The journey is the reward. ~Chinese Proverb
Lately I’ve had multiple people ask me the questions: Why are you in this profession? How did you get here?
It seems to be coming up a lot in conversation. And when the same thing comes up over and over I take notice. My synchronicity antennas are always on high alert.
Perhaps the gods want me to bring my story out into the world more deliberately? Maybe some part of me wants more clarity on the why and how of it? I’m not totally certain, but I have a suspicion that it is less about how or why I got where I am, and more about who I am in my core.
But before we walk backwards down the path, I’ll give you a short answer to the questions above. For me, it’s always been a quest for connection. Connection to the natural world, connection to myself, and ultimately connection to one another.
And as simple as that may sound, the journey has been a long winding road of healing myself from a subtle, but profound, disconnection that spans back beyond my life into the history of my family and the collective consciousness of our modern society. But for now, let me begin where I always begin, with my mother, to whom I feel so much eternal connection.
CONNECTION TO THE NATURAL WORLD
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein
My mother raised me in her garden. From as far back as I can remember I was climbing trees, digging in the dirt for earthworms, and searching for fairies among the flower blooms.
My mother was the first to teach me about connection. In particular, connection to the earth. Her garden was (and still is) her church, and she gently weaved the sacred gospel of the natural world into the way she mothered. It never felt forced… unless she was making me take a nasty homemade echinacea tincture when I was coming down with a cold. My first taste of herbal medicine had a kick but did the trick.
My mother’s garden continues to be her place of respite. It is her way of rooting down into something bigger than herself. It feeds her heart as much as it feeds her body. And I can’t unlearn this teaching. I can’t unfeel the vibrations coming up from the ground and radiating out through the branches of the giant hardwoods.
These ancient sensations echoed in my bones and eventually led me to pursue a biology degree in my undergraduate studies. I wanted to know more about this Force that animates all life.
Come to find out, the Greek word bíos, meaning life, isn’t so different from the Sanskrit word prana, meaning life force, which enters through the breath and is pumped through the heart to the whole body. Similarly, the Chinese word, qi, can literally be translated as air or gas and is often expanded to mean breath or vital energy. They all mean the same thing. And this was the first big clue on my path.
I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive. ~Joseph Campbell
Aligning myself with cycles of Mother Nature allowed me to feel a connection that ran deep in my veins. It was the stream of life. And it has become a huge part of my philosophy of healing.
I began to see myself as existing within the web of life, and therefore influenced by the same forces as the natural world. I saw how my internal world was a reflection of my external world, and vice versa. A two-way mirror.
And this was the next lesson I learned about connection. Again, I credit my mother for pointing me in the right direction.
CONNECTION TO MYSELF
“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” ~Virginia Woolf
When I was twelve my mom took me to the local branch of the Maharishi School of Transcendental Meditation (TM). She had been a long time meditator, since back in the hippy days, and found it was another way for her to heal. She wanted to share this wisdom with me.
I’m so grateful she did. Learning to meditate at such a young age was a major turning point for me. And as I watched my mom meditate twice a day everyday, along with her yoga practice on the mat, I saw what it did for her. I felt how she was able to be more present and loving with me, and everyone around her. Not that I’ve practiced as diligently as she has over the years, but the foundation was laid and my skills unfolded in spurts and stops throughout my teen years and into my wild twenties.
Get out of your head. Think less, feel more. ~Osho
The concept of how my internal reality effects my whole being, and the way I perceive and respond to the external world, set me on a course I didn’t even see until many years later. It was my first direct exposure to the idea of prana (or qi) and how I could move and manipulate my energy through breath awareness and reconditioning the patterns of my monkey mind. This was my second big clue.
Since then, I’ve become a bit of a collector of meditation and mind-body techniques and practices. And I’m still exploring and adding to my repertoire….and discovering over and over that it doesn’t matter what technique I do (be it TM, Zen, Metta, MBSR, Guided Imagery, EFT, Qi Gong, Thai Chi, Yoga, Tsalagi, Kirtan), the point is – they are all a practice of slowing down the mind, opening up the heart, and connecting into the body.
They all work. They all are a means to knowing my Self and feeling the stream of life surging through my Being, so I may ultimately feel the invisible threads connecting all of us together in the Great Web.
CONNECTION TO ONE ANOTHER
“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”~Carl Sagan
When I feel into these threads that connect us, I’m tempted use this section to discuss my own experience with health issues as a means to relate, but I’m going to refrain from writing about them publicly and leave these stories for one-on-one conversations.
However, it is not uncommon for people in the healing professions to share a story about a health crisis and the personal transformation that comes from it. There is even an archetype for this: the Wounded Healer. And while I identify greatly with the Wounded Healer, I don’t want to use the specific details of my personal health struggles as a way to proclaim cred. Because no individual can walk in someone else’s shoes, but the truth is – we have all “been there” in our own way. Suffering is universal.
So, much like you, I’ve felt disillusioned with my physical body as it’s failed my expectations in one way or another. I’ve felt fear. I’ve felt shame. I’ve felt fractured and broken on the inside. I’ve struggled with all the human emotions, up and down the spectrum, because I am just that -human.
Yet the most painful thing I’ve experienced, and continue to experience in my darker moments, is that subtle, but profound, disconnection I mentioned in the beginning. It is the illusion I am alone in this world. And as much as my mother tried to protect me from this despair, the wound runs deep. It runs back through the ages like a schism through the hearts of my ancestors, to a time when we, as a people, forgot the truth that we are all in this together.
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. ~Khalil Gibran
But before we can honor our togetherness, we must be able to reconnect. We must be able to repair what’s been broken. Sew up the tears. Glue the pieces back in place. And remember our wholeness.
This is the path I’ve chosen to walk. And the clues are everywhere.
They are in my baby’s cry when he falls and bumps his head. They live in the silence between my partner’s words when he’s feeling vulnerable. They are the flash of tears in the eyes of a patient as their true essence tries to find room to expand into fullness. And they are the rare moments when my mother doesn’t have the wise words I’m seeking…. When there are more questions than answers.
They are the opportunities for me to show up, for me to connect. For me to reconnect. Fully, with my whole Self.
And it is here that the question of who am I comes forth.
In this work, and in this life, who am I…. and who am I becoming?
Lately a new understanding of my purpose with my work in this world has become clearer. And it’s all about connection. It’s about relationship.
We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present. ~Marianne Williamson
To me, it begins with feeling the connection to the natural world, the cycle of life, and the forces that shape me. This is the foundation. From there I am able to shift my perspective, connect into my internal world, and feel the next layer of my Being unfolding. The final step is showing up and reaching out. It is the recognition that I am not separate from nature, not separate among the different places within me (body, mind, heart, spirit), and not separate from you. We are still all in this together. And together we are whole.
And this is where the true healing potential unlocks and we are able to access a wellspring of life force flowing between and within us. As I heal myself, I heal you. As you heal, I heal. When my heart is open, your heart opens, and we swim together in the current of the stream like a school of fish.
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. ~Pema Chodron
Together we peel back the layers of the proverbial onion and sink deeper toward the core of our shared experience, our shared understanding of what it means to be human, of what it means to be alive.
This is why I do what I do. This is how I’ve come to be where I’m standing…. or where I’m swimming. This is who I am, and who we are becoming together.
And while I laid this story out in a loose chronological fashion, it is not linear. The stream of life is a circle, and like all thing cyclical I will go around and around again on this quest for connection. Each time I will come back to finding myself within the singing reeds standing tall along the sandy banks, within the rising breaths keeping me afloat, and within your open arms holding tight to this beautiful life we share.
This is my story. My journey as a healer. My quest for connection.
The Stream of Life
The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death,
in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood
~ Rabindranath Tagore