Have you done a lot of therapy and personal growth work—perhaps years or even decades—and one day, you realize that what you thought was healed or resolved is still active in some way? Or some aspect of it resurfaces? Maybe because some outer event seems to reactivate it?
I have heard this lament from friends, clients and students over many years: “I thought I had resolved this! Why do I have to do it again? I’m so tired of this!”
I have been in the same boat myself. Staring in my early 20s, I engaged in various modalities to gain insight into and heal the traumas in my life. Due to all this inner work and spiritual study, it is no doubt true that I dramatically changed.
Then something happened: 14 years after my mother’s death, my father was sent home to die in 2015. He lay in bed for months and I listened to him as he took stock of his life—his mistakes and regrets, as well as his loves and accomplishments.
My father and I always had a very sweet and loving relationship. He was my rudder and biggest supporter. He always said to me, “I believe in you, Rachel. I believe in what you do. I have no doubt you will be successful. I love you.” So, anticipating his death was huge, no matter my understanding that we are connected with our loved ones after they die. Life in the body with a loved one is so very sweet.
As Dad’s life force ebbed away over 9 months until his death in May, 2016, I was catapulted alongside him into a review of the 10 years of my life since I stepped up to be a healer and spiritual teacher. I looked back and saw much progress, but I also recognized that I was still carrying inner conflict and hurt. Much had been healed and there was still more work to do. There was old grief from my mother’s death, fears about money and survival triggered by working for myself, and some confusion around my role and identity in the world.
I did what I knew best: I sought out spiritual and psychological counsel. I also dug down into the spiritual and healing toolkit I carried. That journey is still ongoing.
Death or the endings of things—whether a relationship, marriage, career, job—or a loss of good health—can catapult us into another layer of our psyche calling for transmutation. Healing moves in cycles. It must. Why? Because if we were to tear away all at once the foundation upon which our body, mind and heart have been constructed, for better or worse, we could devolve into madness.
Depending on the issue, these cycles can move rapidly—over a month—or long-term—such as over a decade. There are also cycles within cycles. For instance, in my case, healing from the trauma of my childhood into my early adult years was a 15-year process. This reflected the depth and extent of the conflict with and wounds I carried from growing up with a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well as how intensely sensitive and deeply feeling I am. It was also a result of the fact that, during those years, she was still alive and causing problems. The longevity of this first cycle in my healing, therefore, mirrored both the severity of my mother’s abuse, coupled with my own temperament, as well as ongoing exposure to her problems.
Within that healing journey, there were smaller cycles. It works kind of like eating a meal: you can’t take everything on your plate and eat it whole. You must take bites, chew and swallow. Then digest. The more complex and long-term the trauma, the more layers there are to address. Over 15 years, I went through stages in my process—first reclaiming my voice, remembering my strengths and gifts, and then facing and feeling the hurt and pain, even as a navigated my relationship with her. Energy medicine then helped removed the traumatic imprint from my physical and luminous body, layer upon layer.
My mother’s death in 2001 catapulted my healing to a whole new level. I was finally free from the chaos she created. A new cycle began of grieving, letting go, integration and eventually, forgiveness.
There came a moment when all that had happened lost its charge. It was just a story which I then could share with others to inform, inspire and heal. I catapulted forth to create a new life of freedom of self-expression and creativity.
Yet, the road was still sometimes rocky. There were other layers and themes which I had not been able to focus on while I was dealing with my mother’s maelstrom. Mother Life gave me plenty of opportunities to discover and dig into them. I continued to pay attention and do due diligence even as I made mistakes and encountered conflict.
I am very lucky to have my friend and colleague, Sue Wolf, another shamanic healer who lives in Charlottesville, share a recording of her teacher, Black Bear telling his life story. Black Bear lived 350 years ago and returned in the 20th century by being channeled by a man named Christopher Beaver, also a shamanic healer and friend of mine. It was very clear to me upon hearing Black Bear’s voice that he was not Christopher. You have to take this on faith.
In any case, Black Bear regaled his listeners with the sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious story of his life. Near the end, he said that it took him something like 94 years to figure it all out (not sure I have the exact numbers right). Then he added that he died 2 years later!
I find this very comforting. I mean, we don’t have to have it all figured out, every wrinkle in our psyche all smoothed out. Human beings are all a work in progress. And it is likely that over the lifespan, our healing journey will continue to reveal dimensions to be wrestled with—to be loved and given due attention. As the great psychologist, Carl Jung, showed us in his own journey, there are multiple layers and depths to human consciousness. Much of it can be veiled in mystery until there is a readiness in the psyche and soul for it to be revealed for transmutation and integration.
It will happen—of that I can guarantee you. Perhaps a mistake you make or some outer event shakes you up. Or perhaps you fall into a sudden, seemingly unexplainable depression or a strange anxiety begins to creep in where it has never been before.
Or perhaps you hear the call of death, or there is some dramatic change in your outer condition—the loss of a job or home, relationship or a parent entering old age and infirmity. A loved on dying. Then whatever remains to be hollowed out within us will emerge into the light.
Yes, it is light!
Because the truth is, in the alchemical journey of transformation, there is always light in the deepest darkness, as I said in the last blog I shared with you. You only have to stay the course, remain awake and aware, track your feelings and thoughts to their source, and use everything you have in your tool basket of support and magic. You may also need to reach out for help. Then you will find a greater sense of freedom and a more powerful illumination of All of Who You Are.
I am still digging down deep into the layers revealed by my father’s death. It isn’t always easy, but I love the old adage, “No manure, no magic!” I also know from long experience on this sometimes messy human journey that release from pain and integration will come. I hold the course because I know…..
I will fly again.
And so will you!
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