The Light Is Always There

2015-04-17 16.21.26“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine….”
Avis Burgeson Christiansen

I talk a lot about light. We hear a lot about light. 

“Shine your light.”
“Be the light.”
“Go into the Light, Carol Anne.”
“Your eyes light up when you talk about ___.”

Light is “good.” We contrast it often with what’s “bad” or dark. We use flashlights or candles in the dark, so we can see better. We have headlights on our vehicles. And what’s the first thing you do after unlocking your door when arrive home at night? We’re using and turning on lights all the time.

Just like energy that fuels our sources for seeing better in the night or dark rooms or dark campsites, our own energy—our light—within can be appreciated for fueling us, especially when challenges surround us. Our light seems to be the expression of our good, our gifts, our love and our kindness and compassion. We can help others’ light brighten when we share these things within us–the things that make us feel all glow-y inside, and we know when our own source or someone’s light seems to be dimming.

That light is hope. It is love. It’s what keeps us going when we may think we no longer really want to here on the planet. It propels us to take that one more step forward, even when we may feel we’re not moving much or as quickly as we want or think we should.

The light is always there. It doesn’t get squelched, but perhaps it dims from time to time. We can avoid this dimming and instead brighten when we believe in ourselves, we’re being as powerful as we can be, we’re engaging with people and activities that support our values and authentic self, we’re taking care of ourselves and we’re expressing ourselves in our most authentic way.

Shine on—you will encourage others to do the same.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved.

The Dead Parent Club and Four Big Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years Since My Father Died

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My dad raced stock cars sometimes

I believe we join an interesting club when we lose a parent through death. Until you join this club, it’s a tough journey to understand–and no one else’s journey will be exactly like yours. Today is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s passing; he died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 48 of a heart-attack… that’s an age that is eight years away for me and tough to imagine.

I’ve learned so many valuable things through my father’s passing and through several other losses, I keep returning to my experiences on this journey, what I usually share with people willing to discuss and listen, and what I’ve been finding important to my grief coaching clients. There are multiple learnings, but I continue returning to the following four.

1. Be at peace with where you’re at with your parents.

This is probably the biggest one. If your parents still on the planet, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? If they’re on the Other Side, have you said and done what you need to feel at peace? I can’t tell you what this may look like exactly for you. And it may not even involve actually talking to or seeing them. But how can you choose peace?

For me, it took telling my dad that he was a “shitty father sometimes”–on the, unknown to me, last Father’s Day I would share with him. It might sound awful, but in the last several months we had together after that Father’s Day, not knowing those were our last, something shifted. We actually talked more, and I was invited over more. Throughout my childhood and teens, I wrote him letters and expressed in phone calls what I needed to. I definitely wasn’t perfect in all I did, but somehow I feel I had a larger feeling of “no regrets.” Sure, I still have regrets. Overall, I sincerely tried to do and say all I needed with him to feel at peace. And I know how much he loved and supported me—he was my biggest fan with my writing, my calligraphy pens, my drawing, my crafting, star-gazing, camping and appreciating Nature.

2. Talk about your burial and funeral wishes, as well as organ donation and end-of-life wishes (ex. Do-Not-Resuscitate order), with loved ones. And get it on official documentation. Now.

My father’s loss is so significant for me, not only because my father left the planet, but also because at age 24-turning-25, I was suddenly solely responsible for all of his effects. I quickly needed to plan a funeral, approve which body parts could be donated, drain my already-little savings to pay for the initial things, prepare and sell his condo, sell his Harley Davidson, sell his car, save his ponytail from his mother who wanted to cut it off for the wake and funeral viewing, refuse his former girlfriend wanting his prized and bad-ass Harley Davidson leather jacket, and so forth. And I was in grad school with three jobs.

He didn’t have a will, and I hadn’t talked with him about what kind of burial he wanted; dealing with probate was challenging. I found a card in his wallet for a lawyer after he died; when I called her and mentioned this card find, she responded, “Oh, yes, your father was going to contact me about doing a will.”

3. Remember that while people can relate and have great intentions,
no one else knows “exactly” what you’re going through.

One of the most comforting things anyone said to me came from the mouth of the funeral director. After several days of managing things, organizing and planning, I arrived at the funeral home for the evening “wake”—an opportunity to allow friends, family and coworkers to view the body in the casket and pay respects to the deceased and the family. My face and body were showing my fatigue, overwhelm and I-will-cry-any-moment-please-watch-what-you-say.

I was still unloading items from a heavy box I’d just carried into the funeral home. My uncle beckoned me with impatience, “Come on, Erika, you and your brother and sister need to view the body now, before everyone else arrives.” That’s what did it. I had held it together all week and supported everyone else. False start as I proceeded to follow said uncle and enter the room where my father lay, when tears arrived like a slap, and I turned to hide the fountain coming from my face. I took a moment. And a breath.

After seeing my dad in the casket, with his ponytail and his dark jeans and a nice shirt with a vest (I also fought for my-father-will-not-wear-a-suit-because-that’s-not-him), the funeral director pulled me aside. “Erika,” he started, now putting his hand on my shoulder, “a lot of people are going to say they know exactly what you’re going through. They have good intentions. But no one knows exactly what you’re going through. Remember that. Take care of yourself.” He was so right, and I’ve loved those words and have shared those words ever since.

Honor your journey with grief. Remember that grief is cumulative.

4. Our parents indeed live on, even in death.

Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife as I do, our parents live on in us, in memories that helped create and shape us. At times we may even mistake people walking by for our deceased loved one. Reminders—maybe you call them “signs”—show up, almost as if to say, “I’m here” or “You have my support,” from your deceased one.

And, like it or not, we have some of our parents’ traits and mannerisms. We know others who exhibit some of these elements, and we’re triggered in painful ways or joyful ones. Spirit is sometimes a tough concept to grasp, but whether it’s God, the Universe, Allah, Aai, Great Mystery or something else, there is something about the essence left by someone who dies. And I believe we can communicate with our deceased ones. And all of us can do so, if we wish, believe… and ask—and know our deceased may not always communicate in ways we expect. Just have the conversation, perhaps whether you believe or not. Why not? Some of my own experiences are noted in the related blog posts listed below.

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of relationship I’d have now with my dad, had he lived. But I do have a relationship with him in Spirit, and it’s powerful. He shows up all the time, and I hear a lot of things from him. Pretty darn amazing and beautiful. I love my dad very much, and I miss not being able to call him about car things and repairs. His death is one of my biggest wounds and one of my biggest opportunities. I attribute his death and my experience largely to why I moved to Colorado (nearly 13 years ago now) and why I am a certified grief coach.

One of the safest places I have ever known was my father’s chest; leaning on and falling asleep on his chest as a young girl, about ages one to three, and hearing his heartbeat comforted me unbelievably then and still resonates safety for me now.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All rights reserved.


Other Closely Related Blog Posts You May Enjoy,
written in earlier days by Erika M. Schreck

+ “Beautiful and Necessary Grief Healing: Death, Reinvention and Support”

+ “Live for No Regrets… with Loved Ones”

+ “If I Die Young”

+ “Father’s Day is What We Make It”

+ “Sensing Our Dearly Departed Loved Ones”

+ “My Take-Aways from the Movie Hereafter

+ “How Do You Commemorate Your Deceased Loved Ones?”
      one of my most popular posts of all time!

+ “Our Four-Legged Stars”

+ “Taking the ‘Me’ out of Mediumship”

+ “Scary for Some: Connecting to Our Deceased”

+ “Life is a Gift–Not a Given”

What’s Your Thing? You Know, That Thing That Brings You Back to YOU and Calm

Guthrie (corgi) and Harley (golden retriever)

Guthrie (corgi) and Harley (golden)

Most weeks on Sunday mornings, I’m off to an amazing spiritual, emotional and physical practice… yoga with most excellent teacher Jon Kolaska. And during the week, I’m on my yoga mat at home, surrounded by and loved on by the golden retriever and corgi in my home, who bask in the something that’s happening when I’m on Mat Time.

Next month is the 15-year anniversary of my father’s death. It’s a big anniversary, and my body is already remembering in its own way. And it gets me thinking about my yoga practice because I started it shortly after my father passed. To stay sane. To feel—really feel—the ground I was standing on and supposedly supporting me. To stretch my body, so it could better bend and breathe and manage the overwhelming pressures of grad school, three jobs, a failing relationship and my father’s estate… then at 25 years old.

I will be forever grateful to the colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I was finishing my graduate degree and teaching college-level writing. This colleague, who one day asked me how I was doing and knowing the overwhelm I was feeling, gifted me a VHS tape with a collection of Rodney Yee yoga instruction segments and assured me that yoga would help me manage my stress and emotional strain. I gave it a try, not even having a yoga mat, yet, and used a bath towel. Years later I’d take my first yoga class, but I started with doing yoga regularly at home.

My home practice has always felt so accessible, so willing. I know I’ve had few weeks without it in these last 15 years because it’s one of my things. Yoga for me is a go-to grounding, calming, stabilizing, nurturing practice that increases mindfulness and flexibility that extend beyond my Mat Time. Yoga reminds me of who I am, how things really are, what I need to prioritize (that moment, for example), and the ever-necessary Quiet Self.

When I traveled to Europe in 2009—my first time out of the country!—I brought my travel yoga mat. I knew I needed to keep doing my thing. I also brought my journal and even yarn and crochet hooks, which are essentials for my other things.

What practices sustain you? What are your things, and how can you prioritize them, no matter where you go?

Life can get wild at times. I know most of you know what I mean. Our essential practices help us remember that we can not only survive (oh, I’m a master at Survival Mode!) but also thrive. Whether I have five minutes or a bit more than an hour to do yoga, write or crochet, I continue to realize that I need my things in my life.

And maybe we also try new things. In recent years, for example, I’ve also found that meditation is also one of my things.

What brings you comfort, joy, calm, peace, balance and connection to self, especially when you’ve gotten further away from yourself and what you need? What healthy practice has saved you? What feels like a healthy, comforting security blanket in your life? I hope you make time for your thing(s) today.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Centering in the Quiet Self

Some of you kindly read my recent blog post, “Resurfacing: Digging Out of the Dark Night.” I continue to dig, as life continues to shift in surprising ways that demand recalibrating, but I have brought more calm and quiet into my life and practices through more often prioritizing my Quiet Self.

Earlier this month, after a conversation with someone really down on the world, I followed said conversation with a snowy walk with the dogs. I kept thinking about the following.

No matter what hardships we experience, no matter how gloomy certain outlooks may seem… let us not be bitter. Feeling sad sometimes happens. Other tough emotions also make appearances. Bitterness and resentment assume lack of control, hold us prisoner and create dis-ease within our bodies. Developing and practicing helpful, healthy tools and responses to fermenting negative emotions will deter bitterness and resentment.

© Erika M. Schreck. Harley,

© Erika M. Schreck. Harley,

When we’re confused and need to sort difficult and mixed emotions, we often really need to move more deeply inward to our Quiet Self. While talking with select people can be helpful, we will often only realize our most authentic feelings, answers and needs when we’re not distracted—by others’ opinions and judgments, media sources, and, well, noise and whatever else distracts us.

My hope for all of us is that we consider ways we can increase self-love and honor our Quiet Self—an authentic state of resting and being in a meditative, open space.

And in truly honoring our Quiet Self, we not only insist on time to be in this state, but we also integrate our feelings, answers and needs found in the Quiet Self into aligned actions and forward steps.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Let’s Remember Love Every Day™—Valentine’s Day and 364 Other Days

(c) Erika M. Schreck, http://TurtleHealingEnergy.com

(c) Erika M. Schreck, http://TurtleHealingEnergy.com

Love Every Day™
Erika M. Schreck

Love every day.
(read love as verb)
 
 
(Receive and Give) Love every day.
(read love as noun)
 
 
How can we promote love–self-love
and love for others–every day?
 
 
Just think about it… and keep it simple.
And then act. Do. Be.
In Love.
 
 
 
© Erika M. Schreck, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Resurfacing: Digging Out of the Dark Night

It’s been a particularly challenging year. Difficult news was revealed in all major areas of my life. My relationship. My dog. My finances. My work. My health. And we think there’s only so much that any of us can take. And in times like these, harsh words feel harsher, and struggles like car issues and other life things feel bigger. Being social has been less appealing; I’ve needed to cry and get into the deep, dark places that suddenly need my attention—or they will suffocate me.

I hadn’t had those thoughts since I was in fourth grade, when, feeling overwhelmed with sadness and despair with my broken family and abusive situations, I promised to hang myself with our dog’s choker chain. I hadn’t had those thoughts since fourth grade, when my sweet, young friend went to the school counselor and told her that I was talking about killing myself. My introduction to life-saving therapy. And writing to survive—writing and journaling have always been saving graces for me.

From Eckhart Tolle on “The Dark Night of the Soul”:
The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time.  Yes, I have also experienced it.  It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.  The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression.  Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything.  Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level.  The death of someone close to you could trigger it….  Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before.  Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it.  So that results in a dark place.  But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness.  Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain.  Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.

They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind.  A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer.  It’s a kind of re-birth. 

~ Eckhart Tolle, Creating a New Earth Together
October 2011 Newsletter Content

It’s an interesting dance when one is having thoughts of leaving the planet, going from feeling such peace in pondering the release of it all, the knowing that things have got to be better just to end it. And complete terror with being frightened with realizing the desperation of feeling there’s only one way, in that moment at least, out of all the pain and suffering. And I understand it even better now, having supported and witnessed the deep depression of loved ones, especially heightened this past year. Last weekend, someone I knew a long time took her own life, as well.

There have been many other times in my life where I’ve witnessed and felt pained over what my loved ones were going through. My own father called me, drunk and depressed and saying the world would be better without him, on my 21st birthday. But this year I was reminded of the darkness because I’ve recently had waves of feeling swallowed by it myself. That deep, unlit place where some of us sometimes have gone, where we’ve entertained and imagined a pain-free state.

IMG_9978

© Erika M. Schreck

But that’s where we need to bring in the light. It’s where we start figuring out again how to take ourselves out of the darkness and how to turn on lights again.

What are your energy-shifters and -boosters?
Who and what in your life lift your energy?
Choose to be there.

That’s where the beacon of hope still needs to shine. We need to remember and recognize the reminders of our worth, sometimes but not always that come through other people—whom we know and even the passing strangers. We may need to remind ourselves. And the light gets a little brighter; gratitude feels a little greater.

We are reminded that even during these dark times, there’s always the light. Lights this time of year remind me of that. One of my favorite things to do is sit in the light, in the glow, of white Christmas lights I have up right now. I love that no matter what path of spirituality any of us is on, light is the common denominator. Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Advent, Winter Solstice.

Without the light, both in a physical way and spiritual and emotional sense, things remain dark. And it feels like there is absolutely no hope, no way to see and no possibility. I keep digging out of this hole I fell into—and I do admit that I fell into one. I keep hoping. And I keep trying to shine my light, like using a flashlight and wanting to find what we lost in the dark. I try to keep believing there’s got to be something better, a life of greater ease that I can create… that maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about finances, that maybe there is a place right here where I can be.

When I stay in the moment, that’s where the power is.
That’s where the hope is.

It’s when I dance in the past and dare to try to see a glimpse of the future that the hope starts dissipating. And I struggle to feel and to believe, and I find myself falling down and off path. When we stay on this path and believe. If we just put one foot in front of the other, that’s where we create, that’s where we stay steady, that where we’re reminded that without the light and without the hope, we definitely lose our footing. I’m learning there’s no shame in that. And….

I find, though, that we don’t lose our footing if we recognize the power of this moment.

Stay with it.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2014. All rights reserved.


Some Starter Resources

+ American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Home

+ National Alliance on Mental Illness
http://nami.org

+ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
1 (800) 273-8255  24 hours, 7 days per week

+ National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide Prevention
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

+ I recently watched an intriguing documentary: Running from Crazy
Mariel Hemingway’s documentary about the trend of suicide in her family.
Click here for the Facebook page for this film. Available on Netflix streaming.

Harley’s Heart… and Supporting Our Hearts with Essential Intentional Breath

(c) Erika M. Schreck

© Erika M. Schreck

Last month my dog Harley was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and dilated cardiomyopathy; he had suddenly been struggling to breathe and had other increasing symptoms. I was devastated when I first heard the news—there were many tears and much overwhelm. After starting medications, Harley has shown huge, impressive improvement, but he is still considered to have a low-functioning heart and a risk of heart failure. His prognosis is uncertain at this point, so we are thankful for each day with him and continue to enjoy the moments. It’s worthwhile to note that we are back to regular exercise, and Harley is happy, overall.

Harley’s diagnosis and needed care has had me thinking about our hearts. How they hurt. How they love. How they can be so full–of love, ache, emotion, light, joy, weight and power. My father died of a heart-attack, and I think of how quickly he left the planet, with so many things undone, and how I’m reminded each time at my doctor’s appointment how I need to be aware of my heart health because of my father. We take supplements like fish oil and do cardio “to support the heart.” Yet, when we don’t breathe–really breathe–and get stuck in sadness, pain and ick, we hurt our heart. Emotional strain can breed physical challenges.

Our hearts get quite the workout here on the planet. While some people may have physical heart conditions, all of us have experienced emotional strain, tough and hurtful relationships, and loss. And all of these dynamics affect our hearts emotionally and energetically. In energetic and spiritual realms, we talk about the heart chakra, an energy center of the body which includes not only our heart but also our lungs, and this beautiful system creates our breath.

Our breath is extremely important—obviously, right?  But our intentional breath is just as important, and it’s great for our heart. I’ve been guided to regularly work with my reiki clients and practice intentional breath at the start of their session. For example, I often ask a client to hear or say, “I breathe in light, love and all I need,” as he/she breathes in, and I ask a client to hear or say, “I release anything that does not serve me,” as he/she breathes out. Then, I encourage the client to be specific and intend when he/she wishes to breathe in and receive with the inhale and be specific with what he/she wishes to let go with the exhale. It can look like intending “As I breathe in light and love and ___” with my inhale and “I release and let go of ____” with my exhale. If we do this intentional breath as often as we need but minimally once per day, we support our heart.

Erika M. Schreck and Beloved Harley © Angie Barnes Photography Hawaii

Erika M. Schreck and Beloved Harley © Angie Barnes Photography Hawaii

Taking care of our hearts physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally involves many practices: Eating well, exercising, lowering stress levels, expressing our feelings and thoughts, staying hopeful and positive, releasing anger and guilt, healing and relieving grief, and breathing with intention.

And sometimes the only, the fastest and the best place to start is with the breath… intentional breath. Take care of your heart, support others taking care of theirs… and I’ll keep you posted on Harley’s heart–so full of love and light and such a healing force.

© Erika M. Schreck, 2014.
All rights reserved.