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  • nancy willbern

Updated: Aug 8


Something watches over us and we know it when

we follow the little voice inside or heed the warning

or inspiration that arrives as if on wings.


We need the intermediaries that keep us close to

the spirit of life, to the wonders of nature

and to the subtleties of our own inner nature.


Michael Mead

I love it that a full grown oak - waxy dark green leaves, craggy trunk and broad, outstretching branches somehow lives nestled inside its very own acorn. I also love it that at the moment a creature suffers a scrape or is invaded by a predatory virus, a whole host of antibodies races to the scene to apply immediate care like a little EMS team always on the ready. I love it that embedded inside the very fiber of all living things, Nature is organically equipped to bring about our highest good, our healing, our growth and expansion. I love it that the Creative Life Force is innately conspiring on our behalf. But, it gets even more exciting for those of us within the human species. Programmed right into the system of what it means to be human, there is even more of this natural Benevolence. Just like the mighty oak incubated inside its protective seed-pod, our souls, the truest part of who we are, are also tucked safely inside our outer beings - just waiting to be discovered, waiting to be invited into existence.

The fawns and the ferns, the frogs and the fungi - all other living things on the planet don't have either the privilege or the responsibility to choose their own further evolution. They just let it happen without any conscious recognition of it, much less conscious participation. But, we, those of us with the developed frontal lobe, we get to partner with the whole thing. We are not the ones who know how to make it happen. We couldn't possibly know how to do that. But we are the ones who invite it to have its way with us. And when we let it, we unfold - beyond our ability to imagine - into who we were meant to be all along. Don't you just love that?!


***

Here is what I have noticed. There is a quiet, open space inside myself where I often hear the voice. Sometimes it speaks to me when I ask a direct question. Other times it comes in the form of a vision or as a character in a dream, personified as an angel or a guide or a soul keeper. Sometimes I just feel its presence in my body. Regardless of its presentation, I don’t experience it as my voice and it’s not a voice that is audible out there in the world. That is, this other voice, this other viewpoint does not come from the part of me I identify with most of the time, which lives on a roller coaster of felt-sensations and heart-felt emotions. That’s the me I identify with most of the time. This other voice of the “intermediaries,” this other energy is always bigger and broader and deeper, steadier and more peaceful, more wholistic in its vantage point. And it is that bigger-than-vantage-point that I have come to rely upon.

After living years out of my own best thinking, there came a time when I was compelled to let go and venture beyond the boundaries of my habits of mind. And thankfully, that compulsion has come again and again. If you haven’t already discovered it on your own, let me invite you to be open, invite you to get curious about the possibility that there really is a “…Something that watches over us…,” that lives in a place inside of us that is sometimes terrifying – sometimes delicious – that liminal space, that is neither here nor there, physical nor ephemeral, fact nor illusion – the dark, mysterious, transformational chrysalis of the human experience.

To avail yourself of Nature's alchemical magic, you have to be willing to set your rational thinking aside long enough to step right past the boundary of your known reality, right past the borderland of the you, you know yourself to be. Because that’s where our human souls break out of their sheltering husks, into that exquisite place that lies just past the expected - into the birthplace of all unfettered creativity – into the sacred space in the center of our hearts, right where the winged ones hover close.


Image by Gerd Altman from Pixabay


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  • nancy willbern

Updated: Jun 15

I have three figurines that sit in a row on my bookcase. Although they look as if they have always been together, they did not originally come to me as a set. In fact, two were given to me over a period of years as gifts by a close friend and the third by my daughter. One day, out of the blue, I saw them as connected, metaphorically representing a developmental progression of the self. The process goes like this:


This little Humpty is the first in the series. He represents the self in Stage 1, the self we are most identified with most of the time. By around age 7, we have adopted him as our favorite sense of self. In psychology we call this identity the ego or the programmed self. (I always call it the Egg-O.) This is the self -image that we unconsciously created when we were little in order to bring us the experience of safety and security, some sense of power and control, and to win us affection and esteem. Assuming that our authentic self, the one we were born to be must be unseemly or unacceptable in some way, it's as if we fashion a little papier-mache facade, paint a happy face on it and then step inside to hide our truer nature. Over time, we forget all about that original self and just toddle around as the imposter. This false identity usually works for us pretty well through the first half of life, although the timing on this can vary greatly. But for many of us, at about mid-life we begin to feel as if our favorite forms of coping aren’t, in truth, really bringing us safety or control or affection, after all. This is usually experienced as very disturbing.

Sometimes this is a gradual dawning, as if waking up from a deep sleep. This feels really uncomfortable. Other times, this waking-up is abrupt and extremely painful. Either something disastrous has happened on the outside– like losing a job, a romantic break-up, being brought down by addictions, contracting a life-threatening illness or the loss of someone we are close to – OR – Something inside of us begins to feel suffocated, boxed in, completely out of synch with ourselves. This shocking disruption comes in a myriad of forms, but what they all have in common is that we can’t hold ourselves in the wrapper anymore. We lose all of our cherished touchstones that in the past gave us a sense of a consistent, familiar place on the planet. And when this happens, that childhood plan for safety and control and happiness cracks wide open. We are left in a no-man’s-land, neither here nor there. A crack in our shell is what we had been guarding against our whole lives. It leaves us feeling shocked, confused and all alone, untethered. In the midst of all this confusion, the one thing we know for sure is that this terribly disturbing thing that has catapulted us out into the great unknown should never have happened – OR – Some wonderful thing that we always assumed would happen, should have happened by now has not.


Not realizing that all eggshells are always only meant to be temporary containers, this disaster launches us into Stage 2 of the progression – the identity crisis. It is right about here I might add, when clients come in to see someone like me. In this transitional phase of the process, we are caught between clinging to our old identity which is falling apart, and feeling the urge to breathe in new air. Unseen forces are pulling at us in two directions at once. This is very disorienting. To the part of us that is still identified with the outer covering, nothing could be worse than a splintering crack. But to the more authentic-self cocooned inside, the rupture can feel like freedom. This is what I call the choice-point.

It is at this very juncture that the Life Force lets us decide where we go from here. We can either continue to kick and scream in the face of this very-unwanted-thing that has happened while scrambling to tape ourselves back together. Or, we can admit we don’t really know anything about who we are, what Truth is, what Love is or for that matter, anything about the essence of Reality. And then, very importantly we can call upon a deeper Wisdom to emerge into our awareness, even if we don't have any idea what or who that deeper Wisdom is.

Our capacity to decide how to respond to this very-unwanted-thing in our lives is an extremely vital part of the progression. This choice-point in fact is the height of both the privilege and the responsibility of what it means to be human. For out of all living creatures, we are the only ones who get to consciously participate in our own continued evolution. We can join it through deep humility and let it have its way with us or we can continue to fool ourselves in believing that we are in control.

If we ultimately surrender into the acceptance of what is, as painful and heartbreaking as it may be, we will be taken into a whole new universe that is governed by completely different laws -- a universe that we could never in a million years have imagined -- one that greatly values the capacity of our analytic mind, but no longer holds it as sovereign. And although we may continue to feel the loss of that something we greatly valued, although we may always wish it had never happened, ultimately we can grow into the experience of both greater freedom and greater connection just past the boundary of all we have ever known.

And that, my fellow travelers is what makes me love my job.


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  • nancy willbern

Updated: Jun 18



I am a hole in a flute

that (God’s*) breath moves through.

Listen to the music.

Hafiz


In my last blog post, I wrote about the connection of George Floyd’s final words: “I can’t breathe,” to the deleterious effects of the Covid-19 virus on the lungs of its victims, to the underlying sense of our collective loss of Soul. In that piece I talked about the Genesis story of the temptation of Adam and Eve as mythical representations of all of us, as humans – and how their (our) deciding to act and think on their own has, over the centuries taken us to a place of soul-less suffocation.

I also mentioned that there would be a Part Two to this discussion. If I left you forever with the proposed conclusion that it was only our collective decision to separate ourselves from our Creative Source in order to think on our own as the basic problem here, I would be leaving you with only half of the story.


Breaking the rules is a requirement for every step towards expansion.


We had to eat from that forbidden tree in order for us to grow into what it means to be human. If we hadn’t and instead had only obeyed the rules of the ultimate rule-maker, Jehovah we would have missed out on the most glorious tip of evolution – the privilege and responsibility of being human. Our sitting on the top of the animal kingdom (and I may be being anthropomorphically ego-centric, here) with the development of the frontal lobe provides us with a most cherished gift – the gift to participate in our own, collective as well as individual development. We, as conscious creatures get to choose whether to stay in our seemingly-safe-habituated patterns of thought and behavior – or – choose to risk moving into unknown, unexplored territory. That’s what Adam and Eve’s fateful taste of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil brought to us – a capacity for choice, for independence. They chose to risk even death in order to experience the freedom to think on their own. And that is a gift of inestimable value.

The problem is, as I see it is that we have taken that gift too far. With that first fateful bite, we were launched into a whole new experience of personal-power. And we have gotten lost in a heady, but going-nowhere-maze of our own making. That ultimate gift that comes with being human brings with it a hidden paradox. The gift of decision-making which establishes our independence, if used from the position of greatest potential involves freely choosing to maintain a relationship to the Source of Life that connects us all. When we make that choice, the choice to be the flute, our stale recycled air is forever refreshed and our Souls are once again enlivened. The solution is both/and – claim our birthright of personal freedom, but use it to turn back into right relationship with the Whole with which we are still a part.

I think we are sitting on that choice-point right now. And how we respond to it, both individually and collectively will determine either an enlivened Soul-filled future or more struggling to breathe in our own stale-air.



PS. After I wrote this draft, my son, Jake and I went for a walk on the hike and bike trail around Town Lake. A daddy and his itty-bitty daughter came walking towards us from the opposite direction. This tiny little peanut looked up at us with pure delight and squealed, holding her little hands outstretched while opening and closing her fingers in a toddler-style wave. I smiled back at her, mimicking her waving and said, “Hi! Hi! Hi!.” She squealed again, so thrilled that she had sparked the attention of a new friend along the way. And in that one, unexpected JOY-filled-connected-moment, this little stranger had become the hole in the flute allowing the breath of God *to flow through all of us like music, filling our Souls to the brim.



*(If the word, God carries off-putting or antiquated connotations for you, fill in the space with your own term that best expresses Universal Love. Although Hafiz was a Sufi, in his original poem he actually uses the word, Christ. I never want language to stand in the way of a deeper, truer essence that exists beyond the level of words.)


Image credit: Photo taken from article entitled: "The Bamboo Flutes of Japan's 'Monks of Emptiness'" on atlasobscura.com

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