[These excerpts are from BURNOUT, Book 1, Burnout to Bliss series.]
From Part 2: Down the Rabbit Hole:
Psychic, Massage Therapist, and Mountain Lion
I drove out to the psychic’s place in the country, parked my truck, and told myself I could carry out my plan for suicide later. She already had my attention by identifying me as one who leaves her body. Inside her studio, she amazed me again.
When I entered the studio, sitting apart from her house, I found her sitting on the floor, nestled in the folds of her white robe, her long, bushy white hair pulled back at the sides with clips. She presented an Earth Mother appearance, with a cherub-like expression on her round face and a matronly round body that seemed to say, “Come here child, and let me hold you.” I felt safe in her presence. So safe, in fact, that my iron-clad guard dropped, and I actually could not quit crying. I never cry.
“I’m glad you chose to keep your appointment,” she said dryly, as if she’d been part of my earlier private conversation with myself. She went on to tell me exactly what I was feeling: trapped, hopeless, full of despair. She said there were two guests at our meeting and asked if I knew who they were. Even though I had encountered other-worldly spirits before, I admitted that while I did feel something, I could not see what she was seeing.
She said “Life” and “Death” were present and they were here to support me in whatever I decided. More tears rushed forth. At last, I was truly seen. Someone knew what I was feeling, understood what I was going through. She didn’t need “reasons and explanations” to account for my sadness; she didn’t need me to tell my story; she simply saved my life with her validation. It was the experience of being seen I’d so desperately been seeking but had misinterpreted as a desire for an intimate relationship.
She then guided me on a visualization to release pain and suffering, watching while I released and separated myself from the memories of all the humiliations, rejections, and unkindness from others that I had collected over my lifetime. (I can’t help it that I’m sensitive in the extreme. I was born that way!) After guiding me into a relaxed state, she waited quietly while I mentally replayed the movies of all those memories, and then released them in front of me like a pile of tossed cards.
When I was finished revisiting all those memories, all that grief, she told me to allow that icky stuff to take form. I saw the pile pulse and rise, pulse and rise, and then transform into a darkly robed and hooded ghoul with red eyes, warts and weeping sores on its face.
She directed me to notice all the places on my body where it was attached to me, and I realized why it was important to step outside myself – so I could see all around my body, in the creases behind my knees, the nape of my neck, and so on. I saw cords shooting from the ghoul and felt the biting contact of claws digging as they dug into my body.
A part of my brain that wasn’t involved with the process was reminded of the initiation scene in the film, A Man Called Horse, where the hero dangles from a rope by bear claws attached to his chest! That’s what my attachments felt like when those cords slammed into my body: razor-sharp claws.
She told me to sever those cords in any way I chose – scissors, chain saw, whatever it would take. Some were like strings, others like multiple strands of steel woven together. It took a mental chain saw, ultimately, to free myself of the more persistent bonds. After a final inspection to be certain there were no more attachments, she guided me to acknowledge the gifts of learning and experience. She then asked me to notice what it felt like to be separated from all that pain. The relief came with more tears and a kind of dizzying light-headedness.
But we weren’t finished yet.
She then guided me back through that detachment process again, only this time noticing how I was attached to all that pain. I felt my energy drain with each cord that shot out from my body to whomever I was still attached. I severed those attachments in the same way, with more tears. The feeling I had this time was different – a sense of renewal as all the energy I had invested in focusing on the past suddenly returned to me.
Finally, she directed me to see giant, loving hands the size of front-end loaders coming down from the heavens to pick up the ghoul.
I offered thanks for the lessons, said my good-byes and watched while those hands retreated back into the heavens until there was only a speck. Finally, it too disappeared.
She brought me back to conscious awareness slowly. She told me to simply sit with myself while she turned on some soothing music. I nodded gratefully. “Sitting in it” was all I could do.
When at last I recovered, she did a Tarot reading and asked what I wanted, what I’d rather be doing. After an uncomfortable silence, I mumbled something about being a healer, probably because astrologers told me I was.
“What kind?” she asked.
“I don’t know…”
“Well, they want to know,” she said, gesturing behind me to Life and Death. “Can you show them?”
Of course not! How would I know? I knew nothing whatsoever about being a healer. I was a teacher. Healing was out of my area altogether. I shrugged, but surprised myself with what I heard my mouth say.
“I want to help people like me who might experience what I’ve been experiencing. I don’t have a clue what that looks like. It damn sure isn’t ‘talking heads’ therapy – you know, like psychologists and psychiatrists, because I have worked with them, and it didn’t work for me – but I don’t know what it is. Guess I’ll have to find out what else there is, a different way to help.”
As soon as those words left my mouth, my mind flashed back to the meetings with those professionals and forced me to see the good I’d received. The psychologist encouraged me to talk about my difficulties at work when I had no one else to tell. But it wasn’t enough, because work was not the only issue.
It was the psychiatrist who knew about my particular malady. He was the one who mentioned “spiritual crisis.” Yes, I felt uncomfortable having my darkest secrets on display, especially when I told him about some of my other experiences and he jumped for joy exclaiming how they were “classic spiritual epiphany” stuff, that scores of preachers actually quit preaching because they did not have that kind of experience. At the same time, he helped me uncover a possible cause of my workaholic behavior – that I’m “the only one who can do it” – by analyzing a recurring childhood dream. And he was the one who could write the prescription for the drug that stopped the night visions I was having while teaching during the day or trying to sleep at night. I did appreciate my time with the psychiatrist, and if my insurance had covered more mental health treatment, I probably would have stayed with it.
But if I were ever going to be a healer, it would not be “talking heads” therapy that can go on for many years. And my kind of healing would be affordable for everyone.
After that long moment of silence, the psychic smiled at me and said, “You already know everything you need to know. You can do it now.”
When I left her house, I still had no idea what she was talking about. But I did not drive my truck off a cliff, either.
Even though I experienced a tremendous release of emotional pain with the psychic’s guidance, my body was still sending out loud signals to “stop.” With the back pain, headaches, and sciatica constantly raging, I was uncharacteristically open to receiving help from whatever source, and when one of my students mentioned a massage therapist who was “more than a massage therapist,” I wrote the name and phone number down … and filed it.
After several weeks, still suffering terribly from body pain, I finally made an appointment to see this special massage therapist, Mimi. When she said, “Allow enough time before your appointment to sit in the woods” I knew I’d like her. Her house was on the road to the same forest I hiked.
Sitting on a boulder in the woods, the cacophony of mind chatter was deafening, even in all that silence.
It was during one of my early sessions that I met the mountain lion and had my first out-of-body experience that was observed by someone else.
It must have happened in the second part of the massage, because I was lying face down, and we always started with me on my back. I remember feeling a presence and looking out the sliding glass door beside the table.
There stood a large mountain lion beckoning me outside.
“How?” I asked without speaking.
The next thing I knew, I was standing beside the lioness. She led me away from the house. We were walking on air! The room I was in was on the second floor of Mimi’s house, high on a hill overlooking the Colorado trail, where I sometimes hiked. I looked down and noticed that I was barefoot, wearing some kind of short leather tunic with a belt.
“Where are we going?” I asked the lioness.
“A long distance, much too far for you to walk,” she said. “Get on my back, hold onto my shoulders.”
I did, and the lioness began running in long, even strides, massive shoulders rolling. My body flew out behind me, a sail in the wind. We came to a series of four very tall, very narrow rock formations, each with a small mesa, and she leapt from one to the next, spanning 20-30 feet between each one. On the last one, she stopped, and I meshed with her back from the impact.
“Get up. Stand beside me,” she commanded.
The lioness directed me to look out into the eerie infinite space around us, filled with “unnatural” colors like I had never seen before. She said something like “See this? How vast it is? You can have whatever you want. You are not limited.”
I looked again at the inexplicably both pale and iridescent pink and orange colors and wondered at the wavy lines that were part of everything. I was filled with overwhelming awe, a sense of wonder beyond imagination. I did not recall what the lioness said. But somehow it ended up written in my journal.
I don’t remember anything about the trip back. But I do recall the lioness standing once again outside Mimi’s door saying, “I’ll always be here for you.” Then she turned her back and walked away, disappearing into thin air.
I awoke to Mimi tugging my shoulder, calling my name.
“Where did you go?” she asked me. “I’ve been trying to rouse you for the past 12 minutes, and if you hadn’t waked up just now, I was going to call 911!”
I explained what happened, and she took it in as if I were talking about any ordinary walk through the woods. No big deal. She said she’d thought something like that had happened, because she had noticed the movement of my shoulders – they were “rolling,” much as the lioness’s shoulders had rolled while she was running.
Was this the hallucination of an exhausted person? Perhaps. If so, it was sure a fun one. But it happened again, and again, and again – every time I saw Mimi, which was at least twice a week for the last month of school.
I loved playing with my lioness. She was so huge. She let me tumble like a kitten with her. Sometimes she would come in and plop right in the middle of Mimi’s guest bed, flipping her tail while my body got massaged. Was she annoyed that I wouldn’t go out with her? Or was she expressing her joy that at least we were together?
I enjoyed my massage sessions with Mimi, not only because she saw me, which was healing by itself, but also because she was incredibly wise. When I told Mimi what I was experiencing physically and emotionally, she gave me a tape by Christina Grof describing the kundalini experience, a topic from Eastern mysticism. By coincidence (or not), my own spirit guide had taken me to the used book store only days before and had selected three paperbacks on kundalini. I had already read two of them.
A few years earlier, I had had this spontaneous rush of electrical energy from tail to head that felt powerfully sexual, super orgasmic, while driving down the highway to Mexico. At first I thought God was just taking pity on little old celibate me, and I silently thanked Him. But it continued. I had no control over it. It would just happen – while driving, lying in bed, even walking.
Mimi seemed to be offering yet another perspective on the physical and emotional craziness I’d experienced during the past year, which the school counselor had labeled a “nervous breakdown” or “extreme burnout” and the psychiatrist had called a “spiritual crisis” of “dark night of the soul.” It sounded like she was suggesting that the lower back pain, the tremors, teeth-clenching in my sleep, all the psychic activity, and the atypical torrential tears were the result of kundalini rising.
I had only just read about kundalini, and I didn’t yet understand it very well. All I could say when Mimi brought it up was, “That’s interesting.”
I concluded that the topic was too big, too strange for most non-yogis to understand. In the books I had read on kundalini, I also learned that yogi was a spiritual term used by Hindus. It meant something very different from the typical American yoga teacher at a city recreation center.
However, I did understand that the kundalini experience was a step toward a kind of spiritual awakening – to higher consciousness.
I also knew some people practiced special breath and yoga techniques to force a “kundalini rising.” If an uninvited kundalini rising was responsible for all the pain I had suffered recently – psychotic episodes, deep dark depressions, and enormous physical pain – why would anyone want to make that happen? It was bad enough when all that showed up unsolicited. What a bad idea! When it happened to me, it felt like being cursed by some demon from hell and beyond. I didn’t know what was happening or why. I didn’t learn about it until after it had already happened. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would willfully invite that experience. Unless, perhaps, they lived in a monastery where everyone else was doing the same thing and no one had to do anything but meditate, garden, and make tea. I did appreciate the information that came my way after the fact, because in my burnt-out state, it helped to understand, whether or not it was true for me. Knowledge, even weird knowledge, is liberating for me and soothes my ruffled feathers.
Mimi used rose quartz crystals on my feet every time I saw her. At our last session, she showed me the rocks she had used with my feet. They were cracked and cloudy where they had been smooth and somewhat clear before. Rose quartz is about love, self-love. I guess the violent thoughts I had about myself and my life had blasted right out of my feet and shattered those sweet little rocks.
After our last appointment, she reminded me of the possibility of my doing something besides teaching, perhaps writing. We’d talked about it before, but I’d sort of filed it away, typically engaged in my busyness.
Driving home, I thought again about what Mimi had said about doing something else besides teaching. It certainly sounded good, but doing what? The only thing I was trained to do was teach. The only thing I’d ever wanted to do was write books. But my mind was still too fried for writing. I told her I needed to un-fry myself.
She had an idea how that could happen – with Holotropic Breath Work! A therapist friend of hers was coming to town to do a workshop, and she thought I should go. I trusted her completely. So even though I had never heard of it, I decided I would definitely do it!
_______end of Chapter 7_______
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About the Burnout to Bliss Series
Book 1, BURNOUT — How a Desert Lizard Restored My Faith, was written to help educate others about extreme burnout. I wanted the reader to feel what I had felt in that time — a kind of madness that included psychotic visions which might occur even while I was teaching — and the chaos of doing my job while trying to understand what was happening through the lens of a spiritual seeker. I tried to achieve that by grouping events by topic rather than writing the entire book as a timeline story of this happened, then this, and then this.
The first get away from that extreme situation was to a “sanctuary” in California as related in Book 2, CYCLING in the CITY. That get away apparently was presented simply to heal myself enough to take the next step.
In Book 2, CYCLING in the CITY, I wanted to share the experience of “loss of self” — like not being able to do even familiar things like riding a bicycle after extreme burnout — and how I fought back, how I got my self-confidence and self-esteem back. That led to wanting to show others how they could make whatever change they wanted to make, so it ended up being written in two parts.
The real story of the ego surrendering control began when that sanctuary was no longer available and I became The Fool (Tarot card, pictured here), jumping off a cliff with a tiny knapsack and a little dog for company…
Book 3 is a full-length book, currently sitting at 70,500 words. It’s a tale of trusting God (or the Universe if you prefer), of letting go and trusting that life is good and safe and that all my needs will be met even before I realize I have them.
It is the final story of an awakening experience, my two-year journey with one modest paycheck and no plans that was launched with BURNOUT. (Working title is “Practicing SURRENDER.)
Want to be with the first to know when Book 3 is available?
Click the BURNOUT TO BLISS tab on the far right at the top of the page and scroll down, and then follow the directions OR simply click the link below:
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Coming up next: “Chapter 8, Summer–Time for Breathing!”
Till next time, please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi