Reflections on childhood and God

Over this Easter I have been thinking a lot about my childhood and realising while it was painful in many ways (very dysfunctional, disjointed family and chronic bullying at school) I have a lot to be grateful for. I spent a lot of time in nature, whether it was picking blackberries down the field over the fence that backed onto the bottom of our council estate, or hiding in a makeshift ‘den’ which consisted of a tree stump surrounded by overhanging hedgerow over the fence that ran alongside our house. I spent a lot of time in nature and had freedom that many kids these days can’t even imagine.

Most of all, though, I found comfort in the Bible. I took my Good News Bible down to my den and read it there. No one forced me to read it; on the contrary, I grew interested in it myself being an avid reader of Enid Blyton books where, being the 1950’s, every child went to church and Sunday school. I decided I wanted to go and my mum, being drawn to religion herself, took me every week. It was there I bought my Bible, some workbooks, and several wonderful books by Patricia St John about children of my age who were troubled in some way before finding God and becoming Christian.

My view of God was very simple. I could talk to him daily and did through the Bible workbooks I completed in my den. He was all powerful but loving and good. I wanted to be good to please God. That was massively important to me, so much so that I completed many notebook entries simply asking God to help me to be good. My childhood inevitably tapped into this need to be good because I was the ‘good child’ for my mum whilst my sister had severe mental disturbances and caused my mum a lot of pain. I wasn’t told to be good, however, and I certainly wasn’t threatened with God’s wrath if I wasn’t. The desire to find God and do right by him belonged to me alone.

In some ways I miss the simplicity of those years. I had no doubt that God had my back. I saw him as a loving parent, someone who cared for me. Someone who was always THERE. My view of God is now much more complicated. When I pray, I no longer feel just as though I’m praying to someone outside of me, but affirming something inside. God isn’t a personal being sitting on a cloud, but an energy that exists in each one of us and the entire universe. This means the power lies within and always has done. My childhood dreams of God enabled me to tap into that power and transform myself through my faith.

What I’m missing is that certainty, that focus, that point of power. I’ve lost that innocence and now my mind questions and critics everything. It’s no longer straightforward. I have purchased a few of the Patricia St John books that I used to read to help me tap into that energy again and the part of me that knew the truth no matter what form it took. I didn’t even consider any other forms. I didn’t question it. It just was. I’m finding my way back there through meditation and – yes- prayer, but I need to be mindful that I don’t get side-tracked by critical thoughts such as ‘but God doesn’t exist outside of you.’ Says who? God is everywhere, inside and out. It doesn’t matter what term we give it – God, Divine, Energy, Source – we are all part of it. But the point of power has always been within. The difference between the child and the adult is that the former didn’t know this, but the latter does.

A dream of numbers, speech therapy and Buddhism

Numbers were the main theme of last night’s dream and hugely symbolic. I dreamed that I visited a speech therapist at a place many miles from here. It was such a long way that I’d gone on the sleeper train but I was completely drawn to seeing this speech therapist. She recommended that I see her every week and drew up a price plan. Each week would cost £100 with the total amount I’d have to spend being £969. As I looked at these figures my heart sank. I realised that the cost – combined with the time and energy spent travelling up on the sleeper train each time – would be massive and I wasn’t sure I could commit. By the same token, I felt the speech therapist could really help. The dream ended before a decision was made one way or the other.

This dream relates strongly to a book I was reading yesterday by a spiritual teacher called Adyashanti on the subject of thoughts/ thinking and how our minds create suffering. The mind is a tool, to be used lightly in the dance of life, not something to get attached to or identify with or else suffering ensures. I was thinking (ironically) about this a lot yesterday and can understand the truth in it, but I also think it’s necessary to develop a healthy ego before it’s possible to understand and utilise this spiritual truth. In this way I totally agree with Carl Jung who stated: “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” If one has not developed a healthy ego, such as in the case of trauma, it’s probably not going to be possible to let go of identification with the mind or else risk major disintegration and psychosis. We are Divine AND human. We need to tell our stories until we don’t need them anymore. Until they are no longer freeing us but entrapping us. Forming a healthy ego is all part of the journey. I don’t see the ego is a bad thing – albeit it has its shadow side, like most things- but an inevitable part of the human experience until we wake from the dream. But as Adyashanti says, it’s all thoughts and opinions and these are mine.

Last night’s dream was, therefore, a representation of all those thoughts. I believe the number 100 is symbolic of the individual self within the whole/Oneness – not rejecting the healthy ego but embracing it as part of everything. I arrived on the sleeper train, meaning that until seeing the therapist I had been asleep, lost in ego. The number 969 is very interesting. I didn’t realise this until I looked it up but it represents the three virtues of the Buddha, with the first 9 symbolising the Buddha himself, the 6 represents his teachings, and the 9 represents the Sangha, or community. It’s actually called the 969 Movement (found on wikipedia). The speech therapist probably symbolises the expression of mind as n awakened tool – how do I communicate with myself and others? How do I use my mind in the right way? In Buddhist terms this is right speech/right action which points to the state of peace where we no longer attach to our thoughts but live more fully in the present moment. It means our suffering is minimalised as we are no longer investing in a sense of a personal ‘me’ which is separated from life, or focusing on what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Instead, we live a more peaceful, embodied, simple, awakened existence.

My dream is really highlighting the difficulty of this choice. Do I want to truly awaken or stay asleep? Can I maintain this level of awareness without being sucked into identification with my mind? How much should I invest in the personal me? Maybe none of these questions really matter. What matters is being aware moment by moment of my thoughts and feelings and knowing the point of power is always now.

Learning what love REALLY is

After a full night of dreams I woke up with the well-known song ‘I want to know what love is’ by Foreigner playing in my mind (lyrics after text). As is often the case when this happens, I can’t think of more apt words to describe my situation right now.

I went to see my son yesterday. As much as I tried to tell myself not to push anything on him, not even in my attempt to connect with him, I did just that: I tried to show him a photo on my phone and asked him who it was. He refused to look and chucked any name back at me. I insisted that he looked properly and he flipped out and punched me on the arm.

It’s a familiar story: I try to connect with him in any possible way, he doesn’t want to, he gets upset, I retreat. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. The difference is that now I’m really trying to put him first and not force on him my desire to connect with him. I’m trying to stay in a place of unconditional love and think of his needs, not my own.

It was never going to be easy. I look at him and long to reach him in some way. Maybe I do, just not in the way I wanted. Life has brought me to a place where I have to set aside my own grief, abandonment, unmet expectations, and think about what is right for him. Some parents seem to do this automatically but I never have; it’s something I have to learn, over and over again. And I admit, I don’t really know how.

That’s where the song comes in: I want to know what love is. Yes, I truly want to know. How do I love my son in the way HE needs, not in the way I want to love him? How do I let go of everything I wished for – all the unfulfilled pain of my upbringing and need for a family – and be in the moment with my son, having no expectations?

It’s a sacred journey. It really is. It’s a stripping bare of everything I thought I was, wanted to be, longed to have. I don’t know how to do it. Maybe the love is surrendering to not knowing. For all my spiritual knowledge, my son is my greatest teacher.

In a dream last night I was saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again like a mantra. I can’t remember the context but it felt deeply spiritual. I think it was coming from the part of me who knows as a human being I’ll never get it exactly right. Psychoanalyst Winnicott described the ‘good enough mother’ and that is important for me to remember. Love and compassion starts with myself. I’m not perfect and I’m doing my best. Maybe the willingness to love my son unconditionally despite the difficulties is enough.

I want to know what love is by Foreigner

I’ve gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over
I better read between the lines
In case I need it when I’m older

This mountain, I must climb
Feels like a world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds, I see love shine
Keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life, there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me (hey)

Gotta take a little time
Little time to look around me
I’ve got nowhere left to hide
Looks like love has finally found me

In my life, there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me

I wanna know what love is (I wanna know)
I want you to show me (I wanna feel)
I wanna feel what love is (I know, I know, and I know)
I know you can show me
Let’s talk about love

I wanna know what love is
(Love that you feel inside)
I want you to show me
(I’m feeling so much love)
I wanna feel what love is
(And you know, you just can’t hide)
I know you can show me

Oh, I wanna know what love is
(Let’s talk about love)
I know you can show me
(I wanna feel)
I wanna feel what love is
(And you know you just can’t hide)
I know you can show me
I wanna feel what love is (oh, I wanna know)
I want you to show me

Songwriters: Jones Lesly, Jones Michael Leslie
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: Musixmatch

Fear, love, guilt: Tomorrow’s visit

I’m visiting my son again tomorrow and my anxiety about it is through the roof. I’m not scared of him, I’m scared of his suffering. I’m scared of seeing him hurting because he’s missing his dad, and not understanding the practical issues that his dad has not taken care of. He doesn’t know the details, all his knows is that his dad has not visited and that he is unable to do certain things that he used to. He doesn’t know his dad has failed him. In some ways that feels even more heartbreaking.

I’m no stranger to suffering. I watched my father die of cancer and all I felt was love. I had no fear because in that moment I allowed everything to be as it was. I felt great empathy for his pain but I was not afraid. I knew what was coming and so did he. I sat with him until the very end and surrendered to the love that was guiding his journey home.

My son’s suffering frightens me. I feel a raw, primal instinct to protect him from hurt, but I know that’s impossible. His vulnerability and lack of comprehension increases my desire to keep him safe always. I also know that my fear of his suffering is probably tied up in a large amount of guilt. It’s displaced because I’ve never let him down – I’ve always done my best for him under difficult circumstances – again, always. But somehow the guilt is still there, probably linked to my grief around parenthood in general, that I was sick and unable to be the kind of parent I wanted, and that my son, due to his needs, wasn’t able to be the child I wanted either. My self-image is clouded in guilt and sadness and a sense that I have failed.

Maybe the fear of my son’s suffering is not only because I fear the pain that comes with knowing he is hurt, but fear that it will break me as a mother because I didn’t have the relationship I wanted with him and his pain presses on that wound. His pain will force me to come face to face with myself as his parent without running from those feelings. I will have to sit with them and learn. Relationships are our greatest spiritual teachers after all. They are our mirrors, showing us where love is most needed.

Unconditional love goes beyond images and labels but leaves out nothing. It embraces fear, pain and grief. This isn’t about trying not to feel scared or pretending I don’t feel guilty. It’s allowing all those feelings to be there and giving them to the light. It’s being with the reality of the situation, which is that it is hard, and all sorts of issues are activated, including my own abandonment wounds. I can only do my best in any given moment and leave the rest to the Divine light/the universe to take care of. That’s what I’ve always done for my son and will continue to do, no matter how scared I am.

The Divine within

My life has been far from easy. But I’ve never felt truly alone, not even during the isolation of my childhood, and then, into adulthood when my health deteriorated dramatically and my son was diagnosed with severe autism, I felt more and more that life was pushing me to realise something that was lurking in the depths of my unconscious: I am part of the Divine. I am Life itself. I am not the fragmented, unworthy, rejected, broken human being that those around me led me to believe over and over again.

As a child I felt I had the potential to be something great, whether it was an actress, journalist, writer, it didn’t matter. I just knew with a untarnished certainty that my destiny was something special. I knew it despite the pain of my external environment. I wrote it into stories, poems, prayers. Many times as an adult I lamented over those young dreams, thinking how silly they were, how crazy I was to believe I could ever be somebody in this world. When I got sick and my life closed in around me as I entered survival mode trying to cope with my severely disabled son, I despaired at ever believing it. Instead I was totally ruined. I couldn’t even manage parenthood. My son was out of control. I was so unwell that I couldn’t walk up the stairs. I fell into such a deep depression that I don’t know how I ever found my way out.

But here’s the thing: life never gave up on me. That Divine spark kept the truth safe like a precious jewel, knowing that the time would come when I could allow myself to remember and allow it to shine. Even when I was engaging in self-destructive thoughts and activities, which has been often, it’s been there, gently pushing me to realise what I always knew. It wouldn’t let me go. Even when I actively wanted it to go away, preferring to close my eyes and sleep my way through existence as it felt the safest, easiest option, it wouldn’t. It acted like a nagging parent, constantly saying ‘you know you are more. You know.’

And I do know. I’ve known it logically for a long time. Allowing the truth into my heart has been a harder process. It takes acceptance and surrender, both of which aren’t easy when it involves facing grief over what life could have been, indeed should have been (according to my ego). It’s keeping my heart open to not only my own truth, but that of the Divine in others, ALL others, even my extremely difficult ex who is like my nemesis on this path. None of it is easy. It requires intensive healing work, courage and most of all faith to keep going and surrendering to the Divine force which has always had my back.

The little girl was right. I am destined to be something special – we all are. We already ARE. Our destiny is realising it, or re-realising it, over and over again.

The problem of suffering

It’s the hardest thing when your child is suffering and there is no real way to help them. I don’t know how anyone can possibly make peace with that. I feel guilty for even wanting to feel at peace when I can’t help my child. Even worse is knowing my child is suffering as a result of the actions of his narcissistic father. I don’t use that word lightly. I’ve spent a good part of my life coming up against my ex husband’s self-absorption, his controlling behaviour, and total lack of empathy, and realised a long time ago that it was pointless getting frustrated and angry – he isn’t going to change because he can’t see the problem. I had to make some terrible sacrifices as a result of the situation I was in. It wasn’t easy but I did the best I could for my son and myself.

Now the staff at my son’s assisted living accommodation are experiencing what I did for years with my ex – a complete lack of responsibility and integrity, even a tendency to outright lie when it suits him. My ex is free to live the life he chooses – and he certainly does – but when it hurts our son and threatens the security of his new home environment, well that’s a whole different thing.

The staff and myself are doing all we can on a practical level to improve the situation. Unfortunately when so much depends on one person’s willingness to communicate and getting nothing, there are real limits to be faced. I have taken some action which I feel terrible about and may not even change things, but I simply could not just sit and face the helplessness.

On a spiritual level, how does one deal with situations like these? Meditate, pray? Surely the real test of any spiritual practice is when we are facing helplessness in our lives. Unfortunately when I’m distressed the very last thing I feel like doing is sitting on a meditation cushion to find peace. I’m sure I’m not the only one. My mind is thrashing around, distressed, heartbroken, angry, clawing for a solution….but there is none. Maybe the only answer is surrender. But that doesn’t help my son either. My ability to accept what IS doesn’t change his suffering. Accepting his suffering feels like the ultimate NO. But what else can be done? Seriously?

Intellectually my mind starts making a story out of this. It has to be happening for a reason. The way life turned out. The way my son is. The way my ex is. I want to create some meaning and purpose out of all of it because it’s so devastating and unbearable and not in the least bit fair. How can I make it okay somehow? The answer is I can’t. It truly is awful….and no spiritual explanation will change that, whether or not there really IS a purpose to it (which I believe there is, on some level).

I really am back to acceptance. It’s all I have. But how does one accept the unacceptable – that my child suffers at the hands of a narcissist father and that life will continue to be painful for all of us? Indeed, how does anyone accept suffering? The Ukrainians are no doubt asking the same thing. People who have lost children through war and murder and suicide. Those who have suffered in other unspeakable ways. How do we find the will to accept and move forward?

It is said that love is the only answer. I don’t love the situation of course. Not at all. But I love my son and I hope on some level that will help him. Even if doesn’t, it may help me connect to the fabric of the Universe and see the reality, which is that the Universe is bigger than all this suffering. The Divine is in the midst of it – in me, in my son, even in my ex – and thus the journey will always return us to love, and none of us are alone in what we face.

A dream of Minerva; wisdom, intellect and creativity

The Roman goddess Minerva appeared in my dream last night in the form of a theatre within which I was watching a play. First I was looking at an onscreen layout of the theatre and trying to choose my seat. They were initially situated in a circle around the stage but then that seemed to change and it was more haphazard. Then I was in a room walking towards a large seating area. Somehow I knew my seat was number 109. I could see people around a table and knew my seat was nearby. I sat in front of them and could see the stage in front of me. However, my view was partially obscured by people’s heads. Then I realised the others were watching a smaller version of the stage on a TV screen behind me. I turned around and could see the play, whatever it was, high up on a small ceiling TV set. I was aware that others were staying overnight in this building and needed keys but I was leaving that evening, sometime after 10pm. When I woke from this dream the time was 8.17 which is interesting as I’d woken up exactly an hour earlier, at 7.17, before going back to sleep and dreaming the dream…

On researching Minerva I realised she is the god of wisdom and intellect, the arts, music, strategy, defence and victory. She is strongly associated with the owl. Immediately I linked this to my focus on developing my online business yesterday, as well as picking out ‘The World’ oracle card before going to sleep last night. There is something in all of this about broadening my horizons, trusting my inner wisdom, and unblocking my creativity; harnessing my thoughts and skills to change my outer world going forward.

When numbers appear in a dream and/or in synch on waking, I know they need closer analysis. I found that 109 ‘symbolises any leap and any achievement’ according to Abellio, which reinforces Minerva as a positive symbol for creativity and strategy. I then looked up ’17’ since this combination came to my attention twice; this has a variety of meanings including balance between spirit and matter, the son of Man, harmony after the fight of existence, the Holy Spirit, and karmic liberation after evolution.

Looking at my dream as a whole, which I can only do after studying the details (the autism in me perhaps!) it seems highly significant. I was trying to choose my seat which is symbolic for choosing where I wish to focus my attention; which particular perspective I want to invest in. Initially the seating was arranged in a circle, symbolising the Oneness of life, but then became haphazard, symbolising the play of form within it and our thoughts and emotions. Life is a stage as they say, the story of my life. My view was partially blocked, suggesting that I’m not seeing clearly as there’s too many conflicting opinions/ideas/perspectives in my way. Then I realised I was facing the wrong way and in fact if I turned and looked higher up I could see, but the play was smaller, there was space around it. I wasn’t planning to stay in the theatre as I knew I had to go; the number 10 (for 10pm) is the symbol of individual within the One. There needs to be balance between the intellect and creativity, matter and spirit.

What an amazing dream! It is multifaced and unusual, common for my dreams at least, and accurately portrays my frame of mind currently in wanting to focus on my online business and unleash my creativity as a way of moving forward. In doing so I am aware of all the conflicting states of mind wanting to pull me back down, draw me away from spirit, block my view. I feel more confident that I am on the right track and I can continue on this path even when I am temporarily blinded by painful thoughts and emotions.

Only love is real

A few days ago I was crying hard when I had an epiphany. I realised with utter certainty that my entire life has been preparing me for what I’m currently going through – a shedding of the old me; a peeling away of the layers of conditioned self that I have wrapped around myself for comfort and familiarity; a removing of the desires that keep me entrenched in this way of being.

Suffering breaks our heart open, if we let it. It makes us realise that we were never in control and never will be. That is an illusion. There is the conditioned self and there is the soul who expresses through the personality structure as love itself. My conditioned self is falling away, bit by bit. It isn’t needed anymore. Everything it wrapped its identity up in is disappearing. Only love is left. Only love is real.

Mother’s Day for the unacknowledged

It’s Mother’s Day today in the UK. As many of you know, my son has severe autism and is non-verbal apart from the occasional word. He is now 20 so for many years I have come to terms with the fact he will never say ‘I love you’ or ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ or even have any concept of the latter. Today is all about acknowledging mothers…which makes it incredibly painful when your child does not give much back. It is the ultimate journey towards unconditional love because loving a profoundly learning disabled child is not a two way street in the conventional sense. On rare and brief occasions my son has shown love towards me, such as putting his hands on my face, but not for many years. I have no idea whether I have done right by him but try to trust that like any well intended parent I did the best I could, even though the fruits of those intentions are not obvious in ways they might be for others.

I’m not going to deny that today is very hard. But I know it’s hard for many people for a whole host of reasons. I am thinking of all the mothers who don’t experience the joy of being acknowledged on Mother’s Day….and sometimes any other day. Those whose child/ren are sick, profoundly disabled, mentally unwell, estranged, or have passed away. Mothers who can’t have children. Mothers who might have been. Children who have lost mothers. Mothers who have lost children. There are many ways to feel loss on Mother’s Day in particular. I am holding everyone who struggles in my heart today ❤️

The unconditional love in my grief

I seem to be shedding bucket loads of grief at the moment. I’m in a kind of transition period where I’m integrating my past with my present and acknowledging where I have been stuck and releasing those old energies. That said, I’m not sure the grief will ever fully leave me. I suspect I will reach a point where I can accept my son for the way he is and not feel so sad and angry for how life could have been for both of us. However, I’m not sure I will completely stop looking at other people’s children with envy and disappointment. Maybe I’m selling myself short though. It’s possible I will one day truly take in the knowledge that I was never meant to have a typical child or be a typical parent. And my child was never meant to be anyone other than who he is. I thought I’d accepted those things years ago but although I understood them logically and thought okay Universe, this is my lot, I never took them in and felt them in my heart. That’s not unusual for me because I was very dissociated from my emotions as a child. I’m also highly likely on the autistic spectrum myself, a fact that seems even more likely the more I think about how I was back then and how I am now.

I visited my son at his assisted living accommodation yesterday, not for the first time, but the visit went badly again. He didn’t want me there. He started off very calm and I felt massively relieved, but very quickly he started telling me to go with the word ‘bye’. He repeated it over and over while I tried to tell him I wasn’t going yet, that I was there to spend time with him. He became so distressed that in the end I had to leave, even though it was half an hour before I was due to be picked up, since I don’t drive. I realised that although it was difficult for me practically and emotionally, this was about my son and he clearly didn’t want me to visit. I had to accept that. It’s probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to do. The staff at the home gave me a card and some flowers for Mother’s Day from my son, which was incredibly kind, and it was hard holding back the tears enough for them to think I was absolutely fine about my son not wanting me there, that I was only thinking of him.

I went to lunch with a friend straight afterwards which with hindsight wasn’t the best idea, either physically or emotionally. I was shattered. I’d spent every bit of energy I had on the half an hour visit with my son. My friend isn’t the the empathetic sort and hasn’t seen my son in many years. He doesn’t even know how severely autistic he is now. I wanted to get home and cry, which I eventually did. I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to get a bottle of something – maybe for comfort, dissociation, I don’t know – but I didn’t in the end. I kept reminding myself how crap I would feel the following day, how anxious and depressed I’d be, feelings that I’m struggling with anyway, never mind with alcohol in my bloodstream. There is a better way and that is knowing grief is beyond awful, but it doesn’t last forever. The light will come and illuminate my path and understanding that this was meant to be exactly as it is. But in the meantime it’s excruciating.

On a practical level, I’ve decided to keep my son’s visits very short and as much to a regular schedule as possible so he knows when to expect me. I’ll make clear when I arrive that I’m not going to stay long but want to see him to make sure he’s okay, and to let him know that I’m always here for him. Beyond that, if he wants me to go, I will go. The focus has to be on him and his needs. Then in time if he wants me to stay, I will. I have to tap into my unconditional love for him that expects nothing but gives the best I have.

Last night I had a very deep dream that I was climbing along a thin bridge made of rope on my hands and knees. There was only a small barrier on the right side and nothing at all on my left. I was terrified of falling off and disappearing into the abyss, but I kept going. I felt I was travelling upward and it was really tough but I was determined to keep going. At some point the bridge disappeared entirely and I found myself floating in a beautiful blue ocean in complete peace. I had no worries anymore – I was light and free. Such dreams give me hope that I’m heading in the right direction and my struggle doesn’t mean I’ve gone wrong – life was never meant to be easy for anyone. I don’t understand why and never will. But like Matt Kahn once said ‘in a world of questions, love is the only answer.’ So love it is. Love for my son and -I hope- love for me too.