When my youngest was three or four, we asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween. He responded quite certainly, “A blue ghost.” We asked him a bunch of questions trying to figure out why a blue ghost. None of the tv shows the kids watched had a blue ghost. He wasn’t familiar with Pac-man at that age. We never really got an answer. But he was certain he wanted to be a blue ghost.
We had an old blue sheet that I’d gotten in a remnant bin at a fabric store for a dollar. I cut it down to size and made eye holes in it, and we had a fast, and easy Halloween costume. It was probably the easiest and cheapest costume for any of my kids in any of our years. It was incredibly unique. I bet he was one of the only blue ghosts in the nation that year!
Many parents would have told a child no to the blue ghost idea, though, and that saddens me. Parents often think that they should be the ones to choose their child’s Halloween costumes, their clothes, their toys, their foods… pretty much any element of their children’s lives. I don’t ever remember having a voice in my Halloween costumes. My mother made what she wanted, and I wore it. I had no voice in such decisions as my clothes until I started buying them with my own babysitting money in middle and high school. I paid for many of my semi-formal and formal dance dresses, too, so that I could wear what I wanted rather than what my mother had selected for me.
Had I come up with an idea as unique as a blue ghost, my mother would have refused because it was too unconventional. She likely would have seen it as a negative reflection on her as a parent in some way. Yet I think the blue ghost showed a great deal of creativity and inspiration for a child that age, and I was proud of my son for coming up with a creative costume. He didn't care if he was different, and I was happy to help him follow his dreams (such as they were at age three). I encourage other parents to do the same. Ask your children for their opinions. Let them make choices. Let their creative voices shine through every day of the year, not just on Halloween.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
When my now ex-husband and I were in marriage therapy, our couple’s therapist would recommend books from time to time. To his surprise, I usually would read the book by the next session. One of the authors he mentioned periodically was David Deida, though he always followed it with a remark along the lines of, “DON’T read his work. I don’t want to have to spend an entire session devoted to you ranting about his views of women.” So I never read Deida while we were in joint therapy.
However, more recently I picked up his Finding God through Sex: Awakening the One of Spirit Through the Two of Flesh. When I told my individual therapist that I was reading a work of Deida’s, she replied, “How can you stand his views of women?” Clearly there is a pattern here. They both are right. I found some of his views of women downright offensive. However, if one is able to see past Deida’s erroneous thoughts around women and some of his bizarre logic, there is quite a bit of wisdom in his work. It’s rare to find a book that has so many major problems as this one does yet which really stimulates thinking and brings new and helpful ideas into one’s worldview so that the total outcome from the book is positive.
Finding God through Sex is rooted in the premise that men are seeking freedom through sex and women are seeking love. Deida believes that men use sex to escape from their responsibilities in life and to basically wear themselves out to a point of falling asleep. Women, on the other hand, use sex to connect and create intimacy. Women are trying to tune in while men are trying to tune out. Deida is proposing that both sexes can work with their natural predilections to enhance the other’s sexual experience and to connect with the great cosmic love (also known as God) that we are all part of. To create this connection with “God” in the more spiritual and cosmic sense, all people must work past their involvement in the physical and sexual details of the moment to surrender to love on a much deeper level than we are used to doing.
Deida argues that for most people, sexual awakening in a spiritual sense is often the last part of an awakening to happen. He believes most people fail to apply what they’ve learned in the rest of their lives to sexual experiences. Thus, when most people have their so-called midlife crises, what they are actually experiencing is a dissatisfaction with the shallowness of how they live their current lives. Deida argues that people should not leave their marriages but instead should work on expanding their love outward rather than focusing inward, learning to surrender to the love that is the “God” within all of us which will in turn create deeper meaning in every aspect of our lives. This love will provide the happiness and fulfill the desire that is unquenchable by anything of this world yet it will happen while remaining fully in this world. While this is a beautiful notion, it will only work if both partners are willing to explore and work towards this change in sexuality and life beliefs. For many, a partner change becomes necessary at this point to find someone who, as Deida says, matches direction in life and depth in love.
This book is a series of essays that explore wisdom and exercises that one can do to develop one’s sexual awakening. While Deida argues that the book could be practiced by someone who is celibate, it really is meant for couples in monogamous, long-term relationships. Finding God through Sex is overwhelmingly heterosexual and rooted in stereotypical ideas about male and female desire; I would not recommend it to anyone who is not a Kinsey 0. While some of Deida’s ideas are true, others are nothing more than cultural creations that Deida has locked onto. In particular, his warped idea of female sexuality includes makeup and clothing as how women can find their divine sexual selves. He fails to see that clothing and makeup are actually socially constructed ideas about what women should be, not what their deeper feminine truths are. As Deida describes his ideas of how women should explore their sexuality, he creates a fantasy girls’ night in where the women dress each other in lingerie and S&M costumes. This event resembles no girls’ night I’ve ever attended and is really nothing more than a male masterbatory fantasy. That’s not to say that Deida isn’t a great erotic writer. The beginning of each chapter starts with a very vivid and explicit recollection of sexual experiences Deida has had which leaves the reader pondering whether Deida has slept with every woman in his community. Were Deida to write a work of spiritual erotic fiction which understood women’s sexual fantasies just a bit more than this book, I suspect he would have a best seller on his hands.
It is not until the end of the book that Deida begins to explore the idea that we all have masculine and feminine sides and that there is a bit of both in each of us. His image of a river bank and the river as two lovers who shape each other is incredibly beautiful. To him, though, the gender spectrum is not very fluid, and while we might contain some of the opposing sex’s characteristics, those are just minor things to be explored and then left to be. The small amount of gender fluidity he discusses is located with his discussions of BDSM, rape fantasies, and other kinkier sexual things thus leaving the reader pondering whether he thinks that gender fluidity may just be a phase that each of us needs to explore before we come into our true heterosexual gender binary selves.
I don’t know that any woman would want to take it on, but I feel that the book could have been a five star book if Deida had co-written it with a strong and powerful woman who could have whacked Deida upside the head every time he began supplementing wisdom with his personal fantasies. The book would have benefitted greatly from a true female perspective rather than the warped one that Deida presents from this heterosexual man cave. Despite its lack of perspective at times, Finding God through Sex is a really good work about how couples can transform their sex lives into something much more powerful than they have ever experienced before.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), an official diagnosis in the DSM-V, is a rarely diagnosed condition for many reasons. Most narcissists have a grandiose sense of self and don’t believe there is anything wrong with them. At most, they believe are victims of others’ imperfection. Thus, getting a narcissist to a therapist can be very difficult. Once in a therapist’s office, many narcissists are able to perform beautifully. They know how to act in order to maximize the sympathy of those around them including therapists who aren’t clued in on what is going on. Being in couple’s therapy with a narcissist can be demoralizing and defeating if the therapist cannot see through the narcissist’s delusions about themselves and others.
Many narcissists also are blatant liars, adapting the truth to meet their needs. Because they have convinced themselves that the new story is the truth, it’s often hard to pinpoint when narcissists are lying and when they are telling the truth. With my mother, I know that there is some root of truth in anything she told me, but quite often, the stories she shared were highly exaggerated or distorted in order to meet her needs. This is not simply a matter of having misremembered things because time has passed. Instead, narcissists manipulate their tales in order to gain the most attention and to have whatever they are relating make them look like heroes.
Because it is difficult to be able to diagnose someone who is so proficient at manipulating the truth and acting out a role as a victim rather than a perpetrator, therapists often miss the diagnosis. It takes time in individual therapy to get to know someone well enough to see through their shenanigans. Only those who have lived with, spent copious amounts of time with, or extensively worked with narcissists are likely to see their true personalities and realities. When only spending an hour a week with narcissistic clients, therapists often don’t have enough data in a short time to be able to see through the lies to the truth.
What I have found time and again is that those with severe narcissistic personality disorder are often easy to spot in group settings rather than in one-on-one or couples’ sessions. Within thirty minutes of a group meeting with someone with severe NPD, everyone in the group can usually tell that something is not quite right with those who have NPD even if they can’t pinpint what the problem is. Narcissists will dominate group conversation, pulling all attention towards themselves any way they can. They find a way to be authorities on a topic even if they have no real experience, and if they can’t succeed in doing that, they quickly switch the topic to something they do have experience in. I’ve also repeatedly witnessed narcissists extensively relating others’ authority-related stories about a given topic in order to connect themselves to the conversation which they otherwise could not speak on.
When this particular type of narcissist is commandeering a group setting, they often talk non-stop for many minutes on end, effectively babbling onto things that aren’t relevant. Even when redirected by a group leader, the narcissists will find a way to commandeer the discussion again so that they are the focus of attention. They really aren’t there to help others or learn from others as they might have said at the beginning of the group meeting. Rather, they are there to gain attention in whatever means they can, be it through sympathy, pity, authority, or flat out domination of the evening.
There is little that can be done to work with narcissists with extreme NPD in a group setting. The best solution is often to remove them from the group and work with them one-on-one. However, narcissists often don’t stay in therapy or coaching for long because of the nature of their disorder. They decide after a short time that they have mastered the situation and know more than their therapists. Alternatively, they find an excuse such as their therapists persecuting them when in reality the therapists are actually calling the narcissists out on their issues and trying to guide them in a direction of honesty and growth. Since most narcissists will not examine the true roots of their problems, preferring to blame all their issues on others, they find fictitious reasons to abandon any healing work that might have helped them grow. Those who do stay in therapy often do so with weak therapists who don’t insist on the narcissists doing personal work. Instead, therapy becomes another avenue for narcissists to get attention from someone who will support everything they say.
Narcissism is a mental illness, and it is a difficult one to live with and work with. Most of the time, there is no cure for it because narcissists see nothing wrong with themselves and are unwilling to work on healing. Most therapists who are educated on narcissism are unable to help narcissists change because the narcissists are unwilling to admit that they need to change. That means that those who spend time with narcissists are left with the options of putting up with the narcissists’ distorted and often abusive reality or ending their relationships with narcissists altogether rather than suffer from the consequences of their disease.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
I wrote this meditation for my Meetup group's discussion group on Sexuality and Spirituality.
Sit back in your chair as comfortably as you can. Place your feet firmly on the floor if it feels appropriate to do so. Take a deep breath in, and simply let it go. Take another breath, and as you let it go, start to release any fear, tension, or stress in your body. For the next five breaths or so, think about all of the things that are stressing you out: your job, your partner, your lack of partner, your bills … whatever it is, just acknowledge that it is a source of stress in your life… Now take a deep breath in, and on the exhale, release all of those things. They will be waiting for you again when we finish. But for now, they can wait while you focus on you, your energy and your sexuality.
As you take your next breath, find your tailbone in your body. This is the location of your base chakra, the place where safety and basic needs are met. It is where your kundalini or your life force energy rises from in your body. This chakra is often portrayed as red or black. On your next inhale, feel your tailbone, strong and secure at the base of your spine. On your exhale, visualize your tailbone shooting roots down into the ground, connecting to the Earth and all its infinite power. Feel the strength of this bond between yourself and the Earth. The Earth is steady and secure beneath your body, holding strong and supporting you in any way you need. As you continue breathing in and out, feel the pure and clean energy of the Earth entering your body as we move upward through all of our other chakras.
Slowly shift your attention to your second chakra, your sacral chakra. It is located below your belly button in your pelvis. It is a bright orange color. Take a deep breath and focus on the Earth’s energy climbing up from your tailbone into your pelvis. Feel it slowly moving around, bringing strength and vitality to your organs. Your second chakra is the home of your creativity and your reproductive abilities. It is the place of your sexuality, and for many, it is the place of abuse. Keep breathing in and out, seeing that positive Earth energy fill your pelvis. Let the energy bathe your second chakra, strengthening and calming it. We will be working extensively with this chakra tonight as we discuss our sexuality, so let it feel as strong as it can to approach this work without fear. No matter what condition your second chakra is in tonight, it is still sacred and it is still a vital part of you.
Slowly allow your attention to move up into your third chakra, the solar plexus chakra. It is located above your navel, and it is associated with the color yellow. Breathe in and out of this area, slowly and deeply. See the Earth energy continuing to spread its beautiful tendrils throughout this area, calming it and bringing it light. Your third chakra is the home of your self-esteem, an area that is often damaged by negative sexual experiences and inaccurate sexual demonization by our society. Take a moment to let your third chakra and your entire self know that even if you have been hurt, even if you don’t feel good about yourself sometimes, you are still an amazing being. You are still perfect exactly as you are. Your third chakra has the power to strengthen and help you find the way to realizing your most positive sexual self.
Moving upward again, your heart chakra is located in your breastbone. It is a bright Irish green, and it is radiating with love. Let the Earth’s energy rise up into your heart and strengthen your love both for yourself and others. Feel your heartbeat in your chest, spreading your energy throughout your body with each breath you take. As you take your next deep breath, just allow yourself to spend a few moments pondering the feeling of love. Love is the emotion motivating sexual activity for many people. Your heart chakra is also the place that feels the hurt so deeply when love comes to an end. Breathing in again, feel the Earth’s energy spreading compassion for you and your loved ones, those from the past, the present, and the future. Know that the strength within your heart to keep loving will always be there, no matter how deeply you may have been hurt in the past. At the core of your being, you are love, and you are here to share that love with others. That love is a reflection of the divine in all of us.
The next stop on your body is your throat, the home of your fifth chakra. It is portrayed as being a brilliant blue. It is the root of your communication, of being heard and of speaking to others. This is the part of you that vocalizes your love and your pain that you have experienced in life. Breathe deeply, feeling the Earth’s energy coiling around your voicebox, soothing it, strengthening it. As you breathe out, send out all the frustration that may be pent up in your fifth chakra. Let go of all of the times you didn’t say what you wanted to. Let go of all the times someone didn’t tell you the words you wanted to hear. Feel the energy calming those stuck words in your throat, helping them feel as though they do matter even if they were never spoken or heard.
Slowly let the Earth’s energy rise up to your third eye, your sixth chakra, located in your brow above your eyes. Its color is either an indigo or purple depending on how you see it. This is your place of intuition. Let the Earth’s energy fill up this area, reminding you how connected your body, mind, and spirit are to all others who are a part of this world. Your intuition comes both from within and without. Take a few deep breaths, reminding yourself that you can trust your intuition. It is that voice that tells you whom you can be with and whom you should distance yourself from. Your intuition is what leads you to lovers and sexual experiences. It helps you find those whom you are meant to walk with in this world.
And finally, bring your attention to the top of your head, your crown chakra. This seventh chakra is often portrayed as a bright white light. Visualize the energy of the Earth that you have brought up from your tailbone, through your pelvis, your solar plexus, your chest, your neck and your face now reaching the top of your head. It joins with the bright white light that is shining into your body through your crown chakra. As the energies from below and above unite with the energies within, know you are a powerful and strong being who is connected to the life force around you. The power of the Earth and the beauty of the heavens come together in your creation. You are a product of a man and a woman, of divinely created sexuality. No matter the conditions of your conception, it began in the second chakra of two people who were themselves sexual beings. All the children walking the Earth now are the results of sexual genesis even if there was technological assistance involved. We are all beings who rose from sexuality, and we are all beings who live sexual lives. We are meant to embrace this sexuality as a part of the divine that resides within us.
Take a few more moments to feel the energy moving through your body. You are holy. You are filled with life force energy. You have the ability to share this powerful gift with others, both platonically and sexually. You are a gift to this world and to all of those who are lucky enough to have you in their lives. You are an amazing sexual human being. You bring the divine to everyone you meet every day. Believe in this power that you have. Even with your flaws, even with your humanity, you are still divine, and you are still perfect.
Take a few final breaths, feeling any anxiety releasing on your exhales. Prepare yourself to join us when you are ready. As you open your eyes, take a few moments to write in your journal on the topic sentence, “I am a sexual being.” You might record any thoughts, feelings, or emotions that may have come up for you as we did this meditation. You might also record any feelings you have around being a sexual being.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
(This is another really long post. Apologies in advance!)
On September 25th, I attended “An Evening with Spirit” hosted by James Van Praagh. I had read his most recent book, Adventures of the Soul, earlier this year, so I was intrigued by the idea of hearing Van Praagh speak when my mentor alerted me to this event. The event was held at Unity Church of the Hills in northwest Austin, just 10 minutes from my home.
As I have had issues around disability accommodation in recent months (in particular trying to see another psychic medium), I was concerned about being able to access this event without challenges. In particular, there were no paper tickets issued for the event. Instead, one had to show one’s driver’s license to gain admission. I feared that this would mean a huge line at the door to get in, and right now, I am not physically capable of standing for any extended amount of time. Thus, I contacted the ticketing company through their website the week before the event. I received no response. A few days before the event, I tried contacting the organizing company through their website. When I didn’t get a quick response, I tried calling the church. A volunteer named Joan answered the phone, and she responded with compassion and friendliness. I felt completely welcomed by her. She didn’t know the answers to my question and the paid staff was in a meeting, but she called me back within an hour with answers. She told me that there were benches in the lobby and that there would be church volunteers in the lobby who could assist me if I needed help with the line. I would be able to hand one of them my driver’s license and they could get me checked in. I felt so relieved by this information.
When I did eventually get a response from the organizing company, and it was far from adequate. The email I sent read, “I sent a message last week through your website but never heard back from anyone. I require disability assistance for the event and need to talk to someone who can assist me.” The woman who responded said, “The church is fully handicapped accessible, but we are not equipped to provide personal assistance. What kind of assistance were you looking for?” That response is a “no” in advance of knowing what I need which legally is the wrong answer under the ADA. Public events like this are required to provide reasonable accommodations. I was not asking for personal assistance, but the woman responding made assumptions before finding out the situation. My response to her was, “‘Fully handicapped accessible’ is relative; it actually doesn't encompass several of my disabilities. What that means in most cases the building is wheelchair accessible. I am mobility impaired but not in a wheelchair and need different accommodations.” Mercifully I had already talked to the church who had given me a compassionate response unlike the event organizers who said no in advance of finding out what I needed. This is the kind of thing that is VERY frustrating for someone who is disabled and has found the strength to ask for the help that they need to attend an event.
The evening of the event, I arrived at the church at 6:57 for a 7:30 pm event, and when I drove up to the parking lot and a volunteer attendant, I held up my disabled permit. The volunteer had me stop and roll down my window. He informed me that all the disabled parking was already taken, and I felt my heart sink and my stomach clench in a panic. However, he quickly remedied the issue: The parking attendant “created” a disabled spot for me by having me pull on the grass next to his own truck not far from the door to the church. Had we been in Central Austin, I would have been concerned about getting towed for such a maneuver, but I decided to trust this man. On my way out, I noticed that he had done the same for several other disabled attendees who arrived later than me. Clearly the church was aware of the problem of having more disabled attendees than spots and had worked through this issue before. I was grateful.
Walking into the lobby of the church, there were six volunteers standing at podiums, each with a portion of the alphabet. That meant that there was absolutely no wait, and I did not have to stand for any length of time. I went straight up to the “G” person, was checked in, and got my wristband to enter the auditorium. It was that simple. Once again, I was so grateful. While I wanted to browse the offerings in the lobby including an amazing looking gift shop, I knew I had to sit down and save my energy just to get through the night. I pulled out a book and read for a great deal during the wait for the event to start. The people in front of me were pretty heavily saturated with fabric softener, and the woman had on some perfume as well, but I was doing ok. Another woman was wandering around looking for a seat, and I invited her to sit next to me as I could tell she wasn’t loaded with fragrance. While my skin felt mildly irritated from the fabric softener in the air around me by the time I left, overall my body did well handling all of the chemicals it faced that evening. I was so pleased with how my body did under circumstances that would have left me in horrid pain for days afterward.
James Van Praagh was a far more entertaining speaker than I had expected. The person who introduced Van Praagh noted he has been doing this for thirty years, and when Van Praagh took the microphone, he noted, “Thirty years. Wow I am old. And I’m still short.” He called himself a comedium (a comedian plus a medium). Van Praagh said that he works in the Light, but he also has to keep it light, and his humor throughout the evening did help prevent the event from becoming overwhelmingly deep and depressing. He also noted that life on the road is just him and the dead people, so he has to do something to amuse himself. He made puns on sicko, psycho, and psychic as well. I agree with him that spending so much time in contact with the spirit world definitely gives one a different perspective, and it has changed my sense of humor as well. I find many things funny that I never would have laughed at before.
While most of the evening was talking with souls on the other side, Van Praagh also presented some philosophical and spiritual ideas. He said that the two biggest illusions most of us have is a sense of separation and death. We are all one: We are drops in the same ocean. In addition, death is not an end. It’s just a change. The spirits are still alive. They refer to us as “the living dead” because so many of us don’t actually live our lives but instead act out of fear. In addition, Van Praagh stressed that thoughts are real things. We create our own heaven or hell based on thoughts and vibrations. Most importantly, Van Praagh brought a message of love, stressing how important it is that we love and be guided by love.
By this point in the evening, my heart chakra was hurting terribly. I couldn’t figure out why. I was in a good mood and was feeling so blessed that I had actually made it into the event without any major problems. However, when Van Praagh mentioned empaths, I wanted to do a facepalm. Der! It wasn’t my heart hurting. It was everyone else around me who was wanting so desperately to hear from their loved ones. I was picking up on that and feeling heartache. I worked to boost my shield a bit and offered thanks that I was not in a place of personal pain and grief as so many clearly were.
When Van Praagh asked how many people had been to a reading with a psychic medium before, I wasn’t sure what to do. I ended up raising my hand. I’ve never been to a reading with another psychic medium, but I talk to the dead on a regular basis myself and I receive messages for other people. That counts, right? A large number of people there were first timers, and it was obvious from the energy in the air that many were very excited to be there.
Van Praagh took questions from the audience before he began receiving messages from the spirit world. Someone asked if they could set up signs with a loved one before that person died so that they could know that the other person was around. Van Praagh said that it was absolutely possible, but it was easier in some ways to do it after the loved one died. In that case, one would simply ask the loved one to send butterflies or raccoons or whatever to show that the loved one was around them.
Someone then proceeded to ask a question about reincarnation which led to Van Praagh wandering a bit in his answer. However, it was the most interesting thing for me all evening. Van Praagh very much believes in reincarnation. He believes we are souls having human experiences. This is only one world, one communication. In comparison to the rest of the Universe, the Earth is only a grain of sand on the beach. Van Praagh also believes that only 20% of the soul is in the body, and 80% is outside. He thinks this is how one can experience several lifetimes simultaneously. He believes that we are experiencing far more than what is going on in our bodies right now and we just aren’t aware.
Before Van Praagh began receiving messages from the other side, he emphasized that what he does is a three way conversation between the other side, him, and the audience. It is communicating in different language that is thought based, and it is very different than spoken language. He was the translator for all of us. I realized why he gave such a strong preface once the readings were under way because Van Praagh often makes comments to the spirits saying things like “slow down” or “I don’t know.” He definitely serves as a channel, often speaking in the first person as if he were the spirit who is coming through. I found it fascinating to watch him work.
Also before beginning receiving messages for loved ones in the audience, Van Praagh lead the group in a mediation which was a great way to calm the energy of the room a bit. However, this was the one and only time during the evening where I strongly disagreed with what Van Praagh did and said, but that is influenced by my personal experiences. I can understand that others who have walked a different path don’t see the world in the way that I do, and Van Praagh’s experiences may be very different than mine. The meditation was based on the idea that the heart is the center of the soul, and idea I had no problem with. However, in the middle of the meditative exercise, Van Praagh encouraged people to let spirits around them merge with their bodies so that they could feel their deceased ones’ love for them in a deep and personal way. As someone who had many unhappy and unhealthy souls attached to me which we had to clear in my journey to health, this made me cringe. I don’t invite others to randomly share my body space if I don’t know whom I am working with, and most people in the audience had no idea whom or what they were inviting in (though they certainly wanted to feel the love of family and friends). Unless the setting were one where I knew that everyone was properly grounded and shielded, I would not lead an exercise like that because of the negative consequences it could have for less than spiritually prepared individuals.
From there, Van Praagh began receiving messages. In between messages, he would often take a metaphysical break, talking a bit about important topics related to what he had just related from the other side. Some of his wisdom included:
I didn’t take a lot of notes on the messages he brought through, in part because I was so captivated and in part because they felt very private even in a room of 500 people. One of the most poignant was a widow whose late husband came through. Their love for each other was palpable even across the divide. When the husband told her that he cuddles her in bed every night, the whole room let out a sigh because it was such an emotional sentiment. In another message, Van Praagh was bringing through someone who had committed suicide with a gun. When he said that, eight people stood up, to which Van Praagh made a comment along the lines of, “Oy. Texas and its guns” which caused the entire audience to laugh. When Van Praagh added that this person had a collection of guns, only two people sat down. Clearly Texans do love their guns. The other memorable message for me was a twenty-something son coming through for his mother (and his father who was not there). The young man was an empath who didn’t know how to deal with the energy he was feeling in this life which lead to him eventually overdosing. On the other side, he was helping animals who had crossed over alone, another comment that deeply moved the audience on an emotional level. Van Praagh asked the mother to remember this side of her son, the young compassionate man who rescued animals, not the man who died an unfortunate early death.
For me, the biggest takeaway from the evening was to be reminded how I am so blessed with my metaphysical gifts to be able to connect with the dead. It has given me a sense of power over death that many others don’t have. Watching people who don’t have such strong gifts connect with Van Praagh’s help was deeply moving, and it made me realize how much I undervalue on a personal level what I can do. I also realized during the evening that I really didn’t have anyone I *needed* to come through. For a moment I thought my paternal grandfather might be coming through because Van Praagh was in my area talking about one of the health issues that my grandfather had and that he was a veteran of WWII, but as he progressed, it was clear that it wasn’t for me. That was fine by me. I am comfortable with where my loved ones are. I’m fairly certain that my daughter has reincarnated, so I didn’t expect or need to hear from her either. Anyone else I might want to hear from, I have. As a result, seeing others connect with ones they needed to get closure with was a far more powerful gift than receiving a message for me.
I am grateful that I was able to make this event. I appreciated having such a great experience with Unity Church of the Hills which has made me quite willing to go back to other events there. I was thrilled to watch Van Praagh in action. I didn’t attend the rest of the events that weekend, but I am sure they brought a great deal of healing, hope, and education to those who did.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
A great deal of controversy arose on the internet in recent weeks about Pope Francis meeting with Kim Davis, the Casey County, Kentucky clerk who went to jail to defend her religiously based belief that she did not have to issue same sex marriage licences despite the recent judgment of the US Supreme Court stating otherwise. I am not a fan of Davis as I am a strong proponent of same sex marriage. I also recognize, as do most rational people, that if one’s religion interferes with one’s job, then one either needs to change one’s religion or one’s job. Defying the US Supreme Court is not a good solution.
It boggles my mind that nothing I've read so far on about Pope Francis and Kim Davis has come from a compassionate point of view. Almost all the articles have focused on whether or not Pope Francis was “tricked” into meeting with Davis. Many have screamed foul that a pope who has publicly supported non-judgment of homosexuals was actually a secret supporter of conservative reform movements.
I haven’t read anything that brings up the "love thy enemy" idea that Jesus himself seemed to be a fan of. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus is quoted as stating, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (NIV). To me, if Pope Francis was doing the Biblically Christian thing, meeting with his enemy and praying for her was completely in line with the work set forth for him by Jesus. Kim Davis is a human being, albeit a misguided one at this point. By speaking to her and/or praying for her, the Pope could have been hoping to change her heart on a much deeper level than just this issue. It takes a brave soul to face one’s enemy in peace rather than just throwing insults from behind the safety of an internet wall.
Davis claims that the Pope told her to "stay strong" which may also be taken completely out of context. Any of us who were in such a harsh national spotlight as she is would be under tremendous stress. It's the kind of thing that leads many people to commit suicide, something the Catholic Church is very much against. Staying strong may simply be a reminder to her not to give in to the negativity that is surrounding her. I certainly don't deny that Davis is attracting negativity to her through her own thoughts and actions, but she is still a human being who could learn, change and grow from this experience.
There seems to be a lot of amnesia around the Biblical stories of Jesus meeting with outcasts of his society; Pope Francis and Davis meeting certainly could fit into that image as well. Jesus helped the blind, the deaf, the lepers, the lame, the dead and the poor (Luke 7: 21-23). Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another (John 13:34). Jesus sang the praises of the Samaritan traveler who reached out in mercy to the Jew who had been beaten and robbed even though Samaritans and Jews were not on friendly terms (Luke 10:29-37). Furthermore, rather than encouraging the stoning of an adulterous woman, Jesus encouraged those without sin to throw the first stone (John 8:5-11). He was not afraid of working with the outcasts of his society and showing them compassion and forgiveness. By meeting with someone who is an unpopular outcast in our modern society, Pope Francis has laid an example for bridging divides and helping find peaceful resolution with those like Kim Davis who are filled with anger, hatred, and bitterness but who erroneously pinpoint their very human actions on God.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
Last week I received a message through Meetup from a (now former) member of the group I lead there. It was titled, “too expensive.” She wrote in the body of the message, “I thought that this meet up was free. Asking for 10.00 every time healers, myself included come together to do work for the planet is a little much to as of people. Too bad money trumps light workers from coming together and doing there work together as a community.” (All errors are from the original author.)
This person was one who had been a member of the group for about four weeks but who had not attended any of the actual meetings. She’s an owner of a local retail store in a non-spiritual field but is not a professional lightworker from what I can find on the internet. I have never advertised the group as totally free, so that was her error for which she was holding me accountable. I have advertised meetings as costing between free and $25 with most being $10. Clearly she read what she wanted to in that sentence.
As I mentioned this to my kids, they asked, “Don’t you have to pay for the space you are meeting in?” Correct! My high school aged children were able to do the basic math of running a meetup group in a way that this business-owning woman could not. Meetup currently charges $180 per year for the first group one runs (and two “free” ones after that). One then has to find space to meet in. Many of the “free” spaces around town require a minimum member of attendees and/or a minimum purchase of food that is often unhealthy and/or filled with gluten. Since 75% of my group has issues around food (including me with gluten and egg sensitivities), that type of option doesn’t work well for us. Many public places also don’t allow for privacy which is necessary for the type of group I lead. Hence, we meet in private spaces to create an atmosphere that is appropriate to the healing work we do. Finally, I do a lot of reading and prep work for the group and give out handouts. All of that creates expenses as well. Even the federal government recognizes that business expenses exist and allows them to be deducted!
If this woman had actually attended my group, she would realize that it isn't actually a group of lightworkers coming together to heal the planet. It's a personal growth group as one might expect from the name, "Your Personal Healing Journey of Austin." People are getting my guidance in a group format for a hugely discounted rate. Instead of paying $100 per hour, they are paying $5 per hour to learn from all I can teach them. That’s a pretty hefty discount and makes my resources and guidance very affordable to those who can’t afford to work with me on a private basis. Most similar groups in Austin charge anywhere from $10 to $25 per session with the majority being in the $10 to $15 range. I am definitely not pricing outside of the market value. Furthermore, if one stops and thinks about it, $10 for two hours of guidance that leads to extensive personal growth is a bargain compared to spending $10+ for two hours to see a movie which one may or may not benefit from at all.
I have encountered others like this woman before on other healers’ sites and discussion groups, so I was prepared for this to happen to me. They subscribe to a false ideology that believes that energy workers don’t deserve to be paid for the work they do. If they do deserve to be paid, then it should be an absolute minimum, and the healers should be struggling to get by. Only unholy people should be comfortable in life. Those who are truly sent from God will live on miraculous multiplication of fish and loaves just like Jesus did. These judgmental people somehow think that energy workers’ electric bills and rents also can be paid with holiness (and not money) as well.
All of that is simply not true. Everyone deserves to be paid a living wage. I am a huge believer that the minimum wage needs to be $15 or greater in metropolitan areas where $15 an hour isn’t enough to support a family. That’s $600 per week or a little over $2400 per month. In Austin, finding a two to three bedroom apartment or home for a family is hard to do for less than $1200 per month in the suburbs; closer in it’s impossible. Clearly a single parent won’t be able to take care of a family on that amount without public assistance even if s/he/ze is working full-time.
The same is true of an energy worker who, when it all boils down, is a worker trying to pay bills just like the rest of society. We all work in different ways as we’ve been gifted. Some of us are teachers. Some of us are engineers. Some of us are salespeople. And some of us work with healing and energy. If the healer is a doctor, s/he/ze will bill starting at $300 per hour. Psychologists in Austin charge anywhere from $75 to $150 per hour. While people may grumble about these rates, no one doubts that these healers deserve to be paid for their work. So too, do energy workers deserve to be paid for their time, energy and skills.
As I have discussed this incident with other healers I know and respect, we’ve all come to the same conclusions. Those who truly need sliding scale and reduced fees approach us with very different attitudes and behaviors than those who are just not willing to pay for the healing work we do. Every one of us has stories of people who have pleaded for sliding scale or free work and then have shown up in a brand new car or had stories of exotic vacations taken weeks before or made exorbitant purchases that are clearly beyond the means of someone who actually can’t afford but desperately needs healing work. The bottom line is that they don’t want to budget their funds in such a way as to pay for what they need. Hence, they want their healers to earn less so that they can live a more luxurious life, not realizing that by not paying their healers the full price of their services, many of those same healers then have to make cuts to their own budgets to accommodate the person asking for financial help. It is completely different than people who are truly low income and in desperate need of help but who cannot possibly stretch their budget any further.
When healers don’t charge for their work, they create an energy imbalance in the universe. All of our transactions with others in life involve an energy exchange. You massage my back, and I rub your feet. You give me groceries, and I give you money. I help you solve problems with your health, and you give me money. In the olden days, you might have given me two chickens and a gallon of milk instead. In other societies, it was a handful of sea shells. However, in our society, we use money as a currency of exchange, and it has come to represent our energy exchange. Every healer I know and respect agrees that there must be an exchange of energy in every single transaction in order to keep things balanced. When interactions occur without an exchange, one part of the equation becomes imbalanced. Hence, as healers, we do charge for our work as we feel is appropriate to the situation in order to keep balance in our lives. In some cases, $5 is the appropriate amount. In other cases, it’s more. All of us do need to charge something for every exchange, though.
I hope one day this misguided woman will understand her value and will start charging for her services to others just as she does for the objects she sells in her storefront. I hope she will also come to understand what kind of imbalance she creates in her life by asking others to give to her for free when she offers nothing but a verbal barrage in return.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
In the highly acclaimed movie Avatar, the well-trained scientific volunteer Norm Spellman has to help explain the Na’vi culture to recently recruited and completely untrained human volunteer Jake Sully. Most crucial to understanding the Na’vi culture is understanding the phrase “I see you.” Norm states, “This is a very important part of it. It's not just, ‘I'm seeing you in front of me,’ it's ‘I see into you. I *see* you.’” Many have compared this phrase to the Sanskrit word “namaste” which loosely translates as “the god/spirit within me honors the god/spirit within you.” The Na’vi statement of “I see you” is a powerful phrase that recognizes the inner truth and soul of every being.
In English, we don’t have a similar phrase. We casually tell people “hi,” “hello” or even “wassup?” A few more sophisticated people still cling to more formal greetings such as “good morning.” Yet none of these have a connotation anywhere near the meaning of “I see you” in Na’vi. It’s a very revealing statement about our society that we rarely see each other as we truly are. We don’t look into each other’s eyes and feel the other’s soul. Instead, we remain superficial and distant from each other, not daring to risk the intimacy of truly seeing someone or of being seen for who we really are.
Even in English, this phrase of “I see you” is something incredibly powerful when used properly. In the movie Beyond the Lights, rising pop music superstar Noni attempts to commit suicide. Noni is sitting on the edge of a balcony several stories above the ground, and in a desperate attempt to save her, the police officer who eventually becomes her lover looks in her eyes and tells her, “I see you.” Having her soul acknowledged in her time of crisis contributes strongly to Noni’s rescue.
It is a sad fact of our society that we rarely see each other in the ways mentioned above. We run into dozens of people -- if not hundreds-- as we go about our days, but we don’t bother to look most of those people in the eye. We don’t recognize the souls within the bodies. We are far more likely to ogle the figures of people who pass by us than to actually acknowledge their spirits.
I believe this refusal to truly see other people comes from a fear of intimacy. We don’t want anyone to truly see us, flaws and all, so we don’t try to see others either. By hiding our souls from others, we avoid any kind of intimate contact. As a result, our society interacts at a very superficial level. Our friendships are not filled with love, and our love affairs are not filled with intimacy and honesty.
It is beyond time for our society to embrace this kind of intimacy and to truly see and honor each other. We are far more than our physical bodies. We are souls who are perfect even with all of our imperfections. If we were all to truly see each other, our society would shift dramatically. There would be a great deal more compassion and understanding. We would recognize the deep and amazing power within us all. This shift could help us become a more peaceful society filled with love rather than fear and hatred. The lyrics of Karen Drucker’s song “See Me” reflect how powerful the intimacy between us could be if only we would truly see each other.
Just ask me a question, you might be surprised.
There's wisdom and humor behind these old eyes.
If patience and kindness are part of our plan, then I could show you who I am.
And then you'll see me. Really see me.
When you take the time, there's more that you'll find, you'll see me
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
loneliness is a sign
you are in desperate
need of yourself
This poem recently showed up in my Facebook feed. It’s intended to be an inspirational thought. I believe that what it means to convey is that if someone feels lonely they may need to do some soul-searching to find out why they are lonely and what it is within them personally that is causing loneliness. While I can see this statement being true for someone who is surrounded by people and activity yet feels lonely, I found the thought pretty ignorant and insensitive as someone who was homebound for six years and is still limited in her ability to socialize.
The life of someone who is homebound is generally pretty lonely. Our society often forgets about or chooses to ignore homebound people when they stop attending various events as I discovered all too well when I was so incredibly sick. With the multiple chemical sensitivities that I have thanks to Lyme disease and weak genetics, my reactions were severe enough that not only was I homebound but I had to limit who could come in my home. Unless people used all natural and unscented detergents, soaps, and body products, I would get physically sick from people coming in my home. At one point I had my least scented friends come over and help me clean since I couldn’t do it and my ex-husband was not able to keep up with cleaning, everyday tasks, parenting the kids and working full time. The day the friends spent in my house was a highlight of my years of being homebound, and yet I ended up with a three day migraine after they left as “payback” for them being in my house and not being 100% chemical free.
Unless a person has a disease like cancer which is considered a socially acceptable cause to rally around, most people who are homebound end up being abandoned by a large number of their friends. While internet “friends” helped me maintain my sanity while I was home alone, it really wasn’t enough to stave off the loneliness. Most of my former friends didn’t even call any more since they felt awkward and didn’t know what to say to me. Once a month or so I would see my doctor, the nurse and the receptionist at his office. The only other physical contact with adults I had during that time on a regular basis was with my now ex-husband. However, as his way of punishing me for being ill and not being the person he wanted me to be, he would use the silent treatment against me frequently. Thus, I was living with a person who would not talk to me or acknowledge me for days or weeks on end, yet I was too sick to leave this toxic relationship. I was too chemically sensitive to have other people come into my house without giving me migraines. I was also too chemically sensitive to function in the world. It’s a horrid situation of isolation and loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Loneliness may be a sign that some people are in need of themselves, but it’s also a sign that some people have been ignored and forgotten by their family and so-called friends. Some people may have spent ten years alone with themselves and have gotten to know themselves pretty darn well as I did. However, that won’t ever fulfill the need for socialization and love. There is a reason that isolation and solitary confinement are used as forms of extreme punishment in prison systems. They cause all kinds of physical and psychological effects such as warping the mind and causing delusions, hypersensitivity to noise and touch, insomnia, PTSD, and uncontrollable feelings of rage or fear. Isolation can also cause severe cognitive impairment, as well as impairing the immune system and lengthening healing time for those with health issues. As one article on the topic states, “They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you.” The reality is that while we all need to spend some introspective time, we also all need friends to survive. It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. It takes a village to be a healthy human being.
In my case, loneliness certainly was not because I needed to spend time with myself. Loneliness was a horrible side effect of having an isolating illness. Before deciding that loneliness is a sign that someone is out of touch with their needs, perhaps people should consider all the true causes of loneliness and how they might be contributing to others feeling isolated and alone.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
I am still at a point in my recovery where my health (or lack thereof) occasionally overrules my desire to participate in events. Most of the time, it’s no big deal. I just don’t end up going to whatever Meetup or festival I had in mind. It’s disappointing, but I understand that it is still my reality. The bigger problem comes with buying tickets for events that will sell out before the night of the activity or performance. I’ve unfortunately had it happen to me more times than I would like that I am not able to use a ticket for an event that I really wanted to attend. It feels like insult added to injury. It is hard in that situation to find happiness for others when not only am I in pain, but my body is denying me the chance to go to a live event I really wanted to go to. One of the ways I find to soften the blow is by finding someone who really wants my ticket and giving it to them.
Several years ago, Susan Piver was in Austin for a small discussion on meditation. As the evening approached, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to attend. As I was getting ready to find a friend to give my ticket to, Piver sent out an e-mail stating that there was a waiting list for tickets, and if anyone knew they couldn’t attend to please let her know and she would issue a refund so that someone else might use that ticket. I thought that her offering a refund was incredibly generous, and definitely not something most people would have done. I had already made peace with losing the cost of admission, though. So when I e-mailed her letting her know my spot at the evening was available again, I also let her know that I didn’t need a refund and I would prefer she gave my spot to someone else, asking them to pay it forward in return. She was happy to do so. Thus, even though I was disappointed not to attend the event, I was left with a feeling of happiness knowing that someone who had wanted to attend was not only getting to attend but was attending for free, and hopefully in turn that person would be passing on the love to someone else in the future.
This week, my practitioners and I have opened up a new level of healing for me. As we clear out a bunch of stored trauma from my body, I am going through very intense pain in my psoas muscles and my lumbar vertebrae where the psoas attach to the spine. Despite having seen my acupuncturist, craniosacral therapist, massage therapist and chiropractor on Tuesday and Wednesday, my back was still spasming and making life a little (ok, a lot!) less enjoyable. I am not enjoying this process, but I know that once this trauma is removed from my body, my health is going to be able to move forward immensely.
Wednesday night, though, I was having to accept that I was not going to be able to attend Stephen Jenkinson’s lecture promoting his new book, Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, on Thursday night. I have been talking about this event for weeks to people I know because I was so excited about it. Our society does death so poorly, and I was looking forward to hearing someone speak who clearly understands that there is a good way to die. As I was struggling with my reality, an e-mail from the organizers of the event came in. It stressed the level of parking difficulty for the event. I pretty much knew I was sunk at that point. I sent an email asking if extra disabled parking had been allotted for the event because of the population that the talk was likely to draw, but I got no response. I was going to have to show up over an hour early to get parking next to the event rather than a few blocks away, and then the event itself was two hours long. Combined with the hour commute, it would have been a four hour evening. I knew my body simply could not do it in the condition it is currently in.
One of the people whom I had discussed the event with was my backup massage therapist. The tickets for the event had been sold out for quite a while when I talked with her about it, but I could tell she was very interested in it. She talked about a similar course she had taken that really enabled her to just be with her aging grandmother on her last visit. So when I accepted the fact that I could not go, she was the first person I thought of to offer the ticket to. She fortunately had no plans and was happy to take the ticket off my hands. She looked for a copy of one of his other books for me, texting me before the event started, though there were none to purchase. We’ve ordered some of his books from Canada, and I’m looking forward to getting together with her to hear more about the evening. Her getting to attend the event helped lessen my pain of not being able to.
Time passes, and speakers often returns to Austin. Susan Piver will be in Austin at the end of November to discuss her new book, Start Here Now. I am determined to be there this time! I’m going to be reading Stephen Jenkinson’s books which I have ordered, and I will watch his Griefwalker video online. While I was disappointed to miss events like these, knowing that someone else got to enjoy the event instead really helped soften the blow for me.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC
Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D.
Holistic Life Coach and