Compassion, Gratitude, Present Moment Awareness


Art by Foster Turtle

“Maybe it is time for you to walk into your fears.” 

Where do I begin? 

Dr. Lindley explained that people oftentimes seek out their fears in order to build courage. Some opt to walk on fire, others swim with sharks. I decided to start with the most accessible route: my fear of needles.

I decided to start with the most accessible route: my fear of needles. 

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of needles. I have passed out on many occasions while getting my blood drawn. With each of my three pregnancies, I declined an epidural, because my fear of the needle was greater than my fear of labor pain. 

I immediately went home and contacted a tattoo artist. 

I decided my fear of needles was a perfect starting place. Michael Brown suggests that the things that are difficult, like triggers, are messengers that point us to our unfinished work within. Michael suggests figuratively dismissing the messenger (the difficult person or situation) and breathing through the difficult feelings that come up without resisting them. 

I had never before entertained a tattoo. I decided to go with something that represented my journey into fear. A Triskele is an ancient symbol found in many cultures. The Celtic version of the three legged spiral represents a journey of forward motion to reach understanding. The three connected spirals represent everlasting cycles, transforming at each point. The three representations that held special meaning for me:

  • Body, Mind, Spirit
  • Father, Son, Holy Spirit (Divine Feminine)
  • Life, Death, Rebirth

I especially connected to the Triskele as a reminder to not forget my body again. As a child, I learned to forget. There were a lot of good reasons to not trust the sensations of my body or the emotions of my heart. My little girl (me as a child) coped with the chaos by disconnecting from her body and living in her mind. The coping strategies of a little girl are necessary and work for a time. But, these coping strategies became an obstacle to living life fully as an adult.

My fascination with the  Enneagram began to open my eyes to how fragmented I had become. Like the Triskele, the symbol of the Enneagram is also divided into three parts that make up the whole: body, heart, and head. The Enneagram teaches that we develop unconscious coping strategies at a very young age to manage overwhelming fears. When we are afraid, our strategies corner us into rigid unconscious patterns. We unconsciously fragment ourselves, relying on one strategy, while neglecting the other parts of the whole. I relied solely on my thoughts, while neglecting the body and heart. 

My coping became an obstacle to living fully.

I was missing the gifts of the whole.

Unfortunately, the mind by itself has no anchor in present moment. Thoughts by themselves reel haphazardly between past and future like a ship missing its compass in present moment awareness. The sensations in the body; the breath, contractions, lightness, heaviness, etc., always exist in the present moment. Your body sensations are always now. The itch on your foot happens now. A mind that is anchored in the sensations of the body is here now. Emotions anchored in the body are here now. Sadly, a mind all alone by itself is left to think constantly and unproductively with no hope of discernment.

I chose the Triskele as a reminder to not forget my body again. 

I picked out the image of the Triskele featured above. I loved that the three spirals were not perfectly symmetrical, each one is a little different. Each spiral has its own unique wisdom. I could learn to honor the wisdom of each as an experience of the whole. I also loved the three dots that are not typically part of the Triskele. For me, they represented the tools I would need on my journey: compassion, humility, and gratitude. The entire image with its spirals and dots represents Divine Love. 

I decided the image would need to be somewhere I would see it every day because of my tendency to forget myself. I wanted to fully commit, no matter what anyone thought, to really taking on this journey whole-heartedly. I chose my inner left forearm – also connected with my heart. 

Perfect love drives out fear. Love is the guide. Open in love.

Honestly, consciously choosing to get the tattoo gave ample opportunity to work through my fear of needles. For four weeks, I meditated every morning and night. I breathed through the sensations of fear without resisting them. On the day I received the tattoo of the Triskele, I felt completely peaceful. I experienced a needle for the first time without fear.

When the artist was finished, I looked down at my arm and smiled. 

And now it begins…

I commend my Spirit
unto the grace of the Great Way.
Whether consciously or not
this has always been
the doorway to liberation.

All you lovers of truth
and all you true lovers
now is the time to be done with it.
Wash your battle-scarred hands 
in this Presence among us.

Cast off your warriors’ clothing
and slip into your night slippers.
Untie your hair or cut it off.
The Hidden One is present
and doesn’t care where you’ve been 
or what you’ve done
or what you are doing now.

Commend all of yourself-
body, mind, and spirit
to this Grace.
Slip out into the night air
into the waiting
quivering birth of this Golden Heart.

Lean down now
like wet, green grass and
kiss the bottoms of your feet.

Present Moment Awareness

Walk Like a Tree

Art by Foster Turtle

Fear of life is really the fear of emotions. It is not the facts that we fear, but our feelings about them. Once we have mastery over our feelings (experienced in the body), our fear of life diminishes. We feel a greater self-confidence and we are willing to take greater chances because we now feel that we can handle the emotional consequences whatever they might be. Because fear is the basis of all inhibitions, mastery over fear means the unblocking of whole avenues of life experience that previously had been avoided.”

David Hawkins, Letting Go

Not long after my training with Craig Penner, I visited Dr. Joe Lindley. Dr. Lindley is a gifted diagnostician and master clinician who has studied with healers from all over the world. His care has been an integral part of maintaining my health over the past 10 years.

I told him about my experience with Craig and the deep sadness I discovered underneath my smiling demeanor. With a gentle, kind expression, Dr. Lindley looked me in the eyes and said, “Maybe it is time for you to walk into your fears.”

Walk into your fears.

I was confused at first. No one had ever invited me to walk into my fears before. I wondered if that was even possible? His suggestion to walk into my fear was inconsistent with the message of “overcoming” fear I had heard all my life. “Overcoming fear” always feels like a never-ending battle against a challenging foe. “Walking” into fear” felt oddly conscious, like intentionally opening a door into unexplored territory. What is on the other side of the fear? I was intrigued and desperately ready to find out. 

I decided to start with something I already knew and move forward from there. 1 John 4:18 would be my starting place: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.” 

Perfect love drives out fear. Love is the guide. Open in love.

I opened myself up to trusting that love would show me the way through the door of my fears; love would walk with me into the unknown terrain. I learned from various teachers the art of being with fear without resistance. They described imagining yourself as a tree rooted deeply in Presence. A tree has the capacity to move with the wind and allow even intense weather to move through when it is deeply rooted. In the same way, over time, I learned to root in present moment awareness and allow the sensations of fear to move through without resistance.

To recover from fear, let go resisting it. Surrender to the fear and allow it to run. Stop resisting the fear and stop calling it “fear.” You cannot experience fear. You can only experience the sensation. Fear is not “what you are afraid of,” but the experience which is sensory. You cannot experience hunger either, hunger is a name. You can only experience the physicality of hunger. What is the sensation of fear? It is a shaking in the knees, a pressure in the chest, a dropping of the stomach, a trembling of the nerves, a bracing in the shoulders, a holding of the breath. It is a feeling of terror and pending doom. Let go resisting the sensations. This is how you get rid of pain. All feelings have a limit. They are not limitless. Eventually they will drain out.” 

Paraphrase, David Hawkins, Transcending Fears

I leaned on the most current neuroscience understandings of how the nervous system works. Each state of the nervous system (engagement, fight and flight, and collapse) have different sensations and body posturing depending on the level of survival. I learned to track the sensations and watch myself move through fight and flight, into collapse, and back into fight and flight again. I learned the importance of gauging my level of presence when I was experiencing overwhelming and intense sensations, or when I suddenly felt nothing at all. I used the quality of my vision to determine if I was present enough to stay with what was coming up in my body. The numbers on the digital clock in my room became a baseline for my vision. When my vision was a little blurry, fuzzy, darty, or tunnel-like, I knew that I was not present. I would take a break and re-orient with my senses until my eyes could see the clock clearly again. Then, I would return to the difficult sensations and stay with the experience in my body. 

Love is the guide. Open in love.

I learned to let go of thoughts. Centering Prayer became my compass with its silent invitation that no matter what happened with my thoughts, body sensations, or emotions, I could return to the center: the Presence and Action of the Divine. I meditated in the morning and at night, relinquishing and growing in trust.

I hit a wall on many occasions. Sometimes the wall would last a couple of hours or several days. Sometimes I would reach an impasse that felt like it would never end. I could not stay with the intensity of what I was experiencing in my body. It felt too scary. My meditation experience would be a litany of endless, looping thoughts. In those moments, my centering word became, “I don’t know how,” and I would give up completely into the Loving Presence of God. The letting go of knowing forced me to let go of the way I was still unconsciously trying to control what was happening. The release would give way just enough to allow for things to start moving again and my mind would quiet down.

As an adjunct to Centering Prayer, I began to work through the 10-week program developed by Michael Brown called the “Presence Process.” Michael emphasized the practice of focusing on continuous breathing as an anchor in Presence. The conscious breathing practice proved to be profoundly helpful. Whenever I would get sleepy during meditation, I used his advice to double up on the pace of the conscious continuous breathing. Increasing the pace of my breath allowed me to move through difficult subconscious material that was surfacing into consciousness. 

I decided it would be imperative to use the support of knowledgeable guides to move through this process. Sometimes, no matter how hard I tried to stay with it, I could not move through something on my own. I began to work with a somatic EMDR therapist, a cranial sacral therapist, and a spiritual guide.

Love is the guide. Open in love.

When Dr. Lindley challenged me to “walk into my fears,” it opened the door to a wild, incredible adventure. Little did I know that the year to come would bring about opportunities to face and resolve many unfinished experiences in my life. The Universe just came alongside and said, “let’s do this!”

How Surely Gravity’s Law

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child —
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

​by Rainer Maria Rilke