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.

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Welcome to Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

A memoir is a strange beast. It is an attempt to distill an individual’s life’s experiences and lessons in story form with the hope that in the storytelling someone else sees a thread that resonates with their own life journey, that some inspiration arises or, at the very least, it is viewed as something worth reading.

CA red dress Day 1My good friend Christina Baldwin is known to say, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.”  My book, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, is full of stories.  I am tempted to say by way of humour, “And some of them might even be true.”

When I found out I was adopted at the age of forty-six I learned that many stories I had been telling myself about myself and my life, that helped me making sense of my life and its journey, turned out not to be true.  They were small stories; like why I was shorter than all my immediate family members, why my hair turned grey at a young age, where I was born. It gave me pause. In discovering I was adopted, everything had changed.  And, yet, nothing had changed. It made me wonder what other stories I was telling myself about myself and my life that also might not be “true”.

Abraham-Hicks says the biggest disservice we do to ourselves is in telling “the truth” over and over again, keeping alive the stories we wish would go away, the ones we don’t like living into but which we continue to tell simply because “it is the reality of our situation”.  If we want to change our situation, we must tell a different story.  When we tell it often enough, it can shift the shape of our life, eventually becoming true since our minds do not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.  This is why Napoleon Hill in his seminal work, Think and Grow Rich, said, “Thoughts are things.”  But it is a tough thing to grasp when many of us are attached to the suffering of our stories rather than the joy of them, to the human tragedy experience rather than the soul journey perspective.

I have been imagining myself as a writer and an author since high school when I enrolled in a journalism correspondence course (which I never fully completed), imagining I would enter a career of journalism (didn’t happen) and when I chose to write a novelette in my final year of high school for my English class instead of doing all the other assignments (the novelette did get completed and I still have it).

The first time I created a vision board for myself back in 1998, the first image that came to my mind unbidden was that of a podium, partly because I imagined myself as a motivational speaker and partly because there was something in me that just knew I had stories to share that maybe other people would resonate with.

The early gestation of my book was back then too and some of what is contained in the book was originally written a decade or more ago.  It is with a little bit of disbelief that I hold my first book in my hand, with copies already sold, readers already saying the most beautiful, heartwarming things about it, ready to send it further out on its own path into the world.

Stories and life journey do not happen in isolation. I am aware that these are my reflections, stories of specific moments in my life, moments that have intersected with others on the journey.  The way others have experienced these same intersections may be somewhat or vastly different than the way I have experienced them. Their experiences are their stories to tell but I would not be the person I am today without having crossed paths with these fellow journeyers, without having had the experiences that I did in relation to them, good, bad or otherwise.  For each and all of them I am grateful.

I share my stories as a way to dive into the deeper patterns that shape life, relationships, healing, and journeys. Even as I re-read and edited them, they moved me—sometimes to laughter, sometimes to tears. Even though I have spent a lot of time unearthing and living with these stories, some of them still have the capacity to delight and surprise me. My hope is that they do the same for you, that along the way you find your own intersection points with your story – or, at the very least, you enjoy stories of someone else’s experience – believable or not.

I imagine this blog will capture many of the soul journey stories, hosting self stories that used to all reside under the Shape Shift blog and that there I will continue to write about what I’m learning through the Art of Hosting work and world that is so much a part of my life and experience. Sometimes a post will show up in both places when it seems relevant.

I would also invite you to check out the Embracing the Stranger in Me Facebook page where I am already seeing a community of support and inspiration arise, fuelled by all who interact with it; as well as the Twitter page for the book.  And I would also love to see your comments here.

Thank you for intersecting with my journey now.  May you immerse yourself in the book or the blog or both and may your path rise up to meet you as you journey well.