Finding My Father

“Dad, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

I strain to hear my father’s voice. He exerts himself to speak, wrinkling his forehead and the muscles of his face. He has something important he wants to convey, but his speech is garbled, a burble of feathery sounds with only an occasional word I can recognize. I move closer, listening to his whispers, scanning his face, searching his expression to garner some sense of what he’s trying to say.

My brother found dad on the floor of his apartment, incoherent and unable to get up. A CT scan at the ER showed that his brain was bleeding from a subdural hematoma, the blood pooling inside his skull, squeezing his brain to the side. Emergency surgery drained the fluid and relieved the pressure, but the damage has accelerated my father’s dementia. I flew into town to visit him and spell my brother, who lives nearby and handles the lion’s share of his care.

Dad’s dementia journey has been an up-and-down biplane ride through the clouds of the wild blue yonder. Synaptic waves climb and descend through different altitudes of lucidity. Sometimes he recognizes us, other times not. When he is occasionally clear enough to realize where he is, what is happening, that his wife of seven decades died three months ago, he demands to return to his old apartment, forcing us into heart-crushing arguments with him about why that can’t happen.

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Stumbling Mystic Podcast – Using the Wounds of Trauma to Heal

Whether we have faced severe events like war or physical assault, or the garden-variety insults and wounds inherent in life, we are all affected by trauma. It is the unifying condition of human experience and the cause of much suffering.

One of the reasons we are drawn to spirituality is a desire to heal. Many of us feel that we are broken, need to be fixed, maybe even that we are unlovable. But there are some approaches to spiritual growth that help us encounter pain and some that suppress pain. One promotes healing and the other does not.

In Episode 2 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, I spoke with therapists, coaches and healers to understand how the power of trauma can hinder or accelerate our spiritual growth. We talk about:

  • How trauma causes us to disassociate from our bodies in order to survive;

  • The need to reinhabit and celebrate the body as the path to healing;

  • How somatic work allows us to release trauma and excavate our true selves;

  • Whether the spiritual journey is one of experiencing pain and joy in order to bring Spirit into the world of form;

  • Why healing our own wounds is necessary if we are to be healers for others.

You can listen below to Episode 2 of the Stumbling Mystic podcast, “Using the Wounds of Trauma to Heal.” Or, visit the podcast page, or listen on your favorite podcast platform.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

My Mother Is in Hospice

On a normal morning, my regular practice made sense. Stretches and meditation were part of a comfortable routine. The world seemed stable, perhaps hinting that small corners of life were controllable.

But since mom fell, nothing has been normal.

For the past month, my days have turned upside down. My mother, 86, has not recovered well from her broken hip and pneumonia. Despite steroids, antibiotics, and respiratory treatments, the infections worsened, her lungs filled with fluid, and her breathing capacity eroded to a shallow spot at the top of her chest.

The fall and the hip surgery were traumatic; the struggle with pneumonia has been tortuous; and now the decision to enter hospice has been a gut-punch, hitting my father the hardest as he watches his sweetheart of 70 years slowly recede. This family emergency has me flailing to find a handhold.

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Wise Words – Your Most Important Spiritual Task: Opening Your Heart

“If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis

A sadness comes over me as I read these words and recognize the truth of it in me. Over the years, I have learned how to protect myself by armoring my heart.  

We all do, I suppose. Shortly after our birth, the world began to show us it can be a hurtful place. One moment, we felt a sense of union and safety with our parents, and the next, we felt the devastating ache of absence. So, we learned to shield ourselves from painful feelings by shutting off the heart. 

These preverbal lessons embedded themselves in the first layers of our psyche. And perhaps the most painful early scar was to adopt the false belief that somehow the fault must be in us, that we are not lovable. In various ways, we all share the early tragic misconception that we are not okay as we are.

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Wise Words – A World in Chaos, or the Birth of a New Consciousness?

Just before [an airplane] cracks the sonic barrier, there’s increased vibration and greater resistance . . . In our present state of evolutionary development, you might say we are flying just beneath the sound barrier of consciousness . . . On the other side of the sonic boom, we discover heightened connection, transparency, integration and resonance – more unity. 

People all over the world are experiencing decidedly tumultuous times.  Perhaps this is a sign that we’re moving closer to the “speed of sound” – closer to new consciousness. Of course, the faster we travel, the more volatility we meet – until we have breached the membrane and exceeded previous evolutionary limitations. What a beautiful boom that will make.

Thomas Hübl, from his book, Attuned

We live our lives in the day-to-day, so it’s easy to miss the longer view. In the day-to-day, we attend to the details of living life. The coffee pot, the kid’s breakfast, the list of appointments, errands, deadlines, and obligations, these all have their rightful place and deserve our attention.

We usually view the news while in the day-to-day mode of attention. Each item appears on the screen as a separate event and taken together, they sometimes paint a distressing picture. Extreme weather events, shootings, scenes of war, political gridlock, social unrest, hateful displays – we absorb the parade of disturbing headlines and react to each, feeling our emotions and grappling to make sense of it. 

And it seems to be getting worse, each day more extreme, the suffering amplified, our bodies more fatigued, and our emotions more numb. The speed of it is disorienting. We want it to slow down, for the madness to stop, for things to go back to normal.

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What Is the Spiritual Response to Gaza?

The war that ignited last week in the Middle East has left me deeply distressed and confused. Distressed that heinous acts and the rageful reactions they provoke are feeding a murderous cycle; confused as I struggle to find a meaningful spiritual response.

I see the wheel of violence and revenge rolling forward, ages old, and I desperately want something to change, to make this time different, to free us from the macabre theater that will play itself out over months or years until our capacity for carnage is exhausted.

I am confronted with the bloodshed and atrocities of war and the prospects for a widening conflict destabilizing the region.

I am staggered by the devastation of cities and homes, the sickening loss of life, the oceans of grief, and the trauma that will last for generations.

I am paralyzed by the cultural and geopolitical complexities that fog our collective vision as we seek a path out of the bramble bush.

I am consumed with a desire to distinguish right from wrong, to understand what drives people to commit slaughter and to fathom a reply that does not match its depravity. I long for a clean line that separates good from evil, that labels which acts of violence are justified, even as I realize that the maelstrom of war eventually blurs and breaks those lines.

And I yearn for guidance. I cry out for answers in a landscape where answers don’t make sense.

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Wise Words – The Worth of Our Wounds

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard

Medals make sense to me.

School and work teach us to set goals and reach them. Success, and even survival, require us to become good at procuring the things we need. I’ve spent much of my time pursuing and displaying them. It’s easy to view achievement as the primary purpose of life.

But scars? That grabs my attention. 

When I think of scars, I first think of wounds, the places we have been cut or pierced. It’s more than a bruise. A scar results when the skin rips and we bleed. 

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