Belonging to one another

street sleeping

Mother Teresa tells us to find the divine in each person, the divine in all its distressing disguises.

“If you really want to do something,” she said, “go out on the streets. Find someone living there who believes they are alone and convince them that they are not.”

I remember the first time I saw a homeless person sleeping in the street in New York City. I was a child on my way to a Broadway musical with my parents, when we literally stumbled over someone.

“Dad stop. There’s a man that needs your help. We’ll have to go to the show later. Look at him. He’s fallen to the sidewalk and is staying there.”

My father shook his head, giving my hand a tug. “We can’t stop for every bum in New York or we’ll never get anywhere.”

“But how do you know he’s a bum? Maybe he’s a good person who just fell down and got dirty? It’s getting dark and cold. What will happen to him?”

Father’s well groomed hand shown in sharp contrast to the crusted skin of the man on the ground.  “It’s the way of the world, Karen. Get used to it.”

But I never did get used to it and doubt I ever will. How easy it is for us to react and judge, and how different life would be if we stopped to tend our brothers and sisters. How often I have heard words like, “They’re just a bunch of street people, losers and drug addicts. They’re not contributing to society. You can’t help them because they don’t want to be helped. They could work if they wanted to. They’re just a bunch of stinking vagrants, thieves and boozers. They should  get a job like everybody else.”

So, let’s back up a little. None of us comes into this world as a dirty drugged out homeless person. We come in as innocent beings full of light, dependent on those around us to feed, comfort, house and nurture our spirits.  When that doesn’t happen, we go into hiding, and when hiding isn’t enough and bad things keep happening over and over again, we become smaller, fearful and broken, finally believing that life and all the beautiful things in it belong to someone else.

The solution is rarely a question of providing a disadvantaged person a job, rather it’s a matter of slowly building trust, so they are able to overcome self-loathing, beliefs of not deserving, and fears that have been rooted in physical and emotional trauma. Wounding that manifests in self-sabotaging acts, like addictions and bitterness need to be addressed before life can be successful. Because all healing is first a healing of the heart.

One late evening in my thirties, I was riding around the streets of Portland, Oregon in a shopping cart. Yep, that’s what I said, a shopping cart. I no longer remember who was doing the pushing but know there must have been a few glasses of Merlot involved. We’d come from giving a late night performance at Storefront Theater and needed to let off steam. I was sitting on my coat, balancing a bouquet of roses I’d been given at the end of the show and acting silly and loud.

“Look at me. I’m the queen of the grocery cart, the queen of the city. And all I survey is my kingdom.”

I saw a woman sitting against a storefront window as we rounded the corner on airborne wheels. “Over there,” I said. “Take me over there!”  I was a tad too trapped and tipsy to leave the cart, so I bent over the front.

“Here, these are for you dear lady. Now you can be the queen of the city.” She stared up at me, confused. “Take them,” I said. “I’ve come all this way to give them to you.”

“No.”  She cast her eyes down. “I don’t deserve them.”

“Oh, but you do. You most definitely do.”

She refused, so I tossed the long green stems and blood red blooms near her blanket, where they surprised me by scattering against the cement like garbage. That’s what burned into my senses, the way a symbol of love and celebration in my reality transformed into trash when they landed in hers, like they’d passed through an energetic field that changed all meaning and relevance.

We create different realities by our thoughts and beliefs but we are not really different: the homeless person, the housewife, the corporate president or bus driver. We like to think we are because of our station in life and all we’ve achieved but inside we’re the same.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.” Mother Teresa.

DEQ for the Soul

You wanna keep going down the road of life? We need to make sure you’re not giving off too many toxic fumes or polluting the air around you. To keep living and breathing, you’ll need to show up at DEQ for the Soul. 

Yep, that’s what I want to invent, a compulsory process for purifying the spirit, which would begin at ten years of age and continue every ten years thereafter – an inescapable commitment for everyone drawing breath. 

Let’s send make-believe Margaret through first to give us a peek at the process:  

Margaret has been doing this for awhile, so she is not at all nervous, in fact she’s been counting the days since her purification notice arrived in the mail. She eagerly visits the center, stepping into a white cloud-like substance, which provides a feeling of deep calm and homecoming, a sense of being completely and utterly safe. She begins to breathe into her belly and with each breath becomes more and more relaxed. There is a full length mirror on the wall, where she can watch all negative experiences and memories detach, like shingles lifting from an old roof in the wind. All pain, abuse, damage, suffering and darkness stored in her body are raised, cleansed and returned to the world as light. All memory of anguish erased. 

When extraction is complete, Margaret walks away from the center in bare feet, restoring and renewing her place on the earth and her belief in the sacredness of all life. Healing waters wait beyond, the surface shimmering like diamonds, each drop of light, a piece of her soul essence that has been hunted, harvested and brought back from early trauma, to be reunited as love and life force. As she tiptoes into the water, releasing her body to float on the surface, the fullness of her spirit moves back through the pores of her skin and into the core of her being. When she once again feels completely in love with life and all that is, her papers are stamped and she is free to return to the world for another ten year cycle. 

What a different place this world would be if we could manage such a simple thing.


Is Oregon the viral-respiratory-crud capital of the world, or is it just me? One week ago, in a warm climate, I was vibrant and healthy. Now I’m swimming in germ stew again, blowing my nose and looking into another damp unresponsive day. My sister, Kristen lives in upstate New York and is excited because enough snow has gone for her to find the compost pile again. I would hang myself if I lived there.

The idea of travel was that it would make the winter seem shorter, but I fear it made my attitude worse. It was like giving a meal to a starving person and then pulling it away. “Okay, you can have that again in say…late June or July. How does that sound? That’s only four months away, then we’ll bring the dark again.” I count the minutes, the hours and the days. My friend Susan thinks a light box would help. But that would be like meditating on a cut out of a palm tree, a meager substitute.  

Being sick yet again makes my life quiet and the hours slow, allowing me to listen to the language of the land. The butterfly bush spikes upward looking for spring, still dressed in last years dried blossoms. It carries endless optimism. The dogwood is covered with so much moss it looks like a specially fashioned garment, but the evergreens don’t change. They just sway in the breeze, drop some cones and make shelter for the deer, coyotes and raccoons that pass below. A stray snowflake moves past the window but is uncommitted. Then there is the sound of the rain, the unrelenting sound of the rain, like the ticking of many clocks. I put a teaspoon of local honey in my mouth to sweeten my day, as I grab more hot tea and think of the library books I can check out to help pass the hours until my body heals and I am not as dark as the sky or as grumpy as my age. I give my thoughts to the wind, the water, the stones and the witch hazel that blossoms in yellow outside my front door. And they reflect it all back, holding me like I belong here and I guess for now I do. 

 Everything is wet and brown and moss green. The birds are busy on the feeder and that single snowflake has found some friends. I have nothing to say but I’m saying it anyway, because if I don’t write, I’ll concentrate on blowing my nose and desperately missing the sun that so recently kissed my face. I send my letter into silence before transforming my home into an office and my frown into a smile.

Chinese Medicine

A tall pink candle burns on the table next to a vase of orange and yellow-crested tulips, as the aroma of freshly made applesauce wafts near my nose. Life is good again. I’m emerging from the dark underworld of disease. I have my life back. Half the month I’ve been ill and today about five o’clock it lifted. I could speak again and felt like doing something besides sleeping and complaining to anyone who would listen.

Yesterday I went back to my doctor insisting she pull out all the stops. “I leave for Mexico in two days, what shall I do?”  Nina is gentle and soft-spoken, competent and knowledgeable.  “Take what I prescribe and this should be gone before you leave. In Chinese medicine they say that your liver is biting your lungs.”  She inserted more needles into my body, as I imagined a big brown gooey organ with a fiery temper reaching up to nip at my lungs, like some ill-tempered dog. When the treatment was finished, she offered medicinals.  

First came a sweet little bottle of tablets from Seven Forests called Qing Yin Bai Du Pian. Who knows what that means, but it’s suppose to help my lungs defend against the attack, then she added individually wrapped throat lozenges from Golden Lotus in shiny green paper with artwork worth framing stamped on each piece. I  love the art and poetry of Chinese medicine. The finale came in a large red box from Hong Kong, the splendor of which is difficult to describe. The box contained a cough syrup delivered with foldout images of Chinese architecture, colored illustrations of each herb used to make the formula and a circular graphic of medicine being offered on a tray to a man sitting in bed, light streaming through a near-by window. I don’t know about you, but seeing and receiving beauty in the medicine I take has a very positive effect, not unlike the tulips and candle light gracing the table.  

For me it’s a no-brainer. I can be treated tenderly and with respect, receiving ancient remedies from the hand of a gentle healer or stand in long pharmacy lines to receive prescriptions delivered in cheap plastic bottles with labels spit out by computers. The cost of drugs is ten times the amount and the possible side-effects even higher. “Here’s your medicine. Oh and by the way, this can make you sterile, drowsy, impotent or bald, cause a heart attack, or make the roof of your house collapse on your head. Have a nice day!” 

If I get splattered on the highway by a passing truck and arrive unconscious, I’ll let the medical establishment sew me back together. Anything short of that, I vote for a competent healer, herbs from the arms of the earth, and beauty, always beauty, especially in illness.


I am sick today, recovering from an insistent virus that canceled my life and ordered me to bed. I find it difficult to allow the luxury of utter stillness, to withdraw and rebuild my strength. Illness is a demanding guest. I must stay in the moment and be vigilant, guarding against negative thoughts I mistake as my own, when they are nothing more than missiles weighed down with infection.  

The sun is out, shining bright, inviting me into the world, but I won’t leave the quilt. My job is to eat chicken soup, drink immune system tea and take more herbs than I can count. I see Hannah’s outline near the front door. She’s been waiting for the past several days, sleeping on the welcome mat and wondering if I have forgotten her, wondering when we’ll walk the library paths again. I slip her a treat and shake my head. “Not today, sorry.” 

I saw my acupuncturist, Nina, yesterday who told me to breathe into my belly and get out of my head. She asked me to be mindful of my body several times a day, so I don’t die of a brain cramp sorting through my To Do list. She placed needles in my legs and arms while quoting the Buddhist teacher Dipa Ma. “How you do one thing, is how you do everything.” I thought of the folks I nearly crashed into on the drive over, and knew she was right. So I slowed down, let it all go, and began to breathe, breathe into the belly and up though the soles of my feet. I thought of my own favorite saying, “There is so much to do, I must go very slowly.”  She gave me a prescription for Oregon Grape and I left better than I arrived, driving home in a different state of mind. I took time to feel my hands on the steering wheel and the heated seat against my back.

 I hadn’t realized I’d flown so far out of my body before illness brought me home, like a jet crashing on the runway. Now I need to stop, repair and recover, not what I want to be doing. But I yield, with little choice. The wind is gentle and soft as I reach for the mail before climbing back into bed. The sun is gone now, leaving with undelivered promises, just like me.

The Beheading



I was beheaded on Halloween. Yep, for real. My friend Kim and I drove to Eagle Creek to do the deed. We arrived at Hidden Lake to share food and intention with 14 other folk, then went into a yurt and began to journey. (A journey is a flight of the soul away from the body.)

Kim saw a dragonfly by the lake before we began. She carried a broom stick which had been retrieved from my deck and cut to the correct length for beheading by her husband Bob. When she placed the beheading stick in the grass she was surprised to find a young snake at rest. Kim is Celtic in belief and orientation and was delighted to inform me that dragonflies were called snake doctors because they were able to bring dead snakes back to life by sewing their wounds; a good omen for a ceremony like ours. 

 Drums were used to induce trance by a circle of men and women lining the walls of the yurt, as seven of us closed our eyes and entered an altered state. Our intention was to relieve suffering in the world.

I entered that realm as I always do, over a waterfall and into a gentle pool, then climbed through a mist, emerging in a vast green clearing. My ceremonial place was on the edge of a cliff where I made a blazing fire surrounded by white stones from a centuries old cathedral. When that was prepared with the help of animals and spirit people, I left to gather as much pain as I could hold. I took it from those in poverty, those being abused, those starving, lonely and homeless. I gathered pain from those in battle and those lost to themselves, the elderly, the abandoned and the broken. I contained as much suffering as I could store, then took more.  When I was full I dumped grief, anguish, agony, torture and sorrow into the fire, placing myself in the inferno to allow embodiment of the ritual.

The rite was happening in two realms. I used a rattle in physical reality and flames in the unseen realm to move the pain from my feet to my knees, torso, shoulders, hands, arms, neck and finally to my head. When I felt the distress had all moved up, I left the fire and lay face down on a blanket. In the unseen realm, a large winged bird in the form of a man stood ready to take my head. In the physical space of the yurt, Kim struck my body across the shoulders three times to symbolically release the head, and waited as the unseen and the physical worlds came together.  The bird-man emptied it of suffering and pain, cleaning and purifying the inside. When he put it back on my shoulders, it was crystal-like, my vision enhanced, all suffering discarded. When the reassembling was complete, I turned on my back so Kim could clean my face with cold water, stroke my brow and remove remaining tears. The process was extremely intense, liberating and nothing I would ever want to do again. 

So, there you have it. Isn’t that what all 65 year old grandmothers do on Halloween?


There are things I can’t change. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to or have not tried. They are just there, sitting in the center of my life like a puzzle with missing pieces, a puzzle I long to complete but can not.

Where are those pieces?  I search everywhere.

Others try to help:

“You can find them in exercise,” I’m told. “Just be in your body more.”

 I swam three days a week for fifty years.

“Maybe if you changed your diet,” another suggests. “The fuel in your body makes all the difference.”

I’ve become an expert on diet but my food remains undigested.

My sister tells me that the answers live in scripture and the beliefs of the church.

I devoted myself as a child, but left when I recognized my essence in those who’d been burned.

I walk. I look. I seek. I meet others who stand in judgment because their puzzle pieces slipped together quickly and easily a long time ago.

I visit therapists, healers and shaman who tell me the pieces are only found inside myself.

I stay alone, meditate, fast, ask, demand, weep and pray. I come to know myself but the pieces are not found.

Maybe the pieces are found in acceptance, acceptance that this lifetime I’ve been given a puzzle I can not complete.

Or perhaps those empty places are not missing after all.

What if the emptiness ‘is’ the gift, a sweet on-going torment of desire designed to open consciousness, like the allowing of space that permits a piece of music to breathe.

The wound is endless and forever, the price of being human. The Dalai Lama tells us we must stay in the world, not go away from it, so I continually pull myself up and out of longing, remembering the grace I’ve come to share.  

It’s not my fault!



Amelia sat on the couch full of frustration and longing, tears welling in her eyes. “I feel like everything is my fault,” she said. “My parents divorce, the fact that my brother doesn’t come around, my mom’s inability to love me, the problems in my marriage, it’s all my fault. If I were a better person none of this would be happening.” 

We had been down this road before. The idea of fault and personal responsibility for every negative event in Amelia’s life coming to rest solely on her shoulders. It was deeply ingrained. 

“We don’t have much time left,” I said, “our healing session is nearly over. I’m going to give you an assignment. I want you to practice saying, ‘it’s not my fault.’ Use it like a mantra. Say it out loud, say it when you drive your car, say it to yourself when you brush your teeth, tend your children, do the dishes and fall into bed at night. Let the words begin to find a home in your spirit and body. Begin now. Let me hear you say it.”

 “I can’t,” she said looking away, “because I don’t think it’s true. I just can’t.” 

I persevered. “Yes, you can. Whether or not it feels true, I’m asking you to voice the words. Do it now, here with me.” 

Amelia fingered a lock of her long brown hair, her brow furrowed and intent. The words were in there somewhere trying hard to come up. I waited, watching the clock tick away the final seconds of our time together, as a single tear fell quietly over the rounded pink of her cheek.

 “It’s not my fault,” she whispered in a barely audible tone. I cupped my hand behind my ear. “Say what? I couldn’t hear you? I may be going deaf. Louder, please!”

 She smiled at me in a love-hate way, like a kid being asked to eat spinach before being excused from the table. Amelia began to justify why she could not, should not, be voicing such things, her thinking eager to slip back into the familiar water of self-hatred.  

“I’ve heard all that before,” I said, stopping her, “what I have not heard are these new words. What were they?  I want to hear those words again.”  Amelia dutifully repeated the phase three more times, scheduled her next appointment and left.  

An hour later the phone rang. It was Amelia. “I’ve just been rear-ended in a traffic accident,” she blurted out. “This guy was following too close. I tired to get him to back up by tapping my brakes but he wouldn’t do it. When we got to an intersection he didn’t slow and crashed into the back of the van. 

I was stunned. “Are you alright? Do you need help?”  I could hear the roar of traffic as she yelled into the phone.  

“Nobody was hurt. The thing is,” she bellowed, “that it was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. A fire truck happened to be going by and stopped. One of the firemen got out, assessed the situation, leaned in my window and looked me square in the eye. And you know what he said?  He said, ‘it’s not your fault.’ Can you believe it? I had him repeat it because I couldn’t trust what I was hearing, but it doesn’t end there. I got on the phone to my insurance company as the police were arriving and the woman I spoke to was really sweet. I was rattled and anxious but she kept telling me not to worry because it was not my fault. She said that none of it was my fault. Karen I’m crying, this is so amazing and wonderful. I’ve never been so happy to be rear-ended in my life. I really get it now.  I feel like the universe just stepped in and delivered its message, and I get it now. I really get it.



Original Essence


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had grateful clients say, you changed my life. I am a completely different person now, so much happier and fulfilled.

How did I do it? I did it by bringing light to their dark places, creating a safe nurturing environment and by seeing the truth of their soul, then holding their spirit with respect and beauty until they learned to do that for themselves. I freed them to stand in the best part of themselves, but never changed their essence, which is an important distinction. They are not really different people; they are simply more of who they already were.  What I do is turn up the volume on their light and bring them out of hiding.

You could not change the essence of a person if you threw cosmic fireballs at it all day long − just not going to happen. 

 As parents many of us believe that we can shape and mold our children, but we can not. We can create a supportive loving environment and teach values, but that is all. I think if we could really understand that, in our heart of hearts, that it would relieve a world of parental guilt and all the, ‘what did I do wrong’, conversations that go on inside and outside our heads. 

 For example, my husband Gib is an athlete. His greatest desire was to have an athletic son, but he didn’t get one. He got a gentle sensitive boy with the soul of an artist, who had no desire at all to go crashing around an athletic field. In the end, the son felt he didn’t measure up and that he disappointed his father, while the father wondered what he’d done wrong. 

We are all unique. We all come in with a strong powerful core and mission, but when we don’t listen to that inner voice that carries our wisdom, and we let others define our purpose for us, we become sick, depressed or unhappy. 

I have found astrological charts to be helpful, because they expose the birth blueprint of each individual. I remember finding out about a trait from my brother’s chart and being surprised.

Really, I said, he’s wired that way? I thought he was just doing that to piss me off.

The point is, that people are who they are, and we can’t do much about it, except love them as they go through their changes. That’s the challenge we all have, to strip away the layers of information and experience, until we come back to our original essence, then celebrate that essence and take it proudly and boldly into the world. We are not here to hide, but to be ourselves as fully and completely as possible, while supporting others as they do the same.


eagle in BC

Most women get an urge for a new dress, a china cabinet or a different hair cut, but not me. I woke this morning with an overwhelming urge to gather bones.

I need to find and hold the white bleached bones of an animal in my hands –  not the fragile bones of a small animal, but large weighty bones, bones that hold the energy of transition that is both life and death. Today I woke knowing that I needed them.

I need to hold the wings of a bird to elevate and cleanse my spirit, allowing perspective as I transition into a new chapter of my life and deeper still, into the very essence of myself.

There is an urgency to this that must be satisfied, but the dry lands of La Pine and Christmas Valley are too far away.

I could go to a spiritual bookstore and buy feathers that were neatly beaded and wrapped in leather, but purchasing them wouldn’t satisfy my need. I have to walk and seek and ask and discover. Then these healing tools will have the power of the day and the medicine of the animal still intact.

That is what is on my mind today, bones and feathers and finding.

My whole body longs to hold these things in my hands, so I can complete something unspoken, but felt, something unfinished and reaching. Don’t ask me why, it just is.

Ram Dass


monksI first saw Ram Dass in the late 70’s, when he came to Ohio State University to speak about his trip to India and the ways it transformed his consciousness and character. He spoke about his time as a Harvard Professor, his friendship with Timothy Leary and finding his Hindu teacher.

Everyone is a manisfestation of God, he said, and every moment is of infinite significance.

I had no idea who Ram Dass was and had no expectations. He walked to the center of the stage in flowing robes, closed his eyes and sat quietly for a very long time. It amazed me. How could anyone begin a presentation by sitting down and being quiet?

I was at Ohio State studying dance, theater and women’s literature. I had just finished touring with Hello Dolly and had been well-schooled. Being on stage was about dynamic presentation, articulation, entertainment and projection. How could this guy sit center stage, take a long drink of water and willfully exclude his audience? I was baffled.

He began to talk about consciousness and the freedom in allowing yourself simply to be without doing.

We are human beings, he said, not human doings.

Wow, what would that be like? I was a single mom and the pressures of it made me feel like jumping off the nearest bridge. I got up early each morning; put my son in the child seat on my bike and my daughter on the grown-up seat, while I pedaled standing up. I stopped first at the day care center and later the university. We came home the same way. I worked as a waitress from three until nine, gave all my tips to the babysitter and stayed up past midnight finishing assignments. The next day I did it all again. Easy for him to talk about being and not doing, I thought.

But there was something wonderfully appealing about his gentle spirit, colorful robes and the tranquil glow in his eyes that made me pay attention and want to read his books. A few years later I moved from Ohio to Oregon and decided to try a ten day meditation. I had never done a formal meditation in my life – starting with ten days was not enlightenment, it was pure hell. But I was curious to know who I was beneath my story, history and ingrained beliefs, so I began searching for another way, a way that made sense to me.

What I settled on was sending my kids to their father’s house, while I closed the door to the world and imposed a kind of solitary confinement. I sat and noticed and observed.

When I wanted to bust out of the room, I noticed the feelings, thoughts and sensations around the desire but remained still.

When I wanted to eat food I was not hungry for, I stopped and noticed the desire for comfort, my need to fill my emotional emptiness and soothe the frightened child within.

I spent nearly a month peeling back the layers of my identity, sitting, laughing, crying and writing, looking for and finding the me that was capable of being and not doing. I wanted the personality to ease its fearful grip and allow a glimpse of the divine. I wanted access to the wise woman at my center and was not disappointed.

I saw Ram Dass last night in a documentary called Fierce Grace. He looked vulnerable, frail and broken. He talked about his stroke and what a worthy teacher it was. He cried openly and laughed the same way. The ability to mask his emotions had dissolved; the flow of his language was restricted and withheld. My husband wondered if it hurt his credibility to weep without restraint, but I saw it as one more protective human wall that had collapsed, to further reveal the compassionate spirit within.

Life is a strange and unyielding teacher. Willing or unwilling, we are all her pupils.

Equal Measure

horse eyeOh, last week was such a hard week. Everything went wrong; I was overwhelmed and found lack of harmony at every turn. Ugh!  I wanted a ticket to La-La-Land where everybody gets along and life runs smoothly all the time.

When I get stressed I try to maintain a positive attitude. But when the hard times keep coming and positive thinking starts to look like a band-aid over a tumor, I allow myself to surrender. I give myself permission to think what I think – and feel what I feel – as completely as possible, no matter how ugly or unwanted it is. I measure my mental health by the time this takes. Can I move through feelings in a day that used to take a week? Can I allow in a week what used to take a month? 

I find a kind of beauty in suffering that goes straight to the heart, because pain pulls away pretense and takes us to the raw truth of our being.

I received a letter last week from a woman in Kansas who had traveled to a graduation and returned to find that her horse of twenty-six years had died in her absence. He had a heart attack and was buried by the time she returned.

“I needed to find closure, and found it difficult as I was not able to see him one last time before he passed, so I have been walking around the barn to find his smell, to smell him one last time. There was nothing there, and then today my son said he cut some of his mane and tail for me and put it on a shelf in the barn. I found it and stuck my nose deep into the mane. It smelled just like my horse, the horse smell that is calming, peaceful and safe. I cried again, it was helpful to smell him one last time, now I have closure, now I can begin to heal.” 

How beautiful is that?  The communion of spirits and depth of love in her honest pain is profound. 

Today I find myself embracing the dark and the light in equal measure. I sit with my feet propped up on a ledge at the library, where I gaze out at sunshine, pink dogwood blossoms, water lilies and a long legged crane. A little girl in a blue dress is crouching near the ducks and walking as if she were one of them. They allow her to mingle only inches away until she tries to place her hand on their backs for a soft feathered embrace.

A little girl with golden hair,  duck-walking with her animal friends,  that’s enough to make my week.

Healing Ritual

I was collecting rocks at the beach. Wind blew hard against my face and I was glad to have the many layers of clothes I had worn. It was time for a healing ritual, an unloading of unwanted accumulation.

stones1I sat on the sand like a kid, examining and fingering each rock. Some were perfect and round, others jagged with veins of white running through the center. They were every shape, variety and color. I unzipped the pocket of my fleece and pulled out a magic marker. Each rock would represent a burden I carried that I wanted to release.

On one rock I wrote the name of a friend whose connection had become strained and heavy. I wanted to keep the friend, but not the troubles surrounding us. On another, I wrote the word, stagnation, sighting my desire to travel and my feelings of being stuck. I wrote the names of foods I needed to stop eating, foods which pleased my taste buds but harmed my body. I went on this way choosing the right rock for the outgrown belief or trouble I carried.

When I finished, I piled them in two plastic grocery bags with the intention of walking as far as I possibly could to bring the reality of what I was doing emotionally into a real world understanding. I hefted the bags from the beach and began to walk. I had only gone a few yards when both bags broke open and spilled on to the sand. Determined to finish, I took off my jacket and bundled them inside. It was more difficult to carry as one bundle, but I managed.

I looked around. The beach was fairly empty, a tall man in an orange coat with a golden dog walked in front of me, and a handful of people who played by the parking lot entrance disappeared behind. The wind encouraged my efforts as it blew against my back, making it easier to walk. I thought about all I carried as I made my way down the shore. I thought about how heavy it was and how tired it made me feel. There was a moment which mirrored my life, when I actually felt proud. Wow, look at me, I thought. I am so strong and can carry so much. I wanted to celebrate my strength. Emotions rose and fell with each new step.  After awhile I slung my bundle on to my back and realized how familiar that felt. I looked so normal from the front. No one would guess I carried such weight out of sight.

When I could bear that no longer, I shifted the rocks from shoulder to shoulder and finally pulled them in front of me, where I acknowledged them for the troublesome weight they were. At one point, I noticed a sand dollar and wanted to pick it up, but had to ask myself if I could do it. I wondered if I could hold my burden and reach for what I wanted at the same time. I studied it. It was small and beautiful and would add no weight, but there was the juggling of the load to consider. Would it be easier to pass it by? How symbolic that moment was, as I remembered my recent desire to book a massage and how easily I had over-ruled it, sighting lack of funds or too much work. I carefully lowered myself near the prize, plucked it from its resting place and tucked it in the pocket of my shirt.

After walking three miles, I came to a path that led away from the shore and up to a cliff where I could perch on the point and rest. The path was sand covered, steep and shifting, a challenge on a good day. I struggled to hold my bundle as I grabbed tree roots for balance and leverage. I pulled myself to the top exhausted and panting,  dropped to the earth and gratefully took in miles of shore line, seagulls, fishing boats and the distant orange speck of a man and his prancing dog.

The mountain served as a welcome protection from the wind as I waited for my breathing to descend from chest to belly. The sun warmed my face. I pulled each stone from the bundle, thought about its shape and size, and the words I had written. I cried about some and settled into my willingness to release them.

I knew from my healing practice that it was not enough for my mind to decide things; my body had to decide also. This ritual was making my decision both integrated and real. I remembered a client I had seen a week earlier who felt he had lost his masculinity in an overbearing marriage. He had complied so much that his essence seemed to have disappeared all together. It had been helpful to talk about his feelings, but it wasn’t enough. What worked was a physical ritual that placed a knife in his hand, called his warrior self from memory and brought rage up and out of his belly in great howls of self-claiming. Ritual is the missing spiritual piece in our ability to heal. 

Finished on the cliff and ready to head back, I prepared to leave. I picked up my bundle and was surprised to feel my body recoil in resentment. But my ritual was not complete, so I picked up the rocks, made my way down the mountain and walked to the ocean’s edge.

Waves lapped at my feet as I pulled each stone from hiding.  As I threw them into the water, I spoke again of releasing the energy they carried, but this time I invited new energies to take their place. Where there was conflict, I invited harmony, where there was stagnation, I invited invigoration, and so it went stone after stone until my hands were empty. 

I finished with a great feeling of liberation and peace, but the wind was no longer at my back. I tied my empty jacket over my head to shield my ears and walked the three miles back to my new beginning.



portland-stairsI learned a lot from my residency as a therapist, but very little came from the books I read. It was the personal realizations that moved me to insight more than any training skills. Specifically, I learned that the judgments and criticisms of others that I was so quick to make in the privacy of my own mind were destructive and misplaced, saying more about my lack of development than anything else. 

I ran therapy groups at Clackamas County Mental Health Center with Rich Panzer, the resident psychiatrist. Our evening group was attended by a very angry, immensely overweight woman, whom I disliked immediately. She triggered me because she was the dark side of the compliant physically fit girl I had learned to be. Her manner was caustic and fiercely good at pushing people away. I secretly wished she would leave the group, and take her attitude with her. I felt she was standing in the way of real healing for others, but mostly she evidenced an uncomfortable place of judgment in myself that I had no skill to deal with. As months went by and her shell began to weaken and crack, I was able to glimpse the magnificence of the spirit within.  When she felt safe enough to tell her story, give up her secrets and release her pain, I felt shamed by my earlier thinking.

I saw the same thing repeated daily in my practice at the clinic, clients hiding their beauty and wisdom behind years of walled off pain, desperately needing to find a way out, and just as desperately determined to create a kind of safety that prevented them from doing so.

The spoken message was, please help me, my life is a mess and I can’t go on.

The unspoken message was, I’ve been hurt so much that I can’t let you close enough to know me.  I have to constantly guard from danger.

It took time to understand how to separate people’s defenses from their deeper essence, but I count it as one of the most valuable lessons of my life.

Debbie Ford wrote a book called, “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers,” which helps us understand how we project what we can not accept in ourselves onto others. If you haven’t read it and feel ready to look at your own shadow side, I’d give it a try.


pale-roseI was in my last year at boarding school before I picked up a book and read it from cover to cover. Before that, words were a collection of tiny line drawings in black ink, placed against a light background and bunched together in clusters of illegible form. Much of my childhood was spent alone in my room with one illness or another. School became a place I rarely went, so my mother hired tutors to keep me in the educational loop.  I didn’t fully realize that I couldn’t read, because I’d been taught the mechanics in school, I simply could not gain entry.

Tutors came to my bedroom and left stacks of books on the night table, with demands for memorizing and reciting to avoid failure. Bright pink markers guided me with clear certainty to mountains of exercises and reading assignments. I saw the tutors and the books as ugly intruders, the certain onset of a headache. I would look at the pages as one would look at a book of Latin or Greek, and put it aside. I wanted to comply but didn’t know how. Once, in my frustration, I copied the pictures I saw in pencil and ink. I made a great sweeping portrait of Mark Twain and handed it over instead of a book report. It landed in the trash with more threats and verbal lashings describing the dismal future I’d have if I failed to cooperate. If I had been brave, I would have torn the pages and filled my bedroom with paper airplanes, but I didn’t do that. I was not brave.

Reading was painfully slow, but I got better as I got older, better at faking my inability and better at recognizing words. I envied those who saw it as a source of comfort or escape into a better world. When we were assigned book reports in school I would ask others to describe the story or ask a librarian to talk to me about the book. I was able to slide by, but hiding and the extra effort made me weary.

When I was sent to boarding school to recover my health, my roommate gave me John Steinbeck’s  Of Mice and Men. She owned his entire collection which sat on a shelf between our beds. Here, read this, she said, as I lay in bed with a cold. It will help pass the time. I had never read anything that was not academic. I opened the book out of sheer boredom, expecting as ever to be turned away, either by dull content or its failure to allow entry. To my surprise and delight, I was invited inside. The words were easy and enjoyable. I could read it!  I went from cover to cover and wanted another. I was so proud of myself. I was 17 years old and it was the first book I’d read from start to finish. This Steinbeck guy didn’t seem so bad.

Unfortunately, the experience didn’t begin a love affair. I had too many year of seeing books as the enemy for that, plus they required holding still, which I didn’t enjoy either. After so many years of illness, I wanted to be out in the world, doing, not stuck in a room reading.

My character is not very different now. I do love finding a good book, but never suffer an author I don’t connect with immediately. I find beauty and comfort in language, especially in classics like Anna Karenina, and the well-met phrases of Shakespeare.  Dick Francis and his stories from being the jockey for Queen Elizabeth are other favorites.  And now, as miracles have it, I have my own book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Who would have thunk? Surely not the little girl lying miserable and alone in her room, starring at the towering piles of books near her bed,  and wanting to burn each and every one.

Writing Memoir

Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

writingThis is what happens each time I sit to write. I ask myself to look at life straight, without skipping over the shadow places, or pretending I don’t hear what I hear, or see what I see.

I ask my courage to dive deep into dark waters with eyes wide open when my tendency is to turn away, protect or avoid. Warning lights flash in my belly. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe. I tell myself it’s not too late to turn back. But I go there, because if I am successful, I won’t have to live above the swamp. I can drain it, release the power of the underworld and add sunshine.

To look again at what was, is to open my memory to sights and sounds and smells I have masterfully put aside. My mind tells me to cut off the past like a dead limb, because there is simply no point, no useful purpose. Look ahead, it tells me. Plan the future. My mind tries to be nice to me, to do me a favor and keep me out of trouble. I appreciate it, but I can’t move forward as long as there is unfinished business.

I pride myself on having created, against all odds, a body of water that is clear and calm. Why would I stir it up with memories of the past? Not just stir it up, but keep my eyes wide open. My mind directs me to sunny beaches in Mexico, while my emotions direct me to the business of truth telling.

I reach for Hershey’s kisses. Little pieces of chocolate wrapped in shiny golden paper with an almond hidden within. I’m allergic to chocolate, but the almond eases the guilt. If I listen to the language of the heart, it’s telling me that I need some kisses, whether or not I can digest them, and not only do I need them, I need them now. Not after the next paragraph. Kisses can’t wait.

Writing memoir brings up issues of privacy and loyalty. Do I want others to know my history? Will I lose power or gain it by revealing myself?  The past is not the present. Is it fair to portray what was frozen in my personal archives? Surely, everyone experienced our time together differently. Each person is a country in and of themselves. Is it fair in revealing my memories to expose, accurately or inaccurately, the personal landscape of others? Will I be seen as an alien invader? Most certainly, I will. I intend to see with honest eyes, but whose version of the truth is revealed? I commit to write, and ask for forgiveness if my version of the truth offends those living or those already in the spirit world.  Sometimes I hesitate to recall memories for fear it would pull on the spirit of another in a negative way, when what is called for is forgiveness. All these things are considered and felt when we open the door to deep diving.

Oh, you animal!

bookMy massage therapist, Jean, recommended a book by Crowley and Lodge called, Younger Next Year.  She said it inspired her to eat well, and set her on a course of regular exercise.

Being inspired to exercise sounded good to me, since I find it difficult to do anything but work, write, cook, see clients and watch some BBC. Jean did not mention, nor did the title, that the book came in two versions, one for men and one for women.

I searched my library and was glad to see the bright yellow book jacket resting happily on the top shelf, waiting for me to tuck it under my arm and take it home, which I did.

The book started out innocently enough, two men talking about the importance of staying fit, one man a physician, the other a 70 year old attorney, who traversed from aliments and retirement, to trim and energetic.

I did wonder if I wanted to read a book written by two men, since I’m not inclined to take advice from men. I find them a little alien and male for my literary tastes, but I forged ahead.

As I turned the pages, I began to wonder how Jean could have felt so excited about the information, and questioned our compatibility as readers. In one chapter, I was jolted out of all propriety when I read, “Get off the couch and exercise, you lazy son of a bitch.”

In another chapter, I learned that nose hair could become a real problem as I got older, and that I’d better plan to find a way of clipping it before my nostrils looked like a home for wolverines.

That was followed by a piece that said I should never neglect shaving in my later years, lest I start looking like Yasir Arafat. It did not end there.

I read that my ears would need tending as well. They advised finding a barber who was good at that, unless I wanted to look old and furry.

I began to have alarming ideas about age. The last straw was a paragraph that told me that guys in their 50 or 60’s could be surprised by suddenly having a penis that curled up like a chow’s tail when erect. “Imagine,” it said, “straight ahead and true for 50 years. And now, it’s looking ever so slightly up at the sky.”

Must I be warned about the future of my husband’s penis?

I closed the book and reached for the phone. Jean! What were you thinking to recommend such a book to me? I can’t believe you even liked it.

When I told her what I had read she began to laugh her lovely light Jean laugh. You must have the book for men, she said. There is a similar one for women. I’ll lend you mine, if you’d like.  At that point I was nearly finished so I declined. Besides, I had not read the chapter titled:



readingHenley continued to move through our lives with regularity. Utterly oblivious to the material world, he became a serious student of metaphysics. He also became convinced that I had special healing powers, which I certainly did not, at least not the kind he imagined. In the evening he knocked on the door to request a healing treatment for his balding head. This consisted of seating himself in front of the woodstove and offering non-stop conversation, while I placed my hands above his head, and sent the heat from my palms into his thinning patches of remaining hair. I had no faith in my abilities, but he was positive I had powers from another world. It couldn’t hurt and his conversation was interesting, so I became his healer. (His hair never did grow, by the way.)

Henley never entered or left a room in the usual manner. Most people have rituals which consist of entering or leaving talk. For instance, how nice to see you, how have you been? Or in leaving, I think it’s about time to go, it’s been great. Henley, however, entered a room like he’d been there all day, and had just gotten up to get a drink. He launched into full blown conversation without warning and left by simply disappearing. He just rose from his chair and walked out. This always left Kristen and I baffled, and looking at each other questioning, is he gone? Do you think he’s done now?

The other bizarre puzzle was that one of the young skaters he had coached had matured and was on her way to a silver medal. Because he didn’t have a phone, I would receive his calls and retrieve him from the far corners of the house. The calls came from all over the world. When he took them, he stopped being the eccentric Henley I knew, and became the authority in his field. His voice lowered as he dispensed advice, and gave long distance suggestions on winning strategies. My jaw always dropped to the floor during these conversations. I privately mused, who are you Mr. Henley, who lives in there?

We lived in Henley’s house for five years, then left for Seattle. His mother passed away shortly after Kristen and I moved out, leaving him a large settlement. He gave B’Lou one of his mother’s mink coats, paid his back debts, sold his house and moved to Tacoma. I lost track of him after that. But where ever he is, I’m sure he continues to be optimistic, has maintained his status as a world class trasher, and is pursuing his love of learning. If I am wrong, and his inheritance has run out, you might look closely into the eyes of the next tall thin man you see bending into the garbage to retrieve bottles. Could be Henley, who is not really a bad guy at all. I think you’d like him.


texas-rainbowHow does one heal, prosper and thrive? 

How does one enter the core of themselves to discover the light within?

The essential thing is to find the part of you that is already well, always has been and always will be. To do this you need to rise above the personality and the physical to find the wise woman or wise man that lives within, the one who is just visiting this place, and remains unaffected by external events. Find the part of you that is the child of divine energies, and not human ones. That part has the answers you are looking for. Here is an exercise that might help.

Quiet yourself, relax your body, and imagine sending your energy deep into the center of the earth where it can be held. Rest there, release and allow your spirit to be cradled and safe. Next imagine a light that comes from above, a divine light that knows no boundaries. Allow it to penetrate your physical body, moving through and around, allow it to merge with the energy of the earth. Breathe into the place where heaven and earth meet, breathe into the place that knows that your life is sacred and you have everything you need. This is a physical place in your body. Once you find it, you can go back. This is your place of peace, guidance and power. The most important thing is finding it and knowing it is there. 

The first step in healing for my clients is to feel seen, to have another person view the truth of their essence and hold it with respect and appreciation. The next is to understand the place their soul resides and to know how to access it by themselves.  When you have engaged this place, reality shifts and you stop giving power to people and things outside yourself. You know your inner truth to be greater than anything that exists externally, which allows more peace and gratitude. Learning to trust your inner voice is a formidable task because we have a lifetime of conditioning that directs us to do otherwise. I call this listening to the voice of spirit. If you listen, you will hear, maybe not right away, but eventually.

The logical mind is jealous. It says, no way buddy. I’ve been running this show a long time and don’t want to yield. I’ll do everything I can to get you back if you stop listening to me. This part feels threatened by the shift, so an internal dialogue is necessary. The logical mind needs to be reassured that it will not be out the door, it will just be given a supporting role instead of being the ruler on the throne. The voice of logic will come from the personality, your fears, society, and well-intended friends. It takes tremendous faith, courage and trust to wait patiently when guidance tells you one thing and the voices of logic are yelling, Are you out of your mind? It is a process but the pay-off is tremendous.

The planet is demanding we abandon old structures to make room for new growth, however uncomfortable, a new beginning is about to occur. Stay awake and aware. Don’t get locked in distress or focus on endings. Remain fluid. This time may not be easy, but it will be rewarding. Let go of old ways, it is time to allow change.


beach-windI have a place in my heart that will not heal. It grows but does not diminish. Coming to the ocean helps me empty it when it gets too full. The pain is an ache, a heart break, an intolerable hurt that makes me wish I could throw it up and out.

I am displaced, a person put down on the wrong planet, a snail pushed naked from its shell. The people here are nice; most are sweet and kind. We interact but my sense of belonging and sisterhood remains disengaged. Where is my tribe? Where are the others like me? Where can I plant my feet and feel my spirit returned to its home place?

I come to the ocean to heal, to breathe the air deep inside my lungs, to weep without apology, and be accepted by a vast watery expanse greater than my sorrow.

The man who owns the Oceanside Inn tells me that he is perfectly happy there. There is no place else on earth I would rather be. He means it. I know many people like him, people who are at one with the place they live, the people they interact with, the work that defines them.

I am a healer for the artists, the creative souls, the sensitive ones, the spiritual seekers. I know the landscape of their pain and the road they walk upon. I understand the loneliness of being different and set apart. I am the wise woman they seek to heal their hearts, because I don’t hold up societies mirror and tell them to be what they can never be. I show them the reflection of their gifts and greatness. I teach acceptance and celebration. I take them to the core so they know how to breathe into the sacredness of their lives. I support and love them as they become their dreams.

So – why can’t I do the same for myself? Why can’t I find my own path to freedom? What bridge will connect me to an experience of life that makes sense? When will I stand on land that I never want to leave? When will I look into the eyes of others and feel a sense of tribe?

Gib thinks I am elitist, but that is not true. This is not about class. It is about finding the lifestyle and energies around me so alien that I can not relate. He has no such problem. My husband is wired for this place. He slams up against life like a game of bumper cars, and is better for it. He rejects nothing, because it all makes sense to him, television, sports, taverns, community. He is in it all, racing up and down the highway every day, ready for the next adventure. Our relationship is one of opposites. I am the turtle and he is the train. I am exhausted by people, while he is recharged. There is a lovely tenderness between us that overrides this polarity, but it remains a challenge.

If only you didn’t feel every single thing, he tells me. If only you could censor or repress, like the rest of us. You don’t have the emotional walls we have to protect ourselves.

Maybe that is the definition of a psychic. Everything comes in. There is no shelter, there is no escape.

But I have not given up hope. I still believe if I keep traveling and searching that I may eventually find a place that resonates as home and a people I can call my tribe. If not, I look forward to returning to an unseen realm as expansive and vast as the ocean that cradles my spirit today.

A cool breeze lifts the papers in my notebook as I write, while an unexpected January sun lays against my forehead like a long lingering kiss. There is peace here, in this moment. I will take it with me; tuck it away like medicine for the secret broken place I carry in the truth-telling places of my heart.


paint-swirlMany people envision their ideal writing room as the retreat house I live in.  It is removed from the distractions of the city, looks into a forest of trees through a wall of windows, and is so still I can match the beat of my heart with the ticking clock. There is an abundance of light to balance winter’s grey and every piece of furniture pleases and comforts me. This has been my nest for four years now, a space that healed me when I fragmented. I saw too many clients in the city and had no resting place. I was the surgeon of the heart who dug deep into hemorrhaging spirits and torn dreams. I removed abscesses and lanced tumors. The colors of my days were drop-dead blood-tired red. The flood of clients that moved through my office door has been reduced to a select few who come by word of mouth and are willing to travel to the country.

 It was a day in March, two years ago, when I pulled a chair to the edge of the bed, propped up my feet and talked with my husband about imagining a different future. Maybe a film, I said. Perhaps I can share my work that way. I called friends who are filmmakers and had long discussions. In the end, we decided against film because there would be too many people involved and too much money out.  We found audio accessable, affordable and easy. And so we began in a friend’s sound studio, which sits at the top of 300 acres of pristine land on Ross Mountain. My conversation with Dennis, the owner was endearing. Yes, Karen, come! Ross mountain will give you its magic and you will leave yours in return, a perfect trade. 

We birthed three hours of material from months of editing and discovery. We’d found a new direction, and it grew. We hired website ladies who gave us the idea of a blog, making podcasts and breathing life into an old manuscript which was gathering dust in the closet.

This space has housed that kind of birthing, as well as the stagnant times when I question my life and abilities, cry at my altar and wish to be released from something that restricts my heart, something long lasting that defines my existence, but can not be named. 

My work here is almost over. I feel a stirring to move on – a hunger to rejoin humanity. The gypsy in me is packing her bags. Next I want to write in a house with other people where we can visit, lunch and inspire one another to be more. I am ready to reach again into theater and community.

Soon, this space will hold my leaving and a greater leaving still. The where of that destination I don’t yet know, but I imagine a villa, bicycles and the Mediterranean sea. I will spend half my time in Portland and half my time in sun. I envision a warm place where I can put pen to paper and hear my written voice.

Forest visit

sparrowFasting makes the veil between the worlds thin, so more is revealed. I am on my sixth day now, full of curiosity and readiness to see what is delivered. My morning has been beautiful. I slipped on my old grey sweater, pulled blue jeans under my dress and laced hiking boots. What a combination, very odd and very me. I am grateful to be able to walk along the hillside, pass into the woods and be swallowed deep inside her belly. She always feeds me and is gentle. I feast on a million shades of green and listen to the songs of the birds and the buzzing of a single black and orange bee. How grateful I am for this gift of time and communion. I could be stuck in a cubicle, in front of a computer, in traffic, in a bad marriage or in the bloody wars brought by the last administration. How fortunate indeed.

I walk the road until I come to the log that blocks my path, always a good place to rest or turn back. But today I notice a chainsaw has cut the base of it, preparing to move it elsewhere. Climbing over the top, I notice the entire lower trail has been cleared and widened into the road it was intended to be, even the basin impossibly dense with blackberry bushes has been cleared. Just a matter of time now before the owner claims his forest road and I am left without my sanctuary.

I move back over the log and retrace my steps to a small dirt clearing. With sun at my back, I am able to sit for an hour being quiet and letting the forest feed me. Fasting and age allows a stillness that is not available to the young. Their bodies demand so much of them. Run here, do that, keep going, climb higher. It takes a kind of skill to sink into the womb of the forest.

I look down at my leather boots and blue jeans, and at my dress and silk slip peeking out around my knees. I love the colors, fabrics and textures. I love the deep inner quiet I feel, and for a few rare moments, am truly happy to be the spirit housed in this body.

Coming Together

magniolia-treeWhat does it mean to need?

Need defines an empty space waiting to be filled. Why does that embarrass me? Is it the sheer depth and volume of that space? Is it my belief that it should not exist, and if it does exist that it should have been satisfied long ago? The truth is that I am needy. I do need. I have been alone most of my life, so I am good at being independent and closed down. There have been too many disappointments.

What lives in me now is an ancient need, a need with the force of a tornado or a hurricane. It is a force that moves through me. I am powerless to contain it. The hiding place of this need has been opened and revealed in our meeting. I can not stop it any more then a birthing mother can arrest her labor.

I am vulnerable, fragile and young in this place. I am a child needing to be reassured. Yes, he tells me. You’ll be fine. I see who you are and I am not running away. I am moving closer.

I trust him. I open to let him in, all the time asking my warrior self to stand ready. Snatch her out of there if it looks too dangerous, I warn. The ice could crack and she could go down. But the only ice that cracks is the freeze around my heart, leaving me more and more exposed. The man holds my dreams in his hands, and so far he holds them tenderly and with compassion.

Do I dare trust?

Do I dare hope?

Do I dare be this needy?

There is nothing for it but to be in the moment allowing life to be life, and love to grow and open, or not. There is no control now, only hope and a great desire for the safety of the child within. The child is always visible in the fabric of ones life, always. I’ve had glimpses of myself standing on the strength of love, and felt every fiber shifting its position to one of readiness and allowing. The moment is the only truth I can hold and this moment is beautiful and full of gratitude.

I hope you don’t mind how obsessed I am with you.

I hope you don’t mind my crazy morning hair, morning breath and controlling behavior.

I hope you don’t mind getting to know my internal cast of characters.

I hope you don’t mind my extreme independence.

I hope you don’t mind meeting my friends and family.

I hope you don’t mind the way I can’t get enough of your body, scent, smile, and boyish grin.

I hope you don’t mind being the man who runs interference for me with machines, sprinklers, computers, cars and gadgets of every kind.

I hope you don’t mind coming home to me for the rest of your life and folding your warm flesh against my hungry body. I hope you don’t mind how I run on and on about adoring you.


seattle-street It was late – almost midnight.  My friend John and I had gone to the theater in downtown Seattle. We were waiting for buses to arrive, to take us home in different directions. He offered to ride on my bus, to see me safely home, but I discouraged the idea. For heaven’s sake, John, the buses hardly run at this hour. You’d be on a bus all night long if we did that. I’m a big girl, so go on your way. I appreciate your concern, but no. It’s not at all necessary.

John’s bus came and went, while I waited and waited for my own. After fortyfive minutes, I decided to stop waiting and walk. It was a five mile trek, but I knew the exercise and night air would do me good. Besides, I reasoned, if I got tired I could grab the next bus that went by. I was within a mile of my house, when I began to have an unsafe feeling. Suddenly, the road seemed a little too dark, and I felt a little too alone. To remedy this, I left the well lit main street and headed toward the residential neighborhood I was familiar with. I was weaving my way past historic moonlit houses and enjoying the architecture, when a shadow of a man burst from the bushes, heading straight in my direction. I stopped walking and yelled at him.

Please stop. Don’t run at me like that. You’re scaring me.

My head hit the pavement with a thud as he pounded fists against my face. Blood ran from my mouth and tears filled my eyes as he continued to pound and kick. So, this is how I will die, I thought, murdered on the streets of Seattle. It was all happening so fast. My body was reacting to each new blow with stunned shock. Where, I wondered, was the superhuman strength I had read about when mothers lifted cars to free trapped children? Where was the superhuman strength that would kick in to defend me now? I felt my bladder release and the unwelcome warmth of urine against my legs. I was wearing black Chinese slippers, a long black skirt and taffeta jacket. I remember because I later burned them.

Scream, I told myself. You can do that much. Come out of alarmed silence and scream. Do it! Do it!  From somewhere inside a blood curdling scream rose from my throat and filled the air. I screamed as loud as I could, while he ran his hands along my bruised body in search of a wallet, jewelry or anything else of value. Porch lights flashed on in neighboring houses as men and women ran into the street in pajamas and bathrobes. The attacker fled as quickly as he had arrived – a dark man, in dark clothes going back into a dark night.

Within moments, police lights flashed up the street. A woman in her nightdress lifted me from the sidewalk, my eyes swollen and painful, my mouth bloody and my jaw tender to touch. The woman wanted to bring me inside for comfort, but I felt the wet against my skirt and declined. Two policemen propped me up. What did you see? Exactly what happened? Could you identify him if you have to? Do you need to go to the hospital? Are you sure you are okay to spend the night alone?

They drove me the final mile to the storefront and ushered me inside. This is the worst possible lock to have, the older policeman said, and these windows, why anyone could come right through these windows.

 I couldn’t believe he was lecturing me. Could we discuss this another time? I asked. They agreed and offered to check on me the next day.

Thank you, I said. I’d like that. They piled fear upon fear, left their business card on the table, and walked out. I closed my flimsy door with the inadequate lock behind them.  I think I might have been able to spend the night alone, if their words hadn’t pushed me to the edge. I sat for a long time wondering what to do when I remembered a street musician I’d met at Pike Place Market, a black man with beaming brown eyes and strong arms. We’d laughed together and shared stories over lunch. I liked and trusted him, so I rang him up. I knew he was getting ready to leave for Holland, hoping to permanently change his residence, but he hadn’t left yet.

Tyrone, this is Karen.

He was yawning, his voice full of sleep. Karen, girl, what’s up? It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. You sound awful.

Would you come to my house and sleep on the couch for a few nights, that would comfort me. I’ve just had a crazy experience on the street. I’m afraid of being alone right now, if you could bring some things and stay two or three nights. I would greatly appreciate it.

Give me directions, he said.  My son is staying with his mom this week-end, I’m free. I’ll be right over.

To his eternal credit Tyrone transported himself in the middle of the night, tucked his large framed body into my very small couch and went off to work in the morning. 

My face was swollen in shades of pink, black and deep purple. It hurt when I talked or moved, neither of which I was inclined to do.  I was afraid to leave my house. Crossing the street to Rip’s Market became an ordeal. I stood in the doorway for long periods of time, looking both ways. Waiting, heart racing, wondering who would jump out next. Was I really that hungry? I’d ask myself. Can’t you wait a little longer to go? I cracked the door open slowly, fearfully looking each way before stepping out. I soon realized that others were avoiding my gaze, taking me for a battered women. I no longer made eye contact.

Sleep was no escape. I woke repeatedly lurching in bed, my body covered with sweat, my dreams full of terror and knives. Tyrone stayed on the couch, while I kept the phone inches from my pillow. It took two weeks and a trip back to New York to recover, but recover I did and began scheduling clients again.


tiger13I saw a Clint Eastwood movie last night and came away completely satisfied. What is it about these movies?  Clint is the equalizer, like Bruce Willis and Tony Soprano. They are the warriors, the ones who put things right by finding quick, immediate solutions to injustice. There is no guilt, or long involvement with the grinding gears of a glacial legal system. They take matters into their own hands and do what needs to be done.

As a therapist I admit to having revenge fantasies when I hear stories about child beatings, rape and other unimaginable cruelties. I want to call The Godfather and say, go take care of this. I don’t ever want this to happen again to anyone. Stop it now and forever, wipe it off the face of the earth. My spirit is looking for a cosmic hit man.

This part of me alarms my husband, who is one of the kindest men on earth. When Jodie Foster was sitting in the subway in, The Brave One, and saw three men approaching with knives to terrorize, rape and cut, she surprised them by pulling a gun and blowing them away. I squeezed my husbands hand during that intense scene and whispered, yes, in his ear, justice, immediate and final. He smiled a nervous smile. I loved seeing her move into her warrior self instead of becoming the victim that needs years of rehabilitation to recover a fragment of the woman she used to be. I’ve gone back with my clients to moments of original trauma. I sat with their courage when they looked at raw, open pain and wept right along with them. I now hold memories I don’t want to hold, and a knowledge of human suffering and injustice I can never release.

I understand there is no one to blame. I only wish it was that easy, but it never is, because the bad guy is usually the bad guy because of what was done to him. He is dealing with the thorn in his own heart. I look beyond him, to his tormentor, but the piercing is endless. Real life is so complicated, while movies are so wonderfully black and white.

Obama is a wonderful role model, much like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. They are the true leaders. They are warriors of the heart. The wise part of me knows this, but once in awhile, after a day of working in the trenches of life, I just want to go to the movies and watch the bad guys get blown off the planet.

Other Dimensions

ladderDave had been a business client for years. He exemplified upper management, drove a Cadillac, and looked like a model for GQ magazine. It was 1992. I was living in an old farm house on the crest of a mountain in the Columbia River Gorge. My clients commented on the peaceful drive along the Sandy River, telling me what an important inner transition it was.  I imagined Dave motoring along the river, as I rummaged through my closet, wondering what to wear. Deep in the corner hung the Native American ceremonial dress I was married in, more costume than daily wear, more dust catcher than useful. I kept it for its power and beauty. To my surprise, I found myself grabbing it from the hanger and slipping it over my head. 

Dave arrived on time, as punctual as ever. I offered tea and conversation, while noticing his change in attire. He no longer looked like Mr. GQ. He’d let his hair grow, wore turquoise jewelry and a loose fitting shirt over cotton pants. When I closed my eyes to read for him, I was aware of two distinct spirits. It surprised me so much I could not go forward.

Dave, Are you aware of the Indian that lives in you? I asked.

Yes. I’m so glad you said something because everyone else thinks I’m crazy. It happened a few months ago. I suddenly felt this desire to change myself. It is unexplainable, but I know exactly what you are seeing.

I could not do anything for Dave with the Indian in the way, so I stopped the reading.

Do you mind if I speak to him directly, to see what he wants and why he has come?

Please do. I want to know as well.

I made a bed on the floor from a yoga mat and blanket, and watched Dave lower his broad-shouldered body on to the mat, his manicured fingers neatly folded by his side. I sat on the floor next to him with one hand above his heart, another above his belly, and led him through a relaxation exercise.

Feel the welcome weight of the blanket that covers you. Breathe deeper still. Now, let yourself be held in the welcome arms of the earth. When Dave was cocooned and protected, I opened the channel between dimensions and summoned the Indian. I was rooted, calm and centered. I waited and listened, staying neutral and receptive. Then, an unexpected burst of energy literally swept me into another time and place, very much like being in a dream where daily reality ceases, and dream reality becomes total and all that is.

 I was walking with my Indian husband along a barely visible trail. Wind blew against silence, the only sound – a distant cracking of ice. We moved raw and slow through a towering canyon, stone spires and red rock sitting broken and piled below snow coated cliffs, the sky, pale and grey. I felt ice melting against my hair, as I lowered my face into the warm comfort of my buffalo robe. He and I walked heavy with things unsaid, and no voice to say them. I felt pained and inconsolable. Our only child lay buried under mounds of rock, while we moved on in search of food and shelter, our resources depleted.  His love for me was total, as mine was for him. I made a home in that knowledge. I made a life in it. There was no questioning or doubt. The experience of our love was unlike anything I have ever known, or come close to knowing in this life. It filled me.

That’s all there was, a glimpse, a moment, a lifetime. I was fully there, and than I was not. I was drawn back as rapidly as I’d left, my body jerking, small volts of electricity pulsing through my veins. My whole body felt burned, as if I’d stood too near the sun. I fell apart, and wept as if my heart had been cut. I could not console myself and was horrified that I was still in session. Poor Dave was working to bring himself out of trance to attend me. What happened? What happened, he repeated, again and again. What can I do for you?  I rocked back and forth, howling with grief for a dead child and a lost love, my knees pulled against my chest, arms wrapped around them like a teddy bear. 

I know that spirit. I know him, is all I could say. Please go now. I will finish your session another time.

shovel1Dave was reluctant to leave. I insisted. My world was falling apart. My boundaries were shattered. After he left, I paced like an animal. I shivered, felt feverish and sick. I went to the bathroom to find a homeopathic to calm myself, looked in the mirror and saw for the first time the irony of my attire. I had put on my Indian print wedding dress to meet my Native American husband from another dimension. I ripped off the dress, got a shovel and buried it deep in the yard. I didn’t want to have anything to do with a garment that could transport me instantly from one reality to another. I wanted to be in control. I went to bed and stayed there for several days. My body burned, my energy circuits fried.

Dave called often to see how I was, but I didn’t answer. I was afraid of him too, afraid that he could somehow pull me back into that place that made reality dissolve. I phoned him after a week, but didn’t put him back on the schedule for a full month. I needed to work up to it.

When I did see Dave, he looked more himself. Apparently the Indian had moved on, his visit complete. Dave brought a photograph with him of a man called, Black Eagle from the Nez Perce tribe. I knew what he looked like, he told me, so I went to the library to do some research, and there he was.

I held the photo in my hands. It was, without doubt, the face I had seen.

You can keep it, Dave said. And so I did.

Sometimes I place it on my altar and speak with him. Other times I put it away, because his presence feels too strong, yet he is always around. Black Eagle has appeared independently to friends, and once to a client doing a vision quest. He offers support and love to them, sometimes conveying messages to me.

Understanding Predictions


My friend Kim comes by every two or three months to exchange readings. I look forward to our visit because it’s a time of holding light and encouragement for one another. We both read in a way that puts our present experience in perspective, pulls in a glimpse of the future, and points to weak places where we need to hold firm and persevere. Our style and visionary skills are about love, support, encouragement and friendship.

My friend Susan was ten years old, when she went to a ‘Fun Fair’ in a friend’s basement. A fortune teller was hired to do readings for the kids. When it was Susan’s turn, the woman turned over three cards, studied them, and announced that Susan would die when she was twenty-six years old. End of reading.

Can you imagine saying this to an impressionable ten year old, or to anyone for that matter? This woman took child abuse to a new level. I am happy to announce that dear Susan is now sixty-six years of age, but she lived for sixteen years in secret terror. What kind of person tells another such a wicked thing?

The purpose of intuition, psychic abilities, or any level of extraordinary knowing is to shed light on our lives so we can heal, attain freedom, and elevate our consciousness to a perspective that allows an expanded understanding of reality. The mind is in charge of resistance and control. It is fear-based and wants to keep us safe. To move beyond the mind, into the realm of spirit, takes us deep inside an inherent wisdom, where we experience first hand the place in us that is timeless, the place that does not die, the place that is wise, the place that is just visiting this reality, the place that recognizes truth. When we understand the sacredness of our lives, our days take on a different perspective. We may get bogged down in the personality and the mundane, but knowing, feeling and experiencing the place where our soul resides, allows an essential freedom that can bring us back to center by simply closing our eyes, and engaging. Being brought back to center, and being reminded of the truth about our selves when we lose our way, is the purpose of a good reading. 

So be careful when you decide to ask for help. Think twice before you open yourself to someone you do not know. Ask people you trust for referrals, and don’t ever walk into a storefront with a ‘Psychic Readings’ sign posted in the window.

An Introvert’s Christmas


Snow is falling quietly and softly outside my window. It is light and undecided, on the border between snow and rain. My husband rose early, eager to make the long drive to his daughter’s house, where his children and their children will gather to celebrate. The house will be full of loud people with big voices, competing with an immense television blaring football and commercials. Children will scream for attention, squeal with delight, and play with noise-driven toys.

I have baked sugar cookies, cardamon-orange sweet rolls, and sent raspberry jam from last summer’s crop. I placed a hat on my husband’s head, stuffed gloves in his pocket, and watched him pull from the driveway, his tires chained and crunching ice.

Now it is my time. I go immediately to the stereo and put on Louie Armstrong. His voice fills the space, like a kiss from the past:

I see trees of green,

 red roses too.

 I see them bloom, for me and you,

and I think to myself,

what a wonderful world .

I see skies of blue,

And clouds of white,

 the bright blessed day,

 dark sacred night,

and I think to myself,

 what a wonderful world.

 As I listen, I sponge the coffee table clean, open windows for a blast of fresh air, clang a Tibetan bell to clear the space, and place a match against the wick of a candle, watching its light move into a tall steady flame. Finally, I fold a warm brown shawl across my shoulders, sit on the couch and silence the stereo. I breathe in the quiet, wrapping it around me like a welcome friend. I am old enough now not to feel guilty about who I am and what I need, or to put myself in situations that feel wrong or abrasive.

It is a great pressure being different in a society that has traditions and rules about what holidays mean, and how they are to be celebrated. Thanksgiving makes sense to me, because it’s a time to be thankful. But Christmas follows too close on its heels, and escalates into a kind of material carnage and shopping frenzy full of pressure and disappointments. It seems a day set aside to magnify family issues, and the difference between how our lives are, and the ideals we hold. Add to that my sincere dislike for material accumulation and the incompatibility grows.

I did have a moment yesterday, when I slipped into parental guilt, knowing how much my daughter, Kristen, has always loved holidays.

I’m sorry I live so far in the country, I told her. I should have a big house in town, where we can more easily gather as a family, and do a traditional Christmas.

Her answer was kind and real. Mom, don’t do that to yourself. That is not who you are, or what you really need or want. Just be you on Christmas day and enjoy it.

Kristen is busy cooking for the nearly one hundred residents who live at the ashram, fulfilling her dream of living with a large spiritual family.

And so, I sit in this peace-filled room, alone, watching snow and birds, and allowing my writing to surface with abundant time and space.

I’m sure many would judge my holiday sad and deprived of humanity, but I have a deep calm and a welcome communion with myself in not wishing to be any where else, or doing any thing else. Perhaps next year, I will be surrounded by quiet loving friends, but this year I am content, and delighted beyond measure to find that I can allow the richness of what I need, without pretending to be other than I am.

Making Sense of it


I never thought much about my ability to see into the lives of other people until I entered graduate school. I always had a sense of the layered qualities and patterns others carried, and was routinely advised and guided by dreams, but it was not until I did a practicum at Clackamas County Mental Health Center that my abilities were brought fully home.

Rich was the psychiatrist in residence, as well as my teacher and supervisor. He and I were running an evening therapy group when the subject of dreams came up. After group ended, he took me aside, Karen, write down a dream of your own, and bring it to our next supervision session. That will be an excellent way to explore.

I went to our session expecting to understand dream symbols, projection and relationship. What happened instead surprised me. The dream I brought was long, detailed and all about Rich. When I read it, he withdrew. His color blanched.  Nobody should know those things about me, he said, there is no way for anyone to know what you  just told me.  He became quiet, going deep inside his private world. His puzzled silence letting me know our meeting was finished.

My session with Rich made me aware that whatever was happening in my world was different than those around me. It made me question my career. I enjoyed learning to help and heal, but the methods seemed inadequate. I sat in a tiny consulting room and saw one person after the next. There was no magic answer for their pain, just a learned ability to listen, and to empower by providing feedback. But what empowerment could there be, when the person’s consciousness and view of reality stayed as small as the room we sat in? They needed a larger, more holistic vision.

I was too confused in those early years to follow my wisdom. I only knew the limits of what I was learning, and that it was wrong for me. I already had stomach ulcers from stress, so I dropped the program. Instead, I joined a theater company to travel, sing, dance and wash the sorrow from my bones. There was a woman in the company who read tarot cards. When she read mine, I was both amazed and hooked. Here was a language of symbols and images which spoke volumes without the written word. Looking at the cards gave me an ancient sense of homecoming.  Here, at last was a way for the voices that spoke through my dreams to be direct, immediate and available. I closed myself from the outside world, and spent days being pulled into their complex framework, a framework that beautifully described the human condition. 

I lived in a converted mansion with a sweeping central staircase, occupied solely by artists. The tenants were poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, designers and theater people. When I announced what I was doing, nearly everyone in the building came for a reading. I gave generously, eager to test my wings.feathers1

I was surprised to learn that some people were afraid of the cards, because they had been hurt by words from unloving hearts. They had been told cruel and unjust things by fortune tellers and gypsies, who placed cards on the table between them, as they delivered fear-based messages. I was also surprised that people came back wanting more and more. But I just gave you a reading. I just told you that.

It took a long time to make the soup that became my healing practice. I drew on many varied ingredients, but always used the first session to gain trust. I’d quiet myself and merge with my clients to understand the blueprint of their lives; what gifts they had, what troubles, patterns and hurts. I gave this knowing back with a spiritual perspective, so they had a new understanding and foundation to stand on. We did whatever healing was needed to shine light into the shadows that kept them trapped and unfulfilled.

People ask how I developed my skills and inquire about my teachers, but developing my sensitivity has never been the focus. The focus has been learning to live with and manage it. I do not seek books, classes or teachers. I  seek to escape them. For years I could not go into crowds, ride a train, or go to a department store, because my body became overloaded. Feeling and seeing so much overwhelmed me and made me ill. I have learned to focus down and make boundaries, but it does not happen easily. My husband goes to parties alone.

One of my students left an intuitive training class saying, When I came to class, I thought I would give anything to have the skills you have, to see what you see, and be able to do what you do, but now that I understand what it takes, I am very grateful that I am not you!  

Nancy’s Story

bird-in-handNancy had lots of psychiatric labels when she came to see me; bi-polar and borderline personality to name a few. She was thirty years old, severely overweight and had an attachment disorder that compelled her to phone her father several times every hour. Nancy came for healing at her father’s request.

When she sat down the generator outside the window burst into life, roaring with deafening noise. The button on the tape player refused to stay in the record position, the microwave engaged, the dog began barking and a neighbor knocked on the door. It is not unusual for children with psychic abilities to cause such disruption, but this was a different energy. When I closed my eyes to read for her, I saw the spirit of a large unbalanced man who was sharing her body.

Nancy had been so labeled, treated, medicated and repressed by the medical system that she’d lost all sense of health. Together we found and enforced her healthy-self and brought it back into consciousness, so she had a frame of reference to begin our work. I spoke about spirit possession, and asked if she was aware of it.

I have always felt there was an uncontrollably violent part of me, she said, that is living my life. I do things that frighten other people. When it’s happening, it feels like I get pushed aside, as if someone else is doing it. Then I wake up, look around and wonder what happened.

Nancy went away with a new understanding and spiritual perspective which gave her strength and encouragement, but I knew I couldn’t make progress until the spirit was removed.

incenseI have always seen spirits. For some reason, I vibrate with a higher energy frequency, an openness and sensitivity that allows sight into realms that don’t exist for most people. I have been called to remove disruptive spirits from houses and from clients like Nancy in the past. I do it by quieting, closing my eyes, and allowing them to come into vision. I witness their story, all of which plays like a movie inside my head. I am not always successful in this work, but when there is success, the spirit moves on and their absence changes the person’s life for the better. The spirit I saw in Nancy felt large, male and violent. I didn’t feel that I was strong enough or capable enough to move him out, so I began to research someone who might do it for me.

I heard about a medical intuitive from a friend, and asked Nancy if she would be interested in going.  After Nancy’s visit, the healer informed me that there was no problem at all. If there were I would have seen it, she said. Her casual approach and ungrounded confidence led me to believe that she had no skill in that area at all.

I asked for help from a healer from the Lakota tradition, but he was full of ego and wanted Nancy to show up for weeks of training before starting the work. That would never happen, so I passed on him as well.

I was walking in downtown Portland with my friend, Cora, when we happened upon Nancy. After she and I exchanged pleasantries, Cora looked troubled. Who was that woman, she asked? She has such a dark energy in her. It feels male and angry, like it’s been with her a long time.  Cora’s words were helpful, because it’s easy to doubt myself when I am the only person who sees what I see. I have learned to trust, but there is still the loneliness of a work that is not easy for others to comprehend or share.

I continued to search for the right person for a full year. I asked a local clairvoyant, who is excellent with predictions, but found her uncomfortable with thoughts of possession. I asked a Catholic friend if she knew a priest who was capable, but got no reply. In my frustration, I encouraged myself to do the work, but a wiser part knew that I was out of my depth. This spirit would take a strong masterful personality, not a gentle feminine one.

My daughter and granddaughter live in an ashram, and mentioned that the Abbot, Swami monkChetanananda was returning from a year in Tibet. The term Swami, means teacher and bringer of light in Tibetan Buddhism. I had not met him before, but encouraged Nancy’s father to seek an audience  and explain the situation. He and Nancy went together and I came later. The Swami is a large bodied man, over six feet tall, who has devoted his life to spiritual practice and mastery. We talked about spirits and spirituality. He confirmed my vision and agreed to meet with Nancy for three puja’s, or healing rituals, where he would release the spirit. I was extremely grateful, since it is rare for the Swami to attend the healing of an individual.

It is not uncommon in healing for things to get worse before they get better, which is what Nancy reported after the first session. She exploded in anger and was crippled by migraine headaches. During the second puja, the spirit was released and the third brought her back to normal.

Nancy is a different person now. She no longer lives in cloaked avoidance of light, but seeks it. She can function, react normally, is no longer violent, and no longer calls her father for constant assurance.  She is in school, doing well and working two jobs. When the spirit entered, at about age twelve, her own development was arrested. So she and I met to repair her sense of self, and make sense of many troubled and forgotten years. There is more work for her to do, but that is in the future. For now, she is happy to have joined the world and I am happy for her.