In Search of Oneness: A Memoir of Hope and Healing
“We have to be willing to go naked.” This is what American poet and memoirist May Sarton said. These words are my willingness to go naked, to go beyond the doors of silence and secrecy, to push past the voices of my psyche, which started in infancy with, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word….
From the time I was three years old, something in my heart pulled me to listen, and to pay attention, to look beyond what was visible. I didn’t have the words to name, or the understanding to comprehend, much less know what to do with what I felt and knew inside. As I moved forward in life, this pull for the bigger picture grew into an insatiable hunger—a drawing force, a need to find my voice, a need for truth, connection and Oneness with myself, and the outside world.
This deep need to live a life of connection and Oneness consumed me, pulled me, but also frightened me. Yet a life not lived in truth, I soon realized, was a life not worth living. I needed to reach far down inside, as deep as I could go, connect with the passion that had always lived there, and find the words I had swallowed a long, long, time ago. Truth and voice would lead me to connection and Oneness. I was sure of it.
There’s a saying, “Walk your talk.” This is what I believe living my truth is about. It’s about listening to the little, yet powerful voice inside me that is always there to guide me down the right path if I’m willing to listen.
For me, that little voice always refused to be silenced on the inside but I could never find the words to make that voice heard on the outside. The outside me had nothing to say. The inside me was like a volcano. I had plenty to say, but no voice to say it with.
The occasional word here and there never came close to saying everything I felt, or adequately conveyed the intensity of what I felt. I felt deeply and I tried to bury the intensity of it all for fear of scaring those around me. How could the adults in my life, especially those who were scared to feel, possibly understand my need for truth, connection and Oneness? How could they hear a child’s voice—my voice, my words?
So, I discovered how to embrace the silence. And, often within the silence, I heard a voice like that of a young child pulling on my pant leg demanding me to pay attention, urging me to stop for a minute, bend down, and hear what she had to say. To listen to her words as she tried to guide me, “Listen. Listen. It’s okay to feel the way you do. It’s okay to feel and it’s okay to be real.”
The biggest challenge I’ve had to face on this journey is to identify and break down a limiting belief I adopted from the time I could walk—the belief that my words weren’t important. This belief severed my voice and defined my experience like Picasso being forced to color inside the lines. It distanced me from the very thing I craved real, meaningful, deep, and intimate relationships. Unless I found a way to dismantle and rid myself of this belief, it would keep haunting me like the phantom pain from a severed limb.
This is my journey to find the words I couldn’t speak, to live my truth and to live inside a circle of Oneness free of this phantom pain.
My hope is, not only that you might recognize yourself in the individual and the universal feelings and experiences that I had, but that through my words, you might touch the truth and the essence of who you are. Perhaps through my words, you too will come to a place where you can find your voice, own your story, and live a sense of Oneness with yourself, and the world around you.
I am reminded of the statue of the three monkeys sitting side by side. The first with his hands on his eyes: “See no evil,” the second with his hands over his ears, “Hear no evil,” and the third with his hands over his mouth, “Speak no evil.” I always felt there should have been a fourth one with a hand over his heart, “Don’t feel.”
Even now, I clasp my hands over my ears as I strain to speak above the echo that warns me not to draw attention or bring shame to myself or to others. In my journey to touch truth, and to be real, I see, I hear, I write, I speak, and, yes, I feel. I have a voice and I am claiming the words that are mine to speak because I want to live with a sense of connection and Oneness, not only with myself, but also with you.
My journey into Oneness lies within a few basic, simple, wise words—”The truth shall set you free.” These simple, yet profound words have burrowed under my skin. They form the basis of my travels. They are the North Star that shows me how to come home to the truth of who I am. Within truth lies the answer to the questions. Within truth is the embodiment of connection and Oneness I seek.
Through the many years I’ve worked as a counsellor, and the many times I’ve sat in both the client and the therapist chair, I’ve come to recognize within myself and others a deep inner hunger, a driving force within each of us, to live this sense of Oneness. This is my story.
Chapter 1 – The Vision
Vision anchors and allows hope to seep through so courage can begin.
Something is not right. I don’t know what it is and I don’t know how I know. I just know. It’s like when Dad forgets to take his hat off at church, or Mom leaves for town and forgets to put her lipstick on. I know it’s not supposed to be that way, but I don’t know why it’s not supposed to be that way. I just know.
Something is just not there, and I don’t have a word to describe what is missing. It’s like when Mom said I had to eat my oatmeal when there wasn’t any more brown sugar to put on it. How am I supposed to eat oatmeal with no brown sugar? Every spoonful makes my mouth water for what I know it can be, should be, and isn’t. That’s how I feel about things. My mouth waters for what can be, should be, and isn’t.
The only time there is nothing missing and it feels right, is when everyone is sleeping. I sneak out of bed and make my way to the upstairs hallway window. The year is 1957. I am a child. I am five years old. It’s at this window that it begins to happen.
The old-fashioned slider window divided into squares makes me think of the patchwork quilt on Grandma’s bed. She told me once that every square patch in her quilt had a story behind it. When I look at the window, I know that behind each of those squares there’s a story too.
It is the only window in the house that opens by sliding sideways, and the only one I can reach and open myself. Even on days when it is so cold outside that the school bus can’t come for us, and the window refuses to budge, I still make my way to the window.
I like being at the window. It’s easier to breathe. I like looking out where there’s all this space. I can see lots. I can see everything or forever. I can see the big blue sky, the sun, the moon, or the stars. Unless they are all hiding behind the clouds. It reminds me that I hide stuff too. So, I watch to see what happens, and I see the clouds move back and forth, and watch as the sun, the stars, or the moon pop back up as if they never even went anywhere; as if they just had a shadow pass over them. Sometimes there are shadows that pass over me too.
I wonder if they get scared like me, and wonder what they would do if they couldn’t find their way out from behind the clouds. I come to the window often, and the clouds always move, so I know they’re not stuck like the stuff inside of me. That’s why I like looking out the window. I get to be part of what I see, and what I know can be.
I see people. They are not people I know, but I’m not afraid of them. They are real. They speak, laugh, and smile. I can tell they like each other and they care, because they hug, and hold hands. They’re not afraid to tell each other things, or to cry, or to touch each other in caring ways. When I watch them, I feel all warm inside like when I take a hot bath.
I know words are important for these people, because when someone talks, everyone listens. Not just a pretend listen, but a real listen, the kind of listening that happens even through the noise. Like when my cat, Tiger, hears the mouse that no one else hears. That’s how these people listen. It feels right when people listen. It feels warm and safe.
That’s why I keep coming to the window. It feels good—the same as when the sun pokes out from behind the cloud on a cool day, and irons the goose bumps out of my skin. Same-same.
When I stare out the window, it feels as if I am part of that world too. I can see it and I can feel it inside me. I know this kind of world is possible. I know I’m going to find it and live it one day.
I want that kind of world where people are all connected, like the cutout paper dolls my friend likes to make. When people are all connected, they want to understand what is being said, or not said, and it makes it easy to tell people stuff. There’s no pretending in that kind of world. It’s real.
In the kind of world I live in down here, I don’t talk much, except when I’m by myself, or when I’m with my cat or my dog. They always want to listen. Besides, they have built-in radar. It makes them perk up their ears, listen, and pay attention to what’s really going on around them, and lets them know if there’s danger around the corner.
I watch how they stop dead in their tracks, and how every fibre of their body stands at attention just like when I rub a balloon on my head and my hair stands up by itself. They know when it’s not safe, but they also know when people are having a grumpy day or feeling sad or scared. I’m a lot like my cat and my dog. I know too.
I’m just learning to read books now, but I’ve been able to read what people say with their bodies since forever. I can read their face and tell things by their mood or the way their voice sounds when they say things. Sometimes they say more when they’re not saying anything at all, and sometimes that’s even scarier.
So I can pretty well figure out what I can or can’t talk about, what people will listen to, and what they won’t, or can’t. That’s why I am like my cat and my dog. I have built-in radar too. Most of the time what I live, I keep to myself, especially when it comes to what I see, and how it feels in my heart. When I try to talk about any of that, people think I’m just a kid with a wild imagination.
I don’t understand. What I see is much more than imagination, and I’m not playing pretend games. They are the ones that are playing games and pretending about all kinds of things. So why should I tell them what I see, feel, and know from sitting at my window, I keep that all well hidden so no one can make fun of it or brush it off like cat hair on their dress clothes. I’ve decided it’s “my” secret, “my” vision, and I’ll keep it that way.
I won’t let grown-ups make fun of something I know for sure of how people can live in this world. I won’t let them take that away from me. Just because they can’t hold on to the magic, it doesn’t mean that the magic isn’t there or that the visions I see aren’t real. They are so real!
So when everyone is asleep, I go to my window and let my thoughts wander and drift against the cold dark of the night, and it doesn’t take long before I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s when I reach out to a place past a million stars and planets, a place in the unknown, where answers wait to be discovered.
The seeker is alive in me, always needing, wanting and believing there has to be more. As strong as the need to run in the face of danger is, the need to sit by my window and the promises it holds, urges me to return. When I show up at my window I feel connected to something bigger, and hope someday, somehow, this something will be revealed to me.
Images appear in my mind against the backdrop of a moon hanging in the far corner of a starlit sky. With Alberta Northern Lights dancing all around, I drift in this serendipitous world of images without words.
I see people mingling together. In some places there are two or three people gathered and in other places there are groups of four or five, but everywhere I look I see the same kind of look on people’s faces. It must be the same kind of look I get on my face when I’m concentrating on reading new words or watching a butterfly crawl out of its cocoon. The way they look at each other and their undivided attention tells me nothing is more important to them than the moment they are in. And when I sneak in closer so I can hear what they’re saying, I can tell people are free to express what they feel without stumbling over their words. Nobody feels embarrassed, silly or afraid to say what they feel. They speak from their heart and it just spills out of them as smoothly as syrup oozing from a maple tree. There is no shame. People don’t hesitate in the expression of who they are. Love is okay. I am like the fish who bites on the lure. I am hooked!
Instead of a five-year-old dreaming about Santa Claus and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I am drawn to a whole other world. A world I am eager to jump into like when I run outside to make my first snow angel of the year.
Just like when Mom pulls the drawstring beside our living room window and the curtains open to reveal the magic of the day, I stare into the vastness of the darkened sky and wait until the moon, the stars, or the different shades of light and dark reveal the magic of the night.
Tonight, in my vision, I see a group of eight people, both young and old sitting in a circle, and each one is encouraged to share something while others sit quietly and listen to what each person has to say. I join them. It feels safe within that circle. Soon it is my turn. I decide I can use my voice. I decide to speak.
“My heart is full,” I tell them. “I feel things very deep inside me. When I am around others, I can feel what they are feeling even if they don’t say or do anything. I connect with them. I feel their energy. I want to put my arms around them and let them know they are not alone, and I wish I could feel free to do that, but I’m afraid some people won’t understand, or even want to listen to me because I’m only five years old. I’m scared they will think I’m crazy if I go sit beside them, and let them know it is okay to feel what they’re feeling. Still that’s what is in my heart, and I so much want to learn how to be true to what is in my heart.”
I stop. Everyone is silent. The silence does not threaten. It is inviting me. I continue.
“I don’t want to live in a world where people don’t connect to each other, or where the words ‘I love you’ can’t leave anyone’s lips, even when they feel it in their heart. If a person feels love, why can’t they say so? Why can’t they say, “I love you?” Why do people play pretend games and never say what they really feel. Most of the time I can tell what they’re feeling, and often it’s not the same as what they’re saying.”
I take a deep breath then and tell the people, “That is all I have to say.”
An older man with light tousled hair almost down to his shoulders, and eyes the color of the sea, looks directly at me and speaks next.
“This is a place of learning. You can come here anytime. You are welcome to take part, to sit and listen, to observe, to feel, to take it home with you. This is as it should be and it’s all possible. Don’t ever let anyone lead you to believe otherwise. Stay true to what you feel in your heart. This is what will let you connect with people and one day you will be able to live it in your world.”
My eyes fill with water, like when my cat Tiger or my dog Tippy lick my face and love me when I feel sad. I look around and I know people have heard, and people have understood, and my heart feels like I’ve just had an early Christmas. I say thank-you, leave this group of people, and go see what else I can find.
There are other groups of two or more immersed in conversation, listening with their hearts, not just their ears. People are talking about who they are, what they love, think or feel, and no one feels embarrassed or threatened. There are no confused looks or looks of fear when they share words from their heart, or when they touch one another and live moments of intimacy. People give and receive. It all makes sense to me. It’s like having brown sugar for my oatmeal. Things are as they should be. There is no fear, no judgment, and no doubt. There is acceptance, love, and sharing.
The vision tells me people can be real and can be true to who they are but first they have to be willing to let go of their pretend self and to reach in and grab their real self and to live from there. This is the world I see when I slide the window open and look out into the night—it’s a world where if people say, they love you, it’s because they mean it and if they touch you or do something for you, it’s because they care and it comes from their heart, No one even thinks of lying or pretending because everyone is true and real. It’s a world where there’s meaning, love, laughter, and a sharing of what is, whether that be pain or joy or fear. This is the kind of world that wraps its fingers around my heart and that I so desperately want to live—a world where people are One with themselves, with each other, and the world they live in. I need to find a way to bring this world I see to me.
I’m sitting at my window.
I don’t know what to call you…
Are you real?
You should have a name you know?
I’ll be back.
I hope you will, too.
(but you can call me Lou).