The Voice of Choice

All the abortion ban legislation and related posts the last few weeks have been a lot for me to handle. My relationship with abortion is complicated and still evolving.

I was raised Catholic. At one time I thought I was being called to be a nun. My parents are so pro-life that they used to organize the parish trip to the march in Washington every year.

Even when I left the church when I was around 20, I continued holding most of the anti-abortion beliefs I had been raised with. Individually I would support anyone in her individual choice, but I still primarily identified as pro-life…or at least I walked the middle of the road in such a way that nobody wanted me on their side.

Last year my views started to shift. I began my studies as a bereavement doula. One of the areas that some bereavement doulas work in is supporting women through abortions. The course material brought up old trauma, and I was determined to work through it. I felt called to provide this kind of support, and I knew the only way to do that was to deal with my stuff so that I could be fully present with them and not pull away into my own triggers.

I did research online, read books, talked to people who had abortions or had supported others through them. I did inner child work and released more fear, anger, and grief. I talked to my daughter who had been aborted. My views began to shift as more about the circumstances surrounding the many individuals I was learning about came to light.

Then last month as all these dangerous, cruel, scary pieces of legislation were surfacing, I began to get angry. I was angry about the hardship, danger, and oppression the government is imposing upon the citizens of this country.

There was one particular post that stood out to me. It was the story of a woman whose father, a doctor, had repeatedly raped her as a teenager. When she became pregnant at the age of 13, a buddy of his performed the abortion. She was given no choice. Her mother told her that everything that happened was God’s will. There were parts of it that resonated with me and my own story, even though other parts were very different.

That post made me want to share my own story and to speak out for the right for all women, girls, trans, intersex, and binary people to choose what happens in their very individual circumstances.

Here is my story…As a young teenager, around 14, I was repeatedly raped by men I knew who were not related to me. After months of terrible abuse, I became pregnant. I remember feeling so scared and alone. I also felt so much love for the life growing inside me. I wanted that baby.

I confided in one of the men. He had shown me small kindnesses during my ordeal. I naively thought he would help me. First the rapists tried beating me to end the pregnancy. When that didn’t work, the man posed as my father and took me to have an abortion. I didn’t know what was happening until it happened. I started to scream, and somebody put a hand over my mouth.

I didn’t remember the rapes, the abortion, or my baby for over 20 years.

My choice was taken away from me, and with it my memories and my voice.

Over the past 5 years, I have worked through healing those related traumas using all sorts of tools. I have released layer upon layer upon layer. I am dedicated now to helping others to release and heal sexual trauma.

This is my story. I add it to the millions of voices with their own stories of trauma or shame or illness or poverty or pain or hardship that so many others have faced.

I, Rev. Niki Kissell, am adding my voice because it is more important to me now than ever before that those faced with this most difficult of decisions have access to choice in a way I didn’t have. I am telling you this because societal changes aren’t made because of statistics or political affiliations or dogma. Changes are made when people encounter individuals – when they meet somebody with a face, and a name, and a story.

This is a call to be heard! Not everyone is in a position where they can or want to share their story. Not everyone has this kind of story to share. Other ways you can help to add your voice for the right of choice is by making financial donations to organizations working on the front lines like the ACLU, SisterSong, The National Abortion Federation, and the Yellow Hammer Fund; voting for legislators that support women’s right to choose and encouraging others to vote as well; calling and writing to your legislators; learning about this issue more deeply and learning the stories of those involved on all sides and in all kinds of situations.

2019: Be Heard

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”
-David Augsburger

2019 is my year to BE HEARD! Choosing a word of the year is a powerful tradition in my life. For the 5th year in a row, I am choosing a word to guide my path for the year. Except, this year it’s a phrase…my contrary nature finds that kind of delightful!

Image of two boys using a phone made of tin cans to be heard through

I find when I choose that word (or phrase) it lights the way for opportunities for growth. That first year my word was trust, and I noticed ways the Universe helped me learn to trust more deeply. When my word was power, I learned to recognize new ways in which I could express my power. When my word was choice, I began to notice how many choices we have the opportunity to make everyday. Last year my word was ask, and I reminded myself to ask, even when it was not comfortable.

What Does Being Heard Mean?

When the phrase “Be Heard” presented itself to me near the end of last year, I was in a stage of my life when I was playing it small and choosing not to speak up in ways that were important to me. I was doing a lot of healing and growing, and I wanted someone to hold space and be witness to both the pain and the power flowing through me. That sense of validation is an aspect of connection, and it is something we all need in way or another. So “Be Heard” can mean validation.

At the same time, I recommitted to my business and stepping into my role as entrepreneur. In that sense, “Be Heard” meant stepping out and not waiting for others to notice me.

A third aspect for me to learn about and work with soon became clear. It was obvious, but important, to recognize that it is just as important to give others the space and validation to “Be Heard” as it is to be heard myself. I’m good at doing that in big, emotional situations. This perspective helped me to start looking for ways to be more intentional in listening to the little, everyday communications in which we share ourselves.

In Practice

My opportunities to learn about being heard came fast and furious as the 2019 broke. I celebrated the New Year with a small group of friends on the beach. A series of events, poor communication, old wounds, and just unfortunate circumstances left me feeling minimized, judged, rejected, hurt, triggered, and thoroughly unheard that night.

I was able to address some of the things the following day. I explained to one of the people involved why some of the things had been so very hurtful to me. She listened and held me and made it clear that she understood what I was telling her. The energetic knife wound through my heart was immediately healed. I felt lighter and more loving and better able to hold space for others to feel heard.

The other primary player in the New Year’s Eve fiasco was too emotionally overloaded and wounded himself to listen to me in any way, and I was in far too much pain to listen to him. So we went in circles the entire week, digging a deeper and deeper hole neither of us could climb out of. It was a hellish week, and our relationship did not survive. I did learn some important lessons though.

The first is that Being Heard – feeling loved, validated, and accepted is important, and it’s something that I, and everyone else, deserves and is worthy of. Being Heard HEALS!

Also, waiting around over and over again to be heard, trying over and over again to be heard, being told that your feelings matter less than someone else’s –  is bullshit! You deserve to be heard, and anyone that treats you differently does not deserve to be in your life.

Third, my feelings do not need to hinge on someone else’s treatment of me. And even though I’m not there yet, I feel that this is a layer that is now ready to be healed, and this week of not being heard helped to get me to this point.

I got the chance to step out and Be Heard that very same week. I got a call one evening from my friend and mentor Michael Inanna asking me to be the guest on a weekly round table he hosts with his wife Freyja called Sex & Chocolate. They wanted me to come on and talk about sex magick in less than two hours. I actually almost said no, to this opportunity that the Universe handed me in response to my setting the intention of being heard. But then, my guides whispered in my ear and reminded me that it was exactly what I was asking for. So I said YES! and Thank You! And More Please!

And I was blessed with the opportunity to let those I loved feel safe and heard. I wasn’t the only one who had a hard week. From listening to my teenage son about his views of the world to a friend in a crisis of faith, to my lover as we shifted the dynamics of our relationship, I was given the gift of learning to listen better.

Just the Beginning

We haven’t even made it out of January yet, and I’ve already learned so much! I’m excited to see where my word of the year will take me for the rest of this trip around the sun!

And I’d love to hear from you. Do you choose a word of the year? Do you have other ways you focus an intention or goal for the year? How have these practices helped you to heal and grow? Share your comments below or in my Facebook group Grow with Me!

Points of Light: Do healers have to be perfect?

Do healers have to be perfect? I think it’s pretty obvious that the answer is no! I made this video because people in my life have been stating or implying that because I do this work, I shoulder be tougher, smarter, more perfect in my healing process. I’m here to tell you that it just ain’t so!

I was starting to slip into a depressive episode as the negative self-talk around feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness compounded an already painful and triggered state. Luckily I asked for help. Then I realized that I need to pass on the assistance I received in that moment.

You do NOT have to have all the answers. You do not have to have a “thicker skin.” You do not have to be completely healed from everything ever. It is okay to ask for help.

P.S. Click here for the Facebook group I mention in the video.

Embracing Power with Love

I have been thinking about my relationship with power. As a young woman, my tendency was to play it small. My family gave me the implicit message to keep my head down, play it safe, and not make waves. While I loved to shine on stage, and my creativity was encouraged, in other aspects of my life I learned to not ask for more than my share, to not show my vulnerability and struggles, to work hard for what was just enough, and not take chances.

Image of man shaking finger at woman who has her head down and ears covered

There have been many twists and turns along the journey to step fully into my power, and that journey is by no means finished. Along the way sexual trauma and some poor relationship choices contributed to the perceptions of my powerlessness.

I think the journey to reclaiming my power began about 12 years ago when I started to learn about my own sexual power and divine nature as a sexual being through Moksha Magick. Sexuality is such a misunderstood and feared source of power and beauty. Ironically, or perhaps perfectly, I began that part of the journey before realizing how much damage was present in my sexual being.

Image of a woman's naked back with the arms of her partner wrapped around her

Then four years ago I was finally ready to face the sexual trauma from earlier in my life. I ran away from the pain and shame and anger from that trauma for over 20 years. I blocked it out so completely, that I didn’t remember it at all until I finally felt safe enough to stand in my power and face it. It was hard, messy work. (I wrote a little bit about it here) I cried, and screamed, and rocked, and shook. I took three months off work so that I could focus all my attention on reclaiming my power. I used all the tools I now had at my disposal, including that increased understanding of the Divine nature of my sexuality. I was engaged at the time, and my fiance was able to support me with sexual healing techniques we developed together over time. We also worked together as I learned to embrace all the difficult emotions that always become entangled with sexual trauma: shame, fear, guilt anger, helplessness, hopelessness, etc. and to express them so that I was no longer carrying them inside my body. Another important healing tool during that time was inner child work. I would talk to, write to, and embrace a specific doll, giving her all the love, understanding, and acceptance that I should have had as a young teenager.

About a year later, in 2016, I was again ready to take another step further into my power. The word I chose to focus on that year was power. The Universe delivered. I participated in a program for singing performance called Breakthrough (I wrote about it here and here). Nine of us participated, each for our own reasons. The facilitators were very gifted at identifying how each of us was ready to grow and what we needed to step into next. The song the group chose for me to perform for the final concert was “Happy.” It was perfect. It was about how letting go of fear and others’ expectations (in other words, stepping into our own power) is how we embrace happiness. Music is such a powerful healing tool, especially when we embrace it with intention and focus.

Image of woman breaking chainsLater that year, I entered the Integrative Orgasmic Healing program with Freyja and Michael Inanna. Once again, the focus was on fully expressing our emotions about traumas big and small. I cannot emphasize enough how important emotional expression is! The other major component of that three month experience was using sexual energy as a healing tool to fill the energy vacuum once those challenging emotions were released. So again, sexuality became a powerful tool in my healing journey. And I also had the support of Michael and Freyja. I cannot tell you how much I value their ability to create safe space and to intuitively respond to and honor the needs that arise within that space.

Here we are now in 2018. My healing journey continues. As long as we remain on this earth plane, the need for healing and growth continues. We cannot and must not rest on past accomplishments. And so, I step further into my power. I am revisiting what it means to be a sexual healer and what sacred sexuality means to me. I am continuing to find new ways to experience and express my emotions as new layers of trauma surface, asking to be released and healed. My inner child work has taken on greater depth as I find new ways to connect with and nurture her.

There’s a big difference this time, and it filled me with fear when the work presented itself to me. As new layersImage of hands outstretched began to rise earlier this summer, I was actually excited about what the hard and messy work ahead would mean. I knew I had the tools and the knowledge I needed to take a hard look at and heal new aspects of the old trauma. But I was afraid of doing it alone. I did not have a life partner or skilled practitioners by my side. Without that kind of intensive support, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. But as with all other things in life, I had all the resources I needed. Support came from varied and unexpected directions. In fact, all the support I have found and asked for is an aspect of my power. Our power does not need to live in isolation. In fact power in isolation is meaningless.

I have often been afraid of people I perceive as being in power. Seeing or experiencing people wield power for power’s sake or to make themselves feel important infuriates me. I fear making that same mistake myself. If that’s what power is, I don’t want to be powerful! But no, that is NOT the only expression of power. Power can be expressed as sexuality and all the creative force that entails. Power can be expressed through emotions and holding space for strong emotions. Power can be expressed through acceptance and understanding. Power can be expressed through music. Power can be expressed through joy. Power can be expressed through support of those that need lifting up. Power can even be expressed by asking for help. Power can be expressed through connection. Power can be expressed through love.

So, as I stand on the precipice, preparing to step even more fully into my power, I embrace my power with love.

Image of woman embracing power with love

A stop on the healing journey

In my last newsletter I wrote that I was super busy. Well that just increased in the following weeks to the point that I got completely overwhelmed.

Image of Niki looking overwhelmedMoksha Magick classes, Reiki classes, presenting at various festivals, planning a private retreat, new Reiki clients, new promotional materials, and of course prepping for the Reiki Retreat at Sea have been enough to keep anyone busy! The Universe is sending what I’ve been asking for, and I am grateful beyond measure!

On top of that, my caseload at my day job has been growing by leaps and bounds, and finding time to take care of all my client has been mind-boggling.

Just like anyone else, I find it hard to take my own advice, but I really am trying. I am doing my best to feed my body nourishing foods, get enough rest, and keep up with my yoga routine. I’m also trying to be strict about sticking to my meditation practice and scheduling times to do things I enjoy.

Last week I did something really important. I made a post to one of my Facebook groups about how overwhelmed I was. I felt better just by writing out my frustration. I got a lot of support and some of the members asked really good questions to help me clarify and prioritize things

Then, over the weekend I participated in the Holistic Heath Family Gathering at All World Acres in Plant City. What a healing weekend! I was there partially to teach my Moving through Emotions workshop and to spend time with people I love in a place I think of as home. I got so much more than that! My favorite workshop was Ego Warrior with the amazing Dru Ann Welch. She was as insightful and funny as always and gave some fabulous tips from her latest book by the same name about how to take the remote control out of the hands of you ego and take back control of your life. Since then I’ve been having conversations with my ego and a tug-of-war over that remote control.

Image of Ashley Rae with her crystal bowls
Ashley Rae with her crystal bowls

During a sound bath with 15 crystal bowls played by Dru Ann and festival organizer, Ashley Rae, I set the intention that of bringing people into my life that will help me to achieve my goals and healing any blocks that were preventing that. As the vibrations of the bowls moved through me, I felt a huge release! I realized shortly after that that the right people had already started to show up, and as the weekend went on, I had some enlightening conversations with some very practical applications that will lighten the burden I’ve been struggling under.

As the weekend continued, I did a personal vibrational healing session and got a massage. Both of those sessions, as well as many other small experiences throughout the festival helped me to realign with my priorities, including spiritual practice and self-care. It was also my honor to be asked to lead the Saturday night healing circle. When it was my turn to receive, the love I was bathed in washed over me and covered me in a blanket of healing and appreciation that was palpable.

In fact the whole weekend was full to overflowing with love and acceptance.

I start the new week feeling more balanced, in better control of my priorities, and full of love.

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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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

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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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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