Words Carolyn Chilton Casas
My father grew up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota with extremely harsh winters. He told us stories about how, during blizzards, he had to tie a rope from the farmhouse to the barn, to be able to find the house again after milking the cows, morning and night. Without a rope it was a risky venture, one that could have a fatal outcome.
This rope can be a simile for what guides us in life, what keeps us safe and gives us encouragement to find our way. In evaluating the tools I have learned to navigate life, I believe my rope has multiple knots, tools I can try to guide me towards wholeness in the face of difficulty. The knots allow me to hold on to my rope, so I’m not blown off course.
The most prominent knot is my philosophy of life. I believe in a divine power of love that connects us to each other, to all of life. My personal blend of beliefs started from a study of metaphysics. In the classes I took, we learned to do visualisations and affirmations to think positively. The teachings of Jesus showed me that healing comes from love; the stories of Buddha taught me compassion.
At the same time, I believe in accepting life as it currently is, not angrily fighting against difficulties. Byron Katie in Loving What Is writes: “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”
The key, I believe, is to accept our current experience and then decide if we want to change it. A motto that has served me well is: “And this too shall pass.” When I’m in a tough situation, physically or emotionally and I can’t see the end of it, I remind myself that everything ends sooner than we think it will.
Another part of my philosophy is to be thankful and my morning meditations include gratitude. When I think during the day about how great my life is, I give thanks on the spot. In Rainbow in the Cloud, Maya Angelou writes: “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayers. Sarah Ban Breathnach, in Simple Abundance writes: “Real life isn’t always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but to surmount our difficulties.”
At the end of each day when I’m lying in bed, I do a quick review of the day’s experiences. This is a good time for appreciation and also to recognise anything I might want to do differently the next time. Lately, I’ve been setting an intention for the day each morning. This helps me focus on how I’d like the hours to be spent.
The energy healing practice of Reiki has made my rope so much stronger. The energy, which flows through the practitioner for the Universal Life Force, helps the receiver to regain balance. I am calmer, healthier and more centred when I give or receive Reiki. For me, it is a spiritual practice as well as a method of healing.
Another part of my guiding rope is a collection of books that have helped me through times of sorrow. When my father passed away suddenly, I was inconsolable. I yearned for words of guidance; I wanted so badly for someone to tell me how to stop feeling the pain. Slowly I started to discover books that showed me ways to open to the grief. They are written by wonderful authors who, through their own experiences and suffering, were motivated to reach out to others. I was starting to find writings that hinted at ways to heal, when more heartache came. A loved one was diagnosed with a rare disease and a dear friend died in a plane crash in Mexico. Some of the books that especially seemed to help me that year were:
Loving What Is, A Return to Love, A New Earth, The Untethered Soul,
Ask and it is Given, A Path with Heart, Peace is Every Step,
Living Beautifully, The Four Agreements, There is a Place Where you are not Alone.
All these books appeared when I most needed them. Reading these books helped me to understand that we all go through times of pain and sadness, but great compassion and growth can be the gift of the wound. According to Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen: “There’s an extraordinary wisdom and clarity that emerges in people who genuinely meet their pain.”
A newer strand in my rope is a writing practice. During that year of grief, I started keeping regular journals. Recording my thoughts and emotions helped me to open up to the sadness I was feeling. A few years later, I joined a community college life writing class. I witnessed my fellow students feeling better as they wrote about their lives. Besides being a way to heal, writing helps me define my life. I have been writing consistently for five years now and some of the stories and poems I have written have been published. It fills me with excitement to hope that something I write might help another, like the books I read when I was looking for support.
My rope is sturdier because of my cat, Roo. We have become even closer since I started practising Reiki. My son says Roo is a Reiki addict. When Roo sees me heading to the living room in the evening, he takes off at a run, jumps up on the coffee table and then bounds into my lap where I am waiting with his favorite Mexican blanket. I believe he has healing powers; it soothes me when I hold him.
Roo teaches me how to love and also how to let go. When his sister didn’t return one day, our daughter decided that Roo had to become an indoor cat. After listening to him cry to go out for a few days, she realised this wasn’t fair. Now I let him out later in the morning and give thanks for the miracle of him returning every afternoon.
Woven into my rope is a strand that keeps my body active. My love of 14 years is playing beach volleyball. It is a time I look forward to each week – playing with my friends while watching the waves, seagulls and pelicans is special. Where we live there are many rural trails to hike or, if I feel like staying home, there is always pruning and planting work to be done on our property. Anything where I’m active, especially outdoors in nature, makes me happy.
On the topic of keeping healthy, I have found a first line of defence that works well for me with everyday aches, pains and sicknesses. Before seeing a doctor, I first try massage, essential oils and Reiki; often that is enough. Another support to help maintain physical flexibility and strength I found in the book, The Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth. My son and I have been doing the Tibetan rites prescribed in this book for more than six years. The rites are five exercises which begin the first week with three repetitions daily. By week nine you work up to twenty-one repetitions of each exercise. After a month of doing the rites, my body was more limber and I had less stiffness. I felt more energy. My rib cage was narrower and firmer. My arms, wrists, legs, and abs were stronger. Back pain I had been experiencing was gone. My hair and nails grew faster. I had better posture and I lost a few pounds. Seeing these improvements gave me the enthusiasm to continue.
These are the strands that make up my rope. I hang on to them for guidance through the tough spots. They are my own special alchemy of tools for living.