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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Learning to Listen

“Be vigilant, and allow no one to mislead you
by saying:
‘Here it is!’ or
‘There it is!’
For it is within you
that the Son of Man dwells.
Go to him,
for those who seek him, find him.”

—from The Gospel of Mary Magdalene *

Sometimes I’m not sure how much information is too much, so I err on the side of discretion. I started this blog in 2008 as a record of my creative and professional life, and while I might touch on personal stuff from time to time, it’s generally from an oblique angle. I don’t see the usefulness in telling you I’ve been through a break-up, for instance, when I could leave it at “Goodbye Galway.”

I’m not exactly changing my stance on this, but I am increasingly feeling that some topics we might classify as “personal” might also serve a practical purpose. If my goal is to be useful, and something I’ve learned has helped me tremendously (creatively and personally), then why would I opt not to share it?

Because some stuff might strike you as, in a word…weird.

If you know me, you know I am a bit of an “odd duck.” I think maybe I always have been. I don’t want to believe in something just because a so-called authority tells me it’s the truth, or because I want to believe it’s the truth. It doesn’t make sense to me that there could even be ONE objective truth. So I prod and I ruminate, and even though I might say “I believe in this” or “I don’t believe in that,” I am also willing to be wrong on any given point (and so “I believe” merely serves as an expression of my subjective truth in that particular moment.) It’s only logical to me that if I were to say “that’s impossible” or “that’s not true,” then I would be walling myself off from potentially limitless possibilities. Oftentimes “I don’t know” feels like the only reasonable response.

For me, “being spiritual” doesn’t mean strict adherence to a tradition I had no part in making; it means exploring and engaging and growing a little less uncomfortable with uncertainty, calling myself out on the lies I tell myself (and others) that provide me with an illusory sense of comfort and security. Through this process I grow into a better version of myself. I can see my progress through my interactions with loved ones and strangers alike: I am more patient than I used to be, more loving, more willing to consider someone else’s perspective rather than jumping into the same old “mental tape” of you did this to me and that’s why I’m totally justified in being a passive-aggressive shrew to you right now. (Not to say this never happens anymore, just that it happens less often because I’m actively working on it.)

All this is to explain to you why I’d like to start blogging on spiritual topics from time to time. It just isn’t enough to tell you that going vegan opened up a whole new realm for me; I have to give you details and specifics, or else none of this really means anything. I trust you’ll take or leave any of it as you feel like; and if you choose to leave it, let me clarify that if certain things hadn’t happened to me personally, I would be skeptical too.

I mentioned in one of my September Squam 2012 recaps that I learned and grew in unexpected ways through a workshop with Marie Manuchehri, who is a very gifted psychic medium and energy worker. Listen to Marie’s radio show and you’ll hear plenty about Reiki and spirit guides and chakras and past lives and other stuff many people would dismiss as New Age twaddle. And yet, whether in a five-minute call on the radio show or through her private practice, Marie is clearly helping people to heal their physical and emotional traumas. My dear friend Amiee—whom I first met at Squam that weekend—also took Marie’s class, and it changed her life even more dramatically. It was Amiee who introduced me, in a very grounded and practical way, to the concept of listening to my body.

Back in March, I was feeling trapped for reasons I’ll get into some other time. I was spending the weekend at Amiee’s house, and we were talking through what was going on with me; and she suggested she do some “energy work” in a spirit of experimentation. Amiee has since completed her Reiki I and II certification, but at this point she was running on 100% intuition.

As my friend moved her hands over my arms, legs, and lower back, I felt some pretty weird stuff welling up. I felt like crying, so I did. I have no idea how long the session lasted—half an hour? an hour? fifteen minutes?—but at the end of it I felt deeply mellow yet revived and refreshed. At the risk of giving you way too much information (okay, I know this is TMI, but it’s useful TMI, remember?), even if I hadn’t believed in any of this to begin with, over the next few hours and into the next day I made many more trips to the bathroom than I ordinarily would have. It was a concrete and measurable (ha) reaction—this was for real—and it was also extremely healthy.

It turned out that the whole point of this energy work was the release of stagnant emotions I was holding in various parts of my body, stuff that had originated in childhood (and well before that, too, if you believe in that sort of thing). I felt, again, all the anger and frustration and deep disappointment that my parents could not have been the people I wanted them to be. (No doubt everyone goes through this, but it seems like other people don’t hold on to things the way I always have. Or maybe I’m just doing that inside-outside comparison again.)

At any rate, I understood—truly understood, for the first time—that these were my emotions to process and release, that it would not do to go on blaming my parents for what I’d been feeling all this time. (One unexpected result of this shift is a delicious new sense of mental and emotional and even physical space—space that I can use for something new! As Marie Forleo says in last week’s MarieTV episode, “You can’t have really amazing stuff show up in your life if you don’t have room for it.”)

The emotional release wasn’t the only surprise: Amiee had been having a conversation with my organs. “Your liver is happy. Your spleen and pancreas are content, but they’d be happier if you ate some fresh greens.” (Amiee and I had eaten well that weekend, but before that I have to admit I’d been noshing on too much bread and Vegenaise.) But the real aha moment came when she said, “Your uterus is exhausted.”

Last TMI moment of this post, I promise! In the interest of environmental responsibility, I had been using devices like this in lieu of sanitary pads and tampons for more than ten years, and had continued to use a cup even though I’d never found it comfortable. C’mon, lady, my uterus seemed to be saying. Just get yourself some Luna pads so I can chill.

Why the heck would I spend ten years doing something that made me uncomfortable? Because I wasn’t listening to my body.

Since that strange and wonderful day at Amiee’s apartment, I have had one more body wake-up call, and this one happened without any help. I was at the end of a box of contact lenses, and every time I reminded myself to order a new supply a little voice would say, Don’t. Don’t order any more contact lenses. Your eyes need a rest.

In the meantime, I was wearing my last pair well past the point at which I ought to have tossed them, and I will admit that this wasn’t the only time I was guilty of overwearing. I finally went to see an optician at Copley Square, and told her I wanted to buy my first new eyeglasses since 2004.

When the doctor finished examining my eyes she said, “It’s a very good thing you came in. You’ve been wearing contact lenses for so long that your corneas are cutting off the blood supply, which means that blood vessels are beginning to grow in the corners of your eyes to get fresh oxygen to your irises. We’ve caught it early so there’s no damage yet, but if you’d waited much longer the blood vessels might have grown to the point at which they interfered with your vision—and that is irreversible.”


That was much too weird for coincidence, right? I knew what was going on in my body; I just needed to pause and actually pay it some attention.

Doesn’t it feel like we’re working against our bodies more often than not? We get frustrated when a cold or stomach bug slows us down, we slap all sorts of chemicals on our skin, we eat food we know will give us indigestion (or worse). And that’s the tame stuff. Here’s where I think the early Christian ascetics got it entirely ass-backwards (ha, ha): the spiritual is rooted in the physical. If we don’t first know what’s going on in our bodies, we won’t have a clue in any other respect. (My daily yoga practice is helping me tremendously with this process as well, but I’ll write about that later.)

So…if you’ve read this far, I thank you for hearing me out. This subject might seem like an odd departure for me, but it feels absolutely right. As I said though, if it’s not for you, I won’t mind a bit if you’d rather skip it.

Also, I’ll be tying in the vegan angle to a greater extent in future posts; looking back on the past three years, it’s actually been quite a clear progression of experiences from Harmony Homestead Farm to Sadhana Forest to Squam to Hawthornden, all of which helped me clarify my path and purpose—and, piece by piece, allowed me to “tune in” in ways I’d never even dreamed of before.

There is some crazy-marvelous stuff underway here, and I’m very excited to hear how your own experiences compare!



I bought this maidenhair fern in March, intending it to symbolize the growth and change I wanted to see in myself. I give it big drinks of water and it’s huge and flourishing.


*  Research reading for Immaculate Heart. It’s fascinating how much of this gospel controverts Church dogma. The Teacher is within you? No wonder they suppressed it!

4 Comments to Learning to Listen

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    October 8, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you’d believe anything–if someone said eating meat was healthy with lots of evidence, you still would not believe them. Therefore, there are some things you would refuse to believe. Pointing this out in the search for being completely truthful with ourselves…

    Also, I cannot support the loss of the luna cup.

  2. October 10, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    “The Druids classified ferns as sacred trees. Uncurled fronds of Male fern were gathered at Midsummer, dried and carried for good luck. The root was added to love potions and the fronds eaten by those embarking on love quests.”

    maidenhair fern has many magical properties — most doing with beauty and love. you know I LOVE this post and it is not TMI at all– it is the most important (to me anyway) part of life– learning, growing, opening to the mystery. xoox, love you brave girl

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.