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  • nancy willbern

Poor Cinderella! She ran to the garden behind the house. And there she sank down on a low stone bench and wept as if her heart would break. But soon she felt someone beside her. She looked up, and through her tears she saw a sweet-faced little woman. "Oh," said Cinderella. "Good Evening. Who are you?"


"I am your fairy godmother," said the little woman. And from the thin air she pulled a magic wand. "Now dry your tears. You can't go to the ball looking like that!"


Fairy tales live for centuries, not because they are true, but because they carry archetypal truths about the human experience. For example, they invariably begin with orphaned children -- children who have either literally lost one or both parents, have been emotionally abandoned or have parents who want to kill them or keep them captive. Scary!

Think about it – Cinderella, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel. This is because all human beings have experienced some degree of abandonment, enmeshment, neglect or abuse. Some worse than others, for sure, but most of us can feel that twinge in the stomach when we recall feeling alone, ignored, judged, scared or not loved quite enough, feeling less than or the opposite, too much of something. In other words, we all know what it feels like to not be fully accepted just as we were. Fairy Tales start there and tell it like it is.

They are also explicit with another all too human experience – the moment when the hero or heroine of the story is met with an impossible task – “Spin the straw into gold before morning or you will be killed.” … “Take her out into the woods, kill her and bring me her heart!”… “Sort the grains of sand from the poppy seeds by morning.” Or, as in the story of Cinderella who, with invitation in hand, no matter how hard she tried could not get herself to The Ball. In these moments, the protagonist tries and tries and tries to complete the task but is literally incapable and eventually moves into exhaustion and despair. And it is right there, when the struggle is given up that a friendly animal creature, an elf or some other-worldly-being comes in to save the day. An animal, like the ants that come in to sort the poppy seeds from the grains of sand represents the instinctual self. And the otherworldly being , like the Fairy God Mother in the tale of Cinderella represents deep intuition or some form of Divine Presence.

Although fairy tales can be really scary, filled with demons and dragons, devouring witches or trolls, their basic message is one of hope. The orphaned children always get saved and find they are not really all alone, after all. Someone or something always comes in to scoop them out of harm’s way or take them to the bounty. The point I am trying to make here is not that we will all eventually live happily ever after or all of our daily problems or ills will magically be poofed away. But what I am saying is that whenever we find ourselves, which all of us do, facing an impenetrable dead end, an unsolvable problem – being diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, being in relationship with an active addict, living in a dysfunctional marriage but too afraid to leave, continuing to live out of a fear-based part of the self in spite of all the psychological or spiritual work we have done – there is always more than we can see, more than our problem-solving minds, our personal strength of will can come up with.

There really are unpredictable powers that are ready to come to our aid. So, next time, after repeatedly struggling to find our way out, we can just slide down, put our backs against the wall, sit down and be still. We can stop our getting-nowhere-effort-ing, fully admit that we really don’t see any solution and call upon Unseen Grace to show us the way.

Fairy tales aren’t just stories for children. They carry powerful Universal Truths about what it means to be human. They expose the ubiquity of human futility, as well as the freedom that comes through unimagined providence.



Image by DGlodowska in Pixabay free images


Quote taken from Walt Disney's Cinderella, Golden Press, 1950

  • nancy willbern

Updated: Nov 1


This morning I listened to a guided meditation on the topic of forgiveness and soul connection by Bree Melanson on Insight Timer. **

You start with visualizing a person that you would like to forgive. Confession: Donald Trump instantly popped into my head! (Please visualize Nancy Pelosi, if you are from the other persuasion. And if you are neutral in this polarized moment in history, you don’t need to read any further. And… may I kiss your feet?) I could see his orange face. I could hear his sarcastic, self-righteous tone. I could see his now, so familiar mannerisms. And as I watched, I felt my body tighten and cringe in response – my, all too familiar, habituated mannerisms.

As the meditation continues, you see yourself surrounded by Divine Presence. You can visualize being flanked by Angels or just joined by the Creative Force of the Universe. Then you ask yourself, “In what way has this person been sent to teach me something?” As I let this question sink in, still focused on Donald’s face, I could feel myself pulled off course, all jangled inside, angry, outraged at what I perceive he is doing to our country, his narcissism eclipsing its soul. I feel some part of me beginning to scream, scream at the top of her lungs, “THIS IS CRAZY!!! THIS IS SO WRONG!!! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Believe me when I say, this part of me is passionate about her take on things. And she believes that in the face of this unwanted, seemingly impenetrable force that sits in the most powerful seat on the planet, there are only two responses: to become completely hopeless and despondent or to fight it with all her might.

I repeated the question to myself, as I experienced this inner reaction. “What has this person come to teach me?” My reaction to him exposed the lesson he was bringing. In the face of Trump, no matter which option of the two I choose, I give him my power. I - me - I give him my power. I react as if he has the power to steal mine from me, to steal my ability to choose my own authority. We could word it differently, I treat him as if his claiming all the power means he actually has it and my job is to wrest it from him. And in those moments of passionate reaction, I treat him as if he were the Ultimate Power. I am the one who hands it to him while screaming, “No!!!” I let him hook me. I allow myself to be pulled off my center, to disconnect from my own soul. He doesn’t have the power to do that unless I hand it to him. And that’s the lesson he brings. And, he’s doing a fantastic job at being my teacher, I might add.

There is a wisdom shared by many of the wise ones, “Don’t fight the darkness, bring in the Light.” I have been under the assumption that Trump and what he represents in my personal movie can only be rendered impotent by willfully opposing him. When I bring in the Light of greater awareness by simply asking the question, “What has he come to teach me?” I release my grip. My heart stills. I align with my self-chosen Divine Authority. And I say, “Thank you, President Trump for playing your part so that I can awaken to the Greater Truth, to the unwavering Loving Presence of the Power of the Universe that cannot be taken from me.” Amen


** Insight Timer is an app you can get on your cell phone, suggested to me by my sister, Robyn Whyte. It has all forms of meditation on it. I use it daily.


Free image found on Unsplash - HD Fire Wallpapers


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  • nancy willbern

Ancient koan:

Does the dog chase the cat because it runs?

Or, does the cat run because the dog chases it?

Answer: Yes

My waffling mind on politics: Opposing positions hate each other, while co-creating each other at the same time. They always arise together. You can’t have one without the other. And because of that, neither has any real substance to it. The foundation for each polarized position is the pull in the opposite direction from the other pole. That doesn’t mean that each or either position might not be factually right or true about some things. It just means that neither position is based on an independent truth, on a singular, inherent authenticity.

I know this. I know it to be true from my work with clients and from my own life experience, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still get magnetically drawn, quite regularly by the deep desire to be right and to find the other flat-out wrong. That’s such a delicious place to be. At least temporarily. It’s sort of like willfully eating a chocolate brownie you know is laced with rat poisoning. I know it will eventually make me sick, but it has chocolate chips in it, pecans, the tiniest touch of cinnamon! Icing on top! Chewy in the center with just a slight crispness to the thin, outer crust. Scrumptious! I remember from eating poison-laced brownies in the past, the burst of flavor that fills my mouth. And in that intoxicating, initial moment, I forget the nauseous aftermath that is sure to come.

There is a Vedic saying called, “Neti, Neti.” It means, “Not this, not that.” It’s a description of reality. In other words, reality can’t ever be fully summed up into a category that has boundaries drawn around it. There is always more to it than any particular conceptual definition could describe. Jesus often spoke about the “narrow way.” The space between this or that. To get to the narrow way, we have to shift to a qualitatively, different level of consciousness. We have to step out of the dualistic mind and into the inner chamber of the heart. We can only enter there through deep humility, from the space of, “Truth be told, I don’t really know for sure, what is right and true. I can’t see enough of the Whole to appreciate the fuller landscape.” And then we have to add, “But I am willing to be shown my place within It.” And it is right there, in that space of momentary openness, that the truth can emerge of its own (A Course in Miracles).

Whenever I am caught in the grip of thinking our current political arena is about as whacked out as it could possibly be, I remind myself of the best, albeit extreme example of the narrow way from the life and writing of Viktor Frankl - a Jewish, German psychiatrist, captured by the Nazis during WWII. (See Man’s Search for Meaning.) I remind myself, it actually could be worse.

Frankl and his whole family were sent to separate concentration camps. They were stripped of everything they owned – each other, their homes, their life’s work, their own clothing, their freedoms. While held captive, Frankl noticed a difference between the prisoners. Some died. Some went insane. Some joined the guards. Some remained in a state of vengeful retribution. All of these are honest, understandable and justifiable human reactions. There is no judgment here. It’s just that none of these reactions resolves anything. They keep us stuck. They make us sick inside. They steal us of the Life Force.

But there is more to the story. There were still other prisoners, who saved a crust of bread from breakfast to give to others who needed it most. Noticing the extreme differences in responses, Frankl asked the question, “We have all lost everything, what makes the difference, here?’’ And what he discovered was that those prisoners who were able to hold onto their own sense of self, to their own inner Authority, the ones who refused to be defined or reduced by the edicts of their oppressors were the ones who made it through. “You can take everything that I have and value, but you can’t take my truth or my connection to the Divine.” As such, Frankl, right there in the middle of hell, continued to uphold the Hippocratic Oath as a medical doctor, and did what he could to be a healing agent in the camp until his final release at the end of the war.

Remembering Frankl brings me back to where I started. The truth is not a position. It is certainly not a polarized position. It has nothing to do with any outer perspective. And therefore, it has no need to capitulate, nor to oppose. It is an internal experience that arises from inside the self when we give it space. A chasing dog? No not that. A running cat? No, not that? Conformity? Retribution? Self-righteous indignation? No, not that or that or that. The truth just is what it is. And it is our sacred privilege, moment by moment, to invite it in and let it live through us or not.

My constant mantra: Surely, if Frankl could find the narrow way in the middle of Auschwitz, I can find it in the middle of an election year in America. God help me!


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