Shaking It Off

In spring, 1999, I was living in Billings, Montana, with my parents, looking for a job, and trying to build a new life. I learned that Dr. Joan Borysenko would be giving a talk. I didn’t know who she was, and I don’t recall what the specific talk was about. Based on the promotional material, I decided to hear her speak.

During her talk, she mentioned one of her books, Fire in the Soul. That title certainly caught my attention. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, a fire had engulfed my soul and burned off quite a bit of dross of not just my own ego, but also the expectations and agendas of the people and society around me.

In 1999, the phoenix was still floundering in the ashes. In fact, she almost drowned in all the effort to put that fire out.

I enjoyed Borysenko’s presentation and made several notes as she spoke.

One concept caught my attention. She mentioned how some people go through a spiritual crisis that is very difficult, but potentially very transforming. She referenced some of the work of Carolyn Myss, who had written Anatomy of the Spirit, which I hadn’t heard of.

At some point in the presentation, Borysenko mentioned a description of a process that I believe she attribute to Carolyn Myss. She stated that during some spiritual crises, it is as though the soul tries to “shake off the trappings of this world.”

Shake off the trapping of this world.

That definitely caught my attention. That was a decent description of what parts of my experience felt like. It actually matched my experiences quite well. I didn’t realize it while I was in the process. Yet as I thought of that phrase, I agreed that my soul, the “true me,” was trying to emerge. It was trying to shake off all of the expectations of others, to shake off all of my conditioning as a people-pleaser, to shake off the manipulation of other people telling me who or what I was supposed to be.

That is the awakening, the transformation, the emergence of the soul. Beyond the collapsing ego structures. Beyond satisfying everyone around me and being the “good girl.”

Make no mistake, that shaking process is forceful, even violent.

The soul works to shake off that which no longer serves it well. That is why trying to force and “help” the person according to your own agenda is so problematic. Trying to shove, coerce, manipulate, and threaten a person to get back into that same role they were in — the same role that broke them open — is EXCEPTIONALLY VIOLENT and only adds more trauma.

Several times over the years, I have thought of that phrase: “shake off the trappings of this world.” It continues to resonate with me as a pretty decent description of that emergent process that I fell into unexpectedly.

Now, when I think of that phrase, I often smile and think, “Oh, yeah. There was a whole lot of shaking going on.”

Dr. June Singer: Modern Woman in Search of Soul

By spring, 1999, I was still working through the trauma of the previous year. I still had a lot of grief to process and my mind was still healing.

One morning, I stopped at a bookstore. Through the previous year, I found bookstores to be therapeutic. I found so many things to explore and interact with. Initially, the mass of books on the shelves might appear as a great conflict of themes and ideas displayed. That same mass of information allowed me to find titles and combinations of books that gave inspiration to help heal a soul or to at least provide some grounding and comfort.

Sometimes information finds you.

I was browsing through the psychology section of books. Using my right index finger, I scanned a row of books, holding my head sideways to read some of the titles. As my finger scanned down the row, I felt the energy grow stronger in my index finger, like a magnet. Then the feeling became weaker. So, I moved my hand back to the left a few books to where the feeling felt stronger again. I noticed the title of the book was “Modern Woman in Search of Soul” by Dr. June Singer. “Seems appropriate,” I thought.

I opened the book and saw a heading on the left page. It said The Visionaries. I read that passage which blew my mind:

“In every age there have been those few — madmen or geniuses, prophets or shamans, visionaries or fools — who have seen through the surface of ordinary consciousness and looked directly into the interior. These individuals have almost unanimously reported that they did not make a conscious decision to do so. It has seemed to them that they were “chosen” in some inexplicable way. They were called, they heard their names, and the responded. To them have been given visions of another world, a world without boundaries, out of space and out of time. Such people are around today, but they do not ordinarily proclaim themselves. One has to be prepared to recognize them when they appear, or else they pass unnoticed like a breeze in the morning. They are the latest of a long line carried on by the likes of Ezekiel, St. John of the Cross, Hildegarde of Bingen, Dante, Milton, Blake, and many others. They serve as teachers for those who know that it is possible to transcend the ego world and look in upon another…”

Dr. June Singer, Modern Woman in Search of Soul, 1990, P. 106

I was stunned. The passage described my experience quite well. The section describing looking through the surface of this physical veneer and seeing a world that has no boundaries and no “separateness” described parts of my experience in Banff. I had seen a system that didn’t end, not just physically, but emotionally, historically, and energetically also.

It surprised me to see that content typed on a page. It’s one thing to have an experience such as that. It’s something else to try to describe it and integrate it. It was completely foreign to me to realize that someone else understood that journey and had words for it.

What also impressed me was how I came across that passage. The energy I felt led me to that book. I was amazed at how this passage seemed to literally find me, instead of the other way around. Sure, I had experienced exceptionally improbable events of synchronicity. This was on the upper range of valuable experiences.

Continued Resonance

This sequence of events impressed me then and still does. Whatever forces in the universe that we don’t quite understand led me to “find” that passage that afternoon. Or as I have said, that passage found me.

I sat down at a table and took out a piece of paper from my bag and copied that section along with the book information. I didn’t buy the book that day, but I since have.

When I finally bought the book, I noticed the subtitle on the front cover, “Modern Woman in Search of Soul: A Jungian Guide to the Visible and Invisible Worlds.” I smiled at the duality at the mention of two worlds.* That certainly lent itself to a relationship with the dual / binary element of so-called “bipolar disorder.”

Mine was more of a “tripolar rebalancing” — mind, body, and soul. And that last element, soul, was also right there in the title of the book.

Many times over the years, I have reread that passage. And I continue to appreciate how it came into my life at a time when I needed it.