My Father’s Feet Meet Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Walking the path of love
The summer before Covid- society’s new timeline marker-I stumbled upon Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s school. How I had not heard of her school before left me a tad disconcerted as I have been absorbing her wisdom for a good decade. And, I know that things of this nature always and only present themselves when a door I am ready to walk through has opened.
I had been on a role of synchronicities for years, so regardless of her 100s of names long waiting list to attend the sold out 200 person classes in Colorado, I added mine to “Singing Over the Bones” because who doesn’t need to do that?! I needed to dance ‘em and sing to em’ and carve a new name in at least a few.
Shortly after applying and tossing my name to Wonder, I was invited to teach at a weekend long women’s retreat in Leavenworth, Wa, and then my “poster presentation” for the Menstrual Research Society, also in Colorado, had been accepted which is a wild story that will spill from me soon enough. I was feeling very much in flow.
In the middle of the women’s retreat I received an email:
“You must be a miracle child because your name is somehow at the top of our cancellation list and I can’t figure out how but it must mean you are supposed to be here, but I need you to pay and register within 24 hours.”
How dare I not answer the call. A miracle child cannot let down her Angels. So I handed over a large sum of money to sit in the presence of a woman who embodies a path I strive to walk. It is her transmission, not necessarily what I would learn that was calling to me. A true teacher embodies their wisdom and simply sitting with them imbues a remembrance of our own. When the communication of this wisdom comes from the body it is felt in the body, the heart knows its truth and it is only here that true healing and integration of our medicine can occur. Neither God nor wisdom live in the head.
I arrived in Denver and boarded a pre-arranged mini bus that took me out to Sunrise Ranch tucked into the red rock in Loveland.
Large group gatherings like this always push me to the edge of my “sense of belonging” traumas. Regardless of age and circumstance, of spiritual wisdom and all of the self healing, we are all still teenagers acting out a subtle popularity and comparison contest the minute we engage with a new group. Who is who, what do they do, who is in the know, which lunch table is for the cool kids. We somehow never grow out of clique culture. It never fails and you are lying if you say you don’t feel the same, even subtly. It is simply something to laugh at rather than react to. And not in a funny haha way.
I bunked with two other women which then flared my long time sense of safety wounds. Who snores? Who stays up late reading with the light on? Who is out to make sure I do not rest?! Yep- it’s better now. Did you read the Tao of Fly?
Both were extravagant witchy women who were very hip to the IG and talked about it constantly. The who’s who and how and why and that it was pretty much too late for me to enter IG popularity if I didn’t already have a following yada. I purposefully enter large dynamic groups for the same reason I chose to live in a small community- so I can witness how my nervous system responds to social triggers so I can keep healing any wounds around my self-worth. It’s how I love myself. How I show up for myself matters.
The entire group of 200 were mainly women, activists and writers and artists and midwives and mothers and musicians and doctors and healers etc. It was a healthy mix and we all felt at home because our common ground was that we have all run with the wolves and carried the wild howl in our bones- which we were about to sing over.
Ok, so I have never seen Dr. E in person. I have only been mesmerized by her smooth caramel voice. So, when she walked on stage and began speaking that first morning I almost fell out of my chair. Her beautiful grandmother body in its support hose and long black skirt, wiry bun tucked on top of her head with lots of little pins, did not match her voice. It had not aged. Her strong, smooth soul essence has remained the same despite her body.
Our days were long beginning at 8am and ending at 10pm, for 7 days. Each day she was up, ready to go and transmitted the most profound wisdom for 8-12 hours without so much as a yawn, always reading the room, knowing what its emotional temperature was and how to take us into ritual in the exact moment, or a break to eat our snackasitos as she would call them. Each day included a couple of hours where she answered questions from the question basket overflowing with our eager “wanting to be seens” as each day she would ask 1-3 people to come onto stage if the question was provocative enough.
It was dream process day and I shared a very provocative dream knowing that the likelihood it was chosen was slim with 199 other little slips in the basket. But whichever force magically slid my name to the top of the waitlist is the same that slid my dream into her hands.
She read it out loud and then said “whose dream is this?. Come on up”. I gulped trying to keep my heart beat from rising into and imploding inside my head. I went up on stage and sat next to her. She asked me who I am and what it is I do. My two least favorite questions. Something that barely touches the deeper answer came out of my tight yet dropped open jaw. Whatever I said felt like a lie.
She asked me to recount the dream all the while she gently stroked my arm with the back of her hand with so much Grandmother love I wanted to cry at her feet and blow my nose on her skirt.
As I finished speaking she realized that this dream touched deep emotional dysregulation and so she calmed down the process I was in. Then, without even ever having looked at them that I was aware of, she called attention to my feet. I was wearing Birkenstocks that had been with me through Mexico and Death Valley and they exposed a pair of feet that held someone else’s path in my body.
Ever since my left hip replacement in 2015 the large toe nail on my left foot has slowly died from fungus. And not the kind that itches or has scales and raised nail beds but it just slowly began to die away and fully came off in my vision quest the previous summer. Granted my obsession with water, and bathhouses and hot humid landscapes has not helped. But it’s only the left foot and my large toenail. Please no comments on this being my feminine side yada yada. I know.
Anyhow, looking softly into my eyes she asks-
“Child, what is going on with your feet?”
The room went so silent you could hear a mouse fart in the barn next door. Everyone was waiting for the shame and embarrassment to come pouring forth that felt inevitable. But because she asked it in such a way that called my attention into the deeper layers of her question, and with so much love, the embarrassment slid away and I stayed upright in my chair. I had no answer for her at the moment and I don’t believe she was seeking one. She knew she was weaving a spell on me to spin in for a long long time.
She kinda reprimanded me for wearing shoes that, according to her, were too small even though they weren’t. I did take offense to that bit. I have Morton's foot which can make my feet look a little longer than they are. My second toe is longer than my first. Many people have this. I have always been told that Morton’s foot lends itself to great balance and athleticism, which I have, unless someone comes near me, then I have two left feet and lose myself. Which is why I commit myself to really challenging things like partner dancing. Great and graceful dancer alone, but anyone’s energy steps in my field and I am a boundary- less wobble of a human. Or was at that time. Better now.
There is a saying handed down from the Goddess- “She who sees you without shame in her eyes frees you”. It’s a priestess path thing.
Dr. E was not talking about the fungus. She was talking about the shame underneath it. The shame in how I walk my path, how hard it has been to look people in the eye. A shame that is not mine, yet had been compounded by living inside of addiction for decades. I lived convinced that if people knew what was inside of me they would run. Shame kept me safe, small, hidden.
You see, most days my feet have looked like my feet. And then, out of the blue I would wake up with it. I would wake up with shame coursing through my body. The feeling of such worthlessness that my body would swell with the overwhelm. My face would change shape and my feet would literally inflate into stubby heavy things and wrinkle in weird places- like my father’s feet.
I would stare at my dimmed and puffy eyes and they would stare back asking “can you love me here” as I turn away. I would stare at my feet “can you love me here” and fear would rise up my spine. I felt suffocated, trapped, horrified with myself for letting myself go. Because it was usually when I let myself slip into old patterns and addictions that have spent years protecting me from shame and pain that this happened. Shame feeding shame. The feedback loop of trauma perpetuates the thing it is trying to remedy.
I used to hear a voice those days- “you will never be rid of me”.
As a child I watched my father lean over his feet daily, pulling out ingrown toenails, cutting away dead things, always picking. If you asked him about it he would yell. His feet were, I imagine they still are, sad looking feet. My father is a man whose body is heavy with shame which he spent much of my life dumping onto me.
The spell cast from Dr. E was to undo a curse- familial, societal- they are never separate. I looked down at my feet one day shortly after my trip and I heard them cry- “help me daughter. I called you in for a reason. You are the strongest one we have. Walk your path like the warrior of love you are. The warrior I could not be for you.” Oh the contracts. Have you seen yours? It will change your life.
What I realized was that these feet have been looking for someone to see them, love them and choose to allow them to walk their rightful path. A path severely denied almost everyone in my family line. A path of right relationship with the heart’s greatest truths and desires to express love. A path of pure innate soul felt expression. A path formed by feet in step with the rhythm of natural law, of sacred union with all of creation. Of joy. Of being seen as worthy simply by being willing to join this insane human journey.
Nothing ever dies. There is a contract we all sign to arrive with a medicine bundle for a very specific set of circumstances. The evolution of pain into pleasure, of wound into medicine is when we can see that what we are handed is not a burden to carry, but a gift, an honor and an invitation into empowerment . To be entrusted with so much to feel and heal.
Traits like shame, abuse and addiction that are passed down through family lines are seeking their redemption, their resolution by way of perpetually playing out, hoping to be seen, really seen and therefore set free. Life will keep trying, throwing a black sheep into the family cosmology- “will she be the one to walk a different path, to shed the layers of lies and choose love no matter what- for herself no matter what?!”
It is true, I will never be rid of him. I love my life and he is half part of the reason I am here. Releasing his burden, our burden, our contract in unburdening, does not come through rejecting and fighting against my parts, berating my precious feet. Rejection can only reshame what is stuck in shadow and pain. Rejection is different from boundaries I set in love and clarity. My healing comes from feeling the parts and witnessing the parts with such piercing presence that I burn a hole through the lies that are paper thin compared to the truth underneath. That the medicine of my love is stronger. And that loving every part of myself and welcoming them to come close to hear them and understand what they need is the work that reconnects- as Joanna Macy would say (another woman I want to put my body next to for her wisdom).
As I peer through that hole I see the contract that stands the test of time. That I am a force of love that can never die. Nothing, no one’s pain can stand in my way because it melts at the site of the one who sees straight through to the heart of whatever stands in front of her, past the lies and shadows and into an incorruptible flame of truth. Life is intelligent. She knows what’s up when she calls the souls through the wombs of women packed with their baskets of medicine.
People come to me every day, seeking a reason for and escape from their pain. For an understanding of why and how and when. Some things are never meant to be known or we would outgrow our innate desire to expand and stop throwing ourselves at the edge of Wonder. Evolution requires our existential questions. But there are things that are inherent in every soul that are our birthright to know like the contract, the why’s of the path chosen, the family chosen, the reason for choosing this time here on Earth.
I don’t say this lightly. To arrive here was not by way of some new age bypass concept or simply choosing to turn my mind towards something “positive” before feeling what I was turning away from. Feeling is quite the opposite of conceptualizing and calling it wisdom. It takes time and lots of heart and is worth the journey because it will bring you to the journey you were meant to travel, which really is the journey you’re already on ;). These are my truths.
We all carry a burden, a trait that has been handed down that landed in the family line a little crooked. But the burden is never placed, the wound cannot exist, without the medicine. You. You are that medicine.
How can you look upon your inheritance of pain, of suffering as an invitation into reclaiming true power and setting into motion a spiral through time that does more than anything you could imagine without having to throw yourself into fits of martyrdom. Healing, feeling and revealing can be ecstatic. Sexy even. Feeling everything without fear, a deep heart of understanding, compassion and expanded vision can save lives.
What have you inherited that shows up in your body asking for love? Do your hands look like your mother’s sometimes, and she never touched you and you ache and they are aching to give and receive in reciprocity and reclaim sensitivity and creativity inspired by the heart? What can you turn towards without shame in your eyes so it can be seen in a new way? In yourself, in others?
It does not unburden you from being human. It rewrites the narrative of suffering and victimization. You still get to feel Life and all of its potential sensations and experiences. Lucky you.
This healing in me has not happened from that incident alone, but by the path I walk which guided me to that moment. I am committed to my magic Earth medicine allies which open the doors to expanded awareness of my life, to prayer that speaks the gratitude in my heart and that I know I am part of something greater than the lies handed to me, to ritual that honors the divine magic that exists everywhere and listening deeply to and following the innate wisdom of my soul. I befriend death and therefore grief, my tears sacred medicine for this Earth that show how much love I feel. It takes work. Ecstatic, embodied, integration work.
“What do you do Shira?” Life is my answer.
After I got off stage people gathered round me to ask if I was ok. They thanked me profoundly for what I offered them through my vulnerability in allowing that level of transmission to come through from Dr. E. I looked at them and said I think my life just changed a little. That was my Angel’s mission, the message I needed and why my name was at the top of the list. Miracle child. Like you.
And yes my toe is still with me, every day asking “will you run with the wolves and howl at the moon or hide away in the shadow of an old story? Which path do you choose child?”
Amen, amen, amen~ and a little woman.