Embracing Abundant Life
Walking along Main St toward the coffee shop, I felt the magical sweetness in the air and saw the glittering lake before me. I felt light, and the world was promising. I was drawn to the pure blue sky and I was an eagle, majestic and free. No bars, no cages, and in this moment, there were no parameters. So far from captivity, so far.
I settled into my chair and set my coffee on the wooden table at Salto Coffee Works. I breathed and reveled in the Americana/Folk music coming out of the speaker above me. I felt the freedom in my bones, the freedom I have worked so hard to attain, have been so brave to pursue.
But freedom from captivity does not fall easily into my lap. I pursue my freedom fiercely, running from captivity- screaming at it, rejecting it, embracing it. I give up and revel in its comfort and safety for a moment. And then, I get up and put on each piece of my armor carefully and intentionally. I prepare for battle. Who are my enemies? The voices, the words, the people that warn me of the dangers and failures of releasing all that I am captive to, the tears and loneliness I may encounter. But still, I cannot live with the alternative- a life of captivity, living a life meant for someone else, not me.
We are all captive to something, a failing relationship, a job, old beliefs, a worn-out identity, our children, our parents, a location or a loss of a loved one. Anytime we feel we are in one place but are drawn to another, we are being held captive and life loses its flow.
Captive to Grief
I didn’t begin to understand captivity until I lost Chloe. But slowly and subtly, it was as if the door to an ornate cage was unlocked and I walked in. I didn’t know I was in there at first, but I needed to be there. I lay on the floor of the cage in deep collapse and wept with little space for breathing. The cage kept me alive and safe. It was strangely comforting. But gradually I lifted my head and looked around. As I gained strength, the comfort faded and I began to feel imprisoned, confined. I shook the cage and screamed to get out, but, instead of being rescued I heard a voice that said, “you have the key.”
As the fog of my grief began lifting, I was feeling the pain, even sharper now. I clutched to “all things Chloe.” Her possessions, her room, pictures, baby clothes and toys. Her books, her clothes, her blanket, the house, her dog, scraps of paper, poorly knitted scarves and pillows with threads hanging out, her journals, hats, her piano, her car. Clutching and gripping as if I were holding her. I rolled her soft gray blanket up as tightly as I could and climbed up on a rock that sat high above the forest. I held that blanket and felt myself holding her. And I wept, and a bird sang beside me.
I sat for days with her journals, moving even closer to her than I had ever been before. Knowing her, who she was, who she is. I started moving toward her and away from her “things.” In my move toward her, where she was and who she was now, I kept getting tripped up by her material possessions, the places she had been, the house that she lived in with us. I realized I was living in captivity, holding on to these things as if they were Chloe herself. I started being aware of myself and the movements of my heart, my feelings and emotions. I learned about the places that held darkness and the places that held light. I knew, in order to release myself into the light, I had to let go of the darkness. I had to stop re-writing history and telling myself that if only I still had her as a child or a teen that life would be better and I would be happy.
And so, we made the decision to give her piano away and move out of the house. A move out of captivity into freedom. But that particular freedom didn’t come without tears and physical exhaustion. But freedom? Oh, it came. I no longer walked into her room and felt the descending dark cloud. Her belongings were packed up and placed in a little room in the garage. I saved a few things to hold, the orange beads she had made, her little posable cat that often mysteriously changed position, a few items of clothing and a few pictures sitting around.
But they are not Chloe, they are just things. I began spending more time pursuing my relationship and love for Chloe. I live in the present with her, not the past. I release her to do her work and I do mine. Sometimes we sit together and I talk to her about the future, my hopes, my dreams. Tears are a natural part of my life but I am no longer captive to my grief. I embrace freedom and allow joy.
If freedom is so desirable, why do we often remain in captivity? Why is movement in a “life-giving” direction so difficult? Two words encompass this entire experience- FEAR and COMFORT. I’m speaking as an expert here. I am the Queen of Fear. Fear, especially rears its head with the thought of moving out of my comfort zone. I resist it as a cat resists a bath. Neale Donald Walsch says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
The tigers circle around me and voices fill my head,
“that might not be safe”
“you might get lost or sick”
“people won’t agree with you”
“you won’t be the same person you were, your identity will change”
“you’ll have to find a new tribe”
“someone might get hurt”
“your experience is too tragic, you can’t leave this pain behind”
“you won’t have any money”
I have had to confront all of these fears in my life, from releasing a friendship, letting my children go, new jobs, moving on from old beliefs that just didn’t work anymore, and the loneliness that comes with moving and leaving your tribe.
I am quite adept at entertaining thoughts of loss instead of anticipating joy and freedom. It all begins in my mind- the stories I tell myself. That is where the shift into freedom begins. It is necessary to create a new story, a new expectation and vision. My husband often says, “you get what you expect.” It is simple, but powerful and if you are close to him you will hear it often. On different occasions, when my children have left home, I have seen him place his hand on their heart and say, “you have everything you need right inside you.”
In the end, we all know what to do to release ourselves from captivity, we know where our heart is leading. Trust in the divine Spirit that lives in and around you.
“Every day is divine. If you seek the sacred treasure you will find it.”
Lailah Gifty Akita
Loss Through Death
I woke up this, Mother's Day morning, and checked in with my heart. It was light and somewhat sparkly as I was anticipating some family time at the local coffee shop. I was surprised that I was not a pile of tears, thinking about the absence of Chloe on this day, but I was also filled with gratitude.
The sun was radiant and the sky was blue. I grabbed a blanket and a water bottle and headed to the woods to spend a little time with Chloe. I got settled in and closed my eyes, letting the sun warm my face. I felt peaceful, but also missing Chloe. I didn't feel the ache and the tears were surprisingly far away today. After talking to her a little, I began my meditation and visualization to bring her into my space. I invited her to be with me and saw her walking down the lane and up the hill to sit beside me. I sat in this silent exchange of existing together and sharing deep love.
The Sacred Ritual of Connection
This sacred ritual is something I have learned to do over the years and brings Chloe from that "far-away, over-there" place to the close, "right-here" place. It also keeps me in the present, in the relationship that exists now. Photographs and memories often propel me into the past, but being present in spirit is that place where I am able to be in the "now." This is a powerful way for those who have lost loved ones to move absence to presence, which heals the heart.
Loss Through Abuse, Neglect, Disrespect or Abandonment
Death, however, is only one face of the loss of Mother's Day. This day can be painful for many other reasons- being estranged from adult children, having a mother with whom a child did not share a warm relationship, abuse, neglect, disrespect or abandonment. It is often necessary to have a professional help to work through the many layers of pain, but there are other ways you can move through painful days and holidays. Distraction and busyness are always options, and helpful at times, but generally temporary. The loss of Mother's Day, in any form, often requires us to get out of our heads and into our spirits and physical bodies.
Meditation, Visualization and Connection
Our mothers or children exist in our own energy fields, whether they are alive or have transitioned into spirit. I like to think of it as a spider web (stay with me). We do not all exist in our own, isolated web, but are connected in one. When we shift our thinking from being separate, to being connected, it is easier to understand how close we all are and how we can continue to be together and to heal distressing relationships. While it has been one of the most healing experiences in death, for me, it is also possible to meet that living parent or child through meditating, and visualizing the love that you want to share. This seemed like a reach for me at first, but when I started working with it, I found it to be powerful. I had an intuitive sense about what I needed and then a book or two found its way into my path and it lined up with what I was experiencing. I found the most crucial part was, not that I could change my circumstances or loss, but that I could transform the condition of my heart in relationship to my loss. That is what creates healing.
The more I saw this working, I wondered if it applied to other separations such as physical distance from a loved one who is living. One time my daughter, Hope, was out of the country and I had a strong need to make contact with her, but I wasn't sure if she had phone service or if she was just electing to go off the grid. I did a brief meditation of stating my intention to make contact with her. At night she came in a dream and I could feel her presence. The next day I was getting ready for work and was hoping to just get myself to work on time, let alone have time to escape into meditation, visualization, energy fields and spider webs. So I said a quick, "Hey Chloe, could you have Hope contact me?" Within five minutes I heard the ding of my phone and looked down to read a message from Hope. I began to see that both of my daughters were a part of the same, expansive field and we always have access to each other through our connection in that field. This connection is possible because we are all spiritual beings whether on the physical or spiritual plane .
By now you are either eager to make this happen in your life, thinking you might table it for later, or just chucking it altogether. Any response is understandable. If you do feel this would provide you some healing and connection with the loves in your life, I'll give you a brief description of how I work with this. You can adapt it according to your specific needs and beliefs.
Connecting On The Spiritual Plane
Connecting On The Physical Plane