From my family, I also gained a foundation in alternative healing methods. We rarely went to doctors, preferring home remedies or our local acupuncturist. Starting in my teens, my mother and I attended conferences with numerous authorities in the field of energy healing, and I first began a serious study in my early twenties, developing a thorough understanding of the chakras, a facility with kinesthetic muscle-testing, and experience releasing energy blockages in a client’s system. What really grabbed my attention, however, was the mind-body connection—the way in which unique thoughts and emotions affected specific parts of the body. When the body malfunctioned, what was occurring emotionally to induce it to choose that particular manifestation of illness? And how could that information be used to heal oneself without any sort of external intervention at all? In other words, how could we become our own healers? Given the number of illnesses I continually experienced, I gained plenty of practice!
At the same time, I also began learning how to apply symbolic analysis to one’s life as a whole. Many of our experiences are simply reflections of what we believe about ourselves and the world, and so what did a car accident represent? Or a betrayal, or a public humiliation? A seemingly random loss? How were these things part of a pattern of experiences repeating throughout one’s life, and how, by changing ourselves, could we change the pattern? This remains a profound topic of interest for me and is, in fact, the foundation of the work that I do now.
Despite having decided not to pursue a career in any sort of metaphysical work, I kept studying. I couldn’t seem to help it – When something went sideways in someone’s life, I loved trying to figure out why! In time, I was able to accurately determine what was occurring with someone emotionally just by looking at what had gone awry with them physically, or by what had gone wrong in their lives. I became better at guessing key facets of someone’s astrological makeup after a few conversations with them. I continued to dabble in energy healing, occasionally doing energy work on friends and family members if they asked, or reading tarot cards or palms for friends or at charity events. As is typically the case with spiritual practitioners, at least at the start, I was considerably better at figuring out why things were a mess for other people than for myself – despite my continuing studies, I was still living a very small life devoid of risk and fulfillment and was thoroughly attached to my victim mentality. Still, over time, I began to successfully work with my own ailments. Headaches, chronic knee pain and weakness, allergies, colds, flu, acne, and a lifetime of sinus infections vanished as I began to analyze what I felt and make the decision to feel differently. My nearsightedness corrected to the point that I no longer needed my contacts. An eating disorder that had consumed my twenties gradually healed and vanished, and my body began to change – I was thinner and stronger than I had been in my entire life, and I even started looking younger! I slept well and had tons of energy. Because so many of my beliefs about my relative worthiness were linked to my physical appearance—a generational pattern propagated by both sides of my family—, the better I looked, the better I felt about myself, and for the first time in my life, I began to experience genuine confidence.
I will never forget the chilling cold in the pit of my stomach when I went to one of my books on animal wisdom—the only resources I had at the time, as I’d not yet learned how to do my own analyses—and read that Bat indicated that a time of transformation through trauma was coming. I could sense that it was true, but I didn’t understand how. Sure, I knew that my “safe” life was terribly unfulfilling, but it just didn’t seem that important in the face of the fact that, for the first time ever, I felt pretty! I’d yearned to be beautiful my entire life, because I thought that meant love from others would be guaranteed, and that no one would ever abandon me! It wasn’t so much a fear of being lonely that made this so critical as a lack of belief in myself; I honestly did not believe I had what it took to support myself, and abandonment literally meant I might find myself starving on the street. And now here I was, looking lovelier than I ever imagined, which must mean that I was assured love and safety! What could I possibly have to transform?
Just about everything, as it turned out. For one, despite the turmoil and pain of my youth, I lacked basic maturity. I had never actually been forced to develop faith in myself, nor genuine strength of will, a consequence of keeping my needs small and relying upon others to meet them. I also, though I would have told you otherwise at the time, did not truly understand what made people tick. I had an academic grasp of emotions and their links to behavior, but not an experiential one—I’d never experienced for myself the kind of pain, terror, rage, grief, sadness, hopelessness, and obsession that makes or breaks a human being. My understanding of what it meant to “listen to one’s heart” or one’s “Higher Self” was also thoroughly flawed. What I had thought were heart-decisions had actually been purely analytical ones based in what I thought a “spiritual” person should do. I’d only been skimming the surface of spiritual understanding and spiritual living, and the time had come for me to go deeper.
The trauma that Bat presaged is beyond the scope of this writing (though you can read a detailed account in my book Animal Totems and Spirit Guides: The Wisdom of Snake), but it tore me apart. In a mere handful of months, I went from being the healthiest and happiest I had ever been, to a wrecked shell of a human being. I put on thirty-five pounds in a matter of weeks despite no change in my diet or exercise routine, developed paralyzing social anxiety, and experienced non-stop panic attacks. Every Waking Moment of my life, I was terrified. At one point, I was convinced that I was possessed by a demon (an idea unfortunately encouraged by a decidedly neurotic psychic). I could no longer drive, could not sleep, and was constantly at the mercy of my body and mind, which had become hostile environments in every possible way. Because I could not seem to heal myself no matter what I did, I went to doctors, yogis, psychics, shamans, holistic chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and priests. I chanted and changed my diet and did affirmations and yoga Every Single Day without fail for over a year. I had an exorcism performed at the urging of another healer who was also certain I was possessed. I meditated and prayed and smudged and hung up mirrors against the evil eye and begged for release. I tried singing bowls and Bach Flower Remedies, herbs, oils, drumming, screaming, dancing, and painting. I read book after book on healing. I contacted a curse-breaker I’d found Online (fortunately, the Divine yelled at me so loudly about this that I hung up before maxing out my credit card on what, had I been healthy, I would have known instantly was a con). I spent every penny we had, pawned all of my gold and silver jewelry save my wedding and engagement rings and took us even more deeply into debt, and all for nothing. Doctors pronounced me “just stressed” when test after test showed nothing physically awry. Shamans told me I was cursed, psychics told me I was the victim of psychic attack, one holistic chiropractor told me that my own body was attacking me (he was right, but he couldn’t understand why or how to fix it), yogis told me I was simply “being stubborn”, and one young man I knew who gave me the creeps—but who was so insistent upon his expertise that I listened anyway—told me that I was reaping the consequences of an evil past life. It is the measure of how far I had fallen that I believed him, and fell even deeper.
They were long, dark years. I tried once to escape via suicide, only to Hear—as though God Itself whispered in my ear at the last possible second,—"If you quit now, you're just going to have to do this again in your next lifetime. You chose this experience for a reason. You can make it. Hang in there.” I did the math. If I had to live like this for the next sixty, seventy years (fewer, if I was lucky!), that felt far better than having to start from scratch! So I decided to live with it. Maybe I’d never feel safe again. Maybe the mental and physical anguish would never stop. But maybe I could find some way to find a grain of happiness here and there after all.
To truly heal, we have to feel. I had read that over and over again in my studies, and I’d never understood it. I’d never been a creature of feeling; in my family, we didn’t feel our feelings, we examined them, and then decided whether or not to have them (at least, this was what I believed. Many years later, I came to understand what emotional creatures my family members actually were, and it was only the public veneer I had witnessed and accepted as fact).
I had no idea what I was doing at first. What did it mean to actually feel in ways that lead to healing? Over time, and with considerable trial and error, I figured it out, and with years of practice, I became quite good at it. Bat, Bear, Raven, Red-Tailed Hawk, Snake, and dozens of other Visitors arrived as I grew and pointed to areas of myself that required love, acceptance, and deeper exploration. They did not “fix” me, nor were they often very vocal, but with considerable study, I began to understand what their presence meant, and onto what areas of Self I needed to shine a lantern of Awareness and Acceptance and start feeling. The more I felt, the more relief I gained. The panic attacks that had ruled my every waking moment for three solid years abated within a few months and were completely gone within a year. The physical symptoms took considerably longer, but they, too, eventually surrendered. For the first time in my life, I began to actually hear my Heart, and a loving Silence took the place of the maddened tyrant that had been living in my brain. I began to move through my life on instinct, with greater and greater success, rather than fretting about every decision and winding up making the “safe” choice. I began to know happiness, and to enjoy the experience of being courageous and getting outside my comfort zone. Endless possibilities arose. I became financially successful for the first time in my life. I found pride and confidence in who I Was, and not how I looked.
In short, I fell in love with life. Even when things were stressful, or when “bad” things happened, I knew there was a purpose, and if I felt the related emotions instead of fighting them, I’d wind up where I was supposed to be. I was no longer a victim, but a Power in my own life, working in tandem with the Universe to fulfill my purpose in ways that brought me joy. It is such a different way of thinking and being when compared to the person I was before my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual Unraveling, that if Old Me were to meet Present Me, Old Me would not recognize herself.
My books, videos, and other media are the sum of everything I’ve studied, everything I’ve experienced, everything I’ve explored and healed within myself, and all of my work helping a world full of fellow-travelers understand and heal themselves, and connect with the Truth of Who They Are.
Thank you so very much for supporting me in doing what I love and what I am here to do, both in the generosity of your financial gifts, and with the warm encouragement and positive feedback I receive every day in your comments and reviews. Too, thank you for laughing with me! It is an honor and a joy to grow and explore with you, and to celebrate this strange and magical journey that we share.
It seems that no matter how long I do this work, I am still freshly jarred when I talk with a new client and hear them tell me what they believe about me and day-to-day life. People who assist us in our spiritual journeys tend to be subject to quite a bit of New Age idealization, and we do ourselves a considerable disservice when we compare ourselves to these illusory standards. To grow, we need to allow ourselves to freely be who WE are, with all of our unique quirks and drives and desires, rather than squeezing ourselves in to a mythical—and limiting!!—box of spiritual acceptability. Too, nothing will kick your legs out from under you like watching your beloved guru fall off the pedestal on which you’ve placed them (or, to be fair, on which they’ve placed themselves) and go completely splat! It’s hard to trust anyone enough after that to let them inspire you to be sufficiently courageous to grow. For this reason, transparency is a critical part of my work. It’s important to me that you know that I am just as human as you are, that I am still learning and evolving and sometimes get off-track—especially when I get sucked into listening to the old perfectionist that still lurks in the back of my brain—, and that my lifestyle, while fiercely spiritual, does not actually LOOK the way a lot of us were initially taught to believe that a spiritual lifestyle should. I discovered a long time ago that the more I lived in the way that was truly authentic to ME, the healthier, happier, and more effortlessly intuitive I became. Compare this to when I was trying to be the “perfect” New Age vegetarian, yoga-practitioner, meditator, chanter, etc. ad infinitum, during which time I was an anxious wreck, ill and not particularly happy, and made most of my decisions based on fear rather than true gut-sense.
So here are a few things about the Real Me:
3. I am a certified Spin/Indoor Cycling instructor and teach several weekly classes at my gym (Go Team, go!). I also take power weight-lifting classes. I enjoy yoga, but it’s not part of my regular routine these days other than the stretching I do after my cardio and weight-training workouts. My body finds its Zen when my heart is beating so hard I can barely breathe.
5. I play the Irish harp (also called Celtic or Folk Harp) and have been a lifelong lover of Celtic music, which doesn’t surprise most people who meet me. The fact that the other half of my heart belongs to 90’s Alternative Rock usually does. I still have a stack of Seether and Breaking Benjamin CDs in my car that get regular play. I’ve sang lead in a Gospel choir, and I’ve acted as the informal cantor (the one who leads the singing in Jewish religious services) for Jewish inmates in federal prison, when I sang primarily in Hebrew.
6. I curse. A lot. But I also really love sophisticated words and the way they roll off the tongue, so my cursing style could best be described as “Educated Sailor.” I believe that cursing is a perfectly acceptable way of helping us process our more intense emotions, but I ALSO believe that we can be sensitive to the others in our environment without sacrificing our own voice. I curse when I am by myself or with others who are comfortable with salty language, and I use less abrasive terms when I am with those whom I consider friends but whose language preferences are milder. I consider this an act of love and respect, not censorship.
8. I have two tattoos, one on my left forearm and another on my right shoulder. I had the shoulder-tattoo done at the time that I did as part of an ill-conceived plan to annoy a relative (I was in my young twenties, and it felt like a brilliant idea!), and it backfired terribly. I love the tattoo, but the relative I’d intended to irritate didn’t notice it at all, while my other relatives were furious with me. Grandma gave me a smack on the freshly inked flesh that I can still feel to this day when I think about it! The tattoo on my forearm was poorly done and is in the process of being covered up after I grew exhausted with the removal process. It was my first truly visceral lesson in trusting my gut; I’d not liked the artist one bit, but had been so obsessed with getting the tattoo done that I just told myself it would be fine. Nope!
10. My favorite movie is “My Cousin Vinny”, tied with “We Bought a Zoo”, and my favorite authors are Juliet Marillier, Lee Ann Moriarty, and Christopher Moore.