Helping a Friend Die Well

I’ve had some tremendously helpful insights lately, like the widespread lack of discernment between, and confusing of the sensations of vulnerability and fear. (Simple test: Physical harm immanent? That’s fear you’re feeling. No immanent physical harm? The squirmy, exposed feeling you’re experiencing is vulnerability; a sense of the riskiness and fragility of life. It’s your instinctual inheritance of every bad thing that’s ever happened to a human being, but also every good one.) I was going to write about it for this newsletter, but something came up that took my focus and some of my time in the past week. I was watching a friend die and it is his story that needs to be told.

I had met Paul through his wife, Teresa, who first came to the Mesa Creative Arts Center something like 10 years ago. Paul was an attorney who advised me from time to time and had graciously volunteered to help me with routine estate matters after my wife, Kate, passed a few years ago in appreciation of what she had done for Teresa. Paul “lived clean” and been in great physical shape, training for and entering Iron Man events, competing in a combination of running, biking, and swimming. He was engaged in his community and had run for political office, not for personal glory, but because he really wanted to help.

I could tell something was wrong one time when I met with him, and I learned he had been diagnosed with cancer. As his cancer progressed, I offered him healings at home, which he found helpful and gratefully accepted. After Kate’s estate was settled, I continued to check in on Paul and Teresa to listen and bear witness to their all-too-familiar stories of hospital visits and chemo side effects, offering healings for them both.

While very well-known and active in his community, Paul seemed a very private man when it came to his personal life, and while matter of fact about his ordeal, I could tell how difficult and frustrating routine things were becoming for him during his treatment. The setbacks were becoming more frequent and serious. I made it a point to stop by more often, but sometimes almost a month would pass.

When I saw Paul right before Christmas, I was shocked at the change I could see in his condition. I knew he was going to die, but did not speak of it to him or Teresa. I might be wrong, I thought. I’d keep my mouth shut and prepare to make myself available to them if called upon to do so.

Paul’s condition gradually worsened, with more and more complications, surgeries, harsh drugs and runs to the ER. I had seen the same sad progression happen to my Kate and others who had developed the disease. I increased the frequency of my visits and helped Paul to release some of the unbalancing energies of radiation therapy, anesthesia, and chemo as well as general emotional stress. It did seem to help him and we both could feel him “unload” as I directed him as to what needed releasing.

By a few weeks ago, Paul had gotten so weak that when I stopped in he was no longer working at his desk or sitting on the sofa, but lying in a hospital bed in the living room of his house. While he was always glad to see me and appreciated the healing energy I was able to connect him with, my relationship with Paul had generally been more formal than what I experienced with Teresa. That began to change as his condition worsened and I brought my experience to bear. He needed help, comfort, and advice. This time I could be his advocate and he let me in to his personal world.

When it became clear that the medical professionals had run out of treatment options for Paul, I spoke with him about what might happen next. Teresa had looked into possible alternative treatments, contacted a holistic cancer clinic in Florida, and was waiting for the director to call her back. The logistics of traveling there for an extended period of time were daunting and the benefits still very much in question. Insurance wouldn’t cover the fees.

I was there when the clinic’s head physician returned their call. Teresa put the doctor on speaker and I listened as she donned the mantle of being Paul’s medical historian, meticulously recounting all of Paul’s symptom and treatment history. We all listened as the doctor then laid out a complicated, month-long treatment plan that involved a number of things I’d never heard of. At one point the doctor robotically recited a long list of connections between where cancers were located in the body and related emotional level issues of the patients like a proven fact rather than correspondence.

After the call, Paul and Teresa asked me what I thought about what the clinic was offering and I reminded myself to stay neutral. I emphasized that they had choices to make and that all choices have consequences. I told them that if they felt hopeful about the clinic’s offer, it could be doable to go down there. I suggested that if they decided to do so they would need to focus on Paul’s treatment first and foremost and let everything else figure itself out.

I also knew of the stress and strain it would cause for the whole family and the difficulty of travel with someone so ill. When they pressed me for an opinion, I told them that I was struck by how the doctor had spoken with such absolute surety about his proposed treatment. There were no “if’s” or “maybe’s” about it and that bothered me. So far, in my experience and research I have seen no one with an answer for cancer that works consistently. In the long run the reality seems that it’s hit or miss on a massive scale, no matter what the treatment used. I sensed Paul’s fatigue and knew he’d stay at home.

After Teresa left the room, Paul and I talked about death, and I saw great emotion well up from him as it stared him in the face as a real possibility, maybe admitting that to himself for the first time. I offered what I’d been taught about our spiritual nature, the metaphysics of crossing over, and what I’d observed when I’d been present to watch others go through the process in the past.

Paul wanted to live, and I watched him struggle with the thought of the alternative and what it might be like for him. I spoke with him of the difference between vulnerability and fear and how brave one needs to be to rest in openness to leaving their body and returning to pure Spirit. I talked of the Native American teaching that we die in the Spirit World to be born onto the earth and we die on the earth to be reborn in our true home.

In myself I saw that I had at first cautiously and then whole-heartedly opened to becoming intimately involved in the life of a man I previously had not known all that well, right at its end. I acknowledged my own vulnerabilities in the situation, and chose to open wider rather than retreating to distant emotional safety. After all, Paul was in mortal danger and I was not. I saw no alternative but to step in closer.

When I came again to visit a week later, Teresa had found a local clinic that was providing intravenous vitamin C and colloidal silver so Paul could be treated at home in the hopes that it might turn things around or at least prolong his life. He had been on yet another trip to the hospital since I had seen him to relieve painful symptoms from his failing physical body and the cancer’s spread. I once again put my hands on his feet to connect him to healing energy, speaking to reassure him, man to vulnerable man.

At that point Teresa confided in me that the doctors had told them Paul was dying and it might be a matter of weeks or months. I had been waiting for that shoe to drop, that elephant to enter the room. I talked with Teresa about my own experience with that awkward wait. Time might pass slowly, or take sudden unexpected leaps. Emotions would see-saw between wanting him to stay and his suffering to finally end.

I could feel the pent up frustration and grief from Teresa and their kids from the hands-tied-horror of watching their husband and father slowly slipping away after fighting so hard, long, and painfully for life. I was present when Paul’s family members came from far and wide to visit and recognized how difficult it was for all of them to deal with it. I saw the family avoidance patterns, but also the love they shared. I knew it was my spiritual imperative to stay close.

One day when I came to call a visiting nurse was there to help with Paul and there was a blur of activity. I paused in the doorway and as those with him finished up and moved away from the bed I stepped closer. As he had warmly come to do, Paul extended his arms to hug me as I leaned over him. “Hello, friend,” I said. “I couldn’t see who it was in the doorway,” Paul replied, “but I could feel it was a friendly!” He had noticed the love and Light I was hoping I brought with me.

In the next few days I got involved in my own work and let a whole week go by without stopping again to see Paul and Teresa. Last Monday she called me to tell me that Paul had entered a hospice phase, but was staying there in their home. She asked if I could stop by and give him a healing to bring him some needed relief. I told her I had a healing client coming that day, but that I would stop on the way back home from The Mesa.

I swallowed hard as I got out of the car and knocked on the door. I may have even let myself in when it wasn’t opened for me immediately as I had been granted that honor and privilege. When I saw Paul I was deeply shocked by how much he looked just as Kate did before her death. He had lost more weight and his cheekbones protruded. He was largely unresponsive, his once radiant energy shriveled. He had those same eyes that never closed, but didn’t focus. His mouth stayed open as he labored to breathe. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to be in pain and was relatively still.

I had to consciously stop and center myself to get over the absolute revulsion I felt at what I was confronted with. I admitted to myself that that was what I was honestly experiencing and that it made the dancing needle on my vulnerability meter jump into the “RUN AWAY!” range. I prayed it didn’t show. I knew it was human instinct for me to want to flee in the face of death, but that I could choose to be even more vulnerable and stay to help my friends. I could have left, but there was nowhere else for them to be.

As I sat giving Paul an energy healing, I recognized that I had a chance to not only help him on this important journey, but that I could help the rest of the family as well. They were all highly intelligent and from my observation over the years, emotionally private and reserved. It was clear that they were struggling with how to deal with their husband and father’s decline and their own push-pull vulnerability around it. I could imagine their thoughts: “Do I talk to him if he doesn’t seem to hear? Touch him? Leave him alone?

I saw the teachable moment and the gift of my experience that I could give my beautiful friends about the approaching death of a loved one. I held Paul’s hand and loudly told him that I loved him. I thanked him for being a good friend, devoted dad, and for all his good help with my legal matters. I thanked him for bringing his children into the world and for taking such good care of my sweet friend, Teresa.

I stroked Paul’s head and told him he was doing a great job preparing for the journey he was about to take. I thanked him for teaching all of us by his fine example so we could learn vicariously and not yet have to go there ourselves. I told him to “pick his time” and that when his relatives and his Guides came for him not to hesitate to go. I softly sang a Lakota prayer song for him. Here and there I’d see a faint response.

Fascinated, I sat there by Paul’s bedside for almost 3 hours that day. I could feel his consciousness come and go as he “visited” the Spirit Side. Occasionally he would reach forward weakly, as if trying to grab something in front of him. When I’d hold his hand I could feel starkly unusual energies come and go. He was being visited as well, and when he could still speak had told Teresa of seeing her deceased father and grandfather, as well as his own dad. As I sat, I would feel spirits touch or pass through me. I reckoned that they were doing so in acknowledgement of my compassionate presence, my awareness of them, and my Light—just paying their respects so to speak. I felt honored.

When I came back the next day it was easier for me to relax and focus on Paul. I continued to talk with him and could tell that occasionally he knew I was there. I did this in front of Teresa and sometimes when his children were present in part so they could see that though largely unresponsive he was still their same husband and father and that he needed them to not shrink away and just be their loving selves. It was a matter of shifting perspective away from the cruel parts of the process and onto each precious moment of life together.

I told Teresa that I had long ago read that our hearing is one of the last things to go before we die. One time one of the kids coughed in another room and Paul was obviously startled by the sound. I pointed out that this was confirmation that he could still hear and that the Paul they all knew was “still in there,” only in a greatly altered state of consciousness. I noted the fact that he’d had nothing to eat or drink for a couple of days already and how that would make even a healthy person feel disoriented. Teresa was grateful for that perspective.

The next day on my visit I told Paul about the lovely spring weather we were having. I told him about how beautiful it is on the Spirit Side and how that was his true home. I told him he’d soon be leaving the heaviness and pain of his physical body behind. I reiterated that I loved him and that his family did, too. I commented on what an amazing time it was for Paul to leave, given the recent solar eclipse and approaching equinox. What a poignant juxtaposition it was for him to die as Nature was just coming back to life.

It might have been that day that I reminded Teresa to do or say whatever she needed to for her conscience to be clear about Paul later on down the road. In that vein, I taught her to use the Soul-to-Soul Connection technique to communicate with Paul on that higher level since he could no longer speak. I walked her through the process.

As I left that evening Teresa saw me to the door. I gave her a hug and she told me something that stopped me in my tracks. “Thank you for modeling this for us,” she said. “When you leave I talk with the kids about how you interacted with Paul.” I told Teresa how surprising that word, “modeling,” was to me, and that there is sadly no handbook for what she was going through. Yes, I admitted, many books have been written about living through the death of a loved one, but one can have but a poor imagination of it until being right there in that disorienting moment. I reminded Teresa that no matter what happened to Paul in the next few days, that her life would continue. “There’s no manual for that either,” I added. “You’ll write that story as you go.

I had a million errands to run the next day and stopped early in the morning to see Paul. I had wondered if he would last through the night when I’d left the day before, but he seemed a little stronger. No, I thought, it won’t be today. I visited with Paul with Teresa by his side and could see her fretting over many things. I did my best to remind her that what she was seeing was something that not many people got the honor to witness first hand. Even fewer do it consciously and learn its intricate lessons.

I told Teresa that death is an important part of life. I said that if it were Paul’s birthday instead, that she’d know just what to do. “I’m not saying to bring in balloons or anything,” I gently offered, “But you can do things to make this the best possible experience for Paul. I didn’t do a great job of that for my first wife and vowed I would do better for Kate. I’ll never know exactly how she received it, but I did every loving thing I could think of and my conscience is clear.” I suggested how important it was to make Paul her focus for now and not succumb to her own grief. There would be far too much time for that later.

Later that day I went to get a much needed haircut and told Jamie, my stylist and Mesa friend Paul’s story as she snipped. I took my glasses off as I usually do when she cuts my hair and trusted that she was doing a good job. When she was done, I put them back on and said, “Yeah, that’s me!” Jamie asked me if I wanted to see the back of my head and handed me a small mirror. I spun the chair so that my back was to the big mirror and looked in the small one to see the back of my body.

You knew to turn around and look back,” Jamie exclaimed, “Not every guy does.” I told her that others before her had trained me well, handing me the mirror and forcefully spinning me around. (I’m an Empath. I heard what they wanted me to do without them saying it.) Then Jamie told me a story about a guy who had walked into her shop one day wanting a haircut who had never been in a salon. She told him that she needed to wash his hair first and pointed to the chair in front of the shampoo sink. He went over, paused for a moment, climbed up with his knees on the seat, and leaned over facing the sink. “He’d never seen one before and didn’t know what to do,” Jamie laughed.

Look at that,” I said, “People don’t even know what to do with something as commonplace as a shampoo sink without some kind of reference frame. No wonder we don’t know what to do when someone is dying. Where would we learn?” It was a blatant reminder of the sacred nature of the work I was doing for Paul and his family. I had seen the opening to step forward into that void and could do nothing less. It honored the sacrifice Kate made to teach me and so many others by my retelling of her story.

When I went back to see Paul the next afternoon he was weaker and I recognized the signs of his impending departure. His hands were cold as he began final retreat from his body. He was rattling as he labored to breathe. I told Teresa this and warned that he might become physically agitated when his time grew near as his body instinctively fought to keep itself alive.

I also shared Jamie’s story about the shampoo sink and told Teresa how I’d used her and Paul’s story to make an educational point. “People have seen too many movies,” I suggested. “That’s not a true picture of what you’re seeing here first hand. It may be hard to see this right now as the beautiful gift that it is.” This is how we continue to honor those who have lived and died, by telling and retelling their story in teachable moments, changing hearts and minds so that loved ones draw closer instead of avoiding those dying.

Teresa shared with me what Paul had requested for his remains and plans for his memorial service. She had remembered the little cakes with inspirational words from Kate’s memorial ceremony based on the cards she would draw and give away right down to a week before her death, and wanted to “borrow” that idea. I told her Kate would be honored and that I’d send a photo of them later on that evening.

Teresa told me that there was an inside joke between Paul and their youngest daughter along the lines that if he ever got old and senile to push him off a cliff. She’d reply that she’d shoot off fireworks and plans were already in place to conclude Paul’s eventual memorial gathering with pyrotechnics. How fantastic, I thought.

I left that afternoon knowing that I might not see Paul alive again, saying that I might stop back later on my way home from The Mesa. I got involved in a metalworking project and didn’t leave until about 8pm when my intuition told me not to stop. I suppose I had a sense that Paul would leave and wanted that time to be for his family alone.

The next morning I got an email from Teresa thanking me for the cake photo and informing me that Paul had passed the evening before. When I stopped in on my way to The Mesa to pay my respects, I was greeted by her children. They told me that the family had surrounded Paul as he died and it was all very loving. I was glad to see smiles on their tear-stained faces as they told the story.

Teresa, as it turned out, wasn’t home at the moment. In an amazing act of duty, devotion, and grace she was, of all things, at the funeral of a woman Paul looked after in her later years, standing in to speak for her man. I could not imagine going to anyone else’s funeral the day after my own spouse had died, but that is her strength.

I left and went for a walk on the Panhandle Trail to clear my head, observing the signs that spring had arrived early. Yellow Coltsfoot blooms dotted the sides of the creek bed. A couple of orange and black Question Mark butterflies flitted about. A stray Forsythia was growing green leaves. It felt good to be out with my camera again and to feel the awakening force of life out of doors. I contemplated Paul’s peaceful departure as I hiked along.

I stopped back to see Teresa that evening and came in to find her and the kids gathered in a circle of chairs, sharing their feelings from their first day without their father. I looked over and saw the now empty hospital bed where I had visited Paul just one day before, looking strangely empty. I said that I felt like I was intruding, and just wanted to see that Teresa was OK since she wasn’t home earlier.

I happened to mention that I had gone out on the trail and one of the kids remembered me saying I might do that. I was surprised at their interest and enthusiasm considering what they’d just been through as they asked how my walk had been, focusing cheerfully on me from their solemn moment. I told them about what I had seen, adding that I had photographed an Eastern Bluebird along the way. “Oh!” Teresa said, “They’re my favorite.

Before I left, I turned my attention to how the house and its inhabitants felt to me and was relieved to find it all seemed peaceful, loving, and calm. I only stayed a few moments longer and when I got home I sent that photo to Teresa. I have seen the Bluebirds throughout the winter in the spots where I know to look, but felt that this one showing herself to me at that moment was an acknowledgement from Nature and maybe from Paul himself that life goes on.

I was there for the family at the memorial tonight and will be present for them in any way I can in the days and weeks to come. The funeral home was absolutely packed, with a line snaking around to get in. Teresa led the proceedings eloquently, lovingly, and perfectly, but it looked like a thunderstorm’s downpour was going to cancel the fireworks. Then during the reception an announcement was made that the show would go on as planned. We stood in the pouring rain and watched a dazzling display in Paul’s honor. What a fitting send off for such a bright light!

I have written this story to honor Paul and his family, and so that we may all learn from his journey and remember to live life to the fullest. I bless all of you who have gone, or will go through what Teresa and her children have and are. I encourage all of us to defy that squirmy feeling inside and step fully into our vulnerability, our openness to emotional injury that makes us recoil at the mere mention of death, as that same vulner-ability (From the Latin, “to wound”.) is exactly what allows us to fall in love, be creative, walk on fire, and dare to see that we are not really all that different or separate from each other. Yes, we can be wounded, but vulnerability also lets us heal.

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Being at Peace with Madness

I’d been having a great many insights about myself and the nature of my consciousness that were taking me forward with my personal growth, healing, and understanding since I last wrote for the Fall Equinox newsletter, and I was grateful. As I continued to build the Megalithic Yard-sized sacred geometry rings and Heliospheres some of you saw at the equinox ceremony, it was pretty clear that the higher dimensional energy and consciousness coming from or through them was pushing me into positive change. I was working on them and they were working on me.

One insight would lead seamlessly to another, and sometimes to Google, where a search for something I heard in my head would activate synchronicity and reveal a new puzzle piece from out of the depths of Internet Land. I would study the shape and context of each one, turning it gingerly until I understood where it fit for me. While I was learning a great deal, over a period of a couple of weeks I began to notice my mood sinking and watched myself inexplicably withdrawing from life.

I looked for possible causes (OK—things to blame it on.) and it was easy to pin the tail on the bleakness of the coming winter. After all, the days had grown short and dark, the trees had become bare, the flowers and butterflies I enjoyed and studied during summer and fall were gone, and many of the birds had flown to warmer climes. With blessed exceptions, it had already gotten cold enough to be uncomfortable for me, and that coupled with the monotonous browns and grays of Nature preparing to sleep kept me indoors more often than not.

Even though the approaching solstice meant the days would soon be getting longer again, I didn’t need a groundhog to tell me that four or five months of Pittsburgh winter were staring me in the face. I was disappointed that I still hadn’t been clearly directed by Spirit to move elsewhere. I felt like I was losing the heart I’d need to face months of cold, overcast days, snow shoveling, the incessant necessity of tending the pellet stove to warm the Mesa workshop, and greater isolation, even though things had been unusually mild so far.

One thing I knew was certainly wearing on me was the increasing turmoil happening in the world. There just seemed to be more and more sad, outrageously bad news. I felt compelled to follow the stories closely online and especially to read the comments sections, because I was concerned for my species and wanted to understand why people seemed so angry and divisive. It broke my heart that there looked to be no common ground.

Terrible things were happening in international hot spots, but also in small communities, even my own. A man shot and killed his estranged wife in the middle of my road just down the hill from my house in rural Washington county, later turning the gun on himself. What was really upsetting for me was that even though there were a few natural disasters, the bulk of the turmoil in the world was being needlessly, selfishly, mindlessly, angrily caused by my fellow human beings with no end in sight. It was madness and the madness was the “us” I felt part of.

The more madness I saw around me, the more apparent it became that I perceived what seemed a growing madness inside of me as well. Not the same angry kind mind you, but a more despairing one. This wasn’t exactly a new thing for me, rather something unresolved I had struggled with on and off for as long as I could remember that was yet again coming to the surface. I wasn’t recognizing it as such just yet, but I was beginning to appreciate that madness. This felt like something new and that newness felt disturbing, as newness (AKA “change”) often does.

Then one morning a week or so ago, I was thinking about a Mesa friend who always seemed really preoccupied. I found myself thinking, “I appreciate what must have happened in their life for them to get that way,” and my mind came to notice the word, “appreciate” as if it was waving at me from within a crowd. (“Yoo-hoo!”) As I thought about it, it struck me that to really appreciate something we must have active perception and some measure of discernment about it. We must be able to sense something about it, evaluate it, and compare it with other things.

This reminded me about how stunning it still was to me that my parents seemed to have no appreciation in that way of what and who I really was as an autonomous being. It was a mystery that troubled me since childhood. It wasn’t that they just didn’t act on what they perceived. They simply didn’t notice because they lacked interest. I would be what they wanted me to be, period. That point of view, to me, felt like madness.

I mused about the difference between “appreciation” and “gratitude,” as I had been making a point of regularly thinking about and expressing my gratefulness, and turned once again to the mighty internet for the insight of others. There I found an article that led me to an amazing video from Esther Hicks and Abraham.

In the video, Esther noted that while spiritually important, gratitude smacked of the past, saying it had to do with what we’ve already achieved, received, or gotten through. Appreciation, she continued, was more about the present—about being in the moment and actively sensing something. This, she said, helps align us with our soul, true purpose, and with Creation so that things may be manifest through us. I chewed on that for a while, being conscious to appreciate as I went about my day. I deeply smelled everything on my plate before I ate my breakfast. I made a point of noticing and energetically gauging familiar things even more than I normally do.

All that appreciating led me back to Google search for information about, “appreciation as a felt sense”. THAT… brought me to an extensive blog about, of all things, PTSD. As I read through one woman’s maddening experience of living with it, I saw myself. It had already been clear that I was still dealing with fluctuating levels of unresolved traumatic stress that started when I was very young, stacked up with the illness and death of two wives and the slings and arrows of a lot of little stuff between and since.

Yes, I had found pretty workable ways to self-soothe, ground myself, and cope, and usually did quite well, but there would still be seemingly inexplicable instances where I simply couldn’t hold myself together. I wanted desperately to move beyond that, increasingly feeling that if I couldn’t, while I never have or would contemplate suicide, I could see myself entering the limbo of staying alive but not wanting to keep living. I’d seen too many people spend their lives as walking dead that way and in my heart I felt there was more than that waiting for me. I still hoped.

Even with all of my worried thoughts, I still managed to recognize that I had at least a toe in the process of moving into appreciation and soul alignment, and the words of Esther Hicks/Abraham laying out a maddening, vaguely familiar, and oddly comforting progression echoed in my head:

“If you’re in despair, follow your revenge, it’s downstream. If you’re in revenge, follow your hatred, it’s downstream. If you’re in hatred, follow your anger, it’s downstream. If you’re in anger, follow your frustration, it’s downstream. If you’re in frustration, follow your hope, it’s downstream. If you’re in hope– Now… you’re in the vicinity of appreciation!”

The next puzzle piece came in a phone call from my younger brother, Less. I was at the Mesa in the early evening and when the phone rang I expected it to be one of the telemarketers that tend to call at that time of day. Instead I heard my brother’s voice and I recognized immediately from the tone and energy that something was terribly wrong. He was obviously very distraught and I was only a little relieved to find out that it was from a metalworking disaster and not some kind of medical emergency.

Less had been experimenting with a relatively new stainless steel alloy used in the aerospace industry to forge into reproductions of medieval armor. Together we had been trouble shooting its metallurgical quirks for weeks. This time he had tried to weld pieces he had invested a lot of effort in hammering into intricate shapes, and the more he tried to join them together, the more they turned into Swiss cheese.

I’ve been doing what I was supposed to do,” he moaned in a voice that eerily sounded too much like I’d heard my own, “But no matter what I do, (sigh) it just gets worse!” Ah, yes.. I thought, “No matter what I do…” It had often been my Resignation From Life “theme song” that was composed of despair when I realized at a young age that there would never be a way for me to actually please my parents. Less didn’t need my skills as a blacksmith at that moment. He needed me as a brother, friend, and counselor. I pulled on my “therapist hat” and cranked up my appreciation of and for my brother.

The critical issue, I saw right away, was that my dear brother was dangerously stressed out, overwrought, devoid of hope, and completely spent. Sadly, from his own account he had been doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result (success) and getting more tired, frustrated, and angry until he had simultaneously run out of welding gas and physical and emotional energy. I knew how he felt E-X-A-C-T-L-Y, because I had lived it so many times myself. I knew the pain and madness of that behavior and what seemed like its inevitability.

I reassured Less that I’d help him figure things out with the welding parameters, but the first thing he needed to do was breathe and settle himself. I could feel his agitated, chaotic energy and state of consciousness so clearly even over the phone and I told him to ground himself. I didn’t feel any change after a few seconds, so I suggested he think of his spirit guide he once uncharacteristically confided in me about, a great eagle named Kowanato.

I told Less to think of Kowanato flying high over his head and sending energy down through him all the way into the earth. “I didn’t think of asking Spirit for help,” he murmured sheepishly. With that we both felt his energy dramatically shift and he noticed himself calm down. “At least my pulse rate is coming down now,” he added. I was relieved, considering the fact that my “little bro” had had a heart attack 2-1/2 years ago.

I saw the chance to help Less connect with the root cause of his distress, and it wasn’t the welding. I told him to be conscious of how he was feeling and reminded him that his upset wasn’t really from the work he had been doing but remained from what happened to us at the hands of our father when we were kids. I suggested that the mood altering meds he had been on for so long to control his anger hadn’t changed it. At least he said he understood.

Experiencing my brother’s version of my family’s “crisis mode” flame-out was at once awful and strangely enlightening for me. I’d seen it before, but this time it was a bit like watching myself in the mirror while freaking out, only I wasn’t feeling the feelings. I was able to really see the behavior I knew so well without being “in” it. I detached from the crisis and was able to talk my brother through it as I’d wished I could do with myself in the intense white heat of my own meltdowns. I needed time to ponder what I’d appreciated through my brother and was grateful for the lesson.

The next day I heard from another Mesa friend, and she wanted my opinion on whether or not she was “manifesting” some things she didn’t like. I told her about my gratitude vs. appreciation discovery and how people are often trying to manifest things that are not in alignment with their soul-path. She brought up her childhood and I mentioned my experience with my brother.

From there we got into discussing how child rearing largely isn’t made a priority and taught as such in our country. Everyone’s mostly on their own and tends to repeat their own experience. I said that I found it completely insane that as a species we don’t insure that family patterns of dysfunction and abuse don’t get repeated generation after generation across our culture. With the media and other recordkeeping, it’s not like the problem has been invisible or hidden.

My friend and I agreed that little changed for our species, in part, because people with different perspectives can’t concur on how to raise children. There would be no consensus even if humanity endeavored to take this on by committee, I offered, because people can’t seem to agree on anything these days. That’s when I heard myself blurt out, “Anything short of unconditional love is madness!” My friend asked me repeat it so she could write it down.

It was when I got off the phone and sat for a bit that I started to actually appreciate just how much of what went on around me felt like madness from a spiritual standpoint. I realized how having by proximity to participate in that madness was causing a resonating feeling of madness to arise within me, microcosm reflecting macrocosm. Terrorism, senseless murder, racism, red vs. blue politics, destruction of the environment, wealth inequity, science denial, and healthcare horror stories (“Shkreli! Shkreli! I mean… Beetlejuice!”) made me feel like I was losing my mind by reminding me of what already felt crazy inside.

I ruminated over other things currently in my personal world that felt like sheer madness to me and others that always did; the confounding folly and inequity of money stuff in general, whatever mechanism caused me to procrastinate, the pleasure, pain, and serendipity of romantic relationships, that I avoided self-nurturance, the weird reality of being an Empath, indecision, the fact that things needed to be cleaned over and over again even if they weren’t used, and how mathematics made so much sense—to other people—to name a few.

Kate developing cancer and what she went through—did it seem anything less than madness to me? Oddly, maybe seeing it that way was exactly what allowed me to get through the experience. Calling it madness made it more acceptable and navigable somehow.

Even though I had experienced it for as long as I could remember, in that moment I fully grasped that I was having a concrete, appreciable sense of the mental/emotional disturbance in me that had become normalcy, sadly present since I was a small child. That ceaseless turmoil had arisen from the anxiety of dealing with severe abuse, emotional neglect, and family dysfunction. It didn’t feel like somebody’s old Post Traumatic Stress “disorder” whatever-thingy, I thought. It felt like a wound that wouldn’t heal and what I envisioned madness did. I resented the heck out of having it.

I knew certain things triggered my own Post Traumatic Stress or what I was calling madness, or made it feel more acute, and my brother had staggeringly similar triggers. Both Less and I had learned to cope extremely well much of the time as we matured, but the disturbance never went completely away because the triggers became internalized ones. Our thoughts did it. The real question was: What was I going to do about it? What could I do?

I know I’m using the word “madness” in a pretty broad sense here, but it was clearly my internal code-word for what it felt like when I was mentally muddled or emotionally overtaken by any combination of fear, anxiety, extreme doubt, paranoia, or crushing low self-esteem. Anything that felt like a reminder of its continued presence became traumatic in and of itself. Experiences where I “couldn’t fix” something reminded me of the part of myself that still seemed broken. What do we do with things that are broken and can’t be fixed? What would happen to me?

The worst of the madness for me was the automatic, draining, and physically sickening emotional feelings I experienced too often for my liking and usually controlled, but felt powerless to eradicate, predict, or completely free myself from. I could tell when they were taking a toll on my body, and when my body was pushing back. I’d been feeling it. I suppose those feelings could be boiled down to the effects of fear—fear of overwhelm, fear of repeating the terrible feeling past, fear of making a wrong move and getting physically or emotionally clobbered, fear of personal, cognitive disintegration—madness.

Not much before all of this started to come to light I’d spoken individually with a few enlightened friends about the Mayan Calendar and where the Evolution of Consciousness and we humans are with things three years after the end of the last great 16.4 billion year cycle. The countdown used to be all over the metaphysical newsletters including this one, but since there was no big magical “shift” back in December 2012, I’d heard virtually nothing about where we are now or any new cycle.

What we all had noticed was that as the Flow of Creation presses humanity more and more forcefully to really change (“No, you guys, I mean REALLY change…”) and join it in the consciousness of Unity and Universal Love, the resistance of those who have a vested interest in things staying just as they are is bubbling furiously to the surface. It’s coming out in the form of remnants of modes of consciousness; points of view, reference frames, appreciation bias, or HOW we are aware of things, flaring up from humanity’s underlying, more primitive levels of development from the past. Those resisting inevitable change are engaging in Individualism, Tribalism, Culturalism, Nationalism—anything but Unity Consciousness—as ways of seeing and doing, and we’re witnessing the resultant madness and mayhem acted out with a vengeance on the nightly news.

It started to occur to me that I could just as well call my madness “Trauma Consciousness” or “Crisis Consciousness,” in that I began to notice how it was a mode of awareness that colored my every experience across the board. I peered at life from that distressed mental state—the madness, as a primary reference frame, perceptual style, standpoint, or angle from which I interfaced with the outer world and even my own feelings. It never felt balanced or natural to me, maybe because I had the faint memory of something else: Peace. I could still feel it from my soul and longed to regain it.

Some part(s) of me came to continually deal with certain things as a crisis because that was the only way my traumatized mind let me see them. I had been taught to do so by parents who were rarely relaxed and at peace about anything and so hair-trigger reactive about small slights and infractions that they acted like booming human fireworks, brutally and continually scaring us kids without warning. We had to walk on eggshells and watch any sparks of creativity, little boy exuberance, joy, self-determination, or individuality we might generate for fear that we’d inadvertently ignite somebody’s short fuse.

That was especially true of my Narcissistic father who was physically and emotionally abusive even by 1960’s standards and who I once witnessed strangling my younger brother because he used something without permission. Doesn’t Creation intend for our home and family to be our safe place, our haven from the rest of the world? I was fully cognizant even when still quite young that I was a captive member of the family asylum and the lunatics were running it. Madness! (Watch the Edgar Allen Poe inspired, Stonehearst Asylum, on Netflix for a taste of that, if you dare! Mwuhahahaha!)

Living for even a short period of time in experiences like that change something in our brains, our psyches, that makes us split off energy and consciousness to become hyper-vigilant—always scanning the horizon for danger, eggshell-walking, noting the exits, trying to make sure all the ‘t’s’ are crossed and ‘i’s’ dotted to slip by without making sparks, attracting too much attention, or risking deadly wrath. It’s next to impossible to really relax when you’re in that place of perpetual, internal stress. Realizing that we crossed an ‘i’ or dotted a ‘t’ by mistake can be grounds enough to death-spiral downward into vicious condemnation of self: “No matter what I doooooooooooo…

This is a horrible, mind-bending way to live, especially for a child, that can disrupt learning and damage mental, emotional, and physical health. I saw it in children in the elementary schools I taught in. If, within a lifetime we throw in some junker automobiles that may or may not start when needed, an unreliable income-stream, repressive religious pressure, substance abuse, sick or elderly family members that may go into crisis at any moment, physical “accidents”, grief-inducing life outcomes like separation and loss, and other incidents that resemble the original traumas a little too closely, and the wariness, anxiety, anger and despair can grow to maddening and debilitating proportions or erupt in full blown murder-rage.

I was aware of all of that, but didn’t see (Read that: “appreciate”) my own outmoded reference frame of Trauma Consciousness clearly enough to break it down until just lately. What I decided I could start with now that I did was finding a way to be at peace with the madness, within and without. I knew it was possible, and thought of Mother Theresa as a visual example for myself. Somehow, she managed to be at peace with the madness of extreme illness, poverty, and filth that persisted around her even in this modern age as she practiced unconditional love and service. Others had done it too.

I muscle tested myself, asking if I was “willing to be at peace with the madness,” and got a YES answer. Same for “wanting to”. When I asked myself, “Can I be at peace with the madness inside of me and in the world outside?” I got a NO. There was my own private resistance to evolutionary change peeking through. I had declared it as impossible, merely a point of view.

As I used my Guided Head Movement healing process to release that resistant view, I coached my inner self about being at peace with different “madnesses” that I’d experienced, asking my inner “You” if it could be at peace with each one. To my surprise, my inner mind threw out an unexpected, subconscious curveball and I heard myself saying, “Remember how in school when you tried to add numbers up and it came out all wrong it felt like madness? Can you find a way to be at peace with that?

I burst into tears at the suppressed memory of how my unsure grasp of numbers and arithmetic had added to my feelings of madness (or the other way around) way back in grade school. When later recounting that story to my brother, he confided in me that as brilliant as he is, he still can’t multiply in his head. No one spoke much of “learning disabilities” back then, and he was labeled by my parents and teachers alike as “lazy” when his mental processing was scrambled, or busy with the endless loop of trying to make sense of why his own father kept trying to kill him. Madness!

I felt some relief from that healing and those tears, but I knew I had more work ahead of me. I could feel things were roiling in my unconscious and it was still affecting my mood and disrupting my sleep, but thankfully seemed to be changing a little. A day or so later, I sat and reviewed with appreciation how shocking, overwhelming, and unfathomable my father’s behavior had been for me, but also how I came to see him holographically within myself.

After all, I inherited his DNA and learned to employ some of his dysfunctional emotional patterns. I heard him in my voice and watched myself behave like him. I also looked so much like him when I looked in the mirror, especially as I have aged, and have often feared I was or would become unavoidably “him”. My younger brother and I agreed that part of why we each didn’t have kids was because we were pretty sure we’d sometimes lose control and scream at them just like our father did at us—or worse. I was unwilling to take the chance that I would ever do that to a child.

Worst of all, I had mortgaged my authenticity and autonomy to my father with an unspoken bargain: “IF I don’t surrender and be exactly the way he wants me to, whatever the hell that is (like him?), THEN I’ll be abandoned, unloved, or killed off.” The first two happened by the time I was thirteen anyway, despite my capitulation, but by then I was largely suppressing who and what I really was.

Like my brother’s recent episode, when I’d be working on something that would get worse the more I tried to fix it, or would suddenly “go south” at the last moment after hours of work, I’d fly into a Maynard-like rage so terrible that it actually hurt. (Yes, his name was Maynard, Maynard Stanley Silberberg) The repeated pounding of those exhausting rages over a lifetime eventually caused me to largely stop making art and doing home repairs because they’d make me feel like I had lost my effing mind.

Within the last few days I came to understand that a goodly part of those experiences was seeing myself reenact my father’s madness. Forgiveness or no, it was his madness and getting the short end of that bargain that I was still not at peace with, all these years later.

After discussing things with my Guides, I settled upon a healing prompt that was really a pledge to myself. If I could really make it from my heart, I knew it would bring me to a greater place of peace within: “I will never let my father (or his behavior) feel like madness to me again.” It took three repeats of the Guided Head Movement healing technique to get this to shift for me, reflecting how strong the conflict, resistance, anger, and resentment were locked down.

The good news was that it did shift and I felt a sense of relief and relative calm that has lasted and continued to expand. Even writing this story felt less stressful for me. I felt that I could just say what I wanted without judging myself. It seemed much less important to make things “perfect” without lighting some unseen bottle rocket. The knowledge that it would come out later than I originally and unrealistically wanted was no longer a crisis, and conveying the lesson took precedence over the timing or event attendance.

I’m continuing to help myself by taking a break from the outer madness in the short run by avoiding reading the news for a while. I even took a much needed time-out yesterday before this story was finished to spend a few healing hours with peaceful, loving friends and their highly functional family, sharing this story with them in snippets as I helped out on their farm. I could feel something inside me unfurling, expanding in that nurturing, safe-feeling environment.

As it turned out, my insights had great relevance for my friends as well, having just returned from a visit with dysfunctional extended family. They marveled at how I always seemed to be already working through exactly what they had just noticed becoming an issue in their own lives. I reminded them that we were all being nudged in the same direction at the same time by Creation. They were just a little slower at appreciating it.

I continued to recount this story over dinner and expressed my fragile hope that I was on the right track with my insights and healing. To my surprise and relief, everyone at the table volunteered that they could see the positive changes in me from just weeks before, even their teenage daughter. When I encouraged that very gifted and mature child to exercise her already amazing higher perception by asking her how I seemed different, she said, “Well, you always have good energy, but it’s even better. Um, … buffered.

I had sort of a brain-delay hearing that last word, recognizing how she meant it only after a few seconds, not so much cognitively but telepathically, and from a higher understanding. The reference was more related to a chemical solution than an internet video slowly loading. I was more stabilized, fluid, equalized, and less reactive, like acid/alkali buffering—a balance of polarities that still kept things very stable when more of one or the other was added.

The next time (and it may happen again) I feel myself being triggered, I’ll remind myself to focus and appreciate and see how it goes. While I don’t feel that I have by any means completely “healed” my dance with madness, (Oh, geez! Dancing so filled me with socially inept anxiety that it, too, felt like madness!) it actually feels like something about my mind is healing, very analogously to a physical wound that’s finally turned that corner where it doesn’t hurt every time I bump it. I feel like I’m having a new, appreciative relationship with my mind that will become healthier and healthier. Maybe it is as people say, as long as we question our sanity, that’s how we know we’re not really insane.

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What Firewalking Taught Me: Don’t Wait for Big Magic Answers

First Monarch Butterfly Sighting

First Monarch Butterfly Sighting of 2015.  (Photo by Brad Silberberg)

About a month ago I received an email announcing a firewalk that was going to be held in western PA, about an hour from where I live.  I knew immediately that I would sign up, since firewalking had been something I’d always wanted to do, not so much as a personal challenge, but as a unique experience in line with my desire to live life “full throttle”.  That, and it involves FIRE.

Firewalking seemed spiritually expanding and edgy enough to me without being outright crazy in my book like BASE jumping or Xtreme- um,… anything.  I had often considering arranging a firewalk as an event at The Mesa because it just felt like something exciting, and of possible horizon-stretching benefit to our Mesa family.  Several factors kept it from ever happening.

Fire:  I have a friend who says that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who step towards a fire and those who step away.  I have always loved fire and it has drawn me like a magnet.  When I was a kid I’d go outside after dinner on summer nights to blow on the coals left in the barbeque grill, hoping to see how hot I could get them to glow in the darkness.  More than once (OK, often.) I got into trouble for lighting matches and setting things on fire with magnifying glasses.  Little boys and fire!

As I grew older, I came to harness fire as a tool.  In college I learned to torch weld and in my late 20’s discovered blacksmithing as an art form and practical skill.  For over 20 years I worked with fire nearly every day and developed a healthy respect for how it could create or destroy.  In the forge I watched it soften big metal bars so they could be hammered, twisted, or bent with ease, or turn something I had worked on for hours into a shower of slag and sparks if I looked away from it for just a moment too long.

With fascination and respect, I danced with fire.  I had my breath literally taken away pulling big 2,300°F steel plates out of the forge, as my body balked at the prospect of inhaling the super-heated air right under my nose.  I set my pants on fire from time to time.  I sweat buckets working at the fire in the humid August heat of DC summers.  I learned to differentiate burning things by their smell; wood, coal, propane, paper, fabric, leather, hair, skin.

I got minor burns on a fairly regular basis.  Flying flakes of hot iron oxide would land and stick on the back of my sweaty hands, but I didn’t let them curtail my hammering away until the metal was cold.  I worked hot metal bars like a snake handler, always maintaining awareness of which end was safe to hold and keeping the other away from my flesh.  There were times I’d lose track or move the wrong way, and that taught me firsthand how much fire could hurt, deep and long.  None of that ever stopped me from lighting the fire each day.

By the height of my blacksmithing career I had also been introduced to fire as a metaphysical force for transforming more than steel.  I sat with my bare knees next to red-hot stones in the Sweat Lodge and prayed.  I helped build ceremonial fires that were way too big, and carried the blazing Stone People into the Lodge while barefoot.  I gave Despacho offerings to sacred fires with a Peruvian shaman to burn off “heavy” energies and ask for blessings, set candles alight to send out healing intentions, sang and drummed around bonfires, and burned tobacco prayer ties to give thanks.  Firewalking seemed in step.

Most of my friends told me I was crazy when I suggested what I was contemplating.  It has been my experience that this is the worst way to dissuade me from actually doing something, so naturally I put my money where my mouth was, went online and paid the fee, and waited for the big day with quiet excitement.

Not twenty four hours before I was to walk, I mentioned to a new healing client that I was going to firewalk the next day.  She told me that her husband used to regularly hold firewalk ceremonies, “…until a bunch of people got burned.”  This was not exactly the best thing to tell a nascent firewalker about to embark on his maiden voyage, but I was determined to maintain mental neutrality.

In that vein I had decided not to go online and research or watch videos of firewalking.  I wanted to be in the moment and let it be what it would be for me without overthinking it.  Finally, last weekend, the big day arrived.  I headed out early to drop something off to a friend who lives near the venue.

When I told my friend where I was headed he recounted how he had been approached to host a firewalk on his property but was stopped by requirements like extra insurance and ten cords of firewood to be stacked eight feet high and twenty feet long.  That’s a lot of fire, I thought.  As I walked his property, I saw and photographed my first Monarch butterfly of the summer.  Metamorphosis…, I mused.

When I reached the event location and parked I was directed over to the site where the fire would be lit.  The wood was stacked only eighteen or so inches high and about six feet long.  That’s a lot less fire, I thought.  I went to the registration table and was handed a liability waiver to sign.  I started to read it and recognized that it really didn’t matter what it said.  I would choose to walk or not walk, and the consequences would be mine alone.  I signed.

After some introductory teachings about the process, all of those participating lit the fire together and we went back to where we couldn’t see it burning to prepare ourselves for the challenge ahead.  I did my part to engage in the communal bonding process, but I really wanted to watch the fire burn instead.

Our group was told about how firewalking was, and is still used in different indigenous cultures, and how scientists continue to be mystified that participants don’t get burned.  We were reminded that the choice to walk or not to walk was up to us and everyone would still benefit from the experience.  “You will be transformed by this!” we were repeatedly, excitedly told.

Following the instructor’s lead, we discussed the habitual ways we dealt with obstacles in our lives and took turns dramatically acting them out to much laughter.  The experience of Firewalking would help us think and deal differently with obstacles it was suggested.  We paired off and did exercises designed to help us let go of what we had been told about “the impossible,” “think out of the box,” and “if-up”—entertain the idea of getting more than our desires.

We were encouraged to get excited, have fun, and to raise our energy.  We were told that fire had a certain energy and we just needed to raise our own above that threshold, stay present, walk with intent, and everything would be A-OK.  We were reassured that if we got “fire-kisses” we probably needed them for some energy-moving reason.  I remembered having burning moxa (dried mugwort) placed on my skin during long-ago acupuncture sessions.

At one point the instructor asked for a show of hands of anyone who had firewalked before and a dozen or so of the thirty-some people gathered went up.  When asked for comments on their prior experiences, one young woman admitted getting burned during her last experience, but there she was, ready to do it all over again.  We all cheered her resolve.

It was close to sunset by the time we approached the fire again.  The stacked wood had burned down to red-orange coals six or seven inches deep.  These were pushed to the sides with rakes into two long rows, one on each side of the path.  The fire keepers spread a light, even layer of burning embers onto the hot ground between them.  The instructor blessed the fire and started us on the chant we had been taught to build energy.  Comparatively speaking, it didn’t feel all that hot to me as we stood in the evening cool in a circle around the glowing path.

We had been instructed that after the leader stepped back into the circle it was up to each of us to decide when to walk through the coals.  When that moment came, no one moved for a good thirty seconds.  I was standing near the “starting line” end of the walkway looking at the path thinking:  This doesn’t look all that bad to me.  Really.  I could go right now.  I might as well just do it!, but I didn’t want to make a show of going first and will admit that maybe I wanted to see someone else do it.

Certainly, I also knew that it might actually hurt to walk through those embers but there was no “if” in my mind about walking.  At that point something else came to me; why I had to make that walk.

We had been asked to think about what we wanted to achieve, manifest, or have change by firewalking and to put it into one word.  I had felt at a loss to think of some big, specific thing.  I had shown up, hadn’t I?  I settled on power and personally stepping into my own as a theme, but it felt like I was fishing for something to say just to participate.  I didn’t really have a word for what I might have wanted inside.

In that brief moment it struck me that I was there to walk for all the people I knew (and would eventually meet) who wouldn’t walk through fire.  Like the Sweat Lodge, I was there to be present and do it for “my people” and in the back of my mind I was prepared to suffer a little if need be.  By my efforts and the telling of my story they could experience it enough to be instructive and just maybe be inspired, reassured, or less fearful, just as my late wife, Kate, had taught me a good deal about death without having to die myself.

As I stared at what now looked in the twilight like a velvety black pathway with red-glowing dots I felt no fear at all.  I could feel the truth that most of my fears had melted away in the last three years.  I’ve already been through so many trials by fire, I thought.

In the time it took those thoughts to transpire, a young woman stepped to the fire and began to walk across it.  My mind went silent and before I knew it I was in motion.  I was the third person to walk through the fire and about halfway across I felt a sensation all too familiar as something small and hot stuck to the bottom of my right foot.

My feet are in great shape and have very few callouses.  The skin on my arches is very soft and tender.  While I have a high threshold for temporary pain, I wasn’t really focused on needing it, but there it was.  I knew I was already burned—and kept walking.  Taking my turn, I walked another half dozen times or so over the coals, feeling a twinge here or there.  Eventually I began to wonder why I, of all people, had gotten burned.  Wasn’t my energy high enough?  Was my mind wandering?  Did I need “kissing”?

By this time I had taken note that a woman I had met and chatted with earlier in the evening had not yet walked across the fire.  I walked over and stood next to her near the head of the path.  “I haven’t walked yet,” she said immediately.  “I know,” I replied.

I told her that it was OK and she could go when she was ready, or not at all.  “Will you walk with me?” she asked.  I offered her my hand and we walked side by side through the embers until she bumped into me and I lost my balance.  I was able to step out of the fire and stay upright without stepping into the coals piled high at the edges.  She finished her first walk alone and repeated it holding hands with others as well as by herself.

About that time the seminar was officially over, so the fire was raked out flat and even, making it much deeper than what we had originally walked upon.  A few people continued to walk across it, now taking photos with cell phones which had been previously prohibited.  The woman who I had helped asked if I wanted to walk again and have my photo taken, and when I did I could feel my left arch burn as my foot sank into the now deeper coals.  Somehow that photo didn’t come out, and I refused to walk again for a second.  I needed no proof of what I had done.

It was too dark to see what kind of damage my feet had sustained and at that point I frankly didn’t want to know.  It was clear from a few others smearing stuff on their feet that I was not the only one who had gotten “kissed”.

On the ride home wearing socks and shoes my feet really started to hurt.  When I got there I slathered them with aloe vera gel and fell into bed.  I don’t feel particularly transformed, I pouted.  I slept fitfully, but at least when I woke up my feet didn’t hurt much.

Now, I know from experience that when we engage in ceremony we may not perceive anything out of the ordinary happening at the time, but that a transformation can occur days to weeks afterwards.  Reminding myself to keep my mind and my awareness open, I recounted the times I’d had exactly that kind of delayed reaction.

For the next two days I continued to wonder about why I had gotten burned and what my lesson, my big take-away, was.  My energy levels and life-force are about as high as anyone I know.  I truly was unafraid of walking through that fire.  I didn’t feel that I had sabotaged or martyred myself unconsciously.  I thought about how my wounds were centered on both arches like stigmata, yet my toes and flat of my feet were unscathed.

On the third day after the firewalk I was up early and felt exhausted already as I drove to the farm of friends to help with a day of planting tomatoes.  As I cruised along musing about what “went wrong” or if there was some additional, hidden, spiritual lesson from getting burned that I was missing, shocking words came to me:  There is no Big Magic Answer!

So much became clear in an instant.  There was no Big Magic Answer to walking through the fire without getting hurt.  I just did it, got burned a little, and did it again—helping others, enjoying myself and those around me in the excitement.  There was no missed Big Magic Answer as to why I got burned, either.  There were probably a variety of simple and Only God Knows reasons that didn’t really matter.  It. Just. Happened.—and wasn’t so bad.  I had done it and could just move on.

As I drove along I recognized a chronic fixation on waiting, hoping, searching for the mysterious, hidden, Wizard of Oz-like,  Big Magic Answers for certain things in my life when smaller, everyday answers generally would have sufficed if I’d let them.  I realized that much of the time I didn’t need any kind of “answer” at all, just action.

I understood the empty feeling and sense of missingness the Big Magic Answer quest at times left me with.  I wanted only to drink from the elusive Grail when I could have simply cupped my hands.  With a sweep of emotion, tears welling in my eyes, and my hands still on the steering wheel a major pattern in my life had surfaced:  Lack of Big Magic Answer disappointment.  (LOBMAD!)

The obvious episodes came to mind first:  My first wife’s liver transplant was to be The Big Magic Answer to save her life, wasn’t it?  For many reasons she died anyway, and I lived on.  When Kate was diagnosed with cancer, we looked for The Big Magic Answer as to why she, of all people was afflicted and hoped for The Big Magic Answer that would cure her.  She was transformed another way, and I lived on.  After her passing when I travelled out west for a month, I was searching for The Big Magic Answer to where to go and what to do with the remainder of my life.  There was none to be found, so I just came home.

I saw that occasionally my search for some all-encompassing, perfect, Big Magic Answer to a given problem or situation and not finding it would throw me into an emotional tailspin that fogged my mind, ravaged my body with stress hormones, and prevented me from walking away until I could calmly, patiently solve it.  This behavior may have been due to my subconscious reliving similar feeling unresolved traumas of critical Big Magic Answers that never came.

I recognized that I wasted time and energy in pointless attempts to divine The Cosmic Big Magic Answer for why this or that did or didn’t happen in my life when often there really was none, diverting me from living life joyfully from here to there.  On those occasions, answering took over from both doing and Being.

It was remarkable to me.  Doing the firewalking, we were told, would help us be able to overcome life’s obstacles as if firewalking was a Big Magic Answer to overcoming fear and rethinking obstacles.  I saw that Big Magic Answers like firewalking itself were my obstacles because I thought I needed them.  I just needed to let go of my desire for Big Magic Answers and use my own heart, my own courage, and my own knowing.  (“Ignore the man behind the curtain!”)  I could Live, Love, Be.

The physical and mental challenge of Firewalking itself wasn’t a life-changing answer for me, but by being willing to engage in it with open awareness I was given an important insight about myself.  Firewalking didn’t transform me because it was so extraordinary, but instead because it seemed rather, well… mundane—and that puzzled me.  As a result of my own insight, I transformed myself, seeing that the mundane can be an answer—and sublime.  That sometimes there isn’t a missing “more”, but what is already there is more than it seems.

Suddenly it was pretty clear why I was still struggling to sell my workshop machinery that I need to divest or move and store to get out of the rented Mesa building.  I had imagined my resistance might be because I was somehow psychically “attached” to them or them to me.  I considered that maybe I had some weird, immature, unconscious need to keep them around even though I hadn’t used them for years and couldn’t envision doing so in the near future.

I also thought maybe I had “artist block” that interfered with using my art and craft equipment and hoped I’d have The Big Magic Art Answer that would snap me out of it before I had to let too much go.  Obviously I was searching not only for The Big Magic Answer as to how to effortlessly and painlessly sell those tools and other great Mesa stuff, but The Big Magic Answer as to whether or not to sell them at all when they had clearly become a burden.

I had procrastinated for months as I waited for The Big Magic Answer to seamlessly vacating The Mesa and moving on to something greater when I just didn’t want to go too far into the process without the comfort of one in the form of a known destination.  Why wasn’t something written across the sky by now?

I was stuck on finding a Deus ex machina, some Big Magic Answer That Would Dramatically Change Everything for how to clear out the Mesa with a snap of my fingers.  (As I remember literally wishing I could do when I returned from the cancer hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma two years ago.)

Some part of me likely knew full well that I just had to do what I had been slowly doing right along:  Use mundane, cut-and-dried, step-by-step processes I already knew but wanted to avoid the small or large pain/boredom/inconvenience of and live through it.  Trust it.  Maybe even enjoy it.  Still, I yearned for The Big Shining All Knowing All Bases Covered Doubt Erasing No Touchbacks Magic Friggin’ Answer for my “new” life.

Like walking through that fire, I could see from my revelation, I just needed to make a move, look for small success, endure any resulting pain, learn from it, SMILE, and MOVE ON to whatever looks appropriate at that point, walking through Life’s little fires over and over again as I had already been doing.  It was never so much about fear for me, but wanting and waiting for mythical, perfect, all-encompassing, presto-change-o solutions to life’s challenges that was distracting me and holding me up.  I could pick a direction and enjoy the “happiness of pursuit” instead of sadly pursuing the elusive butterfly of happiness.

The rest of the day on the farm was exhausting and I discussed my firewalk experience with my friends as we toiled.   By the end of the day I felt purified by the sun and hard work.  (No Big Magic Answer for tying up row upon row of tomato vines!)  The next day I went to The Mesa and gave notice to my landlord that I will be moving out of the upstairs Healing Center by the end of this month.  It was not really a first step towards moving out as a friend suggested, but a highly significant middle one for me.  The Healing Center was the last part of the Mesa building we moved into and the first I shall leave.

As early as last fall I had made a start towards that end, clearing out the kitchen cupboards, turning off the refrigerator, and clearing the book cases.  The cold of winter stopped me, but this spring I had resumed the task.  I had already taken down everything off the walls and packed up the big crystals before the firewalk.  I could move the remainder downstairs in a day, and could have months and months ago, but I dragged my feet for lack of The Big Magic Answer of what life will be like for me without The Mesa.

Where did The Big Magic Answer fixation come from for me, you might ask?  Hearing adults speculate on The Big Magic Answer as to why my beloved and quite young live-in grandpa dropped dead of a heart attack when I was five may have been the start of it.  Trying to find The Way (any way) to please my ungrounded and immature parents and never having the answer they seemed to want added fuel to the fire.  But the kicker was my wishing for The Big Magic Answer to keep my family together and my father from leaving home when I was about 12.  I distinctly remember praying for it.

That answer never came and my dad left in search of his own Big Magic Answer.  He had the pattern, too.  Years after he passed, his half-sister, my aunt Shirley, felt compelled to apologize to me for what her brother “had done” to me and my family.  “I don’t know…,” she said.  “It was like he was always looking for something he just couldn’t find.  I replied that what he was looking for was HIMSELF.

Over the years a nagging feeling grew that I must be blindly overlooking something huge right there in front of me; The Big Magic Answer that was beyond what I was taught was my meager capacity for creativity, logic, success, or spiritual access.  An answer bigger than what I was deemed capable of that would bring elusive reward, love, fame, healing, wealth, joy, fulfillment, and peace on earth.  An answer too big for the likes of me.

As my life evolved my highly sensitive, inquisitive, and spiritual Piscean nature probably made things worse for me in terms of seeking The Big Magic Answer.  I came to this planet believing in Love, Optimism, and Beauty.  I have at times seen the unexplainable and miracles happen.  I’ve remembered from my soul that all of us human beings could get along in loving, sharing, caring ways and the possibility of Heaven on earth—the thing that didn’t happen with the Big Magic Answer end of the Mayan Calendar in December of 2012.  We just have to do it, change it—all of us together, with our individual small magic.

Had I been the only one stuck on finding The Big Magic Answer instead of happy, creative, smaller, workable ones?  Oh, I don’t think so!  So many things in our world have been touted as Big Magic Answers that we are accustomed to looking for them:  Nuclear power, Twin Flame Soulmates, antibiotics, juicing, multilevel marketing, The Secret, abstinence, gurus, acai berries, Fracking, Viagra, hot yoga, red wine, (No, wait—that was LAST month…) trickledown economics, alkaline water, baby aspirin, religious fundamentalism, Paleo, No Child Left Behind, Past Life Regression, social media, open carry—you name it!  (Why does the word “Panacea” come into my mind?)

At the firewalk I heard one participant excitedly blurt with no context whatsoever, “I’ve always wanted to invent something!”  Yes, invent something—anything, and nothing in particular as long as it was The Big Magic Answer to completely transform them and their life.  A Big Magic Answer without a question to go with it.

Come to think of it, I may not have come up with The Big Magic Answers I wanted, but I have invented plenty.  I designed and made tools for art and industry.  I came up with a unique style of metalwork that’s in books and museums.  I built websites.  I developed healing techniques like Guided Head Movement healing that have helped myself and others change their lives.

I even “invented” a center for creativity, holistic healing, and spiritual development called “The Mesa Creative Arts Center”.  For years I searched for The Big Magic Answers that would help more people in bigger and better ways, create a real sense of community, raise more energy, and easily make the Mesa economically equitable for all.  I never found a one, but the center grew and thrived on love, devotion to service, integrity, fun, shared abundance, gratitude, reliance on Spirit, and plain old long hours of hard work.  It was a blast!

(For those of you already lamenting the eventual closing of the Mesa for good, I remind you that neither the center nor I are your Big Magic Answer.)

Commenting on a study just released by the Mayo Clinic about the secret to happiness, Psychiatrist John Tamerin was quoted as saying, “For many people the root of everything we’re chasing, a better job, more money or true love, is happiness.”  He went on to say how this endless pursuit often backfires:  “If you lead your life always waiting for a great thing to happen, (i.e, The Big Magic Answer) you probably will be unhappy.”  The study’s basic finding?  Happiness is a choice in the moment.

It seems pretty plain to me at this point that if we are waiting for TBMA’s were are bound to end up disappointed, unhappy, and miss out on the Life that transpires while we’re waiting at the bus stop.  Give yourself credit, dear readers, for your small answers and personal magic.  Trust that they are adding up to something worthwhile.  Focus on the here, instead of the missing and find a reason to smile about it.  I encourage you to choose happiness and leave The Big Magic Answers to romp with the unicorns.

And now you’ll have to excuse me… I’ve got some fires to cross.

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Being a Free-Range Human: A Heron’s Walk to Where the Buffalo Roam

Buffalo in Western PA

Buffalo in Western PA

Yesterday morning I was listening to Native American olowan (Lakota  for sacred songs) on YouTube.  I came across some entries that included buffalo songs I’d never heard.  I marked them as favorites so I could find them later.

As December 21st rolls around we’ll be facing the arriving winter season, asking for help and guidance in the solstice Medicine Wheel ceremony for the cold, dark days ahead.  As it turns out, the Spirit Guardian of the direction of winter, north– on the Mesa Wheel, is the great White Buffalo, “Waboose”.  Maybe I need to learn a new buffalo song, I thought.

Although very overcast and dark, it was such a delightfully warm day that I decided after my YouTube exploration to go for a hike on my favorite section of the Panhandle Trail not far from where I live here in western PA.  My mind was still on the buffalo songs, and I found myself blowing past the trailhead parking lot and down the way along the front of a nearby farm to look for the small herd of American Bison that lives there, way back off the road.  Would they be out?

I could see the big, beautiful beasts at the top of the hill as I drove along, so I parked the car off the road and got out with my camera.  Alas, they were so far from the road that even my long zoom lens couldn’t do them justice.  I heaved a sigh, and pushed the limits of the optics and my ability to hold still.  “So far…  So dark…”

My gaze fell on the house on the farm property and I contemplated knocking on the door to ask for permission to photograph the buffalo up close, but felt great reluctance.  I hemmed and hawed, squirming within about why I was being so hesitant to ask for this simple favor.  Did I fear a confrontation?  Rejection?  Would I be selfishly intruding on their quiet Sunday afternoon?  Did I imagine the inhabitants as all that different from me that they wouldn’t understand my reverence and artistic interest?  Was it too much to ask for on some planet?  I had no real answer.

I noted that the experience I was having was a reminder that no matter how far I have come in my personal growth, I still struggle from time to time with internal conflicts and self-imposed limits.  In the moment I excused myself from this low-level fear and discord, telling myself, “You never know what you’ll get when you knock on a door so far back off the road ‘round these parts… could be a shotgun up your nose!”  Some part of me knew that I was standing at a different kind of doorway.

At that very moment, a great blue heron flew up out of the creek just down the hill from where I stood by the side of the road.  I was too startled to get a photo of him at lift-off.  He’d been practically in front of me all along and I hadn’t seen him at all because–  I hadn’t looked down.  My camera and I had been completely focused on the buffalo on the high ridge.

Great blue heron has been a totem of mine since I first saw one on the day of my first wife’s, funeral, 23 years and a week ago today.  In my mind I can still see it rise up out of the cattails to my left on the biggest wings I had ever seen as the limo in which I sat approached the cemetery gate.  To this day I remember that blue-gray bird, but have no recollection who else was in that car.

In what now seems like several lifetimes but only a moment ago I continued to watch as that heron folded up its long neck as it gained altitude.  Bouncing in my seat, I cheered it on, forgetting for a moment where I was as it flew up and directly over the canopy on the hill over Sharon’s awaiting grave, finally disappearing over the ridge.  “Go, baby!  Fly!”

I’ve always associated great blue herons with Sharon ever since, and take them as a sign of reassurance from her spirit and from Nature that I’m being looked after.  I’m always excited to see them and take note of what I was thinking when I spot one.

Most times I’ve seen them rise up out of a creek or pond by the side of the road, flying alongside my route.  The few times I’ve seen one wading, it took flight before I could get anything like close.  If I was lucky enough to even have a camera with me, I usually found myself standing there with my mouth open as the heron got smaller in the distance.

I was struck by how startlingly similar the buffalo farm heron’s wingy takeoff and initial flight was to that mournful day long ago when I was so focused on what I had lost; my first wife and my faith in life.  I watched this new great blue fly out in a big arc and blessed my luck when he banked and returned to land just downstream from where he started.  This one came back, I thought.  At that point he was watching me, but I managed to sneak the long way around and get a couple of photos before he nervously flew off again.

By then I found myself quite a bit closer to the neat little house on the farm, but I still wasn’t ready to knock on any doors.  I was intimidated– overawed not by some ogre but by my internal mental and emotional situation.  I recognized that no one but myself was doing this to me and that it was a pattern exhibited by my mother that I continued to emulate to a degree; a brand of overwhelm before starting.  Acknowledging this, I still turned away from the house and towards the car.

In Animal Speak, Ted Andrews’ classic book about animal totems and what it means when they present themselves to us, it says that heron people may be “seen as dabblers”, but they are wonderful “jack of all trades”.  This gives them the ability to walk their own paths (usually alone) in an intuitive way without the need to “keep up with the Joneses”—knowing they’ll be provided for.  Theirs is not a structured journey by normal standards, and while it seems even to them to lack security and stability, that is just a matter of perspective.  “Most people will never be able to live the way heron people do,” Andrews adds.

I am sooo heron, and always have been.  When I recently told a friend the total of how much time since I graduated from college I have worked at various job-jobs, where I was told what to do and received a regular paycheck (nine months out of nearly 40 years) they replied, “You’re like a… free-range human!”

And so I am, and sometimes lately my life looks even less stable and more insecure as I look for trail markers since my dear Kate’s passing 18 months ago.  Say what you will, that heron appeared to reassure me to trust I’ll be taken care of, remind me to focus right in front of me and “be here now”–  not drift off into worry about the future on some distant horizon where the buffalo roam.

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron Who Came Back

I walked back up on the road to return to where I was parked, grateful that I’d at least gotten some shots of the heron for my trouble.  Right about then, an old pickup truck that I had seen exit the farm earlier came back again from the other direction.  It slowed down as it approached and I saw the window come down on my side of the road.  It was slowing down.  They’d noticed me, too.

“Are you looking for something?” the driver said as the truck came to a halt.  I leaned down smiling, explaining that I had stopped to photograph the buffalo I admired so much and had gotten sidetracked camera-stalking the great blue.  I introduced myself and we shook hands through the window.

The driver turned out to be the owner of the buffalo and invited me to come up and see them at the paddock they lived in.  “Just follow us up,” he said.  I thanked him profusely, scrambled back into my car once again blessing my luck, and drove up the long gravel driveway behind him.

At the top the farmer’s son got out and opened a gate, graciously leaving me to spend as much time as I wanted with their five “tatanka” while they went off to check a tree stand before the start of deer hunting season.  A portal had been opened for me.

As I approached the paddock fence, the buffalo came cautiously closer to check me out, larger ones out front and youngsters in the back, still keeping what was for them a respectable distance and for me, photography heaven.

For the next hour and a half or so, I stood there and visited with those peaceful, sacred animals, singing a buffalo song from the Ghost Dance that I know, and making an offering of some of the cornmeal I always have in the car in a gesture of “right relations” to acknowledge, thank, and bless them.  All the while I contemplated the sightings of great blue heron and buffalo, and, of course, took lots of photos.  (See two below.)

(Point of clarity: “Tatanka” is Lakota for buffalo bull, but to native speakers it literally means, “He who owns us,” paying homage to the fact that they would perish without the buffalo.  The bison I visited were not all bulls.)

“Uh, Brad! …and what does Animal Speak say about buffalo?”  They’re all about “manifesting abundance through right action and right prayer,” (emphasis mine).  That comes not from working hard at manifesting as many New Age gurus would have us do, but by considering our motives for what we seek to manifest and aligning with the flow and direction of the higher consciousness, love, and evolutionary intent of Creation.  This is most assuredly the walk I have been on, often showing up at the right time and right place (sometimes with shaky knees) because I am willing to trust and be free-range.

I was patient, polite, respectful, and engaged in right action.  This is the way I live.  For this I was honored by being ushered right to the abundance of the out-of-range buffalo on the too far away hill without even having to ask for it.  Now I know a face behind the door of the little house on the farm and some day when the buffalo and the sun are out, I’ll brave a knock.

By the way… There may still be a copy of Animal Speak floating around in the Mesa gift shop.  Jus’ sayin’.

Buffalo Portrait

A Buffalo in Profile

Buffalo Buddies

Buffalo Buddies

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Personal Metamorphosis and a Rescued Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies populations have been dramatically reduced by nearly 90% by some estimates in the last couple of years, largely due to the eradication of their host plant, milkweed. They have been added to the “threatened species” list by the United States governent.  Here is a story of this iconic creature and how I was touched by the grace and beauty of one of their dwindling numbers.

Monarch butterfly feeding on red clover in a field on The Mesa

Male Monarch butterfly feeding on red clover in a field on The Mesa


Summer has really flown by and I have continued to work on my own healing, gradually reshaping my life and my home in rural Eldersville, PA. I go up to The Mesa and make large or small efforts towards moving out of the building most every day, occasionally ship sacred geometry glassware as far off as Australia, and sandwich in a healing client, shopper, or seeker in need here and there.  I’ve spent a lot of time alone, not always by choice.

Needless to say, vacating The Mesa has not been the most pleasant of tasks for me as I sort through years-worth of stuff– treasures, junk, and “Why do I even have these?” alike, along with piles of fond memories to fold up and gently put away.  It has gotten easier over time as the days grow shorter again and more time passes since my dear Kate went home to Spirit 16 months ago.

Some things have gone into the dumpster or the recycling with a tearful blessing or hearty “good riddance!,” occasionally after a great emotional or mental tug-of-war that later seemed laughable.  Other items I’ve dropped off to charity organizations like Goodwill Industries (“How many baskets could one woman possibly have?! Oh, they resemble nests…”) or Habitat for Humanity’s Restore.

A load of art supplies went down to a remote coffee growing village in the mountains of Nicaragua with a church mission, and was much appreciated. The crayons, jiggle eyes, fruit scented markers, and other kids’ crafts were delivered to the Washington Community Arts and Cultural Center in Washington, PA.  I have no regrets about what I’ve given away; more trouble bringing myself to advertise what I want to sell.  I’ve started taking some things home to display or store.  There’s more to go that I’m still undecided about.

It’s been a new level of making hard choices, letting go, and carrying on with living life as it comes, even when it seems to come at a snail’s pace compared to what I might have envisioned things would look and feel like by now. Much of the time I’m not sure if I’m going with or against entropy, moving towards greater order or chaos within the system.  These days I am humbled by the vastness of what I don’t know and can’t possibly understand.

This scaling back process has also caused me think long and hard about possession-induced madness, and what was going on that caused this or that to be collected in the first place.  Much of it seems irrelevant to where I am now, yet the possible role it could play in where I will be in my near future is still a blessed mystery to me.  It all has to go somewhere other than where it is, and—(I don’t know if you’ve noticed this–) it’s harder to do anything right now just because it’s 2014.  Blame it on the state of the Flow of Creation as it pressures for nothing less than planetary change.  Talk about bad, er—I mean, Divine Timing!

My greatest joy of late has been taking nature photos and I have been truly blessed with amazing sights. In the last two weeks I’ve taken hundreds of pictures like the one above of the dozens of Monarch butterflies that had been hatching out nearby and feeding on the red clover that grew in the fields next to the Mesa driveway as they readied for their southward migration to Mexico.

It was when I started reading about the plight of the iconic Monarchs in the online news a while back that I first found myself wondering if I had seen any Monarchs this summer at all. Naturalists had found that their numbers had shockingly diminished, not because of loss of winter habitat in Mexico, but likely from extermination of their host plant in the USA, the lowly milkweed.  (Milkweed flower essence helps release escapism and develop healthy self-reliance, as it works out.)

Just days after that I noticed my first Monarch in my yard, excitedly chasing after it until it disappeared into the woods down the road. Right away I started seeing one or two wherever I went.  Suddenly, it seemed they were everywhere, but especially up on The Mesa in mid-afternoon.  Nearly impossible to pick out amongst the clover while feeding with closed wings, I’d spot them when they fluttered to the next flower and went bounding after them with my camera.

One day as I was turning onto Rt. 18 headed home, I saw something in the road that made me immediately pull over. I got out of the car, ran to the middle of the road, and saw that I had been correct– it was a wounded Monarch that had likely ricocheted off someone’s windshield.

As I scooped it up and got back into the car, I could see that the tip of its thorax was leaking fluid, sticking to its wing. It just sat in my hand as I stroked it gingerly to help straighten its misarranged wings, sending healing energy with one finger.  I was concerned for its survival in the state it was in, so I decided to take it home with me for better or for worse.  It sat on the car seat the whole trip, even while I stopped briefly at Kroger’s for much needed groceries.  (Yes, I left the windows cracked.)

When I got my “patient” home, I jokingly named it “Kevin”, smugly satisfied that it was the most wholly inappropriate name I could think of for a Monarch butterfly. I carefully and repeatedly separated its wing from the wound until it began to heal.  I began reading online about Monarch behavior and how to care for “Kevin”.

That was two weeks ago now, and “Kevina” is still with me.  (Some wise-ass I emailed his photo to found out how to tell by his markings that “Kevin”– was female.) In the morning I have my coffee and she has her Juicy Juice, uncurling her slender proboscis to suck it from a yellow sponge.  She warms herself as Monarchs do by trembling her wings, sometimes shaking so hard preparing for takeoff that she comically falls over, and flutters about a bit.

“Kevina” really cannot fly much, but she walks around with her beautiful wings displayed fully open, occasionally stumbling and tipping over as I imagine one would be apt to do carrying such a huge hang glider on spidery legs. She immediately rights herself and carries on instinctively towards the light of the window.  When she’s at rest she folds up her wings and I have to be careful to locate her before I step as she nearly disappears on the carpet.

It’s not lost on me that I am a bit like that wounded butterfly at this moment in my life. How fragile we both are; feeling the pull of the Light, the instinct to migrate, and still not quite able to fly.  Does she miss her kind?  I do.  (Should I take “Kevina” and go to Mexico? Olé!)  Her metamorphosis is complete, while mine clearly continues.

I’m still fluttering around if you’d like to come by and chat, get some coffee, or schedule a healing or mentoring session. Call and leave a message or email, and we’ll talk.  “Kevina” is available by appointment only.  I’m holding out that she’ll get strong enough to release while it’s still warm.  Otherwise, like me, her future is uncertain.

Brad and "Kevina," rescued Monarch butterfly

Brad and “Kevina,” rescued Monarch butterfly


Footnote:  Not long after writing this post for the Mesa News the week before the fall equinox, little “Kevina” passed away after living with me in the living room for almost exactly 3 weeks.  I miss her.

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One Year Commemoration for Kate

The Late Kate Silberberg in Apache Dress

It’s hard for me to believe, but next Thursday, May 15th, will mark the first anniversary of the passing of my dear wife, Mesa Co-director, and Spiritual Twin, Kate Silberberg, at the end of her brave journey with pancreatic cancer. It seems impossible that it could already be that long, or that I could have endured it as I have.

I know that for years to come this singular day of the year will be a potent benchmark for me, bringing up fond memories tinged with sorrow. Before I know it, it will be two, three, and four years since Kate went Home. Up to now I have merely counted in hours, days, and months.

In their concern, people have told me what passes for common wisdom; that “the first year is the hardest,” or to “wait a year before you make any big changes”. The period of one earth cycle around the sun seems to be regarded as a magic number when it comes to the lifting of grief, and I hope it will be a shift for me. In some cultures, a year is considered the proper length of time to grieve the loss of a loved one, at the end of which it’s time to move on with the business of living. Aside from the calendar, it seems a bit arbitrary to me, yet the passage of that bundle of time has allowed my wounds to heal and pain to fade. I’ve come four seasons and full circle around the Medicine Wheel.

It’s been over twenty years since I reached that point after my first wife’s passing, and not only has my experience of her first anniversary slowly faded from my memory, but by now the exact date of her passing as well. I know that someday that will happen with the 15th of May and I will no longer associate Nature’s spring awakening with Kate’s painful transformation. For now it will be a milestone, but I’ve sensed it as an approaching energy doorway and healing opportunity as well.

In a similar way to how every year near the time of my birthday I get a blast of inspirational energy from my soul, (I noticed this for years before I read that it’s common.) curious and uplifting energies have been pouring through from Creation as I find myself just over a week away from Kate’s first annual. This may be part and parcel of the depth of our Twin soul connection and the mystery of the Beyond the Beyond where she still sleeps, help from my Higher Self, or a direct downloading from Spirit. Much as I’d like to, I have not yet heard from her, but evidence abounds that something is afoot.

In recent days I had a dream of her dying without seeing her there. Within the dream I fell asleep and missed the moment of her passing. I was still disappointed when I woke up at 4:44. That day while working in the yard I noticed that the first hummingbirds had returned here at home. I put the feeders up right away for her hungry totemic friends who herald the joy of spring’s awakening. She loved them.

In contrast in more than wingspan is that turkey vulture who’s been roosting at the edge of my yard of late that Kate’s beloved crows periodically chase away. Vultures clear away the dead so that new life may spring forth. Meanwhile, something big and as yet unseen has killed both my neighbor’s chicken and a long resident groundhog in my yard. It’s all happening only now.

Just yesterday, after more than a year of picking up occasional takeout without my constant companion by my side, the proprietor of the local Chinese restaurant finally asked me where Kate was. Through her broken English I determined that she thought we had split up. (“Where your wife? You no talk? You no talk?”) After so long. why did she notice today, I wondered? This prompted “the explanation”; she was horrified, and I, once again, reminded. I have repeated the story so many times so many different ways in the last year, knowing full well there are many more recitations and reminders to come.

Last weekend I just so happened to choose to watch a movie (Odd Thomas, based on a Dean Koontz novel about a psychic.) with a surprise ending where the hero’s lovely, devoted, “we’ll-be-together-‘til-the-end-of-time” soul mate turns out to have actually died in the big shoot-out scene. He’d been lovingly celebrating his victory over the bad guys with her disembodied spirit because he could see the departed. I never saw it coming until his friend the chief of police told him he had to let her go and move on. Only then did the bullet holes appear. “Odd” then bravely steps off to live the rest of his life until they will be reunited in the Spirit World. I suppose I needed a good cry, but the timing of my innocent viewing choice was not lost on me.

For in a way I have crossed over too, bridging one year since the bedrock of the life I knew crumbled beneath my feet. I’ve managed to accomplish a certain amount of what needs to be done to fulfill my promise to Kate to “clean up the mess;” her estate is settled, and I have made a dent in cleaning up and clearing out both at home and at The Mesa. My new life without her has not yet taken real form, but I am earnestly readying for it.

Thankfully, I have also experienced a lot of amazing personal growth, lucky strokes of awareness, new insight, and healing in the last couple of weeks– right on the heels of the recent Grand Cardinal Cross alignment (Uranus, Jupiter, Mars, and Pluto in their Cardinal signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn respectively) that peaked on April 23rd. That timing was not, in my mind, purely coincidental either; that Four Directions configuration of planets adding energy of transformation to the life changes I was already moving through as my one year mark drew nigh.

Approaching 365 amazing days since Kate’s passing now, I continue to learn about the mechanics of stillness and the oft resultant loneliness, recognizing that it was my unconscious expectation that it would turn into extended loneliness and extended suffering that sometimes made me feel lost. The beautiful lesson I recognized just today was that there is always Love tucked away within any suffering, if one is able to see. This is representative of the seed of Light within the darkness, and Yin within Yang. Surely there was great Love in Kate’s suffering. I was witness to that blessing.

I have also borne witness to how a number of you have suffered from Kate’s ordeal and the vacuum of her absence. I know she was a light in the lives of many as were the now curtailed events and activities at The Mesa. I have heard from a few who miss both dearly, and recognize that it has kept a lot of people from checking up on me. I am a painful reminder of what they too, have lost. This I understand, but have missed their fellowship and support.

It seems wholly appropriate (and just plain holy) that there be a ceremony on 5/15 to commemorate not only Kate’s passing, but her contribution to the Mesa and The Light. I feel it’s also a perfect time to invite people to gather at The Mesa, open their hearts, and unburden their thoughts and feelings about Kate’s life and death. To that end I’ve scheduled a brief ceremony followed by a Native American style Talking Circle (see listing below) to provide this opportunity for all who may be inclined. It’ll be a good chance to tell good stories about her, laugh or cry, and per her wishes once again, eat cake. (You still make me laugh, Kate!)

I am also pleased to announce the opening of friend of the Mesa, Peter Shefler’s, brand new The Four Directions center for art and healing in the Gibsonia area on the weekend of May 16-18. (See listing, also below.) I’ll be there on all three days, continuing my service in a new location by speaking about Energy Healing on Saturday and signing in Lakota for ceremony on Sunday. I hope you can join in the fun.


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Continuing the Journey Solo: 90 Miles to Albuquerque

I recently returned from what I have referred to as a “drive-about” (“Like a walk-about, but with a car…”) that took me on a month long journey to the great American Southwest.  Driving just over 6,000 miles in the little car I had inherited from my late mother, I toured myself around northern New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona on a voyage of self-discovery.

Driving most of the way in silence, it gave me much needed time and space away from the home and work that Kate and I had shared for over ten years.  It would be a time to be alone in my thoughts and feelings, to readjust and rebalance without my spiritual Twin.  Foremost in my mind, however, was the idea of using the trip to find a new, more conducive place to live, one that I would find commensurate with the new and higher level of consciousness that my journey with Kate though illness and death had lifted me to; a place where I could blossom.

On my way out west, I planned to stop at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, wanting to thank once again the loving and dedicated staff that was so kind and generous to Kate, but also to show them that I was OK.  I wanted them to see through me that the very difficult and emotionally demanding work they do resulted in great benefit to life and wellbeing, even though the patient had succumbed.  They needed to know.

I carried with me Kate’s winter hats to pass along to other patients with newly balded heads or “chemo hair”, and a big bag of beads from her “bead bowl” at the Mesa to replenish the meager supplies of the jewelry classes offered to patients and caregivers that both Kate and I had diverted ourselves with during our 4 month stay as her life came to a close.

I arrived there on the second day of my trip after spending the night in Effingham, IL.  (Town motto: “We’re close to I-70!”)  It was difficult for me to walk in the front door of that most generous institution again, but I was quickly surrounded with those who had become family to me through that terrible process.  I got through a whole day of visiting and revisiting without feeling too shaky emotionally, my deep gratitude keeping me grounded.  Once again it was hard for me to leave the welcoming comfort of what had for a time become my home and family, but I pushed westward through a driving evening rain, coming to rest in El Reno, OK.

As I drove along the next day, I pulled off the interstate at one of the big Cherokee Trading Post stores, captivated by the giant proud Indian on top of the building, doing so much to the chagrin of “Jill,” the voice of my GPS.  When I went inside and saw all of the high quality silver and turquoise jewelry, dream catchers, drums, native pottery, and fringed leather bags I began to tremble.

I was there with it alone, facing an ocean of the very things Kate had loved best and had been the mainstay of our interpretive craft work together.  Seeing it beautifully displayed for sale when I was in the process of divesting what she had lovingly collected felt deeply sad, and rendered me unable to contain my tears.  I wiped and wiped at my eyes as I looked around, recognizing that my journey had barely begun.

I drove onward through Texas, sighting a bobcat while stopping at Palo Duro Canyon Park before spending my first night in New Mexico in Tucumcari.  I had already been four days on the road and as I sat in that dingy motel room recognized that even if I chickened out on my quest and turned around, I was facing a minimum of three days to get back to my adopted home outside Pittsburgh.

Though I had traveled solo for work in my younger days, I had never taken a sightseeing trip by myself before.  I would always joke that the trouble with me taking time away for a vacation was that “Brad” always came along, dragging all of his personal baggage with him.  It was now just the two of “us” and I had reached my point of no return.

The next morning after taking photos of the many murals that brought the town Rt. 66 fame, I headed down the road.  After a while, I saw a sign saying that it was 90 miles to Albuquerque, NM, the place I considered the real starting point of my trip.  After already covering over 1,600 miles with little but the sound of the wind over the car and my own voice in my head, 90 miles seemed like a snap:  “Only 90 miles,” I probably said out loud, “At the speed I’m going it’ll take me less than an hour and a half to get there.  All I have to do is sit here and move through time and space until it arrives.  I can do that!”

This became a potent metaphor for my new solo journey through life.  I knew great things awaited me in the future for which I could do nothing to hasten.  I just had to live through the experiences of the next 90 minutes, 90 miles, 90 days, or whatever it might take to get there.  I could choose to simply remain present, relax and enjoy the ride.

When I finally started seeing the exits signs for Albuquerque, a panic set in.  I had claimed this city I had last visited ten years ago as the true starting point of my journey, but had no idea in that moment where within it to land, it seeming so vast in its flatness at the foot of the Sandia mountains.  This would turn out to be only the first of many times on my trip when I found myself asking, “What am I DOING?  What did I think I was going to find?  What am I looking for?

I quickly found a hotel with the help of my GPS and my real voyage began.  I spent the next three weeks crisscrossing New Mexico, a bit of Colorado, and Arizona, looking at all kinds of things and talking with all kinds of people, hoping to find some sort of big red arrow pointing, “HERE!  Here, Brad.  This is where you need to be…”

In the next three weeks I spent time in Taos, Santa Fe, and Gallup, NM, Cortez, CO, Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Jerome, and Sedona, AZ.  I stood on top of mountains, sat by the Rio Grande, and looked at acres of amazing artwork.  I visited places of stark beauty, cultural significance, and ancient sacredness.  But I never found that arrow.

As much as I was loving the high altitude, dazzling landscape, endless blue sky, bright sun, native culture, and friendly people, more than once in my solitude did a little voice remind me that my life’s work and Highest Path could still be in the Pittsburgh area.  I knew if I found that to be true, I could only stay and serve.  After all… it’s only 90 miles to Albuquerque.

To be continued…

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Grieving from a Higher Perspective

Since I wrote to all of you last about my process of adapting to life without sweet Kate, I have recognized something I feel is a very important understanding about the emotional repercussions that can result from the death of a loved one.  I noticed it first in myself, but it also showed itself through distraught, commiserating, grief-soaked responses to the last Mesa News email and phone calls from people who were foundering on the shores of despair as they tried to extricate themselves from painful loss.  Several had lost multiple family members and/or close friends in short periods of time, but often relatively long amounts of time ago.  Some had lost satisfying jobs, treasured pets, relationships, and often their health.

Surely when those we love cross back over to Spirit it leaves a kind of energetic and emotional vacuum in our lives, but that void in and of itself may not be the true source of the bulk of our pain.  I have recognized that without the beautiful distraction of Kate in my life, grief over how I negatively and unconsciously felt about myself was frequently and vehemently boiling to the surface of my feelings unrestricted and unanswered.

Driven by ingrained 3rd Density (Mundane World) survival strategies learned from my parents that are now being rapidly rendered obsolete by the evolution of Creation, like obsessively assessing and comparing the relative “value” of things (ourselves included) and the way I had been dismissively treated early in life, it was largely old, molten grief and guilt, not new sorrow that I found filling my empty heart and empty hours.

Kate’s glowing presence in my life, our all-consuming schedule at The Mesa, and unconscious self-preservation mechanisms had mercifully allowed me to ignore or more or less bury pain that had accumulated within me for years.  With Kate gone and my work at a standstill, I had to chose; slide into depression, distract myself with endless doing, or stand my ground and face being.  Numbing myself was an option favored by many that I never considered.

Fortunately, what had changed for me in the time since my last great loss when my first wife died 22 yrs ago was my level of awareness; of my thoughts, behavior, familial programming, motivation, talents, higher energies, and spiritual nature.  With Kate’s loving help and through my desire to heal myself I had raised it from mere self-consciousness to greater observation and sensing of what swirled inside of me, leaving me no choice but to take responsibility for myself as I was in the moment.  Much as I wanted to, I honestly couldn’t blame most of the pain I felt on Kate’s passing directly, though it was clearly the trigger.

Gratefully, Kate and I had also been gifted with tools to help ourselves with this higher-sense endeavor in techniques like Guided Head Movement healing and Kinesiology (muscle testing).  Over time and with much patience, they allowed us to gradually rebalance a certain amount of our old trauma and lighten our emotional and psychological load, but I could no longer ignore that the bulk of my iceberg remained submerged.   In the past, the passage of a busy life handily kept the denser stuff out of my day-to-day awareness—all but the pain I learned to simply bear as part of living.  When my life suddenly came to a crashing pause with Kate’s passing, it hungrily rushed in to fill the empty space that had been created.

As I started to work through my old junk I had to face the fact that I really felt worse about being (with) myself than in being without Kate.  Just that insight alone was helpful.  Many revelations and healings quickly followed as I continued the exploratory morning “meetings” Kate and I customarily held (Roster: Me, my inner self, Healing Guides, coffee cup.) and allowed for emergency “interventions” whenever and wherever the pain cropped up.

I saw, for instance, that I had been treating myself just as my parents did; as a burden and a failure, even though I didn’t actually see or believe myself any longer to be.  It was tantamount to treating a cat like a dog or hearing person as deaf.  A friend helped me with a Guided Head Movement healing that popped off that emotional padlock.  The physical sensations during that healing were indicative of my deep unconscious self facing something fearful it had avoided since childhood.  In an instant the fright was gone and peace flooded in.

Days of quiet aloneness brought me to terms with the fact that I was silently and fairly continuously insulting myself, just as my parents did, but had learned to largely ignore it like the ringing in my ears.  This self-deprecation occasionally took the form of simply shaking my head when I looked at myself in the mirror.  (How insulting!)

I had always felt that I tended to be sensitive and “thin skinned” in my Piscean way.  The old advice from my childhood, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” came into my mind.  Much as I wanted that condition to be true for me, confoundingly words still deeply wounded me.  A single vague comment from even myself could put me into a maddening, rehashing tailspin for hours.  The humorous yet successful solution turned out to be using Guided Head Movement to raise my “immunity” to insults.  With that in place, the now ineffectual and pointless internal berating ceased.

As these and other things shifted for me I began to see my life situation as one of immense opportunity rather than gloom.  This change taking place in a few short weeks was well beyond the normal limits of “time healing all wounds” and a direct result of focused attention and introspection.  Following the Flow of Creation’s urging to rise to higher consciousness, I was able to move from traditional 3rd Density grief into dealing with loss from a higher path, just as I learned to do with Kate’s illness and eventual death.

I have come to understand that by clinging to the past and what we have lost, we can lose ourselves as well.  This does not have to be.  I had written to a friend that with Kate no longer in my life I felt like a “marble rolling around in a shoebox.”  I found myself smiling and added, “…and why couldn’t a marble enjoy that?”

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After Kate’s Death: My Journey Continues

I thought I’d report in on how I’ve been doing in my process of recovering from the loss of my dear wife and partner, Kate, from pancreatic cancer this past May.  I’ve been spending most of my time by myself at home lately, continuing to go through, clean up, clear out, and fix up from years of neglect that occurred while Kate and I devoted ourselves body and soul to our work at The Mesa.  I’ve made great strides in this endeavor and the place is looking and feeling better and better.  Along the way I’ve continued to find little surprises here and there and they have helped me to put into place some of the missing puzzle pieces about who Kate was, how she saw herself, and what troubled her.  From this I feel that I have gotten to know her that much better since she passed away nearly 4 months ago than I was able to while she was alive.  Maybe the speed of life made it too hard to really study her in the same leisurely way.

I have also come to know myself much better through my readjustment to life without my spiritual twin and have had some huge openings within my own healing process that may have only been possible because of the vast still space presented to me by Kate’s passing.  She’s given me a chance to start life over with a clear conscience and a clean slate, and veritably sling-shot me into the next higher orbit of my spiritual growth.  I am very grateful to her for that sacrifice she made for the “team”.  I feel I’m doing a pretty good job of honoring that gift with probing introspection and diligent inner work.  The Guided Head Movement healing technique we pioneered together has been greatly instrumental in freeing myself from old restraints, and I hope that my work will somehow benefit Kate, too.

I’m still getting used to being with only Brad and becoming better company to myself.  I miss being with all of my Mesa friends, but understand that many of you are still in grief and shock over what transpired and are finding it hard to reach out.  Many people have asked me if I think our Mesa cat, “Sedona Arizona” is lonely these days.  I stop and spend quality time with her often and she seems her regular independent (“Me-yow!”) self.  Strangely, no one has asked me that question about myself.  Yes, I am.  Yes, I cry.

I have still not heard at all from Kate, but have been allowed to see that she is cocooned in deep, deep sleep on the Other Side, needing to recover from the physical ordeal she endured at the end of her life among us.  I have connected with those who are looking after her in Spirit and was told that she just has to “sleep it off”.  Needless to say, I miss her very much and would love to know about a few things, right from the horse’s mouth.  I’m just hoping it’s not going to be ten years from now and she scares the bejeebers out of me by appearing in my bedroom some night!

For those of you who haven’t seen me since Kate’s memorial ceremony or before, I might look a bit different.  I’ve shaved off my wiry mustache.  The consensus seems to be that I look much younger without it (a good thing), but I did it because I wanted to see myself “naked,” so to speak, as I look deeply at what I am and what I want.  I needed to make sure I wasn’t hiding behind it or using it as a shield, disguise, or embellishment.  I hadn’t seen my upper lip in something like 40 years and it’s still a bit shocking to me to see my own reflection.  Looking at myself sans-mustache has helped remind me in a felt-sense way that I am not my reflection in the mirror, or even my body, but the Light in between.  Changing my “look” has helped with the “everything is new now” swing of this momentous life change.  My top lip still feels really weird.

Probably the greatest lesson of my journey without Kate so far has been that if I stand my ground and face things, they change.  If I avoid, evade, procrastinate, or run away, my suffering continues or even grows.  I learned to put on my “Big Boy pants” and in short order took care of all kinds of sticky 3rd Density stuff (Mundane world legal, financial, accounting, “rules” and regulations.) and house cleaning I dreaded, much to my relief.  I tackle at minimum a few little things every day.  Though I’ve got lots more to go I now breathe easier and have begun to focus on more important and lofty stuff.

I feel that with what I’ve seen, learned, and been through in the last year or so that I am ready to be a Giver of Wisdom to those who are really ready to apply it to their lives and not just entertain people who are interested in “spiritual stuff” or modality healing.  I’m hopeful to find a place to do just that where the landscape is beautiful, the weather is beautiful, the women are beautiful, and the inhabitants are friendly.  Where’s that?

I still have no set-in-stone plans for The Mesa, but I’m feeling more and more that my work there is largely done.  I kind of had it in my head not to spend another winter here in the Pittsburgh area, but I’m seeing that it may be unrealistic to think of making any moves before spring.  I am still keeping my eyes open as to where I will go and what I will do for the next phase of my spiritual work.  Yes, I am watching the signs, but nothing has glaringly shown itself to me yet.  It could come in a day, a month, or a year, in a phone call, email, or chance meeting.  I know I still have more to do on my chosen path of helping to Light the world.  And I’m looking forward to a good ride. (Sigh!)

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Kate Silberberg 4/7/59-5/15/13


Kate Silberberg

Kate Silberberg 4/7/59-5/15/13


It is with deepest love and gratitude that I write this entry that I hoped never to compose.  On May 15th, 2013 at 1:20am Central time, my best friend, wife, and Mesa Co-director, Kate Silberberg, left behind her disease ravaged body to return home to Spirit after a 10 month journey with pancreatic cancer.  I know that this will be a shock to many of you, especially you who are new to our Mesa family via email.

Kate did not want a funeral and did not want those who loved her to mourn.  She wanted them to celebrate her life, tell fun stories about her and “eat cake”.  To fulfill my promise to her, about 200 people attended a memorial service for Kate at The Mesa Creative Arts Center close to the Summer Solstice, on Saturday, June 22nd.  We celebrated her beauty, creativity, and immense love for life and all of us, and we ate cakes designed to look like her artwork.

If you want to know what transpired for us in the long silence of the last four months, read on.  It may touch you somehow:

Many of you saw Kate (or photos of her) around Christmas or New Year’s Day and she seemed to look so well.  She always managed to radiate so much Light, no matter what was really going on inside of her.  The two of us thought she was generally getting better from the treatment she had been receiving at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Southwest Regional Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well.

By early December Kate seemed to be healing well from her November surgery to remove tumor tissue from her abdomen, but after Christmas I noticed that she was complaining about more pain and spending more time laying on the sofa with a heating pad on her belly.  I chalked it up to the radical nature of the surgical procedure causing lingering muscle soreness.

At our New Year’s Day celebration at The Mesa, Kate was bubbly and on her feet most of the day, charming our guests and enjoying the holiday foods.  Everyone commented on how great she looked, but even as I now look back at some of the photos taken that day, I see a hollowness in her expression.

The next morning as we headed to the airport facing 6 or 7hrs of travel to return to Tulsa for chemotherapy, Kate wasn’t feeling well at all.  By the time we got through airport security, she was throwing up and doubled over with intense abdominal pain.  I did my best to stay cool, but I saw my worst nightmare beginning to unfold.  As much as I wanted to get her on the plane and back to the safety of CTCA, a numb reality set in:  There was no way she was going to make the trip with flights and stopovers.  She couldn’t.  We would be forced to deal with the emergent situation here in Pittsburgh.

Kate was transported back to Sewickley Hospital via ambulance.  X-rays showed her bowels were backed up, but all other testing was normal.  She was given something for pain and sent home.  For the next few days we tried to get things moving for her, consulting with her care manager in Tulsa, but by that Sunday she was back in the ER and admitted to the hospital.  I was frantic.  There we were, back with the old doctors and the old medical system we had left to continue our journey at CTCA.

A CT scan showed that Kate had a bowel obstruction of some sort, possibly a side effect from surgery, caused by chronic constipation from chemotherapy and narcotics, or from the metastasized cancer.  By the end of the week we were told she needed surgery.  My heart sank to think that someone other than her gifted surgeon at CTCA would operate on her.

When the time came, the surgery took far longer than I had been told it would and I knew my worst fears had become realized.  In the waiting room I was told that when the doctors had tried to go in through her left side in the usual arthroscopic way, they hit tumor tissue that was “like concrete”.  They found it necessary to re-open her lovely, well healed incision from November and did a bowel bypass.  I cringed at her uncertain future.

Over the next few days, I watched Kate spiraling downwards in the tired old energy of that outmoded institution, an energy that dragged everything down; from the food in the cafeteria, to the morale and focus of the staff, to the efficiency of inter-departmental communications and ultimately, healing.  Even as the surgeon told me how well he thought she was doing and that we could be “back to Tulsa on a commercial airplane in no time”.  I just wasn’t seeing it happening.  I asked myself to be as calm as possible as I wondered what best to do for her.

Meanwhile, the indifferent oncologist we had walked away from three months earlier saw her on rounds in my absence (I got sick from the stress, bad food, and lack of sleep and stayed home for 2 days.) and told Kate to her face she was dying, suggesting she needed to go into hospice.  This she rejected, saying, “That’s one story!”  The doctor told her that it was the “only” story and she continued to disagree.  She knew she had more to do.  I knew I had to get her out of there or she wouldn’t last.

By that point, all I wanted was to snap my fingers and have Kate back in Tulsa, but how?  I was reminded of how my first wife was once transported by air ambulance (an intensive care equipped small jet) 20-something years ago.  I saw Light.  I made calls to inquire about and set up an air ambulance flight, starting with our insurance company.

As I had figured, they refused to pay for the trip, citing “rules” that only allowed transport to the nearest hospital in case of catastrophic accident.  After all, Kate was already in a hospital.  The doctors at Sewickley thought we were crazy for wanting to move a recovering (or was it dying?) woman.  The ones in Tulsa told us they were waiting.  I knew I had to act, but wanted to make sure that I did what was for Kate’s highest good and not just to satisfy my fears.

The air ambulance company quoted me a price for our out-of-pocket trip: $11,300.  I began to shudder and cry, and do again as I write this, not from despair, but from overwhelming gratitude.  What was so astonishing about that number was not its great magnitude, but that it was so familiar.  That is because you, our dear Mesa family and friends had held a fundraiser for Kate on October 2nd, 2012 and later handed us a check for—$11,300.

Kate and I talked about her situation and made a team decision.  We would get her back to Tulsa whatever it took and make our stand there.  Either she would get well enough to walk out of the cancer center there on her own, or there her life would end.  I had had the intuition to hold onto your gift and not spend it to fix our broken furnace or pay off medical bills.  We held a “get out of jail free card” and decided to play it.  On January 17th, 2013 we flew Kate back to CTCA.  I am so grateful to all of you for that miracle and for the resultant lessons of the last four months of her life.

In Tulsa, Kate was stabilized in the hospital and then returned to the guest room with me.  With that her energy began to return, but she was still not out of danger.  With her bowels still not working, she threw up several times a day and was fed by an intravenous pump we carried in a little fanny pack.  Another pump was added to give her a constant flow of narcotics for the pain.  Sadly, new complications began to set in as the days passed.  With each one I’d think, “Oh, no!  We’ve taken a step back down the ladder, but we can still go back up.  Can’t we?”

By mid-February, Kate had progressed enough to see her oncologist again for treatment of the cancer, but he gave us disheartening news.  The chemotherapy Kate had been receiving was not working and the cancer was advancing unabated.  Somehow her pancreatic cancer marker had gone from lower than normal to over 1900 during the month of December.  We tried to understand how that could have happened, but our minds were spinning.

The doctor offered that there was still one more drug to try—“if” Kate wanted to continue to be treated.  We were stunned.  I looked at Kate and saw that for that moment she was contemplating giving up—“pulling the plug” as it were.  We were told that if the IV feeding were stopped, she’d last only a week.  Had she had enough?

Together, we decided to give the new drug a try and see what happened and our odyssey continued.  Through March, Kate endured more misery with remarkable grace, dignity, and humor and came to realize that the journey with cancer was her spiritual path.  I let go of all else to be her advocate, guardian, and round the clock caregiver, including no longer answering email or returning your telephone messages.  Our mail piled up at home.  Bills went unpaid and taxes unfiled.  I had to stay fully present for Kate’s highest good.  Everything else would have to wait.

A drainage tube was put into Kate’s stomach to alleviate the nausea and make her more comfortable.  It emptied into a bag that we stuffed along with the heavy little pumps into a tote bag gifted to us.  This I carried for her most of the time wherever she went, the two of us tethered together by three feet of plastic tubing.  We had to learn to move in absolute unison.

Meanwhile, Kate continued to lose weight and once again, her hair.  One of the hardest things for me was to watch her look at herself in the mirror and cry.  She could no longer recognize her body and her face was changing as well.  Her eyelashes fell out.  This was a lesson in our illusory attachment to our temporary physical form I knew, but a very cruel lesson all the same.

As the weeks rolled by, additional problems emerged; swelling in Kate’s legs and abdomen, loss of red blood cells from the chemo that at one point required her to get six units of blood within eight days, and weird urinary tract problems no one seemed to be able to figure out for nearly a month.  Finally, it was not one of the MD’s but our new Naturopathic doctor who figured it out, not by some lab test, but by reading Kate’s energy and listening—really listening, to our story.  She simply pulled it out of Higher Knowing.

As imaging later confirmed, the delicate condition of Kate’s internal organs had allowed a fistula (an opening between two body systems that are not usually connected) to develop between her gut and urinary tract.  This caused great pain as solid debris came out in her urine and led to a resistant infection.

Pancreatic cancer is a deadly, pernicious thing, and the last chance chemotherapy drug didn’t arrest its progress either.  When complications from the fistula landed her back in a hospital bed at the beginning of April, we were told what we already knew.  Between the toxic effects of the chemotherapy, the cancer metastasis, and months of not being able to eat or digest food, Kate’s bowels were breaking down—just what pancreatic cancer is insidiously famous for.  We were told that nothing could be done to treat her without making things worse, and she had entered a phase they called “active dying”.

To her credit, Kate accepted this as her Path:  To teach others about pancreatic cancer and how to die with dignity without their having to experience it in a physical way themselves.  She would show the way.  I marveled at this amazing level of inner strength, and admired her bravery.  While she was not afraid to die, she was indeed apprehensive about it.  Mostly, she was profoundly sad about leaving me.  She loved life, she loved me, and wanted very much to stay.

One day I came into her hospital room early in the morning and she told me that she had written a poem.  She had watched the sun coming up and words began to form in her mind.  I expressed surprise at this and she good naturedly chided me for doubting her abilities, saying with mock sternness, “I’ve written poems before…”

I was simply not prepared for the simple beauty of the words she shared with me that day.  She had written a poem about her death and rebirth unto Spirit:

When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be part of the ocean, the surf and tide.

When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be part of each flower, in each garden narrow or wide.

When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be a kitten’s purr, a raindrop, a baby perched on someone’s knee.

When I wake up on the other side
I’ll be part you and I’ll be part me.  (Wait and see!)

Kate left the hospital the day before her 54th birthday to return to the guest room with me, and in the five and a half weeks that she lived after that, she continued to dazzle and delight everyone she came into contact with.  We spoke openly about her dying, often to the shock of others.  In the end, many patients, caregivers, and staff thanked us for our frank discussions about her situation, and for our information about the metaphysics and spiritual teachings of incarnation, death, and reincarnation.  It comforted them.

While unable to stop the cancer itself, the energy and higher consciousness work done with Kate at the center through acupuncture, reflexology, Qi-Gong, and the frequent healings I gave Kate mitigated her misery and boosted her life force.  It was weirdly striking that she could be so sick yet so spiritually alive.

Ironically, people still seemed to think Kate was getting better, even when she was nearing death.  She was often told how beautiful and “together” she looked, with some commenting on the fact that she was even sporting makeup.  “She isn’t wearing any at all,” I would tell them.  It was just her natural beauty shining through.

My only explanation for this phenomenon was that people sensed Kate’s Light and could only correlate it with good health.  There were patients not as sick as she that radiated far less.  I told her that her Light had grown so great that her weakened body could no longer contain it and she had to go home.  I reminded her that her work here on earth was wrapping up and she was “graduating”.  She recognized that she would continue her work from the Spirit Side on a higher level.  “I’ll be part of the team from up there”, she told me.

Some of those we encountered stubbornly would not accept that Kate was dying, even staff members.  They would remind us about “the power of hope” and that “miracles happen”.  Some implied that we just needed to pray harder.  We told them that we had been given many miracles on our journey with cancer, but it felt very unlikely that Kate would live.

We began to see the great healing that would occur by her death and came to accept it.  I discussed “death as an option” with other patients and caregivers.  For some their whole lives had revolved around treating the cancer for too long.  They were listening.  Some of the staff rejected the idea outright, saying, “we give them hope when others give up,” but even Kate’s surgeon confided in me that he and his wife had discussed how much treatment they would seek if taken ill.  What is enough?  Humanity needs better answers.

On her birthday, some of Kate’s nephews called her in our guest room and they had touching conversations.  When she got off the phone with one of them, she lamented only half joking, “I guess I have to be dying for those boys to call me.”  Rarely would she have heard from them otherwise.  I remarked that maybe she did indeed have to die in order for some people to “get it” about certain things.  That would be part of her legacy.

Kate suffered greatly through her final ordeal, ultimately losing half her body weight.  She sat for hours getting IV’s, endured great pain, dealt with crushing tedium, and struggled with thoughts of her approaching journey home, but she never lost hope, deep abiding gratitude, or her sense of humor.  She delighted everyone from the cafeteria staff to the doctors and nurses.  Everyone knew her or knew about her.  She was openly loved.

Through her suffering, Kate taught others about the power of love, the benefits of being “real” within relationships, the blessings of knowing and expressing gratitude, and Hozho—walking the beauty way.  We also hoped that through her journey people within our holistic healing community back home would realize that NO ONE has the answer to cancer.  You can’t just juice it, vitamin it, or Rife machine it away.

What I saw was that everyone’s cancer is different and healing from it is still hit or miss no matter what the methodology.  After Kate passed, I met a man with pancreatic cancer who was walking out of CTCA cancer free.  Another had kept colon cancer at bay with natural means for two years, only to have it escape to create a large tumor in his liver.  He had eaten an alkaline diet, used herbs, and sold a car to purchase a Rife machine.  When I left Tulsa he was in the ICU.

The truth is that so many people are so sick from this disease, yet we as a species are not doing enough to solve the riddle.  We’re still too concerned with money, power, and agendas.  I was also aware that many whom cancer had stricken were not learning anything from their journey.  They were just enduring it while still trying to do business as usual.  Cancer doesn’t strike individuals, it affects whole families and communities.  I saw the worst of it each and every day for four solid months.

Kate also recognized that I was being transformed by her journey with cancer during those last four months we spent in Tulsa and spoke of being happy to have made the personal sacrifice for it.  She felt that I was more openly displaying my own inner Light and she was pleased to see that other people besides herself were taking notice of it.  It had always made her mad that people didn’t seem to recognize what she saw in me from the moment we met.

Kate gave me an opportunity that I had always longed for—to be a hero.  I got to be just that, if only for one person.  “You’re my best friend,” she repeatedly told me.  “I couldn’t have done this without you.”  Many others noticed what I was doing for Kate and complimented me on the way I took care of her.  They marveled at our obvious love for each other.  I responded that I was only doing what I felt she or anyone else deserved.  I told them that in my Perfect World, everyone who was sick would have someone to do likewise for them.

We saw that by being highly conscious and staying in the moment we were engaging in the Highest Path and finding the healing that already existed for both of us, even if Kate’s would be in death.  We taught others about energy and consciousness.  I gave healings to other patients, caregivers, and even hospital staff, helping many and developing new techniques.  We both made drawings and beaded jewelry and gave them away in gratitude.

Just three weeks before Kate’s death, we taught the second of two art classes for other patients and caregivers, showing them how to make inspirational Gratitude Cards just as we had done at The Mesa.  We walked together as we had from the day we met, showing others a different way to be by our example.  Our presence left a mark on the cancer center and many spoke of it.

Even though Kate could likely have gone home to Pittsburgh by commercial air when she got out of the hospital in early April, she wanted her end of life to be in Tulsa.  She felt safe, loved, and compassionately cared for there, and was terrified of traveling again.  She also knew it was easier for me to remain there.  It would be complicated to take care of her in her final days at home and she didn’t want to end up in some unfamiliar institution with compassionate strangers.

I told her that the decision was up to her alone and asked her to choose what was right for her; not for me, the doctors, her family, our friends, or anyone else.  She was the first patient at CTCA Tulsa that could have gone home to die but requested to stay.  New plans and policies had to be set in place to do this.  She helped that institution better learn how to deal with end of life patients and in turn we were so graciously and generously accommodated.  I will be ever grateful.

As May began Kate was becoming weaker and somewhat disoriented.  I asked the hospice  nurse to periodically check on her because I wanted her to be safe.  After some mishaps at night when I was asleep, it was decided it was time for Kate to enter the hospital for the last time.  When asked if she was ready to go, Kate simply replied, “No.”  I told her that I would back her up and care for her in the guest room as best as I could for as long as I could, but that I could not watch her every minute.  She then agreed it was time.  When we were reminded that hospice care meant turning off the intravenous feeding, I realized we had stepped through a new door.

No one could have possibly prepared us for Kate’s last week of life.  Even though we had been briefed on what was likely to happen as she came closer to crossing over, witnessing it was shocking, gut wrenching, and intensely human.  Kate did not want to be put to sleep, but instead to die consciously.  She wanted to be able to know that I was with her and say goodbye.

During her last days I drummed and sang for her, and played the Native American flute that she so loved.  She suffered mightily, because she wanted so badly to live and remain on earth with me and because she loved life.  When we met, Kate had been willing to let me go.  After nearly eleven years together, I had to help her leave.

At the very end, I was on my knees next to her bed, holding her hand and stroking her head.  I heard clicking and popping from the walls and furniture—sounds that I had once been told herald the presence of Spirit Beings.  With her last breaths, Kate’s sharp moans changed to what sounded like a clipped, high-pitched, “Bye…bye…bye…”.  I felt her spirit go through me from front to back at the level of my heart and I knew she was gone.  She died within ten minutes of the time of day she was born, leaving this world through the same window of the daily cycle she came in on.

While I miss her terribly just three weeks after her passing, I am understanding more and more about the beauty of Kate’s life and death, and our shared path as Twin Flame Spirits.  In our walk together, we each learned to unconditionally love and be at peace with each other.  Neither of us, however, managed to learn to fully do that with respect to ourselves.  That is now my challenge—to surmount loneliness by loving myself as much as I did Kate and finding a peace within myself.  By my doing so, we will both become healed.

As 2012 has passed, the energies of Creation are now all about crossing over.  Some of us, like my Kate, will do so in a physical way.  For the rest of us, the challenge is to stop admiring the bridges of religion, gurus, healing modalities, crystals, and other 3rd Dimensional go-betweens and cross over to a higher level of spiritual energy and consciousness directly, without leaving our physical bodies.  As a team, Kate and I are on our way to covering both paths.

After Kate passed, I was allowed to stay in our CTCA guest room while her body was cremated.  I will always be grateful this.  It allowed me some time to stay within the compassionate community I had come to love and respect and to just decompress a bit in familiar surroundings.  I’d sit out in the high-ceilinged central hallway and play my flute so that those in the ICU and hospital could hear it.  I wanted to give something back.

The day I picked up her ashes, I took a walk around the trail near the center that I had traveled many times.  I looked at the trees and felt grateful for the local nature that had generously supported and grounded me for the past four months.  I had watched the trees bloom and leaf out, and witnessed the return of the animals and birds.  It had comforted me.

I wanted to leave an offering, but all I had in my pockets were some coins.  I thought for a moment about leaving some, as I have done in a pinch when picking up a feather or such, but it just didn’t seem appropriate.  Then I knew exactly what I wanted to leave.

I went back to our guest room and returned with a spoonful of Kate, knowing that she had come to feel that Tulsa was her last earthly home.  I walked along until I found what seemed like the perfect spot.  I stopped and looked down at my feet and saw something move.  A tiny baby rabbit not three inches long was in the brush in front of me and hopped away.  It was there that I laid that small part of Kate to rest, near that clear symbol of new life.

Not surprisingly, coming home was a total shock to me, the house and The Mesa just resonating with Kate’s energy and crammed full of the things she loved.  (If she loved it, she kept it!)  They were like time capsules, everything just where we had left it four long months and a lifetime ago.  At first I wanted to close off from that energy because she was gone, but I soon understood that I needed to breathe it in, let it envelop me.  I never would have pushed her away.

I am now doing rather OK, finding it hard to believe that it is already three weeks since she changed worlds.  I am still mystified by our Twin Flame Spirit relationship, and what that means now.  Kate never fell into a “why me?” kind of place about her journey and I have not with respect to my loss.  Rather, I was in that place when we first met, not able to get over my extraordinary luck.  I had over ten beautiful years with the other half of my own soul.  How often does that happen?

I recognized after Kate passed that she was never really separate from myself, no matter what she looked like in 3-D.  That was merely illusion.  She has always been part of my essence and I of hers and it will always remain that way.  Although I have not heard from her directly in a literal way, I have been feeling her more and more as something happy that flows through me.  I still miss her physical presence.  She was something!

Right now I am dealing with a lot of 3rd Density stuff that feels painful; making arrangements for the unpaid medical bills, changing ownership of everything to my name alone, informing friends that Kate has passed, and sorting through her personal effects.  I do my best to be present and to maintain a higher consciousness.  It helps me get through each day.  I am taking it all very slowly, just taking inventory of what’s here at home, trying to figure out what to keep and what to divest.  There is a certain freedom in that alone, one that I had given up each day I chose anew to be with my Kate.

I have no idea in the longer run what I’ll do or where I’ll go from here.  I don’t know how or if I’ll keep The Mesa open.  (I am now 5 months behind in the rent…)  I don’t know if I’ll stay in this house or even in Western PA.  I could throw darts at a map, but I feel that Spirit will continue to guide me and the way will be shown.  Why wouldn’t it?

It is my intention to continue Kate’s legacy by telling her story and using what I learned from her journey to help others.  I’ll also be writing more on the Mesa News about what happened for us through her journey and about my own process of readjusting to life without her.  Stay tuned for that… if you like. 

I want to deeply thank all of you who sent love, prayed for us, held space, sent healing energy, donated money to help with living and unpaid medical expenses, sent cards, or gifts.

 I am especially grateful to:

  • The group of “Clan Mothers” who drove 1,000 miles and 18hrs out to Tulsa to celebrate Kate’s “Rebirthday” with us.
    Those who looked after our house, our Mesa, and our cat, Sedona, not knowing when we’d return.
  • Our friend and spiritual anchor, Nance, who I’ve spoken with at least once a day for the last ten months for helping us with staying grounded and keeping things in the highest spiritual perspective.
  • The institutions and practitioners who have seen fit to forgive medical bills not paid by Kate’s insurance so that I can start my new journey with only a mound instead of a mountain of debt.
  • The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Southwestern Regional Medical Center (CTCA Tulsa) for their enormous generosity, kindness, and compassion.
  • The dedicated medical professionals who cared for my dear Kate so gently and lovingly, especially Dr. Janet Cheek, Acupuncturist Teri Applegate, Dr. Judith Boice ND, Massage Therapist Daren Hines, Karen Nevener RN, Dr. Pierre Grieff, the many nurses of CTCA Tulsa, and the many other patients and caregivers who shared their stories, tears and laughter with us.

Bless you all.

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