In my decades of work as a healer, I’ve heard and held many people’s stories.
They’re confidential, so you won’t see them in this blog.
Here are some tales, poems and jottings from my own soul’s unfolding.
May they serve to spark yours.
Their themes often overlap in the arenas of Relationship, Sexuality, Tantra, Spiritual Practice, Gender Equality, Womanhood/Sisterhood/Motherhood, Creative Expression, and other juicy depths.
In my decades of work as a healer, I’ve heard and held many people’s stories.
Thanks to my long nap, it seemed a magically short flight, followed by a very fast taxi ride with a typically speedy Israeli driver. He wanted me to know that his city, Tel Aviv, could offer more of modern life than I could find in New York or Toronto. His voluble ‘pride of place’ was easy to accept, accompanied as it was by his kindness – to me and to the pedestrian he almost hit.
In no time, we were in front of the stone apartment building where my friend’s late parents had lived for many years, and her warm welcome gathered me in.
The apartment, white-walled and angular, made me think of Greece. It was flooded with light from windows in every direction, and there were 2 large roof-top patios off ‘my’ bedroom from which I would view some everyday life in the city. But not for long, that day.
Within a couple of hours, we were off for the first of many long walks in this country that vibrates underfoot. My friend had listened well when I spoke about wanting to ‘walk the land’ as much as we could.
To get to our starting point, it was first a bone-jangling ride on a city bus driven by another speeder. I learned quickly to hold on.
This first evening found us hiking miles along the beach from Tel Aviv, with it’s high-rising bustle, to the adjoining ancient city of Jaffa, in the light of a glorious Mediterranean sunset. Wonderful that the entire stretch of beach has been preserved as public property.
Night had fallen as we walked into Jaffa, where by-laws prohibit building high or disrespecting the old-style architecture. Close to the water, some crumbling ancient walls awaiting renewal were adorned with the striking works of gifted graffiti artists, showing the beauty and the brokenness side by side. (If this blog site allows, I’ll post a couple of photos.)
Hungry and tired from the salty wind, we walked up the cobbled streets to the trendy Jaffa night life, buzzing even on a Monday night. Wine, exquisite salad, and as promised, the best hummus in the world.
Regarding the hint I gave at the end of part 2 in this saga, my time between arriving at the airport and boarding the plane turned out to be the most difficult.
I’ll tell you about it later.
First things needn’t always come first in the telling, especially when so many sweet moments outweigh the shadow.
I can tell you that by the time I was ensconced in my aisle seat and the plane was in the air, the stress of the previous few hours was alleviated by a very decent vegetarian meal, and my drop into a healing sleep that lasted for 8 hours.
I booked an excursion of only 11 days, due to the needs of my family and of people with whom I work as a counsellor and healer. With a minimum of 36 hours on each end for traveling and adjusting – (high sensitivity doesn’t diminish with age) – it meant there would be about 8 days for a ‘taste’ of Israel in the month of February.
There were many choices and decisions to be made, given the limited time and the vastness of history, multiplicity, and vibrancy I’d be encountering. Floods of suggestions came my way from friends, family, and community about must-see’s must-do’s, and must-be-prepared-for’s. Among the practical ones I’m grateful to have heeded are the need for good walking shoes, layers of clothing for all kinds of weather, and fleece-y things to wear indoors in residences with no central heating.
With basic comforts planned for, including anticipating the magnificent fresh food that everyone spoke about and that proved to be even more delicious than expected, I turned my attention to other areas of preparation.
I plowed through more than half of the 1000-plus page book The Source by James Michener – a crash course in the sometimes brutally warring history of the peoples who hungered for holy land and power over it through suppressing other peoples.
I studied and practiced some common Hebrew phrases. The most useful ones turned out to be the translations of ‘I don’t speak Hebrew. Do you speak English?’ Many if not most Israelis can get by in English.
I drank in the support of close loved ones who were cheering me on in this adventure – my first husband’s abiding friendship and encouragement; a long-standing and well-traveled woman friend’s help with lists and the loan of a great neck pillow for the plane; my newly pregnant daughter-in-law’s astute question that enabled me to name my highest priority of ‘walking the land’; my son’s phone call that I received on the way to the airport, with his lively good wishes, spiced by our usual unique banter that makes me laugh.
There were loving wishes from friends in every corner, another sign that this venture was a good plan.
One more important supporter must be acknowledged. My life partner of 15 years committed wholeheartedly to taking over some of my responsibilities while I was away, so I felt his hand on my back. He also gave me a bit of his wonderful ‘fathering’. Because we met in our fifties, there hasn’t been much of that swapping of positive parenting that can be part of good, young intimacies. In the approach to this trip, I came to understand how he had supported all three of his daughters to become independent and intrepid world travellers.
His support was a huge boon, that is, until we got to the airport.
It all started in the 1950’s with my childhood in a Jewish family on the Canadian prairies. The Nazi atrocities of WWII had affected my family, as they had many Jews world-wide, with grief, fear, and determination to prevent anything like that happening again. The founding and flourishing of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland was seen as the essential route to safety.
In my younger years, my main connection to Israel was my love for singing and dancing to the Hebrew folk music that had spread to my home continent. It was another version of the musicality of the Hebrew language that I came to love through prayer.
As adolescence brought both expanded understanding and some questioning of family values, I found myself reluctant to embrace what I saw as the polarizing danger of Israel’s extreme nationalist zeal. I understood the felt necessity, given the history of persecution and current-day threats, but I had little desire to travel there and feel the wash of that toughness. By my late teens, when most North American Jews of my generation were eager to travel to Eretz Yisrael, I declined. It was partly due to this reluctance, and partly because of my high sensitivity to over-stimulation that any substantial journey, but especially this one, was sure to stir. Besides, life was full and busy with other endeavours.
It has been said about life that ‘the days are long but the years are short’, and so I find myself in my 69th. year, on the verge of becoming a grandmother, strangely compelled to set foot on Israeli soil. As the mystery would have it, the timing was right for me to finally accept the offer of an Israeli-born friend to be my ‘tour-guide’.
There’s so much to be learned by including consciousness of the inner landscape in the ‘walk of life’.
I’d been under a wave, a blanket, an inner oppressor since I woke this morning. First was fatigue from having slept poorly. It didn’t lift when I got up and moved into my day.
Had to drag myself to do what needed to be done.
Irritable. Angry at being slowed down by my body. Not wanting to get sick. Feeling/fearing that I WAS getting sick.
Dull of mind.
Blue of spirit.
I know this place.
It’s been years since it was chronic, thanks to the learning and practicing of a variety of healing tools. Couldn’t seem to remember any of them as I trudged through my day.
Barely an appetite for dinner.
Fortunately, my home-made veggie soup from a few days ago was available.
After soup and some connection with my beloved, the pall
lifted and some insights came through.
(Oh, I should say that a couple of hours earlier, the physical portion of this malaise lifted after I did a couple of healing herb shots – some echinacea drops in a bit of water and some zinc-based throat spray.)
The pall that lifted over dinner was the deadened, depressed, hopelessness.
It occurred to me that this, back in my theatre-school days, was what we used to call the post-performance blues.
Yesterday, my partner and I performed some music with several other enthusiastic members of our ‘alternative’ synagogue.
It was fun, uplifting, and demanding in the arena of ‘being seen’, which is always a mixed blessing for me and my odd mix of introversion with occasional extroverted spurts – these days usually in the service of making music.
Here’s the NEW LEARNING about all of that.
In the ‘giving presence’ that singing and leading prayers/chants in a public forum requires, I’m ‘out there’. Not exactly out of touch with my inner self – I need lots of awareness of breathing; projecting; remembering Hebrew words; tuning in to the rabbi, fellow musicians, the congregation. What had been out of consciousness is that I must also make space to care for some of my extra needs as a high-empath healer while leading/performing. That is, in any community setting, whether I’m overtly offering leadership or not, I tend to be a sponge for people’s unexpressed feelings/issues’/needs. I see them, hear them, feel them even when they’re not spoken to me, and frequently they are. I’ve assumed a false separation from my ‘performer’ and my ‘healer’. I’m now thinking that the openness required to lead liturgical music opens everything further, including the empathic channel. Without awareness of that, and the tools I can use to take care of myself, I got swamped yesterday.
Finally, I had a big cry that released grief, stress, loneliness, and other pains I’d picked up from my fellow-travellers.
Back in my own place of balance, it was a sweet evening and promises to be a good sleep tonight.
Moving my body is often the easiest route to lifting my spirits, so it’s good when I remember to turn to my second longest-standing spiritual practice of Tai Chi. (For a wee bit of my history with this practice, you can skip to the second part of this blog post, titled My History with Tai Chi .)Today, it helped me clear and heal some pain that was lodged in my emotional body.
I was doing Tai Chi as sunset was approaching. With a slightly stiff left shoulder from some bursitis or something that set in about 8 years ago, I felt grateful for this gentle physical movement that can be done even with a measure of physical limitation. A mild twinge in my shoulder reminded me of when pain arrived in that joint. It was shortly after the sudden, early death of my brother when he was 61 and I was 58.
Not to oversimplify things to causation or anything, that shoulder pain was so intense during the weeks after my brother’s death that it frequently brought me to tears. Those tears in turn brought me several times to feeling and releasing my grief over the loss of him – my sweet, smart, funny bro. I had complacently assumed we’d have some twilight years with less busy-ness in our far apart daily lives, and more reunions.
Sometimes physical pain can connect us to the emotional variety, and therefore a chance to care for ourselves in more ways than one.
Sometimes it’s a spiritual practice that opens the floodgates. Like today.
I had a big cry while doing the part of the Tai Chi form called ‘white crane cooling it’s wings’. It was a release of pent up emotion, mostly grief, that had been sitting in my chest. I tend to have (and hold) strong empathic responses to an overload of the news about so much pain and fear in the world. Closer to home, a beloved friend is suffering unbearably from a degenerative illness.
A good cry is a good thing, for me and for many.
It’s rare for Tai Chi to open me to tears. Usually, it quietly returns me to the simple healing of deeper breathing. Today it was the catalyst for my cry that took the edge off my anxious, irritable demeanor that had been driving my day.
My History with Tai Chi
I have a passion for radical spirituality that welcomes the mixing and sharing of more than one tradition. Tai Chi is the second practice that became meaningful to me, back in my early twenties.
The form I know is from the ‘Huang’ school as my teacher, Al Huang, jokingly called it. He was trained from childhood in more than one classical Chinese school of Tai Chi Chuan. As a visiting teacher in dance and choreography in York University’s Fine Arts program in the early ‘70’s, he taught classes in Tai Chi for my cohort of performing art students, distilling the essence of the movements into beautiful dance. I loved it. Some of the form I learned those many decades ago has remained with me, flowing in and out of my life as meditation, dance, and exercise.
Years before the resolution of enough fear of, reluctance toward, and aversion for ‘religion’ had been achieved to allow me to directly turn toward the spiritual, especially in community, I could always do some Tai Chi on my own. It never failed to deepen my breathing and quickly reduce anxiety. I could practice non-religiously – the only way I would practice then. No institution demanding that I show up and do it on anyone else’s schedule. Just me in my body.
Sometimes years would pass with no practice. Every return was a joyful new beginning with a friendly old body-memory. Here in the 7th. decade of my life it is movement I can usually do with ease and with consciousness of where my body needs attention.
Thank you to Al Huang, to his protégé Jay Goldfarb, and to the centuries of Taoist teachers and practitioners who stand behind them!
One piece of good news in my life is that
I have a very loving home.
I share it with two men.
In various combinations, we have
shared time and space as well as
separate space and time.
One man is my first husband of 39 years.
He is also my second longest ‘bestie’,
next to the woman
who became my first best friend
when we were both 13.
The other man is my partner.
Twelve years ago we met and have been
a tantric partnership
that is a foundation of
love/trust/spiritual growth for both of us.
There is much beauty and light for me
in both of these relationships.
There are also many learning moments
that are triggered
by what’s not so pretty and enlightened
in us and between us.
I’m referring to Garden Variety (and uniquely individual)
Shadow Material that goes with being human.
I would say that many if not most
have to grapple with (or ignore) this stuff.
More on that later in this blog.
That is, more on the story of how
self-responsibility for Shadow Material
led to a swift
return to LOVE.
Also, probably more later on
how I came to live with my two guys.