The beginning of the summer 2014 began my kooky journey. I thought I had been knocked off of my “Comfy Couch” a time or two before…but not really. Physical discomfort and emotional discomfort cannot begin to compare with spiritual discomfort. Physical and emotional discomfort can usually be remedied by time/ rest/ medicine/ therapy/ the removal or change of something in the physical world . We can typically diagnose a physical or emotional problem…even if we can not always heal or help the problem. But spiritual problems are so very personal and so often undetected. They can take up residency in a person and make us unwell. More than unwell – spiritual problems can inhibit our growth and prevent us from becoming who we are meant to be.
How can we know? No one can see it! No one can feel it…except for us. And we have no idea what it is…because we have become accustomed to it. It is like an artery that becomes slowly clogged…little by little the flow is blocked but we don’t know it. The consequence of letting this continue can be catastrophic. But again, how can we know? It is an insidious thing. These things may take such a hold that we believe that it is a part of us…part of our “normal”… instead of an unwanted intruder that is clogging and blocking and impeding the healthy flow that should be and could be in us…if we were just aware.
I have a TERRIBLE blockage. And I thought I was fine. In fact I thought I was WAY more than fine…I thought I was in AWESOME spiritual shape. But, God is good. And when I say to God, “help me see”…He shows me things that I did not want to see but that I need to see. And when God says, “Seek and you will find”…and “Ask and you will receive”…and “Knock and the door will be opened for you”…He means it! He is so good to His Word and He is so happy not to leave me blind and unknowing. But, when the door is opened, it will let in the light. And if there is any part of me that I am trying not to have to see…it will be exposed. My ignorant “bliss” is replaced with “Holy CRAP!!! That is AWFUL! How can that be living inside of me? How do I get it out? I need a Physician! I need a Healer! I need a Counselor! What I really need is a Miracle Worker!”
I might have titled this post “Coming Out”.
But this story is more than stepping out of darkness into the light. It is a lot more complicated than a quick and easy surgical removal of a stray object lodged within me.
This past year and really this past summer has been a personal odyssey that I believe I need to share. It has not been pretty. But is has been necessary. An analogy could be the difference between the tiny, dark Apache Warrior sweat lodge that I found myself in this past June and the Gigantic, Wooden-framed Cherokee demonstration lodge that I explored yesterday afternoon. The first was blazing hot and dark. I could see nothing. I had never experienced anything like it…and yet it was something that I felt I had done many times before. I was still and silent between two Native American brothers. I listened to the Native stories and songs and looked at the glow of the rocks…and I knew that this was the beginning of a journey to know more…that there was SO MUCH more to know.
Yesterday was the first full day of Autumn, my favorite time of year. Things are not dying…things are changing. And it is beautiful.
Yesterday was gorgeous. Blue skies, a cool breeze…I hiked on Cherokee land and ended my day walking around the Sequoya museum grounds that is twenty minute drive from where my parents live. I have Cherokee ancestors…yet, I had never been there! Yesterday was another reminder that I have so much to learn.
Merriam-Webster defines “Odyssey” as
: a long journey full of adventures
It has been a REALLY long time since I have written. It is one of those crazy situations where I have so much to say that I don’t even know where to begin. “Deer in the Headlights” comes to mind. Remember that. A Cherokee Indian named “Feather Hawk” had a vision of me with “deer legs” this summer. At first he thought it was a funny sight until his vision became clearer and he could see why…
Let me give you a quick run-down of some important places I have been…and then I will fill in the gaps as to why they were important.
Camp Sumatanga – the beginning of last summer and the beginning of this summer. “Sumatanga” is a word that means “A place of Rest and Vision”. One would think that “Sumatanga” is a Native American/ American “Indian” word…but actually it is a Sanskrit word. It is an Ancient India Indian word. Last summer Sumatanga was a place of discomfort. I was there because I had agreed to help with the children’s program for a week of “Camp Farthest Out”. A friend had been asked to get volunteers for the week…so she got me. My husband, youngest son and youngest daughter came along. So did one of my best friends. Let’s just say that my husband, son and friend did not go back again this year. But my daughter really wanted to…and my other friend was still in charge of the children’s program and needed volunteers…so as the responsible and sacrificial person that I am, I went again.
Camp Farthest Out is a Charismatic Camp. For a good Methodist girl like myself, it stretched my comfort. But it was supposed to… I started out being disturbed. Honestly, I was a little disgusted…and cynical…and disgusted some more. But then I became humbled. God broke my pride and I began hearing Him ask me…”Why do you think that the way that you worship is right and this is wrong? When you worship are you really thinking about me with your whole mind and loving me with your whole heart or are you thinking about what people will think of you…if you raised your hands…if you sang me a song…if you laid with your face on the floor? If you let your judgement of right and wrong and your own inhibitions and what you have been taught by men to be reverent or irreverent and you were wholly focused on Me…what would that look like?” And my pitiful answer was, “I don’t know. I have no idea. But I want to know. I really really really want to know.”
Be careful what you ask for. God wants me to know too. “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” My door was beginning to open. I am proud. I am judgmental. I have believed that I am strong and smart when I am weak and ignorant. But I want wisdom. Above all things I want to really know God. And to be wise. But there is a cost – we must come face-to-face with things that we thought were good…and be dismayed when we discover that they are not good.
I am chock-full of not good stuff. It is so not good that it made “Ruthie” the Cherokee, Angie the Energy Healer, Feather Hawk and his pet wolf “Moonie” want to throw up. Actually, I don’t think that Feather Hawk and “Moonie” got sick…they got concerned. Very concerned.
What is wrong with me that could illicit such a negative reaction from these sensitive, spiritually connected, “Hollow-bone” healers? It has taken me all summer to understand. I don’t make them sick. They can sense the blockage I have that prevents my flow. It is heavy and weighty. And it has to go…I am trying to figure out how to make it go.
This year at Camp Farthest Out I became virtually deaf. Seriously. The entire week I felt like I had a really thick pillow wrapped around my head. It was a very disconcerting feeling not to be able to hear what was going on in the world around me except in very muffled tones and then only when I strained to hear. I knew that my problem was not major…I just had water stuck in my ears that would not come out. I knew it would eventually…but day after day it remained. I did a lot of introspection as the sound of the world around me was muted.
Then the following week, on the recommendation of my oldest son, I went to see the movie “Inside Out”. Fortunately my hearing problem had resolved itself. Little did I know that I was about to get hit on the head with a sledge-hammer.
As if it can possibly be a bad thing to be the emotion “Joy”! I sat there in the dark theater thinking “Oh MY GOSH!!!!” That “Joy” character is me. Every single bit of her…her exasperation at the other emotions….not wanting them to play any part or have anything to do with the child that they “controlled”. She wanted the child to only feel happy all day every day. I sat there literally wanting to toss all of the other emotions down a rubbish shoot. ESPECIALLY “Sorrow”. I could not stand that pathetic little horror. Sorrow made me a nervous wreck. When Joy drew a circle and told Sorrow that she wanted to play a game…that Sorrow was supposed to stand inside and stay inside of the circle and not come out of the circle I wanted to stand up and shout, “YES! Finally! Keep her AWAY!!! Don’t let her touch anything!”
And there is a scene when Joy is pulling the pathetic Sorrow around because Sorrow is too distressed to walk on her own….and I just want to stand up and scream, “Leave her sorry butt behind! You don’t need her! She is an awful, terrible, drag on your energy! She is slowing you down! Leave her! Go alone!”
I have to be honest…sometimes “Disgust” is in control of my “control panel” too. But OMG I am not controlled by Joy…I am Joy. And it doesn’t mean that I am Joyful always…it just means that I will not allow any other emotion to be in control. They might try…but Joy has always quickly put an abrupt stop to it…saying no matter what, “It’s Ok! It’s Ok! Mind over Matter! It’s Ok! Everything is JUST FINE!”
And I have done myself and people around me a huge disservice because of this. I have been a terrible liar. Sometimes things are not OK or FINE. And I have had very little patience with people who are not able to “Get over it!” I have been judgmental because “if I can get over it, then you should be able to too!” I have lacked patience and empathy…for myself and other people.
Emotions are valid and valuable. They help us. I am just now discovering this!
There is a scene when Joy and Sorrow are trying to “fix” a big problem and have to be far away from the child’s “control panel”. The emotions left in charge of the child are “Fear”, “Anger” , and “Disgust”. Without Joy and Sorrow…with only Fear, Anger, and Disgust…the child literally begins to shut down. She doesn’t care anymore. She becomes disconnected and hardened to everything and everyone around her. I know people like this. People who lost their joy and were not allowed to mourn…and who had the dominate emotions of fear, anger and disgust controlling them. They are the walking dead. They are bitter and hurt and have no idea what real joy…or real sorrow…or real care for someone else…or what real love feels like.
Joy needs to acknowledge that every emotion is valid and useful…it is a balance. God gave us emotions, so they are good.
After seeing the movie, I went to the Ozarks. I hate heat…and I don’t like to sweat for no good reason… But I went to a sweat lodge. After I had told my friend who asked if I would be interested in going with her, and I said unequivocally “NO WAY!” I kept getting signs that I was supposed to go…”Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” signs were everywhere. And another friend randomly told me that her sweat lodge experience was life-changing…” Dang it! I went.
I went. And it was as crazy and revelation – ary as my Camp Farthest Out experiences…and as revelation-ary as my “Inside Out” movie experience.
And I lost my hearing again. It is true…when one sense it weak, the others learn to compensate. I couldn’t hear well outside, but I began to hear more clearly. And see more clearly. And feel. And consider that maybe it is ok not to be so tough…and that somethings must be let go of.
To be continued….