough year for me. I have faced a lot of fears. I had been on three months of mental health leave from my full-time job. A few days into the New Year, I started back part-time and eventually transitioned to permanent contract work.

I started the year in the arms of my fiancé. A few months later, following some really hard discussions and decisions, we parted ways.

NYE 2015
Elizabeth, James, and me in our new home/healing center New Year’s Eve 2015

I learned to walk my own path again. My clients and students reminded me of what I know and what I’m capable of. I moved with my kids across town and expanded my business. As with any new business, we’ve struggled to make ends meet and sometimes despaired about being able to do so. At the close of 2015, I was ready to embrace life’s ups and downs, trusting that this will be a year of growth and healing. I am ready to breakthrough once more.

I have used a lot of tools for healing and personal growth during the last year: Reiki, meditation, yoga, Moksha Magick, Oneness Deeksha, art, journaling, mental health counseling…the list continues on. They all have value, and I am blessed to have them all in my toolbox to use in whatever combination makes sense in the moment. I have shared about most of these in one way or another with my students,  clients, and blog readers.

Towards the end of 2015 my dear friend Monica introduced me to a new tool. It’s called Breakthrough. It is a workshop developed to help people of all backgrounds and levels of experience in their healing and personal growth through song performance. Since October 24th, the fabulous Mick and Tess Pulver have guided a group of nine seekers to greater understanding of ourselves, where we have been, and where we want to be. For someone who loves to sing and is actively healing and growing, this was a perfect fit! With the guidance of Mick and Tess, I have continued to learn to embrace trust in all aspects of my life. I have also become aware of a fear I didn’t even know I had:  letting my true self break through the mask I tend to wear.

breakthrough

More than that, I have to share how much I admire some of the other people on this journey with me. I love to sing. I try my best to stay active in my healing work. For some of the other participants, singing in front of other people is very scary, and doing the deep work needed to really heal is downright terrifying! Yet they’re doing it! They are my heroes! It is such an honor to witness the healing and growth of everyone in Breakthrough and to share my healing and growth with them.

The culmination of all our hard work, play, and healing is a concert on January 9th at 7 pm at the Unity Church in St. Petersburg, FL. If you would like to be a part of an uplifting evening of song and hold space for some amazing performers as they share their breakthroughs, please join us!

If you are ready to do some breaking through of your own, click here for information on free introductory sessions and registration for upcoming workshops.

I wish you a blessed 2016, however you choose to breakthrough.

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How I Finally Learned that Art is Fun

I consider myself to be a performing artist to some degree. I love to sing and dance, and from the age of 10, my home away from home was the local community theater.

I’ve never thought of myself as a visual artist. When I was a kid and the Sunday School teacher asked us to draw a picture to make the morning fun, I would end up in tears because it never looked the same way on paper as it did in my head. In my Reiki II class, I became completely intimidated when we had to learn how to draw the symbols.

When I began doing the Journey of Yes courses a few years ago, I was nervous about doing the art prompts, much less sharing them with the professional and semi-professional artists in the course. I finally talked myself into doing some of them and posting them on the Facebook group. Everyone was so supportive of my stick figures and wavy lines. They truly appreciated the symbolism I put into my attempts of self-expression.

joyhand

 

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I was actually enjoying doing this kind of art.

Not only was the artwork helping me to process and express my emotions, it was actually fun!

Then, joy of joys! During the Hell Yes course at the beginning of the year, a piece of  the class  included some tutorials on how to create memes and other digital artwork on Picmonkey.com. All of the sudden I could visually express the pictures in my head!

Here is my first attempt at digital art: beyou  I created it to encourage myself in my journey as I learned to speak up for myself.

I used these creations to help me process what I was working through at therapy and at home.  bindourselves

 speak truth super hero

                              halt

Pretty soon, I started making memes for others,when they needed encouragement as well: drythemall

phoenix

Some memes came to me as messages in meditation havecourage

like this one that I wrote about in the post Have Courage. Speak out and this one that was related to me by a fellow student in my Core Shamanics class fire

This one was inspired by current events

(the historic Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage).

marriage equality

Most continue to express my thoughts and feelings as life has continued to evolve.

leap2

leap1

(I couldn’t decide which one I liked better here.)

releasedoubt

ask.trust.allow

This one is a self-portrait showing myself what it would look and feel like to have achieved my goal of trusting myself and allowing blessings into my life, as I wrote about in a previous post.

worthy Empathy 

The last few memes have honed in on some quotes by figures I admire and am learning from. These messages inspire me so much that I want to create art incorporating them and share them to inspire others.

Including this last one that I just made today.

transform sex

Thanks for letting me share here once again. I really encourage you to explore a new art form. Push your boundaries, and express yourself.

And have FUN!

Bridges

As many of you know, I am in a transition period in my life, a bridge so to speak. This has been an incredibly healing and powerful weekend. I need to write about it to help me continue processing what I have experienced. I’m sharing my reflections here in the hope it will help someone as they are transitioning through their own bridges.

bridge

The weekend of healing and insight began Friday evening at a Moksha Magick gathering. It was the first time I had seen my former fiancé since he moved out at the end of May. I knew that seeing him might be hard, but it was both easier and harder than I had expected. It was easier in that it wasn’t as awkward as I thought it might be. We were able to come together in Moksha and let it be exactly what it needed to be. It was harder because by the time I got home, I was much more raw and emotional than I had anticipated.

There was so much that was left unsaid. I played games on Facebook for hours trying to get myself to wind down. As I was trying to convince myself that I really needed to go to bed, I came across a post from one of my Reiki students with a suggestion for a simple new moon ritual of releasing. It was perfect. I combined it with the intention from the Moksha Magick ritual for emotional strength. I asked the Goddess to give me the emotional strength to release my longing for the relationship that now belongs in the past.

Cool, I thought. I’m being given the emotional strength we raised energy for already. Well, yes and no. Writing “longing for the relationship” on a broken piece of pottery and burying it did give me a sense of action and peace. But the next day, I found that I was continuing to replay the evening and then add imaginary conversations in my head.

At a private healing circle that day, the thought of the broken relationship brought up tears that I thought had already cried themselves out. The tears and the support I received were healing. I acknowledged that I still needed to spend time with what I was feeling and why I was feeling it.

The weekend culminated Sunday morning, sharing Conscious Movement with members of a tribe who made me feel right at home. This was only the second time I had danced and moved with this fabulous group. Some of them I had met briefly before, and some of them I shared space with for the first time.

I surprised myself this morning by being on time and the first one there. When I walked in the door, the comforting smell of sage greeted me, followed by warm, enthusiastic hugs from the organizers. As I warmed up with the music, it felt so good to be in a supportive, accepting dance space with the beautiful souls coming through the door.

The theme of today’s session was Bridges. The fabulous Kathy Oravec, facilitating through music and movement, helped us to find and express the bridges in our lives.

Not long after the opening circle, I found myself in a situation I rarely encounter: I felt lost on the dance floor. I wandered aimlessly, without feeling the music in my body. I kept coming back to a blanket that had a pile of small scarves and some toys that were there for us to move with if we felt like it.

It popped into my head to create a bridge with the scarves. I laid some scarves out end to end, thinking that the bridge I was creating was a bridge into the next chapter of my life. This was a bridge to a life where I feel comfortable and confident on my own. I went back to the blanket and found a little car, then sprawled next to the scarves. The car drove part way up the scarf bridge in time with the music and then turned back towards the beginning. I moved the car back and forth, making progress little by little, until it jumped the track and took a completely different bridge into my new life.

I felt accomplished and proud of myself, but sad too. I missed AumJah. I thought about how much he would enjoy this gathering and how fun it would be to share it with him. There were these huge floor to ceiling windows encasing the room in a semi-circle. I thought about how much he would like those too. I drifted to one and looked out at some trees. They seemed to be inviting me to join them. So I went and gave one a big hug, finding comfort in its solidness and peace. I cried and gave them my sadness, my longing, my pain. I sat with them until I felt that I had expressed all I needed to in that space.

Then I went back inside and flung myself into the dance. I smiled, I played, I connected with people, and instead of feeling lost and wondering what to do, I lost myself in the dance, knowing exactly what to do.

I found more bridges. The first was the dance itself: it created a bridge to my feelings, the sadness, the joy, the connection. The second bridge was the tribe gathered to share connection through the music and movement. They made me feel so welcome and part of them, embracing me physically and energetically.

I will surely spend more time with all of these bridges…and count myself blessed.

 

 

 

Holy Communion

 

Wow, I just looked at the date of my last blog post. I have been through a whole hell of a lot since I last made an attempt at blogging in September. Now that I am ready to share my story of the difficult time I have had in the intervening months, I thought that my first blog post back in the saddle would be about the pain that comes with truly healing deep wounds and what helped me to come back to the world.

As John Lennon told us, “life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.” At the end of February, as I was preparing to dig in and really start putting myself back out there with a series of blog posts, life happened…Well, death happened too. The story I am about to share with you is both tragic and life-affirming. The fact that I am sharing it here, in the vast internet universe, is very much related to the pain and healing I have experienced in the last few months, but that’s another story…

me and Ash

On Thursday February 19th, I received a text from my sister Ashley Rae. She was 41 weeks pregnant. She and her mid-wife had agreed to induce labor by breaking her water the next day. This was so very exciting! We had been waiting these long weeks and months to meet Galen and welcome him into the world. The problem was that her roommate, who had agreed to attend to her six-year-old son, Aiden, during the home birth, had just gotten a job and was starting that same day. With excitement, I volunteered to make the two hour drive to Orlando to be with Aiden and Ashley in their home during the labor and birth. I decided to bring my 14 year-old daughter Elizabeth with me. Looking back, I am so grateful that I made those decisions to go to Orlando and bring Elizabeth with me.

We arrived on Friday afternoon about an hour after the amniotic sac had been ruptured. Ashley was 7 cm dilated and in full labor. She rushed out of the bedroom when we walked in and gave me a big hug and my birthday present. (She hadn’t been able to come celebrate my birthday with me at the beginning of the month because she was so close to her due date. She loves to give gifts, and she had made me a beautiful tarot reading covering the next year). Elizabeth stayed with Aiden in the living room, and Ashley invited me to hang out in the bedroom with her doula, her midwife Kelli, and the midwife’s assistant. We talked and laughed and hurried around making last minute preparations for the birth.

As the contractions became more intense, Kelli decided to check the progress of Ashley’s cervix and the heart rate of the baby. Ashley’s cervix had opened to 9 cm – only one more to go! But wait…no heartbeat. At first we thought, maybe it’s the equipment, or the baby’s position, or the placenta in the way…or something…it had to be something.

She had just had a full prenatal exam two days before, and everything looked great! There had been no complications with her pregnancy whatsoever. The decision was made to transfer her to the hospital. Elizabeth would stay at the house with Aiden. The midwife called the ambulance. It arrived quickly, and I was able to ride along. It was hard to leave Ashley alone in the back with the EMTs at such a stressful, and scary time for her, but we knew they needed to be able to do their jobs.

When we got to the hospital, the nurse who checked Ashley’s cervix said that it was back down to 6 cm. Worse yet, they still couldn’t find a heartbeat. They sent for somebody from the ultrasound department. Still nothing. Of course the technician wasn’t allowed to tell us anything. It was almost an hour from the time we arrived at the hospital to the time the doctor came in and delivered the sad news: Galen was gone. By that time Ashley’s midwife and doula had arrived as well. We surrounded her with our arms and our hearts.

Only a few minutes later, after Ashley had contacted her dad and her (other) sister, she posted this message to Facebook: “Galen is stillborn.” The outpouring of love and support was immediate. Among the first responses, one of Ashley’s friends posted a link to “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” which is an organization that provides free professional photography for parents who have lost a baby. One of us asked Ashley if she wanted them to come. She said yes without a moment’s hesitation. I’m not sure what I would have said in the same situation, but I’m so glad she invited them in. Ashley’s sister Crystal arrived, then the two photographer/doulas from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Someone who knew Ashley (although not well) asked if she could join us. Michelle is not only a very talented and experienced birth doula and hypnotherapist, she also trained as a bereavement doula recently after experiencing a similar loss in her own family. With her joining our number, we had at times up to seven women present supporting Ashley as she labored to give birth to Galen.

It was a long, long night. During those interminable, exhausting hours, sometimes Ashley gave her full concentration to the rushes (as she prefers to refer to contractions), focusing on bringing Galen into the world. At times she despaired and would momentarily give in to the overwhelming pain and unfairness of the situation. At times she distracted herself and the rest of us with her musings and her irrepressible humor. But the times I will cherish the most are the times we actively shared our sorrow.

 circle of love

This picture was taken near the end of Ashley’s labor. It was a moment of grief and pain, but also of love and community. I had been sitting at Ashley’s feet, when a thought struck me suddenly and hard. I jumped up. Galen had come to this world to experience love and acceptance. “We need to tell Galen how much we love him,” I insisted. Even though there was no longer life in his body, his spirit was still with us. I knew in my gut, that we needed to express our love for him aloud to help ease his passing. Everyone gathered around and Michelle and I took turns expressing our love and appreciation for Galen.
It was important for me not to hold back my tears of loss for and pain for Ashley and for Galen. It was important that she not cry alone. It was important that we shared our tears. As I stood there in that moment, it struck me that this was the true definition of community…this connection and expression that so many of us long for and seek in the mundane world was fully present as we shared our grief. We were in communion, a holy communion with each other in that moment.

I began to sing a song that Ashley and I have sung together many times, a traditional Native American tune: The River is Flowing.

The River, She is flowing,

Growing and flowing.

The River, She is flowing down to the sea.

Mother carry me,

Your child I will always be.

Mother carry me down to the sea.

I repeated the chant over and over, and the others joined in. Once again, I felt incredibly blessed.

Shortly after that, Ashley made the difficult decision to have a c-section in order to deliver Galen. The hospital staff had been extremely kind and patient and did their best to honor Ashley’s wishes. They didn’t push the interventions that they probably saw as necessary, but let her come to her decisions in her own time.

Just like with Aiden’s birth, Ashley had been joyously preparing for a natural home birth. Even after she was told that Galen had already died in her womb, her initial intention was to give birth without any drugs or other interventions. As time dragged on and the pain increased without the compensation of new life at the end, Ashley elected to have an epidural for pain and later Pitocin to increase the contractions. By late in the morning on Saturday, the epidural was not able to block much of the pain Ashley was experiencing. She had gone through transition four times as the contractions strengthened and weakened over the course of time. She had gotten maybe three hours sleep through the course of the night. She was exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. It was time for Galen to be born.

Ashley asked Crystal to be the one person allowed to stay with her during the cesarean. After they had left the room, Kelli opened her arms to me and took a step in my direction. I ran to her and fell into her arms. I sobbed, letting my body release the tension and anxiety that I had been holding for all that time. I could share the heartache with Ashley, but it hadn’t been time to share the worry, the ache of my mind for what she had been through. But I had others to share it with me. Kelli and Michelle held me and sang to me and soothed me. They shared their tears and grief with me, just as I had communed with Ashley.

At 12:50 pm on February 21st 2015, Galen’s body was brought into the world. He weighed 13 lbs, 12 oz. It appeared from his condition that he had passed away some time ago, probably not long after Ashley’s prenatal visit on the 18th. While Ashley was still in surgery, Erin and Mackenzie from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep were able to photograph Galen with a reverence and beauty that I am still in awe of.

 Galen

Shortly after Ashley was brought back to the room, she was able to hold Galen and spend time with him. She talked to him and kissed him and loved on him. Again I was struck by the beauty and love that was shared in that space.

Later that evening, after Aiden had met his baby brother, I asked if I could hold Galen. “Of course,” Ashley answered. He was so heavy, twice as big as some newborns. He had a little button nose and precious ears, beautiful fingers and toes. I was saddened that we would never see him grow up, never hear his voice, never get to know his unique personality. At the same time, I was so grateful for the time I had with him, grateful for this continued time of communion and oneness. I sang to him…

On the day that Galen was born,

On the day that Galen was born,

On the day that Galen was born

The angels sang and they blew on their horns,

And they danced, they danced,

They smiled and raised up their hands!

On the day, on the day that Galen was born!

I do believe the angels danced that day, for Galen and for all of us. The Universe rejoiced that Galen had no need to suffer in this lifetime. All of Creation rejoiced that the rest of us, in our suffering, became closer to understanding the Oneness that we are all a part of and an expression of. Galen’s life and death indeed brought us into a holy communion with one another and all of Creation.

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