Finding the Sacred When I’m Struggling to Survive

Early this year, I reworked my entire website, changing the look and adding pages with headings I felt were more authentically me. I also recreated my mailing list links and added them to all pages, with the intent of sharing information and resources on a very regular basis. Then came the COVID pandemic, lockdown, and the complete upheaval of all the illusions of stability. And so here I find myself, firmly in November, feeling this need to write a blog post that is highly inspirational and insightful, when my life is still dominated by my struggle to survive.

It is hard to find that calm within, so hard to center and find that sacred within and  in my life, when I’m worrying about whether I can pay my rent. I was speaking to a friend last night about this and she said, “do you think you’re the only person who is feeling this way?” And that question made me realize that I was working so hard to maintain this “professional” image on my website, my blog, and all of my social media, that I was doing an incredible disservice to you and myself.  Hiding helps no one, and by not sharing the realities of these months and how they have, and still, are affecting me, I perpetuate the illusion that I am alone in this…and that you are too. 

The reality is…this year has been hard. I live alone, and these months of solitude have taken a toll. Now I’m a person who loves their alone time, but this has been extreme. My businesses came to a standstill in March and have yet to recover. My grad school went to completely remote classes, requiring internet and a good computer. In these months I have had multiple times when I was on the edge of eviction. I have been so incredibly thankful for food pantries, because without them I would’ve had no food to eat. And I don’t even want to talk about how overdue so many of my bills are. Or how close I am to losing my car. I know that so many people have been dealing with these same issues, or worse. And I haven’t even mentioned the exhaustion that comes with months of fear of this novel coronavirus, political drama, and multi-faceted civil unrest…let alone decades of white supremacy, racism, ableism, colonialism, and exclusion. 

So, as I struggle to survive, it takes so much more effort to find my center, to find the sacred within and in the world around me. But desperate times call for desperate measures, eh? These are some of the practices I’ve added to my life this year to help me: 

  • Gratitude — it can be so challenging to be grateful when the struggle is so overwhelming. Taking a pause to be authentically grateful for what I do have brings me to the present, to what IS, right now, in this moment. 
  • Breath — I know, this might seem silly. We breathe all the time without even thinking about it. But, I have respiratory issues, and with stress they get so much worse. I started a yoga teacher training in July and learning multiple pranayama practices has helped me immensely. My favorites are nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and kumbhaka (retention of breath). And a slow, deep inhale with a slow, noisy exhale tells your brain that it is not in an emergency situation, allowing it to tell your body to calm. I’ve taught myself to do this almost automatically when my anxiety and stress level gets high, and it helps more than you might imagine. 
  • Community — early on in the lockdown, I realized how lonely I was and that I needed to do something about that. On really bad days, I often forgot that I actually had friends or any type of community whatsoever. So, I made an extra effort to reach out to far away friends and family through phone calls and text messages. My seminary at One Spirit Learning Alliance started adding weekly Gatherings and I made an effort to attend. I attended monthly Ecstatic Dance gatherings via Zoom through my seminary. I reached out to my Sister Goddess community and rejoined a women’s Avalonian Goddess tradition. When I write it, it looks like overkill, but I needed and still need them all. 
  • Meditation — this is a constant struggle for me, but something I work at because I know how much more centered and calm I feel afterwards. Because I have a very busy mind, guided meditation works better for me. I can focus on the words to still my mind. Silent meditation isn’t as easy, though I now find that I crave that silence, a break from the worries and fears around survival.  
  • Nature and Animals — I currently live in an apartment community, and with the pandemic I now rarely leave my apartment. So I can now tell how big a change in my mood, my stress level, my overall energy, just opening my windows or walking outside makes. I am such an animal person and sadly do not have any living in my home right now, so just walking to the dumpsters and taking the time to stop and watch squirrels or listen to the various birds talking in the trees brings such incredible joy deep inside of me. 
  • Music and Dancing — I’ll tell you a secret. I think I was born dancing. But for so many years, I lived in environments where I could not play music or dance freely. So when I moved into my current apartment, I still had this fear around playing music. It took until a few months ago, when my aloneness piled heavily on top of my survival fears, that I finally decided to play music aloud in my home. When the music plays, and my body moves, I am in such a place of  joy. I don’t understand why I deny myself that, and have for so long. 

None of these are magic answers to my survival struggle, but they have helped me to stay somewhat sane, and to find that calm and centered place inside where I know the Sacred can then and there be Seen, Felt, and Known. In these activities, I can suddenly Know the Sacred outside of me as well as inside.  Sometimes I only see it for a brief second, but that second is like a healing balm on my most painful, wounded places. And with that healing, I am able to stay centered longer, more present, more grounded and rooted…and I passionately believe that the more I heal and grow, the closer I am to releasing this state of suffering, this seemingly unending struggle to survive. 

How are you feeling today? Are you struggling to survive as well? Where has this years struggles taken you on a deeper level? Do you have any powerful tools to help you find the Sacred? 

These Two Hands…

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My hands are my primary means of self expression within my world. If you are here at ReAwaken Through Touch, you know that one avenue of that expression is my massage work. Did you know that I also create genuine stone and sterling silver beaded jewelry? 
I have many pieces now on my Etsy site Dawn Welburn Jewelry. I believe passionately in the power of genuine stones to aid in healing and strive to facilitate your healing through the multi-faceted touch of my jewelry creations. In addition to the jewelry on my site, I also create custom order pieces.  Contact me at DawnWelburnJewelry@gmail.com for more information or through Etsy at Dawn Welburn Jewelry.                                          

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In Her Service

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As some of you may have realized upon discovering and exploring my website, massage therapy itself is not the main purpose of my Work. Although it has dominated both the site and my life for years, the primary focus or vision behind my work and my site has been to facilitate ones journey into the interconnected and cyclic work of ReAwaken, ReDiscover and ReConnect.

During my personal work on this journey in the past month, my meditations and ruminations have brought forth an important message or theme for my work going forward. An integral piece of my life and my journey is my ever evolving relationship and service to Goddess. She is the inspiration and driving force of my massage work, volunteer endeavors, activism, and ReAwaken vision. I have realized that it is now time to once again share both my personal relationship with Goddess and to facilitate a relationship with Her for those who desire and need Her in their life.

I will soon be adding new Pages to my website and new Services and Workshops. Some of these will be: Goddess Exploration Workshop and Group; ReAwaken Group for Women (and those who self identify as women); New Power of Touch Workshop and Group; Meditation; and Private instruction on all subjects.  If you are interested in participating in these offerings or have any questions on these or any of my other Services or Offerings, please feel free to contact me at ReAwakenThroughTouch@gmail.com.

Many years ago, I was asked to participate in a Service about Goddess at the UUCD in Danbury, Connecticut. Here is a piece I wrote for that Service:

Many people talk about Goddess, Goddess Energy and awakening their inner Goddess.

They call themselves a Goddess or talk about finding their Cooking Goddess, Sex Goddess or Shopping Goddess.

Goddess is often intellectualized and talked about in scholarly or fictional and mythological terms.

BUT, to truly awaken your inner Goddess-to really fully embrace and empower this Divine Feminine within-you have to first really Know who and what Goddess is.

She is inside of you, and outside.
Both the One and the 10,001
She is the Sun and the Moon
The Dark and the Light
Your Daughter, Your Mother
Your Sister, Your Lover

I Hear Her song from the birds in the trees, I Smell Her in the early morning air, I Feel Her in the raging winds and I See Her EVERYWHERE-in Everything and Everyone. She is the interconnectedness of ALL.

In Her Service,
Dawn Welburn

Why I Bought a Home HIV Test

http://livluna.com/why-i-bought-a-home-hiv-test/

As I sit here on the couch, with the test on my lap, I wonder what you will think of me when you know that I am taking a home HIV test. Will you think that I have lied about my sexual history? Will you look at me differently than you did yesterday? The twenty minutes wait for the test results is a long time for a worrier to think about all of the consequences of every action she has ever taken, including the purchase of this test. Maybe I should tell you a little about myself, while we wait for the results.

I am a single (divorced people should be able to call themselves single after 15 years, right?) 41-year-old woman and mother of a fabulous daughter. Most people who know me would describe me as dependable, reliable, honest…blah, blah…all those words that describe a woman with a rather boring and vanilla sex life. As much as I would like to tell you that they are wrong, that my sexual history is full of wild, crazy and even risky encounters, I must admit that they are right. My sexual history will never be made into an erotic novel. I’ve had a handful of long term relationships where I was monogamous and that is it. Nothing risky. As far as IV drug use? Please refer back to the beginning of this paragraph and just substitute the sex for drugs. So, no risk factors in my personal behavior for potential HIV exposure. Why would I buy and take a test for HIV? The short answer is, why not? What makes me so special that I am immune from possibly contracting HIV?

 

Yvonne Cruz holds an OraQuick Advance HIV test at a World AIDS Day event in Chicago.Wait, I know where your mind is going. You are thinking back to my being a worrier, maybe a little crazy, worrying about contracting strange diseases that I could never have. Yes, I realize that is exactly what I thought a year ago, but this past year has changed me. In this time, I went from a being someone who had nothing but a basic and fairly outdated knowledge of HIV and AIDS to pacing the halls outside of health clinics with a friend, crying and devastated over a positive test result and then elated over subsequent negative results; meeting people living full, happy and mostly healthy lives with HIV and watching others with untreated HIV infections go from bad to worse. In my growing desire to help those living with HIV through my massage therapy profession, I have educated myself by reading article after article on both the current state of HIV in the United States, and how bodywork can help those living with HIV.Contrary to popular belief, this disease has not gone away and is actually on the rise again. It is frightening and unless you know people affected by HIV, you just have no idea.

 

This still doesn’t quite explain to you why I am sitting here on this couch, waiting and actually worried about the results of my test. Well, it suddenly hit me a few weeks ago, that for all of my personal and professional experiences this past year, I was still viewing HIV as something outside of myself and my possibilities. I was still seeing this with a sort of ‘me’ and ‘them’ viewpoint. I wanted to help ‘them’, but I never saw myself or ‘women like me’ as potentially ever being one of ‘them’. What a huge realization this was for me and quite honestly, a bit shameful. I mean, where do I get off thinking I am better or somehow safer than anyone else?

Here is where we get to the reality of the matter. I am not any safer from HIV than you or anyone else. There are no guarantees no matter what your sexual partners have ever told you, and their previous partners have told them, and on and on. You cannot be sure of your HIV status and exposure unless you have been tested or have never had any sexual encounters whatsoever, consensual or otherwise. For me, that worrier with trust issues, the idea that I have spent my adult life trusting the word of not only my previous partners but their partners before (and possibly during) our relationship…well, I will just say that is quite a reality check.  As a woman, I suddenly felt like I had unconsciously lived this societal programming to just go along, behave, believe and stay ignorant. That is not the woman I strive to be.


So, with the support of a trusted friend, I ventured alone to the pharmacy this morning and bought this home HIV test. Today, I am taking back both control and responsibility for my life, my health, and my sexuality. My twenty minutes are up and it is time to check my results. Thankfully, it shows that I am HIV negative. Now I know and there is power in the knowing.

 

 

Picture 2About Dawn Welburn:

Dawn Welburn is a Licensed Massage Therapist on a journey of reawakening, reconnecting and rediscovering her Self and her World. She hopes that in sharing this journey through her hands, her words and ReAwaken bodywork, others may find their own Path to ReAwaken.

Connect with Dawn:

ReAwaken Through Touch

DAWN by Dawn Welburn

Twitter: @DawnWelburn