Today is the one-year anniversary of my dad's death. My family is understandably feeling sad today because he has been gone from us for an entire year.
During that year, people have generously shared memories of my dad. They tell us what a good man he was. They share stories of his humor, his compassion, his kindness, his caring, his integrity, and his willingness to help. They talk of his curious mind, his intelligence, and his quick wit. They discuss his acts of community service, his athletic feats, and how inspirational they found him.
My dad was that man. He did all of those things and more. But he was also human.
In his eulogy last year at Dad's memorial service, Rev.Gary Shoemaker started by saying this. "John Riseland was no saint, but with everything I'm going to tell you, by the time I'm done, you may think he was."
When someone dies, we tend to focus on all of the good things about that person. We romanticize them in our memories and in how we talk about them to loved ones who are grieving. We even have a saying in our culture, "Don't speak ill of the dead." I'm sure it's a respect thing, but I think we do a disservice to ourselves, to the person who has died, and to society as a whole when we immediately turn those who have passed from this realm into saints. In doing so, we strip them of their humanity.
My dad was a good man. In fact, it's likely he was a great man. He was a wonderful son, father, husband, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, friend, and human being. He is someone I've always tried to emulate. But he was no saint. He was a human being. He made mistakes, but as soon as he realized he had, he apologized, made amends, and tried to do better. He was a decent athlete, but he was also pretty clumsy. He was involved in his church and believed deeply in the power of the church to bring healing to communities, but he frequently questioned his own faith. He was open-minded but often got a little cranky in political arguments. He was compassionate and slow to anger, but trust me, he could get mad. As a teen, I personally experienced his temper each time I made a new dent to his car. (In his defense, there were a lot.) He was very funny, but sometimes his jokes were really, really awful.
My dad was no saint. He made mistakes. He was a human being. But he was also a man of tremendous integrity, kindness, compassion, and depth. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, son, uncle, and friend. He loved profoundly, and his emotions ran deep. And the beauty of all of that is this: every one of those wonderful stories people have shared with my family about my dad in the past year are true. He was all of those beautiful things in spite of the fact he was also a fallible human being. His goodness far overrode any flaws or mistakes.
And so, going into the second year without his presence in my life, I choose to remember all aspects of my dad. Because in spite of having the fallibility of every other human on earth, he chose to make goodness the overall focus of his life, and I think that's far more relatable and easier to aspire to than sainthood. My dad was no saint, but he lived a beautiful life. He was one of the best men I've ever known, and it helps me to remember that during the times when I, too, am no saint.
My dad had a lot of Clark Griswold in him. In fact, I'm relatively certain his Clark Griswold-like characteristics were so pronounced they were mentioned at his funeral. Every year during the holidays, he and my mom packed the family into our Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon (complete with moon roof and "wood" side panels) and drove off in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We hunted Christmas trees in rain, fog, snow, Nor'easters, and below freezing temps. We were dedicated with my dad leading the charge, and we drove triumphantly home with our fresh cut tree strapped to the car's ski racks. During the holidays when I was growing up, we always had a live, fresh cut Christmas tree adorning our living room in the little blue house on Broadway. One year to my sister Jenny's displeasure, it was a tree she had planted and nurtured in our yard over the years, but that's another story for another day.
Fresh cut Christmas trees were a holiday tradition I sadly didn't carry on with my family. Given how lifelike artificial trees have become in the past few decades, we've always had one of those instead. I didn't have to vacuum up needles or worry about fires like my mom did, but we never went tromping through the woods or a Christmas tree farm with the kids, never strapped a tree to the top of our car, and our house was never scented with the aroma of evergreen.
As the holidays approached this year, I wasn't certain I was even going to decorate my artificial Christmas tree. I've viewed the holidays with some trepidation this year because it is my first without my dad. Our kids are grown and don't live at home anymore and making the effort of hauling out our tree and schlepping it downstairs, digging out our ornaments, and hanging them seemed pointless and like a lot of work I just didn't feel like doing.
My dad has been gone for 10 months now, and I have coped with my grief in stages. His illness and death were unexpected, sudden, and brutal in their intensity. In many ways, it still doesn't seem real that he is gone. Yet he is.
My first stage of grieving was numbness. I had other people to worry about, work projects to take care of, classes to teach, books to write, and more. In those early months my grief bubbled up occasionally, but I was always able to tamp it down and refocus on my task at hand instead. During that stage I wrote a tribute to him, accepted and thanked people for their condolences, tried to comfort my family, dedicated a book or two to him, and congratulated myself on being okay. I was so numb I didn't realize I wasn't.
In the next stage, I started to process. I allowed my grief and took the time to acknowledge it. As I am given to do, I did much of my processing in writing with tears streaming down my face. During this phase, I also spent a lot of time doing things I enjoyed. I traveled multiple places with Jim and with friends. I went on several boats. I wrote a lot and communicated with my readers via this blog and social media. I taught a multiple classes. Unfortunately, my dog Sofie became ill and died during this time, as well. I thought I handled it pretty well.
In mid-October, I realized I was exhausted. I'd been struggling with an ongoing health issue since May when I accidentally ingested gluten while traveling (I have celiac disease and eating even trace amounts of gluten can send me into a health and inflammatory spiral that lasts for about six months). I felt drained of life force energy. I've always been even-keeled, emotionally and spiritually energetic, optimistic, and generally relaxed and happy no matter what is going on in my life, but I noticed even the smallest things sent me into a flurry of stress. My ability to cope was gone, and I felt spiritually, emotionally, and physically depleted. All I wanted to do was sleep and go somewhere to spend weeks away from all people recharging my batteries. I took some time off from teaching my classes (I will resume in January), stopped writing blogs and working on books or projects, spent almost no time on social media, and spent less time around people. There was a period in late October and early November after we returned from a trip to Nevada, Arizona, and Utah where I didn't leave the house for about ten days because I was so ill and depleted, and I felt I just couldn't "do people." I emerged briefly to attend the Port Gamble Ghost Conference the week before Thanksgiving because I'd committed to do so months ago, but then I returned home and into my self-imposed exile.
It was during this period I started to dread the holidays because there was a big, dad-shaped hole right in the middle of them. Jim's car broke down and he had to work over Thanksgiving, so I was unable to travel to be with my family. I sat home with the dogs all day on Thanksgiving and pretended it was just any other day. In fact, it's only been in the past week when I've started to peek out of my hole, get out into the world, and feel as if I am coming to life again. It turns out that while the exile felt awful while I was going through it, it was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries.
I remained unsure what I was going to do about Christmas. I still had no intention of putting up a Christmas tree or decorating. Then, I was chatting with my friend Teresa last night about old family Christmas traditions and we started talking about fresh Christmas trees and how much we loved then. In my tentative journeys back into the world, I noticed a few places had living Christmas trees, and I had been feeling a pull towards them. When I was talking to Teresa, it struck me exactly what I wanted to do for the holidays. I decided to buy a small living Christmas tree in honor of my father. If the ground isn't frozen, I will plant it on the first anniversary of his death (2/1). If it is frozen, I'll plant it as soon as I can. In this way, I feel like my dad is still a part of my holidays.
Today I went to Home Depot and was gratified to discover they had living Christmas trees. I chose a small spruce and got some tiny lights and ornaments and brought it home to decorate.
The photo to the left is my living Christmas tree tribute to my dad. The star on the top is a stained glass ornament my dad made for me. I had forgotten I had it, but when I found it I was delighted because it was perfect. (Those are my citrus trees in the background. They are wintering indoors in a south facing window where they can stay warm and get lots of sunlight).
I've written a lot about grief in 2018, and I've shared much of it with my readers. My grief has manifested in many ways throughout the year. At times I've ignored it and soldiered on and at times I've acknowledged and allowed it. I've found the times of allowing have felt more healing to me than the times of ignoring. Go figure.
I know many people are facing a holiday season without a loved one. It's an experience most of us will share at some point because death is the great equalizer. It inhabits all of our lives with the memory of those who were once with us in body but no longer are. Your grief may feel raw and fresh, or it may have mellowed with time, but times of family gatherings and tradition often serve to highlight those who are no longer with you.
However, if you can find a way to honor them in your holiday rituals, it may help. Whether it's getting a live Christmas tree and later planting it in your yard in their honor, buying ornaments that capture their essence and hanging them on your holiday tree, rejuvenating an old family holiday tradition, remembering them in prayer or meditation, donating to their favorite charity in their name, lighting candle in their honor, or something else that reminds you of them, it can help you heal. Create a new tradition for you and your family that honors those who have left you. Do something that captures their spirit and makes you smile. And as you do, open your heart and listen. You just may hear them whispering to you and realize that while they are physically no longer there, they have never left you.
My dad died on February 1 of this year. I don’t say that to garner sympathy but merely as a statement of truth. I say that because my dad no longer walks this earth, and that is my new reality.
He is not the first person I love who has died, but he is certainly the closest. His illness seemed sudden, although it had likely been around for months. In late October, he got a cold. He still had it at Thanksgiving, although his doctor assured him it was just a virus that was lingering. After the holidays when the cold was still there, his doctor grew concerned and sent him to a specialist. On January 10, he was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer and was in a severe amount of pain. No treatment would prolong his life. He entered hospice the last week in January and died after a few days. My mother, sister, nephew, husband, and I were all by his side as he breathed his last breath.
Over the past few decades, I’ve developed into a pretty chill person. Especially in the past five or so years, I’ve been an anxiety-free, happy-go-lucky, roll-with-the-punches kind of gal unless something extreme has happened. Perhaps not surprisingly, that is also the period in my life where I’ve hit my stride as an intuitive energy healer and psychic medium. Living what I believe is my life’s true purpose has smoothed my rough edges and given me a broader perspective about life and death. It’s allowed me to move into my authentic self. I’ve communicated with hundreds of spirits of people who have passed, including some I love. I’ve offered comfort to people who are mourning the loss of loved ones. So I guess somewhere in the back of my mind, I believed that when one of my immediate family members died, I would handle it with a similar level of aplomb, understanding, and even-temperedness.
That didn’t happen.
On the day my father was diagnosed, I stopped eating. I couldn’t. I tried. I’d take a bite of food and nothing would go down. I barely slept. I threw myself into work. And in my darkest moments, I was convinced I didn’t remember how to swallow. I’d try to swallow and panic would set in until I was able to relax myself enough to do it. Then, as soon as I did, it would start all over again. I was terrified I was going to choke on my own saliva. I knew intellectually these were all manifestations of anxiety arising from the stress of my dad’s illness and worry about my mom, but even knowing and understanding that didn’t matter.
By about January 15, doctors told us my dad probably had six months left. It was plenty of time, I thought, that we could get together and say everything we had to say. My sisters and I planned a weekend with my parents at the beginning of February where the five of us could spend time together as a family. In the meantime, I threw myself into my work, taught my classes, and accepted any project that came my way to keep my mind busy. During that two weeks, I wrote two books if that tells you anything about how frantically I worked. You have lots of time to do stuff when you stop sleeping and eating.
Early in the week before we were supposed to spend the weekend with my parents, my mom called and said dad was going into hospice to get his pain under control. It sounded like he would be put on some medication and return home, just as he had the previous week when he was hospitalized for the same reason. Still, in my heart I knew my dad would enter hospice, and he wouldn’t return home. I hoped I was wrong, but I didn’t think I was.
The next day, mom called and told us if we wanted to see Dad, we needed to come now. Unfortunately, my younger sister had a flight from Hawaii where she lives in a few days and was unable to change it. My older sister, my husband, and I dropped everything and headed to my hometown where we sat with my mom and dad in hospice.
My father was minimally lucid when I arrived. He had short periods of wakefulness, but he was heavily drugged and would quickly drift off to sleep. It was difficult to understand what he said when he was speaking. In one particularly lucid moment, he opened his eyes, looked at me, said, “Hi Kar,” and then asked me, “Am I dying?” I told him yes because what else was I going to do?
It quickly became apparent that even as heavily medicated as he was, my father was still in significant pain, so meds were raised to try and control it. He slipped away then; he was out of pain and still with us but not really with us.
On Thursday evening while my younger sister was still on an airplane, Dad took a turn. Something changed. His breathing was different – more erratic. We knew it would be soon, and all of us stood by his side and talked to him. We told him it was okay to go, that mom would be okay, and that we would all be okay. We told him we loved him. Well, at first just my mom and my sister did because I was overcome. I couldn’t speak the words in my heart, but then as I got my emotions under control, I was able to tell him the same thing.
After a short period that seemed like forever, something in the room changed. I felt something – someone there. I knew his loved ones had come for him. I turned to Jim, signaled this would be Dad’s last breath, and then watched as he took it. I felt him go.
My dad died. I didn’t want to let him go, but I knew we had to. Life is not the same without him, and my world is forever changed.
We lingered for an hour in hospice as they took care of Dad’s body and friends came to offer love and support. When they took him to the funeral home, Jim and I staggered back to our hotel in a daze. All the way, I heard my dad chattering at me, but I assumed it was just wishful thinking. He was telling me what he was experiencing, and I was happy to listen, but for once I didn’t believe I was actually receiving psychic communication. I just thought I was doing what I needed to do to comfort myself.
Back at the hotel, Jim left to get something out of our car while my dad’s voice still chattered in my head. I said, “I wish it was really you, but I know it’s just my mind.” And then someone physically yanked my hair hard, and my dad’s voice said loudly, “Hey! Listen to me. I’m here.”
And so I listened. What he said was between us. And in the back of my mind, I still didn’t believe I was really hearing it.
The next several weeks were numb. I went to the funeral. I took on more and more work. I taught my classes. When I tried to speak of my dad, I broke down in sobs. And when I was alone, my dad would come to me and talk. I didn’t know if he was really there; I couldn’t trust my abilities because I knew what I wanted to believe would supersede what was actually happening. I felt him visit regularly. And although I didn’t believe he was there, on the off chance he was, I talked to him. Doing so gave me comfort.
I told him that to get through to my mom and sisters, the best way was to communicate in their dreams. I told him I missed him, I loved him, and I wished I could have had more lucid time with him before he died. I had full conversations every time I felt his presence even though I was sure he wasn’t really there, but I just wanted him to be.
A few months later, I was at the Oregon Ghost Conference, where I teach and speak every year. I was surrounded by psychics, and I told my dad on one of his visits, “If you’re really here and you’ve really been coming to me, please communicate with one of my psychic medium friends and have them speak to me privately, giving me some kind of information so I will know I truly have been communicating with you.”
My friends Seth Michael and AuroA were giving a gallery reading that night at the conference. So far, nobody had said anything to me from my dad, so I thought that probably confirmed what I knew, which was my conversations with and visits from him were all in my mind. After all, my dad when he was alive was skeptical about psychics, and my abilities were a subject we just didn’t discuss much, if at all. So I had zero expectations at the gallery reading; I was there to support my friends.
I stood in the back of the room watching people getting messages from loved ones when I heard my dad’s voice say to me, “Watch this,” as Seth and AurorA were transitioning from giving messages to one person to another.
Then Seth started making a horrible coughing noise – one I’d heard before. “This man is making me feel so much pain and like I can’t breathe and he sounds like this,” Seth said, making the strangled noise again. It was the exact noise my dad made as he was in hospice dying.
“He says, ‘I gave up the ghost,’ and laughs,” Seth said. “He says, ‘I willed himself to die.’”
Seth was communicating with my father, who thought my ghost stuff was amusing and often made the joke of “giving up the ghost.”
And so, in front of a ton of people, my dad who I always thought was slightly embarrassed by the whole psychic and ghost thing communicated with me. The content of the message didn’t matter as much as the fact he was there. He was also letting me know by communicating through Seth that all the communication I believed to be my imagination was, indeed, real. It brought me comfort, and it also released something. It was the start of my true grief process.
I always believed that as a psychic medium I would handle the death of loved ones well, as my belief and understanding is people never really leave us and love never really dies, that they are there looking over us and loving us in spirit form. I’ve shared this information with many people, and I’ve felt it viscerally as I do.
But when my dad died, I forgot all of that. Or for a while, I stopped believing it. I became trapped in numbness where I felt safe. There’s not a word deep enough to describe the raw depths of my pain at my dad’s death, and it wasn’t a feeling I was willing to allow myself to experience or process. The part of me who had comforted so many people by telling them their loved ones were still there was deeply ashamed that when death became that closely personal, I somehow lacked the power of my convictions. I was angry at myself for grieving so deeply and unwilling to allow my grief because of my belief that consciousness survives death and my dad wasn’t really lost. I believed I was supposed to grieve a certain way, or that my grief should somehow be less because I could communicate beyond the veil. My pain grew sluggish and sticky. I was mired in it because I refused to allow myself to move through it since I didn’t believe given what I knew about the human soul, I should be grieving at all.
Instead, I processed in bits and pieces. I’ve had times where I’ve broken down, times where I’ve been numb, and times where for just a moment, I have a glimmer of understanding that what I believe about life after death is true. But those moments of knowing were ephemeral, and they slipped away before I could grasp them with desperate hands.
In mid-August, we gathered to scatter my dad’s ashes. We chartered a boat filled with family and friends and traveled to the San Juan Islands. On the way, we saw porpoises, and when we arrived at the spot, there was an unexpected pod of migrating orcas.
All of my life, I’ve dreamed of dolphins, porpoises, orcas, and whales. They come to me in dreams during difficult periods, and I always wake from the dreams knowing everything will be all right, and all is as it should be. So it was no mistake they were there that day when we scattered my dad’s ashes. They were there for him and from him, and they were there for all of us.
As my older sister and nephew poured his ashes into the water where the orcas swam, the ashes made a beautiful pattern in the sea. And I did something I was unable to do at his funeral. I allowed myself to feel the depths of my grief and I cried. I told my dad good-bye, and I let him go. And underneath, I felt something else, as well. I felt gratitude I’d had my dad for 52 years and for the father he’d been, and I knew I never truly would have to let him go because he was a part of me.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, nor is there a time frame or normal behavior. Regardless of what you believe or what you know, when someone you love dies, it is intensely personal. It doesn’t matter if you can communicate with spirits, if you believe in life after death, or if you believe your loved ones remain with you even though they are no longer physically embodied. For quite a while, I was unwilling to allow the grief to touch me because I didn’t believe I had a right to it given what I knew to be true about the nature of the universe. But as I tried to go about life as usual, my dad kept creeping in, and so did deep sadness at his passing. Eventually, I came to a place where I could either choose to suppress it and live my life in a state of numbness, or I could lean in and allow myself to experience it fully so I could move on. I wish I would say it was a conscious decision I chose the latter, but it wasn’t. The dam burst and I was unable to continue with the numbness because it dishonored all that my father was to me. It also dishonored the authenticity of my own feelings.
And so I grieve. I miss my dad. I know he is safe. I know he is well, and I know he is with us, but he is not physically here. But even in his death, my dad is still teaching me things. When he was alive, he taught me to always have an open mind. By giving me Raymond Moody’s Life After Life when I was a teenager, he set me on the path to my life’s true purpose. By his own curious exploration of the universe, he set the example that made me feel comfortable pursuing my own curiosity, and even though we ultimately arrived at different conclusions about the way things worked. Without his example, I would never have come to be where I am now.
In his death, my dad remains my teacher. He shows me it’s never too late to learn; you can even learn things after you die. He shows me I can’t avoid grief and sadness, and my feelings are never wrong and should never be denied. And he shows me that what I believe is, in some form true – or at least true for me. When our loved ones die, their bodies are no longer there. But their souls – those live on. They move on to new adventures and possibly even new bodies, but their love for us leaves an indelible imprint on our lives, hearts, and souls that can and will never be erased.
I have had many roles in my life: mother, wife, sister, friend, writer, teacher, musician, but my role as John Riseland's daughter has always been one of my favorites.
Yesterday I gathered with people who I have known all my life, and we said good-bye to my dad. His service was packed - standing room only - a fitting and appropriate send-off for a humble and kind man who touched more lives than he ever would have known.
My dad was a giant of a man; he was 6'4" and over 200 pounds with size 14 feet. People with that stature can be scary to some, but I don't think my dad ever was. Sure when he coached high school basketball he could bark at a ref, or if someone threatened his family in any way or questioned his integrity, he got mad like anyone else. But in his day to day life, in his general demeanor, he was a gentle and kind soul. He always had a smile and a laugh. He loved telling jokes, and he never met bad dad pun he didn't love.
Here's an example of his bad dad jokes: when we were kids, every time we ate Chinese food and it came time for fortune cookies, he would open his, adopt a shocked look, and pretend to read from the fortune in a panicked sounding voice, "Help! I'm being held prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory." After the first dozen or so times, we groaned when he said it, but he never stopped believing it was the height of hilarity.
My dad was always uniquely himself. I never saw him be anything but exactly who he was. He was a man without pretension, and if he thought it, he probably said it. He loved to tease and joke. He thought deeply about everything in life, and he loved to engage in thoughtful, philosophical discussions.
In many ways, he was a paradox. He was a deeply spiritual man with a vastly open mind. He was a talented athlete who could also be clumsy and accident prone. This is a man who played college basketball with grace and yet still somehow managed to run over his foot with a lawn mower or drop a fully cooked Thanksgiving turkey in the garage behind the car. Because of these things, we affectionately call him Clark Griswold and joked that his klutz DNA runs generations deep. We're not wrong.
My mom and dad raised three very different daughters - all independent women with vastly different careers and belief systems, and he's always respected each of us and our right to believe what we do and find our own understandings for the way the universe works. He was a good parent - probably even an excellent one. In fact, he and my mom used to teach parenting classes in their church to young couples. Yet with all his knowledge of parenthood, he seldom tried to tell my sisters and me how to raise our kids and if he did, he realized afterward that was what he was doing and apologized. For instance, one night in a casual dining restaurant when my son was about six, Tanner was playing with his glass of water by trying to spoon the ice out of the glass.
"I wouldn't let you girls do that," my dad said, to which I responded, "Dad, sometimes you just have to pick your battles."
I promptly forgot our conversation, but dad must've been thinking about it throughout dinner and on the way home. When we got home, he said, "You know Kar - you're right, and I'm sorry. Sometimes I forget what a challenge it can be to raise young kids. You do have to pick your battles."
That was what he did. If he felt he overstepped, if he felt he stepped outside of his integrity, he apologized. And he probably apologized a lot. My dad was, after all, human.
There were things that stood out about my dad to virtually everyone: his humor, his intelligence, his integrity, his big heart, his kindness, compassion, and dedication to community service, and his devotion to his family. He set a tremendous example for his children and grandchildren. He did what he thought was right, he told the truth (except when he was teasing the kids - then he virtually never told the truth), and he cared deeply for others. He was a friendly guy who always greeted people warmly and made them feel welcome. In his career, he was a high school guidance counselor and in his private time, he spent countless hours in community service, feeding the homeless and working with the underserved and disenfranchised. He and my mom served sandwiches to the homeless in downtown Bellingham, created and served a community meal for people who just needed some hot food, and engaged in a number of similar activities.
Dad treated everyone with dignity and respect. I remember a walk through Bellingham with my parents and son one afternoon, and we came across a man who appeared to be homeless carving a piece of wood on the steps of an old building. As we stopped to look at the building, my parents engaged him in conversation, asking what he was carving, what it meant, and how he'd learned to carve. They asked what he did with his carvings. They treated him like they would anyone else they encountered; there wasn't a hint of condescension or judgment from either of them. They didn't ignore him or walk away. They engaged him. Because he was a human, and they knew and recognized that.
My mom and dad were married for 55 years, and they were devoted to each other. Although we moved away from our hometown, my sisters and I seldom worried about them because they had each other. The shared faith, intellectual and spiritual curiosity, the love of laughter, a love of sports, a dedication to community service, and a deep and abiding love for one another. My dad loved and cared for my mom in small and big ways that were beautiful to witness. I can't imagine her without him, and I couldn't imagine him without her.
There is so much more I could say about my dad because he had a life well-lived. He crafted a full life in which he engaged in all of the things that were important to him. He never let grass grow under his feet; he was a man always on the go overflowing with good will and laughter.
Last night as we were driving home from the memorial, Jim said, "The world is a crappier place without him," but I disagree. The world is a better place for his having been in it, and his legacy will live on in all of the lives he touched. He was a man who did what he believed was right, and he taught his children and grandchildren to do the same. And through that, who he was is not lost to the world; it is multiplied. His legacy of love and giving lives on in all of the lives he touched, and the world is an infinitely better place for his having been here.
I was raised in the church and while I struggled with many of the beliefs taught, I was a whiz at memorizing scripture which is of course, something kids in Sunday school do a lot. However, even as a child, I never believed scripture was literal. I've always looked at the Bible as an allegory for an embodied life as opposed to actual, literal instructions for how to live.
Still, every once in a while some piece of scripture I memorized back in the day pops up, and I suddenly have a new understanding of what it is telling me. That happened this morning during my meditation.
I've been working on cleansing and clearing these past few weeks; I'm ridding myself of things that no longer serve me so I can make space for new energy to enter my life. I've done this not only with physical stuff (I've removed piles of garbage and things to donate from my drawers and closets over the past few weeks), but also mentally and emotionally. I've felt a driving need to create spaciousness in every aspect of my life; to make room for new energy to arrive by clearing out old energy that's cluttering up the joint.
I've always viewed my closets and drawers as an allegory for my life. On the surface, my house is clean and tidy. Sure, there's a little clutter from time to time, but if you were to come to my house, it would look fairly neat and clean. Just don't open a closet or a drawer, because under the surface of clean, oy. Chaos. And that physical condition has frequently mirrored my internal or emotional life, as well. On the surface, I appear as if I've got my crap together. But if you open a drawer or a closet - in other words, if you dig more deeply under my surface - chaos. And that chaos has traditionally occupied a whole lot of my mind and emotional space.
And so, as I've cleared away physical clutter in pursuit of physical spaciousness, I've also been working to clear away mental and emotional clutter into pursuit of emotional and mental spaciousness. I wish to create those mental and emotional spaces so I can allow for new energy that better serves me to enter my life.
Which brings me back to scripture. In my meditations, I've been using a technique my friend psychic AurorA teaches called heart space. Essentially, heart space is entering a place of pure love and acting from that practice. In my meditations, I've been focused a lot on bringing others into my heart space - especially people with whom I have relationships that need healing (part of my cleansing and clearing has been focused a lot on forgiveness). And as I did this today, a piece of scripture I memorized as a kid popped into my head.
Matthew 7:5: You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
I always saw this as an admonishment about judging others - don't judge lest ye be judged, that type of thing. But from heart space, I discovered for me it is something else altogether. It isn't about judging. It is about loving. What it meant to me this morning in my meditation was this...the plank in my eye is my inability to fully view myself with love. How can I view others with deep love love if I can't provide that for myself? With that acknowledgment, that recognition of what is, the plank starts to dissolve, and I can see more clearly than I have before. One more very important piece of clutter is disappearing right before my eyes.
What is the plank in your eye? What is it you have that you can't see around? What's cluttering up the joint and preventing new energy from entering your life? As we move through the holidays and into the new year, I encourage you to allow time and space to discover your planks, to clear your clutter, and to move forward with joy into the truly empowered life you can lead if you allow yourself to do so.
Pets serve as an amazing source of love in our lives. Our relationships with them are uncomplicated, and they love us unconditionally regardless of how we act. In return, we love them unconditionally, too, even when they tear up our favorite sweater - or wake us up during the night.
I've discovered that when I am struggling in a relationship with another human, when I take the time to tune into the love I have for my pets despite their quirks or behavioral issues, I can tap into a source of unconditional love that I can use to heal my feelings about my human relationships. My pets (and I have a lot of them - four dogs and a cat) are my example for love and spending time with them moves me into a vibration of love I am able to carry throughout the rest of my life.