We Are Messed Up

His name is Maverick. He is a dog. He lives with his human companion in our neighborhood. I think about him quite often even though I have had only several brief encounters with him in the past five or so months. Normally, most dogs when out on a walk are very friendly and looking to be lavishly loved upon by any willing passer by. But not Maverick. Every time I have come across him he growls viscously, bares his teeth, charges at me, and barks like he means it. It is not an honorary “I’m doing my job” dog bark, but rather, he barks like he wants to sink his teeth into some flesh. He barks like his life depended on his bark warding others off.

After a couple of these encounters, before I knew his name, I asked Maverick’s human companion who had a tight grip on his leash, whether Maverick was friendly or not.

The man holding the leash replied,                                                                                 “We just got back from Iraq from a tour of duty.                                                           We’re messed up.”

“Oh. Dear God”, I thought. And, I was so caught off guard by that TRUTH and the depth of its emotional repercussions, that I did not know how to reply. I think I said something that I hope that they both realize that they are in a different place and space, that they find peace and calm, and that they realize they are in peace and calm.

Then, as they went their way and I mine, and we passed by each other within a few feet, I FELT them. I felt their emotional struggles, their pain, and their fears: the fear, stress, and strain of always being “on guard”, the constant fear that their safety is never a sure thing, the fear of watching every step, the fear of not knowing if the ground below is safe to step on (IED -improvised explosive device), the fear of who or what may be around the corner, the fear that at any moment a  bullet may come from any direction, the fear that everyone they meet may be “out to get them”, the fear they may be killed and not live to tomorrow. Even though they were out of Iraq, Iraq was still not out of them. Iraq was still in their mental framework. The constant hyper-vigilance was still in their system and aura.

The Bunker Effect                                                                                                            A couple of years ago I attended a one day seminar with Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert*, author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Magic (and other books too) at Los Angles’ Wanderlust. At one point a lady in the audience spoke about a period of about 10 years in her life  where there was much chaos and tumultuousness. However, she was now in a peaceful and calm place, but because for such a long time she was always on edge and tense waiting for “the other shoe to drop” that she could not relax and calm down. She was still always on edge. Rob Bell called this “The Bunker Effect”. The war is over on the outside, but on the inside the person is still in hyper-vigilant mode. Then he gave her some tips on how to relax, calm down, and settle into this new reality of peace.

The Soldier and Maverick were in this phase of healing The Bunker Effect, or as is commonly known PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. That’s just part of the emotional exchange/download that I felt or experienced when we passed by each other. There were also all the images that they had seen and that had been imprinted on their Beings. The images of poverty, abuse, bombed out buildings and streets, and children and people with scars, wounds, and missing limbs. The images and experiences of their cohorts – some of which may have not come back. All of this, and more I am gathering was in their being, their sphere, their aura.

As we passed each other, I did not  actually “think” all those above things, it is only now in writing about the encounters that I am conceptualizing/articulating the flooding of emotions I felt  upon passing by them. In the most recent encounter I was heading toward my vehicle when I came upon them and that is when The Soldier told me why Maverick was so vigilant and constantly on offense mode. We spoke for not even a minute before they went on their way, but as I sat behind the steering wheel, the effect of that brief encounter triggered a flood of tears out me. I sat and cried until the tears stopped flowing. I have learned it is much better and healthier to let the flow of tears take their natural course as opposed to opposing and suppressing them.

Here Come the Tears                                                                                                        I cried and cried and cried. I cried with them. I cried for them. I cried for the soldiers, civilians, birds and animals. I cried for all of humanity. I cried for peace. And, I cried for myself. My tears were my prayer and my offering. My tears were my urgent plea for greater Grace and Healing  in the Minds and Hearts of suffering men and women. My tears were for the softening of Hearts and the opening of Minds. As I write this, again i am crying for Maverick, The Soldier, All, The Birds and Animals, and me. The suffering of one is the suffering of all (and vice versa too). Thanks to them, I soaked several tissues.

This is one soldier and one dog on their new path of healing their past journey and memories. As I begin to extrapolate this couple to all the soldiers, dogs, civilians, animals around the world that are or have experienced such trauma in their lives it overwhelms me. If I harp on it too long, it paralyzes me emotionally. This is why I can no longer read or watch the news. I had asked for the Gift of Feeling, since for a large portion of my life I suppressed and oppressed my feelings, and I received that Gift, abundantly. Little did I know that in The Gift of Feeling it not only attuned me to me, but to the Oneness of us All. With everything there are two sides of the coin, a blessing side and a side of responsibility in living with and managing the blessing.

I also saw and felt the bond and closeness between Maverick and The Soldier. I felt the deep love and trust they had for and toward each other. I saw how Maverick, who was an Iraqi native and was found and trained and served with and then brought to the USA by The Soldier, was wholeheartedly devoted to protecting his friend, family, and companion. I saw how The Soldier was fond of Maverick and that the canine’s presence was soothing and comforting to him.

They kept each other safe, sane, together and composed as best as they could. Their love gave warmth and comfort to their Hearts and lives. This side of their relationship was a Gift to behold.

And then I thought, maybe they are my mirrors. “They say” everything and everyone are a reflection of some accept of ourselves. My fears do not revolve around actual bombs, bullets, snipers, IEDs, and ambushes. But there was a long period in my life where I too had been in constant hyper-vigilant mode. We all have those periods where “We’re Messed Up” or where we come out of “The Bunker”. Then a new season comes in and it then takes an enormous amount of awareness, humility, and energy to let go of one season and embrace the next. Alone, this is not possible. With Grace and with The Gift of Others whom God places in out lives, this is very possible and doable. All we need do is invoke God’s Wisdom and Grace in each and every day, hour, moment  of our lives.

May God grant us all the Grace and Humility in being present and trusting to and in each season.

God Bless You,                                                                                                                  Irena As I Am                                                                                                           03/08/2018

*NOTE about Elizabeth Gilbert                                                                                           In the weeks and days leading up to this seminar, I really really really wanted to see Elizabeth Gilbert in person, outside of the seminar. And lo and behold it came to pass. It was outside the restroom. I walked out of the restroom and there she was in the hallway waiting in line. I knew the Universe set this up for the two of us. We had a brief chat and then exchanged a warm hug**. Her books have had a profound effect of my life and thus, seeing her in person and expressing my gratitude was a Gift beyond joy.

**NOTE NOTE about hug with Elizabeth Gilbert                                                                  The chat was going really really well and we were connecting, Soul to Soul, and then my ego stepped in and asked if I could take a picture with the two of us. At that point she closed up and the conversation ended very shortly after that.  Ah!

Peace Wall

focal point                                                                                                                      ˈfōkəl ˌpoint/                                                                                                                         noun                                                                                                                                noun: focal point; plural noun: focal points

1 the point at which rays or waves meet after reflection or refraction, or the point from which diverging rays or waves appear to proceed.

2 the center of interest or activity or attention

3 the central or principal point of focus

The above definition is a compilation from online dictionaries.                                         The below picture is my focal point wall in my living room.

May there be peace within your walls and                                                           security within your citadels.                                                                                           Psalm 122

At one point in time this focal point wall contained something else. It contained this thing that had a measurement of 50” in diameter. It was black for the most part, until I powered it up. Then it lit up and projected images and emitted sounds and transferred all sorts of messages. Many of the images, sounds, and messages were good, but many were not. This thing had a mesmerizing and crippling quality about it. It was a master story teller. Once one sat in front of it, it was easy to turn into a blob and tune everything out: life, one’s problems, one’s joys, one’s surroundings, the people in one’s life, and most especially the Whispers of the Holy Spirit in one’s Heart. One’s complete and total focus of attention was being guided and directed by the spirit, intent, message, and  energy of the director of the show and its players. One becomes a message and energy sponge in front of this device. One is being formed, indoctrinated and herded down a certain mental and emotional path and paradigm. One can easily become its parrot. It is commonly called entertainment, but it can be more like containment.

At one point in my journey, my life revolved around what and when it was being broadcasted on this thing: I had to be home on a certain night at a certain time to watch a hockey game or a certain show. It was a supreme directive in my life – the hockey game schedule or an airing of a show. One particular story that I followed was “Ally McBeal” – way back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. My Heart rose and fell with each of her professional and personal trials, tribulations, and romances. In hindsight, I now see that it was easier to escape into the feelings of this fictional character, and/or the hockey game statistics, than to dive deep into my own Heart and feel the feelings I  had become so masterful at suppressing and oppressing. The Work of Love and Healing and Awareness require our total focus and a distancing from distractions.

Then there was the semi-reality show that I was fascinated by, that I could not get enough of, and that I was bewildered as to ‘how could they live like that’. Then and now I am embarrassed to admit that I liked this show so much, let alone that I even watched it.

Confession time.

It was called “The Girls Next Door”. It was based in Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion and it followed the day to day events of him and his three live-in girlfriends or “playmates”, who could have easily been his grand daughters. I could not fathom what they saw in him, how they could physically be romantically involved with him, or why they stayed with him, no matter how much money or fame was involved. ‘Did they love him?’ and ‘Did he love them?’ were questions swimming in my mind and Heart. This seemed like a modern day sultan and harem scenario which was completely normal and acceptable in certain biblical texts, like monogamy is today. Actually, like an asset portfolio is the current day barometer of one’s earthly financial wealth, the size of one’s harem was an indication of one’s power, wealth, and status. King Solomon is just one example.

Well, I did not see it then, but in hindsight, I now see the similarities of their life to mine. I now see what the allure of the show had been for me. I now see that the show had been a mirror for me and my life. For my life too had become a false production, a show for others, and especially for myself too.

However, as my life unfolded in ways I never could have imagined, I came to understand that love does not have age restrictions nor prescriptions. I came to understand that I had projected and super-imposed the feelings of my circumstances  onto this show and its cast. I also came to understand that our healing journey will take us into places, spaces, circumstances, experiences, and relationships that are beyond the mind’s comprehension or constructs.

Lastly, I came to realize that I had achieved the height of arrogance when watching this show, and that was to judge them as I sat smugly in my living room, living my “honorable and upstanding” life, or lie as I eventually came to see it. I had assumed they were doing it for the money and the fame, but how do I really know that for sure. I don’t. I had arrogantly assumed. Only God knows what is in the Heart of each person and why they truly do what they do. Each has their own unique healing journey. As the adage goes: “we do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Ooooh, ouch! A reality cold shower. Secretly, I think I also admired these young ladies for having the courage in being so open in publicly sharing their lives with Hugh. In hindsight, their mirror was my medicine back then and my reality check.

I am gathering that by now, you very well know that I am talking about television.

The television also televises news of the day in our community and from around the globe. I used to watch it religiously because I needed to know the who, what, why, where, and how status of our society and humanity. I needed to know the names of important people and places of hotspots. I need to be able to regurgitate the movers and shakers, the events that shape us, the accords signed, and the allegiances formed. I needed to appear informed and intelligent. I needed the artillery for quick witted and clever political and economic conversations and debates. I needed to ride and be a part of each new wave of elation and fear in the spectrums of politics, economics, war and peace, and sensational stories. I was an upstanding parrot of and for the news media.

I was well informed, thoroughly indoctrinated, and totally distracted. Really it was not that much different from alcoholism and yet completely socially acceptable. It took a lot of time and energy to keep myself mentally and emotionally in tip top shape with information. Over time this information came at me and all of us first from a garden hose, then a fire  hydrant, and now it is like the ocean all around us. We are swimming in it.  It is in the air that we breathe because it is in the airwaves – tv, radio, world wide web, and wifi.

We are now literally swimming and breathing in information that is being broadcast through the airwaves.

I came to realize that I was entertaining myself AND distancing myself from myself and my life. I came to realize that it was intellectual pride. I came to realize that I was engaged in “much ado about nothing” as Shakespeare put it.

Now, I am not saying that world events are “nothing”, what I am saying is that I now see it all as futile and spiritually fruitless. Had I been a top government official like Condoleezza Rice or Benazir Bhutto, it would have been imperative for me to be in the know. But I came to realize that all my energy and all the conversations/debates produced ZERO CHANGE on either the local, national, or global levels. Thus, what was the point of it for me other than entertainment.

However, the person I could change, was ME. And thus, I gradually began disassociating myself with the news, a lot of which is fear mongering. As a consequence or blessing, I no longer know immediately who are the new federal judges or what are the latest utterances of the Federal Reserve Chairperson. I no longer ride the economic forecast rollercoaster of the thought/fear du jour and the myriad of financial fortune or doomsday tellers. I have however spent enormous amounts of energy in nurturing a relationship with the most powerful of them all, God.

This has kept me well occupied.

Lastly there are the commercials. Some of them are light and funny, and, entraining and informative. But then there are those that use fear and doubt to nudge people into doing business with them: for instance attorneys and pharmaceutical companies. I wonder how many hypochondriacs have self-diagnosed themselves into a self-fulfilling prophecy of physical ailments? Rather than planting positive and expansive seeds into people’s psyches, some commercials plant seeds of doubt and fear.

Be mindful. Be aware. Be wise. Be selective.

On the other hand,                                                                                                       There are movies, documentaries, special interest, educational and spiritual programming that are good and beneficial. The broadcasting and entrainment industry is a clean industry employing many and a wonderful medium of sharing gifts, talents, inspirational stories, and joy. It’s not all bad nor is it all good. It’s a matter of how we use the “tool” and if we are masters of it, or is it our master.

My spiritual journey has been such that it was asked of me to “let it go”, let the tv go. This I did in February of 2014 – almost four years now as today is January 2018. It may not be for everyone, but it was so for me.

The first six months I was in drama and noise withdrawal. The silence was so loud and so pronounced that I wanted to run from its screams, run from its messages, and most important of all, hide from its Truth. I was in agony. I did not know what to do with myself. I was agitated. I did not know how to distract myself. I did not know how to numb my awakened hearing senses. Similar to someone who experiences a substance withdrawal, I had the shakes, shivers, and anxiety, figuratively speaking, of noise and drama withdrawal.

Truth will do that to you.                                                                                                      It will make you really uncomfortable.                                                                                  It will make you squirm in your seat and in your energy.

The next six months were easier. And now it is a way of life for me. Now whenever I am in someone’s home and the tv is on or loud, it bothers me. The noise is agitating and it disturbs the peace from within it. The noise is an energy drain. I experience it as noise pollution.

In 2016, for a few months I did have a Netflix subscription which I watched on my lap top. I enjoyed it. But after a few months I needed to update my laptop operating system in order to continue watching Netflix. I did’t want to do that because another program that I was using was not compatible with the new operating system. And thus, I took it as a sign to let Netflix go. And so I did. I do however go to the library and take out DVD videos/movies. Some of them I watch (on my laptop) and some I return without watching. They are on standby should I need a mini mental vacation.

Occasionally I will go to the movies if I feel really drawn to one. But, some of the previews can be so dark and violent that I have to close my eyes, plug my ears, put my head down, and hum so as to block out that stuff, that energy. I pray for those making such stuff and for those watching/absorbing such stuff. There you go, becoming more and more sensitive (empath) has its blessings but it also has its challenges. The key is for each one of us to recognize and honor where we are on our spiritual path of evolution.

Not having a tv now for almost four years has given me the time and space for reflecting, reading, journaling, meditating, healing, listening, feeling, creating, processing, discerning, expressing, letting go, cleaning, simplifying and most important of all, growing closer with Love. I may one day be moved to have it again, or not. I now see the home space as

sacred space, a holy temple. I now see that we need be very conscious in what we bring into and allow in our sacred space: the space or the walls within our mind (thoughts), Heart, relationships, and life.

May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.                                                                                 Psalm 122

May there be peace within your walls,                                                                            May abundant grace grant you the courage to bring only peace within your “walls”,       and                                                                                                                                   let go gently, peacefully, lovingly, in a timely basis of that which is not in alignment with Peace,                                                                                                                               Irena As I Am