My Inner Mystic

reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3

Category Archives: thoughts

Woman Alone in the Woods

I recently spent a week alone in the woods.  Someone asked me afterward if it was nice to get away.  I hesitated in response.  Away?! I never left. Here’s the thing…our mind goes with us EVERYWHERE we go!

When I first envisioned this experience many months ago I somehow thought it’d be peaceful and nurturing.  I’d get to soak up all the goodness and become more attuned to the magical subtleties of nature.  And then I began to think of it as my version of a meditation retreat…I’d be alone in the woods, just me and my thoughts…what a great way to stretch myself, right?

Before I even left town, the paranoid thoughts started.  The first and best of my paranoid thoughts:  “What if my battery watch dies and I don’t know what time it is.”  This thought and others like it told me how it was really going to go down:  I was going to encounter my mind and my fears.

I went down to southern Oregon, back to my stomping grounds, a long haul from Seattle where I now live, to the Chewaucan River, a place my dad loved to camp and fish and where he took me and my siblings in my youth.  I wanted to see and experience a place my dad loved from my adult and more awakened eyes, to connect with the memory and spirit of my dad and my brother, who have both passed from this life.

I drove into the Gearhart Wilderness on a Monday and let me just tell you…this part of Oregon is RE-MOTE:  very few people, very few cars on the road, and ZERO cell phone reception.  As I drove deeper into the wilderness I could feel myself becoming more and more afraid, mostly fears about getting stranded.  The thought of waiting alongside the road and trusting a stranger to help me seemed rather scary.

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I arrived at Happy Camp in the late afternoon.  There was only one other camper in the campground, all the way on the other side.  He was a fly fisherman – my sense was that he was safe.  I had trouble sleeping that night, even woke myself up by the sound of my own snore after about an hour of sleep.  I don’t know what I was afraid of exactly (animals? humans?), I was just afraid.

By the light of day the next morning, I started to settle in and felt less afraid.  Somehow I think I even felt comforted knowing there was another human at the opposite end of the campground, yet after a while something in me began to wonder about that.  I took a walk around the campground and discovered that the other camper was gone; he’d packed up and left sometime in the early morning hours.  I was all alone!  It’s what I wanted, or did I?

I spent three nights at Happy Camp.  I found the name ironic cuz I didn’t feel all that happy there.  My mind was agitated and I was skittish and easily spooked.  For instance, on my first full day in the woods I took a walk along the road and crossed over the national forest boundary into public land and came across a deserted cattle corral.  Its emptiness was haunting and my mind started playing tricks on me.  My mind saw a man in what was likely a wooden fence post.  I had a flash back of being flashed while walking alone on a road outside the city walls of Cortona, Italy and with a racing heart I bolted, looking over my shoulder until I made it safe back to camp.

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On my second full day in the woods I ventured away from camp.  Should I tell you how I was afraid of leaving stuff out at my campsite, like my stove, for fear that my campsite would be raided and my stuff stolen?  Yep, I had that thought.  My plan was to hike the Blue Lake trail that had been recommended to me by the gal at the forest ranger station in Bly.  It looked easy enough to get to the trailhead…get on road 3372 which, accordingly to the map, was across main road 34 and just opposite the road to Happy Camp.

I got on a road I hoped was Forest Service road 3372, though I didn’t see one of those brown signs with numbers.  I was supposed to drive 9 miles up this road before turning onto another road leading 2 more miles to the trailhead.  A more lush forest turned to a sparse and “unfriendly” lodge-pole pine forest.  No one knew where I was.  I didn’t for sure know where I was or if I was on the right road.  I started to feel vulnerable and shaky inside.  I missed my friends.  I wanted to hold someone’s hand.  I felt total relief when I finally saw the bleached out sign pointing to the trailhead and the brown sign confirming, YES, I was on road 3372.

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I got to the trailhead and I was THE ONLY one there.  This was a first for me.  I’ve *never* been THE ONLY one on a trail before.  I quietly gave myself a little pep talk…“you hike all the time, you have done plenty of solo hikes, you’ll be fine.”   I crawled over lots of fallen trees (known as dead fall) and did a good job of finding the trail again when it was temporarily covered by dead fall.  Cat scat was scattered on the trail so I knew the cats were around. I was hiking with bear spray, my protection against the wildcats.  As you can imagine, a potential encounter with a wildcat was another one of my fears.

I ate lunch on a rock on the lake shore, mosquitoes biting me by the dozens.  I heard something that sounded like an explosion somewhere on the other side of the lake.  My mind instantly thought, “someone is using dynamite to blow stuff up,” and then I remembered I was THE ONLY one up here.  Nothing was being blown up… I’d just heard a tree fall in the woods.  You want to hear something ironic?  With all the dead fall and hearing a tree fall, I wasn’t even afraid of a tree falling on me!

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Day 3 alone in the woods.  I slept pretty well the night before, the best so far.  My nervous system finally started to quiet down.  I packed up camp.  I was moving on to the Chewaucan River, my ultimate destination, but first I would hike up to “The Palisades” and “The Dome,” the crown jewels of the Gearhart Wilderness.  I get in my car, start driving down the very bumpy and dusty dirt road and my car is squealing like crazy.  The thing I was afraid of most – car trouble – was becoming my reality.

I made it to the trailhead.  My car squealed the entire 30 minute drive there.  I kept hoping and praying the squealing would stop, but it didn’t.  My mind thought of all the things it could be…a belt about to slip off, a wheel bearing that was going to fall apart.  I started hiking, doing my best to put my car troubles out of my mind and put my attention on my hike.  That didn’t happen.  Here I was on this incredibly stunning hike and my mind was thinking ahead to the possibility of breaking down in the south central Oregon and being stranded in some small town over the long weekend until my car could be fixed.

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I prayed and prayed some more.  I sat down on a rock and had a short sob.  I prayed again to all Divine beings – God, Father Sky, Mother Earth, my spirit allies, angels, fairies, my ancestors.  I prayed to my dad, an exceedingly resourceful mechanic who has passed to the heavens, “please dad, please, please fix my car with your Divine hands.”

Several hours later I returned to my car.  As I made my way down the *super* bumpy dirt road back to paved main road 34 I didn’t hear any squealing.  I had a choice – turn left and head toward the Chewaucan River or turn right and head back to Klamath Falls and take my car to a mechanic before the weekend began.  I turned left.  The deal:  if my car squealed in the next 15 minutes I would turn around.  About 5 minutes down the road I heard the hint of a squeal.  I immediately made a U turn.

I drove about 30 minutes down the mountain and out of the wilderness back toward Bly.  Something didn’t look right.  I had turned the wrong way.  I was going to have to turn around and go right past the entrance to the Gearhart Wilderness.  My car had been doing fine for the last 30 minutes.  I slowed down and listened.  No squealing.  As I approached the entrance, I made a split second decision: “I’m going back in!  I’m not going to give up my vacation cuz I might break down and I might not make it back to work the day I was scheduled to return.” I made it all the Chewaucan River and parked my car for the next 3 days.

The river valley was gorgeous – sage and ponderosa pine country.  I felt a connection to my dad, to this place he loved.  I’d like to say I was relaxed and filled with peace once I arrived.  Not so.  I was a wound up ball of fear.  I was paranoid my fire was going to spread, that the forest would catch on fire.  I woke myself up again from the sound of my own snore and was awake most of the night.  In the sounds of the river my mind heard fire and I was paranoid the forest was going to burn down and that I’d be burned to a crisp in my tent.

The next day, July 1, was my deceased brother’s 46th birthday.  I walked down the road in search of the campground my dad had taken me and my brother in my teens and where me and my brother fly fished together.  As I approached Jones Crossing campground, I knew in my heart and belly, “this is the place.”  I said to myself more than once, “dad sure knew how to pick good spots.”

I sat on the river bank and talked and prayed to my brother, a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face, “Happy Birthday, Doug!”  What a beautiful thing to be in the exact spot we shared memories together on his birthday.  I made it to the Chewaucan and not just that, I made it there for my brother’s birthday, something that had only vaguely occurred to me in my plans leading up to this adventure.  I lay down on the river bank under a blanket of elms and took a nap and FINALLY relaxed.

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That week camping alone in the woods I got up close and personal with my FEARS and I’ve never prayed so earnestly in my life.  I saw how powerful the mind is.  We can attract the good and we can attract the bad.  A mind that is humming with fear becomes a very strong magnet and what we fear most can become our reality.  I pulled myself out of the fear and turned my vibration around through prayerful surrender and by cultivating a whole lotta faith and trust.

I had a meditation retreat like experience and what’s more, I had to be with all that arose within and survive (at the same time)!

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As for my desire to tune in to the magical subtleties of nature, it happened.  As I was packing up that last day a bug buzzed into my left ear.  Still a little skittish from being molested by mosquitoes, I swatted it away.  I immediately stopped myself.  “Oh wait, that might have been a fairy delivering a message.”  The sound of the bug was still in my ear.  I paused and tuned in, “if I had to translate that sound into words, what would they be?”  I heard and knew simultaneously:  “everything’s going to be ok” and it was.

I made it back to Seattle just fine.  My check engine light did come on as I drove over the scary river overpass in Portland after I had a paranoid thought of breaking down right there and the second after I said out loud, “I’m gonna be honest – this part of the freeway scares me.” There it was again, my powerful mind!

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Both my dad and my brother live on in the heavens. It’s through experiences like these and walking in the memory of their footsteps that I touch their spirits.

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Like Me!

I recently stepped into the land of dating, a land I do not visit very often, and went on a lively exploration. I find this land intoxicating and frustrating and kind of maddening.  I don’t really date, I guess mostly because I haven’t met/crossed paths with too many men to whom I felt genuinely connected and drawn.  I can count on one hand the number of men I’ve felt drawn to, deeply connected to, and/or had feelings for since my big, 10 year relationship ended nearly 5 years ago.

I met a guy a few weeks back at the birthday party of a mutual friend.  We spent most of the evening talking to each other.  As the night went on and the more we talked, I could tell he was interested and intrigued.  He asked me lots of questions and stuck around longer than he intended.  Other than a powerful synchronicity that instantly connected us (he has lots of experience with a plant medicine used in shamanic journeys and I will be embarking on my first such journey when I travel to Peru in a few months), I can’t say I felt a connection or was especially drawn to him that night.  He did, however, do a fantastic job of charming me (umm, pretty nice to hear from someone that they think you are interesting and that they’ve never met anyone like you before) and so when he asked me for my number, I gave it to him.  In that moment I said yes (internally).  Why not?  It’d be a fun adventure into dating land.

We met for a casual dinner a week and a half after the party and I have to say it was kind of electric.  He came to life in a way I had not experienced him at the party.  He was funny and sarcastic and teased me a lot, which produced LOTS of laughter from me and not nervous laughter, but my real, authentic, from the depths of my core laughter.  I was blown away by how much he remembered from our conversation the night we met.  This guy was paying attention!  I could tell from talking with him that he has a brilliant mind and feels things deeply, that he values getting to know others deeply.  I felt challenged by this guy, in a good way, a way that I know if we danced together and developed a lasting relationship, be it a friendship or more, would encourage me to stretch, to continue to grow and deepen.

I came home that night feeling like I was under a spell.  I felt like I was swooning.  I had trouble sleeping.  I had trouble concentrating the next day.  I could feel the electricity circulating around my heart when I thought about him, talked about him, or received a text from him.  I had enough self awareness to know I was feeling the effects of a huge surge of hormones that my body released.  Whew!, they sure are powerful!

So why is this adventure into the land of dating so frustrating for me?  The waiting game drives me crazy.  At the end of our “date,” this guy asked if I wanted to get together again and in my own way, I said yes and communicated, again in my own way, that I enjoyed our evening together.  (note: the in-person version of me is not always as articulate and “smooth” as the written/edited version of me)  We didn’t line anything up, so now I’m waiting to see if he extends another invitation for us to get together, which I obviously very much want him to do (now that I’ve been seduced! 🙂 ).

After my body cycled out the surge of hormones, I felt the affliction of self-doubt and self-blame start to inhabit my being.  “Dating” stirs up my stuff.  I began to have thoughts like, “maybe he isn’t as into me as I thought” or “maybe after hanging out he is less interested than when we first met.”  I’ve heard myself say more than once, “I’ve screwed it up.”  I know this is kind of ridiculous because we only went out for one “date” and how much could I have done / not done to “screw it up”?  Is being myself and being true to my values screwing things up?

The thoughts don’t stop here. I even had this crazy, paranoid thought that I am sending out some desperate/longing vibration into the cosmos and that he’ll pick it up on his antennae on the other side of town and it will turn him away / scare him off. Alas, this is a very fantastical version of the “I’ve screwed it up” story line. But I do have legitimate worry – our thoughts create our reality…this is the teaching of Eastern philosophies and traditions, after all.

My fear of screwing things up, of doing something wrong, of ultimately being “rejected” is very real for me.  This is my psychology.  My “crazy” (and I say “crazy” with quite a lot of affection toward myself) paranoid thoughts and turbulent emotional state as a result of these thoughts is how my attachment wounds play out. For those new to this idea of attachment wounds…the relationship we have with our early childhood caregivers, and for most of us this was our mother, is the first “love” relationship of our lives and shapes and impacts every love relationship and every attachment (even with friends!) we have in our lives. I was raised by a mother who chronically disassociated; my little vulnerable self experienced her disassociation as abandonment. From that experience of chronic abandonment came the storyline, “there’s something wrong with me / I’m not good enough,” a common core feeling / belief of the wounded, a belief that was tragically re-enforced when my relationship ended.

Underneath my current frustration with my adventures in dating lies a whole reservoir of wounding, as should be evident from reading my tale. I so long to be loved and accepted just the way I am. I want to be in place of reciprocation; I want to be met. I long for a shared reality. Most of all, I long for the trust, safety, and container of a committed relationship, where I desire to share myself with someone fully and deeply.

After that exceedingly long and ePic prelude, I am excited to announce that you can now Like Me!” on Facebook!

I recently started a fan page and this post serves as my official announcement. 🙂

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Discovering Light in the Dark

Today we stopped saving daylight.  We have set our clocks back.  We have officially entered the dark season.  We have surrendered, but have we embraced the dark?

The day we stop saving light and turn back our clocks is my least favorite day of the entire year.  My body and heart rebel against it.  I surrender because I have to, because the calendar, and well, the tilt and rotation of the earth compels me, requires me, to do so.  I am a lover of sun, of sunlight.  The sun wakes me up on the inside, it fills me with energy, it lifts my spirit.  When the sun comes out, my heart brightens, I brighten.  Each emergence of the sun is a hallelujah moment for me.  The bigger the emergence, like after days and days of cloudy, stormy weather, the bigger my hallelujah moment.

We are now in the dark season.  We have been creeping into this dark season for a while.  The sun has been leaving us earlier and earlier every day and for those of us in the Pacific Northwest (and no doubt many other places), this time of year is even darker because the thick grey clouds of fall roll in and obscure our sun and our light.

The lack of sunlight in our lives is an external experience with a very real internal impact.  When the earth rotates and tilts away from the sun, as we are now experiencing in the northern hemisphere, the light and warmth of the sun moves away from our external landscape.  When the sun moves farther away from us, our internal landscape is also depleted of this energizing light.  With the absence of the sun in our daily lives, many of us feel less light, less of that bright shining feeling, and more darkness on the inside.

During the shift from summer into fall, I began to feel darkness creep into my internal landscape.  My heart and my body felt heavier.  I felt a rise of sadness and hopelessness.  I felt frustrated with the trajectory of my life and the lack of development and movement forward in a place where I am so ready for new growth to emerge.  I wrestled with an “I give up” feeling.  A scary thought began to form in my mind along the lines of, “what’s the point?,” as in, “what is the point to living?”  Fortunately my awareness of my mental processes and emotional experiences is quite keen and I was able to put the brakes on the formation of this thought.

The rising thought, “what’s the point?,” was a “whoa” moment, a wake up moment.  I was quite aware that this thought can lead to some very scary places and I have no interest in visiting these frightening places.  I made an intentional choice to pause and redirect my thoughts and feelings.  I was motivated to do this first, because I recognized the scary nature of my thought and second, because I do not want to allow my brain and my emotions to wire themselves into chronic depressive thought patterns.  It took a bit of effort to redirect.  I had to search within myself for a spark to keep the hope alive, to not give up, but instead continue to believe that what I am wanting most in my life will unfold and grow.

Reflecting back on my inner search for a spark of hope, the image of light, of fire, grew inside of me.  The search I did within my inner landscape was much like looking for and gathering wood from the forest floor to make a campfire.  When faced with the “I give up” feeling, I needed renewed hope to keep my fire burning.  I found it by digging around within myself, turning over some leaves and discovering a piece of nice, dry wood.  I threw it on the waning fire and a big flame shot up.  Whew.  Crisis averted.  I kept the wolves, those scary thoughts and depressing feelings, at bay.   This time I was able to find fuel fairly quickly and “save” my fire.  Keeping one’s light bright and one’s fire burning is not always this easy.  This time I found my way out of the dark rather quickly.  This time…

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My metaphorical search for fuel to keep my inner fire burning and radiating led me to contemplate light.  I pondered:  What is the fuel that keeps our light shining, our fire burning?  My fuel is drawn from hope, faith, optimism, devotion, insight, and my belief in love.  I re(source) my fuel, which is vital to sustaining my light, from nature, learning and discovery, my yoga practice and spiritual journey, inspiration, new experiences and adventures, connection with others, and giving of myself in ways that uplift and support those around me.  And I recognize that my strongest and deepest fuel source is an innate desire and will to not only survive, but to thrive.

I imagine each person fuels and (re)sources their light via different pathways.  However, I am going to guess that elements of our inner fuel and (re)sources are universal.   I suspect folks universally draw fuel from hope, love, faith, and devotion.  I also suspect most folks re(source) from nature, love, and spirituality, each of which are so vital to sustaining one’s inner light.  And not just unique to me, but to all of us, is an instinct to survive.  I believe this instinct, which resides within each of us, will always help us to discover the light in the dark.

After my initial “escape,” I decided to stay with the darkness for a while.  Adopting a mindset that Pema Chödrön speaks of so often, I became curious about the darkness that was permeating my inner landscape.  Instead of running away from the dark by trying to find light as quickly as possible, what would happen if I stayed and embraced the darkness?  Staying led me to contemplate my inner light.  Staying allowed me to become more intimate with how I fuel and (re)source my inner light.  I came away with this insight:  when we stay with the darkness and remain open to our experience, we will discover the light.

I was and remain inspired to stay present with the darkness by this quote, which came through a friend of a friend.  “When it gets really dark, you can see the stars.”