The dictionary defines energy as “the capacity for vigorous activity”; and gives a second definition as “abundant power.”

Medicine is defined as “the art or science of preserving health or… physical condition…”

We can thank Einstein and his colleagues, starting in 1905, the annus mirabilus, for publishing four papers which began to change our understanding of the nature of energy.  Along with Max Planck’s work on the quanta of heat, Einstein postulated one of the most shocking ideas of the 20th century: that we live in a quantum universe, one built out of tiny, discrete chunks of energy which could also condense into matter.

Of course our sophistication and Einstein’s further publishing on the special theory of relativity opened more and more doors to understanding space, time and energy.  In 1955, physicist John Wheeler conceptualized that what we had previously considered “empty” space was a dynamic quantum foam, which, if compressed into one cubic centimeter, was theoretically stronger than all mass fused together in the visible universe!

Furthermore, it appears nothing short of miraculous to realize that in a mere 100 years we have begun to speak of energy in colloquial terms.  Some of us make careers out of moving this life force (energy) with our own hands, facilitating the possibility of living well and living to an old age without the need for pills, potions, powders or sophisticated scientific understanding.

As some of us grow weary of the western allopathic approach to maintaining health and preventing illness, we can learn to call on the capacity of our body’s own vigorous powers of healing.  Dr. Richard Gerber, MD, one of the most respected and vociferous proponents of energy medicine in the world today, states unequivocally that working in our etheric field (the energy field which surrounds the human body) may actually have a negative entropic effect on us.  That is, antithetical to entropy’s action of chaos and decay, energy approaches to health have the opposite effect.  A negative entropic effect causes subatomic particles to organize in a less chaotic way, theoretically making us younger and healthier.   We potentially cease to decay.  We have discovered the potential for a veritable Fountain of Youth!

There are four or five essential books for study in the field of energy medicine, all listed below, but most importantly, the workshop – the veritable petri dish – is one’s own self.  A body, used for trial and error, repetition, proof and observation, is all that is needed.  Trial and error, repetition, proof and observation, all make energy medicine a very legitimate and fascinating science, a science worth footnoting and legitimizing through a bibliography, but a fact which is necessarily neglected for the sake of this brief essay, save for the recommendations for research and reading below.

Some of us break down our work with energy medicine into distinct categories by working with the meridians, the chakras, the aura, the acupuncture system, certain crossover patterns of energy, and other protocols.  I use my training from Donna Eden, coupled with work from the understanding of the energetic qualities of nutrition (macrobiotics), an understanding of yin and yang, a long time study of Chinese Medicine, an essential training in Applied Kinesiology and muscle testing (a very necessary tool for the diagnostic standard for certain energy medicine protocols), as well as a committed meditation practice.  I have found that grounding in spiritual work provides me with the ability to move out of the way and let something higher take over.

Energy medicine is available, understandable, accessible, extremely powerful, and unquestionably needed in today’s world.  In the year 2011, some of us are unable to afford health insurance, so the most essential need to radically take our power back by taking care of our own health affirms David Feinstein’s eloquent statement:  “energy is the medicine, and energy is the patient.”  (“Principles of Energy Medicine”, Energy Medicine, 1999, Putnam and Sons, New York.)

Energy medicine is a healing protocol which uses natural, God-given power to bring one’s own potential healing into congruency and alignment.  And the best part:  it is available to anyone with a mind and a body.  “Working in the field” takes on a humorous and ironic meaning.  It is not without a broad grin that I happily agree with Dr. Mehmet Oz’s assertion:  “energy medicine is the medicine of the future.”

**Recommended Reading List:

Energy Medicine – Donna Eden and David Feinstein, PhD., Jeremy Tarcher, New York, N.Y., 2008

Vibrational Medicine – Dr. Richard Gerber, M.D., Bear and Company, VT, 2001

Between Heaven and Earth – Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D.,Ballantine Books, New York, N.Y., 1991

Touch for Health – John Thie, D.C., and Matthew Thie, DeVorss Publications, CA, 2005

When I read Jean Houston’s book on sacred psychology in the late 1990’s, “The Search for the Beloved”, I remember thinking I had found the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle I had long been searching for. I identified completely with the dilemma of Psyche and her quality of “too much-ness”.

I had been caught up in a family system best described as “spiraling” toxic shame. I had studied Virginia Satir’s work on family systems and Bradshaw’s work on the family, and this, coupled with a study of archetypes, helped me put together the fractals and jigsaw pieces of what I considered a very sad state of affairs: my family of origin.

Psyche loved Eros, as the mythology goes. Yet Psyche was absolutely hated by her mother-in-law, Aphrodite, for the sin of being who she was. Aphrodite, who represented the old order, or status quo, taught the quintessential divide between gods and humans. At that time I related this to my parent’s hierarchal divide between the untouchables: the children in my family of origin, and the Brahmin caste, the parents. My early perception of my family of origin was that my parents were clumsy and rather childish, making themselves into rigid gods who were both unapproachable yet also quite ignorant. They both saddened and interested me somewhat, having robbed me of my vital energy for being a child, leaving me to feel I needed to protect them in order to watch out for my own safety. This is best talked about in family system’s literature, but any child who thinks of her parents more than herself will know what I mean.

When my mother died in 2008 she and I were completely healed of any past story of archetypal jealousies. I was able to be with her at the end of her life in a way I never thought possible. In Hospice, as she lay dying of lung cancer, more child-like and adorable than anyone I had ever known who resembled my mother, there was no cancer in that room. She and I giggled together. I fed her. I put makeup on her. And she told me again and again how much she loved me, she said: “I know you. I know what you have done.” Her eyes, huge in a skull mostly gone to heaven already, were crystal clear and piercing. I loved her with all my heart as I knew she loved me.

But for much of my life we had not been able to express that love. I was to deal with a father who adored and preferred me and a mother and sister who competed with me for his love. In order to get the love and attention I truly craved without the homicidal rage of jealousy thrown in by my mother with her father complex and my sister with her never-ending competitive need to not only be my sister, but to quite literally absorb and be me, I strove for attention any way I could get it. It was so very lonely wherever I cast my shadow. And like Psyche, I too was betrayed by the women in my family who sided with weak, patriarchal men who claimed to belong to the “real world.” I was lost among the good ole’ boys of the south, weak men who only pretended to be strong, wounded in their masculinity. Sensing their unease, I ceased yearning for the males in the family and cast about craving maternal care and the companionship of sisterhood. I longed for the camaraderie of the women in my family; I sought out women who I felt possessed some maturity and wisdom I was certain I lacked, but most of the women I found were unhappy, and their disappointment in life and love made them doubting and envious, classic representatives of the obvious doubts that arise when things are misunderstood, childlike, and unconscious. I lived in an anachronistic world of longing and doubt, placating those around me, at best somewhat entertaining, at worst, irritating and easy to leave.

For awhile I thought I was screwed up and ravaged by demons. I accepted the introject of my family’s cruel projections; not understanding my demon was a true daemon (god). I continued to be lonely and miserable, craving company at any cost. I developed a personality trait of the super-achiever, and this is what Jean Houston calls the archetype of “too much-ness”. This archetype drives weak men away in droves, but it also represents a deep, tribal wounding in women; an archetypal envy and rage as women see in other women what they perceive they lack. And rather than become self-evolved enough to address the lack in themselves, un-evolved women project their self hatred on any likely target, especially on the very women they both envy and admire. Not only did this set me up for disaster, it set me up for a survivor’s guilt I struggle with today – a guilt so profound sometimes it leads me to want to destroy myself.

Karl Menniger wrote a book about people who achieve success with this complex. Mostly they commit suicide when they become successful. I know how many times I have been close to greatness – and I mean real, public accolades – only to deliberately sabotage my success and destroy it. This happened again and again with acting. I can remember two deliberately sabotaged screen tests with famous directors. The cost of breaking out of my family of origin mold of sameness and becoming successful – especially as a woman on my own – was too much even for my own psyche, so I destroyed what I had achieved before anyone else could do it for me.

This question of too-muchness has always raised sad and poignant issues for me. Later in life, when my mother was unable to keep her competitive edge in check and she was stressed beyond measure by the blistering disappointments in the life she was not to have, she was inhospitable whenever I came to visit, especially when I brought my own daughter, now preferred by my father, as his “favorite granddaughter.” Unable to even share her husband/father, her puella complex brought a terrible need to negative bond with the other women in the family, who in turn gossiped and triangulated with their men, both to the alarming and obvious discomfort of me and my daughter whenever we visited. As a result of this treatment, I would attempt to shrink, to put myself down, to do anything to “make everyone comfortable,” to subvert my intelligence and accomplishments at the feet of anything ordinary, anything to get people to stop humiliating me and to love and “feed” me. Constantly trying to assuage my survivor’s guilt by buying things for my sister and mother and giving them money every opportunity I could, they would turn on me anyway in terrible unkindness. I could not win. I saw how deep the tribal transgression had gone. My own mother had gone so deep into her mythological hatred of me, convinced I was there to take her husband, that she could not even see I was her blood. I was made to constantly feel uncomfortable, humiliated, and to become ill each time I visited. I became “bad,” a scapegoat now that my sister had long been banished from family events due to what surely helped her cope: a long and enduring battle with alcohol. The family curse ran deep.

I was to return again and again to the same lesson: I was best, I was “okay,” there was comfort and even an ecstasy for me when I recognized my aloneness; for I was always at home in the darkness and mystery of soul wandering. Not an isolation or punishment for me, I was, as Carolyn Myss aptly offered the moniker: a “mystic without a monastery.” Nobody could guess what went on between me and the regions of my soul when I was silent, and I was best when I played my cards close to my vest. I was best never letting the “right hand know what the left was doing.” I lost myself completely when low self esteem had me announce myself in ingratiating ways, like an arrogant doormat. My essential “seeding”, the very nurturing of the next moment of essential gestation was harmed again and again when I attempted to bond or talk about what was going on with me. Intuition warned again and again, and a return to my meditation mat affirmed what I already knew.

Like Psyche, I suffer from the quality of too-muchness. Not only have I achieved when I was expected to fail, I have made myself too available, too competent, and too predictable way too often. I scare people who do not know how to express themselves, so they attack me. I become confused and chaotic when I do not nurture the quiet sanctuary in my soul where I go to heal the pain of other’s chaos when it is projected on me and called my own. I try too hard, I try to force solutions to insolvable dilemmas, and I become ridiculous and pathetic. I am left alone, nursing wounds of confusion, betrayal and rage.

The myth of Psyche continues with test after test. Psyche’s final initiation, before any sanctified connection to her beloved Eros was possible, and one which she goes through alone, bereft, pregnant, and quite literally, suicidal, is made all the more difficult by her mean mother-in-law, Aphrodite. Psyche is without love, and mostly, without energy. Still, she perseveres. The four tasks that Aphrodite sets before the young woman serve as a series of initiations leading to deepening structures of consciousness and are symbolic of the ordeals many of us endure to deepen our consciousness on the path toward God.

The first task Aphrodite assigns Psyche is one in which Psyche is left stupefied and overwhelmed. She is asked to sort a huge pile of seeds, putting each “in its own place” before evening. She completely surrenders to the impossibility of the task, and in this surrender, a huge army of ants comes to complete the task within the allotted time. This makes Aphrodite furious, and she gives Psyche another impossible task, that of gathering Golden Fleece from sheep, which the innocent Psyche does not know are frenzied and will kill her. Again in despair over the impossibility of the task, Psyche plans to throw herself in the river to die, but she is stopped by a singing reed, breathed through her by some spirit in the wind who advises her to wait until evening when the rams are docile. She listens to her inner wisdom, does just what is advised, and again, completes the task.

Two other tasks are completed intuitively, with surrender, until Aphrodite, completely frustrated, gives Psyche the ultimate and final test, one that people rarely get to, or are extremely hesitant about ever taking. Aphrodite tells Psyche that she must journey to the Underworld and obtain from Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, a jar of her very own beauty ointment. Again, Psyche collapses from the apparent impossibility of this task. She climbs a tower and prepares to hurl herself from it.

Yet this tower is her final ally, and this is the very tower which gives her specific instructions about how to carry out her final mission:

She must go to the outskirts of a nearby city;
She must not help the lame donkey driver pick up his sticks;
She is to take two coins in her mouth and two pieces of barley bread in her hands;
She will give one coin to Charon, the ferry man, as she goes in, and she will give the other coin to him on the way out;
She must absolutely refuse:

-the dead man with the rotting hand who wants her help;
-all others who beg her help along the way;
-a man braiding a rope of the black and white threads of ambiguity;
-the entreaties of the old women who weave the web of fate.

She must also feed a piece of bread to the 3-headed canine guardian of the Underworld, Cerberus, as she enters, and again as she leaves. This will distract the dog as the three heads argue over the bread, giving her time to get through.

Most importantly, she must return the way she came once she retrieves the ointment, and she must, under no circumstances, open the jar.

The symbolism of the tower is the very archetype of wisdom itself. I am prodded to ask myself again and again, “what is the tower in my life?” Is it my profession, my family, my child? Is it my writing? Is it a network, a spiritual group, an affiliation? Is the tower changing? What is essential now? What is now?

The tower warns Psyche to curb her availability to others. How many times have I given up my focus to distract myself on relationships which were of no value? How many times have I allowed myself to be totally interruptible, totally available, for whomever, or whatever needed my attention, moving, however, with resentment and resistance, into expected generosity?

Psyche follows her instructions perfectly. She meets Persephone and receives the ointment from her, reminding us that anyone who approaches the deep world with mindfulness and attention receives the gift of beneficence. Her return trip, however, is not so successful. In spite of her good intentions, like many of us, especially when she is close to the goal, she falls prey to ancient habits. She opens the jar. Vanity has trumped spiritual development. Psyche’s soul lesson here teaches us that, just when we thought we had something licked, old habits may come back to kick us down again. But ego deflation reminds us that the hallowed aspect of these habits are the tragic flaws that provide the opportunity to claw our ways back up to grace from the tininess of our local selves. Death, resurrection, death, resurrection. Only in this way can we allow ourselves the essence of another “cocoon” phase, to morph into the beautiful butterfly which Psyche was to become.

We are lucky and filled with grace to not only be given the difficult and humiliating tests of the ego, of life, but to be given the awareness and capacity to interpret these experiences in the context of the bigger picture. Understanding experiences like this is daily Tonglen – it is compassion practice made real – for we are able to see in no uncertain terms how we are experiencing and analyzing and utilizing just like everyone else. It is bittersweet and poignant, and often very difficult, to be rejected simply because – as my shrink used to say to me: “You shine!”

It takes time and experience and wisdom to understand this opinion of others and integrate it as one’s own. Sometimes we are held hostage by our lack of understanding of the vagaries and necessities of personality. People will do as people do – they love and hate according to nothing more than their own projections; and to stay true to the authentic self regardless…well, this is an enormous accomplishment in the goings and comings of individuation.

It hurts to be rejected. It hurts to be disliked just because someone else cannot stand themselves, so they take it out on you. It hurts when our loved ones become mentally fallible and cannot sustain or even create autonomy and authenticity so that we can know where we begin and they end. And it hurts when an entire tribe moves against the outcast, the one who just isn’t quite like them. But knowing our own small self is held and embraced in the larger Weltanschauung is not only comforting but moves us from our own drama-de-jour to the big picture, the human heart we all share.

First Kill All the Doctors
© Katie Law Goodwin, January, 2015 from http://www.KatieLawGoodwin.com/blog

When I wrote “First Kill All the Lawyers: In Pro Per “(Balboa Press, March 2014), I figured most people would understand the reference to the famous quote from Shakespeare from Henry VI, Part II. Well, they didn’t. In spite of that, I have decided to use a mash-up from that quote for my second book: “First Kill All the Doctors.”
Contempt prior to investigation is a very alienating stance. It is unfortunate that some people choose not to even examine my book due to its title, which often alienates them from the possibility of even finding out that my first book is not about hating lawyers. And little do they know – or seem to want to know – that Shakespeare did not hate lawyers or even condemn them, much less literally kill them.
Rather than provide a defense for something which needs no defense, I decided to begin my second book and use the premise of the first: let people rush to judge and then find out for themselves what is true, or not true.
The second book takes as a premise that one can combine one’s inner healer alongside a physician in the case of a difficult or unremitting disease; that it is possible and surely necessary to activate one’s inner wisdom and natural healing capacity if and when one becomes ill – to couple this with the wisdom, technology and healing potentials of Western medicine in order to create the best shot possible going forward.
And I choose not to spend much time in the dismal reporting of statistics: Up to 75% of all American deaths are iatrogenic. Is that really possible? The third largest killer of us all – at least in hospitals and during medical “care” is physician induced?
So, in “First Kill All the Lawyers”, I advocate strongly for going one’s own way in civil court during a divorce process. I respect the law and used that respect for my own good during my nearly two years in civil court, representing myself.
And in “First Kill All the Doctors” I advocate listening to one’s own wisdom then proceeding with gentle inner strength to a healing path only an individual can possibly decide for themselves. And, like my first book, this book is irreverent, funny, and (mostly) true. And I report on my own journey with diseases as a path to wholeness and spiritual evolvement as crucial to understanding the process.
Just like one needs a good lawyer for a criminal case, one needs a good physician for a difficult disease.
But ultimately we are left to rely on our own wisdom, something many of us forgot we had due to the intense marketing of fear.
Check back for chapters in the weeks to come….!

I saw the red flower, a trumpet flower, before it saw me.  It was there for me, only for me.  I knew it, and she knew it.  Just like the one red rose in San Diego over Thanksgiving that coughed self-consciously to get my attention (like the rose in the Little Prince with the baobab tree), this trumpet flower appeared for me against the bare blue sky, calling to me to look up as I limped up the hill, complaining to myself about so very many things.  My body hurt. My head hurt.  My feet hurt.  My brain hurt.  My life hurt.

The depression had been getting bad.  It was moving toward despair and I was pretty sure I didn’t want  it anymore.  I was taking Pat’s direction to exercise and had walked and walked and was sore in body and mind.  Now the red trumpet flower called me and I looked up and when I did a thrill started down at my aching toes and crept up my ankles and legs and goose pimpled straight up my thighs and up to my neck and shocked my scalp wide open and reddened my ears and itched my eyes and suddenly water poured down my face and I thrilled and thrilled and a bird began trilling and I didn’t notice the walk anymore.  I didn’t notice the pain in my body or the heaviness in my heart any longer.

The trumpet flower was there only for me.  She was there just for me. The sidewalk was there just for me.  It was all just for me.

Every time I have needed to have this little thing I call a life saved I walk in nature and this great beneficence appears and reminds me that everything is here for me.  The chair on which I now sit is here just for me.   It is here for my support.  My shoes are here just for my support.  The computer keys are here just for my support.

When I was in college I only wanted to read poetry.  When I could read the poetry of William Butler Yeats or Theodore Roethke or Galway Kinnell I felt safe and knew that all was right in the world.  If I felt off in any way I opened a book and blinded myself with the light of the words before me.  It was the same as when I was a little girl and could climb the oak tree and “see” the things sparkling and  hear celestial choirs in the moss or in the plough mud and conch shells.  It was then I knew I was safe and all was well in the world.  Nothing could harm me.  I had a sense of rightness and I knew – I absolutely knew – there was no other place I was supposed to be.  Carlos Castaneda was to say many years later that everyone has a “right” spot.  They always know it.  Sometimes it is only one or two feet to the right or left from where they are standing, but it is sensed as absolute perfection.  It is the place where everything is as it should be.  It is “right.” Nature, poetry, – this is what brings me to my “rightness.”

And years later I was to have this feeling again – the absolute knowing I was in the perfect place and all was as it should be.  This was with my true teacher, at her feet, on a marble floor, in India.

They say not to quit before the miracle.  It seems to always come; this beneficence, this kindness that reminds me that I am deserving of mystery and sweetness and miracles.

I don’t know why hardship comes.  I don’t know why we are disappointed so many times, why we are betrayed, why people leave us, why those we love die so cruelly, why our animals are hurt and sometimes killed right before our eyes.  I do not know why children starve when some of us have so much food.

But I do know God appears as trumpet flowers sometimes to remind us of His spectacular Presence, and that She calls to us sometimes to look up.  I do know I may place my forehead now at the feet of my teacher today, the Red Trumpet Flower.

I do know I am in a hurry to find answers to the questions I ask.  I have learned to love the questions themselves, as Rilke said.

And as T.S. Eliot said, the choice is either fire or fire.  The fire of ignominy and continued darkness as my shadow is avoided as I walk, eyes cast downward, focused on the often unbearable pain in my feet.  Or the fire of burning as I turn my passion toward the longing, the starvation, the thirst for God that has been driving me without cessation all my life.  It is a thirst that must be quenched.  I am literally starving and will burn for this food – gladly and forever.  I yearn for this fire.

The red trumpet flower called me and I looked up and answered the call.

And my pain fell away…

December 24, 2013

I must have looked down the road at the old house for a long, long time. I remember how the air felt on my face; how the cold felt on my cheeks and hands. I remember Mama’s beige car coat with the hood turned up. I remember the color of the sky and the full feeling of Christmas dinner still in my belly. I remember knowing that it would never be this good again and if I paid attention with all my being I could carry it with me forever.
I honed my senses and sharpened them: I tasted the sky. I smelled the conversation. I felt the poignant emotions and wistfulness of a family so filled with love they could burst on my skin – the absolute love and kindness in a family close and without conflict on Christmas day. It was a sacred day. No spoken contract was made. But we all knew that this day was a day of love, joy, giddiness and overabundance so divine it could not be spoken – only felt, touched, tasted and smelled.
The sky turned molten rust as we turned back toward the lumbering house again. Leaves blew around our feet as we walked through the dry field by the stable. The horses looked up and whinnied, then looked away shyly when they realized they might have disturbed our sacred time. They somehow knew that this day was for us and that tomorrow would bring a ‘regular’ day of riding and feeding and mucking stalls and horseshoes.
I studied Daddy’s face, memorizing it. I saw the pores in his skin, the hairs in his nostrils, the beautiful gracefulness of his long fingers as he put them in his pockets, then withdrew them, then put them back again. I studied each hair on my sister’s head, memorizing them. I studied my brother’s walk, his particular gait, his funny, lopsided grin. I studied Mama’s beautiful profile, already etched forever in my memory. I memorized the earth, the smell of the marsh, still redolent somehow in cold weather. I knew that the plough mud held treasures, buried down deep in the cold weather, ready to share themselves with us when the warmer weather returned.
As if a silent communication had occurred, we all began to walk more slowly as we approached the back stairs of the old house. Daddy would start a fire, and Mama would make her famous turkey sandwiches with paper thin slices of turkey, cranberry and mayonnaise on white bread. We would eat them no matter how full we remained from Christmas dinner.
My Lanz nightgown smelled like bayberry soap when I put it on that evening and returned downstairs for a goodnight kiss. No matter what happened in the world, no matter how many trials or tribulations or difficulties or stories or personal problems may have arisen in the fifty years since this Christmas, Christmas at Rockland is right here with me now, filling me with joy beyond measure. I taste it. I smell it. I feel it. It is right here.

Our culture’s addiction to speaking our own particular story, apparent victims of our biology and history, lead some people to perpetrate what Carl Jung called “uneigentlich leiden,” or inauthentic suffering.  The suffering wrought through chronic addiction to our own victimization and self-betrayal in our pathological need to speak our so-called wounds is not only corrosive to our culture, it is always uninteresting and steeped in a weepy narcissism.  Carolyn Myss speaks clearly about this tendency as speaking our “woundology.” 

I have seen people who build shrines to their dysfunction.  Some begin web chat rooms to download their need to negative bond with others around their particular problems.  It always seemed to me that one needed to become dedicated to a pattern of chronic dysfunction as well as the need to feel like a perpetual victim in order to continue down this path.

On the other hand, I have seen some, myself included (I sheepishly admit) engage in a certain schadenfreude as we feel smug and superior, self-righteously proclaiming our refusal to whine in this way.

I feel safe around people with integrity.  I define integrity as the ability to define one’s own clear “yes” or “no.”  People with integrity let us know where they stand.  We know who they are, and therefore we have a better-than-average chance of finding out who we are when we stand next to them.  Others appear superficial and unpredictable – I find myself backing out of the room and once outside, checking my wallet. 

I want to hear from others’ experiences when I feel safe and grounded around them; these ones who possess this gift of clarity.  Alternatively, I am not as open to hearing from others when I feel ungrounded and unsure of what to do or say next.  When I am with people who are relatively clear and even in their behavior and affect, I find I can count on a certain consistency in their personalities as well as in their reactions and responses to me.  I can count on a pattern of communication and language.  I can count on not being attacked.  And I find a common ground.   I want to hear from these people.  I want to know their personal story and want them to know mine.  I am open and trusting.  You can count on me, and I on you.  You will not whine.  I will not whine.

So where does our personal story do us the most good?   Where can we help others with our story of suffering; the authentic suffering that does not congratulate or denigrate the storyteller?  Where do we use our words with skill and empathy instead of using them for the purpose of building an anachronistic and disabling negative bond?  How do we help others not feel so alienated and alone?

If I had a dime or even a nickel for all the times someone has said to me “you are a wounded healer,” I would be quite rich and have a much less corroded stomach lining and be less prone to nausea.  Yet I notice, as I sit with my psychotherapy clients, that I sometimes self-disclose my own personal past with certain diseases and certain experiences in order to relate to the person sitting across from me.

We were taught in school never to do this.  We were taught to be a reasonable tabula rosa, a blank slate in terms of emotion and story.  After 20 years of this, I threw it out the window along with the pathetic question:  “How does that make you feel?”  Only the most unskilled practitioners sit without demonstrating a personality in psychotherapy , and now we have courses in ongoing credit and for our CEU’s on doing just that;  learning how to manage the fine line between maintaining clinical distance and being real enough to create a bond with someone else.

It is the finest of skills, this ability to tease out and also reveal what is called authentic suffering.  I once took a new male client apart on his second visit (he did not come back, nor did I want him back) for claiming his “terrible PTSD” as the reason for his inability to bond with his wife.  It turned out he had been scared and had doors slammed in his childhood, leading him to sensitivity to loud noises and over-stimulation, he claimed.  Some former psychologist had given him this term, and I was incensed.  Another male patient of mine at the time, a Marine who had just returned from Iraq and who had consulted me for help with true Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for reasons which should be apparent, blamed nothing on his condition – he just wanted my help.  This young man obtained my help and was, within one year and a combination of psychotherapy and energy/ kinesiology treatments, “completely healed” (his words.)

James Hillman, the prolific psychologist in the Jungian tradition, speaks about betrayal as one of the great archetypical journeys to our wellness.   He speaks about the betrayal of Christ.  It was not the Crucifixion that brought this story its’ worst darkness; it was the Betrayal.  Through the mythic journey of primal trust broken, Jesus was reborn as a fuller and loving human being.

In our own lives we can find redemption and awakening through the great mythic journey of betrayal, as Hillman points out.  He points out further that in most cases betrayal cannot exist without its corollary:  trust.  So the agony of investigating the assimilation of trust and betrayal around our personal relationships brings great awareness and insight:  the parents who did not fulfill their promise to be counted upon, the child who disappoints by not calling home enough, the lover who leaves, the business associate who blackmails us at the highest point of our careers – these are the callings to investigate true suffering.

And how do we negotiate this kind of pain – the agony of betrayal?  The agony of loss?  Loss of trust?  Loss of love?  Loss of hope?  Hillman speaks at length about the self-defeating choices  of revenge, denial, arrogant dismissal as an abreaction of true emotion; and he speaks at length (and it is not the intention of this article to explore the ways Hillman teaches us to deal with betrayal,) of the ways to mitigate and transmute this kind of suffering.

Joining with our human friends in the stating of mutual suffering and then moving into solution immediately – this is how I see a way to overcome the tendency to incessantly speak our pain from the victim stance.  This is not pushing anything down or away as we used to be so fearful of; it is merely the recognition of the problem and the immediate and equal recognition of the need for a spiritual solution:  uncover, discover, discard, as I like to say.  Or uncover, and then discover that there is a pattern in the bigger picture, and from that, we can all relate.   Who hasn’t yearned for something and waited, waited and waited?  What about reminding someone, ever so gently of the beautiful and gentle Penelope waiting for Odysseus?  What about gently reminding someone of the archetype of the crucifixion, death and resurrection as a metaphor for their particular kind of journey?  Almost everyone has experienced a kind of mythic shaman’s death at some point in their journey. 

The ability to join with someone and interpret their small story in the light of a larger Weltanschauung is indeed the gift of a great healer, who can offer so much by interpreting suffering in the light of the bigger picture – that of the epic hero, contextualized through the framework of the self and the apparent other, sitting opposite. 

It takes great courage to see this.  It takes a willingness to move from our smallness to our greatness, from our tendencies to our will.  It takes fortitude and courage and consistency – all important qualities in what the early Shaivite scriptures call the time we are in:  Kali Yuga, or the Dark Ages.   It is especially essential when everything in our culture pulls us into the blame trap; the trap which tells us to project our self hatred everywhere and then blame it on the other.   Then this unconscious monster insists we are justified in moving away in cold silence rather than moving toward in warm embrace, forgiving, always forgiving, understanding that true forgiveness is the absolute recognition that nothing ever happened anyway.

It takes a stalwart heart to turn away from the dysfunctional and disabling norm and be true to the self.  It takes a brave mind to obey itself.  It takes fortitude to recognize that life – growth – is always moving us forward.  And our longing – for everyone is propelled by the same thing – this longing – no matter how misplaced or deviated it may become – may be likened to the growth of a tree.  A tree pushes its roots down, down, down into the darkness to allow its leaves and branches to be offered up to the light.  It simply and fundamentally understands the play of energetic opposites.  Only in embracing the darkness and pushing down into it can the light be embraced.  It is absolute nature of tree.

 When we run from the exploration of who we are, exploring every texture of our being, the magic interplay of light and dark, the chiaroscuro of our personality intricacies, we deny ourselves the very life we crave. 

Uneigentilich Leiden.  Inauthentic suffering.    We refuse this by keeping on keeping on – by bringing kind and gentle awareness to life on life’s terms.  And each day brings the possibility of another moment of ease and a possibility of opening the heart just a little more.  As one of my favorite teachers, Stephen Levine says, we open our hearts again, daily, in hell.   And I remind us that this is, of course, to live perpetually in heaven.


We woke in the early hours of the morning, having never really gone to sleep.   For months and months it seemed, Mom and Dad promised to take us to Edisto at the next low tide for turtle egg hunting and flounder gigging.

It was 1962.  We took our boats at low tide through the marsh to islands next to us; islands called Hilton Head, Edisto Island and Kiawah.  These islands, rough and unpopulated, had deer and wild goat running along the beach.  Inaccessible by land back then, they could be reached from Rockland Plantation’s docks within ten minutes by our outboards and small dinghies.

I hated flounder gigging.  Flounders populate on the floor of the riverbeds at low tide.  They are flat fish, and the low tides keep the waters still, so the flounders lay completely still themselves, perfect prey for spearing.  So we would spear the unfortunate bastards, and the floor of the boat would be stinky and filled with these enormous, flat fish, their hapless eyes staring up at me, it seemed, accusing me of their sad demise.  I compensated for my unhappiness by cutting their eyes out at home and putting these eyes under my sister’s pillow to torture her:  nothing says “sleep tight” like a fish eyeball staring at you from under your pillow as you settle down for a nice night….

But the treat of the all-nighter, besides being with Mom and Dad in this most special of events, was going to Edisto to hunt turtle eggs.  The sea turtles were laying their eggs in the warm and fragrant sand at low tide, at the full moon, and for some reason, the eggs were highly desirable for what was called “Turtle Egg Soup.”  This was long before the sea turtle was an endangered species.  This was long before the Manatee was endangered, and was also the time when there were so many of these sea cows that during mating season you could not get your motorboat in the waterway to start the motor for fear of bumping into these huge and cumbersome creatures.

I heard Mom whooping with pleasure at the first “find.”  She and Dad showed us the huge hole in the sand where the turtle had buried her eggs, and we watched as Mom dug them up.  We also watched in fascinated horror as Mom poked a hole in the soft egg, which looked exactly like a ping pong ball, and sucked the embryonic turtle right out and down her gullet.  I have never been one for eggs in my life, and this memory keeps me away from them – eggs of all kinds – to this day.

But what was kindled in my 12 year old heart that night, the night of the full moon on Edisto Island, was hearing someone’s voice, over and over again, telling me:  “Get on her, Kathy!  Ride her, Kathy!  Get on her!”  –  And I simply could not do it.  I could not get on the back of the Mama turtle and ride her back down to the sea.  This was what we were “supposed “to do.  This is why the kids had come, after all.  Our parents were raping the young, but we were supposed to defile the old.  But I couldn’t do it. 

She was crying.  The Mama turtle was crying.  Apparently there is a discharge from the eyes of the female turtle after giving birth, and as this sweet, sweet animal lumbered back down to the ocean, post-partum discharge in full sight, I could not look at her, but turned away, weeping myself.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was being mocked and shamed, as if I was afraid to get on the back of the turtle, but I was simply identified with this magnificent creature that we were hurting so much.  We were eating her young.  And she was crying.  At least that is what I saw.  And to this day my heart hurts like it did then.  It hurts like it did when I was failed in my biology class at Salem College because I would not pith a live frog.

I made amends years later to the sea turtles while swimming in Hawaii.  I went out to them and they swam all around me.  I wanted them to bump me, maybe even hurt me a bit, but they didn’t.  It was the strangest thing so many years later.   I was told in Oahu:  “Don’t, whatever you do, go swimming in Turtle Bay.  The Sea turtles are out en masse and they will kill you!  There are so many of them.  They were once endangered, and now there are plenty of them, but don’t swim in this bay.”

So I swam in that bay.  I swam out in that bay.  I swam and prayed for forgiveness.  I swear on everything that is holy they encircled me and forgave me.  At least that is my story.  So years later, when I was almost 50 years old, these turtles have eased my heart from the pain it carried over a 12 year olds’ pain on Edisto Island for being so unconscious. 

I don’t remember if my sister or brother rode the mother turtle down to the Sea on Edisto Island on that full moon night in 1962.  I do know I saw a Mama sea turtle cry after she left her babies in the warm sand.  I know my own body grieved twice when its’ babies left my womb after nesting in, once for only 12 weeks, and the other for a full nine months gestation.

When I was 8 or 9 we chased a possum with a crab net and killed it by bludgeoning it to death.  I shot a small “tweetie”bird with my Dad’s hunting rifle, pretending I could skin it and picked up the blown up body and put it in his hunting jacket.  I killed an armadillo and skinned it and put the bones in Daddy’s hunting jacket.  I remember Mama’s face when she walked in the garage when Rennie and me were  4 years old and we were standing up on the tall bureau dropping kittens onto the cement floor seeing “if they would break.”

I am not sure when awareness creeps in, or when a conscience is developed.  I know we studied this in psychology school, but I have absolutely no memory of what I learned. 

I do know that something shifts in people, or should shift in people, as it certainly and clearly did with me.  To what degree this is developed is fascinating.  To what degree this is developed between males and females is equally intriguing.  I just know I was a kid who hurt animals, and suddenly I was one who didn’t and couldn’t.

How can we be held accountable for something of which we are not aware? How could my sweet Mama be held accountable for sucking up an egg when she was so delighted to find these delicacies – the purpose of the special trip to Edisto Island, after all?  She was just so happy to return home and make Turtle Egg Soup for my Dad.

We are all always innocent, says Byron Katie.  We are all always doing the absolute best we can.

Maybe this is why the turtles held me in their healing circle in Oahu ten years ago.  Maybe this is what I was supposed to learn.  Maybe this is part of the teachings of the islands; these island which continue to teach me, as I dream of them.  When I “journey” now – a sort of Shaman’s dreaming in front of nature as I walk the hills around me or sit in silence among the trees in my back wilderness – I still glimpse past images of Wadmalaw Island or Kiawah or Edisto.  And the stirrings of a heart filled with forgiveness and understanding are what the island memories bring me now.  I taste the plough mud, the salt, and remnants of oyster shells brought by the moist, wild wind that once settled on my tongue and in my eyes and ears and do so, once again, in memory.


( From the Rockland Series)     







Rockland Plantation was built in the 1800’s as a summer plantation for the wealthy families in Charleston.  When Mama and Daddy announced to us that we were moving to this huge house for good, we were overjoyed.  We counted the cavernous rooms – 21 in all!  Rennie and I were only 9 years old and not attached to our friends or school at Lake Katharine in Columbia, so a move at that point in our young lives was absolutely no big deal.   We wanted horses and boats and the river and this huge and cumbersome old house which had seen more hurricanes than any old house in the area.  Plus the allure of the ghost stories attached to the house brought us close to what we called “the vapors” more times than we could count.  Legend had it that the former owners had cremated the old patriarch on the land and buried the ashes in the grand fireplace in the main room.  We steered clear of that room the entire time we lived there – that is, until we climbed up on the roof after stealing beer and coconut cake then puking down that very chimney.   Someone had to clean up the vomit that trickled down into the empty fireplace, and that someone was us.

Undoubtedly the distance of thirty miles from downtown Charleston to the stone gates of Rockland seemed like 300 miles to the cotton growers of the day; I know the drive seemed endless in Daddy’s little VW bug when we drove it to Ashley Hall each day once the island school closed for good. But I am getting ahead of myself, because we did not get to the prestigious girl’s school, Ashley Hall, for many years – not until we were in the 9th grade, and that was only because, as I said, we were forced, by virtue of the times, to skedaddle off the island and travel the interminable 30 miles each day in Daddy’s small car.  And the worst part of it was we had to pick up the Sinkler’s kid – nicknamed – and I kid you not – Wee –ah.  For some reason this toddler had to go into Charleston most days with us.  She smelled terrible.  The Sinklers were wealthy, so I have no idea why their child smelled so dreadful, but Wee-ah smelled like a mixture of baby shit and old tennis shoes, and she smelled that way each and every time we picked her up.  Frances Sinkler had the most awful laugh I have ever heard, but because the Sinklers had more money than God and lived in a beautiful, stately mansion on a huge acreage on the island, it didn’t seem to matter that their kid smelled like shit and Frances Sinkler sounded like a castrated hyena when she laughed.

Mama had cooked hot lunches for us all each day when Rennie and I went to school at Wadmalaw Island Elementary School for 5th, 6th and 7th Grades with Miss Merle and Miss Mary.  We were in a class of five students for each grade:  Punky, Johnny, Crystal, Rennie and me.  We learned difficult and sophisticated mathematics, mythology, Latin, Greek and Shakespeare under Miss Merle’s strict tutelage, while the younger grades were managed by Miss Mary.  The school closed in the 1960’s instead of integrating, being the last 2-roomed schoolhouse in America to keep its’ doors open as long as it did.

We worked hard at Wadmalaw Island Elementary school.  Miss Merle had us terrified of growing up too fast.  She told us that only “fast” girls wore lipstick, so our Tangee Natural, so treasured from our Christmas stockings, got tossed.  We were not allowed to wear patent leather shoes when Mama took us into Charleston for our weekly Cotillion class and we towered over the boys learning to do ballroom dancing – they might see up our skirts!

At school, Chrystal picked her nose and we gave her the affectionate moniker, “Boogarilla.”  But nothing topped the gross-out factor like Johnny, who had the disgusting habit of daily farting on his hand and smelling it.

Shrimp docks brought the island its’ little industry, and the docks were a stone’s throw from our house.  Or, as the gull flew, the docks were a few hundred feet from our dock on the creek which led out to the Inland Waterway, and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.  The smell of plough mud, shrimp, and crab shells wafted through everything on the island.  The sensual smell of that mud mingled with the sun and earth and then combined with the astonishing fragrance of gardenias was mind boggling, in the literal sense of the juxtaposition of those two words.  These smells are forever etched in my hippocampus as sense memory, and the images, brought to mind, bring Rockland Plantation into any room I inhabit, day in and day out.  It was the most beautiful place on this earth.  It always will be.  It exists in my mind, and it is as real today as it was then.  There was poetry at Rockland, palpable, memorable and infinitely real.

It was the flowers that come to mind most often – flowers not tended by anyone but God; banks and banks of azaleas, hydrangeas, gardenias and magnolias which agreed to bloom year after year, causing me to weep when I saw the first stirrings of buds.  The flowers bloomed for themselves, for their own delight, for the delight of all who saw them.  These flowers moved me to a silence beyond all words, and I would climb an oak tree and hear celestial music, see sparkling lights and glittering deities, and I knew beyond all reckoning that I was safe, that all was well in the world, and that the same powers that watered this very tree and these very flowers watered me.  And I was to know – at quite a young age – that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and that nothing, absolutely nothing happened by chance in God’s world, and this realization would become both my nemesis and my liberation.  It would later lead me to my life’s work…









I am experiencing what I call my own Dark Night of the Soul.

Last week I was carried away by unimaginable joy as I re-connected with my teacher through one of her Swamis, a monk who called me, as they say “out of the blue” (a metaphor for heaven, have you noticed?) to say my beloved Guru was saying “hello.”  This contact, by email and telephone, was completely unexpected and so serendipitous as to leave me barely breathing and ecstatic for the entire day.

The very same night, the night of the full moon last week, my beloved cat, Boots, was killed by a coyote right in front of me.  The last and powerful image I have of my 14 year old cat is his limp body being taken down my driveway in the coyote’s strong jaws.  It is a horrendous image, etched forever on my retina.

The sustaining force of having a teacher through the many years since my powerful awakening in 1989 has guided and fed me; kept me going, and I am stunned at the power of my emotional response to this event and to my mind in the last week.  Boots’ tragic death followed closely on the heels of my little dog’s almost certain demise in the jaws of a neighbor’s dog three weeks ago. 

For the past three weeks I have felt as if I have barely survived as I have nursed my small dog back to health, reasonably certain I would be euthanizing my small and wonderful “baby.”  But Lucky Girl, blind and deaf and 16 years of age, has made it, while Boots is gone.

I sometimes wonder why I put one foot in front of another day in and day out.  Of what use are we to one another in this strange and marvelous and horrible sojourn we call “life?”  Certainly I get to complain – who is there for me as I take care of client after client, patient after patient, day in and day out, suffering the outrageous projections of men and women who blame and curse, blame and curse, then return to praise and idealize, day in and day out, day in and day out?  Sometimes I am so tired and ill I do not want to carry on.  Sometimes I want to scream:  why do I have to be the healer? Why me?  What about me?  Why me?  What about me?

As I cried and cried and hurt and my head felt like it would explode again, I noticed I still  managed to see my clients and patients, make dog food, take care of my animals, do my paperwork, write chapters in my book, and take care of the daily business we call “living.”

St. John of the Cross did not pray for his enlightenment.  Christ exploded in his mind when the pain of his imprisonment became unendurable.  Julian of Norwich apparently had a slower awakening, the gift of everyday awareness becoming stabilized in Christ-vision and awareness. 

Turn the same face to praise and to blame, said my teacher.  Learn to cultivate equanimity, that amazing quality of spiritually advanced adepts who manage to treat all life experiences the same.

So, as I attempted to berate myself for my irritability today – tired and sad and filled with a huge grief, I saw equally how I had been successful in my therapy and healing practice, how my animals had been cared for, how I had reached out to my daughter and to my brother, how I had performed my daily chores with a decent attitude; acting better than I felt, always acting better than I felt.

We continue on, I think, because something in us does it for us.  The dream dreams us.  We see our original face, and it is so astonishingly beautiful we search out another mirror, then another, then another.  We call these mirrors the “other.”  And somehow, along the way, as the kindness of the God of our understanding sinks deeper into our brains and bloodstream, many of us are finally struck with the profound realization that we are simply not the doer, we are the done.  We are not the thinker, we are the thought.  We get out of the way and finally begin to understand that even grief is part of the entire plan.  When I lay this tired mind down tonight, I will be with Boots, with every animal and person I have loved, whether actually “here” or not.

This Dark Night of the Soul….it is painful.  It is agonizing.  It is exquisite. 

I miss my Boots.  I miss my kitty cat who was such a love bunny – who let Julie, Chrissy and Lisa dress him up and carry him around in a doll carriage without moving a muscle.  Who equally would go out on the back fence in South Pasadena on every full moon and beat the shit out of the other guy so fully that Thomas and I would have to take him to the emergency vet each time he acted out in those years of his masculine mayhem.  It was so ridiculous that we began to keep antiseptics like Betadine in our bathroom to clean him up each month on his nightly fight- jaunts.

I miss my Boots.  I miss the guy who I let in each night after calling him; his enormous weight causing a bloop – bloop – bloop as he ran to the front door, the pink bell around his neck jingling; my Boots totally unaware and uncaring of the metro sexual collar around his neck, so assured was he of his identity as a cat – only a cat – not a male or female – just a good, good cat.  My cat.  My Boots.  My loving, sweet, sweet cat.

My cat would look up at me as he came in the front door each evening and make a soundless meow.   I would hoist him over my shoulder and carry him around until we could settle for our “scritch-scratch” time.  He liked it hard.  He liked to be combed within an inch of his life, and if I stopped brushing and combing him too soon, I got a little reminder bite on my ankle or hand to let me know there was more grooming work to do.  And this was every night.  Then he got into my bed, and into my arms.  His head fell back and his mouth opened, his pink tongue hanging out, as he slept, content in my arms, each and every night of his life. 

I miss my Boots.  I miss my Boots. I miss my hairy bedfellow.  I miss hot tuna breath in the morning.

Homer snores next to me as I write this.  Lucky Girl’s nose is horrid-sounding, having been broken by the dog next door who bit her within an inch of her life three weeks ago.  They know.  They comfort me as I miss the third musketeer in bed.

I miss my Boots.

This Dark Night of the Soul will pass.  Everything passes away.  I have no idea where it goes, if it goes anywhere at all.  And I have no idea what I just said because I have no idea what all that means.

I miss my Boots.  Wherever he is, whoever he is with, my sweet sweet boy, my darling cat, my wonderful flop cat, my Sunday morning heartbanger.

And the Dark Night becomes the Light Day, and the Light Day becomes the Dark Night, and the Light Night becomes the Dark Day, and the desire for the day is faithfulness to the night.

Everything passes, and nothing moves.  Everything moves and nothing passes.  And the eventual desire for another cat will become a tribute to the memory of my beautiful Boots. 

May 31, 2013