Alive to the self

woman with arms raisedMy daughter is 6 years old, and it has taken me her entire lifespan to fully return to myself. Within hours of her birth, I had suffered a massive postpartum hemorrhage. This was not the near-death experience of white light and angelic voices. It was the terrifying experience of being trapped in my body experiencing every excruciating sensation of going into shock. I couldn’t allow myself to pass out, knowing that if I did, it was all over.

I made a full recovery physically, but mentally I was really not myself for a long time. Years, if I have to be completely honest. I had some PTSD, but was generally speaking, highly functioning. But the pilot light of my soul was sputtering out somewhere inside me.

It was a culmination of many things – traumas and emotional pain, long-held and slowly festering. I did a good job most of the time of holding it together, but those closest to me know I have carried a kind of perpetual melancholy, a heaviness inside.

Reiki healing, my spiritual practices and my marriage have helped me a lot with keeping that light lit. A year after my daughter was born, I began offering Reiki healing professionally, because I wanted to help others and give back in gratitude for the healing and second chance at life I had received.

You hear of people who have had near-death experiences. Soon afterward, they resolve every lingering past issue, leave their bad job/marriage/home and BOOM, they are new, reborn and sparkling in the sun. Maybe the process is accelerated for those who went toward the Source and came back. I don’t know.

This was not my experience, and for a while I was really angry about it. Why did I have to suffer so much? Why couldn’t I enjoy the birth of my only child? Why couldn’t I have the embrace of the God and the angels loving me perfectly, yet gently urging me back to my body with some profound message?

I think the reason it didn’t happen then is because I was meant to experience the embrace of God and the angels in my daily life. I am learning to see God in everything I encounter and everyone I see. The insight, the gifts and the healing are not in a brief transcendent moment of Bliss In The One, but in the very act of living – the gift I was given to return to and live out fully.

And you know, there were angels – my husband, who acted decisively and rarely left my side during my ordeal in the hospital.  He helped save my life. My mom, mother-in-law and friends who lovingly cared for us and helped me mother my child when I was barely able to do so. The many people from my church (some of whom I did not know) who visited, brought food and prayed for us. My therapist, who counseled me through my trauma over the phone when I was not allowed to drive for two months.  My stepson, who delighted in his little sister, and would happily hold and play with her. My daughter, of course, my dearest love and motivation for staying awake. All of these people are my angels.

I have had some very challenging and painful experiences the past few years – losses and protracted illnesses of loved ones, unhealthy relationships that needed to be let go, repressed traumas surfacing, financial uncertainty from my husband and I both being laid off from our jobs and facing some of my own internally destructive patterns that needed to be brought into the light for acceptance and healing. Some days, I wondered if the emotional churning would ever stop.

Bit by bit, I started seeing God in the patterns, how I was being rescued over and over to be brought further into something better, healthier and with a deeper sense of purpose. Meditation, prayer, Reiki, and increased involvement in a community of spiritual believers has helped support my awareness. This has been a slow, gradual process – not without its frustrations, I might add – but I am increasingly grateful for the gift of having been given a second chance to live my life fully and be alive to my self again.

Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. – Henri Nouwen

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