Deep Gifts and Reminders Show Up In a Myriad of Ways

Our deep human/spiritual gifts and reminders show up in a myriad of ways but be warned – or reassured – they will show up.

Twice this week I was reminded that I have the gift of sight – of being able to see beyond the physical into the deeper patterns, the intricate weave of soul stories at work. Once was a beautiful invitation to dance with the spirit guides of a friend who read my memoir – Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness – and asked about his guides. Not many people ask. He was momentarily concerned he had stepped over a line. But in the invitation the guides show up, delighted to be “seen”. Once I see them they dance with me for awhile and it is a joy. They will dance with their human partner too, but not all humans are ready, even when they ask.

Red flowers in Ian's gardenThe second time I was reminded of my gifts it was jarring – where I did not fully realize how deeply I sensed the disconnect between the surface and what is underneath. But my whole body was on heightened alert. In our work, we teach people that their bodies send them messages, their emotions are their guidance system.

This jarring experience reminded me to stop, to listen, to not deny my experience even if others might wish to dim or discredit the voice. I allowed my voice to be discredited for far too long – some years ago now – and a piece of me wandered in the wilderness til I found the motivation and the courage to reclaim it. It was not an easy journey. It was not welcome on some levels – by me or some around me. It was the best gift on other levels as I returned to myself many aspects of myself that I had become a stranger to. This kind of reminder can be intense and it often temporarily throws me off my center but it invites reflection and deeper inquiry, new openings. I struggle less as awareness comes quicker. I regain my ground and look for better, less explosive ways than blowing shit (or my life or my relationships) up as I remember the power, beauty and grace that is also me.

I am grateful for both forms of reminders when they show up. Honestly, more grateful for the first in the immediacy of it and for the second later after time for inquiry and reflection.

When this happens to you, it is helpful to remember you are worthy, you are powerful although we are all a bit broken, the truth does want to be known, no one can take your gifts away from you, you may be doing the work even when you are looking away, offer love and compassion to yourself.

It is a journey. It continually unfolds. It is meaningful and purposeful. And we can invite and embrace both.

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Doing the Work While Looking Away

There is such pressure to do everything full on and perfectly – including or especially the spiritual journey – that it induces guilt and even shame in people whose experience is more spotty. Like, most of us. It is the rare person who has an epiphany, an enlightened moment, the moment when everything makes sense now and forever, our life, habits and patterns forever changed. Some strive for it so ardently you can hear the strains of it as they talk about their spirituality, their practices, their connection to spirit. It has a ring of falsity to it and yet it arises from the pressure of perfection.

bandaged heartFor most of us the spiritual journey is more like fits and starts. The moment of clarity arrives through some deep spiritual experience – in a meditation, on a retreat, in the presence of great spiritual teachers – or in a mundane moment of living – doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, having a shower (since there is no one way that these moments arrive and no right way) – or in the moment of great life transformations like marriage, divorce, having a child, being with a loved one as they die. Gradually, over time, the epiphany or moment of enlightenment becomes a bit obscured and then more so by attending to life, relationships, work, demands on our time and attention.

And then, something brings our attention back to the moments of epiphany – days, weeks, months, maybe even years later. We are reminded that this is our path. Instead of turning to embrace it, we often give ourselves a hard time – the itty-bitty-shitty committee that sits on our shoulder – for having strayed away from “the path”, for letting ourselves be overwhelmed by life. We give ourselves grief because we don’t light candles every day, or meditate or have some daily ritual that would ensure our spiritual purity. We forget to allow ourselves some grace and compassion in the journey of life.

In a conversation with a friend and colleague who I coach, she said she feels like she is looking away from the work she needs to do. It is a thought that carries weight and heaviness – not just for her but for everyone of us who has had this experience. It occurred to me as I listened that we may also be doing the work while looking away. This does not need to be mutually exclusive. There may be many reasons why we look away.

We might look away because we are distracted. Life has a way of bringing us many distractions as we live into work, relationships, health, dreams. We might look away because it is too intense right now and we need a buffer. We might look away because our body, mind, heart and spirit needs time to absorb what we are learning and experiencing. Absorbing is also part of the work. Allowing is part of the work. Self compassion is part of the work. Finding our way – even or especially in fits and starts is part of the work. Remembering is part of the work.

It is not a straight line between the first steps or awareness and the next or last steps. It is a winding journey that brings us to many experiences. This is part of the reason I wrote my memoir, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. It details the fits and starts of my own life journey – the moments of epiphany, the moments of losing my way, the experiences of being drawn back to the journey of openheartedness – because it illuminates the journey of an ordinary person fortunate to have extraordinary experiences that keep reminding me I am human and I am a soul at the same time. It keeps reminding me to focus on the soul journey and not the human tragedy version of the same story.

It is easy to lose our way. It is also easy to find our way back – if we allow that this is all a natural part of the journey of life. And we can still be doing the work – or the work is finding its own way in us – even when we are looking away.

Who Are You At Your Most Powerful?

It is easy to get lost in the smallness of a day, an incident, a word from someone that hits at the core of your insecurity. The story that rattles around inside the mind, told by the “itty-bitty-shitty” committee, is one that often reinforces helplessness. It is only a “true” story because you tell it over and over again.

What I want to know is, who are you at your most powerful? When have you experienced your most powerful moments? What was alive for you then? What is the story you tell about those moments? They are not accidental. They are your soul qualities peeking through the morass of shadow accumulated over a life time of hiding the most precious things about who you are.

Maybe you are sensing it is time to shake it off, although this is not often an easy journey. There are so many habitual patterns that have developed over time without your noticing that need to be identified and shifted. Some people will attack you. Some will abandon you. Because they will no longer recognize you or know how to interact with you. They will want you to be the same. But you stay the same at your own peril. The soul wants to be illuminated and it requires you to grow. When we do not respond at the first gentle nudgings, they become more persistent and louder.

Flowers growing in the rocksIn my own soul journey this showed up in the form of a difficult job loss decades ago and my first marriage crumbling at the same time – largely due to my own unawareness and not knowing how to act in conscious ways. Just as I was congratulating myself for how far I had come, I stepped into an even more challenging relationship that shook me to the core of my being. And it invited me to step into one of the most powerful aspects of my journey – the journey to openheartedness, embracing the stranger in me – who is no stranger at all but the most powerful aspects of my being.

Even with the intensity of that journey, staying on this path, embracing my most powerful self, is a pattern of forgetting and remembering. It is a noticing each time a shift seems to be taking place in my energetic field however subtle. And it is a reminder to self to be in the practices which keep me strong and to not let the “itty-bitty-shitty” committee take precedence every time I step off the path or forget. To engage self-compassion and self-curiosity.

One way to remember who you are when you are at your most powerful, is to invite an image in your mind’s eye of what you look like, what is around you and what you feel like in those moments. It can be an image from your day to day lived life or it can be the image that emerges as you invite it. Images and symbolism are powerful and your spirit will offer to you that which is most meaningful in any given time. Trust what shows up. The image is not always the same. It shifts and changes as the journey shifts and changes. For me, my power animals and spirit guides are never far away, even as some of the other symbolism changes.

adimirkush_ButterlyThese days, when I invite this question of who am I at my most powerful, I see an image of a woman – me – with powerful posture, in a long flowing dress, levitating slightly off the ground, surrounded by a ring of fire with fire breathing dragons protecting my boundaries and my arms raised by my sides to receive that which the universe wants to bring me. The fire breathing dragons do not isolate me or keep out that which is intended to flow to me but they do create a barrier and warning to anything which would seek to harm me or diminish my power. In my wakeful moments – during the day or at night and especially in the morning – I call that image to me and remember who I am at my most powerful.

dragonformWhat is your image? Call it to you now and know it is also who you are. You can choose it every single time.

The Truth Wants to Be Known

Stories of separated families, secret adoptions, long lost relatives have always caught my attention, even before I found out such a secret in my family when I was 46 years old – that I had been adopted. For a long time, the forces seemed to have lined up to keep it secret from me. But the clues were there all along. My birth certificate revealing where I was born – different than what I believed but I thought the administrators had made a mistake. There were no stories of my birth. I had recollections of my birth grandmother and sister, although I did not know they were my relatives. I thought they were friends of the family. Eventually it was a phone conversation between my two sisters and a curious bystander, a family friend who took to the internet as he listened, to proactively pursue a truth that wanted to be known.

I have read accounts of adoptions, twins mixed up at birth and more, and always, always events conspire even across great distances to enact chance meetings, new revelations of information, someone who can no longer stay quiet about what they know.

It happened again this week. My sister (who I met in 2008) arrived from British Columbia for a memorial for her father (my birth father) who died last fall. When his obituary was published in the paper, a long-lost cousin – the daughter of my birth father’s brother – contacted my sister. This cousin and her sister live here in the Halifax area. And she put my sister in touch with a great aunt (sister to my birth grandfather) who is now 88 years old and lives an hour away from me.

Sisters and Cousins Meeting for the First Time

Lots of excited visits and conversations. And different endings to stories. When I wrote Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, my sisters and I had been under the impression that our grandfather had died derelict as an alcoholic on the streets of Halifax. None of us knew what had happened to him. But our cousins – also his granddaughters – did know what happened to him – a story in and of itself that I might share one day. He did not die derelict on the streets of Halifax. Somehow he ended up in Northwood Manor, a leg had been amputated, I assume he sobered up, he was a model and favourite resident who spoke often about his loving family.

This story has been, is being, re-written. Like so many. As more truth shows up. Truth that wants to be known. And there are still mysteries to be unravelled in this crazy family, for sure. Especially about my birth mother’s side of the family.

My sister and I went to visit our great-aunt who is gifted in similar ways to us, participates in spiritual and meditation circles and paints. She paints many things but one painting in particular is very striking and one of a kind amongst her collection – a picture of a medicine woman, rising up from a big cat, a leopard. Painted directly on the wall in her basement at exactly the same time very similar artwork was being channelled for me for a tattoo and the cover of my book. And my great-aunt did not even know I existed.

It is not only in spiritual matters that the truth wants to be known. I have experienced it happening over and over again in work situations. People try to hide things, be secretive or are out of alignment with their own integrity or the integrity of an initiative. It is discovered or revealed in one way or another because the truth wants to be known and forces will continually offer ways to make it so if we have the eyes and the will to see.

The Passing of an Era

It was the end of January 2008. I was driving down the highway on my way from Halifax to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on a beautiful sunny winter’s day. I wasn’t just on a road trip for the day, I was on a journey to another era – a past I knew very little about, to visit a man I knew very little about. I was on my way to meet Fred Hanson. A few brief weeks before this I had found out he existed, that he was my birth father, that I had a birth family of which I had had no conscious awareness. Yet he – and the whole family – knew about me for all of my life.

On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, Fred died with his wife Doris, her son Corey and my sister Debbie van Soest present, bringing to a close another chapter of my own life, the passing of an era.

Kathy (2 years old) and Deb (5 years old) visiting in 1964 at Nanny and Grampy Hanson's house in Digby

Kathy (2 years old) and Deb (5 years old) visiting in 1964 at Nanny and Grampy Hanson’s house in Digby

I did not know Fred well. Most of his life had been lived by the time I met him. There are three things that stand out. When he, at the age of twenty-three, and his little family – me as an infant and my sister as a three year old – were abandoned by my birth mother, he did what he could to make sure we were looked after. This meant uprooting us from Halifax to Digby NS where he had grown up and where his parents still lived. Because my grandmother was already ill with brain cancer and my grandfather was already well on his way to alcoholism, they searched for help. Help arrived in the form of my parents, Mary and Hector Jourdain, married a few years, living in Digby at the time and still childless. An agreement was reached for my parents to adopt me and for me to know my birth family. Which I did until my grandmother died when I was still very young. Fred knew where I was and for all the years my adoption was a secret (from me and my brother at any rate), he kept his word and he did not seek me out.

Fred and Kathy

Me and Fred – March 2008

The second thing that stands out is how nervous he was to meet and how welcoming when I walked in the door. He’d been pacing from the front window to the kitchen window to the door in anticipation of my arrival. The door was opened before I even had a chance to get out of the car. He hugged me and we found our way through the awkwardness of first meeting. He gave me pictures from when I was baby.

The third thing that stands out was his agreeing to let me interview him for my memoir: Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. As I asked him questions and took him back through memories he had not thought of for decades, he forgot for a moment that I was interviewing him. He reflected on the moment my birth mother left and his incomprehension, still all these years later, that she could leave two babies behind.

Doris and Fred 2006

Doris and Fred Hanson, 2006

Fred had a sociable side that enabled him to fit in many places – like the Red Knight in Yarmouth where he and Doris often when for a beer and to hang out with friends. And he had a sarcastic wit that made him a great sparring partner. I didn’t know his second wife who raised my sister Debbie and brought my half sister Robyn into the world. I did however have a chance to meet Doris and experience the warmth and hospitality of their beautiful home. They were together for 28 years.

I am blessed to have known him, filling in some blanks of life story for both him and me. There are many stories that will not be known and many that will not be written now. I do know his brother Bill, his parents and others greeted him as he passed over. My mother and my birth mother had a pact together with Fred and my dad that has gifted me with multiple lineages that are important and relevant to my own life journey and in many ways I am only at the beginning of that exploration. And for now, it is grieving and celebrating the passing of an era.

Is This Real or Am I Making It Up?

Harry_Dumbledore_limboOne of my favourite passages in the Harry Potter books is when Harry is in the in-between space – in between going back for a battle with Voldermort or moving on to another realm. He meets Dumbledore – who has passed on – in a very antiseptic looking, empty train station where Dumbledore tells him he has a choice about what to do next, it is his decision. He does not have to go back. As Dumbledore is walking away, Harry calls out, “Professor, is this real or is it all in my head?” Dumbledore pauses and replies, “Of course it’s all in your head, Harry, but that doesn’t make it any less real.”

Kathy Sacred Tattoo Design

I am often asked about this image – which is tattooed on my back – emblematic of my journey with that which cannot be seen but is, nonetheless, real.

And this is where we get caught – in the wondering of whether our experience is real or are we making it up? Not trusting our senses. I know the messages in my own mind as I began to experience an expanded consciousness were, “This is not real. I’m making it up.” I think this is the message many of us received as children. “It’s not real. You’re making it up. You have a lively imagination.”

Well, what if that imaginary friend was a non-physical guardian or a guide appearing to you? What if that vivid story you told was from a past life? What if your sense that a grandparent or other loved one, sometimes even someone you did not meet in this lifetime, what if that is also real? Faeries? Elves? Wood nympths? Magical beings? Why not? When you are told it is all in your imagination, it dismisses and diminishes your experience, causing you to lose trust in your own intuitive knowing.

The mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Napolean Hill, in Think and Grow Rich, said, “Thoughts are things. Everything is created twice – once in the imagination and once in physical form.” This is why visualization for athletes and other top performers is so important. It is why a fear response can be elicited in our bodies just by thinking about or remembering something that frightens us. Or a joy response by thinking about or remembering something that delights us. If I can imagine a world that frightens me, where I have imagined harm I cannot see and might not have experienced, then why couldn’t I imagine a world that delights me? Why can’t that be just as real as imagined evils in the world? And if it makes me feel better, more vibrant and alive, then does it matter if I’m making it up?

Being raised in a logical, rational world that depends on facts has numbed us to other experiences. When my youngest son talked about “the last time, you know, when I was a woman and grew really old”, I didn’t tell him he was making it up. When my older boys were young and their grandfather died, I asked them what that was like for them. When they told me they thought “death was like waking up, like when you are asleep and dreaming and it feels real, but then you wake up and realize it was just a dream. Maybe life – and death – is like that. You wake up and realize that “life” was just a dream.” I didn’t tell them they were wrong. Because maybe they are right. Because why couldn’t that be true?

The first awareness I had of a spirit guide came when someone else told me about one – a priest from my father’s family is what she told me. I asked my father if there was a priest from his side of the family who had passed on and he told me about Bishop LeBrie, a friend of the family whose lap I used to sit on while playing with his cross when I was a toddler. Then another person told me about another guide – a fierce wizard who grew larger when he was protecting me. Knowing they were there, I let myself sense into them and could then be aware of them – although I had no idea what to do with the information. And then there were more, arriving in all kinds of different ways for all kinds of different reasons. Because I became willing to “believe” and to trust in what was coming to me. Although language fails me still because I “see” but it is not physicality that I see. Not everyone can “see” what I see, although I have become aware that more and more people can experience the same thing as me in the same timing. There are things I become aware of that I could not possibly know – “proof” that my experiences are real. This is why I wrote Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedenss – because I am an ordinary person with what I have come to believe are ordinary experiences that everyone has to one degree or another and we need the validation that comes when we know someone else has had similar experiences – that it is real, we are not making it up.

Gold Lake 011When I stood on the mountain at Gold Lake and saw flashes and images of lifetimes long ago, I was not making it up. It was real. Even if it was “all in my head”, or in my imagination, or in my heart. When I came home and the “ancestors” came with me, other people could sense them, feel them and experience them too. The quality of my life and experience changed.

The days I walk in expanded consciousness and awareness are rich. I don’t do it all the time because I get wrapped up in the physical experience of living – of making a living, of worrying about finances, worrying about my kids and their unfolding lives. But I do it more and more and more. I learn to trust the nudges more. Reach out to a friend. Take your reiki training. Get a massage. Do energy work. Talk to your favourite psychic. Meditate. By yourself or with a friend. The less I get lost in the daily grind, the more life flows – not always as I expect it to but always it flows.

For Who’s Benefit Are You Telling Your Story?

When I first came back from Gold Lake, Colorado, after spending a day and a half on the land, in a mystical experience that took place outside of my normal understanding of time, I had to integrate this spiritual experience with the regular, ongoing experiences of my physical existence, of my life journey.

Gold Lake 004

My sanctuary site at Gold Lake, 2009

One of the ways of doing this was through sharing the story of my experience with others. There were a few people who knew I was embarking on that sojourn. Some, not all, also knew that prior to going I already had experiences with non-physical guardians and guides. I had been learning to connect with my guides in healing work. And I could, when asked, help other people connect with their own guides, learn to access them and to work with them in their own journeys. I was not, am not, the messenger as much as the connector.

Story at workWhen I arrived home, I began to share the story of what happened at Gold Lake with people, tuning into what they wanted to hear. For some, to hear I went to Gold Lake and came home again was enough. For others, to hear the high level overview was enough. And for some, they wanted full details of as many moments as I could offer. And it was surprising at times who wanted what. It was discernible by the questions they asked and the attentiveness of their listening.

Slide1It was important for me to discern why I might be telling the story to any given individual. Was I telling the story because of my own need to share it, to understand it, to integrate it? Or was I telling the story because for some reason, the other person needed to hear it? If it was just about me, I would have babbled on to anyone in hearing distance all the time. But I had enough people willing to hear and witness my story, I did not need to visit it on people unwilling or unable to hear. And it is a sacred story to be shared in the right moments. Stories hold “medicine” and healing for others when they are ready to hear them so it is a gift to also share experiences, which is what I am relearning now as I have hesitated to share more of the mystical/spiritual stories in my blog. One friend, who wanted to hear the whole story, at the end shook his head and said, “Well, whatever happened, it is clear it was real to you.” It was real to me, although I cannot tell you how many times I have asked myself the question, “Is this real or am I making it up?”

This realization was part of why I wrote my memoir: Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness – not just to share the spiritual journey but to share my own ambivalence with my spiritual journey and the on again off again nature of my relationship with it. And it is also the story of grief, resilience, perseverance and joy – of embracing all the strangeness of who I thought I was (or think I am) and the vulnerability that comes from openheartedness. The stories of being fired from a job, marrying and divorcing, not once but twice, finding out later in life I was adopted, becoming the health care advocate for both my parents and my mother’s journey with dementia, in long term care and her eventual death in 2012.

Life is full of the bitter-sweetness of discovery – sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and more often both at the same time. We are not in bliss the whole time, neither are we in grief or sorrow the whole time, if we choose. When we meet life with the expansiveness of the soul journey lens, our stories become healing for us and others who are inspired by how we meet the path that rises up to greet us.