page one: the seven caterpillars
Some six years ago I sat with a dear friend sharing sadness and secrets from my soul on a bench beneath a tree at a retreat center in California. We were both participating in Anodea Judith's weeklong workshop on the Psychology of the Chakras. Anodea had asked us to dig deep, feel , and share from the heart with a classmate who she designated was a "guardian angel."
My "guardian angel" was a lovely woman from Los Angeles, Gail Johnson, whom I had recognized as a soul friend from the first time I laid eyes on her. It was a cold evening and we were both huddled up in blankets that we had pulled up from our rooms to sit outside and share even as we watched the sun setting at a distance.
Two years before the retreat, a series of unfortunate events in my personal life had broken me open. Added to this, was the stress of running my then new studio, a dream larger than I was ready for. Altogether I was feeling hopeless and defeated.
Gail listened and held me as I broke down and wept, as I routinely did in those days. At the end of the evening as it grew darker, we returned to our rooms, dragging our blankets with us. As I led the way, I heard Gail behind me give a small shout -"Wow, look at these!" She was pointing to something on my blanket. I looked down and saw them too...caterpillars crawling all over. We plucked them out, one by one - 7 in all. There were none on Gail's blanket although we had been sitting together under the same tree!
Caterpillars symbolize transformation. The next morning Anodea agreed with our interpretation that the Universe had sent me a message: that I was in the process of a deep transformation and judging by the number, a transformation at every level. The incident brought me some solace that there could be a greater purport to my suffering, after all.
That solace however, was short lived. My troubles continued in the years that followed. It was a long, dark night and I felt depressed and unsupported by a God who seemed to be MIA despite my numerous prayers and promises. I finally gave up and began questioning every truth, every teaching and every aspect of my life. As I set out to reinvent my inner wheel, teachings and teachers started to appear out of nowhere. Slowly and surely, a new awakening began to unfold within me, almost as if it had a life of its own and in its wake, I began to reframe every old idea, concept and belief.
Today as I look back, I see the truth of that manifestation, that heads up from the caterpillars.
So much has indeed changed in my inner and outer worlds at every chakra for me:
At the first chakra, I now understand that being truly grounded includes embracing groundlessness; at the second chakra, I now know that loving oneself, means loving all the imperfections and oddities about oneself even if one does not like them. I understand that third chakra authentic power comes from taking responsibility for one's own story instead of waiting to be rescued or rescuing another; that we must respect defeat at least as much as we celebrate victory. I finally get it that true connection of the fourth chakra comes, not from going under the armor but, from taking the armors off (as Pema Chodron would put it); that in relationships of the heart, you cannot lose what you never really had and what you really had cannot ever be lost. In my fifth chakra I realized that there are many differing truths that resonate with each of us according to our own nature and we must each live with the discomfort of accepting another's truth as equally true! In my sixth chakra of learning, I have learned that the best teacher with the most loving heart cannot teach one who is not ready; but with the right student, the teacher and the student switch roles like dancers, dancing to the tunes of the Divine Teacher who is bigger than both of them. In my seventh chakra I understood that emptiness is as much a part of the experience of Non-Duality as is wholeness......
And it all did not end there. These lessons transformed my outer reality as well:
At the physical level, I have a new home, one that we moved into 5 years ago. I have a new identity as I finally accepted my soul's plan and became an American citizen 4 years ago.
In 2012, I completed a two year certification program from the Carl Jung Institute of Psychoanalysis, giving my ego a boost and my third chakra a new framework of values to live by.
My friendships have changed, in some cases dramatically, as I have sought to be seen and accepted as the person I truly am and not as the person I wish I was. Some friendships have strengthened, some have dropped. Those who have left still remain in my heart and complete me, even as newer, more authentic relationships are replacing the old.
In my fifth chakra, the focus of my work has changed - moving from expansion to depth. Adjusting to the new me, I have left the old studio and moved to a smaller one, closer to my truth.
In my sixth chakra, my philosophy and therefore my teaching has changed. As I have learned to embrace my own shadow, my teaching the "Way of the Light" has been replaced by the "Way of the Paradox".
In my seventh chakra, my God has morphed from the Relative God that I was raised with, whose primary focus was on punishing imperfection and rewarding perfection, to the Absolute One who simply needs me to be me and to co-create the reality I want to live.
I believe I have completed one full cycle over these past 10 years and feel like a "born-again" human being, except more ready to be human than I ever was before. I am looking forward to learning new lessons and reinforcing the old on this new roller coaster and wondering who will join me on this next round....