By Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD
Much gratitude to Jeffrey Davis for his vision and generosity in opening Quest 2015 up to anyone interested in his brilliant “business as unusual” online mentorship program, for free. If your best self would love to evolve alongside this great movement, at your own pace, led by cutting-edge visionaries, creatives, healers, and paradigm shifters of all kinds, sign up here: Quest2015
Ever since I took Jeffrey's ArtMark program in February of 2014, I've been trying to clearly define my “patch of the planet” - the characteristics of my unique clientele – which I see as step one in creating a business of any kind. It is imperative for us to deeply understand our clients' needs and what we need to do or change or acquire or practice to offer our best services and best self to them.
I've used descriptions like undergraduate and graduate students, highly sensitive, gifted, culturally-diverse, holistically-minded trauma survivors, wisdom seekers, teachers, and healers, creatives and social entrepeneurs to describe my clients in the past, but that doesn't really get to the nitty gritty essence of what distinguishes my patch of the planet from others.
Over the past few months, I've come to realize that my patch of the planet is a marginalized section of the population that is put to extreme self-awareness tests by the universe, perhaps as some sort of initiation to learn to trust their inner guidance to the fullest. I'm talking snap decisions that make a life-or-death difference, and not in a dramatic figurative sense. In a literal sense. (Although there is plenty of symbolism, metaphor, myth, dreaming, and journeying that we do or that they intuitively learned to do that prepared them for these decisions).
I'm reminded of a client with congenital heart disease, who, before the age of 20, saved her own life more than once, insisting that something was wrong when medical experts, doctors, and her parents held firm that all tests results were fine and that she was overreacting.
Then there's the client with a brain tumor and others diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, walking similar tight ropes and so keenly aware of their emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical states, on and off medication, that I could fill files and cabinets full of information about their conditions. And that doesn't include the “group” therapy notes that I gather on each of them after they learn to distinguish the pervasive inner voices that haunt them, voices that belong to their younger selves, internalized family members, lovers and past lovers (several who took their own lives), peers, and childhood friends and enemies.
Their yin-yang battles between their inner critics, bullies, and demons, and complimentary spiritual and animal guides are epic. They require patient and careful untangling, dissolving of contracts, and re-integration of split parts to finally obtain peace. Multiply these social scenarios times a few past lives, and you get a sense how rich, intricate, and intertwined their inner lives are. No wonder their overwhelm, and no wonder my strong devotion to remain in tip top shape on all levels for them, as I work with about 20-30 of similar caliber at a given time.
As they grow stronger and healthier, it is often the decisions that are most challenging and the riskiest – such as deciding to get off medication for good, taking a 6 month hiatus from school to travel and explore organic farming, going on a 4 day fast and vision quest alone in the woods, filing charges against the teacher or trusted adult who sexually molested them for years, dating the person the family disapproves of, confronting the parents – that liberate them from their cages and help them to deeply heal. It is jumping through the hoop of fire, often as a regular practice, that frees them from external pressure and control, find their true voice, and evolve into influential healers, community leaders, change-makers, and teachers of utmost integrity and brilliance.
As most are sensitive, porous, and empathic souls, it still takes about a year, at least, to deeply work through layers upon intertwined layers of debilitating guilt and fear before they can articulate these seemingly drastic, impulsive, irrational, self-destructive, and foolish decisions to themselves and to me, let alone to others. It is only through sitting within my own hoop of fire, making sure that I'm unhooked from any and all of my preconceived ideas, biases, preferences, and ego-mind thinking that they learn to energetically unhook from me. This is my definition of fierce compassion, and creates the container that allows their light to enter from within and shine brightly.
It is also within this clear and empowered state where they have a real edge over the terrible double-binds most of them have been placed in. Sometimes the conditions and energetic blocks are posed by perfectly understandable, well-meaning parents, but often times they are placed by extremely disturbed, manipulative and abusive parents, and/or rigid, institutionalized -isms and gatekeepers.
Deeply understanding why they are the way they are – giving into the key players in their social circles to avoid getting punished – prepares them to face the punishment that awaits them if they dare to step more fully into who they are and do what's best for them. We practice I-messages, we role play, we explore letter writing, we visualize and walk through tense interactions until they are as ready as they'll ever feel to speak up or do what they feel they need to do. Unfortunately, most still end up with family members who cut them off, therapists and psychiatric nurses who stop treating them to avoid liability, friends who turn their backs on them because they are high maintenance, “overly” dramatic, and weird, and concerned parents, partners, and spouses who vehemently sabotage their growth. These loved ones would rather keep them small and safe, as just going “to the bus stop” became a problem in the past, so how can they possible be trusted with these wild and crazy proposals?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a proponent of irresponsible and harmful behavior and choices either. The problem is that my clients are often unfairly perceived of taking things too lightly, while nothing could be further from the truth. These radical self-healing prodigies – by necessity – absorb information intuitively and multidimensionally like sponges. They devour and mull over more research and literature to make sense of their mysterious symptoms and conditions – ranging from skin, to digestive, heart, brain, sexual, spinal, psychiatric, and nervous system issues – than I've seen most medical providers do. And not just in a heady way. They sit with information, and endlessly integrate, recalibrate, shed, reflect, and wait, hungry to understand all that is still a mystery so that they can heal. That's how beautiful and powerful our drive to heal is.
Each one of my clients is like a mini library, able to discern fifteen shades of blue, so to speak, when the rest of us only see or sense, one. If accused of not thinking through their choices carefully enough, because they may have a tat of difficulty sounding totally composed, clear, and pleasant, they can come across as edgy, exasperated, and frustrated, because they are. But give them an outlet, spaciousness, and just a few tools, and many hit the ground running. It's often me who's chasing them and feeling uplifted by the inordinate amount of weight and darkness they have carried and gone through rather than the other way around. Their wisdom, courage, self-awareness, and inner strength to nevertheless hold it together, even if they do not realize their gifts and worth yet, inspires me to be my best self for them as well as myself (choking up here).
Rather than feeling like I'm playing the hero for sitting in a hoop of fire, I feel deeply saddened that I'm often the only one who offers them something that seems so basic – their natural birthright and autonomy to live their best lives, which inadvertently gives everyone around them permission to speak their truth and live their best lives. In longer than a decade, knock on wood, none of the zero-margin error decisions that they made in my presence have gone awry. All were truly the turning-point moments of their lives that I felt honored to witness, support, and learned to trust.
I was honestly, perfectly happy doing what I was doing, and had no desire or energy to scale my potent and tricky elixir, which was challenging enough to handle in my carefully set-up lab with all of its safety rules and precautions. But my most trusted guide got a sniff of Jeffrey's inner-diamon-guided ArtMark program, and off I went, unaware just how different and unusual my way of treating my clients, running my business, and being in the world really was. Even if I knew where the "mute" button was, I'm so used to surrendering to my inner guidance that I'd still give in to listening than doing something totally new and unfamiliar. I couldn't afford overhauling my well-oiled system without an alternative and being thrown off balance when my clients were relying on me as their rock.
I recognized that there was a “show” rather than “tell” quality to what I felt guided to do, write, and share to maintain my health and well-being. My art was no longer confined to writing my book or recording a book trailer, my art was my life and it was being shaped and molded into meaning and expression each step of the way.
When the intentions and integrity behind my intuitive decisions and sacred symbols -- shared for the first time in confidence -- were taken out of context and used to portray something negative, I was shocked, offended, incensed, hurt, totally lost, and trapped. Perhaps I needed this to talk about the intense pressure that my clients experience for teaching purposes. My wise self wanted me to jump through my hoop of fire to unhook my ego-self from these feelings, but instead, I indulged in the doubts, wondering if I was indeed being stubborn and selfish, if my fierce unhooking did mean that I didn't care, if I really wanted to go at things faster and alone to play the hero, if I was doing things wrong and unaware of my blindspot, if my patch of the planet needed me to be more "normal" and adapt, and on and on.
The more I lost myself and my grounding, the more I wanted to redeem myself in ways that for sure wouldn't work. Instead of my best self, my worst self kept emerging, feeling thrown off by every insinuation, spiraling further into darkness, incapable of finding clear space of my own where I could think and speak for myself, where it would be ok and safe to own my feelings, thoughts, and flash insights as necessary parts of my process.
So the first thing I did to kickstart my quest for my best self was reclaim my hoop of fire. In response to my outrage, it said, “Seriously, I'm a hoop of fire. In your mind. I cannot be desecrated. That was all ego-self talk, not your true self. I can also be water under the bridge in a flash if you want.” That is what I wanted, and as soon as I jumped through my hoop of fire, I could access myself and my light with ease, feeling cleansing water run over me. Thanks to this incident, I am rediscovering and re-appreciating my daily surrender to guidance with greater consciousness, and I'm honored to live my life like a sculpture that is forever in progress and receptive to being shaped for the sake of teaching.
Before the recent emergence of holistic healers and incredible master teachers, like Isa Gucciardi, of the www.SacredStream.org (choking up again), my patch of the planet probably remained unorganized and in the fringes of society their entire lives, some achieving, others struggling, suffering ongoing psychological and physical ailments, perhaps homeless, outcasted, or dead, without the rest of society ever knowing what inner treasures were buried along with them.
As part of my 2015 Quest, I am hoping to raise awareness about my patch of the planet, and show how multidimensional spaciousness vs righteousness allows all of us to speak up and claim our best self without needing a life-or-death dire situation to give us permission and courage to bust through fear and retaliation. Within this space of equanimity, paradox unravels double-binds. Infinite realities co-exist. Differences help us grow, as there is no good or bad self that exists out of context. There is only the self that is in constant motion, folding and unfolding, finding the resemblance between every person and ourselves inside of our souls, and becoming more whole and accepting of others when we consciously reclaim and re-integrate all of our parts. Not as a fixed state but as an ongoing process, regularly crumbling back into chaos and nothingness like all the stars in the universe.
Within this space, resistance to "not me", which tends to be reactive and unidimensional, transforms into insistence, which is about giving voice to the "yes, that's me" parts in us with intention and integrity. We can all insist and persist and fill up to the max with our own unique energy without stepping on other people's toes. All of our subjective realities are equally true, valid, and in need of expression. And fortunately, we get to craft each of these truths into our own unique work of art - ourselves. That's how I'll be creating my best holistic self. I can't wait to see how it will unfold in 2015 as I see my book project through and increase my social media presence.
On serendity and awe
While writing this, one of my clients - mentioned in this post - sent me this short youtube clip about the Morokai tribe of Papua New Guinea. They live in tree houses about 100 feet above ground. They - men, women, and children - drag all the building materials for their shared abode up in the tree. There, they enjoy the incredible views of the rainforest, which are truly awe-some – and frightening. I nearly pooped in my pants while watching a toddler roam near the edge of a platform without any railings, and children climbing, jumping, and sawing off thin branches from higher up. The parents are not concerned in the least, and busy going about their business. Apparently, they only know of one person who has fallen from a tree house, a guaranteed death.
The serendipity part: the tree house scenario felt like a depiction of where my clients and I hang out when entering a high altered state of healing consciousness, not realizing how scary our behavior and choices may seem to others. We are just enjoying the view and our special connection, and cutting, sawing, dragging, climbing, and building away as if this is the most common thing in the world. I could see why a modern-day person could look at the mom (or dad) in the house, as I've been looked at, and wonder, how can she be so calm and confident? Is she out of her mind? delusional? dissociating? Is she grounded? (well, no, she is above the ground . . well then, is she centered?), Is she spiritually bypassing her feelings? Is she rationalizing that she is not scared? and so on, all questions that I've been asked and feelings that I had internalized at one point or another.
As irrelevant as the extreme behavior of isolated tribes like this one seems to be within our modern-day Western lives, we are growing and transforming into similar natural states of aliveness, higher consciousness, and interconnectedness on an energetic level. This is not only happening because of survival pressures and breakthroughs as is the case with most of my clients. From what I've seen, our children, thanks to our conscientious and conscious choices and disciplines, are evolving and climbing up these scary “trees of higher consciousness” as quickly and swiftly as little monkeys. It behooves us all to teach the world to make space for them so they can fulfill their callings.
Interested in a parenting book that is making huge waves and relaying a similar message to parents across the globe? Check out: http://theconsciousparent.com/ one of Oprah's all time favorite books.