Tag Archives: humility

Who Are You?

Hold nothing back, you have no need to hide
Hold out your hands, you have no need to defend
Let go and live wild, you have no need to doubt
Let go and breathe, you have no need to fear

Stand equal to the defenders of dreams, protectors of truth, guardians of growing
Stand strong among the streaming stars that set your soul alight with wonder
And even when all you feel inside are division and despair
Show me the light of you, for this is who you are

Kindle the kindness that shame forbids you to share
With the one whose worth it tries to mar
Yes, that one, daring to dance despite history’s horrors
Blazing the beauty of you, every moment

Show me how you are learning to trust
With the gentle grace grown in the soil of sorrow
Show me how you are finding self-compassion
While fighting fiercely to own your own strength

Show me the spark that shines through the dark at the heart of you
Beneath the beliefs that still barricade you from belonging
Tell me of the tenderness you touch after trembling
And the tears that turned terror to triumph

Stand in the fire that melts chains and burns burdens
False foundations fall, timber tumbles, so many ruins crumbling
Flames fill and surround you, radiance reshaping shadow
Show me the sunlight soaring in your eyes

Arrival, Ireland, June 11

I awake prior to the alarm, and wonder whether it was never set and we’d miss the flight. It is Thursday the 11th of June. Our sojourn to Éire is finally upon us. At last, we will set foot in the home of our ancestors, that landscape that has captured my heart and called to me in dreams and images since I was a child.

What will it be like to arrive, I wonder. Will I recognize the very air, the very ground on which I stand? Will I be washed with that peculiar achingly peaceful relief of belonging, the one I fell into when I met my ancient family for the first time in this life? What time is it? Has the alarm gone off? I nudge my mom who is sleeping: “Is it after five?”

“No,” she says groggily, “go back to sleep.”

But I don’t sleep. I am hot and restless and anxious, about, I realize, more than simply the reason that I am finally fulfilling a dream that I’ve had for so long. I am traveling to Ireland with my mom and two brothers, (Bro1 and Bro2 named in order of descending age), and whether we will get along is a question who’s answer remains elusive.

Yesterday, Bro2 picked me up around 4 PM. As soon as he walked into my apartment, he began to rage about his challenges in life, his newest altercation with mom, and how he couldn’t stand being around her. I was sort of prepared for an excited, “Hi Éilis, good to see you, I’m so excited,” comment. I certainly wasn’t expecting a tirade. I was particularly stunned to find myself confronting a young man disguised as a ferocious gorilla carrying on in my space and bashing our mother, who was paying for all of our flight and room expenses on the trip, no less. I tried calming him down, after all, I was excited myself, and wasn’t about to let someone spill negativity all over me just because I was the human in close range.

Bro2’s attitude set the precedence for the tenor of the rest of the day, however, affecting not just me but the rest of the family as well. By nine PM, tentions among everyone skyrocketted. There was, certainly, a period of peace in all this to be had: it was on the car ride from Berkeley to Walnut Creek, during the times when my brother and I listened to a podcast recounting the rebellion and execution of Anabaptists in Münster Germany during the sixteenth century. (No, I am not kidding.)

Now, up before dawn, I wonder dubiously whether things will continue as they are and, if so, how I can possibly handle it for eleven days. But I’m going to be in Ireland! This thought alone seems to keep worry at bay, until I get up at dawn and find I am so dizzy that I have to sit down on the floor.

I am subsequently not so aware of any of my family members, as I go through the motions of getting in the car, standing on the train to the airport, and going through security, all the time feeling disturbingly ill. This lasts until I get some medicine during the layover in Chicago. Then, perhaps due to the medicine alone, perhaps due to the fact that I have now sat down in the plane that will take me to Dublin, the sudden illness symptoms slowly subside.

My brothers are safely sitting tucked away in the row behind me, and I’m sitting next to my mom. She’s in the window seat, which I feel is only right given that she’s the one who can see what’s on the other side of the glass.

I sleep, eat dinner, sleep, eat Breakfast, and sleep some more. During the times when I am awake, however, I find I cannot stop thinking about how strange it is to be returning by air through roughly the same route my ancestors took to get here, and how their travels were far more treacherous than mine.

We have an ancestor, James O’Cahill, who emigrated to America from Tipperary sometime in the seventeen hundreds. He would have made this journey in reverse, on a ship, with at least six to eight weeks time in transit. The ocean to him would not simply be a vast wonder to marvel at down below, while residing safe and in sanitary comfort in a pressure controlled cabin in the sky. For him, and for all those who left Ireland whether for the sake of adventure, to escape the engulfing wasteland of hunger, or to ride the wind in desperation before a relentless pursuing tide of imperialism and fear, the journey would prove to be a right of passage, as much as a passage of time, and for most there was only a one-way ticket. Among their challenges would have been their daily awesome and terrible encounters with a dynamic and sometimes ferocious sea, with the power to force respect and intimacy beyond what anyone perhaps had ever imagined or ever wanted to endure. The ocean could give as much as take life, and this was no metaphor. Both the ship, and whatever conditions prevailed on it, as well as the sea itself were guaranteed to transport one to a new world, but for some, it was not America or any where in this world at which they would ultimately arrive.

James O’Cahill did make it to America alive, settling in Iowa, where several members of each generation of the family, including my grandfather, were born. It is because of this ancestor’s journey, and the wondrous, brave, and I am sure sometimes harrowing ventures of many others, that I even exist, let alone have the privilege to “hop the pond” in less than a day, with an almost certain safe arrival and a guaranteed round trip ticket. The primary emotion residing within me as I fly effortlessly over the Atlantic, then, is profound humility.

Some time later, I awake from a long nap to find that mom has taken several pictures of the sun as it slowly inches its way up and over the horizon. I stare out the window, imagining what it would look like to watch the dawn while following after it, way above the clouds. At first I cannot picture anything at all. Then, a scene unfolds for me.

I watch, breathless and bewildered, as in my mind the earth turns, and the sun stands still. We say the sun rises, but literally, the sun, being a star, orbits nothing, while the earth spins, both on itself and around the sun. This is the way, then, that the scene begins.

As the plane moves relative to the earth, I picture for an instant every time zone in the world. To say it is 5 AM in Ireland and 9 PM of the previous day in California, simultaneously, is accurate at one level and misleading at the next. Our conception of time, I realize, is only relative to perception.

Relative to the sun, every place on the earth is now, is the present. Everyone on earth is, at every moment, experiencing what is now to them, and that now is always some proportioned mixture of darkness and light. Though some of us might talk of “losing” or “gaining” a day while traveling around the world, the truth is that we are always experiencing whatever present moment is occurring within the location in which we find ourselves.

Somewhere in the world is the space-time moment we thought we left behind, or the one we expect to witness in the future, but these are simply moments of now playing out in a continuum of moment, and if we were to view the whole world, we would behold all times at once. So I do this, for an instant in my mind’s eye. I stand outside the world, motionless, and watch as if looking at earth from the point of view of the sun. I watch as light sweeps across the world, illuminating every present moment in consecutive slices of space. It is sunrise, always, somewhere in the world, at any given time. The picture goes by in a flash, while we “chase” the sun, observing sunrise after sunrise, until the snail’s pace at which we soar, slogging along sluggishly with respect to the incredible speed of the spinning earth, means that the sun once again seems to dip below the clouds and vanish from view.

We continue to follow the dawn as we sail over Tipperary, through the heart of Ireland. The loud speaker sounds suddenly. “Flight Attendants, prepare for landing.”

“We did it!” I shout to my mom over the roar of the engine. “We’re here, we’re finally here!”

“I know, I still can’t believe it!” mom replies with equal enthusiasm, squeezing my hand.

Five minutes later, we start our descent into Dublin. Moved by some impulse, I look up then. My ancient kin, I know, will be traveling this whole trip with us. Caoilte has been quietly keeping watch on the plane for this leg of the journey. On the first plane ride to Chicago, he first ran around the cabin, checked out the cockpit, and tried to figure out how the plane’s engines worked before taking his place next to us. He arrived back at our seats with a look of boyish satisfaction, and I was happy that he had a chance to investigate. “Boys and their toys,” as Ailbhe says, having picked up the phrase from somewhere. But she always says this with a playful look in her eye.

Speaking of Ailbhe, I am quite startled to see her when I make to look up into Caoilte’s bright hazel eyes. Ailbhe decisively dislikes being near modern technology, especially anything that rumbles and moves such as cars, trains, and planes. I challenged her once to sit in a car with me, but I’d never known her to appear inside a modern vehicle voluntarily. And yet, here she is, unmistakably standing next to Caoilte, a slight hint of resolute determination masked by her warm smile.

“You’re here!” is all I can think to happily exclaim.

“I wouldn’t miss my own sister’s arrival in the home we once shared, not for the world, even if I have to reckon with a plane to do it, now would I?” Ailbhe answers, posing an inquiry of her own in response to my surprise.

With enormous gratitude, I beam at her. “Thank you,” I say silently, and send her a picture of the way I am feeling, moved by joy, even though she can already see it for herself.

Ailbhe and Caoilte raise their hands, then, in the gesture of greeting: “Welcome home, Éilis.”

The Four Who Helped Me Heal _ When Two Worlds Meet

August-September, 2013

In 2008, I develop a chronic and serious medical condition that is not properly diagnosed for the next six years. It is an intestinal condition and here is the thing I learn about such conditions: there is a lot of stigma around them and it is almost taboo to speak about it. So it has taken me over a year to decide to post this.

I am tested for Crohn’s, IBS, a whole gamut of scary conditions—but never, oddly, for the one condition I end up learning I have. I wonder if my problem has anything to do with my diet, so I give up dairy, gluten, and nuts and seeds. None of this works either, and is instead quite the hassle to deal with in daily living as I am exhausted, not absorbing any food I am eating, and scheduling my life around my illness.

Besides the physical illness, however, there is an even stealthier nightmare to contend with: the nightmare of secrecy, shame, self-blame, self-disgust, and isolation. At the same time that I want an accurate diagnosis, I also live in constant fear of its discovery. I believe that if anyone finds out, it will be proof that I must be replaceable and unloved. Sometimes I wish I could never see anyone again. I feel like I am living someone else’s life. I have certainly checked out of the one I’ve been given, but like the lyric in Hotel California, “you can check out any time you like but you can’t ever leave.” I have already made up my mind a while back that “leaving,” which would mean complete apathy or death, is no option for me. I just wish I could be a whole person again.

It takes until March of 2013 to get a proper diagnosis, after which I am immediately referred to a surgeon. I find I am mortified and relieved to finally be taken seriously and have an explanation for the terror and pain. I can finally name my nightmare that has taken over my life, its truth borne silently and in hushed horror. And as I come to accept both that I will not have to endure this forever, and that surgery is my only option, as I work hard to heal my shattered spirit, I begin slowly to surrender to what is. Very slowly.

It has been extremely difficult to prepare for surgery: all the ins and outs of care I need during the hospital stay and then again almost constantly for the three weeks following, the lining up of friends and family, social workers, and dealing with bureaucracy has been almost too much to handle. During all this, four people from the otherworld keep appearing together around my living room. Quietly, with no expectations of their own, they lend me support with silent presence, and it is strangely validating, this vigil of acknowledgement and how they do not judge me for not being whole, or well, and don’t look away. They wear homemade wool outfits, are extremely tall, and carry swords and shields with swirly ray patterns on them, so I can’t tell precisely if I am seeing the symbol for sun or water, or both at once. They look solemn and serious. They rarely move. They have yet to speak to me. That hardly matters. In the other world, whole conversations can occur without words.

I don’t know their names or why they are here, I mean why they are bothering to hang out with me, but I am not ever surprised to see them, it is kind of like arriving home from a long day and finding your family there— ordinary joyous contentment, belonging. I am also way too exhausted and ill to ask questions or even be particularly polite, but they don’t seem bothered by that. I simply except, gratefully, that they are here, as I go about making countless phone calls, and work out my manifest world recovery team who will have to spend three to six weeks assisting me while I don’t have a guide dog. The surgeons don’t want him with me while there’s a chance he could pull on me or cause me to fall.

Now, six months after my referral to a surgeon, around August 20th, I am attending another appointment for a second opinion. I am prepared to take as much control of the situation and my health as possible. I have literally twenty-five questions on my Braille computer ready to ask, thoroughly researched. I’m leaving no stone unturned.

I look around the room and find all four of my otherworld people are here. When our eyes meet, their eyes are kind, with a somber calm within them. I marvel at how they can see into the truth of things, but don’t evaluate what they see. This in and of itself is a gift to me. When I think there is no way I could possibly be safe, I look at my otherworld people and they help to ground me in myself, in a gaze that simply accepts what is.

When the surgeon walks in, I think, well okay, this surgeon dude tries messing with me, he’s going to be really sorry he does. That thought makes me smile despite the circumstances. These four people from the otherworld are formidable looking indeed. They certainly command anyone’s respect, and I surmise, would most likely instill fear in anyone who got on the wrong side of them. The surgeon, I notice, is effectively surrounded. I am relieved and for the first time ever while in a doctor’s office, I feel safe.

Fortunately, the surgeon is thoughtful and respectful, and doesn’t hold limiting stereotypical views about people with disabilities. He answers my questions thoroughly and to the extent it is humanly possible, puts me at ease. I am so young and otherwise healthy that he is confident the surgery will be a success. He corrects my misinformation and this in and of itself silences many of my fears. Meanwhile, my otherworld people keep their vigil around the room, holding space for me, keeping me centered, their presence silently challenging my belief that until I am well I am not valuable to anyone. I cannot seriously have this thought and look into their eyes at the same time, and so unless I need to be looking elsewhere, I never look away from them.

I arrive at the hospital on September 17th. Trembling violently from cold and nerves, I enter the unusually frigid operating room. This is when I realize I have a choice: resist or surrender. Up until this point, I believe that surrendering means giving up the deepest part of me. It is my dignity and respect which needs fighting for, and it is this dignity that the surgery and the hospital stay, with its inevitability of rendering me profoundly dependent on others, surely threatens and compromises. But suddenly my need to heal overrides my desire to continue with my defenses. The anesthesiologist begins to read the affirmations I have written up for her to say while I go under, each to be repeated three times. “You are whole, safe, and secure,” she says soothingly. “You are whole, safe and secure.”

I let go, completely, and by the time she repeats the affirmation a third time, I’ve lost consciousness. When I awake, I know I am well. I still need to recover, but my body feels like mine again. My first words are, “I’m so happy!” I realize surprisingly that at the moment I am not in any pain at all, despite just having gone through an intense major procedure. But that is not the only gift I receive from this experience. I know that my choice to surrender is the greatest gift I could ever imagine: I come home to myself. I do not lose myself, but find it again. I find peace, and this peace stays with me wherever I am.

I spend six days in hospital. I do recover well, but there is still all that uncomfortable and gnarly stuff that comes with having major surgery. Incredibly, amazingly, my other world people stay with me the whole time, regardless. They hold space for me, and protect me so all I have to do is heal. I don’t need to see them. I can feel the light that surrounds me, and it is like being a child who finally experiences what it is like to be held.

It is only after six weeks of recovery (after which I can eat whatever I want!) that I see my four otherworld people vividly, in front of me, like I normally do. And when I do, it finally occurs to me to ask who they are. When they tell me, my rational brain goes on strike until further notice and I am caught in between impossible and possible, acceptable and unnervingly unacceptable reality.

I spend the first week in a bit of stunned denial, and ask them at least twice a day to come again with who they are. Occasionally I worry that I am engaging in the most outlandishly creative act of imagination ever conceived. Have I lost it? But no, somehow I know I am probably not making this up at all, and the adage ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ would absolutely apply and I’d be incapable of dreaming all this even if I tried. Also I am definitely not dreaming. Also, I have been too busy preparing for and then recovering from surgery to try. Also, if these really are the people they say they are, I absolutely have to believe them.

Still, I am having trouble accepting this reality. Moments strike me at random in which I am confronted with trying to come to terms with what is going on. Why would these four people, who I don’t even know, choose to spend days with me in which I can barely get out of bed, am often in pain, and need help doing almost everything under the sun? How can they see the state I’m in and not judge me? Why is it that, though they never look away, I feel peacefully, utterly safe? I am beyond grateful. But why? Why do this for me?

But when I do ask Caoilte about it, ask why, why would he and his sons Faolán and Colla, and his cousin Oisín, be so unconditionally here for me, he simply replies, “Why not?”

It’s a response that effectively separates itself from any line of argument to the contrary. It causes me to think seriously about the negative view of myself that I hold and always have taken for granted. I know that if I were given a reason why, I’d try my best to come up with why I still did not deserve it. But there is no reason. I am given instead an invitation to accept what is. It takes some time, but acceptance does come. I accept despite my culture’s aversion to spiritual experiences that make no sense, I accept though this leaves me in profound humility, gratitude, and wonder. And I am forced to confront my incredulity that I could ever be worth doing such a thing for, ask myself whether I have been wrong my whole life about lacking value unless I am exceptional or perfect, whether, regardless of my blindness or health or illness or strengths or weaknesses I might just be enough. Really? And why? But as I will come to find out, there are many preconceptions of myself and the world that I’ll be turning on their head, reevaluating, and growing from, letting go into awe and gratitude and wonder, coming home.

a href=”https://thesoundofwhathappens.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/the-antlered-branch-_-when-two-worlds-meet-part-13/” title=”The Antlered Branch _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 13″/

Ancestor Invocation _ The One-Many OM Project

Ancestors Invocation
by Jennifer Ellison
(Originally published in Druid’s Progress 11)

We hear your whispered voices speaking words of wisdom into our unconscious minds. Your whispers awaken our dreams, our hearts, our desires. You who are our ancestors who once walked upon the earth and were part of our shared life eternal, we praise you with all that is sacred in our lives.

You who planted the seed of knowledge, you who sought inner peace, you who claimed your love for the Gods and Goddesses of old, we give you honor and praise your name.

Grandmother, without you I would not be here. Grandfather, without you I would not be here. People that have come before and gone ahead, without you I would not be here.

I give you honor and praise your name. We ask you for guidance, for you have the power of knowledge. You have been born in us, part of our being. We draw upon your strength so that we may move ever forward. Your footsteps, we follow as all children will. You are our family and with all the love in my being, I give you honor and call your names.

Ancestors, I praise you with the earth in my palm. I praise you with the fire in my heart. I praise you with my breath as I give offerings to your greatness. I praise you with the blood and water of life within my body. I call forth for you with honor for all eternity.

***

Happy samhain to all!