Kundalini Awakening – My Long Journey Part 2

Responding to Kundalini Awakening

My acceptance of what has been unfolding within me has been gradual. Early on I realized that I was in this process whether I liked it or not, but it has taken a long time for my ego self to begin to graciously accept it.

It was hard not to complain. I went through many phases, first the not knowing, then the initial adjustment, then “I didn’t ask for this”; “I’m too old”, then finally sufficient acceptance to allow a letting go of control, resulting in smoother forward movement.

As it became more intense, my kundalini awakening process took prominence in my life. I managed my energy as best I could, pacing myself, meditating through wakeful nights. Sometimes there was fear but only occasionally a sense of terror… feelings and dreams that made me wonder where this was all leading.

Some people do feel that they are going crazy, and a few end up in the psych ward, usually misunderstood by medical personnel. Christina Grof had unusual physical symptoms after plunging into kundalini experiences after childbirth. She went blind for a few days after one incident, I have read. Her modus operandi was to see a medical doctor whenever any physical symptom bothered her, to rule out serious issues, not revealing anything about her kundalini process.

My medical doctor is very special, and is aware of my process to some degree. He understands that my experience is one type of spiritual awakening, as he has been on his own unique path, and has helped others for many years. I believe medical personnel and energy workers need to be aware of the possibility that their patients are having experiences that are not “mainstream”, therefore part of my job is to be open about my process in order to educate them.

Bonnie Greenwell’s wise advice for dealing with initial awakening may be helpful to you. I only discovered Bonnie a few months ago, and wish I had found her sooner. However, I was in a reactive stage, fighting the process earlier, so my ego self may not have been open to Greenwell’s counsel.

Everyones’s process is different, yet there are major overlaps. Some folks may experience more physical symptoms, while others have more emotional/  psychological manifestations of kundalini. Not everyone has each symptom.

Chapters in the Kundalini Process

From personal experience and from her work with others, Mary Shutan describes three phases of kundalini. The problem here is that the phases are not discrete, the kundalini process is ongoing and circular, we go back to earlier stages and areas of the body that have already been worked on.

The First Phase, often centred in the first three chakras, is intense, Shutan writes. Often we have no idea what is happening to us, as in my case. Some people write about temporary experiences of oneness, bliss and peace during this time, but this was not my experience.

As things evolve, we begin to question many things about our lives and our society, what Shutan calls the Second Phase. This fits for me, my questioning of how our society and the world functions has intensified.  Many random memories have arisen over the past three months in year three of my process, as I struggle to place my life to date within the context of my current life passage.

Although the clearing symptoms are still heavy often, I sometimes feel that I can ‘see the forest for the trees’ now. I am able to access more insight and positive thoughts and feelings than before. This gives me a feeling of moving forward. There is a growing sense that I have been freed from some internal constraints. My heart chakra is more open, and despite needing to socialize less, I feel connected to some people in a different, somehow truer way, and love myself more now. My Grandmother guides help me tremendously in this process, as does my connection with the Divine Love energy and my Chopra meditation technique.

Unfolding, resting and learning characterize Shutan’s third phase. I do feel that I am unfolding, and also resting, and unfolding does require a great deal of space and rest. My internal push to do has faded as I let go of control more. There is a sense that I am more me now, a truer me. My already simple life has become simpler.

Getting Help: My Wise Holistic Practitioners

Since Kundalini is mostly unknown in the West, undergoing an awakening is often a lonely, isolating experience. When I tried to tell people what was happening to me energetically, emotionally, and psychically they were at a complete loss as to how to react, often saying unhelpful things or perhaps making a joke. In the earlier days I sometimes felt as if I had two heads! “…Most people can only apply their personal paradigm, says Bonnie Greenwell , “…a perspective based on their own experience.” Now, farther along in my process, I am more confident about putting myself out there, however, I only speak to those I trust about the subject.

As the months slowly wore on, my holistic doctors realized that I was  ungrounded, and taught me medical chi gong exercises meant to help me ground myself, ones that I still practice today. They are subtle but helpful. My acupuncture and chiropractic treatments work with the kundalini energy to balance my body and ground the energy also. I’m very grateful to have these doctors. Sadly, they and one dear friend are the only people who appear to have more than a superficial understanding of what I’ve been going through.

Finding the right support people is important. If you have troublesome physical symptoms, consult a trusted MD or naturopath, for old emotional and psychological issues, a spiritually oriented or transpersonal therapist may help. If in doubt about physical or emotional issues, always seek out trusted professionals to rule out medical issues, and confide in supportive friends and family, (even though they may be mystified by your process, they will want to help). The Spiritual Emergence Network, founded by Christina & Dr. Stanislav Grof, may be a good place to begin.

Some Suggestions

The unfolding of my kundalini has so far been challenging, but containable. My life experience, spiritual underpinning, my “good ego strength”, (according to Judith Duerk, my mentor many years ago), and non-working lifestyle have meant that I’ve been able to manage the day to day experiences relatively well. Being a survivor (of life and of sexual abuse), I have learned to function in most circumstances, even when I feel unwell. I guess you could say my motto for life is “Never give up”!

There has been no choice for me but to ride this energetic process through. As Greenwell says, “It’s doing me.” It feels like a rebirth. I am able sometimes to stand outside myself and observe…both myself and others. The Grandmothers have been a constant in my life, they have held the space for me and, I believe, accelerated my process, particularly the work we all did together at the Gathering retreat at Joshua Tree Retreat Centre last April, two years into my process.

This is what I have learned:

  • Daily walks have been of great benefit, along with specific stretches when parts of the body call out to me; both help move the energy.
  • Plenty of quiet, alone time helps me be in relationship with my process.
  • Kundalini awakening draws much energy from the core, so lots of rest is necessary, especially in later stages.
  • Eating regularly helps me stay grounded. Good food along with B vitamins and a herbal nervous system tonic have helped build up my nervous system. Although alcohol may seem like an effective self medication, little or no alcohol seems to be best. Recently I have found both the taste & effects of wine quite unsatisfactory.
  • Energy work with acupuncturists who have knowledge about kundalini has helped me ground the rising energy & balance my body overall.
  • To bring the energy down later in the day, I soak my feet in a pail of hot water with epsom salts, do medical chi gong exercises and take Traditional Chinese Medicine harmonizing pills called Cinnamon-D.
  • CBD oil with low level THC has assisted me with anxiety and sleep issues over the last two months.
  • Most importantly, I am learning to be kind and gentle with myself as I go through this amazing process.

Although I have continued to go out into the world in a somewhat limited way, socializing, volunteering with refugees, and singing in a choir, the place I dwell in is  not the same one as before. I am different now.

Coming Next: Part 3

When Will it Be Over; My Life Now; Final Words

Love & Light

Ellen

Copyright 2019 Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso is a former Life Coach & Counsellor & is an energy worker. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon.

 

Kundalini Awakening – My Long Journey Part 1

The Beginning…

I remember it well…my difficulties began in the spring of 2016. In retrospect, there may have been some subtle energy movements  over time, but my first awareness of something intense and unusual happening was after I received several laser acupuncture sessions on my occiputs, (at the base of the head), to relieve head congestion. It was an completely unexpected side effect of the treatments.

Kundalini awakening is not for the faint at heart. It is a profound process, one that  disrupts your life. My body felt out of control, my chakras seemed to be imploding, particularly my second, sacral one and third, the solar plexis. It was unlike anything I’d experienced in my time on the planet. I frequently needed to rest, with my head supported, to ease my neck heaviness. It seemed I was under attack from an unseen force – but it was coming from within me!

It took me some time to figure out what was happening. Through research I discovered that many symptoms of kundalini awakening originate through the occiputs. This makes sense to me, as I learned during my first meditation training that energy comes in through the base of the head when we meditate. The occiputs are also the location of the brain stem or old, reptilian brain, the seat of old, unprocessed emotions, (the basis of the EMDR technique.)

Fear of the unknown is familiar to most of us. For a long time I fought the process, trying to control what could not be controlled. Being a fearful person historically, a survivor of various traumas, resistance was my way of not losing myself. Very gradually, over time, I learned to ‘lean into it’, to trust that what was happening to me, although disturbing on every level, was not malevolent and would strengthen rather than destroy me. Slowly, I came to believe that there would be a positive outcome.

What is Kundalini & Kundalini Awakening?

Kundalini energy, when triggered, rises up from the base of the spine where it is coiled from birth, trying to clear a path so it can flow. It is our life force. Kundalini is a deep physical, emotional and spiritual process, a form of spiritual awakening. It pares us down, layer after layer, leaving us emptier and free-er.

When this energy is activated it moves up through the chakras, in a snake like movement, until it gets to the head chakra, then it circles back to the first chakra and begins the process again, until all the blocks are cleared.  It affects both the major and minor chakras and each organ, tissue, layer and cell of our body, over time slowly emptying us out.

There are many esoteric descriptions of kundalini energy. To Carl Jung, kundalini was the goddess within us. It has been said that Jesus’ Living Water, (or Holy Spirit) was kundalini. It seems plausible to me that Jesus worked with kundalini, as it is well documented that he spent his “lost years” in the East studying Indian and Tibetan theologies.

Kundalini is personified as a goddess in Hindu mythology, sometimes as Durga, the creator and sometimes Kali, the destroyer of negativity. It is said to destroy impurities and purify organs.

Unfortunately, kundalini is not recognized in Western cultures by most people. There is a lack of good information available for those of us going through this process.  I did not find comprehensive, in depth information until the last few months, before that it was mostly just lists of symptoms. While validating my process to some extent, the lists touched the surface only, they did not plumb the depths of my experience.

Why Me?

There are no accidents, it is said, and I believe this more and more. Often things happen in life when we are ready for them. I was a prime candidate for this experience, having been on a search for meaning and connection with the Divine for forty years. I have been a meditator for many years, a yoga practitioner, a member of the Divine Love  (divinelovesanctuary.com) prayer group, host a monthly Net of Light group, have had exposure to Tibetan Buddhism, and spent time in India. Also I experienced traumas in my earlier life, often a factor in kundalini awakening. Although I never consciously asked for this, clearly my soul did.

Kundalini openings can occur by design, (kundalini yoga training), or spontaneously, through unexpected events like mine, childbirth or some type of trauma, including accidents. Most people seem to ‘fall into it’ in a seemingly random manner.

Because we as adults have many blocks throughout the body, the awakening process is often a gruelling one, challenging us to the max. I would like to stress that it is not the kundalini energy per se that causes the difficulties, but the energy blocks. Our nervous system is under seige as it is unable to handle the powerful energy moving through it. An analogy I’ve found helpful is to imagine putting a very high voltage light bulb in a small lamp.

There is no “One Size Fits All”

Although it has been written that Kundalini awakening has an “intelligence”, it does not necessary follow the pattern described above, or anything resembling a clear pattern. The intelligence of kundalini is not left brain, linear intelligence, it is an alternate form of intelligence, (for example ’emotional intelligence’).

In my experience kundalini can move in more than one area of the body simultaneously, or alternate as the day (or night) goes on. For example, last night the kundalini was active in my shoulders, making me restless, and today I felt it settling in simultaneously in my neck and shoulder tops, while also dipping into my legs, briefly bringing on stiffness and weakness.

Each of us is unique, so although our experiences overlap, our  journey is ours alone, and unlike anyone else’s. It works the way it does because of our unique blocks – everything that makes up Ellen, including all my life experiences, traumas, physical and emotional being, both in this lifetime and in past lives is part of my kundalini pathway. For example I have always had many blocks in my neck and head; apparently I died by strangulation and being hit on my neck in several lifetimes, so this would be part of the neck unblocking. Sexual abuse at an early age, and the grief of losing my first baby when she was only two days old, have created many cellular memories in my body that are in the process of releasing.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms that you may experience are almost endless, as kundalini awakening affects every body system and cell in one’s body, as mentioned.

For me the following things stand out:

  • Body discomfort: Energy moving throughout my body, day &/or night; a general feeling of unwellness
  • Nervous system distress causing tension & anxiety
  • Strong, roller coaster emotions
  • Hot, and sometimes cold flashes, (the fire of Shakti per Hindus)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Intensification of the energy as the process progresses
  • Increasing sensitivity & feelings of overload while in many places & with large groups of people
  • Feelings of isolation: Kundalini is a solo process; additionally, most people cannot even begin to understand your experience
  • A growing desire to Be, not Do, & to be solitary as my process has progressed
  • Being in an altered state much of the time
  • A feeling of tilting, (kundalini vertigo) & slight dizziness, (later stage)
  • BP fluctuations in early & later stage
  • Extreme tiredness later on in my process
  • Self doubt as my ego slowly dissolves, (Who am I?)
  • A sense of meaninglessness in my later stage, now moving into an increased knowing that there are new possibilities for me

To this list, other symptoms could be added, (I have not experienced all of these):  Twitches, (once as I lay in bed my left hand flapped!); Spontaneous Yoga poses, (an odd but apparently common one); Digestive issues; Inner sounds; Feelings of joy; Addictions, Snake dreams, and so on.

PART 2 Next Week:

The Stages; How to Respond; Getting Help; Caring for Yourself

Love & Light

Ellen

Copyright 2019 Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso is a former Life Coach & Counsellor & is an energy worker. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon.

Is Living Goal to Goal the Answer?

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi

Living goal to goal is another way of speaking of not living in the moment. Naturally we need to organize the practicalities of living in the world, but often our minds are on overdrive, seldom taking a rest. I have noticed that most of my  Tibetan Buddhist friends do not operate in the same way, with the same expectations that many of us have in our lives. Their background and their practice allows them to be more present in the moment. They don’t necessarily expect that something will happen at a certain time, and don’t react negatively when it doesn’t.

But what does this really mean?

The unspoken mantra in western life is “If a little of something is good, more is better.” Letting time drive our lives – cramming every hour with activity – be it work or play, even if the work is volunteer work, leaves little time for simply being.

In India people are very good at just hanging out, I’ve noticed. In our western world, we have become habitually used to doing and often this results in being less present for each other. It’s possible to retrain ourselves.

“We become victims of time when we’re not present, our minds pulled into the past and/or the future”, says Alfred James. “Step out of the time dimension as much as possible in everyday life.”, Eckhart Tolle advises us in The Power of Now, his classic first book.

When we notice what’s around us, pay attention to each small thing that is happening, each dish that we wash, so to speak, we are taken away from the thoughts and the busyness and into the present. We automatically slow down internally. Whether it’s using our senses on a walk around our neighbourhood, totally focusing on what someone is saying to us, or on our breathing, we move into present moment. 

When we lived in Quayside Village Co-housing community in North Vancouver some years ago, it was a microcosm of the larger city around us. Entering the door of our community automatically slowed us down. We visited with neighbours at common meals, in the laundry room, the foyer sitting area or in each other’s apartments and townhouses. The pace at home was quite different from the other places we went in our lives.

Go slow and go deep

“Go slow and go deep”, the Grandmothers advise us in A Call to Power the Grandmothers Speak by Sharon McErlane. “…Sink deep within yourself…No more rushing from stimulation to stimulation.” The Grandmothers tell us to feel the low hum inside ourselves, the vibration of life, and to do whatever we do from that place, our heart place.

We’ve all felt that hum or vibration deep within in at times, I’m sure. I feel it during meditation, during a kundalini surge, when the Grandmothers are around me, when I’m leaning against the magical tree at the back of our garden.

The more I slow down, the more I like it. Activities and work close to home suit me in a way that busyness does not. Even car travel on our local highway often seems faster than my body prefers to move; it exceeds my slow internal process. Perhaps I’m learning to live in the moment.

Each of us is unique, our lives and our individual makeup are different. Each seeker finds her own way into the present moment. My recent decision to have more unscheduled days has given me insight and perspective on my life and increased focus. Although I judge myself for not doing as much, I also ‘get’ that I am living exactly as I am meant to at this point in my process.

Your way into the present moment may be a simple breath away.

Love & Light

Ellen

Copyright 2018 Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso is a former Life Coach & Counsellor & is an energy worker. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon.

 

Not all News is Bad News, there’s Good too

“Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will make us think that it is…The consequences of negative news are themselves negative. Far from being better informed, heavy newswatchers can become miscalibrated.”     The Guardian View

We hear bad news at every turn, each moment if we check social media feeds constantly. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong in western culture, it seems, and in the outside world. But is this true?

Ninety percent of news in newspapers and on television is bad news, according to Big Think. That’s no surprise. Our negativity bias, BT goes on to say, means we weight bad news heavier than good news, sadly. The well written Guardian article, linked above, helps us understand the ramifications of  so much negativity.

The trailer for a beautiful article in the June 2018 Oprah Magazine  cites good news that helps dispel many bad news myths. For example, America’s so-called crime ridden cesspool cities are 75% less violent now than in 1993.

Dispelling the “young people don’t care myth” are the statis about Millennials. This segment of the population is healthy: better educated, visits public libraries more, unplugs from tech when vacationing more, donates to charity more readily than any other generation, would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company – and, best of all – 85% believe that helping make the world a better place eclipses achieving professional success.

“Old white guys” really are losing ground. Women, people of colour and other minorities are running for office and holding office in record numbers. “You’ll never see policies that benefit all Americans until you change the policymakers.”, says Emerge America. Very obvious, this has been a long time coming, we weren’t ready for it.

Here are a few ‘Good News’ sights for you:

Note: With respect to women in leadership roles, in Canada we have Equal Voice, an organization that “promotes the election of women to all levels of government.”

Ellen

Copyright 2018 Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso is a former Life Coach & Counsellor & an energy worker. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon.

 

Net of Light Gathering, Joshua Tree, CA, April 2018

In mid April, my partner Don and I travelled to Joshua Tree, Southern California, for the Net of Light gathering. I needed time to process the experience before journalling; here is my attempt to put into words this powerful, ephemeral experience.

We arrived early and settled in at Joshua Tree Retreat Center. The Center is the oldest in North America at 77 years of age and was built by Frank Lloyd Wright and Son, after a unique man named Edwin Dingle, who had studied Eastern philosophy in Tibet, was guided to the land.

I felt honoured to be invited to attend the Beacons, or group leaders’ meeting prior to the gathering, as I planned to start a Net of Light group in my home town after this retreat. Beacons from all over the world attended, several from the Netherlands, some of them group leaders for many years.

The highlight of the meeting was meeting Sharon McErlane in a small group setting. Sharon’s Net of Light organization had grown to 250 groups worldwide over the twenty plus years since the Grandmothers appeared to her on a bluff in Southern California. Sharon told me I had definitely been called to this work.

In the early months of 2017 I had come across the Net of Light website while researching, returning to it repeatedly, not knowing why. I subscribed to Sharon’s newsletter, eventually meeting the Canadian Co-ordinator, Laura in Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver, our shared ferry terminal.

That afternoon, under the big, old trees in the park by the water, I received my first empowerment, a gentle introduction to the energy of the Grandmothers, meant to connect us to them and to allow us to bring out our unique gifts in a greater way. Things began to change subtly for me after the empowerment, I received nudges and small messages from the Grandmothers that helped me to live more fully and mindfully with an increased level of trust in myself.  I realized the  Grandmothers  had been around me before I knew who they were.

One hundred people attended the Southern California Gathering, ninety women and close to ten men. I had felt the presence of the Grandmothers strongly for two weeks before the gathering, helping me release powerful old held material from deep within myself. At the retreat they filled the room, and indeed the whole property, with a strong, but light energy.

During our four days together we worked both in the larger group and in ten breakout groups. We drummed and sang, calling in the Grandmothers and the Great Mother, casting and strengthening the Net of Light, the great energetic fishnet that holds and heals the planet and us during these difficult times. Sharon and others took us through guided meditations. In the small groups we debriefed and sometimes did exercises.

For four days we lived in a cocoon of delight and heart felt love. Because we were in an altered state and the experiential nature of the Gathering, I could not explain precisely what we did to friends who questioned me later.

One exercise impacted me powerfully, and remains in my memory banks to this day. We took turns expressing to a partner the qualities of the goddess we saw within ourselves.

When the weekend was over we reluctantly left our spiritual cocoon, spreading out in all directions, Don and I in the direction of Sedona, Arizona.

Since that time I feel I have made slow, but steady progress, beginning our Net of Light women’s group in my home, and building trust withing myself by taking more risks, speaking out more, both in person and in my writing. In these ventures I am supported strongly by the Grandmothers, by my dear women friends and by claiming my Tibetan name more fully, Lhakpa, meaning courageous speech, the name that came to me in a dream several years ago.

Love & light to you.

Ellen / Lhakpa

Copyright 2018 Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso is a former Life Coach & Counsellor & an energy worker. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon.

 

Stepping Back – Being, not Doing During Tough Times

Kluane Lake, Yukon – (Betty Owen)
The energies built for two weeks prior to the recent full moon lunar eclipse, peaking on July 28th, another phase in the increased vibrations affecting the planet and everything on it, with both positive and painful results.
“We are in a deep cleanse and preparation stage this summer…being prepared to receive more Light energy anchored through our physical bodies…”, says Judith Onley, a friend who channels a large group of spirits called US, or United Souls of Heaven and Earth, for many years.
Today change is happening on many levels, both internally and externally. Historically things worsened before they improved. People are pushed to their max as societies become imbalanced. Governments often shift radically, to a place of protectivism, the opposite of “We are all One”.
At times it feels like: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs”, (Kipling), only I would replace the word head with heart.
Many of us are experiencing exhaustion and other physical and emotional symptoms. Processing the vibratory energies descending on the planet and grounding ourselves during the chaos and confusion around us takes a lot of energy. Two analogies that may work for you are: recovering from an injury such as a broken leg, or transitioning through the grieving process after losing someone dear to us.
We are being constantly challenged to hold the course, and in order to not simply survive, but to flourish, we need to design individual and communal ways to live.
Giving ourselves permission to care for ourselves deeply will allow us to move into a new place, one of ease. Tracking ourselves – paying attention to our needs, including the needs of our heart will bring us peace.
Communication between the heart and brain is a dynamic, ongoing dialogue, with each organ continuously influencing the other’s function. The heart actually sends more information to the brain than the other way around, scientists have discovered.   The heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways: through the nervous system, hormones, pulse waves and electromagnetic fields.
Stepping back gives us the opportunity to not only rest and strengthen ourselves, but to expand, to make contact with our creativity in new ways…to become inspired again.
Humanity is beginning to move towards a heart centred way of living. We have a choice, to soldier on, supporting a cracking system, or to live in a way that expresses our connection to one another. That may look different for each one of us, but there will be overlaps. It’s a change in our approach to life, an attempt to live in the present moment.
“It is your heart that will lift you,” the Grandmothers tell us. “If you move into your heart and keep your focus there for only a few seconds, it will lift you.”
 “Your thoughts must travel through your heart.”
Medicine Woman Tarot cards
PS: We’re coming in to the third eclipse of this season… the New Moon Partial Solar Eclipse Saturday August 11th, powerful influences energetically.

Ellen

Co Housing Retrospective

Image

It’s odd the way things happen…We lived in a small co housing community in Vancouver from late 2001 until mid 2006, selling our unit about a year later. We  fell into our first apartment there, having been gently urged by a friend who often stayed in the building to visit a woman who rented her unit each winter when she volunteered in Africa. Our home is on the Sunshine Coast, a small rural community a 40 minute ferry ride from Vancouver, and weren’t looking for a place in the city, although we had both begun to work in Vancouver.

The funky looking building, consisting of town houses and apartments, had been built three years previously on a lot that at one time held three houses and a corner store. The community was a village unto itself, an oasis in the midst of city busyness, a place where you could visit with other residents in the laundry room, while reading the paper in the foyer sitting room, at common meals or in each others’ apartments. After the initial six months, still needing a place in the city, and wanting to stay in the co housing, we purchased a small, lovely apartment with a water view.

Living semi communally in a building with about twenty other families was a new experience, not at all like my small communal house in Guelph while I was a university student. For the most part it was very pleasant in this middle class community neighbourhood of well educated, similarly minded folks.

The building was self managed, and until I stopped going and my partner continued on, to represent our unit, meetings were a frustrating experience for me…as a strong minded group of folks micro managed each aspect of running the building. My joke was that it took us three months to decide what toilet paper to buy for the common house washroom!

Recently we returned to “our” co housing for their 20th anniversary celebration, after being back in our small town for 12 years,  It felt very familiar, it was basically the same community, but in my recollection it was a friendlier place during our four and a half year stint there. Several of our friends were missing that day, both current and past residents of the building, but the ones who were there, folks who had established the co housing twenty years earlier, were happy to see us. Oddly, even though we were guests in their “home”, not one newer resident, arrivals after our time, said hello, or asked if I was a former resident, or a friend of someone in the building, to my disappointment.

It was a nostalgic feeling returning after so many years at such a special time. We felt at home, yet not at home. I’ll never forget my time living in co housing, and I’m sure my partner, Don, won’t either. We are very happy to be back in our own small house near the ocean, in our quiet but active community here on the Sunshine Coast of BC. Had we remained in Vancouver, we would have stayed in co housing.

Tibetan Refugees Paved the way for Syrian Refugees on the Sunshine Coast

The first two Syrian refugee families have completed their first year on the Coast, sponsored by a Gibsons Church. They are doing well and are enjoying being part of this special, supportive community. They have paved the way for the next family, sponsored by the Sechelt Activity Centre, later this year.

Being part of the Syrian folks lives has been an honour and a privilege, and we are happy to call them our friends, as we do the Tibetan family we sponsored several years ago.

The first Tibetan families from remote northeast India, arrived on the Sunshine Coast in December of 2013 and were followed by several more families, for a total of close to 20 here in our community. The private sponsorship project ended at the end of 2016.

All these folks have made a positive difference, enriching our community by their hard work, their deep spirituality and friendly manner. They are willing to help other new refugees, like they were helped. The 1st arrivals  helped the next Tibetans. Now the Tibetans help the Syrians in any way needed, by attending fundraisers and loaning their vehicles.

We get so much back from volunteering, whether in India or at home. As the research has shown, helping releases feel good brain chemicals: dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin.

There’s more, but you can read the article through the link if you’re interested.

I really can’t imagine what my life was like before we began volunteering!

Transitions into new beginnings

Consolidation: “The action or process of combining a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole.”                  Oxford Dictionary

Change is challenging for most of us. One of our most significant ones is transitioning from our career into what is still referred to by the inept term “retirement”. Our identity is heavily invested in our work for many of us.

Today’s retirees are younger physically, mentally, and spiritually. As the year 2011 began, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation celebrated their 65th birthday. From that point on, every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65 in the US. A similar proportion of Canadians will join them.

Having come of age in affluent times, boomers have high expectations of life. Consequently many of us don’t feel particularly positive about aging, worrying about finances and quality of life as we become elders. I share these fears. What stands out for me the most is life purpose. How to make my life meaningful in the years I have left. How to hold onto my hopefulness.

The most important thing in aging is to think increasingly seriously about how we want to use the time left, says my wise partner, Don. “I know it sounds like someone with a fatal diagnosis”, he says, “but it applies equally to those of us who do not have that. This applies in both broader strokes and to this very day, right now.”

Transitioning with grace is about connecting with what matters to us on a deep level. The process won’t necessarily be seamless, it may take years. There will be many bumps on the road. Because change does not happen in a straight line.

I’m an example of one’s identity being tied up in career. My work as a counsellor in a large Vancouver agency, followed by a return to the Sunshine Coast to a small counselling and coaching practice, along with authoring two books, gave me much purpose.

During that time there were three trips to India travelling and volunteering and one to Southeast Asia, combined with overseeing my mother’s care and visiting with her. Life was rich and I was engaged.

In late 2013 we became part of a group sponsoring a Tibetan family in our community through Canada’s Tibetan Resettlement Project, that is bringing 1000 Tibetan refugees to Canada from remote northeast India.

Last year I began to wind down my practice and to process the disappointment over it not growing the way I had anticipated. Added to that was the difficulty of marketing self-published books. Then, this January, we went off to India, on the odd trip I documented in two previous blogs, clearly part of our process.

I needed to close the door on what might have been before another door could open. As Alexander Graham Bell so aptly put it: “When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

It has taken me fifteen months of processing to reach the point of moving on. It’s been a time of wondering, of reviewing, of literally wandering, sometimes in a what felt like a vacuum.

When we returned to Canada in May from the India/Ireland trip, the weather was warm, and I spent months sitting on the back deck, enjoying my garden. My friend Alma, the psychic who did the amazing channelling for An Indian Sojourn, told me quite firmly, through her guides, that I needed an overhaul, and should  do nothing for several months. Then it would be time to “honour my gifts” and begin to help others again.

This time of endings and of processing what had been, the unusual trip we took, followed by months of apparently “doing nothing” has been a period of consolidation for me, and I am now ready to slowly move into new projects. This new chapter incorporates what I’ve loved and enjoyed in the past, what has fed me, into a new way of being in the world.

For me those things are meditation, prayer, walking in nature, yoga, practicing energy work, volunteering, writing and renewing my commitment to music.

Internallized ageism is  a problem for me at times, and I’m sure for many of us. So I do my best to remain open to new opportunities, listening to my internal wisdom when it pushes me to try some new challenge, like singing in the Handel’s Messiah chorus this Christmas.

Everyone’s path is different. But I think most of us would agree that it’s very important to do what we really enjoy, at our own tempo, and to spend our time with people we enjoy and care about.

As my dear friend Rasheda, in her late seventies said to me recently, “Do everything you want to do now, because later you’ll want to but won’t be able to.”