Empowerment

You Betch-em Red Rider!

I have looked life in the face with open eyes. I have learned that it takes courage to keep both feet in the game of life. I have learned since being on my own that I need to say NO to so many urges and impulses. Saying NO to the impulse is putting off short term gratification. This NO in facts transforms into a YES for long term satisfaction.

I recently interviewed for a full time teaching position. I learned yesterday that I was not chosen for the job. How do I feel? Sad, disappointed, relieved, and angry. What do I want to do in the wake of being told NO? I want to indulge myself with anything and everything: clothes, food, alcohol, a massage, a trip, perfume, etc. Buy, eat, indulge – a very different message than EAT, PRAY, LOVE! My financial reality tells me NO. My commitment to losing 20 lbs this year says NO. I cannot say yes to these impulses in order to mask my feelings for the short term relief. Instead, I am swallowing the multi-layers of reality: I was told no about the job. I am telling myself no to the impulses in order to stay aligned with my goals. Paradoxically, IN THE LONG RUN, I am saying YES to financial integrity, physical health, mental wellness, and prosperity. The meaning of the word prosperity is frequently intertwined with wealth and money. In fact, the word prosperity is actually rooted in a sense of well being NOT how much wealth and money one has, but more so how well one is doing in life.

Lightbulb benny copyIn her book The Energy of Money, Author Maria Nemeth states that money can be the source of great joy and creativity or it can bring frustration and misery. “Everything we do and dream of is affected by our relationship with this powerful form of ENERGY”. I am creating a new relationship with money – treating it as a friend rather than an unwanted guest who takes up residence in my life. When I go for short term gratification, I disempower myself and don’t acquire the wisdom that comes with waiting for the feelings to be embraced and digested and for the impulse to pass. I sabotage the opportunity to acquire the power I need to live a meaningful and successful life. Because money is energy, the impulses we experience to spend it are actually an effect of an energetic movement, like when the wind moves through our hair.

Maria Nemeth shares a great equation: Knowledge (like establishing goals) plus Wisdom (for example riding out the need to respond to the impulse) Equals POWER (being accountable, staying on track, reaching the goal). So rather than hiding out under my covers today, I went for a 4 mile walk along the ocean. Just say NO to the easy fix and say YES to the possibility of being accountable. Just say YES … you betch’em Red Rider!

Peace out,

Kathleen

Finding Home In 2015

Happy New Year! Although I have not written a post since Thanksgiving, I have done a great deal of thinking during the past few weeks about where to go with my posts. I recently recognized that I am ready to move onto topics other than grief. Grief finally found its proper place within my psyche – it is no longer front and center, but instead has settled into a space of compelling awareness. I did not choose this path of learning – it was thrust upon me and took me totally by surprise. As I approach the 4 year anniversary of Roy’s death, I am aware that grief was a bitter learning experience and yet the experience of bitterness allowed me to see how fragile I am and also how strong I am in the fragility.

I have actively engaged in many bodies of work to reach these insights: thrice weekly psychoanalysis, bi-monthly spiritual direction, 5 days a week of intense cardiovascular exercise, daily contemplative prayer and meditation, regular participation in Landmark Education courses, and quarterly readings with an intuitive. I learned last week from my intuitive that Roy has finally arrived “home” after 3 1/2 years of journeying through multi-dimensional fields of space and time – this makes sense because Roy was a rocket scientist after all. Roy is happy in this “promised land” where he has found rest, peace, intellectual companionship, and cosmic aliveness. Since learning of Roy’s arrival to his home destination, I feel free to fully focus with new eyes on my life. Knowing Roy is safe and happy has freed my soul to move onto what is next for me in this incarnation. This liberation has allowed me to move away from grief and to move towards my work with Whispers of Wisdom® in the areas of falling in love as a mature adult, aging, physical fitness, health and sexuality, money, spirituality, and family. In the coming weeks I will be writing about these topics.

The concept of Whispers of Wisdom was born roughly 14 years ago after I attended an 8 hour Live Your Best Life Seminar with Oprah Winfrey in San Francisco. I was exulted by this experience because I had the opportunity to speak to Oprah in front of 2000 people. I acknowledged her work with women and shared that she had inspired me to create more opportunities in my work as a psychotherapist to support women in finding the call of their life. When I later talked to Roy about it, he asked me probing questions as only an intellectual property attorney could do about my passion and Oprah’s inspiration. He was curious about what was being evoked within me about following the call of vocation. I responded that through my work with clients, as well as in my personal life, I was learning that at certain times of an individual’s journey, they are very clear about what needs to be done. Yet at other times it’s hard to hear what our heart and minds or perhaps a higher source of intelligence is trying to tell us to do. I said it’s almost like a whisper at times, difficult to hear and understand, but is filled with so much awareness and wisdom. Then it hit me that we often are listening to inner ‘whispers of wisdom’. He and I both liked the sound of that phrase and Roy began the trademark application process for me. After much contemplation, thinking through, researching, and studying, The Certificate of Registration for Whispers of Wisdom was issued on January 6, 2006.HotPink-Flowers_hearts

I have designated 2015 as The Year of Integration. I will be pulling together the threads of the whispers I have heard during the past several years about vocation, being of service, living a full and happy life, and accepting responsibility for designing that kind of life. The topics I mentioned earlier are the crux of life and play a big part in how we create a meaningful life. It is imperative that we learn to decipher and hear the whispers of wisdom that come at the most unusual times and in a variety of different ways. In the weeks ahead I will share how you too can learn to decipher these ‘whispers of wisdom’.

Namaste and Thank You for taking the time to read my posts.

Gratitude

Rod-McKuenThe poet of the sixties, Rod McKuen wrote this short poem: “where do they go the friends who come into our lives like green leaves and leave like melting snow?” I think of this poem today as I remember the sunrise that I saw this morning. I was up early enough to see it because a good friend who lives 80 miles north and had a meeting close to me spent the night and needed to be on the road for her early morning meeting. Because we are participating in an an empowering program about life and relationships, she and I sat this morning with freshly brewed coffee and looked out at the ocean together and discussed men, life, and dating. sunrise from table copyAnd there like a magnificent expression of love from nature came this incredible majestic pink sunrise – a gift for both of us. We were in awe as we fell into silence and were at one with the sunrise.  Because I was up early with my friend, I was given this gift to start my day. How wonderful is that? Pretty darn wonderful I would say. It has helped me think of this season of Thanksgiving and recall my friends and family. It is through friends that I have healed and that I can take such pleasure again in the richness of a sunrise. This is the season to not only count our blessings but also the time of year to prepare for the darkness of winter. The ancient cultures experienced the darkening of winter as a time for retreat and contemplation. In the darkness they prepared for the eventual return of light. In our modern world we follow similar rhythms in our busy lives: gathering for holidays with friends and family or retreating into nature or homes for quiet self reflection. Our modern psyches require an acknowledgement of the changing seasons and the shortening of days just as our ancestors did.

life-tulipsWhen I think back to the first Thanksgiving after Roy¹s death, I recognize that grief can be experienced like a season – a winter of the soul. Now that I have emerged from the season of grief, I notice the sunrises, the sadness of friends, the complexities of the world, the joy of my cats, and the awakening sensuality of my life. I am alive, aware and resilient. I often remind myself how is incredible it is to have more and more moments of feeling alive and engaged with the world after such a long season of withdrawal. I find my unfolding relationship to life to be like the new friend McKuen describes.. With luster and the green of new possibility. The grief has melted away … Leaving me moist and fertile for what life has to offer, always aware of the tenuousness of life. I am blessed … And for that I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving. Count your blessings … They are there – even in the winter season of grief.

What are you trying to tell me?

Sahasrara chakraFor the past year and a half I have had a chronic need to scratch the top of my head. This is a recurring condition that surfaces when I am under stress. As a result of the scratching, I have a bald spot at the top of my head in the crown chakra area. The crown chakra, Sahasrara in the Hindu tradition, is associated with one’s relationship to the eternal, a higher power, or God. Health issues associated with the crown chakra include nervousness and skin disorders. When I am nervous, anxious, bored, daydreaming, or driving my hand will make its way up to the spot. I feel soothed while I scratch this spot – similar to how one feels while biting her nails. I want this to stop but have not found the correct modality for stopping the itch. I know I am itching to soothe something – the continuing anxiety that has accompanied me since Roy’s death. Or maybe I itch to soothe the anger and rage that I feel about the unfairness of life. Or perhaps my spiritual life is demanding more attention.

This week I made an appointment with a cranial sacral practitioner (www.upledger.com) to see if she could help me. The minute I walked into her office I felt a sense of calm. I became tearful as I explained my issue and outlined all that I have been dealing with since Roy’s death. She was very compassionate and reflected back to me that it was apparent to her that I have worked very hard to get to the place I am today. We proceeded with my session and at end she asked that I talk to the sore spot on my head and see what it could tell me. She left the room and placed a piece of blank paper on her desk. She suggested that I write down what I heard. I heard the spot tell me that it was angry at God for taking Roy from me. For the next 24 hours I did not scratch my head – this was the longest period of relief in 18 months. It would seem that my spiritual life is asking for attention.

Louise Hay you can heal your lifeMetaphysical and intuitive healer Louise Hay writes about self healing and the mind-body connection. I checked her book You Can Heal Your Life for some ideas. In this book, Hay discusses that the body, like everything else in life, is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs. Our bodies are always talking to us – we just need to take the time to listen. She states that THE HEAD represents our sense of ourselves. It is what we show the world. When something is wrong with the head area, it typically means we feel something is wrong with “us”.

So what does this all mean to me, my life and this latest episode of head scratching? My mind is overworked by the continuing acclimation to this strange new world as a single woman. In some ways I continue to feel odd as a single woman. However, at the same time, I am dating men and am learning to enjoy how it feels to get close to some of them. “Getting close” involves being vulnerable and opening up about me, my life, and my dreams. Not too surprisingly “getting close” raises stress levels – I wonder consciously and undoubtedly unconsciously about how am I being seen by these new men – am I accepted and acceptable?

As Louise Hay notes, the head represents our sense of self. I believe the head scratching is how my body is letting me know that I worry about being accepted more than I am consciously aware of. In other words, unconsciously the symptom is scratching at me to be recognized. Bottom line: Will I ever be loved by another man as I was by Roy. More so, will I love myself well enough to stand tall in my new life as a single woman and be secure whether I meet a new special someone or not?

relection-womanI will continue to work with my cranial sacral practitioner. I already have a better understanding about the mind-body-spiritual connection. On many conscious levels all is well in my world. I think this regularly and proceed “full steam ahead”. The top of my head however is saying “Pay Attention … Go slowly … Something is bubbling to the surface”. I am learning to manage this nervous scratching/soothing habit by talking to the top of my head … Asking questions like “what do you want to tell me”. Then I sit and reflect while looking out at the ocean from my terrace. I am calmed by the eternal nature of the ocean and am connecting to my understanding of the Divine. The journey of grief waxes and wanes – my body and spirit know this in many ways that my mind does not.

Namaste.

L’chaim

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Project 1-15-15 is mired in celebration, joy, passion, and well-being.  I am blogging, being of service, releasing weight, being social, participating in Landmark Education, and I am healthy. Mazel tov to the possibility of life, l’chaim to life.  My personal suffering has lifted and I am completely available to the possibilities that life presents daily.  I am experiencing a growing trust in the process of living, loving, and laughing.

The late psychologist Erik Erickson states that trust is the first skill we learn as an infant – trust in mother to come to us when we cry, trust that we are protected from harm’s way, and trust that we will thrive in life.  These are the building blocks that lead us to develop a sense of trust in ourselves.  I am learning to trust me in this new phase of life. I am fully celebrating the re-emerging passion I feel growing within me each day.

In his poem “Everything is Going to Be All Right”, Irish poet Derek Mahon states “there will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that … The sun rises inspite of everything and the far cities are beautiful and bright … Everything is going to be all right.”

I know more intimately than ever before that everything IS going to be all right. I have recognized that there is both sorrow and joy and this is the essence of life.  People will die, I will die, wars will break out, disease will kill, and the beauty of a sunrise will make my heart quicken. Everything is going to be all right.

L’chaim!

Project 01-15-15

Inner-life-water-erika-craig

Painting by the fabulous Erika Craig

This post reflects the beginning of a new chapter in my life. One of the primary side effects of grief has a somatic nature and can be experienced as weight gain or loss. In my case, I gained a significant amount of weight as a result of the medications I took for severe depression, anxiety, deep emotional churning and distress. I used eating as a way of coping with the abject sadness that weighed on me.

On January 1 of this year I commenced Project 7-11-14 which was focused on weight loss and health, and a commitment to my professional development and goals. I also put my toe into the dating pool. So on July 11, I was in San Francisco with a good woman friend and officially toasted the successful completion of this project. I have released 12 pounds, all my health tests came back superb, my website and blog were launched, and I taught a course at a local university. Moreover, I have had approximately 2 dozen dates. I have been on fire!

So now I am beginning a new phase which I have entitled Project 1-15-15. This project continues my weight loss efforts, as well as my ongoing inner work. I am connecting with new parts of myself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I became a widow, I was no longer a wife. I find myself re-imagining who I am now that my primary identity as Roy’s wife is gone. The late feminist psychoanalyst Karen Horney describes the importance of unlocking a woman’s inner life – one that is not defined by what the external patriarchal world provides her. Horney encouraged women to work from the inside out, not from the outside in. What I know about my inner world is that it has been shaped by the demands of patriarchal standards – questioning whether I am thin enough, pretty enough, and smart enough to live successfully in a man’s world. What I am driven to design for myself at this stage of my life is an inner framework that challenges the patriarchal domination of my psyche. I am moving towards becoming a woman with a life of her own and with questions of her own.

Managing the Early Days of Grief

I have been asked since starting my blog of how I managed to get through the early days of grief.

In-the-tunnel

During the first 12 months, I depended greatly on a poem by the late Irish poet, John O’Donohue, entitled “On Grief” from To Bless the Space Between Us, which I have included below.  A colleague sent me this poem perhaps three days following Roy’s death.  I read it at Roy’s memorial service.  I knew the minute I received it that it would be a critical part of my learning to understand what had happened to me and what was to come.  I referenced it frequently during the first year – attempting to understand exactly where I was intrapsychically – within myself, not necessarily in the world.  What I know from my journey is critical for those of us left behind to get reoriented to a very different world.  It begins by going inward and then outward, in a slow and uncomfortable oscillating dance.  Poetry took me inward and participating in a widows’ group took me outward.  I also logged my dreams on a regular basis.  I no longer see the gap in the air that O’Donohue references at the end of his poem.  Roy is a fully embodied presence within my intrapsychic world.  Yes I visit his grave and leave flowers.  But most of all I dialogue with him regularly by having dedicated a permanent seat for him at the table of my inner life.  We feast together and celebrate our love – he from afar and me right here on Mother Earth.  Meanwhile I also stay busy with becoming my own person – a woman with a life of her own.

“On Grief “– John O’Donohue  from To Bless the Space Between Us

When you lose someone you love, your life becomes strange.  The ground beneath you becomes fragile.  Your thoughts make your eyes unsure; and some dead echo drags your voice down where words have no confidence.  Your heart has grown heavy with loss; and though this loss has wounded others too, no one knows what has been taken from you when the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret for all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy; again inside the fullness of life.  Until the moment breaks and you are thrown back onto the black tide of loss.  Days when you have your heart back, you are able to function well, until in the middle of work or encounter, suddenly with no warning, you are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.  All you can depend on now is that sorrow will remain faithful to itself.  More than you, it knows its way and will find the right time to pull and pull the rope of grief until that coiled hill of tears has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance with the invisible form of your departed; and when the work of grief is done, the wound of loss will heal and you will have learned to wean your eyes from that gap in the air and be able to enter the hearth in your soul where your loved one has awaited your return.   All the time.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Harold-Kushner-Good-PeopleRabbi Harold Kushner wrote in his best selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People  that bad things happen to good and bad people alike – and good things often happen to bad people.  I knew before Roy died that life was not fair, but my personal relationship to this statement took on a whole different meaning in the wake of his death.   I have learned from Roy’s sudden death and disappearance from my life that death frequently arrives with little time to prepare.  I know at a very deep level that it is better to be as complete as possible with the people in my life  because I don’t know when I will die or for that matter when they will die.   My relationship to my personal death is  very different now.  I am not so afraid anymore – I lived through the dark journey to the underworld and came back up to the world of the living with a refreshed and renewed sense of what it means to be alive.  To be alive means that I am breathing, feeling, thinking, loving, caring, hating, disliking, enjoying, feeling bored, and delighting in the ever present curiosity of what’s next in my life.  I don’t spend near as much time feeling frightened of the uncertainty that is coupled with my unfolding future – I merely remember the load of bricks that was thrown on my shoulders in July 2011.  As best as I can,  I shake off the current shards of fear that attempt to prick me at any given time of the day.    Yes I live with anxiety every day.  I fear getting close to another man because I think of what it would be like if he were to die suddenly like Roy or like my father who died when I was four years old.  I woke up the day after my father’s death to the reality that I would never see him again.  That was a lot for a little four year old to take on – to live with the reality that “Daddy is never coming home again”.  The trauma of my father’s death has accompanied me throughout my life – and was reactivated with Roy’s death.  How could I lose the two most important men in my life to sudden death?  Well, life is not fair.  Bad things happen to good people.  Roy was a fantastic man – he took care of himself, ate healthfully, took supplements, knew more than most medical professionals about how the body works.  And boom – sudden cardiac arrest.  Gone.  Forever.   He was a good person and he was taken out of the game before he was ready.   Meanwhile bad people continue to take up space, create havoc, and give little back to our society.  Go figure.

raven I believe that it is imperative that the reality  of death needs to sit on our left shoulder 24-7 like a squawking black raven.  This raven serves as an unrelenting reminder that we need to seize the moments of our lives with gusto and perseverance.  If someone you love died recently or years ago and you have not adequately grieved the loss, the pain of the death will rob you of life, joy, and hope for the future.   You must do the foot work of grief.  It is painful, hard, and lonely  … and people have been doing it since the beginning of time.  Irish poet John O’Donohue states in his poem For Grief that when you lose someone you love, your life becomes strange.  Yes indeed it does. However, at the end of the crippling journey of grief there is a moment when you realize you have finished the hardest part of the journey back to life.  You notice that spring is back, that the air smells delicious, and that people are commenting that they notice a sparkle in your eye again.  It is a heavy price to pay for recognizing that life is incredible.   But this recognition is awaiting each of us when grief has been completed. I encourage you to grab it when it arrives and don’t let go.  You deserve to feel that incredible sense of being alive … again.

All Shall Be Well

Since Roy’s death almost 3 years ago, I have cultivated an inner strength through writing, dialoguing, meditating and re-discovering what I love to do. My marriage to Roy was the source of my strength. Now I stand on the shoulders of our marriage and draw from the insights and breakthroughs that I am discovering as I move on with my life as a single woman. I derive enormous strength from the words of the Middle Ages mystic Julian of Norwich “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”.  I hope all is well with you!

Julian of Norwich

Home

Hello,

My name is Kathleen Barry and welcome to my blog Whispers of Wisdom.  I have been a widow for three years.  This blog is my way of sharing what I have learned through my grieving process. I hope my reflections will help others who have joined this life changing ‘club’. “There is life after death of someone we have loved and treasured.”