The Interspiritual Revolution

“Interspirituality points to the realization that although there are many spiritual paths, a universal commonality underlies them all.” ~~Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart

There can be little doubt that traditional religious frameworks are no longer speaking to new generations as they have in the past, especially in the West. People are waking up, recognizing that what was the norm just a few years or even months ago is not that anymore, and feeling as if life is more uncertain than ever. Here’s where Interspirituality—a rapidly expanding, emerging global understanding—comes into the picture.

What is Interspirituality? Interspirituality is the appreciation and practice of spirituality centered on humanity’s most deeply shared values of the heart: interconnectedness, love, kindness, compassion, and service. “Interspirituality is at the heart space of all religions and spiritual traditions—of humanity itself.” It is an exploration of ourselves so deeply grounded in compassion and unconditional love that it dissolves any separation between human beings that stems from differences in beliefs, values, background or creed.

What is not Interspirituality?

Interspirituality is not about spiritual by-passing, a “head-buried-in-the-sand” approach to spiritual awakening. It acknowledges the reality of the numerous global threats surrounding us—resource scarcity and competition, climate change, environmental degradation, wars based on national and ethnic adherences, and economic and social disparities of various kinds. In fact, the environment and all living creatures are tended to with the utmost respect and important in interspiritual practices. As the next step in our evolution, Interspirituality embodies the ultimate understanding that we are simultaneously interconnected, independent and interdependent.

Finally, Interspirituality recognizes at the heart of every genuine spiritual path, there is a commitment to core values which honor peace, compassionate service, and love for all creation.

This December, we invite you to a new interspiritual experience in Central Coast California: Love in Flight Interspiritual Society (“LĪFĬS” for short). LĪFĬS is based on blending Interfaith teachings with Interspiritual core values and practices. Our vision and purpose is rooted in six core values: Authentic Connection, Consciousness of the Sacred, Inclusivity, Integrity, Lifelong Learning and Sacred Service.

Our Sunday services are bi-monthly: first and third Sundays of each month at 10 A.M., at the San Luis Obispo Library Community Room, 995 Palm St., San Luis Obispo. We are activating the connection and fellowship at LĪFĬS with a very special service on Sunday, New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017! www.lifisslo.org

With Infinite Love,

Laura Grace, rev.lauragrace@gmail.com

Advertisements

A Woman’s Depth: The Greatest Force of Nature

Greetings! woman-speaking-out

It is a brand new year, a brand new beginning. Yet, many of us are still trying to find our center, politically, emotionally and spiritually since the 2016 election. I believe it is the lack of expression of our depth that led to this precarious moment in time. “Precarious” because many of the things we least wished would happen within our democracy is now happening.  It is interesting that our Constitution did not mention political parties, and that George Washington warned against them, yet we now live in the clutches of two major political parties who are driven by money. Over the years, as a liberal, I have sadly witnessed corporate Democrats attempt to gain power for the party, but at the cost of its soul. We will continue to witness this strangle-hold until we have the courage to speak our deepest truth and give voice to those things we most cherish and love.

Hate is an interesting force which screams volumes in our culture.  Hate brings adrenaline with it. Hate brings conviction with it. Hate declares: “I’m not going to take being treated unfairly!” Yet hate, and its first cousin fear, are not as effective, nor as powerful, as audacious-love. As women, we tend to connect deeply with that which we love. Be it family, the environment, friends, we’re naturally wired to protect what we hold dear. And caring about something we love demands fierce audacity and the radical courage to use our voices as instruments for truth.

As we move forward, I invite you to ask yourself: “At this point in my life, what do I most cherish? What do I hold so sacred that I am willing to speak my deepest truth, no matter how much resistance I feel from others? What am I will to be a guardian for during this critical time on our planet?”

For me, it is our beloved environment and all the animals which dwell thereon. In 2017 and beyond, being a guardian—via donations, public speaking, volunteering—is essential for my soul growth.  Also, this month I begin writing my dissertation on “cultivating resilience” which entails interviewing internationally-known women who developed resilience while witnessing environmental destruction firsthand (e.g., Chernobyl, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, etc.).  These kinds of activities are grounding and enable me to contribute my energy to something I love deeply.

This is a brand new year. Now is the time to access our dspeak-out-circleepth and give it a clear, strong voice.  There is the belief in certain social and spiritual circles that politics should not be discussed. This is a very dangerous myth. If those of us with mind and heart fail to speak up, we give our power away to angry, psychotic voices like we are now hearing.

Let us be grounded and strategic as we oppose what does not ring true to our hearts, while whole-heartedly supporting what we treasure. Let our frustration and apathy be transformed into conscious activism. Let us avoid low level energy and increase mindful practices: meditation, gratitude practices, time in Nature—any activity that keeps us moving forward with grace and conviction. And finally, let us remain open to possibilities as we stay focused on intentions and actions which honor our deepest truth.

Laura V. Grace, Ph.D. (c) is a spiritual activist and producer of the Central Coast Women’s Symposium. http://www.lauragrace.net

The Cycle of LIFE-DEATH-LIFE and the Wild Woman Archetype

Greetings Friend:women arms raised

Life is a series of cycles, a continuous unfolding pattern of Life-Death-Life spirals that possess the power to carry us deeper into the female soul and feminine spirit. In her unforgettable creation Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes beautifully illustrates this dynamic playing out in the Wild Woman archetype. She is the Life-Death-Life force, the female soul and source of the feminine. As we learn to embrace the Life-Death-Life nature we are able to hold the space for the necessary deaths and surprising births with grace rather than resistance. In our culture, the Life part of living is supported, however, the Death part of living is too often misunderstood and feared. And yet, unless we accepting the dying embers from each passage of life, we cannot create sufficient space for new initiations to commence.

Presently, I am experiencing both a significant death and a new life. In August, I will complete the final year of graduate coursework in a depth psychology and somatic program. It is a big Death. I am saying farewell to some amazing people who have bravely traveled this road with me for three years, a road fraught with shadow, unexpected psychological potholes and startling bursts of transformation.

On the other side of the same coin, I am entering a new phase of Life. Having passed all of the requirements, I have received my Master’s degree and am now entering the realm of dissertation as scholar and Ph.D. Candidate.  And as with so many other former beginnings, I am filled with much excitement, anxiety and hope.

If you can relate and would like to share a piece of your current Life-Death-Life journey, I would love to hear from you. Sharing stories from the soul is healing and cultivates the fertile soil for the Wild Woman to rise up and regenerate her qualities of connectedness, creativity and passion.

In honor of the feminine spirit within us all, may your LIFE-DEATH-LIFE journey be authentically soulful.

Namaste,

Laurasig

USING NIGHTTIME DREAMS TO AWAKEN YOUR GREATEST POTENTIAL

Aboriginal pic for blog

USING NIGHTTIME DREAMS TO AWAKEN YOUR GREATEST POTENTIAL

Did you know that your nighttime dreams and your daytime desires are completely interconnected? They seem to exist at opposite ends of the continuum which is why we tend to discount or ignore them. But indigenous people like the Aboriginal Australians embody a term called The Dreaming or Dreamtime which describes the web of life between the spiritual and natural world. In essence, there is no difference between being asleep versus being awake; it’s all one big dream. Similarly, Shamans believe the dream world and the spirit world are exactly the same and that we are dreaming the world into being. This is why for thousands of years indigenous people knew they could count on receiving wisdom from their ancestors, guidance from spiritual realms and valuable answers to mystifying questions.

Let me share a personal example of how dreams provide specific direction and awaken your greatest potential. Many years ago, I was a Human Resource Director for a CPA and consulting firm. Everything was about chargeable hours, money and power, leaving very little room for valuing people. As time unfolded, it felt like the life-force was being sucked out of my soul and I finally mustered up the courage to resign. I was newly divorced and had a ten year old daughter to raise. Instead of immediately putting myself back on the executive market, I decided to take a year off and do some significant soul-searching. So I withdrew my 401(k) and spent the next twelve months delving into spiritual teachings, journaling my thoughts and feelings, and working extensively with my nighttime dreams.

One night, before falling asleep, I asked my dreams for guidance, specifically: What was the best way I could harness my gifts, strengths and talents, create the work I truly loved and be of service? That night, I had a powerful dream:

I am sitting in the driver’s seat of my red Toyota which is sitting in a parking lot. Next to me in the passenger’s seat I see a dark blue book with “Bhagavad Gita” scrolled in gold across the cover. I open the car door and see several brochures that I have written lying on the ground and next to them are various silver and gold coins.

This dream was showing me that writing combined with spirituality were a definite part of my life’s work. As I followed my dream’s cues I began writing articles for spiritual and personal growth publications, something I had never done before. Then the following dream occurred:

I am guided to look under my bed and discover enormous diamonds in the shape of crystals. I am amazed by their beauty. After I am through looking under the bed I look behind me and on my bedroom floor, I see two or three similar stones, not quite as large as the one lying under my bed. I awake feeling happy and inspired.

These dreams affirmed that the work I was meant to experience would take me deeper into my authentic self while providing abundance. The fact that the diamonds were shaped like crystals revealed the multi-faceted potentials within me. Now, looking back over the past couple of decades, I can see how prophetic the dream truly was. The articles I began writing were published which led to my first book Gifts of the Soul. The book and articles inspired ideas for creating a successful course called The Self-Mastery Program which supported individuals in accessing their inner gifts and creating a soulful life. I taught The Self-Mastery program for ten years and in the meantime, I penned my second book, The Intimate Soul. I also created several other programs, began teaching courses on dreams and coaching people how to understand and utilize them. Further, I attended an interfaith seminary program and provided spiritual counseling. The “multi-faceted” diamonds represented skills I never knew I had, and didn’t have, until I began using them: writing, speaking, teaching and counseling.

Dreams provide inordinate amounts of intelligence. Where does the wisdom come from? Worldly knowledge flows from multiple sources including advisability from your ancestors, illumination from the spiritual realm, sagacity from your soul and significant insight from the natural world. All of this adds up to one major source of infinite wisdom!

Dreams may very well be the purest form of knowledge since they are not clouded by our conscious thinking and programmed beliefs. Being willing to remember them is the first step. Tapping into their goldmine of information is the second step. And the more you pay attention to your dreams, the better your recall will be. Tonight, before going to sleep practice the following steps:

1. Think about one situation you would like to create, change or improve in your life.

2. Ask your dreams for guidance and be specific about the situation and your question.

3. Set your intention before going to bed and affirm your willingness to remember your dreams and receive guidance.

4. Write down (or record) any dreams immediately upon waking, even “snippets” of a dream. Pay attention to the landscape, dream images, character and how write down how you feel about them. Also try to capture the “theme” of the dream.

5. Conclude by letting go of attachment to outcome so ideas, images and inspiration can emerge. Dreams communicate in myriad ways, so reflect on your dream gently throughout the day and watch what bubbles up from psyche’s cauldron.

If you are ready to explore your dreams and see how they are an invaluable tool for growth, please check out any one or all three of the dream programs I’m offering the beginning of 2016:
1. LIVE SIX WEEK DREAM COURSE AT CAL POLY, SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, Dates: Thursdays, 1/28/16-3/3/16, Time: 6:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m. For more information or to register, CLICK HERE

2. LIVE DREAM RETREAT, Dancing Deer, Templeton, CA, Date: 2/20, Time: 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. For more information, CLICK HERE

3. E-DREAM COURSE: “Dreams for Healing: Using Dreams as a Pathway to the Soul” at SelfHealingExpressions.com. Dream course lessons are sent directly to your in-box and you may complete them at your convenience. For more information, CLICK HERE

INTENTIONAL GRATITUDE AND THE BENEFITS ON THE BODY, BRAIN AND EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER

INTENTIONAL GRATITUDE AND THE BENEFITS ON THE BODY, BRAIN AND EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
— Kahlil Gibran

Thanksgiving is almost here. And though you might be looking forward to visiting family and eating a sumptuous dinner, holiday events can be stressful. Anxiety can trigger hormones that flood your body with powerful, sometimes harmful, hormones, keeping your brain on high alert and ramping up your heartbeat.

Well, that doesn’t sound like something to feel grateful about, does it? Let’s begin again…

There is another emotional route you can choose this Thanksgiving, something I call intentional gratitude. Recent neuro-science reveals that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude. Like happiness, gratitude doesn’t occur by itself, we must consciously choose it. And Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make that choice. As we mindfully focus our attention and intention on all that we have to be grateful for, we increase our well-being. Further, feeling grateful and expressing it to others increases our energy, positivism and empathy. In addition to experiencing more positive energy, studies show that those around you benefit just as much. That “pleasurable-glow” you feel throughout your body radiates an electromagnetic field touching those you encounter. The heart emits an electromagnetic field that extends several feet from our bodies and is approximately 60 times stronger than the energy emitted by the brain!

Could gratitude be the most important factor in relationships? Perhaps. The University of California-Berkeley published research that nails the power of gratitude in romantic relationships. Check this out: People who feel appreciated by their romantic partners are more likely to reciprocate appreciation and are more responsive to their partners’ feelings, needs and desires. And the real kicker is that those partnerships oozing with gratitude are more committed and more likely to sustain long-term intimate relationships.

Set your intention to experience the countless benefits of gratitude by trying these easy and quick practices:

1. Imagine the face of someone you love deeply, a partner, child, parent or beloved pet.gratitude-happiness-2
2. Think back to the last time you felt truly appreciated and savor the experience.
3. Notice everything—big and small—that you feel grateful for, don’t skimp. This is the art of cultivating radical gratitude which can lead to on-going happiness.
4. Tell someone “thank you” or “I appreciate you being in my life,” today, tomorrow, the next day and so on—keep going!

These practices sound almost too easy to be effective, but in reality, they have the power to open our hearts and the hearts of everyone we encounter. Gratitude is rewarding. Gratitude feels good. Gratitude boosts our mood whether we are the giver or the receiver. Place your intention on all that you feel grateful for, then watch how gratitude activates the pleasure-pathway in the brain and floods your body with all kinds of amazing, positive feelings.

Thank-you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading this blog and spreading good vibes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Laurasig

Authentic Feminine Power. A Blog for Women and Men.

“Feminine Power” is a term we’re hearing a lot about these days in the consciousness and evolutionary realms, but what does it truly mean?

My experience on the path of differentiation, growth and individuation has revealed a depth of awareness around this topic that I’d like to share with you.

First, it is important that whether you are majoring in being a male or female this lifetime, everyone possesses a feminine aspect. This part of us allows us to deeply listen to others, tap into our intuitive capacity and simply “be” in the present moment.

Second, in order to embody the fullness of our lives, to live life from a developed and authentic feminine consciousness, we need:

1. Innate Confidence: A deep knowing that you are living from the center of your deepest purpose and are the person you were born to be. This manifests as authentic confidence and capacity to show up fully which leads to the pathway of individuation (self-actualization). It also triggers the ability to create whatever you truly desire while knowing that synchronicities, resources and support will arrive when you need it.

2. Authentic Relationships: You feel fully supported to be yourself and to be seen and heard in ways that you feel secure. This emerges as an unshakable bonds that allows you to thrive in every area of your life.

3. Recognizing Your Gifts: You are able to share the gifts and talents that you have developed with the world in a way that they are recognized, received and are regenerative.

4. Creating Money: You are able to produce the money necessary to support a lifestyle that aligns with your values. You have created, or, are in the process of creating, the appropriate external structures which allow you to be congruent with your gifts and values. Too often, we are dedicated to the path of growth yet “split” between sharing our gifts in one way, and then earning money in an entirely different manner. Genuine authenticity and individuation means lining up your inner wisdom with reciprocal external structures that support your gifts and talents.

5. Health and Energy: Although you may be dealing with a health challenge, it doesn’t prevent you from sharing your gifts and fulfilling your soul’s destiny. You are taking care of yourself and have exactly the energy you need to create, share and reap the rewards of your effort.

6. Connection to Spirit-Soul-Soma: You are embodying what I call the ultimate “triune”: spirit, soul and soma (body). For centuries we have been programmed to disconnect our mind from our body and soul. On the spiritual path, particularly the metaphysical path which means “above the physical”, I have witnessed this tendency over and over again. It leads to an over emphasis on the ascension upwards, toward spirit where we feel “light”. Yet, we can become blinded by the light and not see the value in moving inward and downward, toward soul. Soul thrives on the mucky-ness that accompanies growth and transformation, and finds solace in the dark places that we tend to want to avoid. Soul also needs connection with soma where feelings from past experiences, dream images and deep desire and love reside. To heal, evolve and experience individuation we must embrace the entire triune.

7. Play!: You know when you need to have fun and you create the space to do so. Carl Jung discovered that when a project or life experience began to feel a little “too much,” it was time to play. For him that entailed playing with building blocks or creating some art which allowed an “imaginal space” to open in his psyche. As the space opened, he found ideas and creative juices emerging from Self and noticed that the ego stepped aside from its relentless attachment to outcome.

8. Your Legacy: You are contributing to something larger than yourself. Sharing your gifts and talents is effecting others in a meaningful way and has the capacity to lead transformation, both yours and theirs.

May you experience the authentic, empowered and numinous existence that is your birthright.

Namaste.

Laura V. Grace

The Brain in Love: Three Attributes for Maintaining Long-Term Partnerships

We humans are hard-wired for relationships. Yet, very often, we find ourselves struggling to maintain long-term partnerships images1that feel loving, supportive and healthy. Numerous factors play into the partners we are attracted to and the dynamics that ensue. But recent neuro-science shows us that more is going on and can be seen in various centers of the brain.

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., specializes in understanding the neuro-science of relationships. When asked if her brain scanning projects on people reveal anything about long-term happiness in relationships, Fisher replied with a resounding “Yes!” She explains that neuro-scans reveal specific patterns of brain activity among those who are in loving, long-term relationships and here are the top three winning attributes:

1. Overlooking the Negative and Accentuating the Positive. First and foremost, activity in the frontal cortex empowers a person to look for the good in his/her partner instead of focusing on what he/she dislikes or finds irritating. The psychological term for this is “positive illusions” and with lots of practice, it truly works.

2. Expressing Empathy. Brain activity occurs in the mirror neurons and aligns with empathy, the ability to relate, understand and share the feelings of others. Your facial expressions have the ability to trigger a strong emotional response in your partner. Mirroring openness and understanding are part of the empathic process and is a critical factor in connecting authentically and lovingly.

theme_relationships3. Controlling Your Own Emotions. The amygdala is shaped like an almond and is where we feel emotions like fear, anger, love and sexual desire. It is the area of the brain associated with the ability to regulate your emotions and is essential in maintaining well-being and harmony in relationships.

If you are interested in receiving some support in improving and/or healing your relationships, I provide guidance to individuals and couples. My approach embodies Depth Psychology (the unconscious, archetypes and dreams), spirituality, somatics (the body) and neuro-science. My areas of expertise includes:

Significant Life Changes
Overcoming Fear and Anxiety
Relationship and Family Issues
Women’s Spirituality and Empowerment
Spiritual Direction (for more information on this form of guidance, please CLICK HERE).
Dream Based Counseling (for more information on this type of counseling, please CLICK HERE).

Or visit: www.lauragrace.net, laura@lauragrace.net

Love Is Friendship On Fire

It’s September 3, 2015 and the night is coming to an end on my 21st wedding anniversary. It has been, at times, an interesting, befuddling, mystifying and deeply rewarding journey. Honestly, for a long time, I seriously doubted my ability (or, perhaps, willingness?) to remain committed to anyone for this length of time. But twenty-six years ago, while joining a Public Accounting and Consulting Firm in the Midwest, I met a man who expressed more respect and kindness toward women than anyone I had ever known. Instantly, we began to forge a friendship; not just any friendship, but one that morphed from a working partnership, in to a supportive friendship, then in to a romantic attraction, and then finally, in to a long term marriage that has endured both myriad pleasures and pitfalls.

Committed to our individual growth and that of the relationship, we patiently cultivated a connection based on unconditional support, radical honesty and real love. Friends and clients who have taken our relationship workshops are tempted to believe that we have been “lucky” to have found each other, or, “fortunate” to be so compatible. Rubbish! We are as different as the legends of Luna and her soft shimmering glow and Sol and his bright beaming radiance. Thomas is introverted, easy going, and prefers just the two of us hanging out and relaxing. I, on the other hand, am active, intense and enjoy being social and spending solitude time in Nature. We don’t believe in luck or the fact that both our suns reside in Capricorn. When it comes to healthy intimate relationships we know that genuine friendship is the foundation for a loving, evolving, lasting connection. Period.

If you are already in a relationship, or, seeking a relationship, notice the desires, needs and intentions that lurk below the surface. If the driving force for wanting a connection is any of the following BEWARE:

• The desire to be fulfilled or to control another person though sex.
• The longing to be with a person based on their physical beauty, strengths or accomplishments.
• The yearning for financial security and/or, to be taken care of.
• The need to be needed or to rescue someone.
• The hunger for prestige, power, or control.
• The wish to distract, avoid or divert from unwanted feelings and emotions, including emptiness.

Why are these needs/desires/longings antithetical to a healthy, committed relationship? Because inevitably, “stuff” is going to surface. When the boredom kicks in, when the stress surfaces (think money, sex, kids, etc.), when the illness arises, when the pain from aging emerges, when the shit hits the fan—IT IS THE FRIENDSHIP THAT WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH.

Ask yourself: “Do I truly like this person that I am…dating, spending time with, married to?” Our advice to couples in our workshops, and, in the couple’s counseling I perform is: “Would you want to remain friends with this person if you broke up or divorced each other?”

My in-laws don’t know this, but they have been very inspirational to me in both the “friendship” and “marriage” departments. Having married in 1951 (yes, sixty-four years together!), my mother-in-law is eighty-six years young and my father-in-law turned eighty-eight in June. Their marriage wasn’t arranged nor did they feel familial pressure to wed. I sense there was a common attraction and much of it was based on respect and the genuine desire to be with each other. And, after being married longer than some people remain alive, they still seem to possess a genuine admiration for one another.

Here’s our tried and true recipe for a great relationship: friendship creates the foundation for safety; safety builds the bridge for honesty; honesty develops the framework for trust. And all of these components constructs the fortress of a committed, loving, open and authentic relationship that will withstand the storms that will inevitably slam up against it.

Wanting to find the perfect anniversary card for my husband, I read through verse after verse, each one attempting to express some pathetic form of love. My beloved husband composes better expression of love than any of these cards, I thought to myself as I set each one aside. Finally, my eyes landed on a non-anniversary card, one that was sitting solo in the section marked “Love.” I picked it up and saw a simple image of oceanic waves gently lapping a sun-kissed shoreline. Below it, carved in the sand were the words: Love Is Friendship On Fire. Perfect. I couldn’t have said it better. Happy 21st Anniversary My Beloved Husband, Life Partner, Soul Companion and Best Friend.

Laura and Tom THEN

Laura and Tom THEN

Laura and Tom Today

Laura and Tom NOW

Conscious Death, Dying & Dogs

PART ONE

One is moved to conclude that the heart is the most poetic organ of the body and may exceed the moon and stars in use as a metaphor…You can know of heartache, heart yearnings, heart shapes, heart renderings and heart feelings. ~Mike Denney, M.D., Ph.D.

As I wrap up the second year of my doctoral program in Depth Psychology, I just finished a term paper for my Conscious Death and Dying course that has stretched the shape of my heart. Some of the required readings for this course include Mortality (Hitchens, 2012), The Alchemy of Illness (Duff, 1993), Intoxicated by My Illness (Broyard 1992), and Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen (2007). I had heard of the last title but had never read it until my heart-felt professor stated: “If you only had to read one book, this is the one”.

That night, I opened the book, glanced through the pages then immediately set it down. It is a poignant love story about a woman and her beloved dog, “Beau”. Quindlen describes the immense affection she has for Beau and the lessons she learned just by observing him: how to accept things as they are, to measure herself not through the lens of the past or future but of the present. Her story continues as Beau ages and reaches the hands of death. Quindlen unflinchingly remains in the moment until his last days on earth, “Each morning I used to check to see if the old guy was actually breathing, and each day I tried to take his measure—was he hurting? Was he happy? Was the trade-off between being infirm and being alive worth it?”

Like Quindlen, I have a Beau but his name is “Guru.” And like Beau in the book, Guru is the same age, fifteen years old as of July 10, 2015. Due to severe arthritis in the elbow of his front left leg, Guru gets around by hopping on his three working legs. He sleeps more than he is awake, yet he still loves to go for a daily “joy ride” in the car, resting on my lap as we travel up and down the street. At one-hundred and five human years old, he can still smell the fresh salty, sea air and this daily ritual is the highpoint of his life, as well as mine.

Guru's 11th birthday

Guru’s 11th birthday

Guru is a black Pomeranian, pure alpha and not sweet as Quindlen describes Beau. No one would consider him to be a “good” dog; he can be affectionate one moment then without warning, snap and bite in the next moment. People think it is because of the pain he is in from being old. Sometimes I let them believe this is true but it isn’t; Guru has been a very difficult dog since he was four months old. After receiving his vaccinations, he began having seizures which we learned to control with Phenobarbital. And though his seizures calmed down, his behavior did not. Guru sought to keep everyone together, like a herding dog; every time my husband or I would leave the room, Guru would spin counter-clockwise, barking, “Get back here, don’t you dare leave, we’re all meant to stay together!” Obedience training didn’t seem to help, nor did all of the Dog Whisperer CD’s that we watched. A caring and concerned friend once pleaded, “Why don’t you just call the Dog Whisperer and invite him to work with Guru?” We never did contact Caesar and after fourteen years of Guru spinning counter-clockwise, his left elbow became so crippled with arthritis that he drags the leg next to his body while he hops around on the remaining three.

Guru is possessive, demanding and has an anxiety disorder. His behavior, at times, has strained my relationship with my husband. I have been over protective of this creature who appears in my night-time dreams, lives in the depths of my heart, and reveals all of his feelings and secrets when he looks at me with his dark brown eyes. I know this dog better than I know myself. Surely, we must have been together before. As strange as this may sound, in a desperate attempt to understand the dynamic between Guru, my husband and I, we once contacted a well-known “pet psychic” who confirmed this idea. She told us the most amazing story: in a past life Guru had been my partner and Thomas (my husband) had been his rival and the issue was never resolved. As hard as it was to believe and as reluctant as we were to admit it, Thomas and I both sensed there might be some truth to the psychic’s vision.

As my death and dying class unfolded, I kept avoiding reading Good Dog. Stay. It was too painful and hit too close to the heart. Guru’s fifteenth birthday was quickly approaching and I noticed that his eyes looked glassy and he was limping more than usual. Was it time to let him go? Was he in pain and if so, did the physical pain outweigh my desire to have him stay? My heart was aching and reluctantly, I re-opened Good Dog. Stay. I read ten pages, not the first ten, but the final ten. Quindlen’s courage and ability to embrace Beau’s death was inspiring. While reading it, Guru laid next to me on my bed. I remember crying as I turned the final page and asking Guru if he wanted to move on. I told him that he was a good dog despite the challenges over the years and that I would let him go if he was ready to leave. He listened then licked my left hand reassuringly. He was definitely trying to communicate something.

That evening, my husband and I decided to take Guru to the vet and have his matted hair—once shiny and glorious—shaved off for the last time. We also decided to have his teeth cleaned and his nails trimmed—all of the grooming that I used to love do for him but now required anesthesia because he would bite. We knew we were taking a risk, that he might not make it through the process. Yet we believed we were giving him one last chance to feel a bit better. Two days later, Thomas drove the car to the vet’s office while I cradled Guru in my arms, swaddled in his favorite red blanket. After we dropped Guru off, I sent him light from my heart and envisioned him feeling strong. My prayers of love and gratitude traveled to him as I hiked along the beach then worked some more on my Conscious Death and Dying term paper. At 3:00 p.m. the vet called to report that Guru was doing well and was ready to go home. Despite feeling groggy from the anesthesia, Guru’s enthusiasm and aliveness was evident and we knew we had made the right decision.

That was three weeks ago. And now, as we reach the end of July, Guru is still doing well but I know we are nearing the end. Each morning when I awake and check in with Guru, I am reminded that one more day of living for me is an entire week of living for him and his aging body. This helps me maintain perspective about the fragility of life and the incredibly short duration of a dog’s life. It also emphasizes how important it is that I remain present with Guru and be fully alive, now, more than ever.
In the meantime, I am profoundly aware of Guru’s impending ending inching ever so closely. It is no longer “years away”; it could be next month, tomorrow morning or even tonight as I lie sleeping. Good Dog. Stay. reminds me that my growth lies in my ability to embrace Guru’s deterioration while remaining most alive during this ending. Sartre was right: You have to live each moment as if you’re prepared to die.

I take comfort from knowing that I have been able to love this dog in ways I never knew possible. The love I feel for Guru has been the closest thing to unconditional love that I might ever know: he can growl and bear his teeth at me, and yet, I still love him; he can bite me, and though I scold him, I still feel love in my heart for him. I feel his fear when he struggles to sit up, I feel his excitement when we go for a joy ride, and I feel his love when his pale tongue weakly licks my hand.

Guru on 3 legs July, 2015

Guru on 3 legs July 2015

As I finish crafting this blog, Guru is lying on the floor next to me in his old lumpy bed with his favorite tattered red blanket. I feel deep gratitude for being able to process some deep emotions while writing. I held off from writing this blog because I was resisting the feelings that illness and conscious dying might elicit. I look over at Guru as I craft this final paragraph and he opens his eyes. He can still see me so I inquire: “Are you comfortable? Are you happy? Do you want to keep on going?” not expecting a response, and yet, his eyes widen. I am reassured by Quindlen’s last words in the final chapter of Good Dog. Stay.: “And when the time comes to ask myself some of those same questions, at least I will have had the experience calibrating the answer. Sometimes an old dog teaches you new tricks”.

I would love for Guru to stay and stay and stay…but I am acutely aware of his mortality, as well as my own. So I am grateful for all that Guru has taught me: patience, tolerance, perseverance, real love, remaining conscious and connected as a loved one ages, fades then dies. And though Guru, nor I, will live forever, I am reminded that the name “Guru” can be broken down into: “Gee, You Are You”, perhaps the greatest teaching we can learn from a dog who challenges us, a true guru.

My favorite Guru and Me

The REAL (and ALCHEMICAL) MEANING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY

sleeping beauty imageSleeping Beautiful was my mother’s favorite fairy tale. She bought me the book when I was seven years old and inscribed it to me. It was a hard cover book and the front was laced with dreamlike hues of blues, greens and shimmering gold. Inside the book were beautiful illustrations of Sleeping Beauty, the prince and Sleeping Beauty’s court. It was the only book I remember my mother inscribing to me and she wrote: “I hope you enjoy this fairytale as much as I always have. Love, Mother.” Well, I did love that story. It was romantic, passionate and taught that all women need to awaken is a sweet and simple kiss from a man who possesses the power to save us.

What was there not to love?

Unfortunately, many women have taken Sleeping Beauty literally. I know my mother did, and, so did my older sister. My mother desperately hoped that my father would be her shining prince, awaken her and fulfill her every need. And as much as I loved my father, he was the family patriarch; religious, fundamental, and ill-tempered. Over the years, I watched as my mother’s own “sleeping beauty” fell into a deeper and deeper sleep as she medicated herself with prescription medications and alcohol. She died at age 57 and my sister died at age 54, both suffering deeply from abusive men, broken hearts and shattered dreams.

The amazing Jungian analyst, Anne Baring, excels in transformational work of the soul which entails the 4,000+ year old practice of “alchemy.” Many of us know the process of turning base metal into gold, but Baring’s teachings encompass the psychology of alchemy and the alchemical transformation we must go through in order to reach our opus and be fully awake, whole beings. In her seminar titled, “What is Soul?” Baring dives deep into the alchemical waters of the ancient fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. She reveals how Sleeping Beauty is the ultimate story for this point in history because it reflects the vital call for balance between our masculine and feminine aspects. Baring writes, “I see this magical story [Sleeping Beauty] as a metaphor for our time and the urgent need for a marriage between our head and our heart, a marriage between our solar thinking and our lunar feeling…From another perspective, I also see it as a metaphor of the reconciliation of spirit and nature or the reunion of the masculine and feminine aspects of spirit which have been progressively sundered during the last four thousand years.”

In Sleeping Beauty, the prince represents the solar principle of consciousness, searching for meaning, wanting to understand the universe but ultimately, seeking reconnection with his feminine aspect—the soul. Sleeping Beauty symbolizes the lunar principle of soul, the Alchemy image to use at beginning of talkfeeling values, Eros. Therefore, this bewitching story has nothing to do with being rescued and everything to do with the alchemical marriage of the masculine (sun) and the feminine (moon). Thus, when the prince (solar/rational mind) connects with Sleeping Beauty (lunar/heart energy), not only does she awaken, but her entire sleeping court awakens. For the past 50 years, we have been witnessing an awakening and deepening of connection to our soul and attaining balance between our head and heart. More and more women I encounter who are on the path of growth have shared the increased amount of animus dreams. Our animus shows up during dream time in male form, sometimes a familiar man and other times a stranger. These dreams present us with an immense opportunity to explore our beliefs and attitudes about our relationship with men and our relationship with ourselves. Dream work is a significant part of alchemy. May we remember the transformational power they possess and take time to attend to them.

The Greater Coniunctio: A Higher Love
When one is journeying through the alchemical process, there are several stages of transformation we must experience. The stages are: calcinatio, solutio, coagulatio, sublimatio, mortificatio and separatio. They lead to coniunctio which resides at the heart of alchemy. Coniunctio is the joining of the alchemical King and Queen, Sol and Luna. The process of transformation begins when these opposites meet, but they are not conjoined until the process is completed. We travel in and out of these stages throughout our life, depending on what is happening in our relationships, career, health and all of the life changes we encounter.
Sol and Luna Image
Viewing the tale of Sleeping Beauty from a higher and alchemical position reveals something antithetical to what we were taught as children. No one is meant to save us, particularly not a special soulmate who kisses our forehead and brings us out of our sleep. The deeper meaning of this story is the recognition and conjoining of our feminine and masculine aspects. Alchemy uses a series of unique images that illustrate this process. The King and Queen start out fully clothed (separate and concealed) then immerse themselves in an alchemical bath where the transformation begins. The lovers, who were once opposites are now connected into inseparable wholeness. Alchemical love has attained its exultant zenith. The opposite energies of the prince/Sleeping Beauty, the King/Queen, and the Solar/Lunar, become transmuted through the alchemical process which is can only be done solo and can be very painful. It’s an “undoing” of all that we have learned and at times, we may feel as though we are being turned inside out. Sometimes we pass through the alchemical stages at varying times, and, sometimes we move through two or more simultaneously.

Yet the pinnacle remains the same, to fully realize genuine love and union. Edward Edinger, who wrote Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy states, “That which goes by the name of love is fundamental to the phenomenology of the coniunctio. Love is both cause and effect…objective love, a love purged of personal desirousness, not one side of a pair of opposites, but rather beyond the opposites”. Sleeping Beauty is a mythical story of a higher love. It encompasses self-less love and the feeling of oneness that we each desire on the deepest level. It cannot be attained by wanting to be rescued, saved, or kissed, but only as we awaken to the strength, courage, and love that resides deep within.

I believe if my mother were still alive and read this very different interpretation of Sleeping Beauty, she would not be disappointed, she would be relieved.

Namaste,

Laurasig