“Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all.”

~Helen Keller

This was the quote on the cover of the binder I chose Day One, at the Eponaquest Adventure Retreat at Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat, in Monterey, Costa Rica with our hosts Debbie and Steve Legg. This trip had been on my bucket list for a long time and I was blessed to travel to Monterey with my Eponquest mentor and friend Shelley Rosenberg, where she teaches several times a year. This quote was not a new to me, but I chose it, because I feel it sums up my life theme in more ways than I can share and also because the life I had been living and come to know-illusion-shattered into pieces, one year at a time, beginning 6 years ago, with the final decline and death of my mother.

It has been more years than I can count, since I’ve had the opportunity to take a vacation for mySELF. For me, just me. What that means is that there was no caretaking of an ill parent, or anyone else for that matter, which has been my “vacation” time for literally 20+ years in one way or another. Although I did this with love and compassion at the time, it did indeed take a psychic toll, which was not immediately evident. In hind site, I had no idea how much I needed this adventure and the ability to unplug, literally and figuratively.

Front Porch Swing
Front Porch Swing
Leaves and Lizard, Monterey, Costa Rica
©2016, Sheri Gaynor

And now for my confessional dear readers…I’d forgotten this part of myself, the part of me that knows that, life’s journey, not a destination.  As a result, for the last 1.5 years, since moving to California, I have been living more from a place of survival and terror and less from the place I believe helps us live a life of passion and purpose, which is about taking calculated risks, one small leap at a time, so we can live intentionally and from the heart.

I think loss of SELF can be what happens to us, when we have what I am now calling a mid-life awakening.

Midlife is often a bit like the journey of Inanna, the Queen of Heaven, who made her descent into the dark underworld, her sister Ereshkigal’s domain. As a result of her high dive, she had to pass through 7 gates-portals. At each gate she was required to leave behind an item of clothing, until she stood before her sister, Queen of the Dark Abyss, completely disrobed, aka stark naked.

See the metaphor here?

As if that wasn’t enough, her sister decides it would be a great idea to fasten Inanna to a hook, where she hung like a fresh piece of meat for three days until her faithful loving friend Ninshubur, Queen of the East, with whom she made a deal that looked like, “If I don’t come back, please come find me…,” sent a couple of feral creature types, to beg for Inanna’s release. The metaphor here is a bit astounding as before leaving for Costa Rica, I faced my own possible mortality as a single woman, and created a Last Will and Testament, with instructions for my beloved horse and dog. I sat with pen and paper and in long hand wrote these words, “In case I don’t return please honor these final requests…,” and left it with my landlord. Prior to this moment, my husband had been that person, the one who knew my last requests and what I wanted post mortem. With no children of my own, facing this, “I’m truly alone now..” awareness head on, I left another layer of grief in the dust.

Back to our mythology.

When the wild things arrived in the underworld, to plead for Inanna’s release, Ereshkigal was in the process of giving birth, so I guess she figured she had enough to deal with and begrudgingly set Inanna free to resume her rightly place as the Queen of Heaven. I have to admit, I kind of see Ereshkigal’s side of things, it would be some kind of purgatory stuck in Hades for eternity, but it’s pretty clear from her behavior, that she too had some unexpressed feelings about her lot in life.

This might be the ultimate sibling rivalry story…but I digress.

The take away lesson of this Sumerian family drama is the understanding that symbolic deaths in mid-life-divorce, empty nesting, job loss, loss of home, loss of community-are gateways to a new cycle of life and part of the recurring death, rebirth cycle that we experience in a lifetime and that the only way out is through.

Ashes to dust = the fertile soil that is a mid-life awakening

I am truly grateful for the years of personal growth work I’ve done, because the truth is, you don’t want to take this kind of vacation if your not willing to LET GO AND TRUST! And I mean, really release the reins and allow the the horses to do their magic.

If you’ve got any control issues, I can guarantee you they will surface in the name of transmutation. It’s your choice what you do with them once they arrive. You can surrender or kick and scream your way into a shit filled adventure. For me, it was a bit of both.

Owl Butterfly
Out of the Cocoon
Costa Rican Owl Butterfly, © 2016 Sheri Gaynor

There was a lot of kicking and screaming when I realized that the horse that chose me during the opening ceremony, was a three-year old, brand new to the ranch, never ever, black horse named Negro. After almost three years of working to desensitize my own horse DreamWeaver Sunday from whatever human imposed agony she’d been through prior to rescuing her, I had envisioned a cool eco-trip with a 30 year- old, nose to tail, sure-footed, kick back and relax, trail horse.

Spirit had other ideas.

Instead, a black horse came in to help me uncover a shadow aspect and support me in healing a part of myself, that was not in any way the reason I signed up for this vacation.

Digging out another F’ing layer was not on my packing list. My handsome steed, an old Soul, had other ideas.

For me what surfaced was some deeply buried stuff, which amounted to years of unexpressed anger, which surfaced in the arena as Rage, with a Capital R. You see, in the Eponaquest work with the horses, we understand that Rage is an intensification of emotions that we’ve been unwilling to recognize, identify and move through, in service to the art of getting back to grazing, what I like to call The Neutral Zone.

Negro nailed it, when he chose me as his partner. Let me count the ways. It was not a pretty picture and as the title of this post says, “What happens in Costa Rica…stays in Costa Rica.” It has not gone unnoticed that this all took place at the base of the Arenal volcano which is smoldering, active and very much alive.

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
© 2016 Sheri Gaynor

I had uncovered a bit of this simmering lava, during a sound healing event about 3 months ago, when an psychotic man disrupted the beautiful healing experience.  WhyTF can’t a woman go anywhere and just feel safe?, was the immediate response I had to this crazy man’s yelling and screaming at our host, who asked him not to touch the instruments. The fury bubbled up from the deep well of unconsciousness and if I could have been in a sound proof room, I think I might have screamed until my voice was gone. Instead, once he was subdued, I crawled back under my blanket and I rocked and shouted into a pillow-so as not to disturb the other participants-and my right hip, which had been in a chronic pain cycle, popped and released. Two days prior to the sound healing, after a massage, I had created a drawing and a poem about the pain in my hip, I titled it, The Return of the Feminine.

The sound healing and the psychotic guy’s unraveling, was Step One of my you can’t make this shit up experiential healing journey. Step Two was a young black, four-legged Master Teacher and Healer.

Part Three…coming soon, I hope you’ll join me for the rest of this wild ride. You can subscribe to the blog here on my home page, by entering your information in the box that say…”Subscribe to Sheri’s blog..” Imagine that!

 

 

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