I began life with a delight in the natural world and a passion to explore and discover the possibilities here on earth. Around the age of 5 while living in Louisiana, I had a “magical” experience of seeing faces and receiving total unconditional love and acceptance from a pair of sunflowers. After a while, I seemingly forgot that experience until once again, at the age of 33, a sunflower “spoke” to me and reminded me of that total loving Presence. I then began to awaken to the possibility that this Presence was my own divine nature coming alive in me.
I was only 8 when my parents divorced. My mother took my older brother, sister, and me back to Massachusetts where she had grown up, resulting in us being 1,000 miles away from my father. From that point on, the brightness of my early childhood darkened into a seemingly endless period of being raised by a mother who had been shattered by the breakup of her marriage and thereafter experienced frequent bouts of severe depression requiring hospitalization. Although her intentions were good, she simply wasn’t available for much besides survival, and the family just limped along in quiet desperation for many years.
I somehow managed to do well with my studies and made it to college on scholarships and loans where, while also exploring metaphysics and consciousness through the available means of the day (experimenting liberally with consciousness-expanding substances), I managed to turn my love of animals and the natural world into a degree in Animal Science. This then led to a career as a dog behaviorist, trainer, and breeder of Belgian Tervuren, a rare and wonderful breed of dogs. I married and with my husband made a home on acreage in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. This was my time for discovering and being grounded in “ordinary human life.”
It was in 1987 that I received my next wake-up call through a remarkable encounter with a sunflower that reminded me of my essential nature. This led pretty directly to my beginning to channel spirit guides who put me on an accelerated path of metaphysical and spiritual growth. It was a fertile time for me, with many expansions of consciousness and a delightful sense of being special and having new gifts to explore. I began to feel very connected to Spirit, and the unfoldment of these new possibilities became my highest priority.
Unfortunately, the rapid changes that were occurring in me were not shared or appreciated by my husband, and this led, sadly, to a parting of ways.
Despite the breakup of my marriage, the period from 1987 to 1991 was marked by much growth, expansion, and discovery, and included an intensive course of study called Awakening Your Light Body, by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer. I learned and then began to teach this work, finding a great delight in assisting people in awakening to a greater connection with their spiritual nature, along the lines of my own discoveries. However, toward the end of 1991 I began to have some reservations about what I was involved with. I began to sense that my beliefs about reality weren’t sufficient to address what was really happening here on earth, and I wanted to find that which was more reliable, perhaps more universal. I was being drawn toward a deeper truth, and it was showing up as doubts and outward “failures.” My life began to fall apart around me. I was entering a dark night.
I ended up letting go of my home in California and went into a sort of free-fall over the next several years that went through various phases of undoing, false starts, and disappointments, both in my personal relationships and in my work life. However, my inner longing to discover my deepest Truth, or reconnect with Source, burned strongly despite the challenges I encountered. Something was calling me Home. And beginning in early 1993, my meditations (inspired by reading some of Paul Brunton’s books) took me into a series of breakthrough occurrences (for want of a better word) where the automatic process of “being me” would stop and only Consciousness remain. This is difficult to describe, though terms like nirvikalpa Samadhi seem to apply. What was revealed in this cessation of outer experiencing shifted my fundamental knowing of who I am, completely. My fundamental essence was revealed to be the “same”—of the same essence—as that which underlies, permeates, and gives rise to all of life and creation.
I had discovered my Holy Grail, and one aspect of my seeking came to an end.
Unfortunately, this discovery failed to give me any revolutionary insights about how to live my human life. It was quite disorienting, since I had held an assumption that reuniting with Source would confer special gifts and give me divine answers for all of life’s questions and difficulties. Not so! This conundrum perplexed me for years.
I was no longer receiving inner guidance in the same overt way, that too having been stripped away by my dark night experience, but there was always the deep heart longing to understand and integrate the insights I was being given into my mundane human life. By 1994 I simply dropped out of the “standard American life” entirely. I borrowed a little RV (recreational vehicle) from a friend, and wandered wherever the spiritual winds blew me for several years. This was a time of healing for me, as I spent much time alone in primitive, wild areas just letting myself discover my true rhythms of living and being, of growing and integrating, and of encountering others along the way who showed me many things about the wonders and devastations of being human. My teachers during this time were mostly in books, in the inner impulses of Being, and Life itself in the form of nature spirits and synchronistic encounters.
Again and again, I found myself confronted with the limits of my Awakening. It seemed that this perfect Consciousness, this profound Love, ought to be able to heal and/or create anything. Yet I kept discovering how deeply broken people can be, including myself, and how difficult it really is for change and healing to occur. These limits broke my heart, brought me to the brink of despair and madness more than once, and ultimately evolved into a deep and profound compassion for what it is to be a human being.
Sometime in 1995 I landed in the realization that “this is all there is.” Meaning that I had let go of most of the myths I had held around enlightenment, and was landing in a sobered recognition that this “now” moment, as exalted or mundane as it might be at any given time, was what was true and real, and it was more important and interesting to me than pursuing altered states or contact with non-physical beings. “This moment” carried with it a sort of dissatisfaction at the core that wasn’t really pleasant, but I carried it with me wherever I went and could not escape it. And it also included an awareness of my infinite Conscious nature that never really went away any more, either—although it could certainly be pushed into the background by strong emotional experiences and reactions. I knew that this Consciousness was also everything, everyone, everywhere, and every when. Although I did not have the words to describe it at the time, nor really anyone around me who could reflect and validate my experience, this landing in all of myself—the divine, the mundane, and the wound at the core—was most likely my second birth, my divinely human awakening.
Over the next several years I continued to ponder the strange paradox of my infinite-yet-very finite, divine-yet-very-human nature, where I knew the deep peace of Being itself but also experienced the frustrations inherent with the human struggle in its many forms. Some intuition kept me away from established spiritual communities of teachers and seekers, not finding enough room there for my own unique expression. Yet my resistance to being hemmed in left me fundamentally Alone in my wanderings, with only a couple of friends who could relate to my experiences and knowing. During this time, I discovered that the only thing to do was to keep following where my deepest interests took me, and to surrender to and learn from whatever came my way.
I never forgot that it was through teaching and sharing that I received my greatest satisfaction and happiness. Unfortunately, I was discovering that my passion for awakening was not exactly shared by the majority of people I encountered. I settled down into a rather “ordinary” existence, writing my insights and discoveries in my journal and occasionally poking my head up and sniffing around for what I jokingly called “signs of Conscious life in this Universe.” Again, some instinct was keeping me away from the more traditional paths of awakening. I intuitively knew it was essential for BOTH the human and the transcendent aspects of our humanness to be welcomed, and that wasn’t what I was seeing in most of the teachings I encountered.
In the fall of 1998 I happened across a little book called Waking Down by teacher named Saniel Bonder. I was living in Colorado at the time, having ended my days of wandering in the RV and settled down to live near one of my good friends. I recognized many of my own experiences in Saniel’s description of the stages of awakening, including what he called the second birth.
I found myself sufficiently intrigued by Saniel’s welcoming embrace of the whole being—and in his community of awakened teachers—to send off for more writings which continued to feed me in deep ways. In the spring of ’99 I made a pilgrimage to California to visit the community and take a couple of workshops.
The depth of meeting I encountered there took my breath away. I had been so “incognito” for so long in the world, without peers who could see and validate me, that I had remained, in some ways, only half-born. And it was there that I finally felt invited, and safe enough, to land more completely in and as my divinely human Self. Over the next months I clarified that I was, indeed, in my second life.
I recognized that Saniel’s work incorporated the essential elements I had wanted to see in a spiritual path, and more. Mutuality intrigued me, especially after having been so isolated for years. I decided I needed a deeper immersion, and in the fall of ’99 moved to Marin to be closer to the community. In short order, I began working for Saniel as his chief administrator, delighting in the opportunity to be among many very serious seekers and finders. It was the learning lab of my dreams. This period deserves to be a separate story in itself. For now, with significant oversimplification, suffice it to say that within a couple of years of intensive learning and maturation in the second life, I was welcomed into the ranks of teachers of Waking Down at the end of 2001.
With this, I was now able to begin living my Right Livelihood and expressing my natural gift for communicating and holding others in their own utterly unique awakening process. I moved back to my beloved Colorado to help support its growing community. In addition to offering local sittings, I traveled and co-led many workshops and retreats around the country, and even visited England in 2004.
When the growing numbers of teachers brought growing pains to Saniel’s original Temple structure, I was one of three volunteers in the spring of 2005 who helped design new structures that were more appropriate to the evolving work. We created a couple of new, quasi-autonomous organizations. One was a school for teaching advanced courses and training teachers called the Institute of Awakened Mutuality. The other was a professional association, now called the Trillium Awakening Teachers Association, that supports the integrity of its teacher-members through strong ethics agreements around sex, money, and power—the main areas where spiritual teachers seem to go astray.
This embodied approach to awakening in mutuality, which embraces the human element without bypassing or overriding, is fraught with “challenge to the max,” and integrating the many aspects of our natures isn’t always pretty, or smooth, or as nice as we’d like it to be. I found myself being repeatedly humbled by my own very human limits, and strangely ennobled by them as well—as in “broken open” or tenderized.
Our whole community faced a massive challenge starting in 2013 when the founder himself crossed an ethical boundary and had to answer to an ethics inquiry. Never an easy or painless process, this one eventuated in Saniel’s decision to withdraw from the association of teachers and pursue his own work independently.
Meanwhile, the teachers chose to rename their work as “Trillium Awakening,” using the three-petalled Trillium flower as their symbol for a threefold process of awakening, embodiment, and mutuality.
Talk about a workout in mutuality! Such big changes can be deeply unsettling, and it’s taking a bit of time for the mud to settle. But we are alive and growing, and committed to finding healthy ways of going forward together.
In 2017 I revised and updated my book, Becoming Divinely Human: A Threefold Path to Embodied Awakening, to reflect the unfolding changes in the structure of the work—as well as our ongoing discoveries around how to consciously support our own unfoldment as well as our interpersonal dynamics.
To learn more I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book, which is also available in Kindle format. Or—add your name to my email list and I’ll let you know when I’ve got new offerings available!
Over the years my experience has become less of a paradoxical juxtaposition of divine-and-human and more of a flow I call “seamless Onlyness.” It–my life now–is perfectly imperfect and still sometimes triggering, but it is so rich, full, passionate, and downright REAL that I find myself quite satisfied to be exploring this Life as it is, without expectations. It is my fervent hope, prayer, and intention that all beings may be so Blessed.