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healing

We gathered in class the week after 9/11, wondering what we were doing in Fine Arts when our city had just been bombed. What use? Our teacher implored us to recognize that art is exactly what we’ll need as we and our country begin to heal.


She was right. For 11 years, we and artists everywhere have traveled the grief that day triggered, accessed it, felt it, purged it, shared it collectively, in the art we’ve made, stories we’ve told, textures we’ve weaved. Turns out that in healing ourselves of that wound, we’ve been healing each other. Art heals. Stories mend. Creating invites what’s next.

There’s a story on that plate. If you’ve eaten the cake, hug an artist, or, better, buy him or her some creating time. If you’ve been healed by expression, thank yourself for finding your voice. If you’re still locked, invite your voice by eating more of the cake: surround yourself with art, trees, encouragers who see your beauty and the stories inside you. Listen for the muse in the voices of your people. Talk till you find your way down your story’s path.

Live. Lose. Create. Consume. Build anew. Live anew…

Make your cake. Let us eat it.

Photos by Pema Teeter, taken at SFMOMA’s cafe. Art begets art begets art.

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Original sin, the rewrite

I am compelled by stories. All stories – real, imagined, practical, fantastical, written, filmed, sung, lived. There is one particular genre that intrigues me most of all: ancient, before-the-dawn-of-time narratives of women. These tales weave and wind their way into every other story I know, hear, and tell. And for me, they have become my companions, muses, guides, and friends.

You may know some of these women. In fact, I’m certain you do. You may also have tried to forget them, dismiss them, and separate yourself from them. Because too often, their names summon up other stories that you’ve worked hard to escape: stories of your own.

When I read Pema’s last post, I felt that tension. She told her story – of curiosity, of desire, of shame, of silence, of separation, of hunger. And in it, she also told of the stories she had worked to escape: those of religion and even of God.

What if I were able to tell them in ways that intrigued and invited? Graced and gifted? Were relevant and real? And what if, in hearing them, you could better understand your own?

This is my quest. This is my passion. This is my love. And this is what I’ve done with Pema’s last post as inspiration and hope.

What follows is the story of Eve…as told through the story of Pema. You’ve heard and read them both before. Read them anew. Hear them anew. And watch both stories transform when they are embraced by each other’s.

Eve’s response to Pema in her recent post, “God, Sex and My Divorce from Religion”:

Disclaimer: Run now or hold your peace

No parent wants to read about their child’s first sexual encounter under their own roof. And so for that reason, I caution my dad and anyone else who feels fatherly or motherly toward me, or anyone squeamish about teenage love to click away right now…

In the beginning: shame. Your story starts there…but not on its own, not because of you; rather because of others’ perception, right? I know. I understand. Still, so many years later, you still feel the heft of your years-ago choices. You still anticipate and assume the pain others will know. The weight of your world still rests on these choices…

The fate of the world rested on mine. Or so it’s been told.

Virginal

For all who have stayed. Welcome. To the night I got naked. With a girl. In my brother’s bedroom. It’s a passion play that, like all good dramas, begins its slow turn much earlier.

She and I were best friends. On this night, we turned lovers, in a willful gesture that I learned was desire. It took over me as if I was watching myself on a movie screen. And yet, I lived each moment in the heat that spread in my heart, my gut, my skin, exploding my head. Each choice. And then the next. I was 16.

Everything in me longs to scoop you up in a great big hug and never let you go. Everything in me longs to replay these tapes…the ones that started looping just after…the ones that moved you from desire to shame.

Can you imagine if desire were good? If every emotion, experience, and even explosion was hardly something from which you were restrained; but instead were welcomed? If curiosity had been affirmed? If no fear of shame had been present? If choice had not felt clandestine, secretive, hidden?

This was not imagination for me. It was real. Perfection. Desire. A taste. And all of it was good. Oh, I know, this is not how my story’s been told. Maybe there’s another way to tell yours, as well. Maybe it’s time we preached another.

My dad was a preacher. My mom slept nearby on the living room couch. My brother was no longer. At least, not his physical form. He had died suddenly, nine months before, at 17.

Did you wonder how sermons could be preached and mothers could sleep and life could go on when your brother was gone?

I used to. My son died, suddenly. It was not an accident. And not one aspect of my life was ever the same. But it seemed like life continued around me as though nothing had happened. I never understood how that could be. Many thought my innocence ended when I left the Garden (and you, that night at 16). That was nothing compared to his death.

The end of innocence

His room was intact. I would go in there from time to time, to make his absence real. And to pierce the mute, open doorway standing at the end of the hall, that no one walked through anymore, but which shone blue from the paint on his walls.

It had a bigger bed than mine, covered by the blue and red afghan our grandma crocheted. I would sit on it and stare out the window. Run my hand over coarse yarn and stare out the door. Stare into his closet. Velcro my eyes to the song lyrics he had written on the pad still on his desk. The cartoons he had drawn. His life still in the lines.

But this night, the scratchy afghan slipped to the floor. My best friend and I, we’d been to the beach. Heat from our sunburns made the room feel like day. Street lamp light sifted the darkness telling us it was night. All of it transcended time.

A story is told even before mine where God called the darkness good.

And somehow, that story…like yours…has been lost as time has passed. Now, particular things, spaces, and scenes become indelible symbols we cannot escape. A bed. An afghan. That one night. A tree. A snake. That one bite.

Resurrection mix tape

Dawn came. Then morning sun. Then sleep.

No matter what. These three always return. Over and over again. Dawn. Sun. Sleep. And maybe a fourth: resurrection.

It was Easter Sunday. My dad woke us ten minutes into slumber, to get ready for church.

Mmmm. That morning, after I took the bite, God called to me (just like your dad) and said, “Where are you?”

Pastel floral farm skirt and my favorite greenish cropped top. What I wore that day is sealed on my memory, as is the way the sun slanted through the windows and her next to me in the pew in black pedal pushers. Somebody preached. About Jesus dying for our sins. And coming back to life. While I flashed on fresh sins I could still feel. And felt alive in them.

After I took the bite my eyes were opened – in a flash. And everything was more alive. I got dressed that day. But no matter what I covered myself with, nothing could hide all that I knew, all that I felt, all that had happened, all that was about to happen.

The people here hurt for me and my family’s loss deeply. They wrapped me in love as much as I would let them. And I knew with fearful certainty that if they knew the sins I knew, they would reject me without argument. That was the day a new piece of my spirit struggled free, while my relationship with religion ground to its end.

Many have thought the same of me; that my taking that apple marked the end of perfection with God. Many have been wrong. That one bit of delicious fruit is what changed everything, what opened up brand new worlds, and what enabled a new and intimate relationship with God. Found, not lost.

Lost

As it happened, it was my job to drive Grandma to church. That wasn’t going to change. So I went, every Sunday, for the next three years until I left for college, smiling to see the folks that raised me in this community, and dying inside to think we wouldn’t be having this conversation if they knew what I knew about me.

It has been the job of the church to tell my story a certain way. And I have died inside so many times, not because of what really happened, but because of what others’ decided happened. They talked as if they knew what I knew. They did not.

If you’ve ever been a closeted gay teen stoic at church, you know that hyper-self-awareness can widen into silence and separation. Turn into rejection and resentment. Years into the shut-down, I became allergic to all things holy. The day, a decade later, that I sat in traffic behind a Christian fish symbol bumper sticker, and raged at the intolerant audacity of a blindly religious vocal majority, I heard the silence in my car stab back at me. My outrage, the silent echo suggested, might be a bigger fish to fry than the one on the bumper.

No, not a closeted gay teen stoic at church. Just a banished shameful woman who cast the future of all humanity out of Eden and into hell. The religious vocal majority silenced me and separated me from my story. They rejected me and resented my choices. They fed me to the sharks…and blamed a snake.

A modern chance

There was no where to go in the traffic. No one to hear but myself. I’d learned enough to know that inordinate venom is usually the tip off to a personal problem buried so deep you can’t see it. It was there, gridlocked behind the Christian fish car, that I missed spirituality.

I’m not so sure that venom is always bad. But then, my relationship with snakes is different than most.

If I were a preacher, I’d be fourth in a generational line of them, starting with my great-grandfather on my dad’s side. Church, before there was a building for it, used to be held in the very house that I lived in. My dad as a boy would set out folding chairs in his living room for the congregants, which, if you’ve ever crammed into a living room and shared stories and reverence, you know is a silly name to call each other when it feels rather like family.

I missed…a feeling. That family. The reverence. The sensation of awe and peace and wonder that my dad called “the spirit.” I missed people caring and loving and coming together just to be together in a sacred hour. As much as I had grown to detest all things related to a religious tenet that would kill me if it had a modern chance, I even missed praying.

Most have been told that when I left Eden, God left me, that “spirit” departed. They have painted me as cast from God’s presence (and threatened all sinners hence with the same). Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it was my leaving of Eden that created the context for God’s intimacy, protection, and care in ways previously unknown. It was my leaving of Eden that caused God to pursue me. I might have missed that had I stayed.

Found

And so there in my car, I cracked open and allowed myself to feel, allowed myself to wonder, and to wander through thoughts of God as God related to ME and not a religion.

This IS my story. I allowed myself to feel. I allowed myself to wonder. I allowed myself to wander. And God related to me – always, endlessly, still.

That was the beginning of what has become an increasingly spiritual journey. I remembered the reverence with which I absorbed nature on the walks to school and in the national parks we traveled with my grandparents. I remembered the joy and gratitude of stewardship that my grandma modeled. And I remembered that I had as much fascination for a fundamentalist’s diehard faith as I had vitriol for what it espoused.

I think they call this collection of attributes “humanist,” and maybe that’s what I was becoming. But what I knew in the moment was that access to spirit was no longer trapped in the church box. It was no longer separate from me and my heathen ways. Access to spirit is mine if I want it, even if religion has its party without me.

I was fully human. And I was fully loved by God. Eden did not broker such. East of Eden did not prevent such. I was never, nor have YOU ever been separate from that same God. That’s worth a party, don’t you think?

I’ll bring the apples.

The good news

It is all I can do to stop typing. Pema’s story is so rich in beauty and desire, isn’t it? So is Eve’s. But do you see? The way we tell them (our own telling and others’) is what moves them to shame. Here the good, good news: if we can so easily make this shift, we can just as easily make another.

Stories of shame can be stories of redemption. Stories of separation can be stories of intimacy. And stories silenced can be stories told – celebrated – honored – lived. Pema’s. Eve’s. Yours. Mine.

This is my passion. This is my love. This is sacred stuff.

Inspired by Eve + Pema in the pulpit May 27

Toward that end I created Inspired by Eve. It’s a guide and companion to self-trust, deep knowing, and a delicious life of desire. 36 pages. An audio version of me telling my version of Eve’s story. Provocative writing/journaling/reflective prompts. And an invitation to understand your story in brand new ways. I’d love for you to have it. Click here to learn more. Come on: reach for the apple and take a bite. That hunger is good.

Sunday Services you want to WAKE UP for!
with Ronna Detrick, Spiritual Director and creator of Inspired by Eve.
and guest, Pema Teeter, Story Charmer
May 27, 2012
10:00 am (PST)


Together we will talk about new ways of understanding and incorporating faith, beliefs, spirituality, and gorgeous, significant story.

We need congregation. We need sacred space.
 And we need conversation that is unscripted, unedited, and unboundaried.
 We need each other.


Dial: 530.881.1300 Code: 590920#


(Skype callers: Add ‘freeconferencing.5308811300′ to your contacts.
Once you’ve dialed in, locate the key pad and enter the access code. )

Smart, engaging conversation about topics that matter. Soak up community wisdom. Even worship. It’s divine.


Join us.

 

Ronna Detrick provides Spiritual Direction to both individuals and businesses and creates Sacred Congregation for you! She gets at deep truths and talks about a God and faith you’re hungry for. She has recently released Inspired by Eve ~ a companion and guide to self-trust, deep knowing, and a delicious life of desire. Go on, take a bite: learn more.

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A golden pool

Me in it up to my calves. Looking across it at a figure. Lying on his side on a temple, seductive somewhat. Caressing the top of the water with his hand. Looking at me. It’s Ganesh. The elephant god. Eyes black rimmed in kohl. He beckons to me with his eyes, his fingers tracing the water. He knows I want to come. I am afraid. Reverent. I stand still, water lapping at my calves.

The water is not water. It is a liquid golden light. It is a pool of liquid light lapping at my skin and moving beneath Ganesh’s fingers. I am an Indian boy with thick black hair close cropped. I am a girl. I am me. I want to answer Ganesh’s invitation but I do not know if I can rise to it.

He watches me from across the pool.

I see other…initiates? Devotees? Women with loose cloths draped over their breasts, their legs. What are they doing? Are they afraid? They are dipping their hands in the golden light water and dripping it on themselves. Down their chests, behind their necks. I do what they do. I dip my hands in the water and pull it to my head. It runs down golden in rivulets. It feels good. I feel grace. Gratitude.

Still afraid but surrendering

I look over to the other women and when I look back, I am up to my thighs in the pool. Ganesh still strokes the water, eyes on me. He wants me to come to him. I am still afraid, but I am surrendering. He is asking me, isn’t he? Why be afraid? But I remain thigh deep in the golden pool of light. I run my hands in it like Ganesh. He smiles his slow smile. I step toward him.

Are the other women? Where are they? Totally self-absorbed, in their own light. I am chest high now and my arms float at the water’s surface. Ganesh is beautiful and I am closer to him now. He wants me to surrender fully to the light. To come to him through the light. To approach him. His attention, relaxed as it is, is trained on me. His look beckons.

Now it is just me. No more attention paid to the other initiates. It is me in the light, up to my chest, it cradling my arms and flooding my body.

“There’s more,” says Ganesh’s look, which hasn’t changed. His smile is a coy smile. He knows something I don’t.

Worthy or not

Somewhere here, my fear gives way. The resistance leaves and I realize I must submerse myself in the light. Worthy or not, I must dip myself into it entirely. Will I be able to breathe? Am I worthy to approach Ganesh in this way? Will I disappear? What is within the liquid light?

My left shoulder is in. Then my face as I look beneath the surface. And then I am submerged. My fear has left me and there is only experience. Light against my skin. Warm bath of gold washing against me, holding me in it. I am horizontal. Naked. I am caressed by the gold, lit by the light. I see no other creatures but I know that they are there. I am light. I cannot see them because we are all light. I have become this light. I feel like I am exploring this sensation. This experience. This disappearance indeed. But I am calmed by knowing that Ganesh is above the surface, tracing his hand along the water. He is there so that I do not have to be. He is a placeholder for me and a place for me to return to. An anchor. I can remain under the light pool’s surface without fear of not coming back. I can come back. For now, I feel the light. It is light-weight and airy and golden. It is grace.

This is me

I stay because it is not time to leave. And suddenly, I spring from beneath the water’s surface to the branch of a tree on the shore where I started. I am an owl. I have taken the shape of an owl! I spread my wings and shake them. Golden! Made of light! This is me. I watch Ganesh in his shrine. He smiles at my ride in this light. The branch beneath my golden feet begins to turn gold. The light spreads all down the tree. And I am back under the surface of the pool, submerged, floating subsurface. Enjoying this.

There is something more. I can feel it but I don’t know what it is, so I float. I am close to Ganesh and his hand above the water’s surface. I remember that he had beckoned me. I was to walk to him. I go to him, to his hand at the water’s top. My vision of his hand is golden from my submerged view. I place my hand beneath his. I place my hand beneath his and it is a man’s hand. It is an elephant’s ancient foot, leathery. It is a man’s hand again. We touch, my palm reaching up against his.

Several images and sensations of this occur, like flipping slowly through a deck of cards, all versions of the same picture. Our hands touching at the golden light’s surface, me submerged and he aloft.

Me and God

There are a few flashes of this image, and then I am Ganesh, lying on his palette under his shrine’s ceiling, upon the grand, shallow steps of his temple, leading down to the golden water’s edge. I am Ganesh. And Ganesh is me. Ganesh is me beneath the water, submersed in golden light and I am Ganesh. We are one. I am god. This is his lesson. Why he called me from the other side of the pool. We are one. There is no one between me and god.

I trace the surface of the water with my hand. It is warm and soft in its texture. Liquid light. My gaze is fixed on a young figure across the pool. It is me. Or another me. Another initiate, with short cropped black hair, loose cloths covering his or her limbs. It is me and I am Ganesh and Ganesh is beneath the surface of the Golden Light. We create a triangle, timeless. We are God. Ever beginning and ever complete. We are one.

 

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Memories

I’m writing memories for a while, in exploration. Staring out the window in the mornings, letting them fall out of lit corners and dark folds, rustling leaves, blunt sunshine of spring. Join me if you please. Write yours in the comments, or link to your blog. Explore with me.

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Pieces

It was a tiny room with historic wooden floors, a single bed, and summer ants that would eat holes in the crotches of my underwear. I pilfered food that wouldn’t be recognized as missing off the shelves of my landlord, and at work, stole quarters from the prospective-client-parking box to buy gas station egg salad sandwiches at lunch. I did this every day till I noticed I’d lost months of memory focusing solely on the next meal, and then the next.

On the phone with my dad, I reined in tears while he romanticized poverty, saying this life is a choice I made, and praising the fact that every successful writer has “eaten bark” to get by, eventually, refusing my just-in-case request to come home for a while if it was confirmed that, in fact, I was losing my mind.

Mirror, plate glass window, each one I walk by, I double-take at the reflection of my mother before realizing it’s me. This is me. Is this the way it’s going to be till the end? If the physical gene is this strong, surely the emotional one has some horsepower, too, and if that’s true, what will I, daughter of a mother who bolted when her kids were toddlers, face as womanhood takes hold? She is no longer nibbling at the edges of me. She’s inside.

Poles

I live under the roof of the most creatively suited mentor I could have imagined, help instigate a writers group dreams are made of, and make community with writers whose eventual films and plays call to mind the times spent creating those pieces in our living room readings. I fall in love with two kids and a dog. Family.

I’m writing an electric story. It’s characters are taking over and I long ago forgot the time.  When, suddenly, I stop. It stops. The flow of the thing. The words, the characters, the picture I’m describing freezes like a Polaroid in its frame, nostalgia-tinted. I scratch at its surface trying to get back in. But it’s an inanimate thing, and I am locked out. Each day I return, I jangle keys outside it, doorless, frozen in time. Inaccessible. I slink away. But visit often. Visit all of the stories often. Pace the tiny room. Fuzz my vision at a golden afternoon edging windows, floor. Angry as the light wanes. Another day stunted into snapshot. Why do *I* have to heal before I can write? and then I wonder where that thought came from? Heal what? It’s just writing. Anyone can write. Especially writers. Paw again at the Polaroid. Notice the dust between bare feet and the floor. Let go the picture and find the broom.

Slalom

How do you know when a story matters?
You know when you don’t want to tell it.
Or when it makes you feel short of breath, or feel anything at all.
You know when time disappears while you’re telling it.
And when your audience is tearing up without noticing. When they’re silenced in wait of what’s next.
You know it matters when you have to be cajoled to tell it.
When people ask to hear it again.
When listeners and readers ask questions, and read the next one.
And when it heals.

Stories matter when they’re true. True to struggle, to human nature, true to experience.

You don’t have to tell on yourself. You don’t have to share your story if it’s too scary to reveal.
But consider this next suggestion: Tell yourself. Even if you don’t let others see it, write your stories that matter.
Let yourself feel the memory: Stark joy. Shocking fate. Painful mediocrity.
Notice the feeling of it, then write into it. What hurt? What stuck? What’s hardest to say out loud?
Say it. Let it out. Then watch it shimmer.
It has a life of its own, that experience, and its own little piece of soul—yours, shimmering in it, that you’ll never get back if you don’t first let the story out.
Stories lose luster without that piece of soul. Just words without it.
So listen. Feel. Find what catches, what makes you want to hide.
And write it. You’ll find the soul. And in finding it, repair.

Memories

I’m writing memories for a while, in exploration. Staring out the window in the mornings, letting them fall out of lit corners and dark folds, rustling leaves, blunt sunshine of spring. Join me if you please. Write yours in the comments, or link to your blog. Explore with me.

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Post-Op

On my door, a bright yellow laminated sign has been posted—in six languages:

“I have had surgery and am resting/sleeping.
Thank you for your consideration and cooperation.”

My meals will be brought to me, and I will be with myself for the next twenty-four hours.

Awake, and Aware

I have imagined sleep, deep sleep. Long, beautiful sleep. The kind of sleep I have been longing for all of my life. (Christine, the doctor from San Diego, slept for two days straight, after her “surgery.”) I feel spent and heavy, and can hardly move. But instead of sleep, curiously, I am awake the rest of the morning and afternoon, save for two one-hour naps, the second after I’ve taken an Excedrin PM around four.

At 8:30 I take my nightly supplements, and two Benadryl. I still wake up at 3 a.m. for a bit. I know, healing doesn’t always happen in the timing or the way one might hope for. But I can also tell something profound is occurring.

I am very aware of my heart. Too aware. It is beating strong and heavy. I could even say it is keeping me awake. I am also very aware of my mind, and the cavalcade of memories it is trotting through. Some things I haven’t thought of for decades, more.

And I have a dream. That Ruth Paris, the mother of one of my brother’s childhood friends, who died when her kids were still pretty young, is alive, fifty and pregnant. This is a bit of a scandal. Breaking the rules for a woman her age! My father, also dead, is there.

Alive

I think this is a good sign. Something that has been long-dead is now again alive, and preparing to give birth. Not necessarily in normal timing, but birth, nonetheless . . .

In these long hours, I have many conversations with Spirit. Many prayers. I meditate and feel profoundly blessed by my life and all the twists of road that have brought me here.

I have come here to learn and witness more of what the Truth is. I have come here to see and know. I want to feel it for myself. More and more deeply. Many of us talk about spirit or God or guidance, but do we really Know how this works, know the Truth of it? Do we really believe in the spirit world? Beyond Jesus, if we’re Christians? Beyond the mere few we may pray to? Or receive and perceive as metaphor.

The Casa is full of helping spirits. John of God “incorporates” them and they heal through him. As he says, “It is not I who heals. It is God.”

So in my long hours alone, I ask to be Connected. I ask to Know. I ask to be well-used. I ask to forge a deeper relationship with the Divine. To be assisted, so I may more deeply assist. To become One with God. A portal. An instrument . . .

It Is All So Palpable

Today, I return, and again wait in line to see John of God. For a review of what occurred yesterday. I’ve asked a translator to assist me in understanding. This time, I take John of God’s hand, but our time together is still a split second. He waves me away, and I am told by the translator, “Go into the far room. He will work with you.” I follow the others before me and am seated in a row. Again, the energy feels very intense. And in a few minutes it is done, and we are ushered out. I go back into the Assembly room to meditate and integrate for a while. It is all so palpable.

Heart of Compassion

Wednesday night, we are invited to where Emma is staying, to watch a film on the life of Chico Xavier, a Brazilian man who was John of God’s mentor. This film was recently released—a full-length feature—and apparently has been the most popular film, ever, in Brazil. Xavier was a profound medium, who, in part, channeled letters from the dead, and even signed the person’s name in their own handwriting! Without having been given any information about whom the letter was for or from! There was once a lawsuit against him, accusing him of plagiarizing a dead poet whose writing came through him. And he channeled over 400 books! For which he never received payment.

Neither has John of God ever received money for his healing work. He works a job, as Xavier did, the days he is away from the Casa.

This is the tradition and teaching of the Spiritist faith. If God has graced you with a gift, you must give it away.
John of God came from a very poor family and is basically uneducated. At the age of nine, an angel came to him and asked if he would give his life to serve millions of people in healing. He has been doing this work ever since, and the Casa has been in existence for over thirty years.

He has also set up soup kitchens across Brazil. As an offering for the poor. In an interview I saw, he begins to weep, talking about knowing what it’s like to be hungry. A heart of compassion.

I feel so blessed to be here.

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Part 3 of 3. Read the beginning of Johanna’s journey…Part 1, here). And watch for the rest of the story on her blog at jcourtleigh.com.

Johanna Courtleigh MA, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Hypnotherapist and HypnoFertility Therapist, and Certified Oneness Awakening Trainer through the Oneness University in India. Her work seeks to help people heal from the mistruths they’ve been taught, and to awaken a core of deeper reverence, self-love, awareness, empowerment, ease and integrity—with themselves, and in their relationships with others. She is passionate about helping create a more peaceful world, and helping her clients become happier, healthier and more “in love” as a state of Being.

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Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.

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“The aim is not to quench your thirst. The aim is to develop the perfect thirst, so that you never stop drinking.” ~Sufi Teaching~

The Way You Make Me Feel

I was sad to hear about Whitney Houston’s death, but my feeling watching the 4-hour televised funeral was more than sadness. It registered more as a reminder and an awakening.

I listened to the bodyguard (the real one) talk about how much entertainers give for us. Figuratively he shook his finger at us for our iniquitous condemnation of those who quench our thirst at the expense of their own.

But, wasn’t it her job to fill me up?

Rock With You

I thought about all the pop princesses and princes we know by first names who had fallen asleep empty, unhappy, judged – those whose job it was to fill us up, but retreated to fill themselves in secret.

It’s their job to fill me up, isn’t it?

I closed my eyes and thought back to 1984. There I sat at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, NJ anticipating, watching Michael Jackson and his brothers perform. At the end of the song, “Human Nature,” the stage lights darkened and focused only on the guitar and MJ as he moon walked in a square. I had this magical feeling that there was a thread that connected all 55,000 of us to those guitar strings, those feet, and that rhythm. I left that concert feeling a fullness and flow I had never experienced. It was as if he had activated some kind of performance osmosis – a movement of energy from his cells to mine.

But flow in one direction can leave you thirsty.

How Will I Know

It didn’t occur to me that his cells could possibly be as dehydrated as if he’d gulped seawater. All I cared about was that he had done his job as a performer.

I spent years actively trying to recreate that feeling – a high that only oozed through my cells once I stopped chasing it during the Thanksgiving break of 2009.

I sat on the balcony of the cruise ship watching waves tumble and somersault. My boys were inside the cabin.  And there it was, in that quiet, meditative moment of equilibrium – an understanding, a remembrance. Salty tears ran down my cheeks. Even in my loneliest times since, I’ve never expected to be filled by another person.

(There Is) No Greater Love

Michael, Whitney, Amy, Heath, Anna, River, Elvis… I hope you have finally developed the perfect thirst so that you never stop drinking. I think I have.

It was never your job to fill me up.

# #

L’Tanya Durante surprises me every time I read her pieces. They’re short, they move quickly, I’m engaged, then BAM, from an angle I didn’t see coming, I’m crying. The sudden turn, of fate, of beauty, socks me in the jaw, just powerfully enough to make me levitate in the images she’s left me with. I met L’Tanya when we both wrote for Danielle LaPorte’s pre-FLAME adventure, Carrie and Danielle. It was a conversation with L’Tanya that—speaking of socking me in the jaw in a sudden turn—upped the game of this Waking Up series so sharply, it had me spinning for a week before I figured out how to land. Please, take a dive into the sweet witness of her life’s observations on her blog. And levitate.

# #

Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.


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Spirit Hospital

“Crystal bed,” I’m told.
“Just once?” I ask. “That’s it?” I think. It’s taken a split second! I have wanted surgery. Spiritual surgery, here in this place that’s called the Spirit Hospital.

I am a bit disappointed, but I go get my Blessed Soup, and have my crystal bed treatment—twenty minutes under large, lighted crystals that are pointed at the chakras—and return to our Posada for lunch and to wait for the afternoon session. I return in the afternoon, to sit “in current”—a room that all who see John of God pass through.

We are to keep our eyes closed, our bodies uncrossed, and be in meditation and prayer until we are told we’re done. We are to hold the energy of healing, and prayers for self and others, as part of the “current” that supports the energy of John of God’s work. People who are part of the Casa instruct us in prayers in various languages over the three or so hours we are there. I have deep, quiet meditations. Our English prayer leader is a lovely woman from Ireland. Her prayers are beautiful, gentle, passionate.  Poetry.

Spiritual Surgery

Thursday.  We awaken early and are again at the Casa by 7:30. I have decided I will go before John of God again, and tell him, “I did my crystal bed. What would you like me to do now?”

I find a seat in the Assembly Room, and like yesterday, prayers and introductions go on and on. Suddenly Emma is next to me, “John of God is going to be coming out and doing surgery in front of the group! Come on!”

She leads me up to the front of the room and we stand there, waiting. I feel uncomfortable. We’re blocking other people’s view. But such is the way here. I learned, getting onto the plane in Miami. Brazilians have no trouble pushing. I have wanted to see this. We are right in front and after a bit, John of God comes out, with a line of four or five people who lean against the wall behind him.

The Man and the Entity

Now, there is John of God, the man. And John of God, “in Entity.” John of God, the man, is afraid of the sight of blood. John of God, in Entity, has done literal surgery on hundreds of thousands of people. Without antiseptic or anesthetic. No one experiences pain or infection. There is a TV screen in the Assembly Room, running a video loop, showing him doing these surgeries. Sticking his fingers in and pulling out tissue, tumors. Doing various procedures one would never see in any hospital or doctor’s office!  I dare myself to keep my eyes open and watch the whole thing.

On the wall in one of the Casa rooms is a photo of John of God, in Entity, doing surgery on himself! He had a stroke many years ago, and one of the entities took care of it for him. Through him.

Front Row View

He is now before us, “in Entity,” channeling. He appears a bit glazed, in an altered state. There are several people holding trays of instruments, a basin of water, towels, etc. Assistants to the doctor. He speaks to them, then calls the first woman forward. She is put in a primitive, bungee-cord type wheel chair. With a bit of dramatic flourish, he takes what looks to be a kitchen knife, tilts her head back, holds open her eye and begins to scrape her eyeball. He then wipes the blade on her shirt, and moves to her other eye, scraping and dipping the blade in to poke some bit out. There is no blood, just a bit of watering. She is then wheeled away.

Next he treats a man, lifting his shirt above his chest. An assistant points to an area just below the breast, and John of God takes a scalpel and makes an incision into the man’s body, about three inches across. One large tear of blood trails down his belly and onto his shoes and the floor. He clamps the incision, and then takes a needle and thread, and pushes it through the thick tissue. He ties off the stitching and the man is seated in a wheelchair and taken to the recovery room. Someone cleans the blood off the floor.

The next patient is a younger man. John of God takes a long pair of what appear to be surgical pliers and pinches a bit of cotton in them. He dips them in some solution, and pushes the pliers a good four inches into one of the man’s nostrils, and twists. He then pushes hard on the man’s belly, and pulls out the pliers. There is no blood! The man has had no observable pain reaction. He is put in a wheelchair and taken to recovery. (I saw him later, and he was fine, chatting and smiling.)

A fourth patient is put in a wheelchair and taken away. I imagine because the entity has done his surgery spiritually, and that work is now complete. There are hundreds of people in the Assembly Room, and I have had a totally unobstructed view of this. Amazing!

My Turn

All this has occurred rather quickly, and John of God is off the stage and an announcement is made in Portuguese. Emma is by my side again and tells me, “They just said that all those who want surgery are to line up.”
“Physical or spiritual?” I ask.
“Spiritual. That’s what you want, isn’t it? Get in line!”

This is not the normal protocol, but one of the Entities has offered to do surgery for all who desire it. Again, I want to experience this, and feel it for myself.  Spiritual surgery. Not physical! I don’t imagine I could really handle that…though everyone who experiences physical surgery seems to be supported by invisible anesthesia. Going into deep trance.

A long line of us push forward. I am so moved, I begin weeping as the line moves into a room and we are seated. The overflow stand. We are told the entities can perform up to nine surgeries at a time on a person, so if we want multiple surgeries, we are to put our hand over our heart. Otherwise, we are to put our hand over the area for which we wish healing. I put my hand over my heart, and am very moved.

I Pray

I pray, “Heal me,” and in my mind recount the things I want help for. Insomnia.
Heart—mitral valve prolapse and irregular beats. Family dynamics. Bone spurs in my neck. Auto-immune disease…

We are given final instructions, and the last words I hear in English are, “Good luck, and God bless you!” Like we are getting on some kind of wild, mad hatter ride.

What I haven’t mentioned in my list is TMJ. My wobbly jaw, my quirky bite. But as I sit there, I feel something going in my ear, moving through my jaw and across my face to the other side of my jaw. My jaw then relaxes without any effort on my part. I feel other subtle sensations, but this is the most powerful. When it is over, we’re told to open our eyes.

We shuffle out, and are seated by language, to be given instructions. Blessed Herbs are to be purchased at the Pharmacia and taken three times a day for the next forty days. Also for the next forty days, no alcohol, peppers, pork or sex. We are to go to our rooms for the next twenty-four hours and rest and sleep as much as possible. No reading, no computers, no writing, no chatting. We are to take a taxi back to the hotel, come back tomorrow afternoon for follow-up and blessing from the Entity, and in one week, put a cup of blessed water by the side of the bed and drink it in the morning. This will dissolve the stitches.

We are to be aware that we have had surgery, and are in a very open, vulnerable state. We are to treat ourselves as such.

Healing Begins

Emma gets my herbs for me, and puts me in a taxi. Our Posada is less than a block away. I pay the driver and am met at the gate by a woman from the hotel.

“Just had surgery?” she asks me.
“Yes.”
I drag myself up to my room. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck! I get myself ready for bed, and there is a soft knock at the door. The woman from the Posada offers me a bowl of Blessed Soup. Everyone is to have a bowl of Blessed Soup each morning after being with John of God. I thank her, eat my soup and crawl into bed.

# #

Part 2 of 3. Follow along in the Waking Up series to read what happens next in Johanna’s journey. (Read Part 1 here).

Johanna Courtleigh MA, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Hypnotherapist and HypnoFertility Therapist, and Certified Oneness Awakening Trainer through the Oneness University in India. Her work seeks to help people heal from the mistruths they’ve been taught, and to awaken a core of deeper reverence, self-love, awareness, empowerment, ease and integrity—with themselves, and in their relationships with others. She is passionate about helping create a more peaceful world, and helping her clients become happier, healthier and more “in love” as a state of Being. She is available for in-person consultations in her office near Portland, Oregon, and over the phone and via Skype.

# #

Speaking of miracles, the 7-day Wake Up has been off the charts expansive and beautiful in its results.

You can still join us. One more day, March 26, 4:00 a.m. PDT. Wake up with us + watch your life pop open. Cost: Zero dollars and a few dawns. Reach out —> Hi [at] StoryCharmer [dot] com

Receive the Wake Up Kit. Get on the call. Or skip the call! And wake up anyway.

# #

Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.

{ 0 comments }

A journey apart

Monday morning. I arrive Brazil after a couple of long, blurred days of travel. Portland—Dallas—Miami—Brasilia. Arriving, unfortunately, several days before my bag, which has decided to take a little tour of the country’s airports, alone, without me!

I’m sure I’m a bit of a curiosity, hot and sweaty, trudging this little one-horse town, in jeans, black boots, and a sleeveless top I finally purchase after it becomes clear my bag won’t be getting here any time soon. Hot. Bright. The sky, a moody squint, smearing into blackness. And pounding thunder. Shocks of lightning. Wild frenzied rain. Stray dogs wander the muddy streets. A small herd of Brahmin cows scuttle and nudge down a narrow lane. Chickens. Goats. Men on bikes, dodging the splattering potholes.

Travel can be about flowing with “what is.” Or “isn’t,” as the case may be. So Tuesday afternoon I finally find a place that takes credit cards—the money exchange place has been all out of cash for days!—and spend questionable prices on a white outfit and pair of cheap flip-flops, so I will be presentable at the Casa de Dom Ignacio tomorrow morning.

John of God is here Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and receives all who arrive for healing, hope, spiritual growth. Sometimes, literally thousands in a day. They come in large busloads, or like me, to stay weeks or more. So far, I’ve met people who’ve been here for months, sometimes coming back again and again for the gentle love and quiet healing of this place.

Map of sorrow, hope

Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. A sea of people, all in white, flow toward the Casa, on foot, by wheelchair, on crutches. There are protocols. First, I go to a translator, who writes down my concerns in Portuguese. We are allowed to request healing for up to three things at a time. Mine have changed in the middle of the night, as I feel my heart thudding, and think, “I have plenty of time, and will bring my other issues to him later.”

I tell the translator, “Chronic insomnia, heart issues and family patterning challenges.” I do this as a prayer not only for myself, but for my lineage. Our guide, Emma, told me she once asked for the healing of depression throughout her ancestry, and saw her siblings go through significant changes . . .

We crowd into the open Assembly Room, waiting as long introductions and prayers are made in Portuguese, German, French, Spanish, English. Much is said that is not translated, but the feeling is very heartful and beautiful. A palpable energy of love that we begin to sink into as we prepare and are prepared for our encounter and deepening union with the Divine.

We come from all over the world, from all backgrounds and economies and distresses. Weary, sorrowed, hopeful, hopeless. The beautiful black man with the large growth jutting out of his neck. The little pale girl, splayed in her parent’s arms, covered everywhere with a weepy rash that keeps her whining and itching, tortured. The ashen ones, spent and exhausted. The ones in wheelchairs, or hobbling on crutches, canes. And the ones like me, whose difficulties cannot so easily be seen. We come to this one, John of God, who has healed literally millions. I am so moved. And feel a sense of deep gratitude and compassion for our collective humanity, the vulnerability of being embodied, as I look around, and wait for my group—the “first time line”—to be called.

Miracles into mainstream

Emma is with me.  She will be our guide for the two weeks. She has been part of the Casa, and in and out of Brazil, for over ten years now, and has made a film and written two books about John of God. She is considered one of the Casa “mediums” and has been chosen to bring the awareness of this healing to the western world. Recently, she brought a group of medical professionals to the Casa, and will do so again next fall, growing a community of healers who are open to attending illness “outside the traditional AMA box.”

Things are being healed here that have not been helped elsewhere. AIDS, cancers, tumors, depression. There is a room full of crutches and wheelchairs, left by those who have left Abadiania healed. There are many miracle stories.

I knew Emma twenty-plus years ago in California. A psychologist, from whom I took the Avatar program. She has organized the whole trip, and will care for us through the process. She will go through the line with us, to help translate, and listen, so we can understand our instructions.

Ready to heal

We are a curious group. Five, so far. A man from Sicily, in a wheelchair, and his attendant, a man from Mexico. They are old friends and both live in the US now. A man from Togo, who also now lives in the US. And a doctor from San Diego—a woman who has mostly done plastic surgery, including much prosthetic surgery for breast cancer survivors. She is an expert on breast cancer and has written a book about prevention. Others will join us next week.

Hundreds line up when we are called, but the line goes relatively quickly.  We approach, and I hand the translator my slip of paper, which he reads to John of God.

# #

Part 1 of 3. Follow along next week in the Waking Up series to read what happens next in Johanna’s journey.

Johanna Courtleigh MA, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Hypnotherapist and HypnoFertility Therapist, and Certified Oneness Awakening Trainer through the Oneness University in India. Her work seeks to help people heal from the mistruths they’ve been taught, and to awaken a core of deeper reverence, self-love, awareness, empowerment, ease and integrity—with themselves, and in their relationships with others. She is passionate about helping create a more peaceful world, and helping her clients become happier, healthier and more “in love” as a state of Being. She is available for in-person consultations in her office near Portland, Oregon, and over the phone and via Skype.

# #

Speaking of miracles, the 7-day Wake Up has been off the charts expansive and beautiful in its results.

You can still join us. 4:00 a.m. PDT. March 20-27. Wake up with us + watch your life pop open. Cost: Zero dollars and a few dawns. Reach out —> Hi [at] StoryCharmer [dot] com

Receive the Wake Up Kit. Get on the call. Or skip the call! And wake up anyway.

# #

Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.

{ 3 comments }

Yesterday’s ocean post leads uncannily into today’s, a story so compelling it is hard to choose which segment to run. Inside the three minutes of the video posted here, our lives are compared again to the forces of nature, but this time we are the wave.

Please open your senses and grab a tissue, for the vast beauty and challenge here is outer and inner, both.

Last year, I met Jan Vozenilek, Director of Photography on the Midway Journey project. In the circle of people at Gail Larsen’s Transformational Speaking workshop, Jan told us about a crazy ride in a prop-engine plane, relief and joy at landing, and then astonishing grief as he stepped over bird after dead bird on the runway.

These were the reason for his adventure. To capture on film the beauty and devastation of Midway, island home to thousands of albatrosses, 40% of whose babies die each year, unable to ingest the plastic they eat from the Pacific garbage patch.

Jan was telling us about a deeply personal experience. But when he tucked his hand into his pocket and pulled out a handful of plastic bottle caps, the room fell still. Tears. He had retrieved them himself from the belly of a dead bird, and stood there before us, returned from thousands of miles. We each knew the weight and texture of those caps from personal experience. How many had each of us sent to the sea? Unwittingly. How many plastic spoons and toothbrushes and plastic pen caps and Bic lighters? Beyond ourselves, we felt the millions of others also unwitting, at the hand of these birds’ deaths.

The story is overwhelming. The project is a team of artists applying their art, minds, and audiences to a collective wake-up of millions of individuals making simple choices every day.

*Jan left us with a last compelling complexity, imparting an invitation an island elder had shared with his team.

“Do not consider them victims. Consider them heroes.”

Hero: Someone who takes a self-sacrificing journey to bring back light to the tribe.

From MidwayJourney.com:

“The MIDWAY media project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.”

# #

Wake up with me for the 7-day Wake Up. March 20-27. Join us + watch your life pop open. Cost: Zero dollars and a few dawns.

# #

Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.

{ 5 comments }

Sure, waking up is like swimming in the ocean, breathless, totally invigorating, with wave after wave of aliveness.

It also happens that aliveness in the form of an ocean wave can kill you if you don’t know how to relate with it. Which is maybe the feeling people get when resisting the things they fear — fear of getting married, of quitting a job, taking off on a trip, of admitting you’re wrong, allowing others to influence you.

Guess what. We get the waves in life whether we’re awake to them, riding them out like a ocean nymphs, or blindsided by them, trammeled by turns of fate.

I give you…

How to relate with a wave,

in the ocean as in life

1. Float over it

You see the wave coming. It’s a manageable size. The weather is sunny. There are people all around. This is fun. The wave approaches, you push off the sandy bottom and float over the wave’s surface. Your body feels weightless. Your skin tingles in the cool salty swirl. At the end of the day, you walk to shore smiling, hungry, and promising to do more invigorating things in your life. Your senses are awakened.

In life, consider this wave an opportunity you’ve made for yourself, a moment you’ve spared to indulge in play. Your brain thanks you with 10 new ideas, your body thanks you with 100 delicious sensations.

2. Dive under it

This one is over your head. The best way through is to dive under it. That means taking a deep breath and committing to the body of it, working with its circular motion to go deep under its core. Here, beneath the wave, close to the ocean floor, it can pass over you without taking you with it.

Sometimes you get the full nasal enema. Sometimes you get rocked by a bigger force than you gave the oncoming wave credit for. But you’ve come to know your strength with this set. You’ve gained appreciation for the mortal part of you and the soulful stretch. You know how far to push yourself and how far you can be pushed. You’re awake to a lot more about yourself and the world around you than you bargained for when you strapped into the suit earlier that day.

3. Surf along it, ride its power for pleasure

Some people are as nuts about inviting new vitality as others are about hitting the beach during a storm swell (which, surfers will tell you, lead to the same result). This wave is coming. It is in your life. You have chosen it, or it has chosen you. What do you do?

What if you velcro into the ankle leash, paddle out and get as much out of the set as you can? Maybe the first two take you down. You get tumbled, have to reel in your board, ground your back into the sand on that last one. But the waves are still coming, you’ve still got your board. The water is churning but your lungs are keeping you very much alive and your adrenalin is promising you that there is something here for you, something not just to survive, but to seize, live, take away, in the present and in memory, something that will add to or take away from your soul, depending on how you face it. What do you do?

4. Get trampled and thrashed in its churn, hit the bottom, suck sand, surface spewing, limp to shore

It’s like this sometimes. The wave is stronger, bigger, moved by the cosmos — the moon and her dance with the tides — negligent of your circumstance, outsizing your strength to do anything but hold on. And sometimes holding on seems improbable too.

When the wave has crashed, and your ears are full of sand, your suit is ripped, and water is streaming from your nose, you barely recognize that the vertigo is not you still spinning under the wave, it’s your limbs lurching to the beach. It’s a point one step ahead, and then the next, it’s your eyes fixed on the direction of the waves and following them. It’s your breath, hurting in your chest, reminding you, yes, you’re still here. It’s your world afterward for a while — sometimes a very long while — trying to right itself to the rocking that you got.

And when you right yourself, breath by breath, warm meal by warm meal, sleep by sleep, you find that, crazily, wrongly, beautifully, perfectly, you have emerged from a shell that held you, new skin that senses, new eyes that see new views, bigger, tender love. You have grown.

To survive a trample…

Take a deep breath, tuck into a ball, sink as close to the ocean floor as possible, squeeze your eyes tight, and feel for the wave to pass over you. You’ll get tumbled. But the closer you are to the ground, the less pounding you’ll receive from Mother Nature’s canter, leggy lady that she is.

The takeaway? Survive the thing. Take the tumble. Get close to the ground, i.e., get as grounded as you can, in perspective, possibility, the gift of memory, and the reach of the hero that is changed by challenge. Lose it when you need to. You almost lost your life in that one, after all. But first survive. And then grow into, not what’s left, but what the experience has birthed you into.

Look at that. Wave after wave, back in the primordial soup. Evolving.

 

# #

Wake up with me for the 7-day Wake Up. March 20-27. Join us + watch your life pop open. Cost: Zero dollars and a few dawns.

# #

Story Charmer’s Waking Up Series is the month of March in meditation on WAKING UP. What does it mean? What growth does it spur? What wonder and challenge? GUEST POSTS and personal queries will appear here throughout the month. Read all the posts in the series here…

If you’re spurred by what you read, and you want to write a post in reply, email me (hi) at (storycharmer) dot (com).

Join the conversation. Leave a comment. Write a post.

Let’s wake up together.

{ 13 comments }