Presents and Presence


In this season leading up to Christmas and the exchange of presents, I find it interesting that what’s been on my mind recently is presence, specifically, being fully present each moment of every day. For the last two months, this has been one of my intentions. Growing up as a trauma survivor, to ensure my safety, I always planned, trying to anticipate what might happen and how to respond. As a result, I was future focused. Yet, in my spiritual studies, time and again I heard about the importance of being present.

Over many years I tried to embrace that. While I was a religious, I asked God to help me be present with parishioners, and to those I ministered to and with. As a therapist-in-training, my intention was to walk with my clients as they sought healing. As a manager, a key goal was to listen to my employees’ hopes and challenges. And, of course, as a husband, I endeavor to be fully present with Michael, as he shares the events of his day, and his frustrations and successes.

This morning, while meditating, I realized that much of my intention was outwardly focused. With that awareness, came the awareness that in order to be fully present, I needed to be present with myself too. At first, I thought that meant being fully present in the tasks that I’m doing, whether I’m folding a blanket, washing the dishes, or doing some activity. But, I realized that to a degree those are outwardly focused too.

So, what does being fully present with myself look like? Might it be tuning into where I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Might it be taking time to sit quietly without doing anything, and just seeing what comes to mind or heart? Might it be just being with intention, noticing and noting things and people who I pass every day? I would say all of that, but somehow I know there’s more. What do you think?

My sense, though, is that as I and you become more fully present with ourselves, we can more easily be fully present with others. What a great present that would be during this Christmas season!

Cages or wings

Photo by James Lee on

My husband and I watched the movie Tik Tik… Boom last night, which is the story of Jonathan Larson, who wrote RENT. One line from a song profoundly moved me:  “Cages or wings? Which do you prefer? Ask the birds.” I imagined myself standing just over the threshold of a cage, facing outward, symbolically representing where I was and where I am now as I step into this next phase of my life.

As a child, I felt different from my family, other boys, and really everyone. In hopes of preventing further harm, I mentally enclosed myself in a cage of sorts to stay safe, endeavoring to be a happy and perfect son and student. Many years later, after therapy, I realized that not only did the cage not really keep me safe, it prevented me from truly being myself and discovering my calling. Today, as I launch myself into my calling as a healer of the spirit, I know that I still feel some fear and occasionally glance back into the safety of the cage. With some effort, I remind myself the safety was an illusion and remaining caged prevented me from flying.

I wonder if you are in a similar place, preparing to pursue a dream. One part of you may feel excited. But another part of you may feel fearful and glance back to your cage. Over the years, I’ve learned that I must honor the total experience, feeling it all, recommit to trusting my guides and God as I step further from that cage, even if those steps are a bit wobbly.

Thankfully, as I do so, I have received a couple messages. The first, via an Oracle card reading, told me that I am ready. It also challenged me to continue cutting the tethers of lingering inadequacy beliefs. The second, from a song by Calum Scott called Rise, speaks of what brought you to where you are now, finally coming out of the shadows, feeling some uncertainty, but also a strength that proclaims that you are ready and will rise or soar, going back to the bird metaphor in the movie song.

I pray that you who find yourself in similar place are able continue stepping away from your cage, and soar to new heights.

There’s something about traveling on a train

An odd title for my blog, but it struck me as a good metaphor for life as I watched a Christmas movie set on a train. Through the trip, passengers experienced joy and despair, frustration and hope, connection and disconnection. As is typical in these movies something unexpected happens that throws plans awry, in this case a storm which literally stopped the train on the tracks. At the end of the movie, one character muses that the train trip is not just about the destination but the journey as well.

Looking back over my life, in my journey to be a healer of the spirit, I have been reminded that it is a both/and experience. I am both a student learning what a healer of the spirit is, and a teacher, living as a healer in my interactions, blog writings, and more. Coming to this understanding took time. As a trained engineer, for a good part of my life I focused on the destination and wanted to get there as quickly as possible. By narrowly focusing on the destination, though, I was missing out on living the present and experiencing all it has to offer.

Over the last two years, the pandemic became an opportunity to slow down and experience each moment. Like the train passengers, the moments included frustration, resentment, and depression but also excitement, joy, and passion. Likewise, I’ve had my own “storms that stopped me in my tracks,” as it were, most notably being laid off and having a stroke. Gratefully, I was able to use them as moments to reassess how I was living. Was I putting my energy to what was most important and meaningful?

What has your journey been like over these last years? Have you been only focused on the destination? Have you been able to turn moments of disruption into opportunities to reassess your goal and even your dreams? Likely some of the disruption might have been caused by pain, hurt, and loss. It’s important that you honor those feelings. I do believe, though, that from them can come new perspectives that pave the way to unexpected opportunities.

As you travel your train of life, may you know that you are not alone, as others travel with you, even as they travel on their own.

Peeling another Onion Layer

Peeling a layer towards peace

Going with the flow – for some while I’ve tried to live by this. Sometimes it’s been a struggle. Having things follow a set pattern has been a comfort, especially for a trauma survivor. It’s enabled me to plan my day, and be safe. When something happens at work or life, that I didn’t fit the pattern so to speak, I might get angry, resentful, feel stressed, and in some cases go into a panic. Any of you know that feeling?

Last night I had another dream where a pattern was disrupted. The setting of the dream, as is often the case, is a school: two classes, sudden changes in schedules, resulting in two conflicting exams.

When I came semi-awake, I thought, what the hell?; why am I having this dream again? I’m not getting any new information. Then, and there, I complained to my guides about the need for this.

Settling back to sleep, the dream continued, and this time, ended with a message – I asked one teacher for what I needed, and he proposed that I do a project instead.

Suddenly, another layer of onion got peeled and with it came two important pieces of wisdom.

  • First, and building on my “let the moment take the lead” message, when something suddenly changes and throws plans into disarray, as much as possible, try not to react with anger, stress, or panic. Just breathe. In fact, take repeated, deep breathes into your body, especially to the areas of your body where your reaction centers. For me, that’s my gut.
  • Second, after taking the time to center and calm yourself, simply ask for what you need to adapt to the change.

With the last two months at my job, I have an opportunity to apply both of these, as unexpected changes arise regularly. Oddly, enough, I’m looking forward to it.

Another onion layer peeled – what a relief.

Workaholism, Perfectionism, and Letting Go

For many years I’ve been working on letting go of perfectionism and workaholism. In the past, I’ve done this through therapy, Workaholic Anonymous meetings, and even in my Counseling Psychology degree. I’m happy to say that they no longer control me but they still do impact me.

Letting go

In my job, I regularly keep tabs on them. Given the constantly changing software industry in which I work, burn out is not uncommon. Now, as I develop my calling as a healer of the spirit, I must admit they have shown up in the guise of fear about not doing “it” right. Perhaps some you might resonate with this with respect to your career, your relationships, or other things.

For the last month, I’ve developed two ways to help me deal with my flare ups. The first is by tuning into my body, noticing if my heart or mind is beginning to race. When that happens, I have a chat with Mig (that’s what I call my amygdala – the part of my brain which controls our fight or flight response). During my chat, I let Mig know that there’s no danger and invite him to rest.

Another way is through meditation. Recently, my meditation focuses on breathing deeply into each part of my body to let go and trust my guides and God. The meditation includes repeating phrases, including “I am whole” and “I trust” and feeling them in my body and spirit. One phrase I’ve added is “I am enough.” They help set a more relaxing tone for my day.

By doing this, I realized that as I let go, the energy I spent worrying and pushing myself is now freed up. Unexpectedly, and with great excitement, I’m using that energy to write a novel where my philosophy undergirds the story. Still, even with this, I do check in with Mig to ensure I’m doing this with ease.

If you’ve ever struggled with workaholism and perfectionism, and are working to let them go, perhaps these two ways will help and so free up some of your energy to embark on new adventures.

Each moment is new and can be wondrous – yeah right

Recently, I received another “moment” message asserting that each moment is new and can bring wondrous things. Yesterday, that message had practical applications.

As I move closer to my last day in my job, I’m spending a good amount of time, preparing to hand off my work. When my boss asked me yesterday to take on a new project, I agreed but I wasn’t very happy. Still, I threw myself into the project. In the process, though, I made a mistake in a document that I couldn’t fix. I felt like crap. After I emailed the document owner, I decided to take the walk I had previously planned.

As I got ready, I looked for my new sunglasses. I bought them to replace the new sunglasses I bought the previous week that didn’t work well. Despite my searching and reciting the “St. Anthony” prayer numerous times, I couldn’t find them. I wondered if losing them was the universe’s way of telling me I shouldn’t have bought them. By then, I felt even worse.  I didn’t want to walk. I wanted comfort food, specifically a brownie or cookies.

That’s when I remembered the message that each moment is new and can be wondrous. My first reaction was “what kind of b.s. is that”? Although I believe it, I wasn’t feeling it. But I did get a spiritual nudge challenging me to not let the new project, my mistake, and my lost sunglasses control my day. So, I forced myself to take a walk.

Nothing wondrous happened during the walk. But when I got home, I received an email from the document owner telling me he was able to fix my mistake. And a few minutes later, Michael found my sunglasses.

Now, on the grand scale of life resolving a mistake and finding sunglasses is not wondrous. It was definitely a relief. What was wondrous was my decision to just keep going, even though I felt crappy, and to be open for something good to happen. I can’t say that my “yeah right” attitude has gone away about the message. But now I have an example of when it was true. That’s something for me to build on.

The Story Tells It All

This is a different kind of post for me. Two nights ago, in a dream, a group of us had to tell the story of the creation of earth and life by decorating hard hats, attaching them to the ceiling of a room, and presenting them to a panel of sages. When it was my turn to present, I believed that my hats were “lame” in comparison to the others. I thought that I had to compensate by making up a story. My first hat depicted the creation of mountains and my second the emergence of plants, animals and humans. As I was sharing the story, though, I felt like I was channeling Mother Earth and the divine, which was confirmed when I heard the message that “the story tells it all.”

I never presented my third and fourth hard hats, nor do I recall what they looked like. But, as I was coming awake, I had the feeling of great potential but also uncertainty, and that the earth and life were at a turning point.  One direction would tap into great potential and result in wonders. The other would lead to collapse and devastation. Soon after I realized that the odd use of hard hats in my dream made a kind of poetic sense as they are worn by construction workers who build up or tear down.

I felt like Mother Earth was sending a message to me and all of us, In fact, Mother Earth gave me a precursor of this through Michael Jackson’s Earth Song that I stumbled upon a couple weeks ago while watching “The Voice” auditions. With the evidence of global warming so apparent all over the world, given the changing weather, droughts, hurricanes, and so on, we’re at a turning point to determine how our future evolves.

As a healer of the spirit, my calling must include healing the earth through my actions and my attitudes. So I am being challenged to determine what my contribution to the story will be to ensure that our future is wondrous.  What will your contribution be?

Let the moment take the lead

It’s been almost a month since my last post. Since then, I’ve had various tests to understand the impact of my small stroke. It’s been stressful, as each test approached and the results came in. The news seems promising. I’m grateful for how things are turning out, as I know others whose lives have been drastically changed after their stroke.

A repeated message I’ve received from my guides through this time has been to let it all go. Let go of worries about my health, about advancing my calling as a healer of the spirit, and about my job. This letting it all go message was and is calling me to be fully present in each moment of each day.

For most of my life, as a trauma survivor, I lived alert to possible future dangers in order to avoid them. Many years of therapy and spiritual work have brought much healing. These last two months though have challenged me to go to the next level of being fully present by letting the moment take the lead.

Photo by Monstera on

So, what does that look like? It means not planning my activities or goals for the day in any kind of rigid way. It means sensing into each moment for what I am drawn to do or not do. Is the moment leading me to step away from my computer and take a walk? Is the moment leading me to do nothing, literally just sitting quietly? Is the moment leading me to write a blog post? As you can tell, that hasn’t happened often recently. Ultimately, it’s about trusting God, my guides, and in truth, my deepest self (a.k.a my divine self) and letting life unfold as it will.

It’s not always easy to let it all go and trust. However, I’ve noticed in the weeks that I’ve let the moment take the lead, that I am able to relax more, and be more present to others, myself, and life.

Hardships, uncertainty, and trust

The last two months have been challenging. I was laid off from my job in mid-May. Although, it’s not effective until the end of the year. Then, in early June, I passed out twice at a family event and only learned a few weeks ago that it was a small stroke. Needless to say I felt varied emotions over these few months. About my job, I felt resentment, anger, and sadness. Add on to that feelings of fear and confusion associated with the stroke.

For the most part, I have been wonderfully supported and loved during this time. My family and friends have helped in ways too numerous to list, for which I am very grateful. My husband is handling household chores and errands that we used to share, not to mention him having to cope with his own emotions around my stroke. My spirit guides and God have been less helpful than I would have liked. I looked to them for understanding, but I haven’t gotten a lot of details. Their continual message of trust has left me feeling a bit alone at times and admittedly resentful.

All of this has resulted in my need to step back and rest, even around my healer of the spirit calling. It’s not always easy. Since I launched this site back in January, I felt on a roll with writing, attending workshops, and taking risks as a healer of the spirit. So, I’ve had to set some things on the back burner as I move through this time.

With my health still uncertain, I’m essentially being forced to really appreciate each moment and each day, without planning for the future. That’s a good thing. And daily, I’m still being reminded to trust God, my doctors, Michael, friends, and just let go.

So, I’m left with a number of unknowns and learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, especially as I have further medical tests scheduled about my health situation.

Perhaps some of you have been in a similar situation with your career, relationships, or even health. To use the twelve step phrase, it’s truly about embracing one day at a time.

Brokenness being a vehicle for light?

In the Denise Linn’s “Becoming a Modern Day Oracle” workshop that I recently attended, someone raised the question about how to prevent low self-esteem from getting in the way of giving a good Oracle card reading. Denise responded with something like the following: “Light goes through the cracks.”

My read on this is that divine light or inspiration is able to come through us not despite our imperfections but because of and through them.

In my last year of my Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, I was required to write a thesis. My thesis was called, “The Good Enough Therapist.” This came out of my therapy to heal my perfectionism and my struggle with not feeling good enough. At the basis of this was first realizing that a perfect therapist does not exist. But even if there was, that person would be someone without empathy, and therefore couldn’t connect with another’s struggles. In contrast, a good-enough therapist is one who recognizes that her or his own brokenness can help them be fully present with their client and walk with the client on their road to healing.

Likewise, for those on a spiritual path and committed to being a light to others, our brokenness (aka cracks) isn’t necessarily an obstacle to sharing that light but a vehicle through which that light can shine. In fact, as a result of them, in conjunction with our own life experiences, we have an opportunity to reach others who have gone through similar experiences. For through the cracks we bring our own unique empathic light. For example, if like me, you’ve struggled with self esteem, as you come to recognize your beauty, you can help others recognize their own because you’ve been there. Equally important, if and when self-esteem issues arise again, say when you’re trying something new, you have an opportunity to normalize that experience for others and remind them that life is a process.  

“Light goes through the cracks.” What a wonderfully freeing piece of wisdom. Thanks Denise.