NY is teaching us about pain… and healing.
And here’s how it taught me.
New York City holds a unique place in my soul. It is where I learned who I really am. This is true for many people.
I moved there at 17. At that time (the 80s) NY was a very dark place. Junkies lived outside my door and threw up in the stairwell. It stank, was dirty and neglected and I my behavior was way too risky.
It turns out that I was protected because I’m still alive.
But I barely made it out and that time has had a lasting effect on my life.
I also started my 4 years at Parsons, The New School for Social Research and Bank Street School of Education. It was absolutely fabulous. I was in my element for the first time and thrived. I painted and made sculptures every day of my life in a communal studio shared by other artists, on fire and ready to change the world.
After graduating I was offered an incredible job at the Single Parents Resource Center. This is a well-known social work agency and my job was to create and run state funded programs for at risk children in homeless shelters located in ghettos. I had free rein. And rather than follow the usual (soul draining) curriculums, I created art therapy programs. The children worked out their darkest fears and losses, we had special ways to process hard emotions through letters they wrote to me and we created real connection. We painted colorful murals in heroin–ridden play grounds and we even published a book of their words and art. Then I sent them back to their abusive, poverty ridden, systemic oppression.
This is the nature of our polarized world at work on us.
Art…and suffering. This is how our soul grows.
I worked with families whose apartments had burned down and they were now homeless, children who had been poisoned by the lead paint in their buildings and their parents lost everything to the medical system. Parents with autistic children or an abusive spouse or who got caught up in drugs to ease PTSD from being abused. I got to know loving, hurting parents who did nothing wrong and only wanted the best for their children.
In other words, people exactly like you and I.
There was no doubt in my mind that there were people getting rich off the system that these precious families were trapped in. And I also knew that I could easily be one of them. Any neurotic denial about that separation disappeared forever. I have never looked at homeless people or those who are downtrodden the same again and I cringe when I hear the patriarchal line about them just needing to get work. So, so misguided and confused.
The simple fact is this: we are them.
I became deeply depressed and anxious. While nourishing my core, my soul and my life mission. Because, yes, both can happen at once and often do.
I also ran Columbia University’s pilot programs for at risk youth in high schools. This was an even harder gig. These youth were angry, run by inner and outer chaos and couldn’t give a shit about what I was teaching. They were no longer “at risk” – they were living it. Honestly, seeing these youth scared me. This was the future that we are now living.
Let’s talk dark and light.
Chaos, creativity and darkness come together. Of course. Destruction and creation are kin. Life, death. Love, hate. Peace and violence.
To break this down more clearly…the most creative, resourceful and beautiful people I know who are being of great service to others have been through the wringer. I’m sure there a few people out there who are creating magnificent works of art and serving deep and lasting change on our planet who have only known ease, goodness and privilege. But I’ve never met one.
What makes my life so rich and awesome is that I get to work with and know these fabulous, chaotic, wounded artist healers who are the change makers. My own child fits this category actually. She is the new bright future and she fills me with anticipation every single day.
New York is the city of light and dark.
A few years ago I was in Brooklyn after an event I facilitated. I had a Hollywood style view of the city line. And I started to have that tell-tale feeling of dark beings around me. Remember, dark energies, entities, beings – whatever you wish to call them – are simply lost souls. But it’s a creepy energy nonetheless until you see it clearly and ask it to present itself. So I sat for a while with this energy and here is what it showed me: an endless line of lost souls all being sourced from a dark plume above the missing world trade center. I saw the portal that had been created, or in this case the tear that was now a global portal. And I saw the circling unhealed sorrow. These beings included not just those physically connected to the 911 tragedy, but ALL those affected by it. It is also a magnetic hot spot of your will for all the other beings and people who have suffered in connection to NY. The refugees, the immigrants, the animals and trees killed, the water polluted, the homeless nature beings, the endless hours of loss and darkness and violence. The forgotten ones. The excluded, disembodied ones – which we are now responsible for. Not as a burden, but as the nature of the universe.
We are alive and aware, therefore we are privileged. Therefore it is our job.
We love and hate NY because it embodies the whole spectrum. We glorify its creativity and horror in movies watched world-wide. Every country I’ve been to they want to know about or live in NY (including in deserted parts of the Sahara desert, no joke). We travel there to get a hit of it. We strive for and despise the necessarily unattainable American Dream. We are addicted to our denial.
Why I don’t live in cities anymore….a study in porosity.
I escaped NY eventually. It was an actual escape. A friend of mine from Toronto (where I grew up) saw how badly I was doing. I’d stopped eating, I was painfully lonely, and I got the first serious signs of the chronic illness I know so well. My soul had been put on hold the last couple of years I was there and it was pissed. He arrived in a station wagon and I left my amazing apartment, full of my art and collections from global travels, and never looked back. We traveled across the country, taking our time and I actually ended up lost in Idaho. For real, my friend bailed and I suddenly found myself truly adrift staying on the floor of my cousins tiny cabin (which was , BTW, utterly gorgeous). I was in complete shock. No city. No over stimulation. Just the Tetons and me, alone every day. My soul however knew EXACTLY what it was doing. And I was led to get on a bus to a now well-known Buddhist retreat center in Washington. A Tibetan Buddhist monk, nun, the cook and grounds keeper lived there, in silence, and ran the small weekend retreats. The profundity of this is for another letter to you, however.
I thought I was done. But in fact for 10 years I had a steady system of nightmares about NYC. They were always the same: I get separated from my friends or loved ones, I am lost, I can’t find my way home and I become overwhelmed by despair and isolation. No kidding, that’s the dream. Could it be more obvious?
The soul speaks in shadows for definition.
And when you have a large mission it screams to you your operating instructions. GET. BACK. HOME.
The more I aligned with my soul’s design, the less gratuitous stimulation I could take. I spent almost the entirety of the last 14 MONTHS alone at home in silent communion with my soul. Does that sound romantic? It isn’t. It’s an intense calling. And I love it deeply now. I actually cherish my path. And I get what I am doing here. I don’t feel lonely anymore. I rarely feel isolated. I don’t feel adrift and I don’t feel numb at all. I am exquisitely clairvoyant and open to others. I feel and see and hear the beings and energies around me others don’t know exist. The forces I’m in tune with are vast. I am never bored. And I believe that by being at peace with what isn’t peaceful I am creating less harm on this planet. I no longer need to be filled from the outside.
I love visiting cities. It fills me up with energy and inspiration. And then I love leaving. I love returning to my art filled home retreat in the mountains.
It doesn’t matter where you live.
But when you are out of alignment you have no buffer.
You become a porous and vulnerable vessel for all sorts of things that aren’t you: beliefs, inherited ancestral trauma, dark beings, traumatic residue, environmental poison, co-dependence, yearning for what you don’t have, the collective pain body, and systemic oppression.
If you aren’t in your field (which means your mission) something else will be. Nature always fills a vacuum.
Why this matters.
All of this is highly relevant to you for this reason: you are still alive. You live on a suffering planet. And if you are reading this – you care. You may think you’re only here because of your personal suffering but I have yet to ever see this. Our personal suffering juts gets us motivated. But if we are true to our own healing we always find the same: our natural caring, empathy, love of life. Connection to others and stillness shines through. We remember our luminosity. And we naturally want to serve.
I have known, since I was a child, why I was here and what I would be doing. That is actually accurate. In 1st grade I KNEW I would help people through creative means. By high school I knew it would be art therapy. And by 20 I knew it would include healing arts. By 21 I was doing it.
Here is the deal: if you aren’t directly on your path, or it isn’t assigned properly, you can more easily be sucked into the chaos and fear that is now swirling around us. For some it is showing up as righteous anger, but it’s still fear.
And ALL OF IT falls under the heading of grief.
Every hurt we are now witnessing is triggering earlier hurts. They are also piling on current trauma. Human beings cannot function well when they see others hurt. I could go into the science of this but we all simply know it to be true. We are all deeply affected by the trauma on this planet.
What heals grief?
Not activity, but the kind of action that follows:
Crying, taunting, gut laughter, trembling, serving others, witnessing beauty, creating, listening to others from your gut, practicing empathy by standing in an others shoes, rest.
I just listed what happens in a Systemic Constellation. These all very rapidly create connection. And we all need connection. Much more than we have. And as we witness violence on our planet, in our neighborhoods, women telling their stories of rape and abuse, people in power lying and abusing others on a large scale, financial imbalance and corruption based on slavery and greed, Narcissism on a large scale….
We must stay connected. We must stay in our bodies, know we are fundamentally safe, and stay securely attached to those around us. That means everyone around us. It is known that micro connections throughout the day have a profound effect on the nervous system as much as primary connection.
So, what is all the unleashed darkness bringing us if we know how to connect?
Connection vs isolation
Empathy vs narcissism
Giving vs greed
Reaching out vs caving in
Looking for beauty vs hopelessness
The courage to act vs hiding out
Acknowledgment of polarity vs glossing over reality
Connection to massive uncontrollable forces vs
Energy vs depletion
Focus vs fogginess
Stillness vs extroversion
Deep rest vs activity
What would you add to this list? You have your own unique version of what happens when connection is present for you.
This all leads me to the Advent Empowerment Constellations event in New York coming up on November 17-20, and I really want you to join us!
This is a special invitation to take just 1-2 days to align yourself with who you really are. And if you really want to take that seriously I strongly urge you to follow up that 1-2 days with a phone session.
I’d rather have a whole week with you. But what we have is 2 days. And I urge you again to do this. Why? Because quite selfishly I love having others on their mission around me and on this planet with me. I fully believe we live in a pivotal time. I know it is no accident you are living right now. And it is no accident you are reading this. And I also know it can be riveting when we are focused together on what matters the most.
Which is being fully alive, now, right here, together.
Register now for this time together by emailing me and securing your space.
Midtown, Manhattan – exact location sent upon registration
Friday, November 17th, 6:30-9:00PM – FREE
NOTE: For full immersion we strongly recommend you register for 2 workshop days