Love Forever True

Gustav Klimt

Mother and Child, Gustav Klimt, 1905

For those of you who may be wondering why this blog has come to a standstill, I want you to know that I am alive and well and actively engaged in birthing my first work of fiction. When I started writing my book, I told myself that it would require all of my attention. But I also promised myself (and one or two of my faithful readers) that every once in awhile, I would take a break and generate another post. Obviously, that hasn’t happened––until now. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’ve decided to share an unconventional love story that’s been nagging at me for a long time.

When my mother died I had no reason to believe that I would ever hear from her again. We’d never been especially close, but after my father died, our relationship deepened. As an only child, I knew that someday I would be solely responsible for her care. And when that day came, it brought many challenges, not the least of which was logistics because my mother was living in Phoenix and I was in San Francisco.

After the onset of her dementia, my mother wisely encouraged me to help her set up everything from Power of Attorney to a Living Will so that everything would be in place when the end came. I was supposed to be taking care of her, but she was still taking care of me. Over the next ten years, her dementia gradually shifted into full-blown Alzheimer’s, and the day came when it was clear that she could no longer live alone. She, however, had other ideas. Despite nightly hallucinations (every night a band of delinquent boys raided her refrigerator leaving her nothing to eat) she insisted that she wanted to stay in her mobile home. There were daily phone calls during which she would rant and rave about those #*! boys and tell me about her children. Toward the end, she was convinced there were three of us. And then there were the trips to the bank. When she was still driving, she’d take herself to the nearest branch and withdraw a goodly sum that ranged from $200.00 – $600.00 depending on her mood, bring it home and hide it.

Eventually, I was successful in moving her into an Alzheimer’s facility. This was not a happy day for her, but she came to appreciate her new surroundings. I was relieved that she was well cared for, and she seemed to thrive in the company of others who were suffering from various degrees of the same illness. We still talked nearly every day and she often thanked me for all I’d done for her. Her expression of gratitude meant a lot to me because this was one of, if not the most difficult and stressful periods of my life. As much as I loved my mother and appreciated all she’d done for me, I often felt that she was sucking my life away.

Toward the end, she began pleading with me to come see her. A dear friend told me I should go–I would regret it if I didn’t–but I put it off. I told myself that I couldn’t get away because I was running a business, but the truth was I simply didn’t want to make another trip. When I finally made arrangements to go, it was all but too late. My mother had a stroke the day before I was to leave.

She was in hospice when I arrived. Up until the stroke, as confused as she was about most things, she always knew me. Now, she appeared not to recognize me. The stroke had made her ability to communicate nearly impossible. But reading her body language as she sat in her wheel chair refusing to look at me and leaning as far away from me as possible, I sensed that she knew who I was and she was angry. I could feel her thinking: Now you’ve come. After all the times I asked you to come, you come when it’s too late. And it did seem that way. No matter what I did or said, I couldn’t reach her. When I tried to hold her hands, she pulled them away. My mother was gone and in her place was a vengeful stranger.

I stayed with her for two days, but she never looked at me. As far as she was concerned, I wasn’t there at all. Before I left, the doctors told me that she was doing well and that she would be moving back to her cottage in a day or two. But that didn’t happen. The day after I returned home, she had another stroke and she was gone.

And then before I had a chance to absorb the news, the most extraordinary thing happened. Shortly after that call came, I began hearing a song in my head – a song I hadn’t heard nor thought about for decades. And the melody and lyrics ran through my mind over and over for three days:

*. . . I give to you and you give to me

True love, true love

So on and on it will always be

True love, true love.

I didn’t get all of the lyrics at first, but when the last stanza came through, I knew my mother had sent me the song:

For you and I have a guardian angel

On high with nothing to do

But to give to you and to give to me

Love forever, true.

And I knew that she had forgiven me for not being with her in her final moments, and that nothing else mattered now but our enduring love for each other.

*True Love, written by Cole Porter and performed by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in the movie High Society.

** For a touching journey that explores the challenges of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, I highly recommend Nancy Gerber’s book, My Mother’s Keeper. Her previous book, Losing a Life, A Daughter’s Memoir of Caregiving, is equally moving and an excellent resource for caregivers and families of stroke survivors.

Collective Intention

Across Oceans of Time © Angi Sullins & Silas Toball

If you’ve been agonizing over the Gulf crisis, you may be relieved to know that there’s something you can do that doesn’t require grabbing your hazmat suit and hopping on a plane to New Orleans.

A group of global visionaries put out a call last month to join them in an experiment in collective consciousness, The Gulf Call to Sacred Action. You simply sign up online to listen and participate in what is hoped to be the beginning of a new global movement of planetary healing.

The first call on June 26th led by Deepak Chopra, Lynne McTaggart, and Jean Houston, focused on setting intention. Deepak started by sharing an old Cree proverb:

“Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

He then reviewed his Eight Actions for the Gulf and Beyond and invited the 7,000 participants to join his new LinkedIn group, Collective Creativity.

Of all the Evolutionary Leaders on the call, Lynne McTaggart, author, scientist, and architect of The Intention Experiments, has the most experience in the use of collective intention. Having conducted 21 large-scale experiments, she’s determined the effectiveness of her subjects’ focused attention on scientifically quantifiable targets in laboratories around the globe.

Lynne’s call to action for the Gulf crisis included finding positive intentions for BP; finding ways to move beyond our reliance on petroleum; and healing the rift between mankind and nature. She then challenged us to ‘power up’, focus, and actively imagine with all five senses BP correcting the Gulf situation as soon as possible while visualizing all the ecosystems restored to perfect health and imagining our connection with everyone else on the call. By working together in a group, it’s hoped that new and creative solutions will emerge that can be carried forward to change other world events.

To step up our collective efforts, Lynne has suggested that we send the following intention to BP’s engineers every day at 1pm EST, mentally imagining their success:

“My intention is for BP’s engineers to immediately and successfully divert the Deepwater Horizon oil leak with no long-term damage to the environment.”

Jean Houston, Senior Consultant to the UN in Human Development and co-director of The Foundation of Mind Research, suggested that we see this collective intention as an accomplished fact. She looks at this tragedy as the beginning of a new story – our entry into “high-level civilization” – a masterpiece of possibility to create new ways of being. To move humanity forward, she suggests that we use our senses more, explore our imaginations, and learn to nourish and support positive emotions. With a collective mind, we can empower higher modes of knowing that will empower those attempting to stop the oil hemorrhaging into the Gulf.

Barbara Marx Hubbard, President of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution and co-founder of the World Future Society, believes that we may look back at this environmental catastrophe that has the potential to make the entire earth uninhabitable as the best thing that ever happened to us. Crisis proceeds transformation.

So there you are. Don’t you feel better already? I know I do. For me, joining with a group of dedicated people focused on healing the planet beats sitting around feeling helpless mired in the negativity of anger and resentment. The next call is Tuesday, July 6th at 8:30 pm EST. I hope you’ll join in!


A Walk on the Dark Side

I’ve been wrestling with my unconscious – or maybe it’s the other way around.

Ishtar vase

Ishtar vase

Several weeks ago, the names ISHTAR and ISAIAH appeared to me in the middle of the night. By morning, I had no memory of a dream nor any visual clues – just the names. And neither of the them meant anything to me. All I could conjure up for Ishtar was the movie of the same name starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. As for Isaiah, I remembered him as a prophet, but that was it. But I felt strongly that these names held an important message for me.

I’ve since learned that Ishtar was the Babylonian goddess of love, sex, fertility, and war – the perfect embodiment of the opposing forces of life and death. Often described as bad-tempered, vengeful and cruel, her love was a curse to mortals and gods alike. In one myth, she descends to the underworld. After demanding admittance and threatening the gatekeeper with unimaginable horrors, she’s imprisoned. It’s not clear why Ishtar chose to take this journey, but a week later  when I discovered Carl Jung’s recently-published opus, The Red Book, things began to fall into place. For Jung, too, took a trip to the underworld.

Jung’s journey to the depths began in 1913 with an uninvited, two-hour vision in broad daylight of a massive flood that covered land from the North Sea to the Alps. Two weeks later, he had a similar vision and then another and another that finally ended with a horrifying vision of a sea of blood. Unaware that the Great War was coming, Jung feared that he had lost his mind. What he came to realize was that he had lost his soul.

The Red Book: Liber Novus by C. G. Jung

The Red Book: Liber Novus by C. G. Jung

Instead of turning away from these terrifying experiences, Jung embraced them. For the next 16 years, he induced what he called “active imaginations” by visualizing himself digging a hole and descending to the underworld to explore his unconscious mind. In his expeditions, he traveled the land of the dead where he met up with God, experienced the death of Christ, and engaged in dialogue with the prophet Elijah and his daughter, Salome, with the devil, monsters, and demons. He also met up with his soul in the form of a female figure who advised him not to fear madness, but to accept it and use it as a source of creativity.

These excursions, detailed in runic Latin and German calligraphy and illustrated with Jung’s own paintings, resulted in a 205-page red leather bound folio. And much to my amazement, I found that the very first page begins with quotes from ISAIAH.

I’ve been possessed by all of this for weeks. It seems obvious that my subconscious is trying to get me to look at my shadow self. But having grown up in the Midwest, I was taught to run away from the bogeyman, to repress my anger and my fears, to ‘put on a happy face’ and soldier on.

Dr. Stephen Diamond, a clinical and forensic psychologist and the author of Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: the Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity, believes that we all cast shadows and that repression of anger and rage can result in violence. Only by unconditionally accepting ourselves as we are with our human imperfections can we let go of self-defeating attitudes and destructive behavior patterns. Further, he suggests that if we acknowledge and respect our daimonic impulses, we can make constructive use of their energy.

Before his encounter with ‘the spirit of the depths’, Jung had denied aspects of his personality. By age 40, he had accomplished everything he’d set out to do; he had a fulfilling family life and a successful career. But life had lost its meaning. With his singular focus on the cerebral, he had neglected his emotions. And of his soul, he said, “I had judged her and turned her into a scientific object.”

Jung’s walk on the dark side not only showed him the importance of nurturing the soul, but also convinced him that the shadow self was an integral part of life and needed to be affirmed. Ultimately, it led him to ‘the supreme meaning’ – “the path, the way and the bridge to what is to come.” For Jung, that turned out to be a new chapter in analytical psychology born from his experiences moving between the light and the dark. And in the end, he regained his soul.

It’s taken me decades to recognize and to accept my demons, but clearly, something’s up. My ‘spirit of the depths’ seems to be telling me that I’ve left a few stones unturned. Or maybe it’s saying that the time has come to transform my fears and unleash my creative impulses. I’m going with that.


Dare to Dream


Think Big ©Angi Sullins & Silas Toball

“So many of us are living limited lives not because we have to but because we think we have to.” – Dr. Bruce Lipton

Last December, my friend Mike told me that he was in Phase Three of his total makeover, or what has since become known as The Mikeover. He had completely revamped his wardrobe, dumped his old car and leased a new one, he was in the middle of finding new furnishings for his new condo and would soon be refurbishing his new office as the last act of his transformation.

WHAT? Who does this – especially in the midst of an economic downturn? I was intrigued. I had to know what prompted this great change. Did he wake up one morning, look around and say, “NOTHING IS WORKING – I HAVE TO START OVER”? It was a little like that, but as Mike said, “it all kind of snowballed organically”.

Over a year ago, our mutual friend Todd encouraged Mike to splurge on a pair of Gucci sunglasses. This may not seem like a big thing, but for Mike who grew up in a family of modest means with four siblings, this little luxury was the beginning of a shift in his perspective. Six months later Todd tempted him with a pair of Prada sunglasses (I know – what’s with the sunglasses already?) and that was it.

Mike’s wardrobe didn’t measure up to the glasses. And once he’d replaced it with ‘big boy clothes’, getting into and out of his 11-year-old Honda Civic hatchback just didn’t feel right. He’d had ‘New Car’ on his to do list for a few years, so this wasn’t an altogether random idea. So with his new Infiniti G37 coupe and his hot wardrobe, coming home to his ‘dump’ (his words, not mine) of an apartment didn’t feel right either. There were termites. There was an inconsiderate stomping, yelling upstairs neighbor. And he didn’t feel at home in his neighborhood. ‘New Apartment’ had been on Mike’s list, too, but it took the momentum of The Mikover to make it happen. Since then he’s moved into a condo in a swank building downtown San Francisco, filled it with ‘big boy’ furniture, and he’s having a house-warming party next weekend. YAY Mike!

With three phases complete, I was dying to know what impact all the changes had had on my friend. Did he feel different about himself? Were people responding to him differently? And here, in Mike’s words, is the answer:

“I feel like I’ve grown up. I shifted from ‘good enough’ to having the things I really want and know work for me. I feel as if I’m living externally the stylish part of life for the first time ever, and it feels gratifying and good – especially knowing that I didn’t have to pay through the nose for it. I never thought I could afford designer clothes, great furniture, etc., but Todd showed me that having great stuff doesn’t necessarily mean having to spend a lot of money. I feel like I deserve it and that I earned it. And I am immensely grateful for it every day.”

Mike’s story has me thinking about my mother. She, too, lived modestly, but sometimes she entertained fantasies about a life of luxury . “If only I had a million dollars,” she used to say. Then she would do – what? Go on a cruise? Buy a new car? She was never able to tell me what she’d do if someone handed her a big check, but the implication was that if this would occur, she would be happy at last.

Like my mother, many people believe that they have to ‘HAVE’ something in order to ‘DO’ something and then they will ‘BE’ successful and/or happy. But it doesn’t work that way.

In her article, Become the Change, Colette Baron Reid says that to manifest the life we want, we must align our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with the experience we want to create. In other words, imagine yourself being the person you want to be, take action toward your goal, and you will create what you want.

And in Conversations with God, Book 3, God/Neale Donald Walsch says, “Live the grandest version of the greatest vision you ever had about Who You Are. Begin the living of it by declaring it.”

That’s what Mike did.


Rewilding the Psyche

Gaia by Alex Grey, 1989,

Gaia by Alex Grey, 1989,

“The major problems in the world are the result of the differences between how nature works and the way people think.” –  Gregory Bateson

When I moved to New York 30 years ago, a part of me died. It didn’t happen all at once; for the first few months I was so distracted by the glitz and glamour of my new life in the biggest city in the most powerful nation on earth that I didn’t even feel the malaise creeping into my soul. But little by little I realized that I just wasn’t feeling ‘right’.

Surrounded by towering monoliths, asphalt, and mind-numbing, incessant noise, I began to miss the natural world I’d known in rural Maine and Nova Scotia. I tried to recreate my connection with the earth by planting things: lettuce and peas on my tar paper rooftop (my landlord quickly nixed this effort), and tree seeds I collected on my walks around the city and planted in pots that I kept on my windowsill. And I spent as much time as possible in the city’s parks, but all my efforts to offset the negative effects of urban life came up short.

I soon came to understand that few of my new friends shared my deep connection with nature. My best friend who grew up in suburban New Jersey thought carrots grew in bunches. When I asked her to draw a picture illustrating this most efficient agricultural phenomenon, she drew a line representing the earth, and just a bit below it, she drew several carrots, some next to each other and some below the first ‘row’, all connected by a single root. I was incredulous, but she was perfectly serious. Having only seen carrots in the supermarket, she just assumed that they came straight out of the ground as she saw them  – in bunches.

Man’s alienation from the natural world has only increased with the advent of technology. Urban shaman Mama Donna Henes who has spent the last 30 years in New York creating meaningful ways for city people to connect with each other and with the cosmos talks about ‘disaster’: dis – to be separate from + aster – the stars.  She tells a story about taking a busload of “big, bad teenage boys” to the country to participate in a nighttime nature ritual. When they reached their destination, she couldn’t get them off the bus; they were afraid of the dark.

In response to increasing dissociation believed to be related to the degradation of the environment, a sub-field of psychology emerged in the 1960’s. Dubbed ecopsychology by Theodore Roszak, Professor of History and Director of the Ecopsychology Institute at California State University, Irvine, this field of study focuses on the connection between the human mind and the natural world. Roszak believes that we cannot heal ourselves until we reconnect with nature. In the introduction to his book, The Voice of the Earth, Roszak questions our sanity. We know it’s madness to abuse our planetary home, yet when looking for help with the grief, despair and anxiety common in modern life, most psychotherapies ignore the ecological realities – “as if the soul might be saved as the biosphere crumbles”.

So what to do? Peter H. Kahn, Jr., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, who has been conducting research on the impact of the degradation of the natural world and the pervasiveness of technology, suggests that we rewild the psyche. Just as conservation biology works to restore ecosystems by reintroducing predatory key species, Kahn is challenging us to revamp our psyches by exposing ourselves to wildness: nature that’s “unencumbered and unmediated by our artifacts and technologies”. But with opportunities for such experiences quickly vanishing, we may have to look for another way to reintegrate our mind/body/spirit.

British anthropologist and social scientist Gregory Bateson, believed that mind and nature work together to create what we perceive as reality. His studies of animal communication, social psychology, comparative anatomy, and psychiatry confirmed his ideas about the interdependence of mind and nature. And he came to believe that the way we think about nature can change the world.

Can we save ourselves and the planet by changing our minds? Futurist, visionary, and author of Conscious Evolution: Awakening Our Social Potential, Barbara Marx Hubbard has been on a 30-year quest to understand and encourage man’s collective potential to evolve. Believing that we’re in the midst of a positive quantum change, she sees our current crises as the genesis of the next stage of our evolution. By aligning our higher consciousness with the creative use of power, we can transition from our planet’s current “high-technology, polluting, overpopulating phase” to a system that fulfills its collective potential. And by seeing ourselves as co-creators in this process, we not only take responsibility for our actions, but by acknowledging our unlimited capabilities, we empower ourselves to bring about this transformation. As the title of Hubbard’s book suggests, what we need more than anything is an evolution in consciousness.

Note: Many thanks to Daniel B. Smith for his inspiring article, “Is There an Ecological Unconscious?”