Sunday, November 25, 2007

Flower Photography

Paul has been very patient teaching me to use my camera. I used to be a strictly "point and shoot" kind of girl. But he's introducing me to the wonders of F-stops and ISO and, while I sometimes can't remember what is what just yet, it's helping me get some exciting results. At least, I'm excited.

We went to the UCSC Arboretum several times in the last week and got some exciting shots. I put mine up on Cafepress right away. Check them out!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Business of Marketing the Spiritual

Wow, looking back at my latest posts I have to stop and think: Is putting out my conflicts and growth as a healer really a good thing? It's not what most people do. Interestingly, the people I appreciate the most break the "image is the only thing" rule. Ellen Degeneres comes to mind. She doesn't dress to the nines or hide behind a mask. She breaks the mystique apart, talks to her audience like they're all potential friends, shows her soft spots and raw edges, even makes fun of it. I've never seen her show -- only clips on the evening news and Youtube. I just know I like what I've seen. It makes me feel that coming out of the closet as a real human being isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it might be healing for all concerned. When I see her I think "Thank you! I'm so glad you're you! We all need permission to be exactly who we are, too."

I think I got into the spiritual counseling business through my lifelong interest in what makes people tick, how do human relationships work, how do I learn to do that, too. You see, I was one of the ostracized kids. One of the geeks on the social sidelines on the outside looking in. And like all geeks I didn't like what I saw people do. By some strange quirk of fate I was actually invited to a party thrown by someone I perceived as part of the "in" crowd. Yuck! Ragging on the other kids, acting sexy, getting drunk, and getting sick. I remember thinking "Is that all it is that they do with each other? That's what I thought I've been missing out on?!" No thank you!

As I grew older I started to see the ways social conformity put people in chains. Too afraid to do what their hearts want, too enmeshed in the image they were so practiced at being they didn't even hear the murmurings of their hearts anymore. Most of them are more financially well off than me and Paul even imagine being. (There's grief in that.) But when someone in that situation comes into our office we treat them the same as anyone else, try to help them see where their problems are coming from, shine a light on their true hearts' desires, lift them up and encourage them on their way. The majority who want a "quick fix" -- the magical equivalent of the little colored pills we see advertised on TV -- exclaim repeatedly what a wonderful experience their session was and we never see or hear from them twice. But some people come again and again, bloom and grow and change at a pace those other ones wouldn't dream of. Those are the ones we seem to be attracting more of as our practice, and attitude towards it, changes.

When Paul and I got started we thought we needed to do magic wand, one time visit, types of healing. Turns out that's not realistic for everyone we meet. And even if it happens, what does it serve?

It does serve their need for wonder and for believing in something beyond the physical. And there are plenty of wonderful spiritual healers, as well as charlatans and stage magicians, who have mastered the art of helping people believe. They sell mystique, revelation, and awe. Reiki Masters used to fall in that category, too. $10,000 was the standard rate to be "ordained"-- the belief being that Americans, at least, couldn't be convinced to believe in anything unless they paid through the nose for it. Now every massage therapist learns basic level Reiki and there are Reiki Masters in this community and many others giving their services away for free and belittling those who deem themselves worthy of being paid. Spend too much time around people like that and anyone would be afraid to try to make a little money selling a $15 Reiki Bear, too! Damn it! Ordinary teddy bears at full retail cost the same!

Or more if it has a brand name mystique attached to it. My instinct tells me I would sell more Reiki Bears at $25 than $15. (It costs me the same.)

Last night on the evening news they reported that a very ugly and nothing to write home about Andy Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor had been resold by the person who invested in it for $23 million -- far less than people expected. Meanwhile in our local community people slave away doing social work and all kinds of wonderful things in the nonprofit sector for less than a true living wage and artists and photographers offering their work to these agencies are told that they can't get paid at all unless they're famous already. Trust me, Paul and I know. I've been a social worker at a nonprofit and we both have been artists offering our work for sale.

It's backwards!

So I'm working out some of my conflicts and growing up experiences here with the idea that maybe it can help a few other people going through the same thing. And because shining a light on what we do to each other in this world is important. Someone has to say something. "This is ridiculous" is good enough, at least as a start. Whether it serves my heart, well, I don't know. Sharing it does. Selling the counseling and healing work Paul and I do would serve it better. Whether one desire serves the other . . . we'll have to wait and find out.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ghost Whisperer

Why did I include a mini rant on the issue of whether it's "okay" to be paid as a healer in my last blog? I woke up feeling embarrassed by that and thought I'd take it down. But, no, it's going to stay because I think it's worth addressing. I wrote that blog because I was still upset about what I saw on "Ghost Whisperer" on Friday night TV.

"Ghost Whisperer" is a show in which the main protagonist Melinda "sees" dead people and assists them with resolving some left-over issue so they can finally cross over. She's an idiot, knows nothing about how to handle her ability, and allows herself to be constantly harassed, terrified, and put into grave danger (pun intended) by ghosts who wreak havoc with her life and make her and her family members basket cases. She gets to play the damsel in distress wearing sexy lingerie (or, creepier yet, little girl clothes) and has to be rescued almost every week. I hate it! A whole generation of people who believe in this stuff being given an image of out-of-control psychic abilities being glorified (by show's end) and being given the idea that this is the way someone who actually has these abilities would have to be. The show "Medium" does the same thing. Neither one of these shows does a good job of letting people know that these choices can be made another way (more on that in a minute).

Anyway, I often wind up watching "Ghost Whisperer" because I'm a fan of the vampire show with the really cool vampire private detective that comes on afterwards and because I'm confused by James Van Praagh's (a person who used to get paid as a real ghost whisperer) decision to lend his name to it. Paul and I keep wondering why he's allowed this show to be turned into a horror series when it has so much potential for doing some good. We do this stuff, after all. And I have helped ghosts cross over. Just like the show depicts (at the end), it can be a moving and profound event. (Back to that in a minute.)

But I was on the topic of last Friday night's show when Melinda and family go to see a well-known psychic passing through town giving a demonstration of his abilities. His name was Casey Edgar. Edgar Cayce, by the way, was the name of a well-known unconscious channel who became famous for giving accurate medical advice when he was asleep although he had no medical background in his history and couldn't answer the same questions when he was awake. In the TV show Casey Edgar comes across as very intelligent and quite capable of reading beyond the obvious. He's depicted as knowing things the average person wouldn't know but he made a mistake on an item significant to the story line (whether a missing person was dead or alive) and that's where Melinda jumps in and accuses him of being a fraud. And what really cemented that belief in her mind was that he dared to actually get paid for his work!

Of course, it turns out Casey wasn't accepting money for this particular role and, while he does wind up having a blind spot Melinda helps him with, he helps her with something every experienced psychic figures out eventually: Psychic information comes in as metaphor an awful lot of the time. And, even when it doesn't, there can be metaphoric levels of meaning embedded in the most mundane information received. The metaphor is what makes the job challenging and where even the most successful psychics can get stumped. That's why mistakes do get made. Our blind spots can and often do get in the way of reading those clues successfully.

So, good points were made on the show Friday night and I appreciated Van Praagh for coming out with some of these things. I only wish Casey would come back on the show and teach Melinda to use intention to shut her ability off when she doesn't want to wake up in the middle of the night screaming. It's not like an "on-off" switch but you can use intention to choose when you listen and when you don't. And you certainly don't need to be bedeviled by spirits wanting help. I have had that experience -- I guess I grew up afraid of seeing and hearing ghosts myself -- but I refused it. I chose another approach.

What I Want Melinda to Show People How to Do

I had to learn to do this. Nobody taught me -- I taught myself. But I was unwilling to let disembodied spirits muck up my life. One thing I've gotten in this life I'm living is this: what you're afraid of (whether it's ghosts, your boss, or the so-called "wolves" at your door) can and will bite you on the ass IF you give it the power to do so. The more you focus on what you fear, the bigger your fears become. And the more you attract the Melinda "Ghost Whisperer" type of experiences to you: more and more of the worst kind of crap!

But you CAN close the door on this trap. If you're attracting the same problems over and over again, take a look at your own life. What messages are you telling yourself and then manifesting in your outer life over and over again? "My life is out of control?" "I'm powerless over my feelings and emotions?" I'm so afraid of thus and so?" What you focus on gets bigger! You have to focus on what you want instead. AND believe you can have it and know you deserve it.

Sometimes it's really as simple as that. Maybe it always is. But sometimes those fears and societal conditionings have an insidious way of getting into a person's head. It's like the ghosts on "Medium" and "Ghost Whisperer." So I don't want to make light of the intensity it takes to kick the ghost habit when you're in the thick of such a thing. You really have to mean business and know you can get what you need.

I keep wondering if I should talk about where I learned that. All old patterns and beliefs that haunt our lives are like ghosts stuck between worlds. They have no place here but they don't think they can move on.

When I was a lot younger I was raped by a man I was dating and believed I could trust. And I knew I couldn't tell anyone in my hometown because the news was full of reports of another young woman who was raped on a pool table in full sight in a local bar and everyone in my family and many of my female friends, too, said she deserved it for going into a bar alone in the first place! Jody Foster played the role of this young woman in a very intense movie made of this incident several years later.

But I also knew that most women who are raped are led to believe they'll never get over it and I said "NO! He might have gotten three minutes of my life but he wasn't going to get the rest of it!" That's a little something you should know about me. I can be pretty meek and demure and sweet like any Libra personality you might know but when it comes to protecting myself or someone I care about that Libran archetype (the symbol of justice) carries a sword and she can kick ass and take no prisoners if she has to!

Anyway, whenever the picture of that guy came into my head, I'd kick his ass. I would, literally, imagine him sitting on my bed and kick him or whack him with a stick as hard as I could and then turn my attention to something I wanted to do instead. It didn't completely work. I just succeeded in pushing the incident away. But that was a GREAT beginning! It seemed like it worked at the time and that's what mattered to me then. But I came to find out later, when I was counseling someone else who had almost been raped and was acting like it was the end of the world, that my own distress was just hiding in the shadows waiting.

By then I was steeped in the belief that I could heal just about anything, though, so I used the take no prisoners approach AGAIN. I said I can and I will be healed of this and I used my intention and the strength of my belief that I deserved to have this part of my life back to go after the ghost of this creep in my consciousness and rid myself of it for good. It took persistence. It took work. I finally told people what happened, resolving that piece, and then realized that there were unconscious choices I had been making all the time to avoid feeling this pain. I never let myself be alone in a room with a man, for instance, even at the doctor's office, if I could help it and was very cautious about men I let into my life in any way.

But I wasn't going to let this ghost run the show anymore. I systematically chose to counteract the patterns this incident (and others like it) had manifested in my life. I wasn't willing to continue avoiding half the human race. That was unacceptable to me and I think it was the intensity of this commitment that allowed the change I wanted to happen.

I was a leader in the Re-evaluation Counseling (co-counseling) community back then, a group that teaches people basic counseling skills so they can trade counseling assistance with each other. I was a teacher in the community and, like all co-counseling teachers had very few men in my classes. I decided I wanted to change that. I decided to learn whatever I could about men's conditioning and learn to counsel with men. I chose several of the men already in the community as counseling partners and worked through a lot my feelings with them. Then I decided I wanted 50% of the people who took my classes to be men, put out the word and it happened.

Years later, when I was teaching a class for the teachers in the local community, it turned out that none of the female instructors could make it that day and only the men showed up. There I was alone in a room filled with men and I felt perfectly safe, loved and appreciated. I had made it through and I knew it and it was a touching moment for us all.

Later, when my psychic abilities opened up for me I went through a Melinda the Ghost Whisperer period. As a conscious channel I can hear guidance from the other side and, because I had another healer in my life who had been trained to believe that "attached entities" were an integral part of what she was trained to heal and I was frightened of that, those entities started to attach themselves to me and I didn't know why. It would freak me out and I'd get mad. I'd figure out how to be rid of one and another would come in the very next day. I learned to dispatch spirits to the other side but I wasn't loving and kind about it all the time (sometimes I was touched by them) and I got read the riot act by my guides for that. But I was furious that I was being "called on" to do this in the first place especially when I didn't want the calling.

I learned a lot of things but in the end I didn't want it. It was ruining my life and, like the rapist who came before, that was unacceptable to me! At first I worked hard to pull my attention away from worrying about spirits all the time. Then it stopped happening except in session and now it rarely happens at all anymore although, now that Paul's at my side to help, I'm less afraid. I still don't love and want to do it though unless it's something very specific to what a client needs to heal their lives now. But that's a choice I know I can make and that's the whole point of what I wanted to say.

If I wanted to make helping spirits cross over to the other side my mission in life that would be a beautiful thing but, and here's the important part, I get to set limits and boundaries on when and how often that happens. Otherwise, like Melinda is going to be if she doesn't get help with this, you're just another damsel in distress. And that's not a good thing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Donate a Reiki Bear to the Santa Cruz Homeless Family Shelter

Several years ago I met a woman who was collecting used stuffed animals, repairing them, filling them with Reiki, and then distributing them to orphanages, homeless shelters and children's hospitals wherever she found them. The project touched me. I enjoyed the image of little children clutching a stuffed animal and receiving much more than superficial comforting. And I had been told by my Reiki teacher that Reiki-infused washcloths and drinking water had been used in hospital settings to impart healing to ailing loved ones. She also gave examples of experiments done with Reiki-infused water used to water plants. Apparently, plants fed with Reiki water did significantly better than those watered with plain tap.

Because of this I chose to infuse my flower essence healing perfumes with Reiki but as I started to market them I started to doubt what I had been told. Could Reiki really be imparted in this way to anyone else? Could an object like, say, a stuffed teddy bear, actually carry a Reiki charge at all? My question was answered when the Reiki stuffed animal collector attended a group I was in and gave us each a gift of one of the toys in her collection. I was confused about her intentions and, not knowing it had already been done, decided to put Reiki into the animal I received and donate it back to her cause. I couldn't do it— the feedback I got was that the toy was already filled. That caught me off guard— oh! They really can hold a charge! Then I brought it home and received another surprise. My cat Peeps who never had shown an interest in stuffed animals or any other toy -- and never has since-- adopted this gift for her own. She held it between her paws, slept with her head in its lap, and snuggled up to it every chance she got. It made an impression on me and I felt resolved to continue with Reiki projects of my own.

I've been particularly enamored of the Reiki Teddy Bear idea but, until a few weeks ago I never acted on it. Now I have to reluctantly admit that I wasn't motivated purely by altruistic intent. Yes, I wanted to find a gentle easy way to impart healing but I didn't, at first, intend to give the Bears away. Money's been overly tight and I wanted to improve the bottom line so I took a chance and invested in a shipment of wholesale teddy bears. Paul and I both imagined that they would be combined with a bottle of my flower essence perfume to make a nice packaged gift.

And they still will be available like that. But when I was shopping for just the perfect red satin ribbon to dress these bears up a woman at Hart's Fabric asked if I planned to give the bears away to charity and my immediate inner response was "I wish I was!" My second thought was "But I need to at least get the money back I spent on them!" and I felt bad about that. This, to me, had felt like an expensive decision. I was shocked when the bears arrived. The cartons were huge! And then I came a little undone—oh, God, what did I do? I spent all this money and I don't even know where I'm going to put them! And then I meet this woman who assumed I was going to give them away!

When what you love most is healing and you want to make your living doing what you care about most, it's really hard to counter societal expectations that a true healer, a truly spiritual and altruistic person, wouldn't expect to be paid. In fact, when Paul and I were just beginning and did a month of sessions strictly by donation, one of those early clients enthusiastically praised us for being "real healers." Real healers, if we understood her correctly, have all their needs met by God. And maybe we ARE getting our needs met through the grace of God as it flows through all the people who love and are helping us out. But even "real" healers need to eat, pay off debts, and know they can help their loved ones out financially themselves as time goes on.

And yet I really would like to give these bears to people who need them, too. So a choice was made. I will give three away and if I have people who want to assist with this project by paying me for them I will infuse the bears they purchase from me with Reiki, tie satin bows around their necks, add gift tags with their names on them, and deliver them to the charity I have chosen along with my own in time for Christmas. The Santa Cruz Family Homeless Shelter has "brand new toys" on their wish list so that's where they will go. If people want to buy a Reiki Bear and deliver it to a charity of their own they're welcome to do that as well.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Seven Deadly Sins

Growing up in a town just south of South Boston ("Southie"), I was one of maybe 3-4 Jewish kids in a graduating class of more than 750. The vast majority of everyone else were Irish and Italian Catholic and this was such a prevalent part of the prevailing culture that the name of the "parish" I lived in (St.Clare's) was more important than the name of the county (I don't remember).

I do remember kids talking about questions they were grappling with as a result of their Sunday school classes and, being Jewish, I was endlessly fascinated with these discussions because the worries they had were so decidedly absent in my own religious upbringing. Not that we didn't care about justice and what was right and what was wrong, but the idea that one could be born a "sinner" (original sin) and could be condemned to Hell for who knows what offense later was a shocking thing to hear. But it wasn't just concerning and confusing for their Jewish classmate, my Catholic friends were worried and rightfully (under the circumstances) obsessed with these concepts as well.

The seven deadly sins—lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride—were a list my Catholic friends were required to memorize and recite and I was present at one gathering where my friends worried incessantly about this list and what each sin meant. I imagined their Sunday school class had some sort of test coming up but more than likely they needed to recite the list for the nuns and feared incurring the "wrath" of the dreaded ruler from coming down on their hands.

I haven't thought about this list in years but in two recent sessions guidance came through that shifted the way I think and suddenly the discussions I remember on the Deadly Sins came flooding back. The guidance was that the problem at hand would disappear if one could sit in the belief that who we are is infinitely connected to ALL. That WE are collectively IT--God, the "Universe", the Big Gee, whatever you want to call IT. Self-realization, connection with the Divine, no longer seeing ourselves as separate.

How would one act, what would one believe from this perspective? In the guidance it was NOT required that one reach this state of being BEFORE healing could occur. The suggestion made was to act "as if," to imagine what it might be like. Would you feel ashamed of yourself or less than other people? Would you have any reason to be envious of others, greedy, afraid or vengeful? Conversely, would you need to prove your worth or flaunt it in any way? The "Sins" have been interpreted as varying degrees of separation from Divinity. If you really are Divinity—if our true nature is Divine—the sins have no reason to exist.