I had two traumas in my life approximately three years ago. They were devastating for me. In the first I allowed my identity as a photographer to be taken from me. In the second, alcohol consumption led me into an accident I don't remember happening. Following those two events I sought out a counselor and guide who led me through two psychedelic medicine journeys. Those two pieces of counseling and medicine work changed my life and helped me along the path of healing and rebuilding. Compulsions literally disappeared. I learned to love myself, in a profound way that I had not experienced in my then seventy-two years of life. I had always been quick to forgive others, very seldom able to forgive myself.
Then, about six months ago, I began to experience the return of my compulsions. It never got anywhere close to what they had been prior to my first two medicine journeys, but they grew to a point where I no longer felt at choice. I began to feel trapped again, where I could no longer just take it or leave it.
As a result, I found a guide who would help me with another medicine journey. I felt it was time for a booster. :o) My intentions going into the medicine work were twofold:
1) I wanted my freedom and choice back.
2) I wanted to better understand, especially at times where I had lots of time alone, why I could at times be so uncomfortable with myself. These were the times where my compulsions were most likely to arise.
Intentions going into medicine work are vitally important, because as I have now learned on three different occasions, medicine will take you where you want and need to go, where you want to explore. In this latest medicine work, that could not have been more dramatically experienced. I found myself in my own tomb, You cannot get any more alone than that! There was no sense of fear or feeling trapped or needing to get out. It was truly another life changing experience. My tomb was filled with awareness of myself. I became the awareness that I have long sought in my meditation practice. I had literally been placed into eternity. I was relaxed and joyous. It was a place where I commented, even in the midst of it, that I could stay like this forever. No compulsions. No leaning forward. No worries. Nothing but blessed emptiness and silence. There are lots of details, but I will leave it at that, for as I learned, 25% of this work is preparation, 25% is the journey, and 50% is the processing and integration of what took place, in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.
My integration time has now been three months. I have no desire for alcohol or pot. I am at choice again, and I choose to keep these substances out of my life. I don't need them to be confident, creative, or anything else. I just need me, the real me, my true self. My identity as a photographer has returned, not as who I am, but as one major way in which I express myself. I am doing things that I have wanted to do for the past three years, a time of pandemic isolation and trying to figure out a direction and purpose for my life. I had been flopping around like a fish out of water, a boat without a rudder. All of that has changed. I again have energy and direction and purpose in my life. I recently consolidated my other websites under the one umbrella of this main website, frankleonard.com. I have finally begun to clean out my gallery, which had been in moth balls for three years, and to begin preparations for opening it once again to share with others. This time, however, it will not be as a business, or as a way to make money or fame or any such thing. This time it is for me. I want to hang on those walls not what I think might sell, but that which expresses my joy and passions. If sales come, so be it, but that is no longer my intention in sharing my visions of the world with others. This time it's for me, including the inclusion of a lifetime dream, having my own pool table. I purchased a classic full size table, with beautiful carved claw foot legs, and am now downsizing it to fit the space I have, right in the middle of my gallery!
So, what are my lessons from the tomb? Well, here they are to date:
1) Being seen and recognized has always been a big item for me. In this journey I learned that awareness exists even in the tomb, that I am seen there, that I am not alone. And if I am not alone in the tomb, then I am not alone anywhere! I can be comfortable with myself, by myself.
2) Carrying within me an awareness of the silence and sacred emptiness of the tomb, I find a new peace and equanimity about all the events and experiences and activities of my life.
3) I have always lived as if nothing I experience becomes real until it is shared with another, as if my own experience is not enough to validate truth and meaning for myself. No longer so. The primary meaning of anything begins with me and stays with me, whether I share it or not. I share this article and these words with you not to validate anything for myself, but as something that I hope gives encouragement to someone else reading these words.
4) There is no need to lean forward or drive myself towards the completion of any of my passions. Again, against the felt experience of eternity, why hurry? Everything slows down, everything takes its place, each activity is an entity unto itself, to be experienced and lived fully, without distraction.
5) Should compulsions ever return to my life again, whether that be a month, six months, a year, or ten years down the line, I now know where to turn, I know where to seek help, and I will do so.
6) I always lived as if there was something I needed to complete before death, that I might run out of time to do what I am meant to do. No longer. There is no activity, no doing, no accomplishment, no legacy, no recognition that can hold a candle to the immense and endless beauty of eternity. I will do what brings me joy, I will love those who have been given me as gifts in this life, and if I should die tomorrow, I am at peace. Nothing unfinished, nothing to complete, only to live life fully and boldly each day I am blessed to live.
7) Joyce and I have a sign hanging in our kitchen, "What's your hurry? Remember you're here." Amen.
Integration with medicine work can unfold for months and years. I am sure there will be more to share along the way.
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