Grief, the rinse and repeat gift

I just finished listening to a great podcast on grief, betrayal, loss and disappointment by master coach Susan Hyatt.  It was a good reminder for me this morning. I wanted to share it as it could be a good resource for you too.

I’m a life coach, but I can only do this kind of work and help my clients if I help myself first. I’ve done a lot of work in this area for myself and have helped my clients, such as those grieving the death of a child, their spouse and also working through betrayal and divorce. Yet I can also use helpful reminders from others, and I hire coaches myself.

Life it to give it. Do the work.

It’s interesting because I literally now am writing this blog post for the third time as the computer ate it twice. I think that is a great analogy for the grieving process. You go through it in stages, at different times. Life hands you the opportunity to revisit it and go deeper, through a new grieving opportunity.

It sounds weird to call it a grieving opportunity, but really, that’s what it is. Even when you graduate college, or get your masters, there is still more to learn, right? You are never done learning in life. Same here. To me it’s along the idea of a life lesson, and that we are souls in a human body, here to go to a soul school – life.

I am experiencing something that is definitely a “live it to give it” opportunity as we say in coach-speak. About a month ago, my dear friend of 25 years died, and I have been grieving his loss. In the last few years, there was something that came between us, and that makes for a more difficult grieving process and possible lack of the illusive “closure,” even though he was still my dear friend when he died.

There also was not an official ceremony, and I am a big believer in ceremony. Normally I would light a candle myself, pray, relight the candle for a period of days, pray some more. Yet this time when I learned of his death, I was literally on my way out of town. I believe today will be the day for my own ceremony. It’s a grey, rainy day, and the feel of it fits for me. I go by “feel” a lot as an empath.

I also am a clairvoyant/medium, and that provides me with another opportunity for working with my grief when someone I love crosses over. Yet it is still necessary to do this kind of work. Susan’s questions are similar questions I ask myself and similar to the work I do. She include a mantra that I am going to work with in this situation. It is a beautiful mantra, and you may listen to her podcast to learn more.

The other thing about grief is that fresh grief brings up the opportunity to look at other grief. There’s been more for me even just this past year….another friend who died in November, dear friends of 25 years moving to another state (final move was last week), quitting my job a year ago January when my Mom was in the hospital (and more related to that, Mom is fine), losing another gig before it started, illness of my cat, something about a man, etc. This has been quite a year. I have forgiven where that was needed, done that work, yet there is always room for more.

I also have gained so much – like a fabulous new public policy gig that I love, with people that I love, that also gives me the opportunity to begin to really work on my coaching practice and business. I believe there is a reason for everything, even when it does not make sense at the time.

It’s o.k. to pause and give yourself a moment. It’s o.k. to be sad or angry or hurt. Grief happens in its own unique time, and it is different for everyone – just like the pattern of every snowflake is unique. I think as a coach sometimes I focus on story fondling so much – i.e. not to do it – that sometimes I may not give myself enough time, allow myself to be a human, in a human body, having this experience.

I realized last week in grieving my friend’s death and doing the work with a coach, that it raised some things that I have worked on before, to give me the opportunity to go much deeper. Yes, “opportunity.” I mean that sincerely. Opportunity like this isn’t fun, but it’s always good/necessary. Over the last three years, I lost quite a few very dear, close friends, definitely in the manner of betrayal, tied into a former spiritual organization. It was a loss, yet it was also a blessing.

My life is much better now that they are gone, and I am so grateful for that – grateful that they are no longer in my life, that I can “see” and that I have the opportunity to do this work. I am also grateful for the lessons that I learned and what their presence in my life taught me along the way. Yet despite that gratitude, I realized that there is still hurt, sadness and anger at their betrayal and behavior to look at again. Anger is a stage of grief, and it serves as a mask for the root emotions underneath. Susan’s questions in her podcast are similar to ones I have asked myself in similar situations. Her mantra gives a great way to address this, and I intend to work with it here as well.

Last week when Susan put out this podcast, I knew I *had* to listen to it – definitely what I call a synchronicity or a meaningful coincidence. Some folks call them God Winks. Whatever the name, personally I find it is my higher self, my soul self, trying to get me to listen, to go back to school. I finally listened to it, and it’s awesome! I listened to it twice.

Time to rinse and repeat.

For any of you who are experiencing grief, loss or betrayal, this would be a great 10 minutes or less of your life.

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What is Shamanic Healing?

On the top of the Pyramid on the Sun at Teotihuacan, Dec. 31, 2014
On the top of the Pyramid on the Sun at Teotihuacan, Dec. 31, 2014, Dawn of a New Dream, with the don Miguel Ruiz family

Most folks have known me over the last 25+ years as a highly driven lobbyist. Though I am no longer a lobbyist, I am still in the field of public policy, as Director of Public Policy for a local non-profit, educating folks on important public policy issues impacting long-term consumers. I am also a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach, a Shamanic Healer, founder of a spiritual/charitable non-profit and an ordained minister.

Whew, that’s a lot of hats! But I like it that way. I have always worn lots of hats. From a shamanic standpoint, we call them masks. Each one is a part of who I am. Together, with a lot of other masks, they make up the whole of me. But yet, not quite. I do not identify myself with any of them really – they are all labels, words to create an understanding, a picture or a story of me, and I am not attached to them. We all create and wear masks as a part of our ability to relate with others and to identify ourselves to others.

I bring all of who I am to every aspect of my life – to my public policy work, to my business and to my charitable work. I am always my authentic self, I just do not put every label or identity on myself for everyone I meet. There were times in my life where I was very attached to many things, such as to the identity of being a lobbyist. I allowed it to define me and who I am.

When we are able to detach from identities, beliefs and things, we can heal and balance ourselves. This is part of my life coaching and shamanic practice. Through this process, working on myself first, I have healed myself in so many ways and found a great sense of peace and happiness. Sure, things happen in life, but I am able to navigate the rougher waters and transform myself in the process, creating new beauty in my life.

A great book on the topic of attachment is from don Miguel Ruiz, Jr., The Five Levels of Attachment. It explains how we attach ourselves to beliefs, others around us and the world to the detriment of ourselves and our authentic or essential self. Overly attaching to things, people or situations, also ties into issues with having and maintaining healthy boundaries. In drawing on ancient wisdom for finding your true self, don Miguel, Jr. explores the five levels of attachment through which we cause suffering in our own lives, which are: Fanaticism, Internalization, Identification, Self Preference and Authentic Self.

I also recommend The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and The Fifth Agreement by don Jose Ruiz, “be skeptical but learn to listen.” The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

The Ruiz family members are shamans, practicing in the Toltec tradition. I have studied with them online and in person. Over the last 15+ years, I have had extensive shamanic and metaphysical training from many organizations and teachers, including intensive studies with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. (read more on other pages at http://www.sheribilderback.com). And yes…all this while being a lobbyist too!

I do all of my life coaching and shamanic healing sessions via phone, which has proven to be quite powerful for my clients. Shamanic healing done in this way is called “distance shamanic healing” – an apt term. The idea behind distance work is that all times are one time and all places are one place, that energy connects everything like a web – think of the internet and how it connects everything, kind of like magic!

But what is shamanic healing?

The idea behind metaphysical, shamanic or spiritual healing is that over thousands of years our ancestors from every continent learned how to access spiritual sources of power, compassion and wisdom, which otherwise are ordinarily accessible just through dreams, myths, and near-death experiences. The shamanic, spiritual or metaphysical practitioner is trained to contact these sources, in what is called non-ordinary reality, and bring back healing and answers for the benefit of the individual and the community in what is called ordinary reality.

For more on this, you may wish to read Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner. Through his extensive anthropological work, Michael Harner distilled the core principles and concepts that proved consistent between indigenous societies around the world, into what he calls Core Shamanism. He created the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

As a practitioner of metaphysical, spiritual and shamanic healing, I use drumming, music or rattling, to enter the shamanic state of consciousness to access spiritual sources of wisdom to be used for the benefit of the client during the session together, or to guide the client on a meditation. This may involve various metaphysical methods and/or core shamanic healing methods, such as power animal retrieval, shamanic divination, spirit ally ‘medicine’ retrievals (i.e. energies from the spirits), shamanic extractions (i.e. removal of things that don’t belong in the energy bodies and that can cause disease) and soul retrievals (i.e. we can lose pieces of ourselves through trauma and various situations in life, which can cause illness or hurt our ability to heal from illness).

Author Louise Hay gives a great description of the word disease as “dis-ease.” The idea is that when we have disease or illness, there is an unease or a lack of ease with ourselves and our body. There is something that is disconnecting us and our mind, body and spirit connection resulting in or contributing to illness in the body. When we work to heal the mind, body and spirit connection, we can aid in our healing. Life coaching and shamanic healing work helps us heal the mind, body and spirit connection.

There are many sources of studies and many traditions of shamanic healing and other methods for which I have been trained and that you may wish to research (shamanic healing, crystal gemstone healing, Reiki and more). Please note that these are metaphysical, shamanic and spiritual services. I am not a licensed physician, and my services are not medical treatments. A good basis for the concepts involved may be found in the article/interview with Michael Harner, Shamanic Healing: We are Not Alone.

There is so much more that I could share here! I think this provides a good overview. Wishing you love, happiness and health!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more and perhaps schedule a session with me, you can email me at bilderbs@earthlink.net for a free 30 minute “Let’s get started session.”

The Chosen Baby: One Little Girl’s Story of Adoption

When I was a little girl, I used to think that adopted babies were kept in a little room on shelves where their new mommies and daddies would come pick them out. Choose them. The beautiful thing is that there’s something to that the idea of choice, and soul connections and all that jazz that also bring you together with your parents.

The Chosen Baby today – that’s me!

I dedicate my story to all of those who have been adopted. And I may come back and add more later. This is a story that wanted to be shared now…

I have always known I was adopted. The Chosen Baby was a book my parents read to me from when I was a baby. That is how I learned I was adopted. They said they picked me, that I was chosen.

The Chosen Baby is an amazing book about a loving couple the Browns who adopt a little boy named Peter and then they adopt his baby sister Mary. Quite lovely. My parents told me from the beginning, and it was a beautiful thing. There never was a time that I did not know that I was adopted.

The Chosen Baby
The Chosen Baby

I still have this book.

And don’t get me started on how incredibly lucky I was to find my parents, or that they found me. They are the two people in this world that I love and respect more than anyone. They are strong, smart, giving, caring, supportive, loving and the most beautiful souls. I am truly blessed. And yes, they are always right…well, almost always. Especially when it comes to being a good judge of character.

When you grow up being adopted, kids may tease you. It did not happen very often to me as I got along very well with the other kids in my neighborhood and at school, and I had lots of friends. Every now and then someone might tease “your mommy and daddy gave you away!” My reply was always the same – “my parents picked *me*!” That usually did the trick. And I believed it. I grew up surrounded in love. Still am.

The other thing is that being adopted results in several things. It makes you more independent. You find and make friends easier and they become important to you – like your brothers or sisters of choice. You are a loyal friend. My friends are my adopted siblings in a way, yet without all that sibling drama that I hear about – no fighting. Yeah, I don’t have drama in my circle of friends. Never have. I just release that from my life. Life is too short!

I remember when I was a little girl, and Mom asked me if I wanted a little brother or sister. I said no. She doesn’t remember that now, but I always have remembered it. We did not have much money either, so I think between the two things that made the decision for my parents. They wanted to give me the life they never had, and having more children would have stretched their resources.

My parents sacrificed for me, my college education in particular at American University in DC. Grandma, the one who I helped when she died about two years ago, she used to buy Mom clothes so Mom would have something nice and new when I was in college. We were that short on money. But I got my education.

My parents have always been – and are – the hardest working folks you will ever meet! This is where I learned the value of hard work, determination, not asking for things to be given to you, earning your way, taking care of yourself, having responsibility. My Dad also taught me that you can do anything you want to do if you set your mind to it. But most important? This is where I learned about character. Character. Integrity. Love.

The other thing that happens when you are adopted and even more so as an only child, is you learn to communicate with folks of all ages. I was never scooted out of the room. I was always part of the adult conversations, my entire life. The adults around me listened to me, respected me and taught me how to respect myself. They taught me right from wrong. They taught me to be who I am – to be me. This is where I learned to communicate, which has served me so well in all areas of my life.

Folks used to ask me through the years, and still do, “don’t you want to meet your real parents?” My reply was “no, of course not – I already know my real parents.”

The one thing I did want to know, which is random, but it was what color was my biological mother’s hair? I got that answer.

As so many things in life and on a spiritual path, health issues can drive you to the most beautiful experiences. In 1989, after I graduated from college, I sought out the non-identifying information from the adoption agency where I was adopted. I was seeking more information on my health related background. They sent me a three page letter, telling me the story of my birth and adoption.

There were no pictures, but my biological mother was described as 5’2”, 110 pounds, blonde hair and blue eyes. Yep…just like me.

There were two interesting things I learned.

First, she was adopted! Now remember that back then, this was not as common or as discussed. That was a huge surprise. It was a closed adoption, and they knew nothing of her heritage. My parents were told I was German. This letter mentioned being at least part Polish. On my biological father’s side, the second interesting thing was that my biological grandmother was described as being 5’ tall and had a darker, olive complexion. Hmm. I used to joke that when I got married and if I ever had a biological child, that my husband might wonder if it was his, lol.

I kept the letter in my Bible, and it is still there.

And then I started to travel.

As I traveled throughout Europe, I was interested to see who might look like me. When you grow up around your parents, even if you are adopted, you take on similar mannerisms and it makes you look alike. Though really, I grew up around folks that did not look like me exactly. When I got to Poland, I realized that there were blonde Polish folks that had the same facial shape as I did. I have a great picture of me with one of our tour guides, and it is amazing. But I knew there was much more to the story than that.

None of this ever bothered me. And it still doesn’t. There never was any crisis. I built a solid identity for myself. As an adopted child, early on you learn the power of creating your own life. And I had a solid life foundation. I was loved by my parents. I was loved by those who had to place me for adoption. It was all love, all the time. So I didn’t really think about it that much over the years, just when someone would ask me about it.

Fast forward about 18 years. But first let me set the stage for the rest of this story…

I was a lobbyist for the home building industry with a successful big time gig as Senior Staff Vice President for Government Affairs during that 18 years, and all my time and energy went there. I was the youngest to ever run my department, and I was the only woman to have ever done it. It was a man’s world. I broke all the boundaries. I exceeded all the goals. I thrived and was wildly successful.

At the same time, I felt it was the right time to venture out and make a change to see what was the next fabulous opportunity on my career path. So in 2008, I did the unthinkable. I left this job. Quit. I just quit. I quit it without having another gig. I knew that as long as I stayed there, I would never leave – I would never look for another job. I was too passionate about my work and dedicated to take the time to do it.

So I quit.

Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do, with anything. I have learned to embrace change in life, and it always brings such blessings, as you are about to see in my story here. So I learned the beautiful lesson of quitting.

I’m reminded of my favorite quote from the movie Risky Business – Take your chance. Make your move. Freedom gives you opportunity. Opportunity is what makes your future. So that’s what I did. I made my move. I took my chance. I was free. A pattern I was to intentionally repeat, with more blessings every time I did it.

I ended up in one of the most amazing experiences of my life, well, so many amazing experiences! First, I met with many business leaders in the St. Louis region. I met with everyone I could. For many years later, and still to this day, I was used as an example of how to do it. I was asked to help others, which I did. I helped them learn to talk to people, ask for meetings, meet with them. I do not like the word networking because those I met with are much more than a contact to me. They are a friend, and we have helped each other many times since then. And this is what I helped others to do.

During this time, I also had the most amazing interview process with a Fortune 500 company. I was the only candidate they flew to DC. Another male dominated industry. And when I met with their leadership, it was an incredible experience – I will never forget it. Such a gift! They ended up having a merger, so I did not get the gig as they had to hire someone from the other company. But that was best too. But man oh man wasn’t that fun!

And then it led me to the Presidential campaign. It was the 2008 cycle, and I was looking for something to do with my time and keep me busy while I looked for the next gig. So I called the campaign to volunteer, and low and behold, they asked to hire me and the Political Director asked if I could “start tomorrow.” Wow.

I was a Field Director, and we won our state. Those huge rallies that I worked on were incredible! Such high energy. Long hours. Friends for life. Amazing stories and times. That political director just had her second baby – such a beautiful little girl! We are all still dear friends. Oh, and I got to meet Hank Williams, Jr. and Miranda Lambert before she was popular. That was so fun! Hard work always pays off in so many beautiful ways.

Then I got my next gig. I lobbied for a cutting edge $4.5 billion power plant and coal mine that was being built in our region. It had all the environmental bells and whistles that were available at the time. I loved working in the power industry. This gig was the key turning point of this story, and it has nothing to do with the details of that gig.

I set up a legislative day for our owners – rural electric coops and municipalities – in the Illinois State Capitol. I think I might remember the date – it was April 23 I believe – and the year was 2010. We happened, as I like to say “for some reason,” to be there in the building the very day they passed the adoption law!

This was why I was meant to work there.

What was this adoption law? Well, it said that if the birth parents did not object by November 2010 that you could request your unredacted *original* birth certificate from the State of Illinois for closed adoptions. Wow. The piece of paper. I had never really thought about it before. The original birth certificate. Opening the vaults of the state justice system. Really? Wow.

So I waited. Come the deadline in November 2010, I filled out my form and I sent it to the State of Illinois. And I waited again.

By this point, I was a lobbyist in Jefferson City for education reform, telecommunications, tax reform and some health care work. I really enjoyed the education reform and telecommunications issues.

And come February 2011, I got the letter.

THE letter.

I was on the phone with a friend and went to my mailbox. I wondered why in the world I had something from the Illinois Dept. of Health. Then it occurred to me.

This is THE letter!

That’s all I could say, over and over again while I opened the envelope.

This is THE letter! THE letter!

And there it was… The un-redacted birth certificate.

My name.

My birthmother’s name. No mention of my birthfather. The address of her parents’ house.

And the biggest discovery?

She named me…after her.

Wow, what a gift, what a blessing, what a send off of love! Just beautiful!

Now, folks still ask me, don’t you want to meet her? Don’t you want to find them? My answer is, not really. I do have an interest in knowing if she is alive and what happened to her. I am interested in more about my biological father’s mother’s heritage. I also know that I had a biological brother or half brother that was a year or two older than me that she had put up for adoption before me, which I’d known since 1989. So brothers and sisters are an interest of mine, down the road some day. I will know when the time is right.

It always reminds me of the idea of “just in time arrival” from my MBA program. Synchronicities never cease to amaze me. So I had this paper, this record of my birth. Just incredible!

I eventually left the lobbying gig to take a position in 2012 with a U.S. Senate campaign, which was fun. About the time that it ended in fall of 2012, I was in the midst of my year long womb journey and did freelance work during that time.

Every choice, every decision, led me to that beautiful and powerful moment.

Back to Risky Business again – take a chance, make your move. Those lines struck me as a teen, because there is wisdom to be found there.

This past year held great power and beauty of going within and embracing my womanhood, looking back at all I have accomplished in my career and in my life.

Now I have a great position as Director of Public Policy for a long-term care advocacy organization, advocating on legislation that impacts long-term care consumers. I am also a Martha Beck Life-Coach in Training, in the midst of a 10 month intensive live coach training program. I highly recommend her books to my friends and coaching clients.

I did not lose my womanhood. I did not lose my power. Quite to the contrary…I got it all back! I healed myself. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

And I look forward to helping other women on their journeys, to empower women to discover their inner courage and stand fully in their own power to create their life the way they want to live it.

Join me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/youcandreamyourlife.