Empowerment, Healing

Healing the Father Wound: My Journey from Rage to Reconciliation

I remember the seething, white-hot rage I felt inside. I wanted to burn shit down or blow it up and leave a trail of ashes behind me. I had finally connected the dots between a father who was emotionally absent and impossible to please and the men I had attracted into my life. Guess what? They were emotionally absent and impossible to please, too.  

When you don’t receive that unconditional love and support from the man who is supposed to teach you how men should treat you, then you’re likely to make poor choices in the relationship department. You keep trying to be good enough. You twist and mold yourself into whatever shape you think he desires. You make too many compromises about where and how you’ll live. You sell yourself out. You get swept away. You bury your dreams. You dismiss your gut feelings. You keep hoping that the next one will really see you, appreciate you, and actually be there for you in body and soul.  

So you try—again—to love someone else, to be open, to get past the scars on your heart. You light up inside when he approves of you and die a little when he doesn’t, because the wound is still there. You’re still hoping to earn his love. You have expectations he can’t possibly fulfill. It’s not even his job to fulfill them, but you don’t know that yet. Every relationship you have with a man is just another opportunity to heal the bleeding, gaping Father Wound, but the problem is that you’re not going to the source. 

Then you get fed up after all the painful goodbyes and starting over for the umpteenth time with your life in cardboard boxes. You want things to change. A light comes on. You start doing the work on yourself, because why not? Nothing else has helped, has it?   

You see the pattern you’ve been repeating. It feels like wading through miles of swamp water and muck. You grieve. You rage some more. You feel disgusted. You kick yourself for not waking up sooner, for not knowing what you think you should have known. Then you kick yourself for kicking yourself. You sit in circles, alone and with others. You tell your story. You listen to their stories. You feel heard and witnessed as you are, raw and unvarnished. You shed holy tears. You forgive. You breathe. You do this work for months or years, however long it takes.         

Gradually, with wobbly legs and new skin, you begin to give yourself the love you never received. It is strange, at first, to walk in worthiness, to know your own power, to have clear boundaries, to not seek validation. Then self-worth becomes your default setting, and those around you either adjust or fall away. You know your triggers quite well; they are old friends by now. You catch yourself long before you are at risk of falling into the same old tar pit. 

Sometimes, your healing ripples outward through your words, your prayers, your offerings.     

I have watched my father go through his own metamorphosis, prompted mostly by terminal illness and the realization of his own mortality. We’ve had many conversations that usually start out with how the weather has been, who is ill, and who died recently. There have been times, though, when we transcended the whole father-daughter relationship to simply be with each other as two souls trying to figure out life. 

I once told him that I never learned how to do marriage very well.   

He paused for a minute and said, “I never did either, honey.” 

Then we laughed! It was one of the most real moments we’ve ever had, both acknowledging that we’ve fucked up and even finding humor in our mutual fucked-up-ness. 

I understand now that I had to go through this whole cycle of healing the Father Wound, because you can’t teach something that you haven’t lived. I didn’t ask for the wound, but the responsibility to heal it was, and always will be, mine. Much of what informs and enlivens my coaching practice is my own journey toward wholeness. It took years for my rage to become compassion, years before I would see my father as the catalyst who set me on my spiritual path, and years before I could have a 360 degree view of it all and feel gratitude.  

Healing the Father Wound changed how I viewed all men, and maybe that has been the greatest gift in this journey. When I stopped categorizing them as either oppressors or saviors, I began to see into their individual and collective pain. It was just as valid and deep as my own, and that awareness cracked me open. It still does, every single time that a man drops his armor and bares his soul to me. 

My dad has an incredibly sensitive heart—he just had it beaten out of him by a tyrannical, abusive father and an indifferent mother. In another life, he might have been a poet and a dreamer like his only daughter turned out to be. I carry what he wasn’t allowed to carry because of a patriarchal culture that equates sensitivity with weakness. I carry it like a medicine staff, because it is one.  

May we rise above the outdated paradigms. May we heal our parental wounds, for ourselves and the generations to come. May we strive to understand each other, and in that understanding, may we find peace.    

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.    

Empowerment, Healing

The Receipts We Carry

 

Cleaning out my purse is a weekly ritual for me, because I can’t stand digging through unnecessary items to reach the one thing I need (usually, it’s my car keys). Receipts tend to accumulate more than anything else. I buy something and shove the receipt down in my purse, as I’m grabbing the handles of my reusable tote and zooming out the door to the next task on my list. I forget about the receipt, unless I happen to need it for a return. It just stays there as a reminder of what I purchased, until I do my weekly purse purging.

When this subject came up in a Facebook group, I shared my routine and wished out loud that getting rid of emotional receipts could be so easy. Suddenly, those annoying slips of paper took on a much deeper meaning.

Let’s unpack this idea a little more.

When we buy something, we’re exchanging our time and energy. We convert work into currency, and then we use it to pay for things. We also have “emotional currency” that we exchange all the time, although we’re not always conscious of these transactions. Sometimes they are subtle, and sometimes we are keenly aware of what we’re giving and receiving from others. Either way, we pick up “energetic receipts” that remind us of what a choice or an experience has cost us…until we’re ready to let them go.

It is astonishing how heavy a purse can get when left unattended. It becomes a black hole that keeps taking on junk until it throws off your gait, ruins your posture, and causes your back and shoulders to ache. Curious things, these purses we carry and all that we store inside them. They are much like our wombs that also house more than we realize, literally and emotionally.

After learning the art and practice of womb centering from Diva Carla of Orgasmic Alchemy, I began to understand that the womb has a natural capacity to take things on. Its ultimate goal is transmutation—changing something from one form or state of being into another—but that process gets very muddy if we’re not properly trained. And how many of us are? How many are even speaking about the womb in this context? Few indeed. So things get stuck. We have energetic receipts hanging around there in the dark recesses of our womb space until we make a conscious effort to deal with them. If we don’t, then the weight of it all will be felt as depression, anxiety, PMS, shame, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, fibroids, heavy periods, and the list goes on and on.

I’ll share one of my energetic receipts, because I know this is an abstract sort of thing that needs a concrete example. I also like to practice what I preach, and I’m okay with being a little more vulnerable these days. So here goes.

I stayed in the same job many years longer than I should have, mostly out of fear. It’s like I couldn’t see beyond the walls of my cubicle, even though there must have been at least a hundred other jobs I could have done and a hundred other places I could have lived at that time. I was divorced with no children. The only person keeping me there was myself, and still I had this tunnel vision when it came to my livelihood.

People asked me why I didn’t just write a book at night in my spare time. Sure. Right. After 5 p.m., I had exactly enough energy to make a meal, do the dishes, and catch up on some laundry before falling asleep and doing it all again the next day. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. There was no room for creativity in such a caged existence. Still, I told myself that this was survival, independence, and how the “real world” operates. I believed that being creative also meant starving and struggling, and that seemed even worse than the cubicle farm. I also believed that one office was the same as any other. So I paid my energetic currency to the devil I knew. I racked up a long receipt for 12 soul-crushing years, and the itemized list included:

  • eating antidepressants like candy for a year after my first divorce, because there was no time and space to grieve
  • meaningless sexual encounters that became an outlet for the creativity I could not express in any other way
  • entering a second marriage for all the wrong reasons, and divorcing three years later
  • having two master’s degrees and still earning less than $50K annually
  • feeling disgusted with myself for not using my education and abilities in a more meaningful way
  • trying to function inside of a broken organization, and feeling powerless to change it
  • feeling like a victim of workplace gossip, jealousy, and the good ol’ boy system
  • believing it was impossible to have a career and a family at the same time after seeing how working mothers were treated

That was the price of my decision to stay there for a paycheck, even though it was clearly very painful to do so. I was not keeping a conscious running tally of what the job was costing me (that came later), but the soul (and the womb) registers everything. The receipt was always printing in the background.

Truth be told, I am still working through issues related to money and sexuality, because they are both tied to the second chakra. It’s just that now I refuse to suffer in silence. I refuse to bury “the things we don’t talk about” under layers of shame and oppression.

The past year has been illuminating…and overwhelmingly dark at the same time. As this Mercury retrograde cycle continues, I will be looking at more energetic receipts that need to be emptied from the purse of my womb and soul. If you are doing the same, then know that I see you, sisters, and you are magnificent.

Blessed Be

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.

 

Goddess, Healing

Service and the Art of Self-Care

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“Pure Love of the Divine” by Shiloh Sophia McCloud @ Fine Art America

She goes by several names…Mary, Miryam, Magdala, Magdalena. I won’t speculate on her origins or elaborate on the Gnostic teachings that describe her as Sophia, the original female principle, the Goddess. Many have already devoted books to the exploration of her mysteries, but I will leave all of that for the scholars to pick apart and debate. What I know of the Magdalene comes from simply asking, listening, and receiving. This is what she would like women to know about balancing service with the art of self-care. These are her words:

Welcome, my sisters, to the path of the Sacred Heart. You have climbed the steep, rocky hill like so many others before you to reach the entrance to the sacred cave. This is not the sparse chamber filled with hard, lonely benches and a shrine to the woman they believed me to be. No, this is a warm, inviting place where only a mystic and a priestess of women’s mysteries would dwell.

Now that you are here, step inside and see. I shall unveil it for you. The light of many beeswax candles illuminates the way, and soft rugs woven from the finest wool lead into the inner chamber. The calming aromas of myrrh and frankincense cleanse the layers of your aura. Here you may rest upon pillows that hug every curve of your sumptuous body. Here you may take respite from life’s burdens that press so heavily upon your aching shoulders. Here I shall wash your tired feet in a basin of purest rosewater and anoint them with precious oils. You are safe, weary traveler, and you are loved more than you could possibly know.

I can see that you have taken on the pain of others because of the immense love you have for them, but that is not the role of a healer. A priestess holds space for those who seek her help, and by doing so, she enables them to see the truth of their own existence. All healing begins with a desire to change, and then the source of the problem reveals itself, sometimes all at once, sometimes in layers that peel away like an onion. You must allow this process of shedding and releasing. It is what some describe as a crisis, but it is more like a flower responding to the light. It is the petals opening up at last, spreading out, and revealing the fragrance of the soul. You may water the flower and create a healthy environment, but the opening, the blooming, will happen in its own time and space.

Take care, also, my sisters, that you do not neglect your own body, mind, and spirit in the service of others. Your body allows you to do your work in the world. Treat it with kindness and respect. Bow to your body the way you would bow before entering a holy temple, for it lives inside the soul. Keep your mind free of distractions, and do not allow negative thought forms to become etched upon the tablet of your heart. Be mindful of all that you see, all that you read, all that you hear, all that you take into yourself. Consider whether these things are helpful or harmful to your inner being. Nourish your spirit with uplifting images, words, and sounds.

Allow stillness into your life like the waters of a deep pond, and feel your own intuition ripple lightly across those waters. Speak, move, and act from that source which can never be depleted and to which you are always so deeply connected. Always remember your Divine Feminine essence, even in those moments when you feel that nothing about you is lovable. All about you and within you is lovable. Without roots reaching into the darkness of the soil for nourishment, there would be no flowering branches spreading into the light. You are both the root and the branch, and one is no more sacred than the other. Both must work together in harmony for the existence of the whole. One is seen; the other is unseen. Self-care is the unseen work, and yet it is the foundation for all other works.

Remember this, my sisters, and treat yourselves with gentleness while you are engaged in the greatest of all tasks: the birthing of a new age, a new consciousness.

Peace & Blessings

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved. 

Empowerment, Goddess, Healing, Poetry

The Art of Receptivity

 

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“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Oh, you learned that verse too well, my sister.

That’s what they expect, after all.

Be a nurturer, a supporter, a giver.

It’s your holy calling. It’s what women do.

Give until your creative well is empty,
until your back is broken,
until you are crawling on your hands and knees,
eating dust from a trail
that someone blazed before you.

Go ahead.

Lick some more of that dust, dearest one,
until it chokes the music and the poetry right out of you.

No one taught you how to receive, of course.

Why would they?

You are so tame now,
so much easier to control
when you’re half-starved
and bleeding from wounds
that never heal.

Receiving…yes…that dirty little word,
that unblessed state of being,
on the opposite shore from giving
where they don’t want you to be.

Get in the boat,
take the oars,
go anyway.

It is lush and wanton there,
where the Wild Woman lives in the trees,
feasting on mangoes
with sweet succulence dribbling down her chin.

It is velvety and halcyonic there,
where the Wild Woman lies naked in the sand,
as the foamy waves kiss her feet
and the stars become jewels in her crown.

How do you receive?

Through eyes that see the resplendent beauty of the world
or through filters that render it all in sepia and gray?
Through a mouth that tastes the pungency of life
or one that craves insipidness?
Through a heart that beats with joy
or one that hardly beats at all?
Through a stomach that fuels your sacred calling
or one that rejects vitality?
Through a yoni that glistens as a gateway to the cosmos
or one that has fallen asleep?

Listen, my sister, and I shall write you a new verse.

It is blessed to give, and it is blessed to receive.

It is time you learned how.

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved. 

Goddess, Healing

Wisdom of the Womb: A Healing Journey

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The womb first awakens as we bring her the gifts of Presence, devotion, deep respect, appreciation, and the feeling qualities of love and adoration…The womb will then begin to speak of her needs and desires. Only the purified heart will hear, only the courageous will respond. –Padma Aon Prakasha, “The Power of Shakti: 18 Pathways to Ignite the Energy of the Divine Woman”

Much of Goddess spirituality focuses on the inherent power of the womb, the center of a woman’s creativity, her chalice, her Holy Grail, her sacred blood, her life force. When women seek to know the Goddess, they begin to reclaim this power for themselves—and it always shakes their foundations, no matter how solid and carefully constructed. Old modes of thinking, being, and doing simply will not work anymore. Relationships break apart or become refined into something truer and deeper. Careers take a different and often very unexpected direction. Sometimes, even the physical body will react with illness to protest the changes occurring internally and externally. It is all just a process of realigning with something far more ancient and mysterious than any religious text or philosophy could ever describe—the creative force behind the tiniest microbe on our planet to the furthest reaches of space. The womb is a gateway to higher consciousness for both women and men if we choose to honor it in this way. Sadly, most of us don’t here in the West, because we haven’t been taught to do so.

Having been raised in a very patriarchal religious system, I never thought of my womb as anything very remarkable or even very sacred when I was a younger woman. I was mostly concerned with preventing a new life from gestating inside of it, because nothing was going to screw up my plans to finish graduate school and do something with my life. I would not make the same “mistakes” as all the other women in my family. I would not be chained to anyone or anything that could get in my way, least of all a needy, wailing infant with a loaded diaper. I seemed to have no maternal instincts whatsoever. I never held babies or made a fuss over them. They were cute…from a distance. I never even played with dolls other than Barbie (and yes, I know all about her unrealistic 18” waist). I understood animals very well and related to them easily, but tiny, wrinkled humans? Not so much.

The house with the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids looked like the gray walls of a prison to me. I didn’t judge other women for wanting to be mothers, but I felt continually judged by them for my choice to remain childless, as though my fertility were being wasted somehow. In my view, I was being quite noble for sparing a child from a life of misery with a mother who had way too many childhood issues of her own. I never felt that I was financially stable enough, either, so I was also preventing that potential child from experiencing the poverty I had known growing up. Why couldn’t anyone else see that? Why weren’t they handing out medals to women like me?

So, my womb felt much more like an enemy than a friend for most of my adult life. I saw it as this wild, unpredictable thing that had to be managed, controlled, and subdued somehow. It annoyed me. I was quite envious of the sexual freedom men seemed to enjoy with such ease. I resented the birth control pills I swallowed dutifully, despite the nausea and depression they caused, and then later, the IUD that made me anemic every month from heavy bleeding. My womb was costing me a lot, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Somewhere around age 30, it even grew a polyp that had to be removed through dilation and curettage. Having the entire contents of my womb scraped out was a horrid, bloody, painful experience, and I was quite furious about the whole thing. I didn’t have time to be dealing with this unruly part of my anatomy that seemed hell bent on hurting me.

Even so, I still loved the idea of honoring my womb. I had read plenty of texts on the Goddess movement, Wicca, and pretty much anything having to do with female empowerment by this point. I understood it all in theory. I even experienced what many of those authors wrote about when I gathered in circles with other women. The Goddess in her many phases was something I could relate to emotionally and intuitively, especially her carefree Maiden aspect. But on a deeper level, I knew I was still missing something. I still felt completely disconnected from this pear-shaped organ in my pelvis; yet, it seemed so very central to female selfhood and to the older, shamanistic practices to which I was drawn. I knew I wasn’t going to get a hall pass on this. I would have to deal with it one way or another, but I wasn’t sure how.

The irony is that I didn’t feel any creative blocks at all as an artist. My second chakra seemed to be humming right along, as I churned out poetry, wrote songs, blogged, got published a few times, and worked magic with yarn and crochet hooks. Anyone who knows me well enough would easily describe me as “artsy” or maybe just a bit left of center. I felt like I lived through my ability to write and create, but I was plagued with pelvic pain at the same time. None of it made sense to me. Right after my 40th birthday, I finally surrendered to whatever my body was trying to tell me.

First, I had my IUD yanked out (and I do mean yanked—the removal of the wretched thing was just as bad as the insertion). Then, I started paying attention to my cycle…really trying to understand it for once…charting it every month, getting in sync with the moon, and noticing the alternating fluctuations of activity and introspection that occurred in conjunction with the ovulatory and luteal phases. I thought this would fix things—and it did result in much easier cycles—but my lesson wasn’t over yet.

Years of stress and pain had resulted in a hypertonic pelvic floor, which could only be treated with months of physical therapy, rest, and conscious relaxation of those muscles. After enduring medical tests that revealed nothing, and listening to doctors say that sometimes there is no identifiable cause for pelvic pain, I am inclined to believe that the real source goes even deeper than muscle tissue.

What I now understand about the womb is that it has a tremendous capacity to store love, hope, and renewal…and an equal capacity to store self-loathing, despair, and desolation if it is ignored, denied, and untended. It has its own intelligence and its own emotional center. It remembers everything and everyone who has “entered your inner kingdom without love” as Wayne Dyer would say.

A passage from “Circle of Stones” by Judith Duerk reminded me that answers do not always glide down from above like a feather. Sometimes they wait until you are ready to dive down into very murky waters to find them:

To discover who she is, a woman must trust the places of darkness where she can meet her own deepest nature and give it voice…weaving the threads of her life into a fabric to be named and given…sharing it with the women around her as she comes to a true and certain sense of herself.

I plunged headlong into the velvety blackness, because there was no other place to go.

I began engaging in conversations with my womb while in deep trance, and I was often shocked, saddened, and sometimes in awe of what she had to say. Much of it was like watching a slide show of suppressed memories that came back in full Technicolor detail. One journal entry in particular captures some of her dialogue with me:

You went from one unsatisfying relationship to another…You gave your power away, over and over again, but you kept your heart out of the equation. You kept that precious part of you locked away, and yet you exposed me to these assaults, as if I never mattered at all…

My eyes became tidal pools of tears…for the girl I had been, for the young woman who had cast her pearls before swine, for the scars I still carried. I felt like my entire body would become saltwater and that I could just merge with the sea, becoming nothing and everything all at once…drifting somewhere far beyond the ninth wave.

My beloved became my fortress, holding space for me while I healed physically and emotionally. This is what a consciously awake man does for a woman he loves. He shelters her until the wounds heal, however long it takes. Such men are rare, and should you find one, I humbly suggest that you love him fiercely, with your whole heart, and with every fiber of your being—and he will return it back to you immeasurably.

The final phase of my healing culminated with the Rite of the Womb, the 13th Rite of the Munay-Ki. It is a sacred lineage passed from woman to woman, a reminder of the truth that has been there within the core of our being all along: The womb is not a place to store fear and pain. The womb is to create and give birth to life.

 And so it is. And so creation and birth and life take many forms, and all are so very sacred, so vital, so transcendent.

The many sisterhoods forming now in the blossoming of this new consciousness have the power to reawaken this birthright. I see them all around me, bright souls radiating their light and love to a weary world. As we heal each other, we heal our relationships, our broken but beating hearts, and our resplendent Gaia, first Mother of us all.

Blessed Be

Resources:

In addition to a wonderful pelvic floor therapist, the following books were also helpful in my healing process:

  • “Ending Female Pain: The Ultimate Self-Help Guide for Women Suffering from Chronic Pelvic and Sexual Pain” 2nd Edition by Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS
  • “The Path of Energy: Awaken Your Personal Power and Expand Your Consciousness” by Dr. Synthia Andrews, ND
  • “The Women’s Book of Healing” by Diane Stein
Healing

All My Relations

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I stood before my Medicine Wheel altar, thinking about circles and the greater purpose of rituals…their power to heal and transform lives.  I realized that there are no perfect circles, because human beings are not perfect.  If we were, then there would have been no need to return to this material plane to learn more lessons.  Everyone within a circle has a character flaw of some kind.  It is our task as spiritual warriors to get over these barriers and to at least attempt to view others at the soul level.  There will always be certain individuals who make a negative impression, get on our nerves, or stir up personal issues we thought we had resolved.  That is their job, actually.  They help us grow more than anyone else.  We have to look at that person and think, “How does this remind me of myself?  Am I reacting this way because it reminds me of something within myself that I don’t like?”  Then we can bring it out into the light to be healed.  The end result is more compassion toward ourselves and others.

Native Americans use the phrase Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations) when they pray, and they do not mean just their immediate family and their ancestors.  They mean every living thing in this world, even the people, animals, and plants that they don’t like so much.  Take some time to meditate on what it means to be interconnected in this way…to be “related” to all that exists.  Think of something or someone that irritates you—maybe it’s snakes or poison ivy or the person who just cut you off in traffic—and try to see how you are related.  You will walk away from the meditation with a very different view of the world and your place within it.

I have been in circles in the Wiccan community for over a decade, and there is always a lot of emphasis on having the right energy and the right people in a ritual.  There is usually disagreement on who should be there, who should not be there, and so forth.  This is often the main reason that many covens and groups fall apart, and it’s regrettable to me that those who claim to be peaceful and tolerant can end up being the most exclusive.  (Isn’t this why we left mainstream religion in the first place?)  I have begun to view circles more like a Medicine Woman.  They are places of healing, and those who need to be there the most may not be the ones you like the most.  If you have reached a higher spiritual plateau than someone else, then that’s great for you—but it also means you have the responsibility to help others who are struggling.  If you are only with those of like mind and ability, what is that really worth?  What would you expect to learn?

The greatest work you will do on any spiritual path is down in the trenches, not up on the mountain.  That is the path of a healer, and it’s the path I want to be on.  I don’t care so much if you are “broken”…we are all broken.  We come to the circle to heal ourselves and each other.  Blessed Be.