Reflections From My True Self

Remembering Who I Really Am


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A Gateway

There is a pain wedged beneath my ribs, radiating like heat into the rest of my body. My heart rests on it. Together, they make a formidable weight.

I want to banish the pain. Obliterate it. Erase it.

All of my energy turns towards it, intense and focused. The rest of me is left feeling tired, weak, drained.

I drag myself around. Then I remember this is also a gateway, this pain. It is a gateway into discovering, as I have so many times before, only to promptly forget anew, that there is no separation between that pain and me. There is no me versus it.

I pass through the gateway, armed with all of my “going on an adventure” gear, including my curiosity. And the pain begins softening, dissolving into my tissue.

And my heart, it is floating free.

Photo credit: Kevin Tuck at RGBstock.com

Photo credit: Kevin Tuck at RGBstock.com


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Self-betrayal

Self-betrayal is the ways that I turn my back on my Self and refuse to honor Who I Am.

It is when I don’t wait for clarity, but jump into things because that feels easier, more comfortable. It is saying “yes” when I already know I can’t follow through or don’t want to with my full Self. It is also saying “no” because yes means peering into dark corners of my Self.

Self-betrayal is turning away from the nibbling of knowledge at the edge of my consciousness because turning towards it means seeing, right behind it, a cavernous black hole that threatens to suck me in.  It is setting a course and following it, regardless of the signs along the way that direct me to go a different direction.

Most of all, Self-betrayal is allowing my heart to be padded, protected, numbed even  to those I hold dear.

Ease, comfort, oblivion… they tempt me away from honoring my Self.

I breathe deep, I straighten my back and lift my chin. In the spirit of the Reiki Principles, I tell myself: Just for today… I will align myself with the highest energy of my Self, and look where I fear, feel what I would not risk, know what is present, and honor my Self in each moment.

Photo Credit:Lars Sundström

Photo Credit:Lars Sundström


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Hiking, Then and Now

When I was growing up, my father often took my sister and me, and sometimes friends — of his, or ours— on beautiful hikes of varying length, through the green patchwork of the Colombian mountainside and its cloud forest.  Occasionally, there was a defined path to follow. Most often, there was a starting point and a destination (a lake, a mountaintop, or a town), and, if we were lucky, the remnants of the ancient native paths or a few scattered cobblestones and the sporadic boundary stone remaining from the colonial caminos de herradura, built for pack mules.

We would be up with the sun and drive to our starting point, carrying some water and a picnic lunch, and we’d set off in the general direction of our destination. We never knew how long it would take to arrive, or where we could end up if we strayed from our course. I remember many times when asked for directions from a campesino tending his fields or feeding her hens. More often than not, especially if we were heading in the direction of a town, they would point us towards the highway, where we could catch an inter-municipal bus that could take us quickly. More often than not, they would chuckle at our foolish obstinacy for wanting to go the long, “old way,” through the fields and forests.

We had no cell phones in those distant days of last century. No way of letting anyone know where we were, or, more importantly, no way to contact anyone if we needed help. We didn’t know CPR or wilderness first aid, and I am pretty sure our first aid kit consisted of my dad’s Swiss Army Knife. There was little certainty regarding our hikes, other than that we would eventually arrive, somewhere, and that the journey would be beautiful.

The potential dangers we could encounter never stopped us —not even when we had to slither, single-file, along a fallen tree trunk to cross from one bank of a river to the other (with a couple of babies in tow, that time).  The uncertainties were simply part of the experience. We hiked in rain, through mud, and under sweltering heat. And, surprisingly, we never did have a situation where we needed help we couldn’t get!

Today, when I think back —especially since I have had kids of my own— I think of all the things that could have happened, all the dangers we could have encountered and lost to. Nowadays, I take gentle walks along wide gravel paths with a wide shoulder of mowed grass on either side, keeping the wilderness out of arm’s reach.  I travel with my cell phone and follow carefully placed, colored trail markers at each junction. Today, I check the weather before I set out.

No wonder, then, that I feel a captive of caution. No wonder that I seek certainties in all that I do, on the trails and in the quiet of my sacred space. It is time to reclaim the sense of adventure of my childhood hikes. More importantly, it is time to exercise the unseen powers of orientation and intuition.  It’s time to see past what danger could appear, set aside fear —or invite it along, as a passenger, not as a leader.  It is time to remember why it is we took those back roads, instead of the convenience of the highway: for the gifts unfolding out of that unique experience, for the excitement of the unknown and the beauty in the landscape, for the company and the satisfaction of testing ourselves, and for the stories we could tell once we arrived, before we slept the deep, untroubled sleep that renewed our sweetly tired bodies. For those same reasons, and in order to reclaim my Self, I must stand at this starting point and set my direction for a destination I may reach, eventually, sometime.

Typical Colombian landscape on a rainy day. Photo by Pedro Szekely on Flickr.com

Colombian landscape on a rainy day. Photo by Pedro Szekely on Flickr.com


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Falling Apart

When I was a child and showed a tendency to pout, my father would say to me, “Pull yourself together!” or “Don’t feel sorry for yourself.” And, of course, that serves me well when I need to focus my attention on creating the experiences I choose to have.

I did not know it, initially, but it is what I have been doing for a couple of days, since I had a small traffic accident that left me shaken and scared, but grateful that the physical damage was only to the cars. I did take a moment, before driving away, to breathe and ground my scattered, rattled energy, but still, all the way home, and through the subsequent days, I battled a heavy energy of exhaustion. And a sense that my strength might momentarily fail me and I might crumple in a heap, all of a sudden. Every small sound startled me, and left me frazzled, as if my son had played his trumpet in my ear.

All this time, I had been pulling myself together, without making a conscious choice, without checking in with what my needs were. But today, that effort seemed monumental, and my energy, weak and diluted. There was a lump in my throat that felt like a fixture there, I swallowed around it.

Today, finally, I was touched by inspiration and I headed for the bathroom to run the hot water. I undressed slowly, as if my clothes were layers of experience, energies that I was shedding. I felt fragile, like I could shatter, as short fragments of the accident came back to me. I found my face damp with tears.

In the shower, sobs arose from my chest and my thoughts turned from the vehicles to my body, to my children, and all the uncertainties I hold at once. The water, my tears, the steam seemed to steep the heavy energy off of me, my muscles felt firmer, my legs reliable again, my stance more stable.

As I toweled off, I shrugged at the thought that I still have to deal with the insurance, with repairs, that nothing had really changed.  And yet, allowing myself this space of release, where I could feel the stark truth of my mortality and recognize the strain of holding myself up; gifting myself with a space to fall apart, to be with what is within me, left me with a cleansing emptiness that maybe, perhaps, could potentially become a renewed awareness of solidity and strength.

Sometimes the wisdom is not in pulling myself together, sometimes the wisdom is in allowing myself to fall apart.

Broken Glass by Brano Hudak on RGBstock.com

Photo by Brano Hudak on RGBstock.com


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Dignity

I recently heard a fascinating podcast interview of John Lewis by Krista Tippett, where he mentions how showing feelings and true emotions can be perceived as weakness in this culture, and how saying “I love you” can sometimes feel so difficult. As a fan of  Bené Brown and her work on shame, I would say that touching into true emotions makes us feel vulnerable.

In the dunes by Lake Michigan, two children, young, unguarded, allow themselves unmeasured pleasure, dragging their feet in the sand and crowing at the trail they make. Now they thread, at top speed, through the still-bare shrubs at the edge of the sand hills, whipping branches behind them. I catch myself thinking I want to play that way, too, but such full-hearted enjoyment would be unseemly in an adult, if anyone were watching.

A person I care deeply for shared a confidence with me, because she felt safe doing so. She is smart, educated, worldly, and her dignity in the eyes of her peers is a matter of great importance to her. She confided that she trusted the wrong people and wound up losing considerable sums of money. The weight of this loss, for her, is doubled by the fear she carries of anyone knowing, of being judged foolish, unworthy of respect.

When I think of her, even in spite of what occurred, I do not find her unworthy. Dignity is not about appropriate behavior, about not taking risks or making mistakes. Right now, I feel it is about soul, about recognizing humanity (my own, as well as hers). I think of dignity as the ability to look up, around, even when fear would hide my eyes. It is standing with clarity and courage, after tripping along the path, or watching another falter alongside me.

There is a photograph my talented great-aunt, Hermi Friedmann, took some 60 or so years ago, of a Colombian peasant woman, perhaps of African ancestry, sitting in front of a large pile of pineapples. Her head  is wrapped in a scarf, her fingers work-worn, holding a cigarette to her aged face. She looks weary, and strong. She is the picture of dignity and beauty. (A copy of this photograph can be found here.)

It is in the recognition of our humanity, our timeless strengths as well as our wrenching weaknesses, in allowing ourselves vulnerability and self-acceptance, that old, wounding patterns can come loose and be released, and new, heartening opportunities opened.

Today, I will run in the sand.

I don’t have a copy of the photograph she took, so here is picture of Hermi Friedmann, in her own, full dignity.

I don’t have a copy of the photograph she took, to share with you, so here is a picture of Hermi Friedmann, in her own, full dignity.


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Mortality

Golondrina has been struggling with her growing awareness of mortality. My mortality, to be precise. She is full of foreboding, warning me on almost every night that she has a “bad feeling that something is going to happen” to me. She told me once that she hopes she will die right after I do, because no one will hug her tight, in quite the way I do, after I die. I hugged her tight when she said that.

I also asked her to go inside herself and discover what Truth lies there. But I know this is the fear that blinds, and that my own, adult access to Truth is often obscured.

I tried to speak to Golondrina of my understanding of death as transformation. I told her again of my experience accompanying my Oma in her crossing: the weak, but chaotic energy before, and also the peace of it, after. Golondrina spoke to her own Grandma, who got started on that journey and then turned back.

But none of that matters to Golondrina, of course. She is concerned only with this physical form.

And I can make her no promises that change will stop its relentless course.

The only comfort I can give her is to hug her tight and whisper in her ear, “It’s a good thing I can hold you now!”

She smiles — wanly, but she smiles—  and turns to go back to her bed.

Photo credit: ©Bies at RGBstock.com

Photo credit: ©Bies at RGBstock.com


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What If

What if we all woke up one day, any day, today, and believed that a stage curtain had been drawn over night between the past and the present, and this was a new chance to choose right action? What would it be like, if I walked out in awareness that I see the light in others, and in myself; and knowing that everyone I run into sees it, too? What if I expected every slight to be born from misunderstanding, knowing I have nothing to defend, and entered every conflict prepared to listen deeply, my heart open? What if everyone around me did the same?  What if we all accepted our Self, and what if we all felt accepted, safe to be present where we are, who we are? What if we knew ourselves whole, instead of fractured, and saw the wholeness in each other? What if kindness and tenderness were the first emotions we experienced when we interacted with each other?

What if I let myself live this way, as if it were true….?

©Agnes Scholiers (TouTouke) atRGBStock.com

©Agnes Scholiers (TouTouke) atRGBStock.com