I was a tomboy as a child. I defiantly pursued adventures and ventured into domains that were usually monopolized by boys and for no good reason off limits to girls. Some of my girlfriends, cousins, and aunts worried that my many cuts, scrapes, and bites would toughen and permanently scar my legs, but I was having too much fun, climbing to the top of trees, crawling into dugouts, flying on (and sometimes off) my bike, chasing my brother, and exploring bugs, animals, plants, trees, and the natural world around me to care.
Why would anyone give up what was most exciting about being alive just to have soft, smooth legs? What for? To attract a boyfriend? You might as well saw them off, preserve them in a glass case, and lock me up, I thought.
I don't know how I knew, but I could immediately tell the difference between a concern that was truly for my own good and one that was the result of unexamined and biased social expectations, conformity, and appearances. How come no one worried about the legs of boys? If their chances of finding true love later in life weren't ruined because of some scars on their legs, why would they for girls? I concluded after some deliberation that if something like that could scare away a boy then so be it. Being coupled with a partner in some distant future was the least of my concerns. Who would want to be tied up with someone who'd treat you like a porcelain doll and expect you to act like one anyway?
I wasn't only fascinated with nature and the creatures around me. I was curious about my own body and even more so about the cuts, bruises, scrapes, and bites that people thought of as ugly. They were far more interesting to me than oppressive social norms because they were like a portal of mysteries that you could delve in and unfold layer upon layer.
For instance, have you ever asked yourself how wounds magically healed all by themselves? Or what caused bleeding to stop? Why did cuts and scrapes hurt more for a while before they got better? Why did rubbing a bruise cause it to get lighter? How did my attitude and demeanor—panicky or calm—impact the sensations of pain and the sharp sting of iodine and alcohol? Was it better to clench your jaw or stay relaxed? Why did the wounds get so itchy after they scar? At what point could you pick at an itchy scab without causing it to bleed again? My well of curiosity was bottomless.
After watching a documentary on indigenous customs, my father told me that some indigenous tribes in the jungle required their adolescent daughters to go through a fire ant test (by placing their hand in a calabas of fire ants) as part of their initiation into adulthood. I understood his fascination. I was beyond intrigued and intuitively picked up that there was more behind this ritual than learning to withstand physical pain. I intuited that the intention of this cultural ritual was not to hurt them. I had a vague inkling that learning to transcend the grip of the five senses was of the essence in this practice.
Even though I'd barely skimmed the surface of this deep well of wisdom, it had already offered me life-changing insights, such as realizing that pain was not the enemy. Pain was protective and wise. Without pain, we could hurt ourselves very badly and bleed to death (i.e. people born with congenital analgesia often die in childhood because they are not able to feel pain and brace themselves from injuries and burns.)
I realized that pain was a trustworthy compass to navigate life with. I'd applied the lessons I'd learned to physical pain but I was a total wuss when it came to emotional pain and conflict. Like most children, I split people into the classic good guys vs bad guys categories whenever I experienced or was exposed to emotional conflict in my own life.
I couldn't stand it if the bad guys were winning: i.e. a teacher spanking and humiliating "lost cases" in front of everyone; a bully teasing and picking on someone smaller; a relative with a sharp tongue calling my cousins names. I'd even gotten in a fight with a boy when I was in the first grade, taking it upon myself to punish those who weren't playing fair and were getting away with it. They had a God-complex—thinking that they were entitled to more and better than the rest of us, breaking and bending rules in their favor, and bossing people around. I didn't have one. I was just trying to stop them from exercising theirs.
Then it clicked that the reason indigenous people may teach their children high tolerance for physical pain was to teach them equanimity toward emotional pain as well. I didn't use any of these fancy terms to describe my inner states, but my dad would always say, "the body is weak, the spirit is strong." I understood that I needed to quiet my screaming body and heart and listen more to my spirit or I'd be picking at the scabs of my emotional wounds forever and keep them from healing, because of my own impatient God-complex.
It was hard to let go, because, deep down, I didn't trust the intelligence of the universe and God, who was in my eyes not doing a good job controlling bad people, and causing good people and innocent beings too much unnecessary hurt and pain. I even fought the bad guys in recurring dreams—as some ninja warrior dressed in black—until a passage in my third-grade history book shook me to the core. In it was a quote by a tortured slave who said to his master, "I'm more free than you will ever be" right before dying.
My little brain didn't understand the logic in this but my soul responded as if freed from some cage. It demoted my usual mind to its proper place and convinced me that the game of life was 100% fair. The good guys weren't losing and the bad guys weren't winning, even though it looked like that on the surface. God kept accurate score and our job was to prevent ourselves from getting fooled by the bombardment of false representations of reality.
I realized that the natural process of dying and endings were benevolent aspects of this wholeness, and that death was actually the ultimate equalizer in leveling the playing field. Because of my own God-complex, I was sabotaging this innate healing wisdom and preventing these optimal ways of emotional healing from emerging to the forefront.
I became intensely curious what made it possible for the slave to access this truth in the midst of extreme suffering and pain. I searched for answers in "dark" adult books, like Night by Elie Wiesel, reading just a few pages at the time not to get overwhelmed. I experimented with thoughts of suffering and dying and had a dream of dying. It fast-forwarded me to the edge of my soul's purpose and offered me my first epiphany—that I needed to write a book for adults about the peculiar deliberations that occurred in the minds of children. These deep exploration still drive my quest for healing and wholeness today.
As an adult, I was delighted to discover that I wasn't the only one who thought fast-forwarding to the moment of our death could be helpful for our growth. One of my mentors, Donna Morrish, creator of Paths of Grace, offers an obituary writing workshop to her clients. Workshop articipants gain clarity into their soul callings by considering the intricate details of their funeral or memorial service, and by sitting with the reality that our death is not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when".
Sound morbid, cynical, a bit twisted? Not to the people who practice this on a regular basis. Renowned mystics and healers who regularly meditate on their death do so to free and advance their souls by intentionally dissolving their ego-mind illusions, attachments, and delusions of reality. Your Holiness the Dalai Lama meditates daily on his death (and probably his many future lives) and many committed shamans do regular (ego-mind) dismemberment journeys called a shamanic death to get out of their own way and clear their God-complex out of their hollow bones. It's a practice that I learned to do as well, or that my guides now spontaneously make happen when unconscious ego-mind assumptions and ideas are getting in the way of my growth.
What benefits does such a practice bestow on ordinary people like ourselves? Adam Braun, author of Pencils of Promise, writes in his book that being stuck on a malfunctioning cruise-ship in the middle of no-where in dangerous waters and no help on the way forced him to confront his death. Even though he was a young whipper snapper in his twenties, his soul dislodged and experienced what someone going through the trials of midlife crisis, a divorce, retirement, the death of a loved one, or terminal illness may experience. His deep soul callings rushed to the foreground and colored over his usual preoccupations and preconceived ideas of success, and inspired him to claim his true path, purpose, and power.
Within a few years, he founded hundreds of schools in third world countries that are now serving thousands of children. He currently switched gears and founded Mission University to help revamp higher education in the US and teach our young adults how to fulfill their dreams and soul purpose in life.
Why am I sharing all this with you now? I participated in a summer solstice drum circle last week with the intention of offering gratitude for coming around full circle with my book. Advance readers copies are being printed as we speak and I can almost taste the final product. In the journey, where Isa Gucciardi of the Sacred Stream invited us to open up to the brightest light inside of ourselves, my central guide, Rainbow Crystal Woman, spun out of a huge dark cloud of volcano ashes like a rising Phoenix. She conveyed information to me that totally took me by surprise. I'd felt so accomplished of late—like I'd reached the top of some mountain—and while that was all fine and dandy, I was shown that this cycle of completion was most similar to being done with middle school. I had gotten through the awkward adolescence phase along my spiritual path.
I was shown a glimpse of what was ahead, and it blew my mind in the same way that learning about a tortured slave who felt more free than his master ever did. The volcano that my guide was rising above was the super volcano in Yellowstone park. It explodes every 600,000 million years or so, and can cause widespread destruction and death to all kinds of species of life, not just because of the lava runs and initial damage, but because of the ashes being carried far and wide and potentially ruining crops and contaminating water almost from coast to coast.
The last time it exploded was about 600,000 million years ago. It's not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when" in terms of it exploding, give or take a few ten thousand years. The same in regard to meteors and asteroids hitting earth, which are much likelier to destroy a good portion of life on earth before the sun fizzling us out in a few billion years, which marks, without any doubt, the end of our beautiful planetary home as we know it.
I was shown that not thinking about earth's death was analogous to not thinking about our own deaths, believing that it's too far away to have relevance to our lives now. It does, of course it does. It defines our life and how we think about everything pertaining to our existence.
A lack of a long view and big picture perspective can cause us to get stuck in good/bad thinking and polarizing, and miss the spiritual boat, the purpose of why we are here now, why we were granted this incredible gift of life in such a close symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth: a miracle child of the cosmos herself and offering us a glimpse of the mysterious beauty, sparkly light, star dust, and elemental magic that's buried in each of our own souls.
While it's important to honor and protect sacred life all around us, especially in vulnerable and marginalized populations, animals, and land, my guide reminded me that it's easy to lose sight of the ball, just like when I was as a child, and get too caught up in the pain of the loss, in getting attached to some false end goal of permanent preservation of all that is good and sacred, and in the idea that we are, especially now, losing the battle against the bad guys and must somehow defeat them at their game.
I was shown that the bad guys in the White House and high positions all over the world weren't winning and destroying the sacred in the rest of us and earth. The sacred cannot be destroyed unless we let it by getting fooled and deluded by their insanity and anti-conscious intentions. The ultimate goal of consciousness is not to be preserved in some eternal form, although consciousness will naturally compel us to honor and protect all of life's beautiful forms.
When we allow ourselves to get seduced and triggered into polarized thinking, powerlessness and rage, we will end up agreeing with and energizing the goal of splitting. We feel like losers in a game where evil people and their ways dominate.
The only thing that truly lives on forever is our consciousness, and each one of us has total and complete control over protecting it. As I'm sharing all this with you now, I once again feel like a child, stretching and grasping at the fringes of this new set of teachings and gifts of insight that I hope will invite you to do the same: trust that the game of life rewards our integrity and every effort toward wholeness.
Life will only appear fair as long as we include death and impermanence in our final analysis, not just our own individual deaths but the eventual death of earth and all living beings and forms as we currently know them. When we no longer have this to attach to, what rises to the top? What truly matters and how do we preserve this?
Retreats for Nature Wisdom Keepers
I have finalized the second contract and will be offering two retreats back to back in Costa Rica. The first one will be from April 8-13, 2018, at Pie in the Sky, just 5 miles from Arenal volcano near the lush Children's Eternal Rainforest. This wonderful retreat will be enhanced by a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory (for butterfly medicine and guidance in helping us dissolve our ego-minds and transform into our true potential), a soak in Arenal's healing hot springs, and a meeting with Nancy Zintsmaster and her gorgeous rescue horses, learning about her involvement with the Liberty program, their special connection, and her revolutionary impact in guiding efforts to save wild and "untamable" horses.
The second one will be from April 15-20, 2018, at Mystica Lodge and will include a tour of nearby petroglyphs, horseback riding to waterfalls, yoga, and body work in a magical tree house. I'm uploading images and more detailed information about these two soul rejuvenating offerings this week on the site below! Thank you so much for your patience and for telling interested nature loving friends about my retreats.