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allies
by laurel reinhardt

Last month I shared a personal story of healing which involved an ally—someone or something which can gently remind us of who we really are when we disappear into fear, anxiety, anger, despair, self-deprecation, etc. This month I would like to expand upon this idea.

Allies come in many shapes, sizes, and forms, from small children to seniors, from the medicines we take to our human caregivers, from imaginary friends to spirit/animal guides; even inanimate objects and physical pain can become allies.

I have several allies who support my writing self. When I lived in Minnesota, I had writing buddies with whom I would go to coffee shops and sit and write side by side. Since moving to Asheville, I continue to write with them long distance. We check in by phone, then go to our computers for a few hour s of work, after which we check in again. (While I write, I look at a postcard of a favorite coffee shop and imagine I am there with my buddy.)

Here in Asheville I belong to two writer’s groups, a small one where we regularly read our work and receive feedback, and a larger one where we are just as likely to ponder the work of "great" writers as a means of honing our own perception and skills. In both groups I am treated as a writer, no matter how much or little I share, or how good it is.

I have allies who support my larger creative life ("You are so an artist!" spoken when I start doubting), my intellectual/psychological side ("You always know just what to say to help me understand my dreams."), my inner baker ("Best chocolate-spelt-stevia-banana muffins ever."), etc. The appropriate response to these allies is to breathe in the truth of what they just uttered, say "Thank you" on the exhale, and then act as if you really believe it.

Allies need not be living. My grandmother, who was the dreamworker in her village in Russia, has continued to be an ally for me in my dreamwork even since her death. The cousin of my father who took me under her wing, spiritually, after my mother died, remains an ally since her death about five years ago, coming to me silently with her beautiful broad smile.

A friend who acts as a doula—an ally for pregnant women—helps these women create their own allies they can then carry with them at all times. She invites each woman to imagine her own mother, miniaturized, on her left shoulder; behind her, also miniaturized, is the woman’s grandmother, then the grandmother’s mother, followed by all the mothers back to the very first. These women all gave birth, and their strength and wisdom become part of the pregnant woman’s wisdom which can be called upon in the birthing room or during pregnancy.

Allies don’t need to be human. My cats are powerful allies—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. When I am sick, they lie by my side, purring. When I am sad, they chase each other, toys, or ghosts, around the house, reminding me to laugh. When I am too consumed by work, they jump up on my computer keyboard and type funny sentences on the screen. When I feel alone, they remind me that I have two of the sweetest companions anybody could ask for.

In addition to my two house cats, I have a spirit-animal ally which is a panther. Several years ago I was experieincing a deep, searing pain (another ally?) in my right shoulder. When I closed my eyes and went into trance, I saw the panther, limping through the jungle from a bullet wound in her right shoulder. Immediately my pain disappeared.

Another ally has been Lake Superior. No matter what is going on for me, a trip to the big lake’s North Shore always calms, soothes, and heals. Sitting on the solid granite shoreline, with the lake like glass, or with waves rippling or even pummeling the rocks, is the most relaxing, centering thing I have ever found for myself. Here in North Carolina, I find a similar experience in Dupont Forest, sitting on the granite at the base of a waterfall, or listening to a thunderstorm reverberate through the mountains.
Even inanimate objects can be allies. In my book, Healing without Fear, I wrote about a young pueblo woman who had been transported to a white man’s hospital to give birth to her child. She had no friends or relatives with her, she was surrounded by strangers and alien technological devices, and she was stripped of everything that might have reminded her of home—except her tennis shoes. Despite a nurse’s insistence, she kept those shoes on throughout her labor—a gentle reminder of her real self and the path she walks.

In my workshops, I always send people home with an ally. Many people come with one, unwittingly; a wedding ring can be such an ally, or a favorite brooch or pendant. I offer small, polished and unpolished stones (some from Lake Superior!). I have people slip these into a pocket at the beginning of a workshop; I have them hold it in a hand while we do a guided imagery. The stone becomes imbued with the energy of their experience, and a touchstone for calling forth that energy in the future. Being so small, it can be carried almost anywhere—to the doctor’s office (in lieu of, or in addition to, a live ally), into a challenging business meeting, or to a difficult conversation with a loved one.

Recently, my right shoulder has been painful again. This time I am getting a verbal message: DON’T WORK SO HARD! JUST BREATHE INTO THE PAIN AND MAKE MORE SPACE FOR YOU TO BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE—A POWERFUL, BEAUTIFUL, WISE, CREATIVE WOMAN WHO DOESN’T NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING TO DESERVE TO EXIST AND BE SUPPORTED FULLY, JUST AS YOU ARE. I offer that same message to you.

Laurel Reinhardt, Ph.D., is a 'recovering psychologist'; she gave up her license in 2001 out of ethical concerns about her profession. Her writing about love, fear, and healthcare includes Healing without Fear. She delivers keynotes and workshops on this topic, serves as an ally for people who are engaged in healing processes, and hosts an Internet radio show (InnerLandscaping on healthylife.net) on a related topic. Since moving to Asheville over two years ago, Laurel designed and has made several labyrinth quilts; these can be viewed at her website: innerlandscaping.com.
[ InnerLandscaping@aol.com;828-215-7424 ]

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