Inner Compass

The people I most respect and admire seem to be driven from within by an inner fire, a passionate purpose that focuses and holds them to their life path. Renee Baribeau, author of Winds of Spirit, call this your “true North” – an inner compass that points you in the direction you need to head. Valerie Steihl, whose work is featured in Spirit Speaks, Are You Listening? by Vera Haldy-Regier, tells her story of how she was motivated from a very young age by a strong inner intuition that led her to various spiritual teachers, and eventually to live ten years with the Lakota. I was personally driven by a strong inner compulsion to study G.I. Gurdjieff’s The Fourth Way, which later informed my understanding of the Germanic and Scandinavian Runes, and from which I receive revelations every day. I believe that all of us have an innate intuition, and that if we learn to trust and develop our intuitive capacity, our personal lives become richer and fuller than they might otherwise be.

I work in the field of psychic awareness, but every field is open, as every human being can be open, to intuition and creativity. A scientist unlocking the mysteries of the universe is every bit as creative as an artist passionately splashing paint on to his or her canvas, the author lost in formatting words into the expression of her next book, or a mother patiently tending to her pre-K child. Society glorifies what it values, therefore the wealthier professions such as doctoring, lawyering, or computer tech, receive more attention than humbler professions. Society deems the rich to be better people than those who are less wealthy, and envies their luck. However, I think this is a huge mistake. Many people are not motivated to be lawyers and doctors. Many people come from humbler beginnings. Many artists and writers will not hit the height of wealth or fame, but will work in another field to support a creative passion.

Life holds both suffering and reward. Most people experience both during a lifetime. Suffering is eased with compassion, empathy, understanding, and wisdom. The hubris of success has an antidote in practical humility: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” The simple cognition that we are all born and we will all die contains the equanimity that we shall all experience both joy and suffering, as well as a measure of fortune and luck. Common people can have extraordinary heart, wisdom, and caring. Earth teaches farmers wisdom; necessity forms everyday mechanics into creative, innovative geniuses; and the heart-based humanity of simply caring for one another is met in supermarket cashiers and school bus dispatchers. I know this because at one time or another in my life, I have dealt with or been one of these people.

I have been one who followed my inner compass down awkwardly winding roads, into and out of diverse jobs and even marriage. It was not an easy road, but one that has led to deeper self-understanding and an open heart. The learning of this lifetime has been that the dynamic of relationships is the best teacher, and that the best relationships for deepening soul come out of relationships that have brought the most conflict. I cannot see myself as I am, unless I am willing to see in myself the shadows and chaotic forces that drive humanity. War does not start, unless I – or you – project blame on to another person, place or thing, different culture, country, or religion: the blame which is really the shadow of what I am or you are. What I hate in myself I see the shadow of in you, as what you hate in yourself is the shadow you project on to me.

Gurdjieff’s method of self-remembering enabled me to hold my center no matter what chaos erupted around me or within me. The practice is really very simple and also very hard. I center myself and ground myself, and throughout the process I hold gravity in my own presence. I become the Witness to what is going on within myself, and outside of myself in relation to myself, and I must be brutally honest with myself in relation to what I see. I must understand that there are aspects of my personhood that are conditioned, aspects that are more true to my essential self than others, and I must be willing to examine myself to discern what is the truth of myself as opposed to the life of myself. What is true will arise from my genuine essence. What is not true is probably based upon fear based beliefs similar to “What will the neighbors think?” or “If I displease my parents/spouse/friends/boss I risk losing love/respect/social esteem/job.”

One must also be willing to honest with one’s mentor or guide. This is where the negative aspect of self-love interferes and the temptation to lie to one’s self enters the equation. “I would never do that!” is the self-talk of the ever-changing story and the point at which students break with previously beloved teachers. I have seen students elevated to the point of personal enlightenment and I have seen students break painfully with a teacher because they could not face the discomfort of their own shadows. I have been on both sides of this equation; fortunately for my own work on self, I understood that Life itself is a powerful force that will throw us exactly what we need to grow and it is up to us to make use of it.

Life moves us forward until we hit a block or a conflict with our belief system, then either we react from unconscious motivation or if we are able, we respond from conscious motivation. Much depends on our capacity to see life as it is, instead of as we want it to be. Conscious becoming is dependent on our willingness to step outside of our comfort zones, and allow ourselves to be shaped in accord with the energies life itself hands us. Much gets blamed on the ego, but we need the ego in order to engage with life. I think Shaman Durek defines it well when he writes, “The ego’s job is to make you believe in the world you want to see. The ego gets a bad rap because some people’s egos are based in lower densities, which are characterized by fear, and judgment, and hierarchy. The ego isn’t bad; it’s just misunderstood, which is why the ego in not properly engaged, or evolved.” (Shaman Durek, Spirit Hacking, 113)

Here at the conflict point is also the point at which compassion becomes important both for one’s self and for what others are going through. Compassion does not enable victimhood, but supports the struggle for self-transformation. Empathy does not enable suffering, but offers a modality of strength to those who would survive to thrive.

Life is a force that offers us the opportunity for conscious becoming through struggle with conditioned arising. Memory and the process of how we think about things are important concepts behind the Runes of the Northern Mystery. Odin’s Ravens Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory) fly out of a mythology that is redolent with psychological understanding. In the Northern Mysteries, Odin is the God who holds conscious order in the Universe. In the Northern Mysteries, there is not good versus evil, but the relationship between conscious order and chaos. It was understood that both processes are necessary to life. Life force energies stagnate when Life is too orderly, but with unsettled chaos, the conditions of living can drop from thriving to the components of survival. Odin is the God who Experiences. He is not one to rely on others to tell him how things should or ought to be. Rather he creates the nine worlds from the dead body of the proto-giant Ymir, and later wanders the nine worlds as Gangleri in order to find that which he has not experienced yet. I like to think the same could be true of a humanity that seeks to rise up from the mire of conditioned social values into the nine heavens of self-individuation, but this can only happen when we willingly seek to develop our innate intuition and creativity and become conscious in the true sense of developing our authentic essential selves.

Ever wonder how you can help repair the world?

I was listening to a radio interview of Barbara Streisand last week. She had just released a remastered version of songs from her youth that had never before been released. Ms. Streisand said that her Jewish faith has a phrase for repairing the world: Tikkun olam. The topic caught my attention. I have studied Gurdjieff. As a Christian I was taught the value of mission work, although I never agreed with that: The missionary zeal I was exposed to in childhood was more an insistence that others should be “just like us,” in that “our” way was the only true and right way. No. My attention was caught by the way Ms. Streisand explained the meaning of Tikkun olam. We don’t set out to fix a thing from a judgment that it is a wrong thing; but we are to repair what is broken, amiss.

I have never believed in a punishing God. Why would God create a world, call it good, and then seek to destroy a Creation he made with such love? I am instead a proponent of free will, free choice. It is the choices we make that lead us down the road to heaven or hell, and the consequences of those choices. In my book, heaven and hell are states of mind and raw emotion, rather than certified places. I have experienced joy and sorrow – emotional states that can make me feel closer to God or further away from God. I know ecstasy and I know depression. As I have learned to work with my emotions I can step into and away from these states with a little work on my part. I have learned that I am not separated from a thing, but in relationship to it. When I see someone else who is suffering as I have suffered, my heart cannot help but go out to that person. I offer what comfort I can. In this is both my humanity and my divinity.

The longer I live, the more suffering I become aware of. I have not had an easy life, but there are many people who have suffered far more than I have. And many of these people have had the courage and fortitude to rise above their challenging circumstances and horrendous pasts in order to rise up and create a better life for themselves. It is this example I want to inform those folks still living through their past, over and over, caught in the web of depression and the belief that there is nothing they can do about their circumstances that I want to help find that glimmer of hope. Yes, you are worth something! Yes, you are worthy of a better life, a better situation, whatever that might be for you!

There is a thread that all of us or maybe just most of us have in common: It is this idea that we have picked up from society, our caregivers, defenders of religious zeal that we are no good, that we are created in sin, that there is nothing we can do to better ourselves. When I was a child I felt pretty good about myself. I loved my life. I loved nature and time outdoors. Yet somewhere along the way, like many other folks, I took on ideas of unworthiness. That I was bad. That I was made wrong. Sometimes the culprit might be trauma. Sometimes the culprit is mistaken religious training. As a child I stopped praying when the church minister said it was wrong to pray for ourselves. This cut me off from a feeling I had of a secure connection to God.

Yet somehow I have regained the connection I feel when I pray. It is right to pray for ourselves, as it is right to pray for others, Nature, and the healing of our Earth-home. It is amiss, I believe, to pray exclusively for ourselves: it is then a chorus of “Give me, give me, give me,” when true reverence asks for what one needs and also asks, “What can I give back?” What is needed for me to offer to a situation or another person?

This in turn brings me back around again to my original question: How can I help another, especially if they are not yet ready to be helped? It is not a matter of fixing someone who is “wrong” or broken. Elizabeth Lesser has written that being broken is necessary for us to regain our humanity, our divinity, by being broken until our hearts open and we can carry more light. I think, rather, that helping is sometimes just being present to, listening to, carrying kindness for those who are not yet ready to offer that to themselves. I think that repairing the world is to encourage others to find and to hold their own light, and to be accepting of their process, even as it is essentially different from our own. Maybe in this way, Tikkun olam, we repair the world by encouragement, one person at a time, that they are worthy, blessed and beautiful, as they are.

Facing The Shadows

This morning my thoughts were on the diverse “New Age” groups I participated in while I was beginning to explore my spiritual roots. It’s been twelve years since I have actively participated in most spiritual groups. The exceptions for me are Don Oscar Miro Quesada’s Wednesday night gatherings online and Renee Baribeau’s Wind Work, but I don’t define these two shamanic leaders as “New Age.” Those two leaders have come up through indigenous American (Indian) spiritual traditions – Lakota and Peruvian Pachakuti. The reason is that most of those groups are so keen to talk about positivity and light, but their resonance when any hot button touches Shadow Work is critical, judgmental, and distancing. For this reason I do not belong to any such “New Age” agendas.

I was, however, a participant in the Gurdjieff Work for a number of years. I was with Ann Kelly’s group in Honesdale, PA from 1987-1989, the year she passed. Later I met Donald Petacchi almost on my rural doorstep in Hobart, NY, and I studied with him off and on between 1996 and 2003. Don knew a lot about the Enneagram and how it fit the octave of music. What he taught me was nothing like I have glanced at in these books on personality or gardening with the Enneagram.

Gurdjieff was a controversial character even in his time. He knew that to create discord in people was the way to help them grow a soul.

Shadow Work is about turning to face yourself in whatever way you are discomfited, without projection and without blame. You have to begin with an understanding that you are part of any relationship you belong to, and consequently, what you experience from that relationship can teach you something about yourself. Abusive relationships will teach you about fear, hatred, survival, and even a kind of subservience that you get into to save your life. Kinder relationships will teach you about love, caring, friendship, and the nuances of giving and reciprocity. We learn about life through relationship. There are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, uncles, aunts, cousins, the school bullies, heroes, warriors, grifters, saints and sinners. We take away as much as we put into it.

I’ve been doing a lot of Shadow Work this week as I care for my mate. He’s bordering on dementia. His body functions almost like that of a toddler. He’s healing up from pneumonia. It’s been a very hard week. We have been gracious with one another. I have screamed at him that I cannot take care of him and had more than one hard crying session, and he says he finds no fault with me. I have been kind during the times his control of body functions escapes him. These times are messy. Nobody wants to talk about end of life or elder care. These times get hushed up at home. This is why I am talking about it.

I have seen the depths of my own light and my own darkness and I am owning both. The crowning jewel during these hard times is knowing I am doing the best I can, even if my efforts seem piss poor. Somehow I rise up and down the Tree of Life that is in me from depression to joy, to anger and despair, and then to greet the morning in Nature with all the feeling of ecstasy I experience in the presence of the Gods. I invite Them in, and my prayers are answered. Today I needed clarity and balance to tackle what lies before me in the day, and so it is.

Relationships Reveal Me

I have come to the point in my life where I have sufficient experiences to perhaps have an opinion worth noting. I now believe that all my self-knowing can be predicated upon relationships. Relationships take many forms, and in relationship with any person, place, or thing, my essential self is always revealed.

To have a relationship I must be willing to engage something of myself, and there must be another with whom to engage. I take the liberty of expanding upon “another” to mean not only person, but also place or thing, because my reaction to place or thing is also self-revealing. Whether another person, place or thing finds me inviting in return, depends primarily on the pleasure we take from each other and is only important to consider insofar as we decide to have a lengthy or a short duration of relationship.

            What invites me into a relationship might be my attention for a pleasant sensation, my need of a certain object, or even my interest in discerning the self of another being. For example, from where I sit typing I see three old library computers, nine chairs, shelves of books and videotapes lining the walls, and living plants lining the windows. The chairs that would contain me do not have a sense of self that I would consciously seek to know; my relationship with chairs is solely defined by their functioning. The depth of comfort of one invites me, as does the proximity of another to the table upon which I have placed my computer, the tool of my trade. The old library computers are of no use to me; I have an excellent relationship with this fast little high memory gem of a Mac I am typing upon now. The plants in this room would have greater affinity with the human who cares for them and waters them than for me, the stranger visiting their room for the first time. The “self” of a plant reveals itself through the time and care I take of it, to observe it and understand its needs, as I have learned through gardening and “communing” with trees in the forest during long, contemplative hikes.

            In my use of the term “relationships” I include the energetic component of “being with” in communication and holding the idea that everything existing has a relationship to every other thing existing by virtue of its existence. This idea is not new. A hologram is reproduced by the image or memory held of the whole of a thing by the part of a thing, just as DNA holds the memory of the whole organism in the nucleus of a specialized cell as well as the encoded memory of the lineage of a species.

My relationship to a thing depends upon how much energy I am willing to invest in observing it, getting to know it, communicate with it. The term relationship is thus broadened again by a willingness to invest energy and time and the connection of communication and still further by the purpose of the relationship.


Photo by Andrew Neel on

I woke up this morning -startled awake- the GNG didn’t want me to miss this. I’d been dreaming of the connections I have to people, places, things, all the beings I love and have grown from connections with. Relationships, it has taken my whole life to understand, are the real key to knowing myself. Everyone has been as a mirror for me, as I have for them, and I am finding this such a beautiful thing. The illusions that I have had -those repetitive thoughts, beliefs, projections and blames- are just that: Illusions. My husband has done the most for me, whether he realizes it or not. Sometimes those closest to us can arose us to the height of anger, and in one of those moments, I also saw him with the eyes of love. Ever since that enlightening moment, I strive now to see him as I am: A human being doing his best.

We’re not always at our best, are we? Yet it helps to remember that maybe, just maybe, even when we are not at our best, we are still doing the best we can – in the moment we are in. Many things can trigger us, but when I remember to be forbearing, and when I can manage it, forgiving, those moments pass, and maybe I have avoided doing or saying something hurtful.

So this morning I woke up dreaming of all the connections I have to people, places, things, groups, ideas, values, and I drew a circle. For each person, place, thing, group, ideal, what have you, I drew a circe and a line connecting the circle that was me. Soon the page had filled up. Other thoughts crowded in.

I am what I eat. My husband served our Sunday morning breakfast of Huevos Rancheros. The children of a chicken, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, a corn tortilla, refried beans – these will break down chemically through the digestion of my body into essential proteins, vitamins and other nutrients. The eggs, probably from a factory farmed chicken, touched my heart, and I gave some consideration to the life of that animal, a mother like myself. Children come into this world, but they are not ours, the poet Kahlil Gibran wrote so eloquently, but are born of the longing of life for itself. My son is in the military, serving a cause larger than himself, and I miss him. How I miss him! But I had to let him go answer the calling of his own soul.

At that moment I bowed my head with reverence, because I could feel the far reaching connections to the farm workers whose labor provided the food I was eating, except for the tomatoes which came from my own garden. There was the sunlight and rain and soil that fed the plants and now feeding me. Every little bite of this, every tiny piece represents a tinge of awareness of the fabric of the whole awareness making up the vibratory frequency of the Earth, Sun, Moon, Stars, and me and you, and overarching Awareness of whose life force we all take part. Think about that for a moment. A tinge of the awareness of the Absolute of whose life force we all partake, is inside of me and you.

I am what I see, I am what I perceive, and what I perceive forms the thoughts I think. I watched my husband prepare that breakfast as I made my first coffee of the morning. Every move was deliberate. He had prepared all the ingredients ahead of time, and as he layered the tortillas with each type of food, he was mindful of his actions, and his preparation of breakfast was full of love. That love went into the food. The only habit he has that could rile me if I let it, is that the entire time he is cooking, a cigarette is in his hand. That part of my mind that is critically judgmental began to cycle blame and the thought that I don’t need cigarette ashes seasoning my food, but that other part of my mind realizes how much he suffers from that habit which he cannot break, and I thought: If everyone who knows me wrote down one of my sins into the book of life, it would be a miles long list. As I don’t want to live with blame, I chose to let it go, and focused on the love instead.

In the Gurdjieff school we learned that digestion is not only about the food the physical body takes in, but the air we breathe, and the perceptions that feed us the impressions for our mind. I have seen this idea reflected elsewhere too, for example in some of the writing of Eknath Eswaran, who has since passed from this world, but whose Blue Mountain newsletter I used to enjoy reading. The quality of our attention to life and our work in life apparently changes our bodies so that we take in more rarified substances from air and impressions than science has yet recognized – or if it has I haven’t learned about it. But my point here is that the thoughts we think, the experiences we choose to give attention to, all of these influences define our character. We are what we think.

At one point in my life I had a significant other with a son addicted to heroin. While my heart went out to the young man, all he could think of was the next high. We talked a lot. I did not have what he needed to help him, although I tried to help him find ways to change his thinking. I eventually left the relationship feeling burnt out, unable to give anymore emotional energy to a sad situation, but it taught me a lot about the importance of healthy boundaries and not enabling other people. Even so, there is a touch of enabling in doing things for those I love, and if I don’t, I feel somewhat disconnected. So the only answer I have found to that one, is to ask whether the things I am doing for the people I love are in their best interest, or serving another purpose. When I am honest, sometimes I am simple serving my own self interest.

I bumped into my former “step son” one day. Although we were never officially tied by marriage, we had that type of relationship for seven years. We hugged. I could perceive that his struggle continues, but he is doing better he says, and I am left with hope.