The Wisdom of Wounds

I often remind clients that they are indeed the leading character in the mythology of their own lives. That everything that happens to them is most usefully viewed from their own perspective; from within their own unique life view.

Sometimes we have extended ourselves so far towards understanding the others in our lives that we have lost the anchor of being the central focus of our soul work. We end up bending over backwards to try and figure out the unfolding events- when all we need to do is again plant our feet in the center of our own path. By dropping the back-to-front perspective of “she said- he meant- -they-didn’t” we can simply ask ourselves what is happening for me right now? How do I feel? What flavours, textures and subtleties are showing themselves in my experience, from my perspective? What can I describe and notice right now? What do I need?

Giving ourselves permission to actual have our own experience is a useful re-calibration. We can stop explaining and analysing others and get back to living our truth. There is time to consider other viewpoints, to stretch our self perception by looking at ourselves in the mirror of others feedback- but in my experience we spend more time distanced from ourselves in our challenges than refuting feedback honestly given. Start simply, start with where you are at and move slowly and carefully towards what is less clear.

And breath, notice and feel each moment of that process for that is where transformation really happens.


End of year reflections

I wanted to look back on the year and try to write a fluid overview of all the change and growth I have experienced; I hoped to look back with the famous 20:20 vision and celebrate a little a nice clear list of learnings.

Shew, but its been a blur, and kind of kaleidoscopic and so I will itemize in no particular order the few things my much-stiller-mind remembers of 2011:

  • Meditation works. Very, very well. For most things, from anxiety to zen.
  • Hurt hurts. And my teacher is right: pain is heart food.
  • Letting go can happen the easy way or the hard way, and the discomfort is proportional to the amount of resistance involved. Note: resistance is futile if the ultimate object is inner peace or growth. Letting go is a process that cannot be rushed.
  • Mirrors are not the enemy they just are.
  • Women gather in circles for a reason.
  • Illusions dissolve, and the world is better for it, though its  tough to say goodbye to them. Good things wait on the other side. Being brave, patient and gently opening is the way through.

A wise man once said: “Breathe, notice and relax.”

And a wise woman:

“I will weep and weep for you, O Mind;
(my Soul) The world hath caught you in its spell.
Though you cling to them with the anchor of steel,
Not even the shadow of the things you love
Will go with you when you are dead.
Why then have you forgot your own true Self ? ”   Lalla

Transformation from the inside out!

Camissa Womens Temple Sweat Lodge

“GrandFather, GrandMother.Creation, Great Mystery. Aho, Spirit.”

This was our prayer and meditation as the core group of Camissa Temple came together to build and then enter a new Sweat Lodge for a women’s sweat,  in Scarborough, Cape Town. One of our temple members, Novukile, had a friend wanting a sweat built on her land, which she will use for sacred ceremony. We were willing labour and lucky enough to be the first to then use it too!

We agreed that physically building something so sacred would be a very fitting beginning process for our temple guardians as we ‘build’ a unique temple space in Camissa Temple for women, together. We are also aware of our own individual needs for healing, rebirthing and reclaiming our connection with Our Mother, Earth. We wanted to share this passage together. We have a deep commitment to authentic relating in this temple, and we felt sure that hard manual labour, a new experience of building together and then the challenge of sweating together would create the perfect pressure cooker experience for triggering and being triggered! Yes, we actually consciously chose that!

Devi, our lodge keeper, created a stellar constellation with all of us. We each had the privilege of holding the position and energy of a planet in its exact position in the lodge as in the night sky above. The moon graced us with her/his beautiful light and the wind laid low for just the perfect amount of time to build and sweat. I knew that it would be a special night, driving through a thick curtain of mist coming in to Scarborough earlier in the evening. I was right.

Personally I enjoyed a deeper, essential connection to Mother as she held me during the intensity of the heat. I battled a headache for most of the day, which was frustrating. Frustrating not to be able to know the mind body link in order to let it go. As a group I feel that we have centered our connection to sacred creation and the great mystery more explicitly within each of us, and as a collective core circle. We have a shared resonance which we can call to when relating gets tricky, or logistics get demanding. We can both source guidance more clearly and now create more meaningfully.

We are blessed and grateful to know and love each other. Makhosi!

Why Sessions? Why would someone book an ‘intimate’ session with a man or woman who is not their lover?

A client asked me this recently, and at the time I listened only to the emotion of her answer- didn’t try to frame a motivational response. The question has stayed with me, though, and I have a number of good answers:

1. Creating a new reference point: The purpose of a counselling (or bodywork) session is to facilitate supportive change. In other words not just to talk about newness or other perspectives on a problem, but to experience a new way of being that has not been felt before. Talking about the love a non-abusive father has for a daughter is very different to simply being held lovingly and appropriately by a male healer, while grieving the hurt of the past abuse. A deep energetic impartation occurs which the client can carry with them, compared to a conversation.

2.Experiencing skill and mastery from a partner: Professionals have worked hard, and worked deep with themselves to bring artful skill to the session; we have learned technique and we have learned presence. Think of the difference between a massage from your partner, and a massage from a touch therapist!! They do not compare.No matter how lovingly your partner tries to get that headache trigger spot behind your head, it’s not the same as having the professional find it, work on it and fix it. Trust is a big factor in removing guardedness in the body- and the amount of gentle skill that one brings is as important a factor as willingness and kind enthusiasm.

3. A personal, sacred session space: A session is ALL about the client. It is one of the few times in life where you can relax into your own experience and awareness; drop the need to ‘take care’ of the Other. Letting go is so much easier to learn when the roles are clear. After 5 minutes you are not worrying that the Other is bored -they are completely intent on being available to you. When you can focus on your own process, you can go deeper into it. Giving yourself permission to feel and express can begin with session experiences of how healing and ‘right’ that allowing can be. Moving this newfound confidence into your relationship is then easier.

4. a place of no judgement: deeper than experiencing the focused attention of the facilitator is knowing that there is no judgement at all about you, what comes up for you, or how you choose to live your life. We have much experience of the shades of grey in life, and we embrace people’s experiences and challenges as meaningful and full of significance. The relief of being authentic is a delightful experience. Think of a midwife who can honestly say she has heard women make some WEIRD noises in her time. Well, therapists have seen and heard much too! You couldn’t embarrass, surprise or freak us out if you tried (Although, you are welcome to try !!).

5. Its been my experience: I have been privileged to both participate in and facilitate these experiences of trust, intimacy and vulnerability. Every single time has been illuminating, kind, helpful, deeply unifying and healing. I have fond memories of very magickal healing moments, and the beautiful people who I shared them with. Tears turning to pleasure, shame to delight.

I highly recommend considering opening the door on more than counselling…

The Feminine Mystique- diagnosis June 2010

a revolutionary ideaI finally have a name, at the age of 35, for the chronic illness which has plagued me all my life.

I am suffering from a women’s communicable disease which is spread by contact with both hosts and carriers. It is a severe form of soul sickness called the ‘Feminine Mystique’, and was identified by Betty Friedan and publicised in her book of the same name in 1963. I found it a month ago.

This disease is problematic to detect and treat, mainly because its signs are misdiagnosed by an already ill society, and because its symptoms are subtle, pervasive and debilitating. Some have a vested- though unconscious-  interest in encouraging its spread. Some are well meaning but so damaged by the effects of it themselves that they are unable to be of help to the sufferers.

My own infection with this chronic mystique surely came to me early in age through my mother, father and grandparents. Additionally I grew up in South Africa, a country psychologically well prepared for repressive and prejudicial ways of living. The development of human beings was selective on the basis of gender, race and religion in favour of male, white christians. All other forms of human where given less status and opportunity as befitted their supposed lesser potential. Many of the environmental factors which have led to the pandemic proportions of the disease globally also informed a political variant of the illness called ‘Apartheid’ which was out of control in South Africa for decades.

Given these conditions of childhood it is not surprising that the features of the illness can be found repeated in striking frequency throughout my life. A consistent underachievement as a person- our enthusiastic primary school  headmaster constantly reminded on each report that “Catherine has not yet reached her full potential”, and warned of the hard work necessary to do so. What with the unfavourable home conditions, my low self esteem and resultant purposelessness, the lack of inspiring female role models and unconscious social conditioning on every front, this was not a likely prospect. Fantasy became my coping mechanism despite the severe quilt it aroused, and it is still at play in my adult life. I call it now ‘having ideas’ but it is a well developed form of self soothing- like sucking a mental dummy- which prevents some of the discomfort fneccessary to propelling me into purpose. 

Nursing those wounds

The choice of nursing as a career at the age of 16 (I could go to college but not to a university) hamstrung me further. Denied a high enough quality of education to challenge my intellectual abilities I tortured myself for 15 years in a health system which has only 1 constitent capacity- widespread and pathological human rights violations of every kind imaginable. Having a less well developed sense of self and a religious bent to saving others made this particularly difficult for me- I over identified with my suffering patients, and there families,  while trying desperately to force good quality care from an incapable system manned by incapable, similarly impaired people. Nursing as a profession is so deeply imbued with the feminine mystique that it has lost any sign of professional integrity- much like a PHD graduate after 30 years of housewifery loses her sense of humanity. Self actualisation (or professional development) is a far off dream when one is reduced so thoroughly to the material plane of repetitive semi-skilled tasks. The truth is basic nursing is boring and easy. Without the benefit of creating new theories and conceptual frameworks, or working in an area demanding difficult clinical skills, or mastering its therapeutic arts it is intellectual death and breeds the generations of nurses we now revile. They care only to repudiate as much responsibility as possible- they have become enslaved by the mystique that has told them through the mouths of male doctors and brittle admisntrators everything that they cannot be.                                                                                                the undercover insanity of the 60's woman

 What women really know

I can see clearly now how the very simple human fear of failure, anxiety about personal growth, resistance to the rigorous of learning were encouraged to flourish in a society and family culture which wanted to ensure that I not get too carried away with it at any rate! Women had no need to develope a sense of self as it was destined to be subsumed into their family and children in the future. I have the clear emotional imprint of these dichotomies still within me- learn- but not too much, get enthusiastic but not overly, be creative but don’t delude yourself that it has meaning (or value). A constant start-stop-start-stop of the soul which I now recognise in so many moments of my life.

So I am a perfect example of the outcome of the dysfunctional anti-women world view of global culture. Except for one thing. Although I married and had a child I never bought into the ‘holy grail’ of salvation it was supposed to offer. For although my family culture believed steadfastly in it and raised their children accordingly there was an undeniable reality to us. My parents were divorced by the time I turned two, and their subsequent relationships were chronically unsuccessful. My mother was emotionally absent but very busy- she moved on from efficient housekeeping  to constant renovation. After the sudden, horrific death of my mother, in 2004- when my ex husband and I admitted that our marriage was as empty as the rest of life lived under these delusions (though we had no name for it then) we negotiated our mutual early release amiably. My only regret is birthing my son into all this confusion, for colouring his life with the remnants of this conditioning. I see how I still buy into aspects of these myths as I parent.

The outcome of all this childish exploration was the problem of having two beliefs that neatly tied my hands.

“Girls (except for some rare exceptions of which this girl is clearly not one – see how her life shows you so), don’t have the ability to be fulfilled through work AND fulfilment in marriage is an illusion.”

Given my underdeveloped sense of self, given my unschooled capacity for rigorous challenging developmental activity or self discipline (this would implie a fully formed self to discipline!), given that the magic wand of money had never materialised, given my cynically wise mistrust of an unjust society- what else was there? These questions throw a deeper belief into sharp relief:

“Girls have to be very pretty, very clever or very rich to have the lives they want. You are not one them.”

Will I sell the house bought with a small inheritence from my beloved mother to build a new  life I am scared of dreaming I desire? Will pure awareness of these puppet strings enable me to finally move where I will; with my own momentum?

Will I cure myself of this dis-ease with women’s medicine of my own making?

Working with our resistances

Although my personal experiences over the last two weeks may seem on the surface to have little to do with orgasm or bliss, the startling truth is that they fundamentally do. All of my life does. My tantra teacher, Dr Shakti Malan, often asks us: How much Bliss can you stand? (She knows that fears and constriction must be moved through time and again)

Financial pressure, the loss of my cat, a house-breaking, needing to move, changes in parenting, crisis at my son’s school all took me to a place within that I had resisted for a long time. My friend and colleague, Stephen Tredrea, had encouraged me for a while to go into my fears rather than resist them.

He rightly knew that the universe would realise them for me as completely as necessary in order that I could ‘get’ this lesson and cross its threshold. He rightly felt that it was time to dance with the chaos rather than run from it. I was SO at my edge that it seemed my mind was holding on tighter than ever.

What changed for me? What support do you need for you to enjoy your shift?

I started with the fears. I started with expressing and ‘experiencing’ (by becoming aware of where and how they felt within my body and emotions) the fears with a supportive ally. I moved, with baby steps at first, towards the very thing that I so badly wanted to run from. Events began to unfold which took me further into those frightening possibilities. I abandoned myself at some point to the process. I consciously agreed with myself to enter into this unknown place within. I used process work tools to move through the places of pain where I had less awareness. I began to trust my own sense of knowing in my body and emotions. Instead of feeling like the external situation had all the answers I needed I began to use my own personal power to change.

Support came. I have been very much held by various people in the past few days. I experienced love and energetic support like never before. I was able to shake off (very physically and energetically) the trauma of the robbery and these changes through a sound healing session with friend and colleague Chris Tokalon. I could not have done it on my own. His mastery made the difference in that moment of need.

The wisdom of beliefs such as “So above; so below”, “First inside, then outside”, “As a person thinketh in their heart so are they” is more true for me today than yesterday. I felt the outer realm of the material shift as I let go on the inside. I began to find myself as a creative being again.

And then the material support came; suddenly I was aware again of being connected within the divine web of life: and the “doings” flowed with ease into my needs being met.

Where ever you find yourself today in relation to those things that you fear, that constrain you, that drain your life of colour- come and find the support you need to hear and then heal your life. It is painful at times. But more painful than resisting? Not from where I stand today…