[These excerpts are from BURNOUT, Book 1, Burnout to Bliss series.]
From Part IV, Going Home:
Going Home Summer 1989
With just me and my mind driving home, naturally I thought about nothing but that trip.
Trying to analyze an experience for the lessons is a little like trying to discern whether that pretty rock you picked up hiking could turn out to be something else like a geode, when you crack it open. However, being the introvert that I am, I had to try.
I knew the trip had been important for me, because I finally had positive God experiences. Before camping with the shamans, I had had some not-so-positive experiences – like seeing Jesus and Satan casually discussing who should get me, or being murdered while I was teaching. The shrink had told me I should feel grateful for my experience. He even stressed that most modern-day preachers never had those kinds of visions anymore, and that it was the lack of such experience that had driven them from preaching.
But because I camped with the shamans, I had really excellent positive spiritual experiences which, for me, mitigated the crappy ones I’d had in Purgatory. I danced in the stars. I felt my connection with All That Is. I communicated with animals. I heard a shaman speak to me without his talking. I discovered that the elusive “security” I’d always longed for in my job and relationships was actually within me, where it had always been. I only had to be still to find it. The lizard had reminded me of my Bible studies, and I knew that the power and security of God was described in Psalms 46, even though the popular part is “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).
I also learned that fear was something in the mind and that I definitely preferred life without it. As is taught in A Course in Miracles, I believed we get to choose how we want to live – either “in fear” or “in love.” I concluded that the reason for our inherent drive to have a relationship is that we all want at least one person to accept us with all our warts. From this group, I learned that some folks have a need to hide those warts more than others and that most people crave the group, any group, over going it alone.
I discovered that I was not the weenie I thought I was. These men, at least, considered me a powerful, strong woman.
And, I discovered my body. Before, I had always been a “head moving through space.” My body was merely the platform that held it. Now, having been a princess dancing with the desert, I realized and appreciated that I had a body with legs and dancing feet!
In the trials with Precious, I reaffirmed how important it was to me to treat others compassionately, despite the constant mental games I played with myself. I proved to myself that I don’t need modern conveniences like running water or even a bed to be happy, although I did prefer them. It was fun for me to go more than two weeks looking like a desert rat. I really didn’t mind my hair sticking out in funny angles, like my girlfriend’s back home, or that my skin was burned and dirty.
And I realized, gratefully, that it was also fun to have a shower, walk to a market, and sleep in the hotel bed at the resort.
I was beginning to understand the concepts behind such sayings as, “Whatever is, is” and “It’s all good.”
I learned that you really do have to ask for what you want. Of course, the Bible says many of the same things, like, “Ask and ye shall receive.” But for many of us, when we process something through our minds, it doesn’t necessarily get processed through our heart or result in changed behavior. And I realized that’s what is so wonderful about this so-called New Age, the latest version of the age-old human development movement. For those of us who didn’t “get it” the old way, New Age offers many more, sometimes radically different, ways to “get it” that essentially say the same thing.
But the most important gift of this trip was being seen by people I respected and cared about and loved. Prenda, the most enlightened being I’d ever met, taught me spiritual behavior simply by practicing it. He also shared some of his insights about health as we walked to restaurants during our journey. Silve, his wife, one of the most loving people I’d ever met, identified me as someone who talks with animals without my saying a word. She acknowledged our special connection with her delightful gift of handmade earrings. And precious Marianna, the four-year-old child, taught me how to play and to laugh out loud. Being seen by these precious people validated my existence and assured me there was nothing wrong with me!
Something that happened on the long drive back to Purgatory confirmed for me that I really had been changed by my experience in Mexico.
I picked up a hitch-hiker while driving across the high plains south of Denver. He was such a joy! We chatted about my recent vision quest and the job he was going to start soon at a dude ranch. I enjoyed his company and conversation all the more because I had just spent more than two weeks in the desert, virtually alone. But the gift I treasured most from having given him a ride was what he said as he got out of the truck at the county road turnoff where I left him: “It’s been a pleasure to be in your space; there’s something magical about you.” He thanked me for the ride and commented once more on the incredible “energy” I had. He said he’d go a long way feeling happy to have been around such bliss.
I floated on that brief nicety all the rest of the way home.
What had changed about me? I could hardly wait to get into my journal at home, to say hello to Samantha, my best friend there, and to talk it over with her to find out. I felt rejuvenated, more alive than I had in many years. I was actually looking forward to whatever would show up next.
I even sensed more adventure coming to me.
Back in Purgatory, I continued to reflect on my journey and what it had taught me as I unpacked my truck, did laundry, cleaned the house and occupied myself with other mindless activity to give my mind a breather. So much had happened! I learned to ask for what I want. I saw again and again that the loneliness I felt was not for lack of a relationship outside myself – whether with a man or a woman – but rather one inside me with a higher power. I had experienced God in the desert in so many ways – dancing in the stars, feeling the Presence even when my tent whipped parabolas in the wind, and had felt that Love though the tiny lizard and the darling Mariana. I had also seen ancient ones walking near the cornfield!
Whew! I knew I’d been changed and I realized in that moment that jumping right back into the political scene at the college was definitely not in my best interest. My mental, physical and spiritual states were still too fragile.
I needed to heal my body and my mind. I needed to take my meditation, my quiet time with Spirit, much more seriously. I needed to reset my equilibrium. I needed time to process the vision quest experience. But first I needed to bring closure to the intense academic activity I’d created from the previous semester. I had follow-up work to do regarding the biography I’d researched, written and presented.
I still couldn’t face even the thought of resuming my role at work. I still felt incredibly burnt out.
The psychiatrist had told me it could take years to repair the damage from my experience these past couple of years at Mount Purgatory. Not only that, I couldn’t imagine how a camping trip, no matter how divine it was, could restore me enough to jump back into those shark-infested waters.
The following Monday night I once again went to see the psychic who three months earlier had assisted me in releasing old painful memories. She also had explained my so-called “manic-depression” as “psychic evolution.” She said, “You are a machete bearer, and the road is necessarily lonely, but you will survive.” While she talked, I wanted her to look at me, to see how I was doing now. She did not.
While chit-chatting about the interim months, she giggled and glanced around. Then she suddenly asked me if I noticed anything different about the room. I was confused. I didn’t know what she wanted. I commented on the décor, the new speakers, the new painting hanging on the wall – until she stopped me and asked what I felt. I told her I felt “presence,” perhaps all those that had frequented the room on my previous visits? She asked me to close my eyes and try again, to stretch (out of body) and feel again.
I told her there were spiritual presences in the room, but I didn’t know who they were. She laughed and said that they’d never been there before, but that they were “heavy” ones, here to check on my progress. I froze. Another test!
She explained that they were two spirits somehow having to do with “letting go” and “embracing.” Then she asked me if I was still committed to my path, the one I stated in March as “healer, whatever that means.” I nodded nonchalantly, and she told me to stretch, to leave my body and to heal one of the spirits, just as I would a client. Jeepers!
“I can’t! It’s too much!”
I tried and tried but could move only about a foot and a half, then snapped back into my body like a really tight rubber band. I laughed self-consciously and told her, “It’s like there’s this box over my body; I can’t get out.”
She said the spirits stayed a few more minutes then left. The contrast in the room was palpable, and not only from their absence.
I had failed again
I couldn’t help but wonder about all the out-of-body experiences I had experienced during the previous semester. Were they actually aberrations of an abnormal person? Or were they instead simply symptoms brought on by more stress over a longer period of time than my personality could handle? I thought I had been healed of that stress during my sojourn with the Indians. But I chose not to mention that to her.
The psychic finished the session by reading my numbers (numerology) and telling me how I should forget schools, because I already knew everything I needed to know. I decided not to mention that I wanted to take classes at Heartwood in California.
I left her house feeling very frustrated and dissatisfied. I had wanted to whine with her, to tell her that I’m just an ordinary girl from a small town. How could I possibly already know what I needed to know? And what was that stuff about spirits wanting me to heal them? I couldn’t even see them! Just like the incident with Don José on the mountaintop, I felt like I had flunked the test. And it wasn’t just an ordinary school test that I could repeat. It was another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that, once blown, would never come my way again, something I would regret for the rest of my life. I felt the very breath had been sucked from my chest by some punitive cosmic vacuum cleaner.
A few days later, I sat with Virginia, my Native American artist friend, at her house exchanging spirit stories. She gave me a reading using Sun Bear’s Medicine Wheel cards. I thought about the last five readings I’d received, from myself or from other friends, all using different decks. They had all been pretty much the same. Essentially, they said I already had the knowledge and skills for what I needed to do, what I wanted to do. But Virginia’s reading used animal cards and her reading was different.
She said, “You’re a beached whale. You’re stuck!”
That wasn’t even close to what I felt like, but I went along, because I was vulnerable and so ready to be well again.
“So how do I get unstuck?” I wondered. I’d tried meditation, but obviously I was doing it wrong, because all I ever got was a blank page. No spirit voices advised me, and no visions showed me what to do.
I went to see Mimi, my massage therapist and mentor, for her advice. But when I told her I wasn’t getting anything, that every meditation experience since Mexico was just this huge void (no voices, no visions, absolutely nothing), she said, “Oh, no. Not doing it wrong.” She laughed, embracing me. “That’s what everyone wants to get!”
Well, if what I was supposed to get was the void, and if I already knew what I needed to know, then why did I feel so stupid?
Too fried mentally to contemplate planning classes or anything else remotely associated with my job, I figured at the very least I could restore order to my personal life by dealing with the mess I’d created with the research for that International Educational Biographers meeting. It took me about a week. Piles of papers lay on the floor around my bed, reading chair, desk. I filed all the research on Harold R.W. Benjamin, wrote thank-you letters to his family and friends who had helped me, and sent them all copies of my article, as promised. I filed my teaching materials from the last semester so they’d be organized and easy to find when I needed them again.
Just about that time, a woman from the International Educational Biographers Society wrote to me saying how much she enjoyed both my presentation and meeting me. My face spread into a giant smile. She also sent me a paperback novel, Falling Woman, about a female archaeologist who sees and talks with the ghost of an ancient woman at a dig site in in Mexico.
We had not discussed my coming trip to Mexico at that time, nor had we talked about personal paranormal experiences. I love it when synchronicity shows up in my life; it affirms my experience and helps me feel okay about having had it. It says to me that it, whatever it was, was “normal.” The message was clear: “See? Someone else did that, too. Do not freak!”
I also had seen ancient ones, but they did not speak to me; they proceeded about their business, carrying their baskets to and from the sacred mound as if I weren’t there. It reminded me of an episode on Star Trek Next Generation where the Captain, Jean Luc, and several of his crew occupied the same space as an alien culture they were studying, but in a different time.
I remembered hesitantly mentioning my experience of seeing these ancient peoples to Bill in Mexico and hearing him laugh and say, “Of course you did. You are the only one here who would have such an experience!” I remembered feeling embarrassed and foolish for having told him. So I decided not to pursue that line of conversation with him further.
Of course, there were many possible explanations for what had happened to me in the desert: that I was emotionally distraught from my mental breakdown from trying to please the tyrant chairman (Nemesis) to the point of hallucination, that I’d been whacked out on peyote, or that I was overcome by heat exhaustion and dehydration.
But my favorite one was from metaphysics – that I was “willing.” Fortunately, in our experience on Earth, we each get to choose what we’ll believe. And, those beliefs are powerful enough to shape our experience.
The explanation that felt truest to me was that I had become fascinated with and accepted the possibility – I was willing to allow for such a possibility and, most importantly, open to allow it for myself! In other words, I got to see the ancient ones because I asked to see them, just as I see energy fields because a lifetime ago I asked for that.
I thought we had duplicated the intent of the ancient Indian ritual if not the precise routine. We were modern people with different challenges than the ancients had. But, like them, we sought to purify and renew ourselves and our community.
In that regard, I thought the trip was a monumental success for me. It renewed me spiritually. The hitch-hiker I’d picked up on my way home called me several weeks later to say again that he’d gotten a lot out of just being in my space that day, getting high off my bliss. That was typical of the remarks I would receive, from strangers as well as people who knew me, for some time to come.
The trip had changed me in many ways. Others noticed I had a different energy field, whether they could see it or not. Everyone felt it – like the vibes you get when you walk into a strange room, or when you meet someone for the first time.
My days were filled with re-entry busy-ness. But in the early evenings, during the witching time, I would sit on my front stoop, watching my cats chase imaginary playmates (at least I couldn’t see them) in the front yard, thinking about my experience with the ancient ones and wondering whether cats saw spirits, too.
Sometimes I would go hiking with a friend. But now, instead of joyously chattering about anything and everything as I had when I had gone hiking with others before, grateful at last to have non-academic company, I’d wander off alone as I had done in the desert.
One afternoon a pal took me to the head of the Colorado Trail. I chose to sit by the river on a big rock while he continued his hike. That was fine with him, because he was definitely a lone walker, preferring to go his own way at his own pace. I was also happy to be alone, because I wanted to hear what the river had to say.
I sat for more than an hour, intently staring through the diamond reflections of that water. I listened to the symphony of birds, rustling Aspen leaves and gurgles of water rushing over rocks, perfect orchestration with no participation by man. This was a unique experience for me. Before my vision quest, I had always been uncomfortable, somehow too restless, to just sit, much less actually communicate with nature.
What had not changed was the incredible pain in my back, now a very long four-month experience. Louise Hay, author of Heal Your Body, attributes lower back pain to a pattern of negative thoughts around “Fear of money” and “Lack of Financial support.” In her book, she offered a positive affirmation to mitigate that negative thinking pattern: “I trust the process of life. All I need is always taken care of. I am safe.”
Oofdah! I immediately recalled my experience with the little lizard in the desert, reminding me that if all his needs were taken care of, why should I be any different? Deep breath!
One of my alternative healers, a kind of psychic who sees what’s going on in the body, offered a different perspective on my lower back pain. He said the lower back was about what he calls “futuring” or worrying over what might happen in the future. I took both perspectives under advisement. They were both good insights, I thought. But not the whole story, because not feeling supported (by my department or administrators at the college) and therefore worrying over the future were not the only negative emotions I was harboring.
I doubted my ability to express myself, to write anything but serious academic stuff no one but another academic nerd wanted to read. I feared plugging back into my job at the college before I resolved whatever it was that was nagging me “back there.” And the “loneliness that can’t be fixed” still chewed at my heart like a tenacious Chihuahua, despite the revelations I’d received in the desert.
Unable to bear the emptiness, only a few hours after my hiking buddy brought me home, I called a colleague for dinner and a movie. The food was terrible, and the conversation was a tired re-run of bitching and complaining I’d heard too often already. I definitely did not want this back in my life. Why did I do the desert trip if I wasn’t going to make some changes, real changes?
I realized that dumping my “downer friends” the ones who inevitably brought me down with their chronic whining and complaining, might be one of those changes I needed to make. And that terrified me, because then I’d really be alone.
_________end, Chapter 13_______
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About the Burnout to Bliss Series
(1) Burnout is the story of a workaholic who experienced “dark night of the soul” or existential crisis. The tale begins with a murder that happened while she was lecturing. It relates all the ways the author sought relief – from self-medication (alcohol, drugs, and men) to psychics to counseling and psychiatry. It shows how real healing began when the author camped with shamans in a culture vastly different from her own. Buy it from Amazon. Buy it from other venues.
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.
CYCLING in the CITY is a story about overcoming limitations –one small step at a time. It’s also about the process of making life changes – like why resolutions don’t stick. It shows how you can plan for success instead of failure – even how to make tough changes like quitting smoking, alcohol or drugs. And, it includes the underlying SECRET for success! Buy it from Amazon here.
(3) The real story of the ego surrendering control began when that sanctuary was no longer available and I became like 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 letting go and trusting that life is good and safe and that all 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.)
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Next: Part IV, You Really Can’t Go Home Again
Till next time, please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi