Archive for April, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid to Go to Hell

Friday, April 18th, 2014

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”   Flannery O’Connor

“Recovery lies not in the other person – no matter how much we believe it does, it lies in ourselves”…Melody Beattie

Hello my friends,

I would like to take this moment to thank you for sticking with me these last few years during some of the most trying times of my life.  It is such a privilege to share my story with all of you.  I hope that as I work through my story it helps you work through yours.  For I know that everybody has a story.

During these years, I have hit rock bottom, more than once.  I have seen what it looks like inside an MRI machine, an Alanon meeting, an empty bottle of wine, self-help books, an unfulfilled dream, and my brain; some of it not so pretty, but all of it necessary.

It is necessary, because I would not be where I am today.  Although it took me almost a decade to get here, I am truly grateful for every minute of it; the good, the bad and the ugly.  And boy was there ugly.  The bills we couldn’t pay, the house we lost, cancer, job loss, late night fights and mournful mornings after.  But I learned just as much, if not more, from the ugly times as I did the good times.  Without those painful times, without the visits to the “swamplands of my soul” I would have never had the insight and courage to change myself and my life.  It was Aeschylus over 2500 years ago that observed, “through suffering we come to wisdom.”

All of our lives are full of ups and downs.  There are times with and times without.  There is tragedy and there is joy.  There are moments you never want to visit again, moments you wish you could do over, and moments you wish you could do over and over again.

Some of it is out of your control, it just happens.  You are enjoying your life, and “Whammo,” it hits you hard when you least expect it.  But some of it has been bubbling underneath the surface for years, in the dark recesses of your soul and you know it. You try to avoid it, anesthetize it, and run from it, but no matter how hard you try or how fast you run, you will be pulled down at one time or another.  It is inevitable.  No amount of denial, numbing, over-working or over-sexing will keep you from these visits.

And, why would you want to avoid them in the first place?  Because, and I promise you, it is in these dark places that you will find the light.  It is in these moments that you will discover not only yourself but you will discover true meaning; the meaning behind your depression, the guilt, the anger, loneliness or fear that has brought you here in the first place.   And, once you understand the meaning, your life will be enriched in ways you did not know possible.

But, it may take some time.  For we need to repeat patterns over and over again before we get it.  It sucks but it’s true.  The upside of all of this, when we can finally see the pattern, when we truly get it, we can stop it.  And once we stop it, we will then have the courage to re-imagine, re-create and re-invent ourselves.

For it is the wound and the desire to heal that enlarges us, that pushes us to finally take action and make the changes necessary.  And, it is that beautiful inner voice of yours; that gut feeling, your soul’s craving that will keep you going.  Yes, it’s scary.  But remember, fear and anxiety mean growth; depression, regression.

My desire to heal and live the best life I can possibly live has enlarged me in so many ways.  I have learned to set boundaries.  I have learned to say “yes” when I mean “yes” and “no” when I mean “no.”  I have learned how to stop the pain, accept what is and let go.  I have learned self expression instead of self-repression and my hopes are now grounded in reality instead of false wishes.  I follow my bliss.  I listen to my gut.  I accept uncertainty.  I accept my faults.  I accept myself.  And, when I am angry, I let people know.  When I am sad, I cry.  And, when I am happy, I laugh.  I am no longer silent.  I am no longer deaf.  And, when I stumble, I stumble with my eyes wide open.

So do not run from the swamplands my friends.  Do not resist.  Again, what you resist; persists.  Go through; all the way to the bottom if you must, but go.  As Carl Jung so beautifully describes,” The dread and resistance which every natural human being experiences when it comes to delving too deeply into himself is, at bottom, the fear of the journey to Hades.”  But I promise, you cannot understand heaven, if you have not been to hell.

All my love,


Thinking and Feeling are Over Rated

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Morro Bay

I haven’t written a blog in two months.  I simply could not get myself to take a closer look at anything except a flower, my quinoa salad or the Santiago Oaks that line the path on my daily hike.  Writing a blog requires a lot of thinking and feeling.  I was tired of thinking and feeling.  It was interfering with my life.

So I decided to see and do instead.

According to Karen Mazaen Miller, author and Zen Buddhist Priest, “When you get sick and tired of what you think and feel, then you can pay attention to what you see and do.”  I came across her quote while scrolling through Facebook.  It is based on the teachings of the famous 13th century Zen master, Dogen Zenji.  And, it is called enlightenment.

Have you ever looked at a bowl of quinoa?  I mean really looked at it.  It’s like eating a bowl full of tiny planet Saturn’s.   Or, how about a Cholla cactus?  The spikes are almost invisible at its sharpest point.  Then there are my cat’s whiskers.  Almost like a Cholla cactus spike but embedded in her cheek, absolutely extraordinary.

No, I am not on drugs.  I guess you could say I am experiencing enlightenment and it is awesome.

Enlightenment is defined differently depending on who you ask.  Kant explains it as “a man’s emergence from his self imposed nonage.  Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.”  In Buddhism, enlightenment is when you discover the truth about life.  For Dogen Zenji, it is paying attention to what we see and do, without falling victim to what we think and how we feel.  It is being in the moment.  There is no yesterday, no tomorrow.  There is just now.  Like enjoying the warm sun on your back while watering the flowers, savoring the bitter flavor of kale mixed with garlic and sweet cranberries, or noticing cat’s whiskers.  It is simply a way of being.  So simple, yet not.

None of these explanations of enlightenment are right or wrong, or better or worse.  They just are.  The moment I finally got this, the moment I truly understood this with every fiber of my being, something shifted in me so profound that I was changed forever.  I was transformed.  Transformation is a deep, fundamental change, altering the very nature of something.  It is the bringing forth a new way of being.  I have found a new way of being.

By the way, some transformation takes years, some happen in one miraculous moment.

Like the day I quit smoking 27 years ago.  I was a sophomore at The University of Arizona.  I lived on the 5th floor of the Coronado dorm.  I was returning from class when I noticed the elevator was packed with students, so I decided to take the stairs.  By the time I reached the 3rd floor I could not breathe.  Huffing and puffing, my heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest.  I was only 20 years old.

“That’s it,” I told myself.  And it was.  I quit smoking.

I quit smoking because I got it.  I quit letting my thoughts and feelings run my life because I got it!  I quit my marriage because, well, I finally got it!

These miraculous moments don’t just happen a few times in one’s life.  They happen all the time.  Some hit you like a lightening bolt, some like a quiet drop of dew.  Some take years, some only a minute.  But all matter.  All of it.  Like the first time I kissed a boy, sang into a microphone, and gazed into my newborn’s eyes.  Or the day I got my rejection letter from Brain Child Magazine, was diagnosed with cancer and got the call that my dad was in the hospital.

Please do not be intimidated by words like enlightenment and transformation for they are just words describing a state of being.  And, these states of being are not limited to only a few special people.  They are for everyone.  That includes you and me.

So, what have I been doing since my last transformation?

I have been seeing and doing, of course!

I went on a road trip up the coast with Maggie, threw a big Birthday/housewarming party in our new backyard, took a quick trip to Phoenix to help my Mom while my Dad was in the hospital, found myself in another MRI machine and went to our annual home school camping trip to Anza Borrego.  Now I am getting ready for my Grand Canyon hike while working on my book and making career plans for the fall.  Maggie will be going to Orange County High School of the Arts.  She was accepted into the Creative Writing Conservatory.  My days of homeschooling will be behind me forever as a new world of possibilities open up ahead.

Anza Borrego

And, my writing?  It will continue.  For I realize that it was not my writing that was interfering with living.  No, it was me.  I am the only one that can do that.  I was letting my feelings and thoughts take over.  I forgot to stop and smell the roses.  Cliche, I know, but so true.

By the way, while writing this blog, I was reminded that writing IS living.  I got it!

Until next time my friends.  Now go live!