On April 24, 2006 while at a workshop in New Mexico, I had a near death experience (NDE). After that, I knew that something within me had undergone a profound and fundamental shift. This shift originated in the depths of my being and required from me substantive changes in the way I approach my life. Over the past seven years, I have taken the necessary time to integrate this transformational experience through meditation, deep self-inquiry and quiet contemplation of the knowledge I gain through my NDE. As part of that process, I created this website and on it tell the story of my experience and subsequent awakening which I shared in blog format from April 2010 through May 2011. My story is now in manuscript form and will, at some point, be published.
I am now being called to become much more public as a teacher of awakening. On August 29, 2013, I will be making my first public presentation since my near death as a speaker at the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS) annual conference in Arlington, Virginia. I am currently conducted research for my upcoming book, Jobs In Heaven, that will describe the reincarnational aspects of our eternal nature and share ways in which we can prepare for and plan our next life’s “job assignment” while still living mindfully in the life we enjoy now. Additionally, I will be developing a Seeing The Light radio show that will be a source for all kinds of information about the awakening process and a teaching vehicle for helping others along their path of awakening to our immortal reality.
Thank you for visiting my website. If you would like to stay informed about my books, radio show and teaching venues, you may do so by clicking the “Join Our Mailing List” tab under my picture. I promise to be in touch soon!
Today would have been Jim and my 30th wedding anniversary. And this will be my last article about my awakening journey set within the saga of Jim and Martha. What an appropriate time to reflect on all the gifts he gave and the lessons I learned from him. For many years, Jim was a very good husband to and for me. Then, overnight, it seemed he wasn’t. And for him, I was suddenly no longer what he wanted. What happened? He repeatedly asked me that exact question, “Martha, what happened to us?” There are several reasons that I have shared my story in the way I have on Seeing The Light. One of the big reasons was my attempt to answer that question for him and for myself. Now, I have a much clearer view of what transpired. There are many ways to look at what happened between us. I choose to believe that Jim was fulfilling our sacred contract. His Higher Self, who he truly is, loved me enough to be the “bad guy” and do what was necessary to fuel my awakening process. I am very grateful for his efforts on my behalf and his tolerance of my telling our story.
He and I now have very little contact. It feels incredibly strange to have shared so much with Jim and not to be growing old with him. I don’t know how he is or what his life is like or if he’s happy or sad. It is a very weird feeling. I frequently ask myself, “What am I supposed to do with all our memories?” I’m still not sure. In our lives and in the lives of our family, Jim and I were a given. We were supposed to be together forever. The fact that we are not is deeply disappointing to us all. My daughter and I were talking not too long ago and we both agreed that it feels surreal, as if we are living someone else’s life – that we expect to somehow wake up and have everything “back to normal.”
However, slowly but surely, a new life for me is taking shape. After I recovered from the intense back pain I suffered due to my state of rage over Jim’s non-participation in Mother’s memorial events, I headed to Turks and Caicos with my playmate Kathryn for some much needed R&R. When I returned, I put the finishing touches on Seeing The Light and began telling you my story which has taken me a little over a year to complete. It has truly been a labor of love and has proved incredibly healing for me.
Perhaps, one day, Jim and I will be able to have a more engaged friendship. I hope so. Until then, I want to send out this prayer for him by Marianne Williamson. “Dear God, I pray for the loves of my past, those that chose me and those that did not. I pray for their happiness, their growth and their good. May their hearts be filled with light and their desires fully satisfied. May they find what they are seeking, although it could not be me.”
So, what is next? For the past year, besides writing my story, I have been studying with a remarkable teacher and highly skilled intuitive, Janet Sussman. Through her, I am substantially expanding my knowledge and direct experience of our subtle bodies, as well as my understanding of the reality of time and the folds of space. I am so deeply in process with this new learning opportunity that I cannot yet write about it. But, I promise you I will. Until them, several Seeing the Light readers have told me they plan to reread my articles by using the monthly archive system found in the right hand column of this page. This time, they say they will focus less on the story and more on the awakening tools and techniques I share. If this calls to you, give it a try. Or, you can always use the Tools & Resources page to find ideas for next steps on your journey.
Many of you have been encouraging me to turn my story here on Seeing The Light into a book. Thanks for your encouragement! I am open to the idea and will be exploring it. Should you have any ideas about how I might go about this or contacts that would be of help to me, I would appreciate your input. Also, I received an exciting phone call about two weeks ago. As my writing was coming to a close, I sent out the request to Spirit for direction on what my next steps should be. I then went for a walk. Believe it or not, when I returned, there was a phone message from a representative of Positive World Radio Network asking me if I would be interested in hosting my own internet radio show! Wow, Spirit, that was quick! I’m not sure yet what all is involved in doing that, but I am very interested. As part of the original channeled message I received that told me to write my story, I was also told to use my voice. This is why I have included recordings of my voice as part of my articles. But, the radio show would be a more expanded way to use my voice. I’ll keep you posted as I do my due diligence and you will definitely be the first to know if and when I go live!
I truly want to thank you for your interest in and support of Seeing The Light. All your encouragement, feedback and wonderful comments have kept me going over the past year. Many readers have thanked me for having the courage to be so open and honest in sharing myself and my story with you. I have to admit it was very scary at times. But, I have found that courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, courage is the mastery of fear.
It costs so much to be a full human being it seems there are very few who have the courage to pay the price. It requires we abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms open. We have to embrace the world fully and accept pain as a condition of existence. We have to accept darkness and loss as the cost of knowing. And we must shed all our costumes to fully awaken to our true identify. It is my hope that my story has served as an example of the journey one must take to find that level of courage. I bless each of you on your individual journeys and wish you God speed. And, I am here for you should you need a friend. I would like to close my story with the poem “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye.
Until we meet again, live with peace in your heart, always remember to take the time to be kind and embrace everyone as your fellow self. In this way, you too will be Seeing The Light.
The End…..For Now.
The next morning after Mother’s conversation with me, I was ready to begin the process of planning her memorial events. Based on my sister’s demanding scheduled, we were able to plan the local visitation for friends the following Thursday. But Mom’s memorial service in Oklahoma would not be until January 18th. My daughter, Meredith, came from New Mexico to be of support arriving the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Jim put in a brief appearance while she was home. He had been such an integral part of our family that it was important to all of us that he be included and actively participate with us in celebrating the life and passing of Mama Harb. Since they had been so close, I assumed that he would want to do that as well. However, based on his schedule with Donna and her children, he made it clear he would not be able to attend the local visitation planned for several days in the future. This did not sit well with any of us.
The visitation held at Mom’s condo was lovely. Kevin and Debra did the bulk of the work to prepare for and execute the event. My son, Wes, took off work and drove to Charlotte to attend. Many of my friends who had gotten to know Mama Harb over the years stopped by to show their support. Jim’s brother John even came from South Carolina to pay his respects. Everyone was there except Jim. He was apologetic for his absence, saying it could not be helped, but assured us he would be attending Mom’s memorial service in Oklahoma scheduled after the first of the year. We believed him, so we let it go.
The Christmas holidays were then upon us. I had a lot of events planned at Honeywood during the season and, based on Mother’s direction during her visitation to me, I decided to go ahead with all of them. I set up a memorial table to keep Mama Harb’s presence with us during the season. It included special pictures of her, a beautiful white poinsettia and a perpetually burning white candle. Jim was turning sixty-five the week of Christmas and to celebrate, my granddaughters and I took him out for a lovely Italian dinner. I also gave him a gift of this picture of Mother which he had been asking for for quite some time. Although he was married to someone else now, he was still part of our family and I wanted to be big enough to allow that to happen.
After the holidays, the final planning for the Oklahoma memorial service began. I was arranging all the airfare for everyone which would be paid for by the estate. I contacted Jim to confirm the timing of our flights. That is when he told me he would not be attending. There was no reason or scheduling conflict this time – he just wasn’t coming. I was devastated. Several months earlier Judy, Jim’s older sister, had suddenly died. It never crossed my mind not to attend the funeral. Judy and I had been family for 30 years. Of course I would be there. Although I had to endure seeing Donna, who did not even know Judy, sit next to Jim, holding his hand as he cried, I was there out of love and respect for Judy and her contribution to our family. I was also there to be supportive of Jim.
But, from some reason, he could not do the same for Mama Harb, for our family or for me. To make matters worse, not only did he not attend, he did not call us during the memorial trip, he did not send a card or flowers nor did he contribute a memorial gift in her name. In essence, he did nothing. It was a huge slap in the face to all of us. As one of our family members said to me only a few weeks ago, “I’ve been able to forgive him for a lot of things. But this,” she said, “this is unforgiveable.”
I knew that I would need support during the memorial service in Oklahoma and I was hoping that Jim would be the one to provide it. However, with his refusal to attend, I asked Kevin to accompany me. My family was not happy about his inclusion but I knew it was something that I really needed. The event required a lot of planning and effort on my part. And, I’m happy to say that everything worked out well. My family, although aloof toward Kevin, were at least polite and we all managed to get through the four day event together without any major issues. I was particularly pleased with the eulogy that I gave to close Mother’s service. I share with you a recording of my words should you ever need an example of how you might want to celebrate the life of one of your loved ones.
By the time I got home, the sting of Jim’s lack of involvement was beginning to abate. I had starting applying my forgiveness techniques to the incredible hurt I had been feeling and it was beginning to work. That is, until it got back to me what Jim was saying. He was blaming me for his lack of involvement by telling people that he didn’t attend because I had refused to let Donna accompany him. What?!?! Donna’s attendance had never even been discussed between us, nor should it have been. Clearly, he was just up to his old tricks – always the victim – always projecting blame onto others so that he would not have to experience the guilt within himself. I went into a state of rage so deep that it physically blew out my body. Doing as much yoga as I do, I very, very rarely have any physical issues. But, for the first time in probably ten years my lower back went out. The pain was so severe that I knew that I had to immediately begin to work to release the fury that had manifested into the physical and was contained within my body.
I worked my process – acupuncture, EFT, meditation, yoga, “The Work” and forgiveness lessons from The Course. Though this, along with ending direct communication and contact with Jim, I began releasing layer after layer of deeply buried rage. After I got through the first few layers, what I discovered was the rage I was releasing wasn’t attached to Jim’s lack of involvement in Mama Harb’s memorial events. It wasn’t even attached to anything to do with Jim. It had to do with me and the karmic rage that had controlled my life and driven much of my behavior for all of my adult life. This was Jim’s last lesson for me. His act of non-participation was actually a gift – a way for me to access and finally release the very, very deep layers of this rage that I would not have been able to access any other way. To be honest, the rage is still coming out and I continue to work to embody a complete and total state of forgiveness. As each layer is freed, I feel lighter, more joyful and experience an ever deepening level of peace in my life.
I am grateful to Jim for freeing me in this way. Although his many lessons felt very brutal at times, and I realize he did not consciously know what he was doing, Jim has truly been my greatest teacher. After all, he is the rascal that forced me to expand! Now, I have finally learned everything he can teach me. It is time to close this book and move on.
It took me about 5 minutes to get to Mom’s condo after receiving the news from Kevin of her passing. I could barely get through for all the ambulances and police cars parked there. As I walked into her condo I was met with paramedics trying to prepare me for what I was about to see. But I already knew what I would be seeing was not my mom; surprisingly I was very calm. I found her body on the kitchen floor. It was clear she had been on her way to the pantry to get an item she needed when she passed. Everyone cleared the room and I knelt down beside her and placed my hand on the back of her head. I offered a prayer for her easy transition from this life and expressed gratitude for all she had done for me in my life.
Then, I had to swing into action, which was probably a good thing. The police were already asking me who was coming to pick up her body. I knew Mom wanted to be cremated and buried in Oklahoma next to Daddy, but that is as far as we had gotten. We had no plan in place that defined next steps after she passed. Kevin immediately came over to help and Debra was already there. I called my sister to let her know and then informed Jim and our children. This was definitely not going to be the Thanksgiving we had planned.
I located with relative ease the National Cremation Service and they sent two wonderful representatives to pick up Mom’s body. Next, I had to put a plan in place for hosting a visitation in Charlotte and a memorial service in Oklahoma. But that proved to be a little overwhelming for me to even begin thinking about yet. So once Mom’s body was removed, I went home to rest and try to assimilate what had happened over the past few hours. Kevin and Debra stayed to clean up the condo for my sister and brother-in-law who would be arriving later that night. I had a group of ten…..no nine now, coming for Thanksgiving the next day and wasn’t sure I should go ahead with it. But Mom had already dried out the bread for our traditional cornbread dressing and made her wonderful sherried cranberry sauce. And I had completed the place cards for our Thanksgiving table. I felt compelled to go ahead with the dinner. But, sadly for us, there would be one less place set.
As it turned out, we did have a nice Thanksgiving celebration. We all told Mama Harb stories and celebrated her contributions to our dinner. However, as you can imagine, there was a good bit of sadness mixed in as well. My sister and mother had been particularly close and she was really struggling as was my brother-in-law who had loved Mom dearly. Also for me, there was a huge void with Jim not there. He and Mom had been very close as well and, at a time like this, his presence was sorely missed. But, he was with his new family and said he would be joining us later in the weekend once our daughter arrived.
That night, as I went to bed, I realized just how exhausted I was. I knew all the planning of the events to come would fall onto me and I fell asleep with this on my mind. At two o’clock I awoke to someone calling my name. “Martha, Martha” it softly said. I realized it was Mother’s voice. “Mother, is that you?” I replied. She and I then had the most amazing conversation I certainly have ever had. Her first words to me were “Martha, I wish you could see how big you are.” I didn’t exactly understand what she meant by that but realized this was a huge opportunity to ask her for direction in my life. So, I started firing questions at her. Here is some of what transpired.
Mom, I asked, what is the best way for us to celebrate you? She responded “Martha, for the rest of your stay on earth do only what makes you happy. Do not get bogged down in what you consider to be your duties and responsibilities. For it is when we live with a joyful heart that we can truly experience the beauty and peace of love’s graces. Remember, only do what makes you happy.”
I went on to ask “Mom, what is your biggest regret in life?” My biggest regret is that I did not love you properly. Why not, Mom? Because Marty, I could not see you. She then showed me my energetic body. Even though I had experienced it in my NDE and in the EI, I had never seen it. Wow, she was right; it is huge. I couldn’t even really see it all myself. But clearly, I was finally Seeing The Light of who I am.
But, Mom, what about Leine (my sister)? I asked. I loved her fully because I could see her. She then showed me my sister’s energetic body. What a power house! It was this ball of vibrating bright light, almost feeling like the Universe before the Big Bang, but it was easily contained within my vision. My sister and I were exactly the same Light, the only difference is that hers is concentrated and mine expanded.
Our conversation continued to other subjects including her sharing with me her happiest moments in life. Then, trying to get a handle on what the transition from this life is like, my final question to her was, “Mom, are you with your family?” There was a pause and then she made the most profound statement I have ever heard. She said “Marty, I am them….I am them.” And, that so clearly and eloquently speaks to the beautiful oneness that we each have to look forward to when we make our transition from this life.
Being gifted with these words and visions from the angel of my mother’s death was truly incredible. I can’t begin to tell you what it felt like to be finally seen by my mother. My healing has been profound. It gave me the strength to navigate the holiday season, plan her visitation and memorial service and flawlessly handle her estate. I couldn’t and can’t be sad over her passing, because I know she is in the perfect place and is there to support me any time I need it. What else can a mother do for a child!
As 2009 began, I found myself starting to truly enjoy life again. It was thrilling for me to share everything I had been learning with someone who was actually interested in and respected what I had to say. Also, it was wonderful to feel deeply nurtured emotionally and physically. Kevin was leading me through a healing journey I really, really needed after all the drama and chaos I had endured. In late February while my sister and brother-in-law were in Hawaii, I spent two weeks in their fabulous New York apartment. First, my feisty friend Kathryn joined me and we frolicked in the City with abandon! Then, two of my dearest childhood friends from Oklahoma, Ann and Jeanne Ann, came to stay for a few days. I think we laughed the entire time they were there. Toward the end of my visit, Kevin joined me. We saw Jersey Boys on Broadway, entertained his Australian niece and her roommates and took an incredible walk in Central Park after a huge snow storm. The entire trip was just perfect!
Jim and Donna got married on May 9th – Mother’s Day weekend. Our kids begrudgingly attended the wedding. They wanted to be supportive of their dad but were very opposed to what he was doing. They did their duty and got out of there as soon as they could. Even though the wedding was not in Charlotte, I did not want to be around to deal with any of the emotional upheaval the kids or I might experience. I had been through enough! So, Kevin and I went to the beach. We had a great time and it was very healing for me to be away even though I missed being with my mom on Mother’s Day.
Friday night, just a few hours before Jim was to be married to another woman, Kevin and I went for a walk on the beach. The moon was full and its light was dancing off the water. I could actually feel the moon rays penetrating my body. On the way back to our beach house, huge waves of emotion moved through my body; I started to cry. At first, Kevin thought I was sad and having a breakdown over Jim’s upcoming marriage. Actually, it was just the opposite, which came as a surprise to him and to me. The waves of emotion I was feeling were waves of relief. It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I was able to claim myself again. Finally, I gave myself permission to stop being “us” and once again start being me!
During that time, Kevin was very diligent in following my recommendations and doing the work necessary to begin to understand the process of awakening. After about five months of in-depth work, he felt he was ready to start putting some of what he was learning into action. He had a deep desire to help others and one growing segment of our population he considered neglected and underutilized was our elders. In his highly successful landscaping company, he had worked with Charlotte’s elite families, many of whom had now retired and faced the challenge of old age. Kevin wanted to start a company that would provide high touch life management and companion services to this affluent elder population for optimizing the quality and richness of their later years. By doing this, he hoped to assure elders’ continued independence in their own homes; enhance their quality of daily life through nurtured care and engaged activities; and provide a means for them to share their wealth of wisdom and knowledge with our community.
I thought it was a fabulous idea and a wonderful way for him to utilize his many skills. He went about creating a business plan and started an outreach effort to his former clients. About that same time, my sister-in-law, Debra, who was in the process of divorcing Jim’s brother John, came to Honeywood for a visit. Once she heard about this idea, she immediately expressed to Kevin an interest in working with him. She needed to find a way to recreate her life too and this sounded like something she would truly enjoy. One week after she expressed interest in working with Kevin, my mother’s assistant, Rebecca, gave me her two week notice. Mom, known to all as Mama Harb, was 92 and still successfully living alone. Her mind was sharp as a tack but her body was giving way, making it necessary for her to have a driver and some help with certain tasks around the house. Rebecca had been working with her for the past four years, but Mother’s needs were expanding and Rebecca did not feel she was up to it. At first when she gave me her notice, I panicked. Knowing how particularly Mother is, I asked myself “How are you ever going to find anyone that is going to be acceptable to Mama Harb?!?”
It was becoming obvious that Mother needed a higher, more engaged level of care than she had been getting. But she was fiercely independent, valuing her freedom above anything, and I knew I would have to be careful in how I approached this with her. I was standing in the shower one morning trying to figure out what to do when it hit me. How about Kevin and Debra?!? Mother was crazy about Kevin, telling me all the time what a “nice, good-looking man” he is. Actually, I think she had a crush on him! J Also, she had always loved Debra. How would she feel about Debra becoming her assistant and Kevin managing her overall care within the vision and framework of his new company? It was worth a shot. I talked with her about it and her first concern was about them. “Marty, they wouldn’t want to take the time to care for me.” she said. “Of course they would, Mom.” I assured her. “Plus, you would have a really fun time with Debra!” Kevin and Mama Harb got together to discuss how this might work and came up with a win-win-win plan for the three of them. Everything was going smoothly until my family got wind of this plan.
Once again, everyone went nuts. Because she was divorcing John and for other unfounded reasons, Debra was not highly thought of in our family. And, you already know how they felt about Kevin. None of them wanted these two around our beloved Mama Harb. Of course, no one came up with any other suggestions. They just didn’t want this to happen. But I knew it was the right thing to do; Debra and Kevin would be the perfect solution for what Mom needed. I once again dealt with all the family drama and consternation as best I could, but made it clear that this was going to happen. And I’m happy to say that it worked out perfectly.
Debra and Mom did have a fun time together, each learning from the other daily. Mother reported to me that at times they laughed so hard she wet her pants! Kevin provided her with his nurturing touch, overseeing her care with love and concern, always mindful of her need for as much freedom as possible. Debra and Kevin assured the last six months of Mother’s life were some of the most nurturing, engaged and enjoyable times she had had in quite a while. I am very grateful for their effort. I only wish my family could be as well.
The day before Thanksgiving I had gone to yoga and then stopped by the Auto Bell in the late morning to get “Saabrina,” my Saab SUV, cleaned up for the holiday weekend. My sister and brother-in-law were coming in later that day and we would all share Thanksgiving together. I was standing there watching the guys dry off my car when Kevin called. He informed me that Mother had passed away. Debra had found her earlier that morning. She had died instantly of a stroke in the middle of making beef stew for her family. Now, Mama Harb was truly free!
As I considered how to approach entering into a relationship with Kevin, several things became clear to me. First, he would have to make a 100% commitment to an awakening process and do the work necessary to learn how to think and live in a different way. After having gone through this intense ordeal with Jim, I was not about to be with someone who was not on the same path as I am on. Second, I would have to truly show up and learn how to fully share myself with him, something up until that point I had not known how to do. This was my work. So, after our initial talk about his background and my review of the in-depth dossier I commissioned, I asked him over for a discussion about how we might enter into relationship.
I started by telling him about myself, my NDE and my awakening process. I said to him, “Kevin, this is where I am and I invite you to join me where I am. But this is where I am.” Then, I proceeded to give him what I termed “the price of admission” to relationship with me. Actually, it was a prescription for awakening much of which I have shared here with you. It was evident to me that Kevin had some deep emotional and energetic wounds in need of healing. And he would have to address those so his vibration could more closely match mine. But, he wasn’t ready to hear anything as woo-woo and esoteric as that. He was very interested in exploring relationship with me and seemed willing to do about anything for that opportunity. So, my first “price” was for him to start a yoga practice. Next, he had to regularly go to my acupuncturist, Denise. Third, he had to submit to sessions with Jan Luther, my EFT Master, to ferret out and release his long-held emotional traumas and rigid belief structures. Also, he had to read and discuss with me Disappearance of the Universe and start doing “The Work” by Byron Katie. Plus, there would be more, depending on the pace at which he was able to understand and absorb all of this. His response was “Where do I sign up!”
Next, we talked about me – my recent kundalini experience, the Voice that talks to me, my struggles with intimacy and my need to control everything so I can feel safe. That didn’t scare him off, so I told him about the childhood sexual abuse I had recently accessed from this life time and other sexual abuse and mutilations that I held in my karmic past which I had even more recently become aware of through EFT. I asked for his help and understanding. I asked him to be my guide and teacher as I explored intimacy and safety without need for control. His response was everything I could have hoped for – supportive, nurturing and highly attentive – which, I have learned, are some of Kevin’s greatest strengths. I closed our discussion by reading this beautiful poem to him by Danna Faulds – Gather Me In.
Since Kevin and I had started dating during the holidays, I took that opportunity to introduce him to my family members who were all converging on Honeywood for the Christmas holidays. My mom was very supportive and encouraged me in our relationship. Jim and my divorce, followed by his very quick engagement, had been heart-breaking for her. She was relieved that I had someone to be with. Of course, for her, loving tall good looking men as she did, it helped that he is 6’4” and looks like a large Robert Redford.
However, the rest of my family was highly suspect, and unfortunately continues to be. It was very difficult for my kids to see me with another man and Kevin’s first few impressions were not all that good. His politics and religious beliefs were not aligned with ours, his brain does not move at lightning speed like ours do and he looks, well, really conservative. He is just not “one of us” they said and didn’t want me with him. Given what Jim had done, I think they were very fearful that I would do something just as rash and quickly jump into a marriage as well. But, that was not then or is it now an option for me. I have less than zero interest in marriage. Neither does Kevin. We live out our relationship in the present moment without projecting into the future. It is an exploration and a growth opportunity for both of us. We love our time together and we each need our space. It is all good.
What has been one of the greatest joys for me is to see Kevin grow and awaken. He has done everything that Jim would not or could not do to save our marriage. That, in and of itself, has been incredibly healing for me. Kevin and my biggest challenge remains the power deferential between us. I have been at this a lot longer than he has. But, as be continues on his awakening journey the good news is that he is closing the gap.
I asked Kevin if he would be willing to share with us, in his own words, what this awakening process has been like for him. Here is what he has to say.
“Sure, I know, I am lucky. My journey toward mindful living has been greatly enhanced by my close relationship with Martha. But, the good news for me is that timing and readiness came together. Prior to that, I would not have been prepared. What I have come to understand is that some important part of me, what Martha refers to as my Higher Self, was crying out for the direction I received. I spent way too many years living in that place of stress, that place of “I better get mine before anybody else” and that place of ego that drove my daily decisions.
I didn’t go easily, mind you. But after a life of conspicuous consumption, failed marriages, a business bankruptcy as well as the loss of my home and virtually all my worldly possessions, it dawned on me that there just might be a better way! With that thought, into my life came Martha. For me, as I trust for many of you, I began to hear about ideas and ideals that lead to a life so different from my past that I was and am compelled to listen to, think about, and begin the transformation to the life that I now call “The Path.”
So, what did I do? I began acupuncture with Denise, then to Jan Luther for sessions of EFT, next on to yoga with Debbie, learning about the powerful Law of Attraction, Disappearance of the Universe and the Workbook from A Course in Miracles. Along with these attitude “corrections,” I began the prescribed regimen with Univera to help my health catch up with my mind. By then, I was really starting to get it. I moved on to An Untethered Soul and The Soul of Money, both of which really resonated with me. I compare all these things coming at me to snowflakes on a defrosting windshield. In the beginning, they turned to water and rolled off. But with time they began to stick. First, one. Then, another. Then a few seemed to stick together. I recognized some common themes that rang true for me. Before I knew it, my windshield was totally covered, but amazingly, I had much clearer vision.
What happened? With time I have become less reactionary, more understanding, and less judgmental. My rigid views on politics, religion and race have faded. If someone does something that seems irrational or mean, I view it now with compassion and try to help sort out what I now see as just an error in judgment or a cry for love. In essence, I began to heal, transform and, yes, awaken. Thankfully, I am now rebuilding my life on a firm foundation. Can it work for you? Only you can answer that. All I know is it is working for me. Clearly, it is working for Martha. And, it certainly has made a new man out of this bad boy!”
With Jim engaged, the wedding over and the holidays approaching, I began feeling for the first time that I should seriously consider dating. The experience that I had during the EI was incredibly powerful and it somehow helped me burn through my resistance to opening up to new relationship. My good friend and neighbor Suzanne had been asking me for well over a year if I wanted her to give my phone number to Kevin, a man we had met together while at a wine dinner. It turned out they went to the same church and she felt that we would have a lot in common. I had been continually saying no to her for over a year. But, as a lonely Thanksgiving holiday loomed, I finally agreed.
I actually had meet Kevin before that wine dinner. One evening, several years earlier, Jim and I had walked into Zebra, a local French restaurant, to have a nice glass of French white burgundy. There was only one other person at the bar. It was Kevin. So there I sat between Kevin and Jim, the three of us having a lively conversation, never really expecting to have contact again. However, it was very much a foreshadowing event of things to come! Once Suzanne got the go ahead from me, she moved quickly. Kevin contacted me and we arranged a lunch date for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Things went well and I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. I agreed to see him again. A year earlier, I had created at my friend Lynn’s insistence, what came to affectionately be called “Marty’s Man List.” It is a rank-ordered list of 36 characteristics that I desire in my primary, intimate relationship. When I returned home from lunch, I pulled it out for a quick review. Based on what I had observed and experience at lunch, there seemed to be a good bit of symmetry between Kevin and my list. But, much more research was needed – something I actually found myself excited about doing.
It turns out that Kevin is an excellent chef and he expressed interest in cooking for me the following Saturday night. Needless to say, after not having dated for 29 years, I was not about to go to his house where ever that was. Plus, Honeywood has an unbelievably equipped catering kitchen that I knew he would love to experience. So, our first official date was set. And it certainly was a memorable one. The meal was exquisitely prepared and presented. The menu was fabulous – baby artichokes with curry mayo dipping sauce, balsamic marinated veal chops, roasted tomato risotto and tapenade stuffed endive. As I sat there watching him meticulously prepare our dinner, I grew more and more impressed. The music he brought for our enjoyment by Il Divo blew me away and our conversation along with the Bollinger Rose champagne flowed easily. But, most importantly, I felt nurtured and cared for in a way that I had not for a very long time. At midnight, I called our date officially over and sent him home. I needed time to process everything I had experienced and the new feelings that were creeping up on me.
I woke up the next morning feeling very vulnerable, like my very foundation was shifting. What was happening to me?!? I had to get myself back under control! OMG Martha, I thought, you’ve had one nice date and you are totally losing it! I chastised myself; that date was way too much, particularly since it was your first one in 29 years! You should have just gone to the movies! All day long my feelings, along with new physical sensations, grew more and more intense. I talked over what I was experiencing with my dear friend Kathryn who also happens to be a therapist. She had been navigating new relationships since the unfortunate death of her beloved husband John and I always value her wise counsel. But, this time, talking didn’t seem to help much at all.
When I went to bed that night, powerful waves of sensation started moving through my body. I was having what is called a kundalini experience. Kundalini, also called the Shakti, is described as the sleeping, dormant potential force of creation in the human organism. It is one of the components of our subtle body and is believed to be coiled at the base of the spine, usually within the first chakra. Through meditation, and various esoteric yogic practices, the kundalini can be awakened, and can rise up inside or alongside the spine. The progress of kundalini energy up through the chakras leads to different levels of awakening, until the kundalini finally reaches the top of the head, the crown chakra, producing an extremely profound mystical experience.
For some reason, my date with Kevin had done for me what all my practices and studies had not – awakened my kundalini. Although, thankfully, I knew what was happening to me it was incredibly uncomfortable to experience. It was as if I had my finger in an electric light socket and it continued non-stop night and day for two weeks. I went to both Denise my acupuncturist and Jan my EFT Master in an attempt to ground and integrate this wild-feeling energy into my physical body. Also, during this two week period while seeing Kevin every couple of days, I was told by the Voice that speaks to me to enter into an intimate relationship with him. Now wait a minute, I said, I don’t even know this dude! “Do what you want to get comfortable with the idea,” said my Voice, “but this is your next lesson.”
I’ve learned the hard way to listen to this Voice and do what I’m told, but I just couldn’t imagine doing this! Although he was really nice and fun, I had learned from our conversations that he was super conservative, moved at a much slower pace than I do and knew nothing about awakening. What could I possibly gain by getting involved with someone like that, I asked myself? You’re probably going to laugh, but my next step was to call my lawyer Laura for assistance. Before I would ever consider getting involved in that way, I needed some accurate information about Kevin. The best way I knew to do that was to hire a private investigator to develop a dossier on him. She concurred, as any good attorney would, and gave me a reference.
Prior to my getting the investigator’s report, Kevin asked to come talk with me. He began by saying “Martha, I don’t belong here.” and proceeded to explained his very checkered background and where he found himself at this point in his life. The dossier I received several days later confirmed everything he told me to be true. As he talked, I began to see why we had been brought together. It would be a perfect teaching-learning opportunity for both of us. For you see, Kevin had been going through a purification process just as I had with the dissolution of my marriage and the resulting family trauma. He had recently lost everything that he valued in his life, including his very successful business, his wife and his home. All he came away with was his substantial wardrobe, his cherished All-Clad cookware and a deep desire to help others. In essence, universal forces had stripped him naked and burned him to the ground so that the real Kevin could emerge. He was ready to find a better way to live. I held the knowledge that he needed. And I needed an intimate partner who was willing to be shaped by that knowledge. I would teach him my path of awakening and in so doing, learn more from Kevin than I ever could possibly have imagined.
I have been looking so forward to writing this particular article because, in it, I get to talk about one of my most favorite people and teachers – the very wise and kind Board Chair of Kripalu – Richard Faulds, better known to all of us as our beloved Shobhan.
For the past 10 years, Shobhan and his wife, the exquisite yoga poet Danna Faulds, have been coming to Charlotte to conduct an annual weekend workshop on various aspects of yoga philosophy and practice. Shobhan also shares with us how to use these ancient teachings to more fully awakening to our own divinity. With a pure spirit and bright, light heart, Shobhan lovingly teaches us in a way that is both unique and profound. We look forward to his return each year and spots in his workshops are very coveted.
I have participated in all but the first workshop that Shobhan has offered here and over the years he, Danna and I have become good friends. In 2006, I began hosting a Saturday night covered dish dinner at Honeywood for all workshop participants as part of the weekend offerings. It is always a festive time where we all can share stories of our own personal journeys in a safe and open environment. After dinner, Shobhan tells us stories of his direct experiences with awakening and Danna reads to us her beautiful poetry, some of which I have shared with you in my recordings. It is a special, special time.
After being and staying at Honeywood several times, Shobhan came up with what seemed at first to be a somewhat radical idea. He suggested we hold here what’s called an Enlightenment Intensive (EI) which is a residential multi-day experiential exploration of self (more on that later). It would require that Honeywood be converted into a retreat center that would house and feed up to 20 participants for a five day period. I had already hosted Krishna Das and his five fellow musicians when there were here in the summer of 2008 to give what proved to be an unbelievable concert. That had been such a positive experience for me (actually I ended up with a school girl crush on KD!!), I was ready to open Honeywood to the potential for an even bigger adventure. For 18 months, Shobhan and I discussed the EI idea before finally deciding to implement it in October 2008. I’m sure its timing which coincided exactly with Jim’s engagement announcement was no accident!
So what is an Enlightenment Intensive? An EI is a group retreat designed to enable individuals to experience that which is traditionally known as samadhi, or enlightenment, in a relatively short period of time. The enlightenment experience sought during an Enlightenment Intensive is described as a momentary change in the individual’s state of consciousness in which the individual directly experiences the ultimate truth of Self. The overriding orientation is self-discovery, so religious teachings and philosophical concepts are generally avoided. Typically, about 30% of EI participants have a direct enlightenment experience during an EI.
The format of an Enlightenment Intensive resembles a cross between a meditation retreat and a co-counseling workshop. Working in dyads, two people, facing each other, take turns answering the question “Who Am I?” Each person talks for 5 minutes. What the talker says comes out of contemplation of their truth, not just from random mental activity. The listener just listens, without any type of reaction, comment or evaluation. Using direct eye contract, both fully invest their attention in that moment with each other. Both are present with and for each other. Then, dyad partners switch roles and the other talks/listens. After a 40 to 50 minute “round” of this type of back and forth talking/listening, a short break is taken and the process is repeated with another partner to further explore the question “Who Am I?”
You may be saying, this doesn’t seem so hard, right? But, the kicker is this is done for 12 hours a day for three straight days! Also, outside of the dyads when sitting, eating, resting, walking, sleeping, and all other non-partner activities strict silence is maintained to further aid in the contemplation process. The Intensive is led by a person who is traditionally called the master or facilitator; for us this was Shobhan. The master’s role is to set up the retreat, ensure it runs smoothly, and provide the participants with appropriate information, support, and encouragement, both to the group as a whole and to individuals where needed.
For the EI at Honeywood, we had 16 participants, 5 men and 11 women, plus Shobhan who was running the show. We created “dorms” in all the bedrooms and the large great room served as our working space. We hired an excellent catering company, Food Fetish, to provide beautiful, nourishing vegetarian meals three times a day. The grounds of Honeywood provided us perfect walking meditation space and the warm pool served as a nurturing, womb-like oasis to sooth the rawness emerging within all of us from this very intense work.
I have to say, when thinking about all the self-inquiry work I have done over the years, much of which I have chronicled here on Seeing The Light, the EI proved to be the most challenging. Actually, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. For when one spends three consecutive twelve hour days exploring the question “Who Am I?” all kinds of things come up – much of which that is not pretty. But as Picasso once said, “Things must first be ugly before they can be pretty.” And that is true of the enlightenment process in general and definitely the EI in particular. As I explored deeper and deeper, with my 15 partners compassionately bearing witness, who this entity called Martha Harbison really is – something started to happen. Layer after layer of “costuming” fell away; all the concepts I had held about myself began to dissolve. From my NDE, I already had learned that I am not my body. But through this EI process, I discovered I am also not my thoughts, my feelings, my personality or even my mind. I have those things but that is not who I am. Then on the third day, during our 6 a.m. group meditation, it happened. I had a direct experience of who I am.
A loving Voice began speaking, reciting to me the wedding vows I had said to Jim 27 years before. However, this time these vows were meant for me. This is what it said.
When the Voice completed the vows, I was weeping with joy; I had never felt so loved. Who I am, my Higher Self – the God within, who had been there all along – stepped forward to join, once and for all, with Martha. In that moment, I moved into union with all that is and once again accessed the beautiful Oneness that I had experienced during my NDE. But this time, I got to experience it from the vantage point of this earthly reality. It was truly a marriage of the physical with the divine. From that point forward, I was not longer a physical being longing for a spiritual experience. Rather, I now know that who I am is a spiritual being – an extension of what we call God. And, as I looked at Shobhan and my fellow EI partners, all I could see was one beautiful being. I knew I was just looking at a different aspect of myself.
Thankfully, the feeling of divine unity I experienced as part of the Honeywood Enlightenment Intensive has stayed with me. Although I can’t say I am never reactive or judgmental toward others, it grows harder each day for me to be so. They and you are my fellow selves, and I cherish each of you as growing, learning aspects of me. I now see the Light that unites us all. Yes, sometimes it is deeply buried. But, believe me, it is there. More and more I am able to live in the field of unity consciousness so beautifully described by Rumi. “Out beyond the ideas of right doing and wrong doing is a Field. I will meet you there.” Won’t you join me? Take your time. But please know, I so look forward to your company.
The heart-felt letter that I wrote and sent to Jim did everything I had hoped, and more. His response was very positive and it created a long-absent harmony between us as we came together to celebrate our daughter’s wedding. During that six day celebration in Lake Tahoe, we spent a lot of quality time together as a couple and as a family. Jim and I stayed in separate homes, me with our son and his family, Jim with our daughter and the wedding party. But, except to sleep, we were together constantly. It was a joyous occasion for all of us and Jim was loving and considerate toward me. Wedding goers couldn’t believe we were really divorced.
Our daughter, Meredith, from the time she was a very little girl has always loved the color purple. And for her wedding, she wanted a total purple wedding, including a purple wedding gown. You can imagine the challenge that presented as I searched high and low for the exact right attire for us all. But, I’m happy to say that I was successful. We all looked fabulous and had a marvelous time! Just take a look at my beautiful family! I am so proud!
However, there was one problem. Every time we were alone, Jim tried to reengage with me intimately. My letter, he said, had made him want to “reconsider our relationship.” But, I had already been down that road with him and I wasn’t going to do it again. This particularly became an issue when our son and his family left and we stayed on for an extra day with the wedding party. He tried absolutely everything to get me to have sex with him. However, he had been actively dating Donna for a couple of months and had expressed to me that she felt like someone he could be serious about. But, he proposed, “don’t you want to compete for me?” Clearly, this was not something I would consider doing then or ever. Thus, our trip home was a little chilly. My refusal of his advances finally convinced him that our relationship was over.
Once the wedding festivities were complete, the finality of the end of our relationship really hit me hard. They say that grief comes in waves and I was experiencing a ten footer! So, I decided that I needed to get away for a while. My dear friend Yvonne was nice enough to offer me their beach home on Kiawah and I willingly accepted. The ocean has always been so healing for me and I felt it would be the perfect place to recollect myself and reflect on how I now wanted to live my life. I went alone. It was mid-September. The beach was empty and the weather glorious. I enjoyed myself a lot but, in retrospect, I probably should have invited a girlfriend to go with me. It proved difficult for me to process alone the feelings of loneliness and sadness I was experiencing. I was using all the tools and techniques I had learned but it wasn’t enough somehow. I needed a sounding board that I didn’t have. And, to make matters worse when I called my son I learned Jim had asked if he could bring Donna to meet him.
I had never really given much consideration to the women Jim was dating. But for him to want to introduce one of them to our children was a whole different matter. That really got my attention. After my beach trip, I immediately began working with the intense emotions I was experiencing regarding another woman becoming possibly involved with my family. I guess I was dealing with the classic “other woman” issues so many women are faced with over a life time. And it was a good thing I started that work when I did because Jim made sure there was no time to waste. Within two months of Meredith’s wedding, Jim announced to all of us his engagement to Donna. They had been dating less than five months. Our family went absolutely ballistic!
Jim, unlike the rest of us, didn’t believe he needed any more time to process his feelings. He was ready to enter into a new marriage, his fourth. When our children expressed fury and disgust, he was shocked. He couldn’t understand what they were so upset about. Didn’t he have the right to live his life the way he wanted to, he asked. “Yes, Jim, yes you do.” was my response. “But, don’t forget Newton’s third law of physics. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, just be prepared.”
Jim’s engagement, as shocking as it was to all of us, provided me with a powerful opportunity to heal in a way that nothing else could have. When I took this issue to my EFT Master Jan Luther we began to look at the situation and how I felt about Donna. My top-of-mind response was “Well, now that he is engaged to Donna he is finally leaving me alone with all his mixed messages and erratic, on-again-off-again behavior. In that sense, she is proving to be my liberator, because until Jim attached himself to someone else, I was never going to be free.” We began working with the concept of Donna as my liberator but my strong emotions were not dissipating. Jan didn’t feel the concept “liberator” was exactly correct.
As we tapped and explore this issue she continued channeling her EFT dialog when she suddenly said, “The baby sitter has arrived.” That was it! That was when my emotions shifted which is the freedom that we look for from EFT. Donna was the baby sitter that I had been waiting for. With her, I knew that Jim would be well taken care of, something that was critically important to me, and I was free to go out and be the “adult” that I needed to be without concern for his well-being. With that mental reorientation, I left my EFT session with only one emotion – gratitude. “Bless the Babysitter!” became my internal mantra that would carry me through the rough waters ahead.
A month or so after our reconciliation ended, Jim found his way into another relationship. This time, her name was Donna. Unbeknownst to me, my friend Alyson introduced them – a fact they both kept from me. But at the same time, he continued to try to engage with me intimately. At this point, I was pretty much living from the place of witness; watching my reactions and judgment toward his behavior without engaging in the drama. But my trigger point continued to be the family. During a particularly difficult family beach vacation which Jim attended for a couple of days, I totally lost it. That experience taught me I had to find a way to more fully apply what I was learning to my dealings with our family. We had Meredith’s wedding coming up in six weeks, so Jim and I would be together a lot. Loving that child as I do, I wanted her day to be perfect and was willing to do anything I had to do to make that happen for her.
To do that, I needed to reframe my attitude toward Jim. I had been so hurt by his actions, I needed a way to finally release all the pain that I was feeling. In reading Byron Katie’s second book, I Need Your Love – Is That True? I ran across an exercise that thankfully facilitated that internal shift within me. Katie suggests that when we are struggling in a particularly difficult relationship, try writing a letter to this person seeking forgiveness from and express gratitude to them. Her instructions are as follows: “Think of someone who has hurt you very deeply. Write that person a letter in which you do the following things. Think of three things that you did to hurt him. Write about them and apologize. Then tell him three things he gave you that you are grateful for and thank him. Close the letter with I love you.”
Katie says we don’t necessarily have to mail it. We can express our feelings face-to-face or read the letter to them or mail it if that feels right. But she suggests that we act on the letter as soon as possible. As she says, “Act on it when you know that no matter what the response will be, you want to do it for you own sake. You do it knowing that his response is none of your business, that this letter is about your life, not the other person’s. It’s your life that you’re cleaning up!” It took a lot of courage on my part to write this letter. But, I’m happy to say I did write it and I did mail it to Jim. And it did everything that Katie promised. By seeking forgiveness and expressing gratitude, I was freed, once and for all, from the prison of Jim and my relationship. Here is what I wrote.
My Dearest Jim, Our time together at and immediately following the family beach trip finally helped me realize I need to move on with my life as you have. For the past five years, I have been holding space for you to come in and out of our relationship as you rediscover yourself and what it is you want in life. Although I did this very willingly as a gift to you, it has kept me in denial and prevented me from healing the great loss and deep sadness I feel. I am now in the process of grieving the loss of our marriage as I move into acceptance of what is. As part of this grief process, I have looked closely at our relationship to discover the part I played in its collapse.
I now seek your forgiveness for the mistakes I made. I apologize for loving you for who I wanted you to be rather than for who you really are. This caused me to be dominant and controlling to the point of your fearing me. My intention, through my behavior, was to help you reach your full potential as I defined it. But, what I was doing was preventing you from becoming the wonderful person that you are and learning the lessons you came here to learn. I now realize that much of your behavior I found “unacceptable” in our marriage was actually a cry for the unconditional love I was unknowingly withholding from you.
I also apologize for not knowing how to fully share myself with you physically and emotionally. This must have been very frustrating and lonely for you at times. In hindsight, I should have gotten into therapy much sooner to explore the intense subterranean rage within me caused by the sexual abuse that shaped so much of my behavior until recently. And, I am deeply sorry for traumatizing you so badly with my near death episode and my less than responsible behavior leading up to it. Although my judgment was clearly flawed, I was trying anything and everything in my attempt to reach and connect with you again.
I want you to know how bad I feel for the pain I have caused you. I take full responsibility for the problems in our marriage. And, I am asking you to truly forgive me for the mistakes that I have made. It is my hope, that through this, we can bring closure to our old relationship so that we may create a new way of relating as loving, caring friends. This healing will not only help us but it will also help our children who have been in great pain over our break-up.
I want to thank you for all the wonderful moments that we shared together and all the gifts of love that you gave me over the past 29 years. The greatest gift you gave, of course, is the children. They are blessings to me every day. But there is so much more for which I am grateful. For many years, you tried hard and did your best to make me happy and feel totally loved. Words could never express how much I appreciate your effort. And, your providing me with Honeywood as a haven for my battered soul has nurtured me in ways that I am still realizing. You have taught me, through the dissolution of our marriage, about unconditional love. Ultimately, that is the greatest gift that one can give to another.
I know the bond that has been forged between us cannot be broken by absence or distance or time. Because of this indivisibility, there will be a point somewhere, sometime in this life or beyond when we may again share the beautiful oneness that we experienced for so long. Until then, I truly wish you love, happiness and peace in your life. Lovingly, Martha