To free ourselves from fear, we must first throw out all the trash we hold down in the basement of our unconscious. Fear is synonymous with trash in the system. Our minds and our emotions are polluted by beliefs and conditionings based on distorted images from the past. Free yourself from the past, and you will no longer have fear.”
Sri Prem Baba
WARNING: Salt within.
My tagline is “Follow your FEEL GOOD” and I sure do love to celebrate things that feel good! Peonies in bloom! Partially compliant teenagers! Elephants in the wild! Fresh clean rivers flowing! There is so much to celebrate each day. Annnnnd, like it or not, the fire of life is not playing– she is here to motherfucking forge us.
Looking back over the past 10 years, like me, I suspect you can already see the gifts of past “horrors” in your own life. The authority figure that kicked your ass but, ultimately helped you dig deeper. The diagnosis that made you slow down and get clear. The divorce or break-up that set you free. The grief that opened your heart so you see how desperately you needed to play again.
I believe it is THESE seemingly terrible (or painful, grief laden, terrifying…etc) experiences/circumstances which provide our greatest opportunities to FEEL GOOD. As my friend Suzi’s wise friend Helen says darkly, “We never learn in the good times.”
The trouble is when our snout is upon one of these overwhelming mother lodes of fear…it can be tempting to want to FUCK EVERYTHING AND RUN (F-E-A-R) and slip (on a banana peel) into victimhood. Let me share a recent story from my own life that reminded me how important it is to take a good long Jacuzzi SOAK in what scares me most.
My prayer was: I want to live fearlessly. To be in a state of constant trustful surrender. I was so excited. How amazing will my life be without fear? Then, as the shaman lit the candles to launch the ceremony, I began to resist.
Instead of a blissfully healing and joyful experience (what I wanted!), I was suddenly made viscerally aware of all the horrible suffering in the world…the terribly painful experiences that others were going through- friends, family, strangers. I wanted it to end. I did not want to experience the pain of others…it felt awful. I saw my BFF experiencing deep sorrow. My son. Strangers. I thought to myself as it was all happening: THIS is hell on earth. Uggh….MAKE IT STOP…PLEASE… is all I could think. I got a big fat taste of suffering and misery. It lasted for a few hours but felt like years.
As the official ceremony came to a close, I slowly recovered from that painful experience and, at first, I felt incredibly lucky to be alive and to hear the birds sing. That was the first gift. Being alive was wonderful…but I was still upset. Why did this happen to me?
I wanted to be mad at the shaman who led the ceremony: why did she let this happen to me? WTF? Why me? Maybe it was my fault? Did I have the wrong intention? Then, I felt shame. Other people in the ceremony had different experiences…some fearful…others sad and some joyful. So, clearly I wasn’t the only one suffering but, I felt abandoned and separate. Had I been forsaken by my spirits…God?
I was supposed to stay an additional evening for a second ceremony, but (banana peel) I decided to leave (despite nudges from my own soul to stay…”What do you have to lose..it could be good?”) Then, once home and still feeling confused, I called a friend and healer I trust and explained the horrible thing that happened to me.
My friend says to me, “Sarah do you realize what a big prayer you made? To remove all fear? They (God the spirits, the Creator) could have made you a quadriplegic or something even more challenging …instead they gave you a teeny tiny pink Baskin-Robbins spoon sized taste? What a gift you have been given…..I encourage you to DIVE into this fear..this suffering. Wring every last drop of wisdom from this teaching! It’s just been a few days…take at least a full moon cycle with this.”
Kaweah’s words helped me shift from “why me?” [VICTIM] into “YES—I’m ready and willing!!” [HERO, back on her horse]. I knew she was dead right. This victim mentality was getting me nowhere fast. So grateful her..this amazing medicine woman.
In the following week, as I became willing to dive head first into that fear/suffering, I asked my helping spirits (Alice the elephant and company) for help. They gave me an assignment.
I was to go to my hometown’s version of skid row..a few streets and avenues where, over the years, I have seen people who appear to be struggling mightily. Some are as high as kites and staggering..others look like they have been beaten/neglected…some seem mentally ill and shouting to nobody in particular, and some are arguing viciously with others.
Whenever I see these beings I feel bad. I wish they weren’t suffering. Why are we not helping them? I wish I could fix this. My heart aches. I feel helpless to change things. We donate to several organizations locally who serve this population and this helps, but it hasn’t resolved this fear and discomfort.
Once I arrived at the location, Alice enthused, I was supposed to tell each person I met, “Hello, I am feeling lucky to be ALIVE (so true!) and I want to share this gift with you”. I would then hand them a lucky red chinese envelope with a ten dollar bill in it. The spirits told me that they would bless both the envelopes and the money.
I withdrew 500.00 from my business account in 10’s and stuffed the envelopes. I parked my car near the Union Gospel Mission- a wonderful organization serving thousands of meals a year to the most needy in our city and got out. Immediately I saw a group of six people standing out on the sidewalk near the entrance to a parking structure…some sitting and some leaning on the handrail. As I approached, I hoped they would accept me…I realized I was entering their space and wanted to be respectful.
I approached the first man, a tall and older black gentleman wearing a bowler and windbreaker and handed him the envelope after explaining myself. He looked at me and opened the envelope and then said, “God Bless you!” with a big grin. I then moved to a younger woman, seated on the ground and handed her an envelope.
As I did the first guy approached me and said “Can I hug you?” Sure I said! As I was hugging him- it was nice- he smelled like whiskey, but it was a warm and wonderful hug! Then he withdrew, reexamined me and said, “What a beautiful smile you have! God bless you!” I felt like I had been welcomed in a way I have never been welcomed before. Then I continued passing out the envelopes one by one. Then, behind me, the first guy began asking to hug each of the other people. It was like they were familiar with another – but nobody had actually hugged before.
Pretty soon, with Michael Jackson playing Thriller on the nearby boom box, it was just a big old hugging party going on…they were hugging each other and I was hugging them. We were all smiling at each other. The sun was shining. Then the younger woman stood up and said directly to me in a soft voice, “You know my mom died yesterday”. “Oh my gosh, I said, I am so sorry,” I said and we embraced for a long while. I was suddenly aware of a whole other level of poignancy to this moment.
Then she shared, “It’s OK…I know she’s in a better place…but it hurts. A lot actually. Today, right before you came over, I was telling my friend here, ‘I think she’s going to give me a sign today’ and then here you came…I believe YOU are that sign so thank you.”
I left them with tears in my eyes and my heart bursting. Head-shaking-strangely magical. I thanked the spirits, smiled and kept going.
I walked a few more blocks and drove a few more places and encountered many more wonderful people. All of them welcomed me..and nobody turned away to avoid me or ignore me (as I had looked away from them) as I worried they might. I received may smiles, handshakes and loving looks. I don’t ever remember hearing “God bless you” so many times in a single day.
It was pure unadulterated love that I received.
For me, I really can’t think of a more mind-blowing, heart-opening, fear vaccinating experience than this one. I am so grateful for my spirits and for my friends and for the original terrible, awful no good ceremony that made all of this possible. I still have envelopes left..ready to hand out.
So if it doesn’t feel good right now…at all, I invite you to dive into your deepest suffering and ask what it is trying to teach you.
Swim in that jacuzzi of suffering.
You could journey to your helping spirits (if you already know how!) and ask them to help you dive in.
Or simply sit in prayer and ask for ideas on how you could marinate in it more deeply?
You could ask somebody you trust for help.
Much love, Sarah