and the Need for Praise
It’s Christmas Day 2019 and as the tumultuous year of 2019 draws to a close, I feel melancholic. This morning about 4 am, a dear priestess sister died in a hospice bed in Asheville, after a difficult death process. Thirteen of us priestess sisters from my lineage had been energetically gathering around her and her priestess sister partner for the past week or so, as it became clear she might be in her last days or weeks. We managed to quickly put many support pieces in place so that she and her beloved could experience a conscious blissful deathing process, but her soul had other plans. Even so, she received visits, many words of love, and outpourings of energy and prayers coming to her from many directions before she left. Now comes the time for grieving that she has left this earth, praise for her many gifts and contributions, and eventually a celebration of her life.
Two weeks ago Lucky died, a dog whom Gary and I inherited in early 2014 after my stepfather’s death. He was with Gary in California. Then 5 days later, my beloved kitty, Cali, who had been blind for the past 9 months, died quickly in front of me. I had just gotten home from a trip and had just walked in the door from a meeting. Although there are blessings and relief in these passings because of the level of energy it takes for us to care for them when they are ill, the sorrow has been all-encompassing lately.
I am also a reader for Tammy Billups not-yet-released book called Animal Soul Contracts: Sacred Agreements for Shared Evolution. I had been reading the chapter on Sacred Transitions that featured my story about a previous beloved dog’s (Lily) passing years ago, and Lucky’s story. The synchronicities of these last few days have been uncanny and obviously engineered to keep my heart wide open. I had just completed grieving Lucky and then Cali, and was tearfully reminiscing about Lily’s death ceremony in Tammy’s book when my sister-friend died.
If you have read my previous two blogs on PTSD and the Death Wish (scroll down here to find them under this blog), you may resonate with me when I say that being in Earth School right now is challenging. I have been asking Spirit to show me where I am next meant to be of service, and suddenly these and other situations presented themselves, all at the same time! If you do not have a disaster, a tragedy, a need or a crisis around you, you are blessed. However, you might be called at any moment to step up, and step into, a situation that needs just who you are. That is a blessing too. We are here to serve in whatever way is ours to do. That service serves our soul’s evolution and gives us purpose.
So let’s talk about grief. Are you able to grieve when you lose someone or something dear to you? What do you feel? Do you go numb? Do you freeze up? Do you distract yourself? Do you self-medicate with food, drugs, alcohol, and busy-ness? If that’s your usual habit, try breathing and going deeper. Find your sadness, even if it is painful. Open to tears, and not just a few. Go even deeper. Breathe. Feel and stay with it till you can cry, keen, wail, and call out your pain. Play music that makes you sad. Find someone to hold you, and if you do not have someone, hire a healer to help you get there.
Attend a grief ritual in your area. They are happening everywhere these days, as we wake up to the gift that death is. You can go here for a beautiful 27-minute video called “The Gifts of Grief” by my sister-friend Melody LeBaron. Schedule a Shamanic Breathwork™ session (see the series based on these blogs that starts in late January here in my community) It may take a while and you may have to go back to your grief many times. You will know when you are complete, for the moment. I find that my initial grieving is intense and deep. Then it comes up when it is triggered by other grief, for the world, for a friend’s animal passing, for a friend’s grief or a story or song that evokes sadness. I don’t apologize or feel shame or guilt, I just let it flow until it is done. Our grieving is as unique as we are. As you will see, the ability to grieve is essential for many reasons.
Joe and I have been reading the work of Martin Prechtel and in particular his recent book The Smell of Dust on Rain: Grief and Praise. Martin is one of the first teachers to speak about the need for grief and praise, as food that the dying and the dead need to be able to make their way across the veil. Other teachers and students of Martin’s have followed this guidance. Many cultures tell stories about the dying, talk to them about their lives, sing their praises, speak gratitude for the gifts they have brought, and celebrate them with more stories and praise after they have gone. They cry out loud and have professional wailers and keeners to do this for them and with them.
Our western culture has been afraid of loss and death, and we are in need of a have a reeducation so that we can approach the inevitable in a healthier way. It’s as if we abandon our dead because we do not know how to honor them, or face our own grief. It is typical for divorces to happen after a child dies, for friends to disappear when someone is dying or is very ill, and when we lose an animal beloved, for us to try to forget and move on. After all, didn’t we learn to never talk to a dying person about dying, and didn’t we also learn when an animal dies that it was just an animal?
The better approach would be to value those that have died in every way you can out loud, and let them and everyone know what their contribution was to this world. In my priestess sister Toby Evan‘s 2019 book Dead, But Not Gone: Are You Part of the Soul-Bridge to Guide Them Home she recounts stories of many souls and large groups of souls who have been earthbound because they died suddenly, were not prepared, were confused, had no belief in any life after death, were too attached to people who could not let them go, stayed with a leader who did not leave, or were just not honored. As a healer and empath who has been visited by earthbound souls her entire life, she shows us how to honor those who have passed so they can have another chance to meet with their Higher Self and go to their spiritual destination. I had no idea that there were so many that needed this kind of assistance. At present Toby is using her prairie labyrinth and working with many around the world to create Soul-Bridge Crossings for the four primary races, which will likely lighten up the earth in powerful ways to come.
Part of the grief and praise that is called for now is for the peoples of the world who have been persecuted, dominated, stolen from, enslaved, and worse. These are our ancestors. We come from these people, and everyone has experienced the cruelty of the dominators and controllers of the world in some way. Remembering is an important step that can lead to forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and maybe even restitution. Wouldn’t it be liberating to see the USA make amends to Native Americans, to African-Americans and other cultures that simply came here for refuge, and instead found cruelty? What a joyous day that will be when we can actually openly celebrate all the gifts these people have added to our own cultures in a good way.
Melody LeBaron says that grief that is buried alive never dies. It ends up in the lungs (in many healing systems the lungs are directly connected to the emotion of grief), and can cause lung issues, heart issues, depression, anxiety, and emotional coldness and cruelty, either toward self or others. Un-processed grief may be an underlying cause of the loss of heart in the world right now. Think of all the wars this planet and its creatures have endured and humans have participated in through the ages. Imagine the millions of ungrieved soldiers that have died alone in battle, and the many “civilians” murdered in acts of war.
Grief that is not allowed to be fully witnessed and expressed has the potential to turn on us, and diminish our life force. It does not matter if that grief is covered over by PTSD, anger, self-medication or addiction. It can be unearthed and healed with healthy grieving and healthy praise. Another teacher that has been helpful to me in my own grieving is Frances Weller. In his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief he quotes William Blake who says “the deeper the sorrow the greater the joy”. Francis says when we send our grief into exile we simultaneously condemn our lives to an absence of joy. Melody also says that whatever we grieve well and integrate within us, becomes part of the medicine we carry for others, who will inevitably need our wisdom at a future time for their grief.
If you’ve not yet done so, do yourself a favor and begin to work with your grief. If you are already grieving someone, honor your process, affirm yourself, and take your time. Name what you have not yet grieved. Let yourself bravely look at those pictures, or read those letters, or pick up one of the books I have mentioned about death, dying and grieving or watch Stephen Jenkinson’s film Griefwalker or his book Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul Perhaps there is a book a friend has highly recommended. Do ceremony to honor your beloveds on special days, and if you have a beloved or an animal companion die, honor her with a poem, a memorial, and/or a special memorial altar or wall.
I leave you with a poem my partner Joe wrote for Cali, and a picture of my memorial wall. Enjoy, and if the tears come for goddess sake, please enjoy the liquid nourishment they give your heart!
by Joe Landwehr
I hear tell that you lived a life of brave adventure,
and that in your day, you were a feisty force to be reckoned with.
I knew you only as a buddha cat, descending more deeply into silent wisdom and grace
as blindness swallowed you.
Even then, you sought the occasional adventure,
and found your own way around
with patient probing of the edge.
But mostly you were a supreme teacher of presence,
responding to touch and sound
but mostly riding the ethereal airwaves
in that uncanny way that only master cats can do.
We, your slow and wayward students,
will miss you sadly.
I hope wherever you are now,
it rains kitty treats
and there are plenty of new adventures to be had
worthy of your sweet and sassy heart.
May you remember our love, and may it guide your way through the darkness
into the light.
This is the 2nd in a series of 4 blogs. Scroll up to see the 1st in the series called PTSD: A Prevailing Condition of Our Time. The 3rd in the series will be posted in early January and will be called Conscious Grieving and the Need for Praise. The 4th in the series in February will be entitled New Earth Unity Consciousness: A Possible Future.
If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker
I’m ready, my lord
There’s a lover in the story
But the story’s still the same
There’s a lullaby for suffering
And a paradox to blame
But it’s written in the scriptures
And it’s not some idle claim
You want it darker
We kill the flame
They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim….
Notice that Leonard Cohen seems to be talking to God, and the word “hineni” in the chorus is a Jewish word that means “I am here”. Jewish scholars say this is what Abraham said to God when God wanted him to sacrifice his only son for Him. Is Leonard barely veiling the idea that humanity is offering itself up as a sacrifice? The death and destruction on earth right now certainly could lead us to that conclusion, and that humanity has a “death wish”.
Have you ever heard someone say “I want to go home” or “I just don’t want to be here anymore”, as if they can simply decide that their time on earth is over and catch the next space ship out? I have heard it frequently in my psychotherapy practice, and it seems more frequent lately as our personal and planetary challenges intensify. This is not usually a suicidal threat, but it’s definitely a cry for help. Are many of us not equipped with the physical~emotional~mental~spiritual resources to see our lives through? Do we imagine that there is some ideal place somewhere beyond here where we will be accepted, loved, comforted, and taken care of? There are plenty of suicides to attest to the idea that some do manage to get out, and many who have had near-death experiences lead us to believe it is indeed better on the other side. However, we are here in Earth School for a reason!
Another way that death wish can surface is around how a person neglects, ignores or goes into denial around self-care, or blatantly destroys their health through negative habits. I come from a family where all three of my parents (including a step-father) died of lung cancer and all of them were chronic smokers. I smoked in my 20’s and 30’s off and on, but then with great difficulty finally stopped right before I turned 40. I definitely got a sense of being self-destructive when I found it difficult to stick with other healthy habits, rationalizing that “well, I smoke so how is that (healthy habit) really going to help me?”
Is the world around us really that bad? The answer for most people is yes, and all you have to do is read your friends’ Facebook posts or watch the news to agree. But human beings are strong, and collectively we have survived many thousands of years of difficult circumstances, and here we are, still pushing on. And maybe that’s the issue. Perhaps many are just tired of the pushing, pulling, carrying, suffering and enduring that life offers them. Ending life may seem like an easier way out. “One Nation Under Stress”, a recently released and highly recommended HBO film, starts out with this statement: “In the 60’s Americans had among the highest life expectancy in the world. Today the USA ranks at the bottom of major developed nations”. We are experiencing several epidemics in our country, but the three major causes of death, which are also called “deaths of despair” are cirrhosis of the liver, drug overdose (primarily opioids and prescription pain-killers), and suicide. There are more suicides by handguns than homicides! Loneliness, economic inequity, job loss, all under the category of ongoing continual stress is seen as the underlying cause. We are a nation of people in addiction and survival mode, attempting to self-medicate to escape deep pain. And, we apparently don’t have enough community~family~social support to sustain us. Amazingly, the film mentioned the “Hispanic Paradox” which is that Hispanics with their tight-knit communities are doing better than whites and blacks. White people in fact, between the ages of 24 and 55, are at the greatest risk of poor health, addiction and suicide.
A few years ago I read the latest research on the yugas, four 6,500-year long Ages, that move us through a 26,000 year cycle of 2,400 years each. In the first Satya Yuga, it is said that humanity had all of it’s collective heart; in the second Treta Yuga we ended up with 3/4 of our heart; in the third Dvapara Yuga we were left with 1/2 of our collective heart, and now at the end of the last yuga, called the Kali Yuga, we are left with only 1/4 of our collective heart. Does it seem as if there is more cruelty and heartlessness in the world? We are being called to look at our own darkness, feel our emotions, listen to the marginalized voices of the children, the women, the grandmothers, animals, and nature, and claim our true compassionate humanity.
Humans have been under seige in many ways for longer than we can immediately remember. As I watched the 2nd episode in The Time of the Sixth Sun series on Healing Our Ancestral Wound, I was reminded that we are all indigenous to somewhere. Because of this, we have experienced our native lands being invaded and our way of life being taken away, perhaps over and over again. And then we have participated in doing it to others. It is time to give up war as a way to settle differences (and sacrifice our youth for the profit of corporations). War, invasion, takeover and competition have been assumptions rather than a choices for the past 6,000 years. War has caused untold suffering and ongoing PTSD for humanity. If you have a belief in reincarnation and have done past-life soul work, you may have retrieved memories of difficult lives, violent deaths, and you might have taken your own life. These memories leave soul imprints that come with us, and also come through our lineage. The death wish can be a way we try to contact and heal these ancient wounds, bringing them to the surface so that we can meet those parts of ourselves, embrace them, and let go of the trauma imprints.
There are many layers and levels to the despair, powerlessness, and hopelessness of the death wish. Collective humanity is at a crossroads now like perhaps never before. We get to make a decision whether to go on as a species or let the human experiment go by the wayside. No matter what that decision ultimately is, each of us also has a personal decision to make about how we complete our own lives, and lay the foundation for the next generation(s). We can face our own death wish, even if it is subtle and mostly unconscious. What follows are some ways to view it and to work with it.
I listened recently to a healing session on the Death Wish by David Manning, a British energy healer, who has healed himself of cancer and has had a reoccurrence. By contacting and accepting his previous lifetimes connected to the disease, he is clearing out the old imprints of despair, self-rejection, and hopelessness that lie at the root of his own death wish. What if we could vibrate these old imprints of death and destruction right out of our bodies, and reclaim the will to live? I find that I need to do this on a daily basis. Often I stand on my tile patio overlooking the Smoky Mountains in my long warm green bathrobe, and declare that I am alive, willing and able to show up for myself that day, or I dance or move in my temple to some wild percussive music, shaking out the old spirits of death and decay that might have pursued me in the night. Shamanic Breathwork is also a great way to move out the depression, despair, anger, rage, and hopelessness of the death wish. Talk to me about the possibilities for doing this kind of work together.
I remember a young gay man who was seeing me for counseling in the early 90’s who frequently mentioned suicide. As a transpersonal psychotherapist I told him that my belief was that if we did not complete what we came here to do, and instead ended our own life, there was a chance we would need to immediately reincarnate to finish up. I don’t know if this is true, but it was a good way to get him to think about what he came here to do instead of continually and dramatically posturing around suicidal thoughts. It worked, and he told me years later in a mock angry tone that it kept him here whether he wanted to be here or not!
There is a reason we all showed up together on planet Earth at this time. Each of us has a purpose, a mission large or small, and a blueprint to carry it out. Each of us is perfectly equipped to do what we came here to do. There are many positive changes happening and solutions being pioneered that we do not see in the news. I was honored to witness a ceremonial concert given by Pueblo Musician and story-teller Robert Mirabel, who said “this is the generation that is being called to fall in love with the earth again”. Everywhere I hear and see how young people have fallen in love with the earth again, and are leading the way towards cleaning up the earth and creating a new earth. Can we find the will, the commitment, and open to our higher selves to call in the inspiration, energy and resources to complete our mission here?
Speaking for myself, I can only do the best I can do, which is my part of the great plan for this age, in whatever time I have left. I must be be inspired and reminded daily to get present with myself, move, vibrate, set intentions and open to new possibilities, one day at a time.
If you have work to do to clear out past trauma, understand your life purpose, and open to new possibilities, consider doing some work with me in the near future. 2020 may be your year to change your life. As my Shamanic Teachers River and Diamond have taught me, change can happen at point easy, at point uncomfortable, at point difficult or at point painful, or at point crisis. Go here for options for personal or couples intensives, here for my on-line brochure and here to contact me. As we do the work, it ripples out to the children and back through our ancestors, and out to the world, paving the way for others to come behind us.
In the past few years, I’ve become acutely aware that we all have PTSD, whether it’s a big Trauma or a little trauma, a big Stress or a little stress. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.”
But it’s not just the above scenarios that cause trauma. PTSD is a favorite collective buzz-phrase these days, as many of us refer to having PTSD when we experience some kind of stressful event in our lives. Stress is way too common now, as our personal predicaments, national atrocities, and planetary dilemmas keep increasing. We are truly in a Dark Night of the Soul as a planet. I recently spent some time again with spiritual teacher and author Andrew Harvey, who I first heard speak of our planetary crisis in a deeply meaningful way. He reminds us to navigate these times with both a spiritual connection and a choice to take action: the Sacred Activist. Otherwise, there is no meaning to our suffering, and despair is one of the shadow emotions that can creep into our lives. I have some suggestions for taking spiritual action, and as with the link above to an 8-minute video on Andrew and Sacred Activism, I will provide links to a few resources and some inspiration as we go along.
Our personal traumas can include death and suicide…are you like me and hear about someone close to you or within a few degrees of separation leaving the planet, on an almost daily basis? I am not referring to the mainstream news, which tends to highlight death and violence and can cause trauma in and of itself. I am referring to people we know or that are connected to those we know. Another form of personal trauma can be an interaction, ordeal or attack, with or from a group, a corporation, or an individual that went badly, resulting in verbal abuse, scapegoating, expulsion, or a legal situation; a divorce or separation; loss of a job, income or living situation; an illness, hospitalization, or accident (it doesn’t have to be “bad” by other people’s standards, but it can still cause trauma, pain, and loss for you); others close to you experiencing any of the above; caretaking an ill or dying loved one; a job that creates so much stress and tension it’s difficult to function; and memories of past traumatic events that are surfacing and have been unprocessed. I am constantly amazed at the unimaginable stories I hear on a daily basis. Witnessing trauma also qualifies. My personal sorrow is the way we treat animals, and if you read about or witness the abuse of an animal, like me, it might stay with you as trauma. If you do Facebook, watch TV or the news, you can be sure that you are adding more stress to your already stressful life unless you are very discriminating or are more tolerant of violence than I am.
Many people are functioning on the surface of things, fearful that the next shoe will drop and anxious about the future as if they will not be able to get through whatever surfaces. Barbara Hand Clow, a spiritual teacher, author, and astrologer, wrote a book in 2000 called Catastrophobia: The Truth Behind Earth Changes in the Coming Age of Light. She believes that as a species we carry the memory of a time 11,500 years ago when the earth experienced a great cataclysm, also called the Great Flood in Christianity, but recorded in various ways by many cultures. This memory gets played upon by the Global Elite to evoke fears about our future and future disasters. Of course, there are many reasons to believe that humanity and nature are in grave danger these days, and I will cover this in greater depth in my Collective Death Wish blog, Part 2. 2020 is upon us, named the Turning Point by Daniel Giamario, creator of Shamanic Astrology, also called the Giamario Approach. In addition to the agendas of the power brokers on planet earth, we very well may be carrying an ancient trauma within us that has not been fully processed.
My own story of PTSD this year started with the sudden death of my precious 10-year old girl-dog, Ena. But it was the getting up in the middle of the night to drive an hour to the Asheville emergency clinic and have to leave her there that haunted me nightly, and the “what ifs”, and “I should haves” that I ruminated about for 6 months afterward. I spent many nights waking up at the exact time I made the decision to take her in, and not being able to go back to sleep easily. Sleep disorders are common for many these days. I imagine that they will increase in collective humanity until we can find better ways to fully process our traumas, and come home to ourselves. The Medical Medium Anthony William says that we can lose parts of our heart, our spirit or our soul and that healing any of these aspects of ourselves takes acceptance and time.
A month or so after Ena left, I had an experience with a neighbor and his son, who have a collection of beautiful German Shepherds that are confined in a small space. I hear them regularly and am always sending out healing light to them. There seems to always be one who cries out, and upon asking the young man who owns them, I learned, “they get a little aggressive at feeding time”. I brought them a bag of treats once and asked him to consider re-homing the one who gets beat up, but that was an affront to his ego and I received a negative response. After that, I either called on the phone when I had a concern or emailed the roofing company where the dogs live. One night after hearing one of the dogs crying for a straight 24-hour period, I emailed and asked them to please help this dog to feel better. A day or so later I heard one gunshot, and never heard that dog cry again. We live in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, and as beautiful and safe as my life is, there are those around us with values that are not mine, and who live very differently. As much as it broke my heart, I chose to process this with the belief that this dog was obviously unloved and is now in a better place. I asked the Goddess to bring her/him a next incarnation that was loving and kind. It took a while, but because of my spiritual connection, I was able to let it go.
I am one who cannot watch violence on TV. I have been this way since I was a child. I could not watch the old 50’s cowboy and Indian movies, and as an adult, I have turned off or walked out of many films. I do not understand why we are subject to so much violence except as a way to condition us to tolerate it. In my case, I love the Outlander series; the characters, the story, Scotland (I am 49% Scotch-Irish and have had many lifetimes there), but the violence gets to me. I have gotten through all 4 seasons while I pace around my round house trying to avoid the violence as much as possible, so I can get back to the story! My own assessment is that I have experienced lots of past life violence. I had an early past-life recall of being a female spy from the North in the Civil war. I was shot and had the memory of it bleed through my dreams for years. My present lifetime has not been violent, so it demonstrates to me that we can bring these traumas with us. We can also bring trauma through our lineage, our parents, grandparents and beyond. I have worked with many clients who have unexplained trauma, and when we work together, it is amazing how other lifetimes and our ancestors’ experiences can come through. I have learned through the years that any story is possible, and all stories are valuable and healing. We can choose to open to the very real possibility that we can heal our past, our present, and heal heart, soul, and spirit.
One of the ways I cope with my stress is that I have a wonderful leaderless women’s group I meet with on a regular basis. We listen, receive and support all of what each other is experiencing in our individual lives without judgment and mostly without feedback. You might do the same: find a place you can share on a regular basis, and if there is none, create your own group. It may take some time, but I bet you can find a handful of like-minded souls who would love the same kind of support. My partner Joe has the same thing: a small men’s group where support, mutual trust, and confidentiality is cultivated, honored and respected.
The axiom that God-dess only gives us what we can handle is really being tested now. We are in need of support and coping strategies to hold ourselves and to hold each other up. I am reminded of a Jenny Bird song that I have used in many of my circles called We Hold Up Each Other. She says “..there are spaces of exuberance, moments of reprieve until another tragedy cracks us open and we grieve. How do we stay emblazoned, tenaciously endure? We hold up each other.“
Here’s a suggestion: Look back on your 2019, and simply recognize the stressors you have experienced. List them. Perhaps you might categorize some of them as PTSD because they have felt diminishing in some way as if you have lost something. Perhaps your heart was broken or it closed down, and you lost some of your heart. Perhaps your life-force and inspiration were a bit extinguished and you lost some of your spirit, or perhaps you chose not to fully be present in your life, you want to leave, and you lost some of your soul. I encourage you to resist the notions that you are being negative, making things up, feeling sorry for yourself, that your situation is not that bad or others have it worse than you, you have no reason to complain, etc. This is just our cultural conditioning that tells us to minimize and repress our pain, keep a brave face, a stiff upper lip, and by all means don’t cry or show your vulnerability. Once you have listed everything that has happened in your life this year, sit down with a good friend and tell them your story. You may find it healing and rejuvenating to admit to another how much you have been through. Be sure and admit to them and yourself that you are brave, still standing and that you deserve good things. Find some ways to give yourself some nurturing, self-care and celebrate yourself!
If you desire some expertise in working through a trauma, or a series of them in your life, consider my personal intensives. I schedule several of them a year, in my home, when I am not traveling or participating in another project. And, if you want more inspiration and resources for working with stress, listen to my recent 40-minute interview on The Power of Inner Connection Summit called Ceremony and the Sacred.