by laurel reinhardt
Last month I shared a personal story of healing which involved an allysomeone
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 writers 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
A friend who acts as a doulaan ally for pregnant womenhelps
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 womans
grandmother, then the grandmothers 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 womans wisdom
which can be called upon in the birthing room or during pregnancy.
Allies dont need to be human. My cats are powerful alliesphysically,
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 lakes 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
mans 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 homeexcept her tennis shoes. Despite a nurses insistence,
she kept those shoes on throughout her labora 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 anywhereto the doctors
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: DONT WORK SO HARD! JUST BREATHE INTO THE PAIN
AND MAKE MORE SPACE FOR YOU TO BE WHO YOU REALLY AREA POWERFUL,
BEAUTIFUL, WISE, CREATIVE WOMAN WHO DOESNT NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING
TO DESERVE TO EXIST AND BE SUPPORTED FULLY, JUST AS YOU ARE. I offer
that same message to you.
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.