Trial By Fire

The past few weeks have been nothing short of a roller coaster for me, but it inspired this post, so…that’s a plus!

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Sometimes the Universe will give you lessons in fairly easy or straight-forward ways. Maybe you’ll see someone else go through a hard time and learn from watching their experience. Perhaps a movie, song, or book will lead to a great, life-changing “a-ha” moment for you.

And then sometimes the Universe will just snatch the rug out from under you, throw you in the ocean, or set you on fire and go, “Okay, make it out of that!”

Both approaches get you to (hopefully) the end goal of learning something important about yourself, your life, and/or the world around you. The second set of circumstances, though, often feel unfair when you’re going through it.

“God, there’s an easier way to show me this, isn’t there?”

“Geez, Universe, really? This is what we’re doing now?”

“What did I do wrong, because I must’ve screwed up somewhere to get into this mess.”

Truth is, glass is tempered and shaped in fire. Tripping causes you to use your reflexes to protect yourself, reflexes you might have forgotten about. Being surrounded by water forces you to swim or tread. It’s a daunting task, but wow, do you feel accomplished once you emerge out of it! Even if everything is not 100% perfect yet on the other side, you came out of the fire much stronger than when you went in.

Sometimes it does take a so-called Trial By Fire in order to grow stronger. We need our Dark Night of the Soul because it often forces us to stop, to humble ourselves, and to listen because that is all we can do.

Sometimes, we need to stop.

If we don’t stop, best believe that eventually, the Universe will do it for us. Bluntly.

Still, even in those dark moments, remember that it is a learning cycle. The wheel will turn, and momentum will build again. You will get through this, and you will emerge stronger, more aware, and more in love with life itself than you were before.

You. Will. Get. Through. This.

 

 

Let’s talk about…divination

*I will be doing a series of posts about topics that, in some spiritual circles, are seen as controversial or even forbidden. Please keep in mind that these are my ideas/opinions on the subjects. They do not reflect the viewpoints of all who practice or engage in these topics. I encourage readers to research on their own to get a full understanding of the subjects presented, as there are a wide variety of resources available online and off.*

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Divination is an interesting subject. In some religions and paths, the subject is taboo and forbidden. In others, only certain individuals are expected to have such abilities. In still others, divination is highly recommended for anyone before making any major decisions. For better or for worse, it is a powerful aspect of spirituality.

The biggest fear I have seen associated with divination is not that it isn’t real, but that you don’t know who is coming through. To be honest, this fear can be put on any form of spiritual communication, including prayer. Do you really know who you are praying to? Who is answering it? The same questions can apply to any of the forms of communication because we are dealing with the unseen. We don’t have a phone number, face, or ID to confirm who is “on the other end.” We are going on the hope that we did the correct invocation to reach the right entity. I believe that you can protect yourself, and there are protection prayers that can (and should) be used.

The methods of divination are wide and plentiful. I think most people are familiar with using cards (tarot, oracle, or even playing cards), scrying, pendulums, and shells or bones, and those are just a few. The ways in which the methods can be used are just as plentiful as the methods themselves. What I believe they all have in common is a direct connection to some spiritual essence; this can be a deity, one’s Higher Self, one’s own ancestors, or spiritual guides.

Divination is not accepted in the scientific community in general, as it does not appear to have any physical evidence to support it. Those that utilize it are often painted as fakes, charlatans, or con artists. I will be the first to admit that those certainly exist in the community, as I have encountered them myself. I will even say that it can be easy to use divination as a con if you are well-versed in reading body language. Intuition and trusting your own sixth sense can go a long way in identifying those with gifts/connections versus the con artists. Finally, some simply consider divination to be evil and/or the work of the devil. Not everyone is open to the idea of divination, and that is perfectly okay.

Those that are open to it in general are looking to find direct communication and/or enhance their connection to what they consider to be Spirit, and this can be done in a safe and productive manner.

What are some of your go-to divination methods? Do you have reservations about divination? Why or why not?

SG versus Therapy

I’ve said this briefly before, but I have seen this line crossed so many times now that I decided it needs an entire post. Just to forewarn you, this may turn into a bit of a rant because this is a subject near and dear to me.

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Spiritual guidance (SG) and therapy are NOT the same thing. They are also NOT interchangeable.

Speaking as a guide, I would never attempt to diagnose or treat a mental health issue. Even with my background in counseling, I am not licensed, so this is not within my scope of active practice. If I feel that therapy would benefit the client, I will readily and gladly recommend it. Having opportunities to engage in both SG and therapy can be extremely beneficial; it allows for both mental and spiritual healing with professionals working within their proper boundaries and areas of expertise.

Speaking from the experience of working as a therapist, I get alarmed when I see guides start to act more like therapists. Guides have a unique duty and focus, which is the spiritual well-being of the client. This is not the same as the mental well-being. There are many aspects of spiritual practice that, in a mental health setting, may appear to be signs of pathology. Visions could equal hallucinations. A bond with nature may be seen as delusions of grandeur. I like to use the “harm question” to distinguish the two: is this person’s beliefs or experiences causing harm (of any kind) to themselves or others? If not, SG can continue. If so, I will get other professionals involved promptly.

The other issue with blurring this line is the flip side of the coin: guides who are unable to recognize mental health issues at all. I have seen a self-proclaimed guide completely miss what to me were obvious signs of depression in a client, and instead they chastised the client almost relentlessly for being “unmotivated.” The client was called lazy, insubordinate, childish, etc. The “guide” threatened to abandon the client and stop communicating with them if they didn’t do as they were advised.

This is not good therapy or spiritual guidance. Honestly, this isn’t even respectful. This is bullying. Rather than punishing a client for not following instructions (which, by the way, you shouldn’t be spending your time as a guide doing, anyway), a guide would seek to understand the roadblocks that the client is putting up. A good therapist does this as well. There is always a reason for blockages, and they are rarely there just because the client is “lazy.” Punishing the client by fussing at them or threatening to basically abandon them is not going to get you to the reason. It only alienates the client or leads to dependency with the client constantly trying to please the guide. The client in this example should have been referred to a therapist to address the depression symptoms.

I could probably go on forever with this post, but those are some of the bigger issues I’ve seen when two different practices/approaches collide in ways that they shouldn’t.

Can you think of other ways that these lines could be blurred, and/or how to prevent this from happening?

Compassion Fatigue

First…yes, this is a real thing.

There is such a state where you have been giving so much and caring so much that you get physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually tired of it. We even have a more technical name for it: Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS).

Let me make this clear: This does not mean that you are a horrible person.

What it does mean, in basic terms, is that you have been giving more love and positive light than you have been receiving. If you are constantly hit with negative or stressful images, words, situations, and people, then it makes perfect sense that it will eventually take a toll. So, if you are a news buff who doesn’t agree with current government trends who is also trying to take care of your mother (who has dementia) while also volunteering for an animal shelter…yeah, you’re probably going to have STS at some point.

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You’re going to get tired. You’re going to find yourself not caring as much and then feel guilty for not caring as much. You will suddenly find yourself having a shorter fuse, losing or gaining weight, and maybe feeling less assured that the world is not a giant rock of despair. Yes, this is normal…it means you care.

So, being in the midst of STS setup situations myself, I started creating a routine “care schedule” for myself. Some of these really basic items include:

  • Going for a walk, or spending time in nature.
  • In lieu of the first one, taking a shower and leaving the house at least once a day (even if it’s just to sit at a park or get a coffee)
  • Not watching the news 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, I keep up with it in general, but I don’t watch any 24 hour news channels.
  • Meditating. This one can be life changing.
  • Having a couple of guilty pleasures. For me, it’s Pokemon Go (yep, I’m one of 10 people that still plays it), and two music groups I’m supposedly too old to like (BTS and 5 Seconds of Summer…don’t go judging me, lol). Also, little wonder why I get along with kids/young people so well…
  • Doing some kind of spiritual work for myself or others. This doesn’t seem to drain me at all, and I believe it is because when I’m doing anything spiritual, I am pulling from the overflow of Spirit/the Universe, and not my own reserves.

Right now, it can be a pretty difficult time for a lot of people, especially in my generation. Our parents are getting older, so we may be starting to take on caregiving roles. We have an absurd amount of financial instability thanks to everything from student loans to low wages. The political atmosphere here in the States (regardless of what side you’re on) is just…annoying as hell, to put it extremely lightly. Please take care of yourselves during this time. Also, feel free to give other ideas (either here or on your own blogs) on how you battle STS.

If you do a post about this subject, link it in the comments section!

Also, check out my previous post “To The Strong Ones” that also touches on this subject.

 

 

To The Strong Ones

Note: This came to me after reading a message on a Facebook post, and it comes on the heels of two great losses in the entertainment world. That said, this may be triggering for some. Please look upon yourself with compassion as you read it. You are not alone. If you need to talk to someone, please call 1-800-273-8255 (United States). They are available 24/7. 

Hi there.

Yes, you. I see you, by the way. I know you think that no one sees you, but I do. I see you.

I see you wearing multiple hats. I see you being the pillars of strength for your families, your friends, your communities, your countries. I see you wiping the tears of everyone around you, telling them to be strong and face each day with their heads high…you know, like you always do. I see you being the listening ears, the “make it all betters,” the mom and dad sometimes, the dad and mom sometimes, the compassionate daughter, the faithful son…

The Strong One.

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I also see you when you’re alone. I see the tears. I see the frustration. I see the tiny spark of sadness when you don’t get a chance to voice your building anxiety, so you just swallow it and smile. I see the moments that you stare off into nothing, wishing that you could possibly just go to sleep…and sleep…and sleep…and sleep.

I see all of that.

Please know that so many do love you. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. Even the strongest pillars need support at times, especially when they are carrying the most weight. Do not be afraid to cry, to admit that you have moments of weakness. Those who love you will understand. And most importantly…please don’t feel as if you are all alone. You are not. I see and hear you, and so will those who love you. Reach out.

For those who have a Strong One in their lives, reach back. You may save that person.

I love you all so much.

 

Sincerely,

The Divine/God/Allah/Source/Love/Spirit/Whatever you feel comfortable calling me

 

Spiritual Guidance

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This was where I started.

Originally, this was the focus and center of this blog; to explore aspects of spirituality and how spiritual guidance works. Over time, and almost in line with my thesis creation, the blog merged with my passion for autism and psychology. This led to the present incarnation of the SPARC site.

As I continued, though, I began to notice something. It was becoming more and more difficult for me to consistently post and engage. It became more like a chore rather than a joy, and this made me step back and reexamine both my professional aspirations and my spiritual ones. To my dismay, they were no longer in sync with each other.

I then abandoned the spiritual aspect almost completely, going as far as to remove my previous spiritual posts completely from the blog. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was erasing a huge part of myself because I thought that I had to in order to assimilate into the autism field fully.

I realize now that this isn’t the case.

I essentially did the very thing that I always advise others not to do: I stopped listening to my own voice. I silenced her for the sake of trying to “fit in” more with the autism services communities, and in doing so I denied myself. In case you don’t know, that’s a huge no-no in my book.

Moving back to Florida led to a type of forced reset. Now almost completely removed from the autism field, I realized that I had gained and given all that I could there. It isn’t so much that I was shut out (although it felt like that at the time), but more like my contribution to that field was about to take another form, a form other than service provider.

I say all of that to say this: Autism will be getting its own page on this site. I will continue to post/blog about it and the possible implications of it with the Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory. I’ve decided, though, that I need to honor that ignored aspect of me. I spent nearly three years studying and giving Spiritual Guidance, and to simply abandon something that brought such joy and completeness to both myself and others is unacceptable. This is where I am being guided to go at this time.

If someone on the spectrum or a family dealing with autism wants to work with me, I will happily do so. Please understand, though, that it will be through this lens of spiritual guidance. To be honest, it always was, I just never truly vocalized it. I am also still open to doing autism education workshops; these will continue in their traditional (non-spiritual) format. I will also continue to examine the MI theory, just with a different lens, so to speak.

In upcoming weeks, I will explain more about spiritual guidance itself on this site. Please feel free to contact me at sparcguidance@gmail.com if you want more clarification, information about my practice, or have some specific spiritual questions.

 

Holding Space

Over the last few months, this concept has popped up numerous times in both my professional and personal life. It’s not as straightforward as traditional psychological terms and approaches, but I wanted to speak on my view of it since most of us will be in this situation at some point.

There will be moments where you simply won’t know what to say to a person. Perhaps they just lost someone, or are ranting madly because they’ve been wronged in some way. There’s really nothing you can do to help the situation. So, what do you do?

As a therapist, I’ve had these moments. I’ve had to be the solid pillar while someone’s life was falling apart. I’ve had to break seemingly bad news to parents about their child. I’ve had to sit with a teenager while her brother lay in a hospital, dying. In all of these situations, I had to realize that nothing I say is going to make the situation go away. I can’t remove the pain. The other thing I realized was that I could not bring myself to give some kind of rote response. “You’ll be okay” or “Everything happens for a reason” won’t cut it here.

Here is where the concept of holding space comes in. You simply make that space a container. In these moments, people often just need to express. There is no pressure to think up a solution for the person. They already know that you can’t do anything about it. They sometimes already know that they’ll get through it. In that moment, though, they need to process. They need somewhere safe to vocalize their frustrations, sorrow, confusion, and occasionally socially unacceptable thoughts.

Of course, this is easier said than done. In the therapy field, we are almost programmed to think up solutions, and we may think up some right at these difficult moments. A lot of times, though, that’s not what people need. They need to feel a sense of peace, to know that at their most vulnerable moment, you are making them feel safe. I have been on the flip side of this, where I expected a place to be able to express myself, and instead was reduced to tears by someone who felt that I needed a “reality check” at that moment. No, I didn’t. I needed to process my feelings, and I was demeaned for it. After that, I never trusted that person as a confidant again, and I learned how not to be with regards to future clients.

You don’t have to be a therapist to do this. Sometimes friends and family just need to talk, and maybe sit in silence for a bit. We are often so afraid of silence, when it can be an amazing gift. Silence allows processing, and it allows Spirit to enter the picture. To me, this is holding space: creating a safe, peaceful environment to allow another to process and express…and to allow Spirit to enter and help heal.

Transformation

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This word has pretty much been my state of being for the last two years or so, and let me tell you, it has not been easy.

By its very definition, transformation is painful. You are changing form. You are becoming something else. You are shedding an old skin, switching out parts, or removing a former state of mind. It is tough work.

SPARC itself has changed a million times since I first started thinking of the program. It looks nothing like it did two years ago. Back then, I wanted a spiritual center. I remember going to an all-day training, and nearly every other person said the same thing, that they wanted to create a spiritual center. I soon canned that idea, because I realized I wanted to narrow my focus. That was not an easy thing to do, at all. It can be very hard to abandon an idea you were so excited about, but you have to trust that the next one will be much more aligned to what you are truly meant to do and be.

Just as transformation can be difficult for you, it can be difficult for those around you as well. In the last 24 months, my friendship circle has drastically changed. It had to change because I changed, and some people within that circle could not seem to accept this fact. They eventually removed themselves, and while it was difficult, it was necessary. Even now, this process is continuing. Those who stay in your circles may need to adjust to who you are becoming and what you’re doing, so go easy on them. 🙂

The worst thing one can do in this situation, though, is run from the transformation. I’ve noticed that most people do not stop running until their present situation is worse than the transformation. I am guilty of this myself, but if I had not been willing to let go and allow my ideas (and myself) to evolve, transform, and reinvent themselves, I would still be stuck on the stale, undeveloped thoughts.

Running from your transformation is running from yourself, from your opportunities, and often from your destiny. You have to be willing to lean into it, and trust that the Universe (or Sprit/God/the Divine, etc.) has your best interest and growth in mind.

Then, hold on tight!

About Happiness…

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I’m starting to think that being happy in America is either an insult to miserable people, or a word that people use when they think they’re happy when they aren’t.

Actually, it’s both.

I’ve seen and encountered both, and of the two, the second is the saddest one to me. Being an intuitive (aka I pick up on people’s emotional states whether I want to or not), I cringe when people try to convince me that they are in FluffyLand when I know for certain that they are not. It is especially painful when it is someone that I care about. Oftentimes they do not even realize that they aren’t happy. They just look at what they have, think “well, based on my possession of these things, I should be happy,” and conclude that they are happy. Meanwhile, they look, talk, and act like they are miserable.

Because they actually are.

First, if you are depending on outside things (material things, a relationship, a job, etc.) to create your happiness, I hate to break it to you but you’re probably already miserable. I know people get sick of hearing this, but it’s true: happiness comes from within. It comes from a state of being content with yourself, your life, and your purpose. I’m not saying that you’re dancing around singing Disney songs with forest animals 24/7. No, at that point you’re no longer in reality (though the occasional Disney singalong is totally allowed and encouraged). You can’t be slap happy all of the time, but you can have a general feeling of contentment.

By the way, this goes double for relationships; why put that amount of pressure on someone? They have to be responsible for both their own happiness and yours? Would you want that kind of pressure…heck, has someone already put that kind of pressure on you?

Second, other people often see it before you do. If someone you know has that intuition and is constantly asking how you are and checking in on you, they’ve picked up on something. We’re not trying to be annoying or ruin your artificial high (because it is artificial), but we are concerned. I can think of about three people right now off the top of my head who are constantly declaring how happy they are, and their appearance and behavior say the complete opposite. If I’m asking, it is because I see the truth and I care.

Third, becoming the source of your own happiness is no easy feat. Our society practically trains us from birth to seek happiness everywhere except within us. Happiness is often ridiculed in the U.S. culture as well, implying that if you are happy then you are clearly a psychopath because there is no reason to be happy in this society. Mind you, this is very different from the spiritual bypassing I mentioned in my last post. That is still a form of fake happiness.

All of that being said, I cannot tell you what your inner happiness looks like. All I can say is that you will know it when you feel it. One of my favorite moments of it was a day at the ocean. When a wave suddenly overtook my legs and soaked my sneakers, socks, and jeans, I started laughing and spinning happily in the ocean water and foam. I couldn’t care less about my clothes at that moment. I was in pure bliss, connected to the ocean in a manner that I didn’t think possible. This is one reason why I take the stance that I do with regards to autism. I have seen my clients in moments of pure bliss, and I have seen well-meaning professionals snatch that moment away in the name of progress. Who are we to take their happiness away like that? Why don’t we join in on it?

Why don’t we learn how to be happy from them?