Today is a good day to die. Today I welcome death with wide open arms, heart exposed, face to sky. Not the release of this physical form kind of death, but the dying and rebirth of the Phoenix: flames, smoke and grey ashes transformed into radiant multicolored winged beauty ready to soar to new heights. Free, so free! This day is the Summer Solstice, a time when we dance with the sun longer than at any other time of the year. This day is a powerful day to recommit to the spiritual awakening. And since my mantra, my intention, for this year is Fire, a proclamation that I am ready to release what no longer serves in order to make room for what does, this Aries and Dragon says “Burn, Baby, Burn!
Peeling back the layers
I’ve been wanting to share with you a death/rebirth experience I’d had just after my 21 day retreat. It’s taken me a while to come up with words to describe something that is so personal, individual and deeply sacred to me. Yet I feel called to share, to be vulnerable and transparent, because I believe it speaks to the transpersonal and collective. Words are inadequate to explain the ineffable, but I’ll do my best.
My 21 day retreat was the precursor to this spiritual awakening process. Awakening. Hmmm. I don’t know what other word to use. Certainly it wasn’t enlightenment. I’m still the same person I was with my ego’s daily power struggle and my personality still holding stories that define me and the world as this or that. Let’s just say it was a peeling back of a layer, an uncovering that revealed more of who I really am, who we all really are. A waking up, one of many I hope to come, as I wake up, go back to sleep and wake up again.
The Bliss of Solitude
My 21 days were pure bliss. During this time I stayed in mostly silence and solitude, interacting with my husband Jordan briefly with little words in the morning and evening. I read 8 inspiring books. Walked/hiked twice a day. Did yoga at least once a day. Meditated several times a day. Wrote poetry. Spent hours of time nature.
The Heart is a Doorway
And I did a lot of intentional heart-opening work. I could feel that there was a layer of some sort of protection around my heart. I love the Sanskrit word for this energetic space of the heart, the chakra called Anahata, meaning “unstruck.” When I hear this word I imagine a silent bell with great potential, pure peaceful silence, a spacious blue sky, wide open and endless. Instead of spaciousness, my heart felt a little cramped in there. So, each day of my 21 days I’d tap my heart while I watched the nature outside my window. When I noticed my shoulders rounded forward, I’d pull them back, take a breath and soften my heart to the world. After a few days of doing this process, I began to have clear images of humans and animals and our beautiful planet in pain: all that suffering, all that destruction, all that senseless torture. Sometimes the images would be so clear that my heart would ache and I would break down crying. But instead of pushing the images or emotions away, I’d tap my heart and breathe in the pain. Their pain was mine. So I kept tapping.
I returned to work and normal life on a Wednesday, back to the 1.5 hour each way commute, the constant contact with people, the noise, the fast pace of a life lived here in the Bay Area. That Friday morning I was sitting in my chair doing my tapping heart exercise when suddenly I heard a loud crack, felt a sharp pain in my heart chakra, and a bolt of energy shot up my spine out the top of my head. And then like watching a projector screen, a download began. Images flashed through my mind of a few years in my young adult life when I’d experienced abuse, a time so painful that I’d hidden it from myself in order to be able to function. No one knew about that time, including myself. As I watched, I felt horror at the experiences and at the choices I had made to run from the experiences, choices that had completely changed the course of my life. I began to sob, gut-wrenching sobs, but I kept tapping and telling myself “Stay, stay, stay with this. Stay with yourself. Stay right here.”
Trusting the Process
After a full day of these downloads, I reached out to some friends by text and shared that something profound was happening to me. I asked them to remind me “You are ok. It’s all ok.” and to simply text back or call me to remind me of my current life and how beautiful it is now because I was smack in the middle of reliving the past. I asked them to trust me, explaining that I could feel that if I stayed with it all, every single memory, every single emotion, every single drop of pain, that it would clear out of me in a few weeks, all these years, even lifetimes of suffering. My husband and my friends were amazing. They did not doubt for a second that something that needed to happen was happening for the best. I was surrounded by a tribe that encircled me with their loving witnessing, who held me loosely enough to give me the safe space I needed to do this healing work, without judgment, without the need to fix it or me.
The Life I Chose
That Saturday morning while I was taking a shower I suddenly I had a feeling of immense claustrophobia, of being trapped by time itself. I wanted to go back, desperately wanted to go back in time. I had a flashback of an intensely painful moment when I unconsciously made a choice to walk away from good man I loved with all my heart, my high school sweetheart that to this day I still adore. I saw how that choice had taken me into a destructive and lonely marriage I stayed in for years because I forgot I had a choice. Then I realized I had made choices. I had chosen to slam the door on my past in order to escape. I had chosen that marriage. I had chosen my path. I had chosen my life. There were no perpetrators, no victims. No one to blame, for anything. There was only the truth of me making choices.
The Perfect Tapestry of Life
The pain of that realization was so intense I honestly felt as if I were going to die. I called to Jordan from the other room to come be with me and bring me back to the present. Jordan quietly stood with me, gently touching my back, while water poured over my body, shaking and naked, and tears flowed down my face. And then like being held in a gentle ocean, I felt waves of compassion rocking me, wave after wave of compassion for myself and for everyone in my past. And then I remembered. I remembered I was innocent. I had always been innocent. I had left toxicity to enter abuse to eventually find myself on the other side of it all. It was the right thing to do because it was how I did it. Simple as that. Every person along the way was innocent. There was nothing to fix. Nothing to go back and change. Everything began to make sense. It’s as if I saw a tapestry made from the threads of my life, past, present and future, it was colorful, beautiful and perfect.
Feel the Pain. Feel the Joy
That afternoon I had a scheduled photo shoot for my new website and a dinner with dear friends. I felt so raw, tender, a bit exhausted from the crying, but so very alive and present. I decided not to cancel and just go with what was going to happen. I kept crying on and off throughout the day, even during the photo shoot, but the world just looked so damn beautiful. It’s as if I could see through things into the light inside. That evening I felt so in love with my friends. And the food, oh my, the food was like sex in every bite. It’s such a paradox, how the more we feel the pain, the more we feel the joy. But oh wow! the joy was right there inside me and all around me, inescapably linked with the pain. And I knew this was exactly as it should be.
Accountability and the Blanket of Compassion
This spiritual awakening went on in various forms for 2 weeks. My heart chakra literally ached and pulsed a steady rhythm. I kept doing my work, seeing clients and teaching yoga. At times I found myself crying in front of my clients when I was deeply touched by their process. My yoga students didn’t know, but sometimes I’d put them into a closed-eyes posture as the tears began to come. I just kept telling myself “Stay, stay, stay right here. Stay with yourself. Stay with them.” When I was at home, I kept doing the tapping work which would inevitably release more waves of grief. Several times the onslaught of memories and pain was so intense I just had to lie down and hold myself, while I would sob and say “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry….” Over and over again. At these times I could see the different faces of everyone I had harmed in my life and faces of the different ages of me. It felt as if I were apologizing to everyone I had hurt by my choices and actions, including myself, my high school sweetheart, my family, particularly my mom and dad, my ex-husband, my past and current friends, my husband, clients, students, teachers, strangers, animals, earth. That’s a lot of apologizing, one huge accountability process. But always wrapped around me the entire time was a blanket of compassion and unconditional love. I could feel it, more real than anything I had ever felt before. It felt as if it came from inside me, me holding me, but also as if I were surrounded by pure love that was everywhere.
From Death to Rebirth
After 2 weeks, as I had predicted, the heart pain and cleansing process stopped. The labor had been hard, but I felt reborn. I felt and continue to feel grounded and at the same time, light, like a balloon. And I am deeply humbled.
I’ll leave you with these small but significant-to-me insights I have had.
- Everyone’s spiritual awakening process is unique.
- The more I learn about myself, the more I realize I don’t know.
- It’s ok that I don’t know. The unknown is nothing to be afraid of anymore because it is ALL one huge unknown.
- The only thing I have to fear is my own fear.
- It’s an illusion that I’m alone. I’m surrounded all the time by so much love and life I can hardly comprehend it.
- It’s an illusion that time is linear, and that I’m trapped by time. I am finite in this form, but infinite in essence.
- The only thing wrong with me is that I think there is something wrong with me.
- The more I completely embrace all my mistakes, the more I realize they were not mistakes but life lesson gifts, essential food for my nourishment and growth.
- My vulnerability is not my weakness but my strength.
- The more I breathe into pain, the more I can actually breathe in life.
- The cracks in my heart are not damaged places to cover over, but windows into joy.
- Pain is a part of life but my suffering is optional.
- I cause my own suffering.
- I choose my experience.
- The more I surrender, the more empowered I am.
- In order to be fully live, I have to be willing to die. Over and over again.
So, I say again, today is a good day to die.
And tomorrow and the next day as well.
I am ready, willing and available.
Burn me up so that I may be reborn.
Bring it on.
Fire me up.
Because I am no longer afraid.
I know what is on the other side of dying, and it is so good.
Burn, baby, burn!
Should Love’s heart rejoice unless I burn?
For my heart is Love’s dwelling.
If You will burn Your house, burn it, Love!
Who will say, ‘It’s not allowed’?
Burn this house thoroughly!
The lover’s house improves with fire.
From now on I will make burning my aim,
From now on I will make burning my aim,
for I am like the candle: burning only makes me brighter.
Abandon sleep tonight; traverse for one night
the region of the sleepless.
Look upon these lovers who have become distraught
and like moths have died in union with the One Beloved.
Look upon this ship of God’s creatures
and see how it is sunk in Love.