Tag: spirituality

Our Spiritual Nature

Our Spiritual Nature

spiritual art
The Tree of Transformation
by Mary Ann Holley

My nights of late have been filled with dreams of struggle. Arguments, unease, confusion. I am going through a deep change. I can feel it happening in many areas of my life and my dreams seem to be reflecting the movement.

What’s different this time is that some of the dreams are violent. I don’t recall ever having violent dreams like these – along the line of the stuff that permeates our nation’s television and movie screens – and i t makes me wonder if something within me is reacting to the violence in the world.  When we open ourselves to the spiritual world, we may sometimes find that we react more strongly to the negative forces around us, both personally and globally.

I remember feeling the same dynamic some thirty years ago when I was drawn in a quantum leap into a deepening of my spirituality.  A series of events, a mentor, a sense of calling and a deep need to live out that calling, and the next thing I knew I was spending hours reading and meditating on the words of great spiritual teachers and heading to seminary. While my heart and soul were going in one direction, my mind and body were still very much alert and living in the everyday world and culture.

I was a senior in college,  although little older than most at twenty-five, and it was a Friday night. My roommate and I decided to go see a movie that had just come out.  Going to the movies back then was a very different experience than it is today.  We didn’t have a choice of fifteen movies. There was only one, and it generally stayed around for a very long time. A new movie was a much bigger deal and more of an event.  “Death Wish”, with Charles Bronson, was getting some buzz, though I can’t say I read anything about it before going, so we set out to take it in.

I only made it half way through the opening scene. I was so horrified and repulsed by what I witnessed on the screen that I got up and left. My roommate came running after me wondering what the heck had happened. We’d been friends for several years, and she knew I was not particularly naive, or underexposed to the darker side of life. I was a New Yorker, for crying out loud. I spent many a weekend wandering the streets of Manhattan with friends, from Times Square to 42nd Street. We saw it all. This time, it was not what I saw, but how I saw it, that was different. I was not separated from it. It was happening to me and I was repulsed by it as if I had been actually present at or participating in the crime.

I didn’t understand what was happening to me then, or how to handle it, any more than I understood how to handle a similar experience when I was fourteen.  A week at summer church camp had drawn me deep into the center of my spirituality. It was profound, life altering even, and yet, when I returned home, I didn’t have a clue how to share what I had experienced with the people in my life or how to keep the change alive by incorporating it into my every day life. I blamed myself, but really, in spite of being a church goer in a church going family, I didn’t have the tools, or the support to actually guide me in living out of what I only sensed to be something very real and very powerful. I did not have a guide of any sort, within or without of the church, to teach me to manage something so undefinable yet all-encompassing. I was trying to bring a symbolic understanding of life into a very linear, literal world. I find it astounding that as a society we’ve chosen to spend so much time, effort and money educating the minds of our children, but have done nothing to guide and nurture their spirits.  Even organized religion has fallen down on the job choosing to mandate more often than moderate.

As I stood in the lobby of the movie theater that night, I sensed that a new perspective had a hold of me. Again, I did not know how to speak it into the world — the real, every day world and I’m pretty sure Jena was as perplexed by my behavior as I was. I told her I was sorry and that I’d be happy to wait for her if she wanted to go back in and watch the rest of the movie.  I didn’t want to ruin the evening for her, but I just couldn’t watch it. She said she wasn’t all that into it anyway and we went for ice cream instead.

I’ve never gone back and watched that particular movie, but I’m pretty sure it’s tame by comparison to what is on our many screens today.  What I have come to understand about my experience is something that warrants attention, both on an individual level and a cultural one.

I believe that human beings are spiritual creatures by nature. A creative, loving force lives within each of us. Some call it God, some call it our soul or Soul, others Source without source, or the divine.  We are creatures who think symbolically and we understand intuitively, that there is power in a name. It is not surprising that we seek a name that feels right to us, one that is congruent with our beliefs. Whatever one calls it, it is the essence of what it means to be a human being, it is what I call our spiritual nature, that thing or force that fires our passions, erupts in love, and drives our richest, most meaningful creativity.

Our freewill, however, allows us to choose where we focus our passion, the creative force we hold within us. Therefore, we can just as easily choose to direct it toward something finite or evil, as toward something infinite or benevolent. A third option, that I believe to be most prevalent today, is the choice which is actually the denial of choice. We don’t know what to do with our spiritual nature so we do nothing.  We don’t know how to handle it, or what it looks like, or what to do about it, and so we push it aside. We neglect it. We ignore it. We bury it in day-to-day detritus.

The longer we neglect it the duller our awareness of its importance and power becomes. Our spiritual nature will always exist, but our sense of spirituality is deadened and dulled in much the same way that a neglected child loses interest in life and becomes despondent and unresponsive. We fire ourselves up by focusing on superficial concerns and we live with our ego as our guide. This choice is ultimately our own, but in a world devoid of spiritual guidance, such as that once offered in abundance by organized religion, we are easily stymied and at a loss as to how to help ourselves.  Managing the spiritual world, particularly when we live in a cultural that is so potent with its antithesis, is no mean feat.

Organized religion has become irrelevant to the masses, and nothing, as yet, has replaced it.  We have spiritual gurus popping up like daisies, each with their own brand of theology,  each gathering their own band of followers. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but having a viable spiritual guide or community in ones own neighborhood is rare. We don’t know who, or what, to turn to or to trust.

There’s a great divide between the spiritual and the cultural. Is it any different from the past? I really don’t know. What I do know, is that in the here and now, there is a great dearth of spiritual guidance for the individual, and spiritual leadership with integrity is in short supply. It’s no wonder we find ourselves adrift. It’s no wonder as a culture we become increasingly secular. We know we have outgrown the guidance offered in the past, but our mistake is that we think we need none now.

This is not an issue that is resolved easily for anyone and so I will offer no answers here. Just food for thought in what in my mind is a very pressing question. I welcome your thoughts and reactions.

Getting to Know Our Body

Getting to Know Our Body

Holly Sierra
La Paloma – The Yogi Goddess Of Peace by Holly Sierra Click on image for more information.

I have learned so much from working with Crystal on the dietary dimension of my healing process. We have completed our work together for now. I will touch base with her in August, and of course before if needed. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

1. Our dietary habits have an enormous impact on all areas of our lives, from energy level, mood, severity of the symptoms of PTSD, mental focus and clarity, weight control and overall sense of well-being and health.  Equally important is the health of our emotions and our spirit.

2. We can learn to live in a cooperative relationship with our body. When we learn what our body needs to function efficiently and happily, and cooperate with what we learn, we feel better. As we feel better, it becomes easier to recognize the ups and downs of our body, mind and spirit and figure out which is which; then we can learn what we need to do to auto-correct before things go too far in the wrong direction.

3. Most health and diet plans create an adversarial relationship with the body. Rather than getting to know our body and its unique needs and characteristics, we too often force an external plan upon it, one that may actually end up sabotaging the very thing we’re trying to achieve.

4. What’s healthy for me is not necessarily healthy for you. What works for you may not work for me. Health is in the details and one size does not fit all.

5. Physical health cannot be separated from emotional and spiritual health. They must all work together in unison. When they do not, one can sabotage the other.

A few examples:

I learned while working with Crystal that dairy and sugar in large quantities are detrimental to my health. Prior to beginning our work together I routinely had plain Greek Yogurt with fresh fruit for lunch thinking that this was a very “healthy” meal. For some people it may very well be. For me, it led to afternoon crashes, an inability to lose weight, and fogginess. Now I generally have either a large salad with chicken or chick peas or vegetable/beef soup. I’m satisfied. I no longer have the afternoon crash and all the symptoms I was experiencing that went along with too much dairy and sugar have dissipated. I do not feel in any way deprived, in fact, I feel more focused than ever and energized.

In the past I lived for my bowl of cereal and milk in the evening before bed. I always ate sugar-free cereal and skim milk. I was trying to lose weight and stay healthy. This, however, is not a good choice for my body. Now, I have either an apple and almond butter and maybe a square of dark chocolate or left over oatmeal with walnuts and almond milk (I know that’s weird but I like it!), or a handful of walnuts or almonds and a square of chocolate. Calorie content is probably about the same, but for me the new foods keep my sugar in check and I’ve lost 15 pounds. Again, I don’t feel deprived.

Getting to know ourselves is crucial in achieving wellness. This means getting to know our body, as well as understanding our emotions and habit of thought and uncovering and expanding a deep connection to our spiritual center.  This is a process that takes time and attention, but one well worth undertaking.

Where are you on your path toward healing and wholeness? What is helping you? What is tripping you up?

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright



A Reason to Journey On

A Reason to Journey On

Friday Flowers

Catawba rhododendron along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains – photo by Bill Swindaman

Since last writing, I have been on a journey, both an exterior one and an interior one. We are all, everyday, journeying somewhere, whether we leave our home or not. There is so very much to learn about the nature of life, the gift of living, and our reason for being here. It is a very personal adventure if we choose to embrace it, and a universal one.  It’s both riveting and terrifying and sometimes, we must dig deep to find the courage and the wisdom to stay the course.

My husband and I drove 2,070 miles to see our sons and bring them a truck full of their belongings. It was the first road trip we have taken since our accident 3 1/2 years ago. Reaching this point has required a strength and courage very different from any that has been required of me before, and one I’m still not always sure I have, but it is a strength that is not without fear, but one that trembles and trusts simultaneously. Living long, living wise, and living full requires a letting go of ordinariness and embracing the extra-ordinariness that is the true substance and foundation of life for every one of us.

There is a reason that each of us is here, even if we do not yet know what it is. We have our part to play, our truth to speak.  We must find the courage to embrace it, to own it, to allow it to transform us in ways we may not be able to imagine beforehand. Every day in this way we must choose to turn our attention away from the blood curdling cries of a world that cannot see the truth and reach out to the hand that is reaching out to us.

There are those who have their ear to the spiritual ground swell and who are guiding, directing, discovering, embracing and describing its unfolding to the best of their ability. Caroline Myss speaks to me in this regard, as does Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and James Finley. There are others who may speak to you more. Find a mentor and tune in, often. We all need guidance along this path.  Here is Caroline Myss’ message today:

“Pray beyond petitioning for the stuff you want for yourself. Learn to be present to the grace of the sacred. Open yourself to the mystic that you are by nature. Your intuition is not a skill to be honed so that you can figure out how to stay safe and avoid losing money. If you think that, you will never develop more than your gut instincts. You need to challenge your fear of life becoming unreasonable – because it is already unreasonable. In truth, your life has never been reasonable, it’s just that you keep hoping tomorrow will be different and that you will find a way to bring more control into your world.

Prayer and trust and your capacity to reason as a mystic give you the wisdom to recognize that life will always be full of challenges and crisis. The wise way is not to attempt to find one path that promises you will never have to endure the pain of loss and illness, but instead to learn how to endure and transcend when unreasonable events come your way. Learning to defy gravity in your world – to think, perceive, and act at the mystical level of consciousness – is the greatest gift you can give yourself, because it is the gift of truth. And as we are bound to learn again and again in this life, the truth does indeed set us free.

Caroline Myss

A Deep Down Hunger

A Deep Down Hunger

Artist Denmark
The Seeker, by
Lykke Steenbach Josephsen

The face of hunger is different for each person. There are sadly still many on our planet who feel actual hunger-for-food hunger pangs. For most of us, however, our hunger comes from something deep inside of us.

For some of us, our hunger resembles a longing for acceptance, or love, perhaps; a desire for the perfect mate, a soul friend, a peaceful place. For others, it is something akin to an insatiable desire for power and control; the need to be surrounded by beautiful people and perfect children. Our desire for perfection may drive us to incredible accomplishments, while leaving us wondering why we still feel empty and alone.

Some of us feed our deep down hunger with frenetic activity and the perpetual seeking of greater and greater excitement, be it a new adventure, a new relationship, or the latest fashion or gadget.

Others grow weary and frustrated with a hunger that can, or will not be satisfied and choose to bury it beneath layers of defenses. We kill it with food, or alcohol, drugs or sex. We use brilliant mental trickery to avoid and evade its grip on us, walking through our days numbed, or asleep. We fool ourselves into thinking it is gone.

When we aren’t able to scratch the itch, or inclined to go inside and hide, we may turn on everything and everyone around us…blaming, cursing, raging against the world, politics, bureaucracy, spouses, children, social structures, bosses, drivers. We try to relieve the discomfort we feel by focusing our attention outside of ourselves.

What if instead of running away from this hunger, we turned toward it instead? What if we put our efforts into removing the layers of defenses, bit by bit, piece by piece to see what that hunger really looks like, what it is trying to tell us? What if we quit blaming the externals for our discomfort, and chose instead to make it a habit always to ask, “What is my part in this?”

The insatiable hunger that each of us carries within us is a powerful force. It is there for a reason. It is there for many reasons. From driving us to meet our daily food and rest requirements, to satisfying our curiosity, it draws us forward in life; it draws us into the world and, if we let it, towards a union with our purpose, and something bigger than ourselves.

Perhaps our real job in life is to figure out how to allow ourselves the freedom necessary to align ourselves with this force, to step into the flow, the process of life and allow ourselves to be shaped, molded, taught, and guided by it. What if instead of allowing our hunger to control us, or we it, we chose instead to live in cooperation with it…allowing its energy to feed us, to satiate us? Who would we become?

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright

“Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.”   ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

“Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned.”      Paul Tillich

We All Need Support

We All Need Support


It took far longer than I would like it to have taken, for me to understand what real “support” looks like. I’m a rebellious sort, by  nature or nurture it’s hard to say, and I have never liked people telling me what to do, think, or say. It’s one of the primary reasons I did not pursue ordination after I graduated from seminary.  I couldn’t buy into any one denomination so completely that I felt I could follow their rules and dictates, nor did I want someone telling me how, when and where  to live out my faith. (I was ever so idealistic and naive!)

Instead of living under the umbrella of organized religion, I chose as soon as possible to become self-employed.  Sometimes I envied people who could cozy up to a group, business or organization and make it their life. It provided structure, guidance, answers to questions that required no thought, or questioning, or finding one’s way through the dark. Going it alone can mean little if any support, unless you make a conscious effort to seek it. As an introvert, I did not and I rarely had time.

Years ago I believed that a “supportive friend” was one with whom I could commiserate; someone who would rally behind me in my anger and frustrations with life. Of course, I would return the favor. I remember the exact day I decided I was done with that kind of support.

In my late twenties, I was working for a small non-profit organization, drowning in politics and drama. Caught in the middle of the fray, I was fired. Understandably stunned, upset and angry,  I went home and started calling whoever I thought would understand and see things my way.

After several days on the phone with various friends and co-workers, I came to the conclusion I was not getting what I wanted. In fact,  it was making matters worse. Some of the people I was “sharing” with weren’t even really on my side.  In fact, I was drowning in pity, judgement and platitudes, and feeling more and more inadequate and flawed by the minute.  In that moment, I decided I would never again share my problems with anyone, especially in that way.  I was on to something, but it took me many more years to take the step I really needed to take.

I went on to use a different flawed approach, going it alone. Except for my husband, I shared my personal life with no one, unless I was paying for the privilege. That didn’t stop me from listening, supporting and empathizing with the few  friends that I did have over the years.  By the time I reached fifty, I was crumbling fast. I was burned out. I was carrying a weight so heavy I was practically crawling on my knees.

It wasn’t until the accident, that I finally stumbled upon the real solution. I was no longer on my hands and knees, I was flat-out, face first in the mud. I couldn’t breathe or move, let alone think or feel my way out of the place I was in. Every ounce of security I had once felt, and I admit it was not a ton, had evaporated through my fingers. I could trust no one and nothing, most especially  myself.

Immediately after the accident my focus was on my hand. Several times a week my husband drove me to rehab, as I could not drive, and there I received loving care and emotional support from Jane, the physical therapist who worked with me. As look back on it, she did as much for my emotional state as she did my hand; helped me find the courage to keep going and to believe in a positive outcome.

It took two years for my hand to heal enough that I no longer was constantly reminded of the injury by my difficulties with typing, removing jar or gripping the steering wheel of the car.  The stiffness and pain was also within an acceptable range. Now, I’ve gotten used to the scars and the way my pinky turns under. I didn’t know that I had yet to face the bigger challenge of PTSD.

Unable to think clearly, leave the house, drive a car, or return to my writing with any sense of purpose or direction, I began to consider seeking help. For what, I really didn’t know.  What I knew was that I was terrified to go to sleep at night; that I could not “feel” my feelings; that I was not “in” my body; that I had panic attacks regularly and often over little things. During the day I was riveted to my chair in the living room by fear and immobility. At night, I managed to get myself to sleep by listening to ebooks by such life savers as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Byron Katie, Brene Brown and so many others. That was my first step in find support and comfort.

As I look back on it now, getting back on my feet has been a step by step process that absolutely required the support of friends and professionals, but friends and professionals who “got me”, who did not offer me platitudes,  pity,  judgment,  opinions, or unasked for advice. What I needed, and what I’ve come to believe everyone needs, is understanding, compassion, wisdom and a willingness to believe in us, when we no longer believe in ourselves. We need people in our lives who reflect back to us our truest self, with love.

What I have also come to accept about myself is that I need support from people who can go deep; who can speak to me in the symbolic language of soul and spirit where I live. Traditional therapy, while I have spent more hours and days engaged in such over my lifetime, has never been particularly helpful, or healing. When I turned to Crystal for help, I turned in the right direction. I’ve learned so incredibly much from working with her and it was possible because she has always seen me as a whole person, body, mind and spirit. She addresses all of my needs while challenging me to step up to the plate.

My dear, wonderful friend Jill also has the capacity to listen to my heart, to challenge my mind and to encourage me to grow and stretch into the center of me. She reflects back to me my real self.  These two people, their advice, guidance and counsel provided the foundation for my growing understanding of support.  It doesn’t take a dozen friends, it just takes one or two of the right ones and then choosing bit by bit to make oneself vulnerable and open to their love and care.

When you are looking support, look for someone who listens carefully to what you are saying, who can empathize with you and validate your experiences, all the while maintaining enough distance and perspective to offer insight and perspective when asked.  Sounds easy and sensible, but hard to find, even in therapists and especially in healthcare professionals.  Above all else, TRUST OUR INTUITION.

Often the hardest part about getting back on our feet is taking the first step when we’d rather curl up in a ball and die, to muster up the courage and strength to risk again and again until a support system is established. Not to risk is to stay broken, to continue to hurt, to give up and give in to despair and defeat. The only way out is through, and no one else can do it for us.

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright


Day #1 – I’m a Coward

Day #2 – The Morning after the Night Before

Day #3 – There are No Words

Day #4 – Coming Full Circle

Day #5 & #6 – Hyped Up and Nowhere to Go

Day #7 – The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection

Day #8 & #9 – A Word About Trauma

Day #10 – Food for Fun

We All Need Support

Holistic Detoxification Process



The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection – Day #7

The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection – Day #7

Artist Pino
Mother and Daughter
by Pino

Our modern culture has, in my opinion, a tendency to pull things apart into quantifiable pieces.  Our society has become so complex and diverse that our drive to understand and manage it, has led to habits of thought that compartmentalize.  We judge from a distance what we do not know or understand personally. Science, medicine and business view the individual through the lens of this type of judgment. Our natural state of connectivity and free communication between is disrupted.

We are not just our minds and what we can achieve with them. We are not just our bodies and what we can do or attract with them. We are not just our spirit that can thrive independently from the body that holds it, or the mind that directs it and connects it to the world. We are all three at once, perpetually interacting,  supporting,  and balancing. If we mistreat one, we mistreat the other. If we care for one, we are care for the other.

When women objectify their bodies, manipulate, control, abuse and defy their physical needs, they lose touch with their spirit, their guide, their life force in a way that can be profound. They use their minds to support this endeavor and in the process, taking it away from more important, valuable and creative pursuits.

I was reminded of this today when Crystal led me on a guided imagery meditation. Over the last week I have been so focused on what my body was, and wasn’t doing, on the new food regimen and making sure I was doing all of the right things, including keeping my food journal and taking the right supplements at the right time, that I did not give enough attention to my spiritual/emotional needs. I did not address the issues that were arising. Through the guided imagery I was able to call back my spirit and to find balance once again, which will only enhance the process of healing.

A healing and wellness regimen, to be effective, takes into consideration all aspects of who we are, and listens to the voice of each. Each has unique wounds to heal. Each has unique wisdom to offer in the support of the other.


Body: As I mentioned yesterday, I was reeeaally wound up, mentally and physically, while at times feeling extremely weak and anxious. Crystal suggested that this was likely something to do with my body cranking up to start working right again. (I’m hoping she will join me here to give the more educated version of these things, but in the meantime….) She told me to add an apple with almond butter for my afternoon snack (Yippeee!!!) and humus, nut crackers and dark chocolate for my before bed snack. The former I had in the house and savored every little bite of it and within twenty felt considerably better. I did the same for my night-time snack. The thought of eating chocolate also scared me to death. I was afraid if a bite in my mouth I might eat the entire bar.

Mind: Clarity. Haze lifting. Wow! I can think again.

Spirit: I am learning to feel safe again…slowly. Striving to see my fears as the illusions they are, to nurture, care for and embrace the sad and lonely child within me, and to tend and care for the hurting, broken woman who would rather curl up and die than hurt another minute.

Day #1 – I’m a Coward

Day #2 – The Morning after the Night Before

Day #3 – There are No Words

Day #4 – Coming Full Circle

Day #5 & #6 – Hyped Up and Nowhere to Go