Sunday, June 17, 2007
“The body is a sacred garment.”
Consciousness is eternal; it is not vanquished with the
destruction of the temporary body.—Bhagavad-Gita
Sometimes we are gifted with extraordinary experiences that rattle our cage. Often, in the midst of the episode, we lack understanding about why our cage needs to be rattled, and how we should respond. But, retrospective contemplation allows us to understand that strange experiences provide opportunities to review, adjust or expand our belief systems. Through the years, I’ve been a compassionate listener for many kindred souls seeking to share their story with an authentic other, who might understand their unusual anecdote, without lengthy explanations or justifications. Often, these stories center around out-of-body experiences.
Sometimes the ‘experiencer’ was pronounced dead, in a hospital, home or ambulance setting. Sometimes, they were very ill. What is interesting is that the individual may or may not have believed in the possibility of out-of-body (OBE) experiences. Yet, it didn’t seem to matter; the experience happened anyway. While there are many points of view regarding these occurrences, ranging from the misfiring of neurons, to theories involving religion or mysticism, I find the debate uninteresting and sometimes disempowering of those familiar with OBE’s. Instead, I want to know how the experience changed them. Of course, my interest is grounded in the fact that I, too, have had an out-of-body experience, offered here—not to convince anyone about anything, but rather to encourage an empowering image that we are not these bodies…we are Soul
UCLA, senior year, immediately after finals, prior to physical challenge…many years ago.
A close friend whose school utilized a different system (quarters vs. semesters), was still taking classes in Santa Barbara, California. My new husband was busy working on his doctoral studies, and I needed a break; so I took off alone for a visit with my friend. The visit should have been uneventful; but I had kept late hours during finals, and that, combined with the fast food routine of students, and the stress of my finals, contributed to a depressed immune system. To make matters worse, at the beginning of my visit, I was exposed to someone who was in the contagious stage of the flu.
Where does the phrase, “sick as a dog” originate, and what does it convey? When dogs are sick, are they sicker than human beings? Is there something unique about the way their sickness manifests? Do they display a specific type of behavior replicated by humans who are sick past a certain point? Whatever the answer to these questions, the phrase is an accepted practice for conveying a high level of sickness and misery.
The morning after my exposure to the person with the flu, I awoke feeling tired and weak. My friend was concerned, but had to attend her classes, so I climbed into her bed for a nap. By afternoon, I was fighting body aches, extreme fatigue, fever and malaise. By evening, I had a full blown case of the flu, and I was “sick as a dog.”
My compassionate friend allowed me to remain in her bed, while she carried on with her schedule. When possible, she did everything she could to help me feel better; but, it seemed clear that I had to go through the experience of the flu. Most of the time, she was busy on campus, so my companions were fever , chills, body aches, and the sound of my own moaning. My activities consisted of: eating, sleeping, attending to bodily functions, and meditating. Meditation was my attempt to circumvent the misery and transcend the pain from body aches.
After a day of dancing with my flu companion, I awoke from a feverish nap, and sat up to meditate. I leaned my back against the wall for support, and began a practice that had become part of my daily routine. Everything seemed ordinary enough…until I opened my eyes…
The experience may have been that of opening my eyes, but clearly, the eyes that opened were not my physical eyes. “I” was looking down at my own body in a seated position, resting on the bed, with “my” back propped against the wall. The first thought that occurred was, “Am I dead,?” which was followed by other thoughts, perspectives, moments of non-thought and pure experience. I do not recall how long these moments lasted, because time seemed non-existent. Then, a type of panic set in, and in an instant, I was whisked back into my body. I opened my eyes again, and noticed a more “normal” perspective.
The experience rattled my cage, and I am forever grateful. It changed my life, my perspective, my mind. Never again would I feel comfortable with conventional thinking about the body; and, although I am far from perfect, and am subject to normal human fears and lesser states of consciousness, some part of me understands that this sacred body is a temporary abode, inhabited by a consciousness that is restricted by our beliefs about who we are.
I do not advocate seeking experiences of this type; nor do I believe that everyone requires the exact same phenomena to learn about consciousness. I do believe that each individual receives the necessary experiences designed perfectly for the growth of that particular soul, and that the journey is never-ending. There are many ways for us to reach the same conclusion: that we are more than the body. These may include: intellectual reasoning, hypnagogic experiences, physical trauma, spiritual and religious practices, and others. However we arrive at this knowingness, the implications are far-reaching. For example, some years later, after becoming physically challenged, when I started down the road toward believing that I was a victim, mindfulness about my OBE returned. Somehow, that incident from my earlier life, suggested that there is a greater plan, a greater part of me; and perhaps that part is untouched by the dramas that unfold physically. Perhaps that part is interestedly watching and collecting the experiences, whether through pain, suffering, or joy, learning as it negotiates whatever befalls the physical organism. No matter what the outcome or conclusions, what an interesting thought to pursue!
“Beyond appearances, I rest triumphantly in my affiliation with the Divine, knowing that all is being orchestrated for my Highest Good.”--Carmen Freeman, Wellness Manifesto
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worth our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit”.Contemplate your life! What themes emerge from your memories, and what guidance do they offer now, at this stage of your existence? How might those themes assist you in creating a well lived life, despite apparent challenges? What do you know about yourself because of their presence, and how do they support your life purpose?
--E. E. Cummings
What if everything, everything, is a blessing…
Ten years old. Los Angeles. My family is engaged in a modern day family feud with neighbors, based upon a perception of something I had supposedly done. Months later I discovered that I was accused of ridiculing a physical characteristic of the female child of the family. The moment I finally learned the source of the anger directed toward me as a child, was the same moment that I began learning valuable lessons about perception, it’s illusory nature, and how perception colors the reality in which we live, and the stories we create. Often those stories are lacking in truth, and are based on viewpoints about things that never really happened, much like the end result of the children’s game of “telephone,” which dramatically shifts from the original words.
You see, what had really happened was different from what was perceived. I remember walking home from school with a group of friends, barely participating in the conversation because I was deeply contemplating something. At the time, my heroes were Joan of Arc and Florence Nightingale, and I was musing about how I was going to save people by caring for them. But I was deeply disturbed about my neighbor, because I observed people making fun of her malformed legs. I remember thinking that perhaps I should consider becoming a doctor, so that I could help her and others like her; and I suddenly made that announcement out loud to my non-suspecting friends. I don’t remember the details about what happened next, but apparently my neighbor was walking behind us—and she must have misunderstood, or my friends unexpectedly turned and looked at her, or something of that nature.
The next morning, and for months on end, life was different for me, as I endured being called names, being spat at, cursed, and defending myself against the neighbors’ dog. I endured all of this without the slightest communication about what I had done…for months, at ten years old.
But I hold no ill will for the undeserved negative responses I endured, as they set the stage for one of the defining moments for a theme of my life, which is: we are more than the body.
I was the “sensitive child” of the family. Every family has one. In those days, it meant that I was considered the “weak one.” But whether I was weak or strong, in common everyday terms, each day was a traumatic experience, because of the strange and misunderstood behaviors directed against me, and all of the resulting emotion had to surface somewhere.
It surfaced in a disfiguring skin condition, starting with a dry rash, and progressing to the form of “runny sores,” covering a large portion of my little body. The family pediatrician never definitively diagnosed the source of the strange disfigurement. Instead, my mother was instructed to purchase packs of plaster made from oats, which she religiously mixed up and applied when I returned from school each day. At home, within the walls of love and care, I felt safe.
School, however, was a different matter. Within the confines of the schoolyard, I was treated as somewhat of a “leper.” The usual elementary games involved touching, holding hands, playing tag and the like; and I watched daily as the kids who were standing nearest to me refused to touch me, except for a couple of friends who understood that I was not contagious. Often, the teacher entered the game and became the designated hand-holder, so that we could get on with it. Without belaboring facts and details, let’s just say that it was a painful time.
My response to being the confirmed school “ugly duckling” was: a) read voraciously, and b) write. I also practiced the violin for hours each day. I found that the creative outlets allowed me to build a world into which I could escape the pain of the experience. This resulted in some benefits that I could use to my advantage. First, I devoured and memorized many fairytales and fables. Secondly, I developed the ability to write creatively, poetically. I was fortunate enough to have some compassionate teachers who appreciated my potential, and who attempted to create new avenues for class participation for the one they perceived as somewhat ostracized.
I received kudos for the poetry I wrote, and other writings; and was often asked to read them to the class. I also became known for the little stories I had memorized, and sometimes was asked to share a story with the class after “clean-up time.” I reveled in the recognition, and accepted praise for creating beauty via writing, voice and music.
And this was the very thing that created the conflict that led to an experience of revelation.
My teachers, and the enjoyment of the class for my gifts revealed a part of my essence to me—the fact that I could create beauty. That beauty was my saving grace, my source of worth, my anchor through troubled times; and, some of the most profound praise came from the teacher that all the kids considered to be the most beautiful teacher in the entire school. So, it was resolved; I could create beauty.
But how could one considered so ugly, so untouchable, create beauty? Was the one who was ugly also beautiful? Weren’t they opposing concepts? My ten-year-old mind struggled to make sense of the paradox.
One day, after a particularly painful day (which usually involved negative experiences with boy classmates, who were particularly cruel), I spent an extended time in the bathroom, feeling sorry for myself. With teary eyes, I climbed up onto the stool to look at myself in the medicine cabinet mirror. I could see that I was ugly. In fact, I didn’t blame the other kids for not wanting to touch me. But this idea of being able to create beauty also surfaced, urging me to inquire beyond the superficial. So, as strange as it seems for a ten-year-old mind, I began to look deeply into my own eyes and asked,
“Who are you?”
I became aware of the feeling that there were two of me: one who was ugly, and one who created beauty. It was not an intellectual experience. No one in elementary school, in the early 60’s was asking 'the question' or deeply seeking to know themselves. Circumstances alone had brought me here.
As I earnestly continued to stare into my own eyes, seeking answers, I experienced something that may only be described as a sense of separation (in adult terms). I was flooded with feelings and sensations that I could not articulate, followed by a great clarity, and I gradually realized that the real me was looking out through the eyes staring back at me, and it was encased in the body that was considered ugly . The real me was the creator of beauty, had worth, was bigger than the body. The body was the thing that was unattractive, but I was somewhere else, something else. Even as a child, this took me to a mystical place within myself—an understanding that I dared not share with even trusted adults, that we are more than the body. Later, I realized that this was an elementary encounter with my own soul.
This experience aroused my curiosity about what appeared to be the multi-layered nature of human beings. It awakened a knowingness that there is more taking place in life than mundane bodily existence, and initiated a quest to “know thyself.” It also set the stage for my later work, empowering people who are differently-abled with the understanding that physical challenge is an experience we may be having, but it is not who we are.
What do you tell yourself about your challenge(s)?
Sunday, March 18, 2007
in order to know itself,
And those pieces are us;
And we all decided and agreed that each one would
acquire distinct experiences in the world,
and deliver those experiences back to the Whole, when called.
What if physical challenge is one of those many experiences.
What if, in spite of what we go through,
because of what we go through,
the most elevating and the most disheartening events
create the very circumstances required,
to break us wide open,
so that we encounter our own Beauty.
Monday, February 26, 2007
"The marvelous richness of human experience would lose
something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome…”
--Helen KellerEveryone is challenged by something.
One may have abundant financial wealth, but terrible relationships; or wonderful relationships, but a lack of resources. One may be challenged by gluttony, or looks, intelligence, or confidence; or perhaps one has the appearance of “having it all,” while housing some deep, dark, paralyzing secret.
Perhaps God, in Its infinite wisdom, has created a formula to be used in the perfection of our souls:
Human Birth = Challenge.
So what is challenge? It all depends upon who is looking, the belief system being embraced, and the scope of the individual’s perspective. To someone who believes their world to be defined by their current challenge, life might be perceived as an insurmountable experience. I refer to these ones as possessing the “Five Feet Away” perspective. But, from five feet away, one’s perspective is limited at best. These blessed souls often believe themselves to be the experience, and therein, often they embody the consciousness of victim.
I’ve been there. Over, done, next…!
Then there’s the “Fifty Feet Away” perspective. From here, we can see a little more; we’re slightly removed from the belief that we are our current experience. From fifty feet away, we are opening to the possibility of the law of cause and effect, or at least allowing for a Great Mystery operating in the lives of human beings. From this position, we progress to an almost Pollyannaish, oversimplified state of mentally viewing challenge as simply something to be overcome.
I’ve been here, too; and it was blessing in that, from this perspective, there were so many opportunities to learn about the Self. Partaking of the opportunities, we make mistakes. Mistakes turn into lessons learned. Lessons learned create gratitude (for having learned through our mistakes), and an awareness that perhaps it’s time to move on, to entertain a larger study about who we are and what we’re experiencing.
The “Five Hundred Feet Away” perspective is the beginning of another world, a different state of consciousness. From this viewpoint, we commence seeing rudimentary interactions between events, chosen actions, and other souls. Acknowledgment of the “Law of Cause and Effect” begins to emerge—simply because one begins to see and understand the “dance of actual and possible choices and variables.” From here, perhaps we begin to contemplate our lives more globally, incorporating: genetics, environment, lifestyle habits, stressors, choices, joys and passions, and previously unacknowledged variables, as well as those that remain unknown (and sometimes variables do remain unknown).
From five thousand feet, the magic begins. Not only can one more clearly see cause and effect, but the experience is almost one of becoming a player within a play. One can see the issue, see many possible moves, ponder the next move, and muse about what effect it will have, and whether that move creates desired outcome or not. We engage in more experimentation, after which each organism collects data and learns to self-correct—or not.
Perception from fifty thousand feet brings a more refined perspective, transporting the perceiver to the realm where one comprehends the workings of cause and effect more broadly and detachedly, almost like watching an interactive movie or play “in the round,” where the audience members participate in the outcome of the play. From here, boundaries between actor and audience begin to blur, and everything, including old beliefs are called into question. In a world where I am both audience and actor, perhaps everything is a reflection of everything else. Maybe ideals and concepts are less static and fixed, and thoughts, actions and ideologies exist in shades of grey, rather than black and white. Here, it is difficult to maintain a victim state of consciousness, and we find ourselves taking more responsibility for our lives, and beginning to clean up any “acts” that do not support our evolving viewpoint.
Five hundred thousand and five million feet and beyond hold everyday experiences for psychics, sages and Masters, whose sight transcends the veils of normal human perspective. From this position, all is perfect, nothing is out of place, and perhaps there is blissful appreciation and awe for the universe as a precise school, designed to help Divine Beings regain their ability to see, know and participate in the “play of Creation.”
Enter the experience of physical challenge. What relationship exists between physical challenge and perspective? Again, experience is colored by perspective. From five feet away, we are the physical challenge, rather than the challenge being an experience we are having! I don’t know, but perhaps this perspective breeds depression and victim-hood, despondency and tragedy. Authentically speaking, the five feet away perspective is a starting place for all of us; we all have to temporarily embody this state of consciousness, which has its virtues. It has something to teach us, and we cannot really know the Self if we only gloss over the incidents that, according to the “evidence of the senses,” appear to be negative. The wisdom that is available to us usually comes through consciously negotiating difficult experiences, rather than attempting to circumvent them.
In my life, I’ve learned so much through the experiences of: pain, surgeries, pain, multiple sclerosis, various other physical challenges, and a differently-abled body. Oh, and did I mention pain?? During many years of private practice as a hypnotherapist and counselor, and facilitating groups and workshops, I’ve also learned through the journeys of countless soul mates. I believe I’ve discovered that, while it may not be flawlessly possible every time, it is often within our reach to transcend identification with the physical experience; and this catapults us to a different state of consciousness (without drugs!) Sometimes, depending upon where we arrive, and what has brought us there, we are graced with the experience of knowing that: “I am more than the physical body.” Always—it enriches us.
Those are my thoughts, and I’m sticking to them (until my viewpoint evolves, of course!)
What do you think??
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful swan that flew from lake to lake, feeding upon pearls. One day this swan, weary from travel and in need of rest, landed on a well.
Now, a frog lived in the well; and upon hearing the sounds emanating from above, decided to ascend to see what was happening. He jumped up, onto the rim of the well, where he encountered the swan. The frog had never seen a swan before, and so he asked, “Who are you, and where do you come from?”
“I am a swan. I travel from lake to lake, feeding upon pearls,” said the swan.
The frog had never heard of a lake before, so he asked, “What is a lake?”
“A lake,” replied the swan, “is a large body of water.”
“Oh,” said the frog; but he didn’t really understand. After a moment, he decided to further pursue this idea of a lake, so that he might understand from whence the frog had come. He hopped a quarter of the way around the rim of the well, turned to the swan, and asked, “Is a lake this big?”
“Oh no,” said the swan. “A lake is much bigger.”
The frog then hopped half way around the rim of the well, and asked, “Is a lake this big?”
“No,” said the swan, “bigger still.”
The frog, still seeking to understand, then earnestly hopped all the way around the circumference of the well, stopped and looked at the swan. Finally, he asked, “Is a lake this big?”
“No,” replied the swan. “A lake is much bigger than that.”
Upon hearing this, the frog said, “You are a fool and a liar,” and he jumped back into the well, because he could not conceive of a world greater than his.
I’m wondering: What is your perception of your world, your existence, your life? The frog could not see beyond his little well-body. The swan knew that it was not confined or imprisoned by the well, knew its world to be expansive, and knew that it had a right to a greater experience. He lived that reality. The frog also lived his reality. Granted, there is a big difference between the ability of a swan and that of a frog, but perhaps the scope of the story is greater than mere physical ability. What do you see? Are you a frog, or a swan?
Everyone is challenged by something.
Perhaps the measure of a life has little to do with the frequency or intensity of one’s challenges, but rather how one meets them, and whether or not one chooses to be Self-defined and empowered in the face of Challenge.
I am a woman on a mission, and have thus defined myself for many, many years. My mission, through creating experiential workshops, speaking, private practice and facilitating groups has always been about empowering others to live their best possible life, to hold a big picture for themselves about their potential and ability, despite the evidence of the senses. To do this, I share my experiences; share stories collected through kinship with the family of other physically challenged souls; ask stimulating questions, designed to help a community ascend to a larger viewpoint about themselves, us; allow for free form musings about the meanings of, humor of, Divinity of our lives—even those with physical challenges. And…no matter what, I want to be clear that, from my viewpoint, I see myself as a Soul, whose current experience includes (but is greater than) physical challenge.
I’m giving myself permission to even shake things up, a bit; but offering all in love, to serve the bigger picture, to acknowledge, Honor and energize anyone guided to this place. Welcome to all open and willing Kindred Spirits…
Much Love, Many Blessings,
Carmen Freeman, MS, CHT