Dream Work: Some Other Life, “Ixchel Dream”

CS Sherin, June 27, 2019

I believe in the power and importance of dreams, because that has been my experience. No one taught me to listen to and pay attention to my dreams. When I was in middle school my dreams simply began getting my attention, and I listened. I began writing down my dreams of my own volition. There was a knowing within me that dreams are something more. I honored them and found solace and wonder with them.

Having worked with my own dreams for a long time now, I have learned that a decades old dream can still hold power and importance in the present, and for the future. There are some dreams that are powerful — and that power does not wane. Some dreams remain special because they hold a healing power and/or deep insight and Mystery.

When my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I first went to Mexico, we became engaged on the beach under a full moon. It was a special time, and a beautiful trip. That was 21 years ago. (This July, we celebrate 20 years of marriage!) It was on that big first trip that we encountered the Mayan ruins together. On that trip, and for a time after it I had vivid, spiritual dreams influenced by being present there. I wrote them down, and honored the wonder and mystery of what was unfolding in my dreams.

If I hadn’t written those dreams down, I would have lost a lot of the crucial details, and would eventually have forgotten all of it. Instead, the dreams were active, living parts of my spiritual and personal growth and development.

About 9 years later, in 2007, I had another dream that seems somehow related to that time in 1998. In this dream, I found myself being a woman of another time and life. This dream was so powerful for me that I was moved to create a painting to honor it. The following is an account of that dream. I call the dream “Ixchel Dream” because the dream seems to indicate or is in someway reminiscent of the Mayan rainbow goddess, Ixchel.

Ixchel Dream

Watercolor painting by CS Sherin, 2007.

I am an Indigenous woman. I speak a different language. I am aware of who I am. I belonged to a privileged class, but I left. I am now wandering, seeking something important. I approach the edge of a jungle that meets a river. There is a clearing nearby. I look down at the river. I see a wide vivid rainbow and feel a mystical presence. I say the name for what the rainbow means to me in the language I speak twice. (It sounds like: Ixchel-coatl or Quetzalcoatl.) I look at the rainbow twice. Then, I turn and walk to the clearing. It is vibrantly green. There is a sloping hill at the end of the clearing with large grayish boulders and smaller stones. A deer appears from that area and rushes towards me. I feel scared. The deer lightly brushes my shoulder and continues on, rushing down to the water. The deer then stands still at the river, maybe to drink. I get a good look at this deer now. I am surprised to see a singular unicorn-type horn on the deer’s head. The horn is at least two feet long, maybe longer. I feel a strong surge of hope within and around me.

The feelings in the dream were: determination, wonder, surprise, fear, joy and hope. The feelings upon waking from the dream were: astonishment, engaged passion, appreciation, bemused by the mystery. The action I took in response to the dream: I wrote it down, thought about it and sat with the gift and mystery of it, and I created a small watercolor painting of the woman pointing to and touching a rainbow.

The feeling from the painting and dream remains strong. It is: proof of hope and joy contained in a spiritual depth — at a time when it is desperately needed, as time has been rough.

The painting now resides in Guatemala, with a friend of a friend, who is Mayan.

What I got from this dream was a deeper sense of other lives and realities. There was not a sense of me needing to take ownership of this life. It was an experience, a gift, and a moment of beauty and insight. The deer seemed to be a surprise that gently touched on a loving affirmation that arrives when finding or being close to finding something important. This comes after leaving what was comfortable and familiar.

Dreams hold gifts that are timeless. Sometimes they can’t fully be appreciated until much time has passed. In writing down our dreams and in sitting with the memory of them respectfully, we may find that we track and access a natural magic, medicine, and hidden knowing that can make all the difference for our paths in our waking lives.

Even in accessing and thinking of this “old” dream of mine today, so many years later, I find the energy and gift of it is still palpable and special.

The Importance And Value Of Dream Work

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream — Fairies Dancing”, art by William Blake circa 1786. US-PD

CS Sherin, May 8, 2019

Dreaming is a big part of our lives, whether we realize it or not. Most of the time, people experience five different segments of dreaming during a night’s sleep. Remembering dreams can sometimes be challenging. When remembered, finding meaning for some dreams can be elusive, if not mystifying. 

Dream dictionaries provide cookie-cutter type definitions for dreams. That is far, far and away from what ongoing personal dream work processing and recording provides. When we learn to consistently engage with, honor, and respond to our dreams — dream dictionaries then fade into the background of less helpful approaches.

Dreams can be a pivotal key that unlocks enriching information that can benefit our waking lives in beautiful, healing, and transformative ways.  Leaving our night of dreaming, a whole part of our lives, unexplored and underappreciated is a loss. It is like being given a secret chest that keeps refilling with treasure and maps once emptied, and never bothering to unlock it or look inside regularly.

For the last 30+ years I have kept a dream journal, tracked, and cared for my dreams, and actively explore the dimensions of dreaming.  Since 2014 I have kept my dream experiences and knowledge up-to-date with respected dream books, seminars, and workshops. I regularly encourage others in their own dream practice, providing pivotal techniques and perspective. Dream work is essential to my quality of life and well-being. Because of this, I facilitate and mentor dream work for others. So much goodness can come of it!

Dream work: Mother tiger rescues and protects my inner child.

Being present to my dreams, and being a facilitator and mentor for other’s dreams is sacred. It is an honor and a joy. Accessing the power and gifts of our dreams, and responding to them, is some of the best and most important work we can do for ourselves, and the world.

Dreams disturb, amaze, and puzzle us. They can be intense, frightening, fleeting, mind-boggling, inspiring, healing, and/or transformative.   Learning how to be present to, respond to our own dreaming and unique dream symbols is empowering, and awakens hidden potentials.

Here are some of the aspects involved in an ongoing dream practice, that I provide guidance and facilitation for:

  • Practice reliable techniques that help with interpreting, interacting, and responding to your dreams
  • Learn a variety of concrete and helpful ways to respond to important dreams in waking life
  • Listen to and honor your dreams and discover new pathways of healing and well-being
  • Learn how interacting with and honoring your dreams has positive impacts on waking life
  • Discover how to deal with a dream based on what kind of dream it is
  • Discover the incredible helpfulness of wakeful visualization journeys that support and integrate both with waking life and dreams
  • Explore the unique ways to time travel and connect with parallel realities through dreams and through wakeful visualization journeys
  • Connect with the mystical and mythical aspects of your life through your dream stories
  • Practice and benefit from keeping a dream journal to track dreams and sketch important things you’ve seen or experienced in dream time
  • Learn how to help and guide children and other loved ones who experience nightmares, recurring dreams, and dream droughts

For more information, or to begin working with Chandra on your dreams, go here.


For those who are heartbroken by all the destruction, loss, and hate — please keep speaking up, acting, persisting, and being true to who you are for as long as you live and breath.  Please continue standing up for love, equity/equality, and an inclusive, healthy future for the planet, elements, ecosystems, communities, people, and all beings.  Invest in your dreams, in your health, self-care, and the many healthy, viable choices that do exist right now, as we speak. I would be honored if you would allow me to support, encourage, and provide you with my services — which have the potential to enrich, affirm, and empower your path in this life. You are needed, loved, and you are here for a reason!

Navigating In And Between Worlds This Month

Astro Mood: Foggy And Mystical

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

CS Sherin, March 7, 2019, updated 04.10.2019

Right now the Sun and Neptune are as one in the sign of Pisces. It is Pisces season for sure. At the same time, Mercury is also in Pisces, and will be in retrograde mode until the 28th of March. This combination of big influences in the territory of Pisces and Neptune symbolism has an affect on all of us this month. So, let’s break this down into parts that are easier to digest. We’ll start with the sign of Pisces, then Neptune, and then how Mercury re-mixes it all. Then, I will give you some friendly advice.

It doesn’t matter if your Sun, Moon, or Rising signs are in Pisces or not. We all have all of the signs and planets somewhere in our birth charts. Collectively, we all deal with these energies and influences.

Pisces Energy

The sign of Pisces is symbolized by two groovy fish swimming in opposite directions, swimming along, letting go and moving on. Often, our greatest talents are the metaphorical “double-edged sword”. This means that what we are best at can also be the source of our greatest weakness and blind-spot(s).

Gentle, paradoxical Pisces is able to harmonize and swim with ease between worlds — even between those with conflicting purposes and ways of being. This is an ongoing gift and growing edge for Pisces. Pisces can become adept at utilizing the insight, creative skills, and knowing they bring back with them from deep journeying into the imagination and sacred dream realms. At the same time, they are mostly able to find ways to work in the mundane world in efficient, routine, and practical ways. They seek to be of real use and service to humanity, and to uplift their fellow beings (human and other living beings — they don’t discriminate). This is an immense talent. Pisces energy fills the following archetypal roles naturally: healer/shaman/psychic, teacher, priest/ess, musician, artist, magician, and rebel-champion for the underdogs.

The challenge and weaknesses, the other side of the Pisces gifts are clear: both porous and poor personal and psychic boundaries — which often lead to unhealthy relationships patterns — internally harsh self-punishment, and martyrdom. There is also the habitual reaction to escape painful and harsh realities via escapism: fantasy, drama, and any and every kind of addiction. Side effects may include a tendency towards self-pity, depression, and going to extremes when trying to find balance. In addition to this, when the Pisces energy has trouble balancing and navigating between non-ordinary and ordinary realities, they will also find that they become more easily confused, disorganized, and display confusing behavior towards others.

After looking at the main gifts, strengths, potential, and pitfalls of Pisces energy, it is important to also grasp the general qualities of this symbolic Zodiac sign: claircognizance, versatility, and emotional fluidity that changes often — carrying a huge range, from impossibly shallow to the deepest of depths — ebb and flow, finding and letting go. A Pisces is potentially courageous too, with an innate instinct and desire to help, heal, inspire, explore realities, affect realities, and create.

Pisces is mutable in approach — a yin energy, and water element. This means that Pisces, the psychedelic and practical fishes, are: flexible, adaptable, and compromise (to a fault). The qualities of yin and water make them: indirect, passive, receptive, secretive, intuitive, sensitive, empathic, creative, humorous, efficient, and seemingly irrational and subjective.

Pisces wants to deal with what is hidden and unseen by most everyone, and they don’t need to talk about it. They want to be of service to others without a need to be in the spotlight (even though they naturally do get the spotlight due to their talents). The big-hearted zaniness, humor, and passion of a Pisces is enchanting, despite their maddening self-sabotage that can creep in from time to time.

Neptune Energy

Neptune rules Pisces, and so, some of their main qualities are shared. Neptune is an outer planet, and so spends time in one Zodiac sign for the long-term, for years. Any interpretation of Neptune and other outer planets (like Pluto) in a birth chart needs to take into account that, no matter how big their influences are, the process is deep and over a long period of time. Neptune is in Pisces until around 2025, and has been there since 2012.
The symbolic and archetypal themes and influences of Neptune have a wide spectrum and different octaves — from inspiring to nefarious. Since we have a wide range of diversity among humans, in regards to ethics, values, qualities, personality, and choice — so too is there a wide range of possibility in each planet and signs symbolic meaning, patterns, cycles, and dynamics.

Neptune’s symbolic strengths reflect a choice and ability for: endless, enduring holistic altruistic thought. This occurs most often as creativity, invention, expression, and actions — in the realm of: art, music, dreams, sound, vision, ethics, spirituality, other realities, and energy. Neptune archetypes may include: the mystic, ascended being, genius, priest/ess, transformation, transfiguration, visionary, shaman/healer, transcendent/empowering music, art, creativity, spiritual care and modalities of energy work. It also includes values and actions that are inclusive and based on equality/equity — transcending duality, reactivity, and polarization.

Neptune’s shadow or blind-spots and weaknesses include: fanaticism, dogma, negative/predatory/parasitic cult-type behaviors and leadership, addiction/drug abuse, deception/con, illusion, confusion/mental fog, manipulation, and becoming stuck — in illusion, deception, manipulation, wounds, and/or confusion. Neptune is one of the giant gas planets. Gases can be far-out groovy, toxic, life-giving, stinky, light, or heavy. It’s all there.

The potential is great over this stretch of time from now into 2025. Yet, the dangers we face are clear as well. Much is on the line. Much is in crises. And the deceptions and illusions have been revealing themselves at great length for some time. Yet something more and better is going on than it seems. The unseen matters. Pisces and Neptune energies do need containers, grounding, and light in order to be made tangible for us. We need to deal with these energies and influences in ways that use equal parts common sense, logic, and intuitive creativity. Otherwise what needs to be built upon will get lost and forgotten.

What is not to be missed here is the impact the Mercury retrograde of this month has on this Pisces/Neptune energy, given a spotlight by the Sun.

Mercury Retrograde
With Pisces/Neptune Vibes

Mercury retrograde is usually a time to expect the unexpected, to prepare for obstacles, delays, roadblocks, and inconveniences. When we accept, and even expect and make time for, possible issues/problems/delays, we create an energy of adaptability that plays well with the Universe’s ebbs and flows. The Universe likes us to be specific about what we want, but it also wants us to be loose and flexible with how things may happen (not according to our plans). Welcoming a delay or perceived problem as an opportunity for new awareness and opportunities may seem radical or weird, but it is true wisdom that gains respect from the Universe at large.

Usually mercury retrogrades are not times to begin something completely and utterly new, or to sign contracts that are completely new and unexpected. It is not usually a time to get a new contractor, seek a new service, or find a new doctor. Yet, life isn’t neat and tidy, and we can’t live our lives dictated by the symbolic and archetypal information from astrology. So, what I have found is that when we must engage in and trust something completely new during a mercury retrograde, it is helpful to accept and prepare for anything and everything going wrong. When it doesn’t, we can be jubilant and thankful. When it does, we can be relaxed and open to inspiration, having prepared for the unknown and unforeseen best we could.

However, this mercury retrograde (March 5th — March 28 2019) isn’t quite a usual one. This Neptune/Pisces influence defines it, and it will last until the end of this month. A lot can happen in a month. Since the flavor of this month is deep, tender, magical, and paradoxical Pisces — as well as, the vast and confusing mystical potentials of Neptune — we are in for a lot of inner emotional, psychic, creative, and spiritual content that keeps changing and fluxing about. Don’t believe everything you think, hear, or see this month. And don’t forget it either.

No matter how much self-work you have done, if you are not dealing with and facing your inner pain, passions, longings, dreams, and activated wounds — Neptune working with Mercury in retrograde will get you — they will get the better of you. It has already started.

A virtual Neptune fog is in place right now, set to place us all on a mystical journey that will be ample in emotional ups and downs, illusions, delusions, inspirations, and the promise of healing and transformation — if we don’t get stuck. The kick to it is that, the fog makes everything confusing and confused. Things are not what they seem, and what you think and feel one minute may be contradicted by your own self in the next. Be sure to ask for help when you need it, and take breaks from whatever is really intense. Balance the ordinary with the non-ordinary as needed.

When we cannot handle all the pain and harsh reality of this broken world, we may seek to escape a bit, and maybe we even do it productively and constructively. That is impressive.

Maybe we know how to honor and respect our dreams, inner worlds, and sacred imagination. Perhaps we know how to balance the two worlds. Yet, what we are processing collectively is too much — for one generation or two to process, let alone an individual. So, the call is to face our own inner wounds that are activated right now, and apply all the reasonable and wise self-care we can to it. Even while we feel confused, dizzy, cloudy, and spun about — know that the mist of this fog will disperse and lessen. But for a time, this month, we will all get a bit lost.

Photo by Goran Vučićević on Unsplash

Lost, wandering, and confused are all real locations, and even religious-type experiences. Watch out for the cult-like responses to it though — that trap of becoming addict to the spiritual highs, and master of the power that comes with it — without ethics or care.

Better to apply the medicine of nature, water, breath, creativity, friendship, and healthy boundaries to all and everything.

Remember to treat water, in particular, with great care, respect, and honor. Consider water as our true/symbolic self and true god at this time. How are we treating, interacting with, using, caring for it? Water is essential to Pisces. Water is life. Pisces needs baths, showers, drinks of water to regenerate. At the same time, water is at the center of many of our crises environmentally, and related to class and privilege. Something to sit with, and see what messages from other worlds and in between worlds that may arise this month.

Needless to say, this is a special time to tend to our dreams, keep a dream journal, create and respond to what our dreaming selves are doing.

Dream Work: She Is Monumental

Unwrapping And Translating Our Dreams

CS Sherin, Feb. 25, 2019, updated 04.10.2019

Dreams speak to us in many ways. Sometimes dreams bring to our awareness meaning and messages via symbols and archetypes. Other times, the dreams we have can be an actual journey of consciousness and spirit. At times, dreams are layers and mixtures of many things. Paying attention to and responding to our dreams is beneficial and deeply nourishing, and quite evident over time. Dreams mostly seek to help us to process, heal, and grow. They are a key to greater fulfillment.

I have been deeply invested in paying attention to, recording, and responding to my own dreams for the last 30+ years. I have found that the other part of our lives, spent in dream states, is just as meaningful and important as the wakeful state. Not only that, the one constant within both states is that the journey of our consciousness is present in both — something that anchors us beyond death and our current bodies, and on into new and different life and/or lives. Deepening our present moment consciousness via dream work (and meditation) is a priceless practice that supports and enhances the mundane, yet also goes far beyond it.

I am going to provide you with a concrete example of a dream from the past that I have worked with, which was profound and pivotal for my evolving spiritual and emotional development, at that time, through and beyond wounds and personality weaknesses. The following dream is from work I did back in the Spring of 2011:

The Dream

Title: She Is Monumental

I am in a house we have just purchased. We are happy with it. Until someone who used to live here comes to the door. She comes in with a key she kept, and wants something. I am exasperated, and a bit angry at the intrusion. She leaves quickly though. I am near the door. I see an impossibly tall woman who is led around the house by an angel-type-being. I feel fear when I see this impossibly tall woman. With great effort, I look up at her face — way, way up. She has no mouth. I feel fear, which fades into compassion instead. I reach out my hand to her in friendship as she passes.

CS Sherin, Dream Journal Entry, “She Is Monumental”, May 2011

After so many decades of keeping dream journals, I have learned what most of my personal dream symbols represent. This is one of many important reasons for committing to a dream journal. Dreams really are cheated and mistreated when we use dream dictionaries, accept the general definition, and leave it at that. Tracking dreams and our own personal messages via journals reveals context, meaning, and timing that no dream dictionary can ever reveal. Just like a dictionary definition for a cat or dog could never come close to defining and expressing the who, what, why, where, and how of your specific animal companion. Dreams have life of their own, and some of it is indefinable.

PLEASE NOTE: While you may have an interpretation in mind when you hear someone else’s dream, the only person who can reveal the true meaning of a dream is the person who had the dream. Any meaning or interpretation that comes to your mind while listening to someone else’s dream can most accurately and respectfully be expressed as: what the dream would mean if it were your dream. This delineation and practice is essential.

The Translation

I will translate this dream. Translation is the best word for it, as my dream is in the language of my unconscious mind and my consciousness/soul. It is personal and specific. As I provide a translation for my dream, keep in mind that my translation and definitions for things in the dream are not in any way static. This is my official translation for this very specific dream. This specific dream is, indeed, a symbolic dream, yet, not all dreams are. For other dreams, these symbols may carry completely different meanings, or may not be symbols at all!

For me, in this particular dream, a new house is a new way of being. The new way of being is good. The previous owner intruding briefly represents some unwelcome old habits coming back into my new way of being. But, they only intrude briefly and are gone, let go. The woman who is being guided through the house by an angel-type-being is tall — taller than tall. She is graceful and silent. Her presence is like a walking monument. She is monumental. My fear turns to compassion as I see her missing mouth as a disability. This monumental “she” is the divine self linked to soul or authentic being. It took me “great effort” to become conscious of the alarming symbol of the missing mouth. The missing mouth is symbolic of my ego’s distorted belief of separation from divine love that took shape in the personality by age three. The missing mouth is ongoing silence, separation, even disability related to relationship and listening to/hearing the authentic self — who has never been separated from the sacred.


CS Sherin, May 2011, dream entry translation for “She Is Monumental”

As a child and young adult I was so busy tracking everyone else’s feelings, needs, and expectations that I had no idea what my own were most of the time. The pain of the separation-illusion from my own being surfaced in other dreams in my youth — via dreams of being blind, which had morphed in recent years into being mute. These dreams were telling me that my distorted ego beliefs and fears had created some serious fall-out for my inner being.

A myth re-told in a new way for healing effects, is what came to mind as possible medicine for me, relating to this dream. Our culture enforces the belief of valuing the external over the internal (and the visible over the unseen) with glaring manic force, in advertising, news, via experts, and in storytelling. When the movie Shrek came out, I deeply appreciated the radical re-telling of old fairy tale stories that had before accentuated external and unrealistic importance. Shrek transformed that distortion in our culture, thankfully. The ugly, disgusting ogres possess inner beauty, truth, and authenticity, and are hero and heroine. The old external-value archetypes of the past are seen with human flaws and distortions laid bare. The deeper inner being is valued.

C. J. Jung believed that seeing archetypes revealed in a story (like Shrek), even if we are not consciously aware of the deeper meaning, helps bring healing to the personal and collective unconscious. Knowing that, Shrek was a deeply needed re-telling for the personal and the collective. Part of my dream work response to this dream, back in 2011, was to re-watch Shrek.

In this dream, I know that as I overcame fear and reached out in compassion to connect with the monumental self — I initiated a vital change of pattern, which released personality/ego-based distortion about relationship to my inner core/being. This was an important dream, a turning point for healing and consciousness.

My dream also reminded me that a lot of the younger ages of my life were spent neglecting my own needs and voice. The dream told me that there is much yet to learn and connect to that is real and monumental, really. This is what I wrote about back in 2011, in conclusion:

That bright, silent, tall being of my dream may seek to be a voice for the voiceless, my poetry, and my compass. I know she has much to say and show. I know she has a mouth and a voice. My awareness and compassion for myself is the doorway to deepening that relationship, and it has already begun. It has already come to the point that even this personality and ego of mine have learned enough to yearn, and yearn again, for her voice, leadership, and presence. This is a reward for walking through all the pain so far and doing the work. The ego wishes to serve the soul…and joy, abundance, and love begin to overflow.

CS Sherin, May 2011, reflection on dream entry, “She Is Monumental” (above)


CS Sherin, Wild Clover, WildClover.org 2019©


Giving Up, And Starting Over

Wisdom And Love From A Mighty Cat

Boris William. Photo by CS Sherin

CS Sherin, Feb. 20, 2019

A Dark Day

I wrote the narrative below, Give Up, at the end of September in 2014. It is about a dark night I went through that I will never forget. It wasn’t the first hard time I have faced, but it was a pivotal one, different from other times.

It was August 11th, 2014. I experienced a deep depression that washed over me quite suddenly. I was to find out the next day, that it was the same day that Robin Williams died. He was someone who had been a bright light for me in a rough childhood — him and The Muppets. Finding out the next day about his death, I realized I had probably felt a “disturbance in the force,” so to speak, that had affected me. Robin was such a great presence on Earth, dear to many, and missed. I am sure his death was a real energetic part of what I felt that night. But there were personal dynamics at work too.

Before that night, I had already gone through some devastating loss. My oldest sister had died four months earlier, after a long battle with a cancer that had turned quite brutal. A few months before that, our elderly dog had also gotten a brutal cancer, and had to be euthanized suddenly. Simultaneously, I had come to a point in my self-employment where I knew I had to make a change. I had been doing holistic spiritual care for over a decade, and didn’t quite know where I was headed, if I were to stop and change.

Introduction

The story you are about to read is about facing inevitable change, loss, past traumas revisited, and grief. It is also about the life-giving transformations we are able to experience while in relationship with other beings, for instance, a cat. Reciprocal positive relationship with animals, and other beings, can be profound and important in so many ways, if we are open to it. I recommend being open to it.

Perhaps one of the reasons that humanity finds itself facing so many crises and ongoing-history-repeating-itself serious problems is because, we are not in active, consistent, real relationships with the countless other living beings we share this planet with — not in a way that is ongoing, respectful and more selfless than self-serving.

The trees, plants, aquatic life of all kinds, rocks/crystals, land animals, creatures of the air, and below ground all have knowing of various kinds in their being. An openness to cultivating conscious, caring relationships with any of those — choosing to be present for it — could be the transformative change we need at this time. It is important to note that any committed relationship within or between other species needs to contain: consistent presence, kindness, honesty, consideration, and mutual respect.

The following story is evidence of the deep, long-resonating, lasting rewards that come from: a balance of giving and receiving, helping and receiving help, listening and sharing, asking and telling – true friendship. I have Boris, the valiant cat, to thank for the real presence and wisdom won during that dark, hard night on August 11, 2014:

Give Up

There is an escalating pressure mounting around and within me tonight. It presses upon me like an ominous darkness of massive storm clouds, which contain a sharp cold front set against the air — stagnant, oppressive heat, humidity and no wind. A violent storm is looming.

Am I wearing rose-colored glasses, not facing reality? Not usually. I do love being practical and realistic, as much as positive and dreamy. Am I the eternal optimist made of ideals? Yes, that is true. There is a tireless, sleepless affinity in me for honesty and ethics…awake in my heart and mind like an atomic clock.

On my bed this day and evening, a powerful depression intrudes, and disrupts my true nature. I cannot continue. I want to give up, for real.

It is painful, blind, anguish.

It feels like that sucker punch in my solar plexus, from the mean boy in 4th grade. I was taken by surprise, robbed of breath and air, with that sudden punch of pain, that dropped me to my knees — sucking tears out of me without permission. He had walked away without a word.

This swell of sadness tonight is too dark, and overwhelms me beyond reason.

Boris, the cat, is by me now. He is the one who always comes running to see how he can help when it sounds, from somewhere in our house, like someone could be hurt, in trouble, or sick. If he were human, he would be a First Responder, a nurse, counselor, and/or healer. I tell him quietly and despondently that I am giving up. At first I am not sure if I mean my life. The darkness was so overwhelming. I ask myself, and feel deeply: No, not my life. My purpose and work — like a spiritual death, it seems. Boris tells me a surprising thing — with his wise eyes and being, Boris says, “Good. Give up.”

Startled into a sudden alert surprised awareness, that breaks the dark spell, I ask, “What?! Why? Don’t you care? You always care. Why don’t you care, Boris?” He answered with nonchalance, “Give up. I gave up once. After I gave up, good people found me, helped me, and then you found me. And now look at me.” He is beaming strength and love, smiling, eyes happy.

Boris, quite an elderly cat at this time. Photo by CS Sherin

Astonished and awakened, I remembered what he meant. I thought of Boris’s story. Boris had been abandoned by a previous family, along a freeway, that had a tall fence separating it from the countryside. When he was found, the shelter workers told us, he was dirty. The kind of dirty, they said, that only happens when a cat gives up. A cat giving up is a starkly tragic thing. Cats take pride in their self-care and stealthy ability to survive. He had been brought low by the trauma of being abandoned and then trapped near a highway, with bad weather/storms, and no food. He suffered PTSD for a while after we adopted him. He needed antidepressants for a few months, to remember what normal feels like, the vet said. And he did, he got better after those 3-4 months of medication. (Actually, his example back then with needing medication for a while, helped me to address my own needs during a health crisis, not long after his.) It took us a few years after adopting Boris, to fully earn his trust and full affection. In his elder years now, after 11 years with us so far, he is well and happy, fully loved and loving. We know he is no younger than 17 and could be as old as 19.

I paused, and took this moment in.

Maybe the thought to give up wasn’t as bad as it felt at first. It is simply hard to let go of work that I have given all my heart and effort to, along with sitting with the layers of grief. I am loyal. I am a hard worker. Yet, I need to let go of some big things, and adjust to a changing reality and changing needs. Boris is right. I looked over at him in awe. The four-legged, hairy, mahogany-red with white, tall, thin, elder fellow is right. I didn’t expect that from you just now, Boris. Thank you!

King Boris, or Chewy Bill, as we sometimes call him, gave me a jolt of understanding that allowed me to release the fear and illusion of failure. Boris helped me to boldly take up courage, and be okay with letting go — even if it feels like dropping off a ledge on a tall building with no net or cushion below. Boris has an intimate, expert knowledge of major endings that are like deaths, and how rebirth is on the other side of it, waiting for us — something much better, and really right. A really wise cat, that Boris. What a gorgeous guide! I scratched his cheeks and massaged his head and chest in thanks. He smiled his open-mouthed smile with twinkling eyes, that reminds my husband of Don Knotts. That makes me chuckle. What I see is a cat who blazes and shimmers, a noble being, who commands his new life with joy — a new life, that found him. He knows — he gained all of it after he had given up.

Afterword

Back to 2019. What I didn’t know yet, when I wrote that story, was that we would yet have to face the death of our elder cats, first Abigail, and then Boris in the following year. Living with, and processing all that grief, led me to shift and channel it, and the love, into practical, tangible work for healthy sustainable living (toxin-free) via Recipe For A Green Life, which took up nearly three years of my life, from start to finish. It was a big leap, and a big risk. It certainly didn’t pay well. Yet, it is and has been important, honors what and how I love, and speaks of our collective, interrelated, priceless connection to all life in totality.

Boris was such a strong presence in our lives — a magnanimous, extraordinary spirit, even for a cat. He always knew that humans are too often so slow to catch on to what animals know, and try to communicate. He was always persistent, and maddeningly so. I actually gained so much respect for his persistence — it can be an endearing, admirable quality. He never gave up on trying to communicate with us; helping us to understand what he needed or wanted, in quite obvious, when his subtle gestures were missed by us.

Pawing At My Heart

For a time before he died, he kept pawing at my upper chest, like he wanted to climb inside my heart. He did it so often. In my distracted, clueless, human way, I thought it was cute, yet strange that he kept doing it. Then, I found out that he was terminally ill. After a while of processing the two things, I finally understood what he was saying to me. He was saying,

One of the times that Boris had just been pawing at my chest. Photo by CS Sherin

“Keep me in your heart.

Don’t forget me.

I love you.

I will always be there.”

When I finally realized what he was saying, it loosed my tears, along with the enormous love grown through a positive, loving relationship with another being over so many years. It still loosens my tears of love, years later.

I picked him up, hugged and assured him that I finally understood. I told him that I would, always. He never did it again, so I know that he knew the message was received. I am so thankful that I was able to drop my human distractions for long enough to truly hear him before he had to leave us.

We are convinced Boris was a mighty spirit that took on cat form for a time, someone we were lucky to know and love. I could tell many stories about Boris’s ways. Like the Easter morning that he jauntily brought in a baby rabbit for me to cook for the holiday. Or, the nap we took beside each other, and the dream that we had — where he taught me to make healing balls of light (it was hard — he was really good at it). Or, how he always came to everyone’s rescue, never once afraid. And, how he wanted a dog so badly, and how he fell in love with her, when we did finally adopt a dog. And, how he had a soul mate, little Abigail (ginger cat) — and how they had an actual impromptu wedding ceremony in our back yard one Spring.

Boris, back in 2011 or 2012, with an orb of light near his paw. Photo by CS Sherin

Yet, for today, what I will say is this: The time, love, and presence of Boris, that strong bright being, lives on and is in my heart always. That alone, gives me courage and the warm action of love for this life — no matter what.C