Wednesday 16 January 2019

It's You, Antonia, You Weirdo. A Healer's Tale

From a painting of Adam and Eve I did at this time.  Here Eve has a moment of realisation. 
This is how I felt about healing.
Many years ago, in a moment of quiet insight, I became aware that even more than being an artist, I am a healer.  You are here, a little voice said, to heal.  My mind went on to tell me that I am up my own bum.  Better come back out of there, said my mind, and get a grip.  So I said nothing about it, did even less, and continued with my life even though, underneath it all, the seed was planted.  Healing was in the air around me, and as long as I didn't look directly at it, I was OK.  If I looked at it, addressed it directly, I was overwhelmed with shame for thinking such a thing about myself. And yet, and yet ... I knew I could do something.  It bothered me, it felt wrong, and yet, it felt as if deep inside me, in the middle of me, it was true.  I couldn't reconcile it with who I was at the time, and tried to shut it out of my mind.  I remember thinking that if I only listened, really hearing people, focusing on what they are saying, that is enough, like healing without actually healing. I won't be obvious and no one has to know.  So I became a very good listener, and no one gave it a second thought.

A painting form this time, showing me, much heavier then, up in the sky throwing my troubles out of a bag to the earth below.  In order that no one is hit by my packages of troubles, everyone carries an umbrella.  Above me my three closest friends rid themselves of their troubles too.

If I met people interested in or practised healing, I was scathing.  Who do they think they are, I would think and at the same time, I longed for them to say Ah!  Antonia, I see through all these smoke screens. You are one of us.  While rejecting them, I longed for their attention and reassurance. I felt like a fraud, I felt conflicted and I felt as if it and I were fundamentally unacceptable.

During those years, I met an ex-civil servant who gave it all up to teach yoga, practice spiritual healing and teach meditation.  She was in her sixties, and wore sensible shoes.  How can she do this, I thought, isn't she embarrassed?  And I couldn't reconcile the fact that she looked like Des O'Connor.  No floaty dresses, no jewellery, no living in a yurt.  She lived in a big family house with a husband and four grown children.  And, she became my friend, and she was completely normal.  But she admitted, in fact advertised, that she did spiritual healing.  It was hard to make sense of.  I remember longing to do what she did and to be like her.

Oh poor Antonia!

What was happening, in retrospect, was that I was being made aware of an inner life.  At that time I was trying to be both a mother and an artist, and not very successful at either.  I didn't feel that I did anything very well.  It had been a struggle to admit publicly that I was an artist, even that felt presumptuous. My life was chaotic.  I had little confidence, I had married someone who was plagued by terrible demons and who disappeared with them in tow, back to his own country, leaving me alone with three small children.  One of them inherited his father's demons and was later diagnosed with autism, a new concept then and not something I had even heard of.  And there was never any money.  If I was interested in healing, I thought, how come I had surrounded myself with such chaos, how come I could not even begin to help my husband, and how was it that I could not help my child?  The person who really needed the help, was me.  Life was happening to me, I had no control over it, I shut myself down deep down inside, and continued to crazy-make day after day, trying to keep up with events in a world I could not understand.

A painting of me with my first husband, having tea and chats in space, before the demons really took hold

Thank goodness for friends, family and neighbours.  I always meant well, and was given a community of wonderful people to help me deal with my rag tag life and to help me with my beautiful children.  I observed them, this community around me, and how they had married good people, made correct decisions, had proper jobs and money to buy things, like food and council tax without scrabbling around and raiding their children's piggy banks. I wondered what was their secret.  What is it that I simply did not get about life. 

I continued to paint throughout these years but nothing I wrote was right.  There was so much to say, there was so much inside, but try as I might, no words came near to expressing what I felt.  Everything I wrote was trite, miserable and superficial.  But I can write, I thought in frustration, I can do it.  How come it is not happening?  Everything sounded like a long, self pitying ramble. 

Then, completely out of the blue, I moved myself and the children far away from London, and fell totally in love with a man who loved me in return.  All that I had ever dreamt of in a partner, came true.  Within eighteen months, he had died.  It was his dying that unlocked the next part of the healing journey. The world around me had been spinning faster and faster over the years, and I was finding it harder and harder to catch my breath.  For a brief moment, I had found someone who knew who I was without my having to speak, and then he was gone.  His dying and death changed my life completely and opened up the next most powerful part of my life.  On the day that he died, I sat down to write, and found that suddenly, the gates were open and all the words that had evaded me before, were now flowing.  The writing was released.  At last I could speak from the heart.  And from that moment on, I chose to work with dying and death.  It was only many years later, after more deaths, that I realised that I could add life to the list.  Dying, death, life and living.

Later, I met another man, the opposite to Steve in all ways, but perhaps the greatest teacher I will ever know. Life and lessons with Alan were hard.  One of the first things he taught me, and I resisted it dreadfully, was that unless I told the truth about how I was feeling, no one could ever know.  No one would guess, it was up to me to tell people the truth about what was in my heart.  I had shut myself down over the years and had believed that it was not safe to say how I felt.  I felt ashamed, I felt vulnerable and I did not believe anyone would listen.  When I look back, I remember his patience and wisdom.  It must have been very hard for someone as truthful as him to cope with me, who would not, could not, let anyone know what I really thought and felt. 

When Alan too died, ten years after Steve had gone, like the release of the words for writing, the understanding of what it meant to be a healer became clear.

Steve. Opened up my life for me, and left
to go home.
Alan.  The greatest teacher I have ever known.
Also left to return home.
In the two years after his death, in the silences and emptiness of the days that followed, I began to understand a bigger picture, of not only my place here in the world, but of the world itself.  Alan's legacy, the gift of his time in this world with me was in the example of how he lived his life.  His honesty, his perceptiveness, his kindness, his toughness. I saw the way Steve had opened up my life with his gentle soul and courage.  I saw how my life up until now, far from being difficult and beyond my understanding, had been just what I needed.  I saw how each experience of loss, of love, of crisis, of loneliness, of connection and then of the ending of lives on this earth, had given me a treasure box of things that I would understand in other people.  All the vulnerability, all the self judgements, all the painful feelings of not belonging and not being good enough, all the awkwardness and the hiding from life were part of learning about life, so that I can feel how it is for someone else.  All those people I sat with at the ends of their lives in the ten years of training myself to become a soul midwife - the courage they gave me to see what is real, the insights they gave me to look carefully at what is true, the power they showed in surrendering with grace to what is inevitable, is all part of the most intricate training I can have into merely glimpsing the mystery of being alive and being here at all.

We are all, all of us, a chest of jewels.  Sometimes the lid is wide open and the light from the diamonds and rubies and gem stones inside is bright enough to light up the space around it.  Sometimes the lid is almost closed, with only a small gleam of light from inside. Even if the lid is closed, even if it is locked, the jewels and light is still there.  However open or closed the lid of the jewel chest is, the contents are not changed or affected.  We are all still filled with precious stones, we decide how open or closed the lid is.

With this in mind, perhaps all of us are capable of making a difference.  We have more healing in us than we imagine.  A most simple act of healing is to be conscious of our own energy so that it is uplifted and mindful of love.  If being conscious of energy feels too wacky, paying attention to how we respond to events and people is the same thing.  In order to practice the simplest of healing, go about your day aware of your energy, mindful of your responses to all those you come across.  Practice all this with love, and take care of how you are thinking. 

Years ago, with the first insight that I was a healer, my great fear was that I was called to be different, like the hand that points from the sky to a little figure in the old national lottery ads.  The business of healing felt like a secret curse, as if I would have to develop into an eccentric pseudo magician.  I think I muddled it up with being a fortune teller with a crystal ball, or a mediocre medium who couldn't get anything right during a seance.   I thought I would have to become a nutcase.  All my friends would be nutcases.  I had no idea how anyone normal could practice healing with confidence and success, and still have fun.  And, how does one do healing anyway? 

It's you, Antonia, you weirdo

These days, I am no longer afraid of it.  Healing includes everyone and requires no special gifts.  I don't have to dress up to be a healer, nor do I have to tell the future.  I don't even have to be right, or know what is wrong with anyone.  It seems to me that healing is a state of mind.  It's an awareness of who you are and what you are doing, for the best outcome for everyone, yourself included.  Kindness is a healing art.  Focus and paying attention are healing arts; I learned something of that watching a very busy vicar in London who, despite rushing everywhere at speed, always stopped when addressed by anyone, and gave them his full attention for the couple of minutes he could spare. Healing is not necessarily a separate act.  It is part of every day life, and costs nothing and does not need feedback.  Smiling at people we meet is healing.  Generosity is healing. Self knowledge and self love are healing.  Prayer is healing, and faith is healing.  The healing journey is never ended, it is ongoing and forever changing, rewarding, challenging, dispiriting and uplifting.  It is, actually, just like life itself.

I am sixty years old next year, and I have found great peace and calm in my life.  I understand so much more and know myself so much better.  I am a fully fledged artist, Reiki master and soul midwife.  The healing that so alarmed me all those years ago is nothing to be afraid of.  It doesn't make me different and it isn't something for weird people with no friends. The idea of it then was far too big and alien, I had no idea in those early days of who I was or that it was even possible (or allowed)  to love myself.  I practice healing in many different ways now in my every day life and when I am too tired or fed up, I don't do it.  I practice healing during Reiki sessions.  I practice it as a soul midwife, and I practice it when in a shop, or at a train station, or in the street, whenever someone talks to me and makes it known they need it.  I do it for money for clients, I do it for free when out and about.  It is a part of life, it is not a secret, and it is often beyond difficult to articulate how it is done.  And it doesn't interfere with eating cake with my friends, dancing to reggae with my grandchildren, and having pizza in a bubble bath in the afternoon.  I am so normal, and I am just fine.  And my three year old grandson says I am a very good boy. 

In case you want to book a session.