Claiming the Will to Live

February 23, 2011

How can you use your anger to empower and fuel your will to live and help you feel driven to actualize in the world?

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that my biggest breakthroughs in healing my grief over John’s suicide and my own longings to take my life to be with him in death, happened through my anger.

Back in June 2009, I was at one of the lowest points in my grief. I desperately did not want to continue on another day without John. I was too tired and in too much agony. It was a series of  things though, that collided at the same time and snapped me out of my depression and my longing to die.

The first thing was that I had been working with two different therapists. One was a transpersonal therapist trained in grief and loss, and the other was a Jungian expert who helped me understand the imagery behind the vivid dreams I was having. For several weeks, with both therapist, we talked about the patterns I have in relationship with men: my tendency to overextend myself to take care of and to meet the man’s emotional needs while my partner rarely tends to my feelings. We explored how this was the case with John, as I was always trying to rescue him, and this was the case in other past relationships. In relationships, I was rarely attended to on an emotional level and we fleshed out what it might look like otherwise. As an exercise in tending to my own needs, the Jungian analyst had me call a friend at the end of the day and tell her about every little thing I did that day, and every piece of food I ate. She told me to baby myself to someone else in this way. {Me being the overly self-reliant independent person that I am- of course I didn’t bother a friend with the minutiae of my day (we have Facebook for that), rather I journaled about it to myself…}

The next thing that happened was my friend Ben came over and played a recording he’d found where he interviewed John and me about our relationship for a Couple’s Therapy class. At first I was nervous about hearing John’s deep rumbling voice again, thinking I might lose it and never find my way back to wholeness again, but as we listened to the audio together, something shifted. I listed with a clinical distance and rather than being absorbed in the pain and loss, I was able to observe the process of John and my communication and the subtle nuances in our dynamic that I had never noticed before. In hindsight, given his death, I, ironically, had a better understanding of his words and the gaps in between his words. What he didn’t say spoke more to me than what he did say.

It was quite an awakening to observe and really hear in the recording how passionate and committed I was about our relationship. I could hear the love and enthusiasm in my voice. But what about John? He said some nice loving things but for the most part his answers were short and guarded and seemed to be dancing around really saying what he truly felt. I could hear his fear. I noticed he avoided making a direct or complete and honest statement about us; I noticed his lack of commitment to me and avoidance of planning a future with me. As I had been talking about in therapy, I was giving 100% and he wasn’t matching that, let alone meeting me halfway.

I had been willing to give up my life- to kill myself, for a man who could not honestly tell me what he was feeling, and speak with vigor about our relationship while he was alive. Clearly he would not have reciprocated my passion and given up his life to be with me, as is evident by the very fact that I was not enough of a reason for him to stay. How’s that for overextending myself? How dare he take his life and leave me behind in so much pain? It was then, hearing me talk with such love, that I realized how worthy I am, how I deserve so much more than what I’d received. I resonated with the self I heard on the audio and felt appreciation and compassion for her and all she had given to her beloved, all her love and efforts that had gone in vain, and for the pain John’s dishonesty and fear had caused her. I saw clearly how all the qualities that he lacked: passion, honestly, courage, commitment, devotion, dedication…. are the qualities that I have. All that time, I had been idealizing him and imbuing him with qualities of a saint, when the evidence in front of me did not accurately reflect the truth. Hell no was I going to throw my life away for someone who did not meet me half way, who did not consider my feelings when he took his life, and left me behind to deal with the devastating aftermath.

The third thing that happened, and this one is kinda quirky, was that that very week Michael Jackson passed away. I was shocked to hear he died, but I was also more shocked because three months earlier I had a dream that he died. In my dream he died in a football stadium due to a heart attack. I have this dream written down in my dream journal from March 2009. It is plainly documented in between other dreams. And as it turned out he died of a cardiac arrest and his memorial was held at a stadium.

So it was like  “holy shit, what the –?” And then *snap- I felt fired up, confident, and refueled with my own self-worth. I do have gifts! I do have talents. I always knew I had some psychic abilities, and during the course of that year I had several very significant dreams that came true, but Michael Jackson’s death was confirmation of my abilities for me. Maybe there is some reason why I’m here, why these things are happening, that I’m of value. And if I have these  extraordinary kinds of gifts, am I really going to go giving this all away, continue my negative patterns with men, overextend myself to meet them and be with them, and in the extreme version of this- give up my life? Hell no!

These three revelations slapped me back into life, cementing my boots to the ground. As much as I love(d) John, there was no way that what he did was going to take me down too. I had too much to lose, too much I had been given, to much to give and too much that he didn’t have. I was not going to give it all up to be with a guy. I knew I deserved to be with a man who could match my qualities of love, commitment, passion, and care; a man who would willingly meet me half way or even overextend. A man who would never leave me this way. This I knew I wanted and owed myself.

And it was with that, that I got serious about myself and about my life. I got focused, disciplined, and rolled up my sleeves to get cracking on using my gifts to do whatever work I can do.

So ladies (and men – if relevant) – if you’ve been left behind by suicide, or broken-hearted in other ways, get self- righteous, get self-indignant. I bet the qualities lacking in your men who left you behind are the very qualities that you embody and the gifts you offer to the world. Do you also have the tendency to give up whatever you can for the man you love or to be with the man you love even though knowingly or unknowingly- he doesn’t meet you half way? And in fact walked the other way? Is it really worth sacrificing all that you are to follow a man into death? Don’t you think he should have at least stopped to consider your feelings for just a moment before he did what he did?

Dig in to your life; investigate the truth. Get angry and stake your claim in this world. You deserve to get what’s yours. Don’t give it up for anyone. Get what you came for.


mining gold in hell

December 31, 2010

Finding purpose, finding meaning in my loss has been my lifeline. It is the only thing that has kept me going and organized me up from being a puddle of pain lying at the bottom of the abyss and into a functioning, spirited, driven, human being. I urge you to find your own meaning and purpose in your loss and begin to tell a new story, over and over again, about your life and the reasons you’ve had to endure what you are experiencing. There is a real purpose for your being here at this time, this place. Your heartache, your loss, your grief, your pain is molding you into a new version of yourself. Whether you feel it or not. Try to uncover the gold, your gifts and strengths that have been hiding in the shadows for so long. You are so close to them now. What are they? How can you use them? What can you do with them? What can you do with them to make your life a better one, an exalted version of the one you used to live?

How can you live up to the highest designs of your being? How can you use what you’re experiencing to be of service to others? How can you make the pain you are going through or have gone through worthwhile and echo out through the annals of history? You may not know the answers now, the pain might be too deep and the darkness too blinding, but keep fumbling one foot forward, one step at a time, and more will be revealed in time. I promise. Don’t let your loss be in vain.



sweet acceptance

December 10, 2010

I know some of you out there reading this are in the thick of your grief and can’t imagine life ever getting any easier or your pain subsiding. I remember being there: feeling that my wounds would never stop oozing, my tears would never stop flowing, and I would never feel complete without my beloved. I would never have imagined that I would be ok again.

Over the course of this past  month-and-a-half something has shifted in me in an enormous way. I wrote in an earlier post that I was suffering from what I called the second year anniversary blues. The weeks and months before the second year anniversary were fraught with much anger, chaos, stress, and constant low-grade irritation. Then it was the anniversary of John’s birthday on November 1st. He would have been 32. A close and dear friend visited and stayed with me. I was able to shed some tears over the loss of his beauty and how hard it has been not seeing his kind of beauty replicated anywhere in the world. How hard it is to begin dating men again when no one compares to his inner and outer beauty. My friend shared of her own loss of how his special, kind, loving nature had affected her so deeply.  We stood in the middle of Barnes and Nobles as she held me in her arms and I cried.

We saw the movie The Hereafter together and that helped me understand at a greater level that the grief and loss that we experience when a loved one dies is such an excruciatingly painful part of life that we all experience. It’s not just me and a few people I know experiencing the sadness of a death. It’s all of us. All around the world, people are crying, missing, and longing for their loved ones. We are not alone in our grieving. The Hereafter also reminded me of what a sweet feeling of relief it is to know that our loved ones are still alive, loving us, always with us, and even a part of us.

On the day of John’s birthday a state of grace set in. The week between his birthday and the day of his passing (November 7th) was an unusually hot one here in Los Angeles, with temperatures up in the eighties. It was a week full of warmth, peacefulness, and gorgeous sunset drives home on the freeway with palm tree silhouettes back-lit with yellows and blues.

That weekend I spent at a buddhist monastery in the mountains near San Diego. I turned off my phone, retreated from the world, and rested. During my meditation on sunday November 7th, through tears of love, I heard guidance telling me to rejoice and celebrate the day as the day in which John was finally released from his pain. The day he found the freedom he had always searched for. I could choose to commemorate the anniversary of his passing as a sad, lonely, depressing day or I could choose to celebrate it with him and feel joy about his release. I didn’t have to miss him or feel separated from him because he is with me and always will be. So go down the mountain and celebrate and have fun together, is what I heard. And so I chose to celebrate. I left the monastery and drove to the ocean ( i love california!). It so happened that there was a village fair going on that day in the town I happened to drive right into. I wandered through the fair in a state of peace, joy, and gratitude for all the beauty in my life and most of all for John’s companionship and love.

That day was a miracle – a shift in my perception – and since then I have let go of the past that I used to have with John. I have let go of my grief, my sorrow, and my loss. My perspective in my life and the world has changed so dramatically from a few years ago. My life and my place in the world feels exciting. Time is moving fast (and I love that) and I am more conscious of the gifts in my day to day life and the gifts that I have been given in order to be here and be of service.  I am excited for my future and the possibilities that lay ahead.

I know that what I just described may feel far off or impossible for some. I offer it here as a possibility; an invitation of hope. I never thought I would feel this way. And here I am. Let me hold the space for the possibility that one day you will feel infinitely better than you can imagine right now.  Things will get better in time, I promise. Keep grieving, keep processing, journaling, dancing, moving, meditating, and healing.  And in whatever it is that you do – don’t forget to pray for a miracle.



i couldn’t save you.

October 4, 2010

This past week, as part of my healing process, I undertook a week-long raw food cleanse and liver and gallbladder flush. Theory has it that the liver and gallbladder are the organs that store our anger and resentment. And this past week, as I was detoxing from caffeine, sugar, dairy, gluten, and all animal products…let me just say that we had one crazy week here in Los Angeles last week. With temperatures hitting as high as 117 degrees, and as I tried to navigate around town running a billion errands in bumper to bumper traffic, my anger, irritability, and impatience were at all time highs. It was a hectic, stressful, and cranky week, as a lot of my issues were coming up both on a physiological level and on an emotional level.

As part of this cleanse, every night, those of us who participated, were guided about the process on an hour-long phone call hosted by some amazing healing practitioners. On one of the nights we had a fantastic speaker named Josh Hathaway, a non-violence communicator practitioner, who spoke with us about how with all this anger being detoxed from the liver/gallbladder, it is important for us to embrace forgiveness.

He led us through a beautiful forgiveness meditation/visualization. On this inner journey, I reconnected with my heart and my compassion for myself. I was able to fully realize that while yes, other people out in the world were pushing my buttons and I was finding myself more and more irritated with the small things, that  was really just a symptom of my larger anger toward myself that was leaking out and being externalized in various ways.

Why was I so angry at myself? What would I forgive myself for?

I was angry at myself for not having been able to save John. For being human. And lord knows that rationally I have come to understand that I did so many things to try and help him. I even asked him the week before he died if he was thinking of suicide and if he had a plan. He told me no. And rationally I know the cold truth, that if someone really wants to kill themself, then there is nothing anyone can do to stop them or save them. And spiritually speaking, I know that it was John’s destiny to take his life, and it is my path to live on and work with suicide here on this plane with him helping me from the other side. Yet still, a subliminal and incessant anger towards myself, at my own sense of ineffectiveness and helplessness to be more than I am, to be better than I am pervades in the deepest recesses of my body.

It was through Josh’s guided meditation that I was able to fully see and feel this. When the truth of how I was beating up on myself came to the surface, tears flowed down my face. I was filled with love and compassion for myself for having done the best I could and for feeling so much pain through this loss. Some of my self-anger was released.

Because this process was so moving and powerful for my healing and has inched me a little bit further towards some more acceptance, I want to share with you some of what Josh said about forgiveness and share the guided visualization with the hopes that perhaps you will use it on yourself.

Here’s some points about forgiveness that Josh made:

Forgiveness is an act of power. It is an act of recognition and acceptance.

Forgiveness focuses on the human being, not the action, who has done something or triggered pain or harm in us in some way. Forgiveness focuses on that person and sees that person for who they are.Forgiveness is an acknowledgement of our imperfection as human beings. Forgiveness is an incredible gift.

Forgiveness starts by forgiving ourselves and acknowledging the places where we’ve made mistakes, by acknowledging the harm or the pain that we have caused. Usually that process of acknowledgement brings with it the experience of shame or guilt. This is an invitation to move beyond shame and guilt.

I really invite you now to take a moment to yourself and allow yourself to go inward with the following guided visualization. If you can, you might want to read it aloud- slowly — into a recorder and play it back. Or maybe even have someone else read it to you. Also keep in mind that it’s a template meditation and can be used to find forgiveness not just for yourself, but for anyone in your life.

Guided Meditation for Forgiving Ourselves

Take a deep breath. Notice in this moment any tension that’s showing up in your body. Check in with your body. Feel your feet on the ground. Feel your body pressed against the chair you’re sitting in. The process of forgiveness is a process of the heart.

So I want to invite you to breathe into the heart as often as you can remember.

Get comfortable. Close your eyes. Breathe into your body, into your heart.

As you breathe into your heart I want to you to feel your heart expanding with every breath. Growing with every breath.

Expanding until it expands large enough that your body can fit inside your heart. I want you to breathe into your heart until it feels large enough that you could fit the whole room you’re in inside your heart.


I want you to look there. And all of a sudden your heart is the most lusciously decked out room you’ve ever seen. All red velvet with soft couches and pillows and satin. Just the softest most luxurious place you’ve ever seen.

When you get that image, I want you to call yourself by name, in your own inner room, in your own mind. I want you to call yourself by name and invite yourself to come in and take ease in your heart. I want you to see yourself entering into that soft space. And just reclining. Resting at last.


And say to yourself – call yourself by name – say “I forgive you. I forgive you for everything you’ve ever done intentionally or unintentionally that caused pain. I forgive you for everything you’ve ever said. Yes even that, that has caused pain.”


Call yourself by name again. Say “I forgive you even for the things you have thought that have been less than flattering and beautiful about others or yourself. I forgive you. I take you into my heart just as you are. I accept you, just as you are. Here and now.”


When you have a sense that you’ve taken this in, that you’re reclining in your own heart – – resting at last,  I want you to see yourself gently and easily rise up off the pillows. And I want you to see a golden road, like the setting sun on the ocean. And I want you to see yourself walk down that golden road. And as you walk, I want you to bless, bless yourself: May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace.

Breathing into the heart. Feeling your own heart-space. Your own red velvet room. I want you to acknowledge for yourself the act of power that you’ve just made. What you’ve just done is released yourself from the bondage of anger and resentment that you’ve carried toward yourself. And you can even say it to yourself: “I release this resentment. I let go of everything I no longer need.”

Breathing again. And feeling your body, feeling the earth – this physical space. And open your eyes and come back into the room.

letting go….or not…..

September 28, 2010

Since I posed the question about letting go in my last blog entry, the universe has answered me in many different ways — through email messages, sets of songs on the radio, news updates on Facebook, and through John….

And the message that I am getting is that while I can let go of my past, the trauma of John’s suicide, and my grief, I can’t actually fully let go of loving John; it’s just not possible and there is no need to. I will love John forever and he is a vital part of my life and my journey here on Earth. Whew. What a relief! I was very saddened by the idea that I need to let go of him entirely in order to move forward into a new relationship.

I want to share a lovely and eloquently written email I received from a reader and friend in response to my last post. The message holds much wisdom and really rang true for me so I thought you sisters out there experiencing any kind of loss or heartbreak might appreciate it, so with her permission of course — I’m sharing it below.

The response comes from Iva out there in Croatia!

Just read your last entry…. felt compelled to reply for some reason.

Truth is, I have no answer for letting go. I get overwhelmed just trying to grasp the notion. For me personally (and I by no means am comparing the end of my love affair to your loss), letting go has not been willing through any stage of my journey of healing. It just…sort of… happens. In tiny ways and catches you off guard when you least expect it, basically when you have already given up on it ever happening and start to make peace with the fact that a part of you will always be pulling backwards.

I’ll tell you a story. Since the first day that Lee crushed me and walked away I have been waiting for the magical day that I no longer think of him in. I was not being realistic and it was my first and remains the only major break up; I expected it to be literally in a matter of weeks. Of course it wasn’t. I’d wake up in agony over having dreamed him, or having imagined he’d be in bed next to me when I awoke and the horrid reality would hit. The love I felt (and continue to feel) would constipate me at those moments, I had no release for it but the occasional light bolts of poetry or even writing him – letter upon letter which I knew I’d never send. Then close to a year later I went on a holiday with some dear friends. It was just 3 days away but I really love these girls and don’t get to see them often as one lives in England. So the second day I woke up and realized that a whole 24 hours had gone by without me giving Lee a thought. I truly marked the calender as it was the first minuscule step in my goal to let go.

To be honest Sarah, I don’t think it is consciously possible to accomplish. Not with that type of love. I’m not saying this to depress you, quite the opposite: I’m saying so to comfort you and reassure you that you’re not doing anything wrong, aren’t stuck nor going backwards. It is just something we cannot have control over (and this coming from a control freak so trust me, I know how frustrating that is). And on top of all this, letting go is not something that makes me very happy even when I DO make progress. In some ways, to me it equals forgetting. And that is NOT a good thing in my book. I need to remember, for my own selfish reasons and for the sake of my very identity which my former lover has shaped tremendously. So I fight it, at the cost of my own sanity. I reread emails, I make myself cry by still writing about him in my most intimate poetry, I look at pictures from vacations so long ago I can barely recognize who I was in those pictures.

And yet. Oblivion comes. Slowly and sneakily, it clouds first the small (yet oh so relevant) details, then bigger and more important aspects of the past. It pushes them aside more and more, as you experience and grow and love in the present. Until one day you find the thought of him only a painful jerk in your gut every once in a while. And then even that stops and you learn that maybe you have let go somewhere along the way.

Only you cannot for the life of you explain how this happened.

Thanks so much Iva!! Much love to you!!

What are your experiences, thoughts, or wisdom about letting go?

It was a very dark and lonely road. Sometimes I would fly into rages of grief or anger and throw dishes or whatever I could find against the kitchen wall and then collapse in desperation and the futility of it all. I like to get a little crazy (like the song says) and take myself on an emotional trip, to really give life to my feelings.

Like last week for instance, I was feeling a strangely heavy kind of grief about finishing my book about John. I knew and felt that the tides were changing and that for my own sake I have to start letting go. I can’t keep looking back. If I want a gloriously happy life for myself (and I do – and so does John) I know that holding on to all that has happened and keeping John frozen or waxed in the past as I once knew him, is not going to be in my best interest. With the completion of the book, it felt like the time was right. Now letting go is not easy. People say “oh you need to let go” or “just surrender,” well yeah…but how? It’s so much easier said then done. It’s a process, and for me it takes work, acknowldgement, and actually doing something about it (like dancing, writing, beaching). I was at a pretty pivotal point. So I went out and bought some freshly made goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, crusty bread, chocolate, and wine from a local and well-loved Italian grocery in Santa Monica. I packed it all up and had myself a nice picnic on the beach. I brought flowers and one of my favorite pictures of John and I sent them off into the ocean. Then I got drunk on wine and cried, laughed, and went  a little crazy while listening to my ipod. I find it’s important to indulge our emotions every once in a while, within reason, and as long as we are safe from causing ourselves or anyone else harm; kind of like throwing a tantrum but not subjecting anyone else to it.

But back to last year ~ after my emotional bouts of rage and grief, I noticed an odd nothing kind of feeling take over me. It was like my brain and body did not have any more juices or capacity to experience those feelings anymore; they were maxed out. So for a few days after my fits I wouldn’t feel any pain. I knew I was still grieving and I knew I should feel pain and sadness, but I couldn’t. It was like being in standby mode. At first I could only be in standby mode for a few days and then the grief would come barreling over me all over again. I would feel it, go back down into hell, and mourn and grieve. Then another standby mode to over and this time it would last longer than the previous one. Then the next wave of grief hit me and was then followed by another standby mode. This continued on until my standby modes became more my norm than the grief.  It was during these periods of being on hold from the grief that I began to grow stronger and feel better. Soon, during the stanby modes I was able to start feeling positive emotions again, and all of the work I had been doing in therapy, my meditative practices, and with a shaman, had the space to really integrate and take effect in my being.

This ebb and flow still continues now, but in very tiny ways. My new way of perceiving and experiencing the world is now my main way of being. And now it’s the significant markers, like the end of the creative process of my book, that any residual grief comes bubbling up to the surface. I imagine this will continue going on until my system has completely purged itself of all the grief, my old beliefs, and my old way of being. It could take months, years, or the rest of my life. Maybe the purging is a return to the innocence within, the origin of it all. This reminds me of a line from John’s suicide letter in which he wrote:

Somehow I have to believe that there is some original innocence within that transcends all.

I know everyone’s grieving and healing process is different; feels different, looks different, and gets resolved in different ways and at different paces. But I hope that some of my experiences might reflect different parts of your journey.

I’m sending support, healing, support, and love for all those reading this in darkness. We are linked together.

Right after John passed I wanted to go after him. I needed to find him. But of course I couldn’t. I have an intuition – and other guides, psychic,shamans have confirmed it- that I’m going to live a long life. Great. So the thought of living out all my years without him, waiting to be with him again, was absolutely terrifyingly brutal. I was horror-struck at this notion.

So I got it in my head that if I were to have an “awakening” or become “enlightened” that that would so radically alter my consciousness and my sense of time – that the rest of the years of my life would fly by just like that – snap*. This was my only real intention for cultivating a regular spiritual practice: to shift my sense of time so the years don’t drag by and before I know it – Viola– I’m with John. Many people aspire to be awakened because they want freedom from suffering. Now that sounded like a nice by-product but it wasn’t part of my main purpose.

I am very fortunate to have many amazing like-minded, spiritually minded, psychically abled friends in my life. Well one of these such friends – let’s call him Ben – was staying with me and sleeping on my couch for a time right after John passed. We stayed up many late nights talking about John and trying to piece together the mystery of his suicide. Those were very intense and very dark days. Ben is an amazing mystic and widely read expert on esoteric and occult phenomena. He also is a hard core meditator, so his presence in my life had a big impact on cultivating my beliefs and practices that could help me get to John.

In those early days he shared this with me because he felt it rang true to my style of spiritual path. It comes from this book called The Seven Rays (there are many with this title and I’m not sure exactly which one it is – although this was printed in 1930) which I have to say I don’t know much about. The concept is about different approaches to meditation that are best suited for different types of people depending on what ray they come from.

The Ray of Devotion is pre-eminently the ray of sacrifice.  When it is the egoic ray the method of approach through meditation takes the form of one-pointed application, through love of some individual or ideal.  A man learns to include through love of person or ideal; he bends every faculty and every effort to the contemplation of what is required, and in sacrifice for that person or ideal lays even his causal body on the flames of the altar.  It is the method of divine fanaticism that counts all lost apart from the vision, and that eventually sacrifices joyously the entire personality.  The causal body is destroyed through fire, and the liberated life streams upward to the spirit in divine beatification.

Though I have always been a seeker, questioner, explorer, and experimenter with all kinds of spiritual paths, mind altering substances, and paranormal stuff, it felt like my devotion to John was the kick-start to a commitment to the beginning of something – my true spiritual path. And I would burn all of my causal body and sacrifice everything – whatever it would take- to see and be with John again. I printed out this quote and hung it on my wall.

I began to practice meditation every morning for 15 minutes and every night for 15 minutes. I used a process called The Presence Process which is an 11 week process for attaining more presence and for untangling the conditioning of the mind that goes back to early childhood. It was intense and challenged me to be very disciplined. It was not my favorite but I do recommend it.

So in the mornings, I sat and meditated and did the breathing exercises that the book advises. I also learned from working Liv, the Shaman, to sit and make offerings to my guides, my angels, the elements of spirit, and to John. I created a little altar space where I set up photos of John and any special objects, crystals,feathers, poems, flowers, books, that were meaningful to me. Each morning before I meditated, I took a bowl and poured offerings into it. Now there are many teaching about the different offerings and they vary from culture to culture and shamanic lineage to lineage. I’m not so familiar with these teachings but based on my work with Liv, I loosely copied what she did. She usually made offerings of ash that had been created during a special ritual. I had no access to this kind of ash, so the ash was out. She usually made an offering of some kind of alcohol to her ancestors. I know that John loved red wine and my grandfather loved scotch so I alternated between these. Liv told me that I have a big posse of Angels that surround me and that I am most guided by the angelic realm. She also said that angels like sweets (hence I have and always have had a MAJOR sweet tooth– it’s a problem :)) and so I would also make an offering of honey or sugar. Cinnamon was one of John’s favorite things in the world – he used to put it on everything, so I would also offer cinnamon.

So the process looked like this: I would (out loud or in my head) welcome John, spirit, all my guides, my ancestors, my angels, the earth spirits, the water spirits, the air spirits, and the fire spirits into the space. One by one, step by step, I would announce that I was making an offering of wine and then take a sip, spit it out into the bowl and then pour some into the bowl. Then I would pour the honey into the bowl, and then next the cinnamon…and whatever else it might be- flowers or something Liv suggested… and then always end with an offering of water.

After making the invocation and giving the offerings, I would sit quietly with my eyes closed and notice any sensations around me in the air. Did the temperature change? Did I feel something move? Did  I feel an itch? Did it feel like I had a hair fall on my face? This one I feel/felt alot- like a hair falling over my lip and then I would go to move it and there was nothing there. ALOT of the time I would get chills. This is pretty common when talking to mediums or people who are in touch with loved ones on the other side. I’d pay attention to any images that would come to me in my mind’s eyes. With my eyes closed I often feel and see light- lots and lots of light. John was always very light when he was in a body, and when I am feeling and seeing lots of tingling warm  bright light I know it’s John. And he comes alot. So much of the time during my sitting practice, I will sit and feel chills all over my body and see and feel a warm light and feel flooded in this sense of light and love. And its amazing! It’s like being flooded with love. And it can also be hard, feeling so much love- especially when there’s so much grief associated to it, can bring up a lot of emotion. Often times when I bask in his love I am overwhelmed with tears (of all kinds) and sit and cry and cry. It can be hard, but it is also healing and feels good. I just go with it.

I think sitting and basking in the love, chills, tears, and light coming from our loved one on the other side or coming from whatever/whoever source – is the most healing and essential part of any sitting practice and I think that holds true for everyone, not just those who have lost someone and who are grieving.

But back to the offering ritual. After I have made my offerings ( I no longer do this- as I’ve felt that it’s no longer necessary for me- but I’m sharing it because it’s how I started to cultivate my relationship with the other side) – I expressed thanks for things in my life that I appreciated and thanked everyone for all of their help. I get as specific as I can. Then I would ask for help with certain things that I was working on or struggling with. A big one that I asked for was for help in cultivating my psychic abilities, for help in knowing- really knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that John was still alive and that he hadn’t died. I asked for signs from him to show me that he was still alive. I asked for ways in which I could grow to be able to see him and feel him and hear him as strongly as possible. I asked for help in eliminating my mental, skeptical, and doubting filter. I asked for strength, guidance….things like this. I usually asked to be able to see John again or asked to have a dream about him. Sometimes I would talk about a dream I had and then ask for guidance in understanding the messages of the dream. Then I would sit and allow myself to receive an answer or imagine the answer as best as I could.

Sometimes I would practice imagery/visualization exercises like imagining a gold ball in my minds eye and holding it there for as long as possible. This was to help sharpen my ‘inner seeing’ / clairvoyant sense. Sometimes I would practice listening and hearing all of the sounds around me, as many as possible and from as far away as possible. Then I would play with how I could magnify these sounds. How could I hear things that were even farther away?

After all this, then I would  begin the 15 minute meditation process from the Presence Process. Over the course of the last year my practice has changed as I change. I like to keep things fluid and adaptable, not rigid or dogmatic. I have let go of the ritual of offering wine, water, etc. But I do still welcome everyone and especially John every morning and offer gratitude for all their help, guidance, wisdom, and inspiration in my life. I talk to them about what’s going on in my life, and I ask them questions and wait for the answers. I set my intentions for the day and ask for specific help about specific things.

There’s this Yes/No communication technique that I learned from a service called Inner Expansion that helps people learn to communicate with their angels. I ask a question in a yes or no format – phrasing it with: “Is it in my best interest to x,y,x ….? And I let go of effort and let my head either gently fall to the side as if it is about to nod “no” or fall slightly forward or back as if it is about to nod “yes”. If it falls to the side, the answer is no. If it falls forward, the answer is yes. You can learn more about this at the website: they have a service where they “hook” you up to your angels and do an analysis about which psychic abilities are most natural to you and strongest – that’s how I learned that my clairaudience is strongest.

Another resource that I found incredibly helpful in shifting my beliefs about all of this stuff and moving from the rational, skeptical, into a place where I am less doubtful about all of these phenomena and am more and more  open and know that anything is possible – is an audio program called the Spontaneous Healing of Belief by Greg Braden. He explains the physics of many scientific experiments that prove the possibility of other dimensions, paranormal phenomenon etc..

A great book about meditation from a now deceased Buddhist master is called Dipa Ma. This woman lived through the death of two children and her husband. Miserably sick and grief-stricken she started to meditate and soon had many enlightenments and became an amazing teacher. She used to say “If I can do it, you can do it.” I highly recommend this book!

So what’s it all been good for? Have I “woken up” or haven’t I? I’ve had some amazing profound shifts in awareness. Perhaps I will write about those experiences in other posts. There were around two or three major ones that I could try and write about in some way. But whatever it was that happened — and I have experienced so many different kinds of healing and so much growth and transformation in the last year – (it’s pretty crazy) –  I am in some ways, literally a different person— and so yes, I have noticed that my sense of time has changed. It feels pretty blurry and amorphous and it has definitely sped up. Time is flying by. While most people may lament this, I love it and celebrate it. Can you believe it’s already practically September? Where did the summer go? Ahhhh……… cie la vie!

If anyone has any questions about any of this or wants further clarification, please feel free to ask. It’s alot of stuff to write, and I feel I’m only barely scratching the surface of my process and the effects of the healing work I’ve done. I’d be happy to explain more!

Immediately after John passed, that night in fact, I had communication with him. I have always had natural psychic abilities and experiences from early on, but because whenever I had shared these with people, I was often branded crazy – I had sort of dismissed my abilities and shoved them under a rug. But things had changed, I was living out in California amongst like minded and abled people where these things are quite common and acceptable, and using my extrasensory senses was what would help me talk to John. So part of my daily practice was to sit down every morning and talk to John and try and develop my clairaudience abilities (the psychic sense of hearing- which I know is my strongest ability)- by just listening to whatever thoughts came in my head.

For many months I struggled with doubts about what I was hearing and receiving. I thought that I was probably making things up and that the things I was hearing were obviously not John and even if it was John I was missing a lot of what he was actually saying, it was like I could only make out a few things here and there and the things I was hearing were only what I wanted to hear. I struggled with my own innate and New York conditioned skepticism and doubt, especially self-doubt. My mental filter was still too strong. It was like on top of all the grief and pain I was experiencing I was struggling with calling myself “crazy” for “hearing” and communicating with John- surely I was insane and none of this was real, and I couldn’t trust my intuitive or clairaudient abilities even though I have had so many varying experiences over the years and so much proof with my own eyes…i kept asking for more “bizarre” contact and proof that John was still alive because my mental, rational, old way of being, all of my conditioning, and all the criticism I had received and internalized over the years had such a strong hold over me and wouldn’t let me believe or allow or have faith.

And now I’m happy to say that this part of me has died, another odd gift of John’s/my death. But I had to work on this, actively. I kept asking John for signs of his presence– and they would come – like electricity blowing out in my kitchen, or candles exploding, and many others– but I also worked on this process in therapy : understanding the origins of all this need for “proof” and analysis and making sure everything was rational and sane…and learning and acknowledging what purpose that role had served in my life- how it was a necessary adaption and one that, given my current situation, was just no longer relevant.

I also worked on my doubt with Liv, the shaman. She assured me that all of my abilities and experiences were real and in fact were coming from John, time and time again. She and I practiced my communication with him together and she confirmed that what I was hearing was in fact what was being said. She was the one who pointed out that the only thing blocking me was my mind which was acting as a “filter”  and blocking the flow of messages from John and Spirit. It was like opening up to the signals instead of negating what I was receiving before I even let it have a chance to come through. I just had to TRUST a little and let it be and see what happened. Often times I would hear songs in the air right before they came on or words that were right about to be spoken. So for me, practicing this ability was not so much about practicing “making” things up or guessing but more about practicing getting out of my own way and allowing what is already there to move through me without me stonewalling it. It was a deeper practice of allowing, trusting, and believing (especially in myself) – which of course healed and continues to heal all aspects of my life and facilitates exponential growth spurts. And so every morning I asked for guidance around letting go of my mental filter and for help releasing doubts, skepticism, and cynicism so that I could open to and receive and flow with whatever communication and guidance I was receiving.

I also read a bunch of books about channeling and ‘how to’ be a medium, and about shamanism. These were helpful too – in terms of practical techniques, anecdotal evidence for my questioning mind, and to also provide context and “theory” for what I was studying. The more I read the more it opened up my imagination and that was crucial in developing these abilities because John would share with me things that he is/was doing over there on the other side that I would have no reference point for or no way of imagining from my limited perspective, so I had to keep taking my imagination to places it had never been or seen.

Next time, I’ll write about my daily practices, what I did, and what they were about.

Right now I should be working on my dissertation and writing a scholarly section on the Jungian significance of Synchronicities and irrational causality in the mate selecting courtship process, but after hours of dragging through the material, I just can’t bring myself to write the write-up. It’s a magnificently gorgeous day here in Los Angeles as I sit in a glass library atop a hill overlooking the City of Angels I’m having a hard time focusing on academics.

Instead of dissertating, I’ve been recollecting about how far I’ve come in the last two years and the ways in which I’ve gotten to the place to which I’ve gotten. In my mind I’m outlining a process that I would like to eventually formalize into an integrative grieving process that guides and navigates people through the stark and hellish bereaved landscape. As is consistent with the title of the blog and my point of view, this process integrates the dark and the light: a full descent into the abyss and embodiment of the pain and the darkness while also allowing for a newfound awareness of Spirit, the other side, and the miraculous overlap between the worlds that manifests in a variety of signs, symbols, and synchronicities. It is a massive overhaul of the old way of viewing death and a doorway into a new understanding of what we consider to be death. Like I have written before, it is a healing journey of faith and of opening up to new ways of perception and a six sensory type of reality.

So allow me to start mapping my process and join me as I see what happened to me and was has helped.

Three days after John passed, I happened to have had a chiropractor appointment scheduled from weeks before. Rather than cancel, I went because I knew my body was a mess, I hadn’t eaten or slept in any real capacity. I don’t remember much except that the chiropractor said that my body was barely breathing, my chest and lungs were hardly moving, and while I had been lying face down he had even wondered if I was even alive at all. I barely was. He was helpful in reminding me to breathe, and shifted some things around to help me breathe a bit more easily.

I looked for some grief support groups…and crazily enough there was a wait list for the Suicide Survivors group. In Palo Alto there’s a fantastic organisation called Kara that deals exclusively with grief and so I had an appointment with the intake director. At the end of our session (she was very empathic and supportive) she told me that she thought what I was struggling with was of course my own grief and loss but also issue relating to my own mortality and she thought that I would perhaps be best helped by working one on one with a therapist and she recommended some names.

Over the course of 9 months I worked with two different therapist. One was a transpersonally oriented one and we utilized modalities such as Authentic Movement, Art Therapy, and gestalt work in addition to the usual talk therapy. I really loved the Authentic Movement (but I’m partial to movement) She also held a lot of space for me to just cry. I think she was excellent and if anyone in the Silicon Valley area would like her name, feel free to contact me through this site.

The second therapist was a Jungian expert specializing in symbols. I saw her on an occasional basis and we mostly worked on understanding my dreams. During the first 6 months after John passed, I had a very active dream life, a lot of dreams about John, and a lot of dreams about New York City. I kept a dream journal and recorded them every day. I could tell that something major was happening in my dream life and in my unconscious and I wanted to learn the language my dreams were speaking and also have a trusty translator. It really was like starting to learn a new language. I’d be happy to pass along this therapist’s contact info as well, so just email me.

In addition to keeping a dream journal I also kept two other journals: one for the regular journaling I did every night, and the other was to log all of the signs and synchronicities and messages I was receiving from John on the other side. I felt I had to write them down so I didn’t lose them or forget them, especially for the years to come. Writing has been enormously therapeutic and eight months after John’s passing I started writing my book.

In the first few months I went to acupuncture because my energy levels were so low. This was helpful.

I saw a spiritual guide on a few occasions, but eventually he wasn’t helpful because it was obvious he just didn’t get what my pain or grief was like. He encouraged me to really “surrender” and know that the pain I was feeling was God feeling separate from himself and me and that my missing John was just the separation I was feeling from God, and that in the depths of my pain I should be aware of this and when I truly became aware of this truth then I would “wake up” and no longer feel separation and despair. I’m rolling my eyes as I write this. There may be some kernels of truth in certain things about what he was saying but this was just b.s to me and minimized my loss and my excruciating pain. I then stopped seeing him.

The other practitioners I saw included a shaman- Liv – whose website I listed on the Healing Resources Page. She was powerfully helpful. She channeled John and communicated with my ancestors and others on the other side and we were able to make some sense out of what was going on. She was very instrumental in helping me learn and grow through the grief. She also opened up a doorway into a magical way of being in the world that is not just airy fairy and “delusional” side effects of grieving but rather rooted and grounded in the ancient, indigenous, shamanistic cultural heritage that is intrinsically more connected to nature and has a more interconnected relationship to the realm of Spirit. I learned these new ways and they inspired me into cultivated a new relationship with the invisible, one that is manifest through objects, nature, and ritual. Liv also did a variety of healing practices on me- soul retrieval – that is – scouting out lost parts of my soul that had broken off over the years since I have been born, as a result of trauma or fear. She said she found a lost soul part that had left when I was 29 – right after John passed. She also found and reintegrated other parts that had left at earlier ages. Whether you believe in this or not, all I can say was that regardless of the objective truth of what was or wasn’t happening, I certainly felt lighter and more in tact, and once again inspired by the possibility of the infinite and of miracles. Liv often had me do “homework” where she would give me an assignment or a ritual to do. For instance, she told me to take wine, chocolate, and flowers to the beach and sit and have a picnic with John and make offerings of flowers and a picture of John to the ocean. Another assignment was to gather with my friends and ask each of them to tell me how they saw me. Ack! That one was hard- terrifying and embarrassing, but ultimately well worth while for everyone who shared. Liv taught me several practices and rituals to do every morning during my daily morning practice, which I did for a while and I will surely share in the next installment of this post.

For now, I hope that those reading are garnering some ideas about how to begin a healing journey. I know some of my ways may be too out there or alternative, and I know in some cases resources may be an issue. Whatever the case, I hope you find some way of taking care of and befriending yourself. Maybe it’s just writing out dreams, or starting a daily journal. Maybe you’ll seek out a therapist (I hope you do– a good reputable one who has personal and professional experiences dealing with death and grief).

I will write about the other important things I did to pull myself up out of the abyss, as soon as I can.

Sending strength,

I discovered this book of blessings at Dance this past Sunday. Our dj/guide Jo, read us a beautiful blessing as we moved to the rhthym of stillness. I followed the trail to this book To Bless the Space Between Us by the late John O’Donohue, a celtic poet and priest, and found this blessing. It made me cry and moved more grief out of me. How could he have known such truth. This is what I wish for us all.

For the Family and Friends of A Suicide

As you huddle around the torn silence,
Each by this lonely deed exiled
To a solitary confinement of soul,
May some small glow from what has been lost
Return like the kindness of candlelight.

As your eyes strain to sift
This sudden wall of dark
And no one can say why
In such a forsaken, secret way,
This death was sent for…
May one of the lovely hours
Of memory return
Like a field of ease
Among these graveled days.

May the Angel of Wisdom
Enter this ruin of absence
And guide your minds
To receive this bitter chalice
So that you do not damage yourselves
By attending only at the hungry altar
Of regret and anger and guilt.

May you be given some inkling
That there could be something else at work
And that what to you now seems
Dark, destructive, and forlorn,
Might be a destiny that looks different
From inside the eternal script.

May vision be granted to you
To see this with the eyes of providence.
May your loss become a sanctuary
Where new presence will dwell
To refine and enrich
The rest of your life
With courage and compassion.

And may your lost loved one
Enter into the beauty of eternal tranquility,
In that place where there is no more sorrow
Or separation or mourning or tears.

— John O’Donohue (1956- 2008)