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? 

Allergies anyone?!

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Today was a particularly rough day for me and my constant companions, ALLERGIES.   I often joke that I have sensitive skin EVERYWHERE, but it is far from a joke. The surface of my outer skin has proved itself to be incredibly sensitive  to chemicals, making everything from lotions, shampoos, deodorants and soaps to laundry detergents, clothing, and sunscreens, a treacherous experience. The surfaces on the insides of my body, today most particularly my entire respiratory systems surfaces, are just as sensitive with often more frightening reactions.  It amazes me, every single time, how swiftly my body can move from detecting a smell or sensation, to swelling, itching, wheezing and struggling to breathe.

The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (www.aafa.org) gives information and statistics on allergies in the US:

  • Allergy is characterized by an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign protein substance (“allergen”) that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched. This immune overreaction can results in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. In severe cases it can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and even death.
  • Allergy is the 5th leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages, and the 3rd most common chronic disease among children under 18 years old
  •  An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies (1 in 5 Americans) including indoor/outdoor, food & drug, latex, insect, skin and eye allergies. Allergy prevalence overall has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups.

AAFA_AsthmaAndAllergies_BarGraph_final-Smallfrom http://www.aafa.org

Wow, that is a lot of people struggling with these same allergy issues!  In many life situations, I find that I feel alone, surrounded by people that have no understanding of what I am going through in my body. I want you to know that I understand. Let me repeat myself. I UNDERSTAND.

That is why in my Massage practice, I strive to be as ALLERGEN FREE as I can and will make whatever additional changes that need to be made to provide you with a safe and relaxing space for your bodywork. I personally use almost entirely scent free body products on myself, so I will NOT be carrying fragrance allergens. The lotion that I use for massage is unscented, hypoallergenic and USDA Certified Organic. I also do what I can to keep the space I work in as clean and scent free as possible. If you have specific allergy issues and needs please contact me prior to your session so that we can work together to create a trigger free massage experience for you.

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