Saturday, March 31, 2012


For the past few months, a solitary wildflower plant has rooted itself in the sand dune in front of our home. As if to spite the dogs that used it as a toilet, it thrived, producing petite lavender blossoms. And during the violent winter wind storms when the sand all around it eroded, it held its ground. I was not blessed with a green thumb, so this wildflower's flourishing has felt oddly personal. I have been cheering that plant on all winter, even saying hello to it on my way to the surf line for a walk.

But as I was making breakfast Monday morning, I noticed it was gone. A strange sense of panic set in. Where was it? Then I noticed the bulldozers scooping up the sand that the latest wind storm had tossed on the bike path and unloading it on the dunes nearby. The plant was gone. Buried or uprooted, I'm not sure which, but it was gone. And it has taken enormous self-control not to try to rescue it.

But this isn't about a plant. It's about an impulse. An impulse to run in and save.

Sculpture & photo by Julia Keagy
There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of going out to look for the plant or with trying to unbury it. After all, it was a human action that hid it away. I am not against helping another get through a rough patch, especially when help is situational. And I am ever so grateful for firefighters, paramedics and police officers who provide rescue in the direst situations. But I do have some very strong feelings about the word “rescue” when it is used to justify stepping in to resolve someone else's problems. Rescuing when it is associated with the words pity, worry and fear make me question the motivation behind the help.

There is something insidious about the idea of “saving” or being the “savior” for another. It implies that somehow we know the paths others need to take better than they do, assigning ourselves god-like qualities of omniscience. It is taking away the greatest power I believe we have as souls: free will. And I believe in free will. I believe we get to choose how we learn and when we want to grow. Do I really know where you are on your journey and what you need to manifest to help you evolve?

Maybe this stems from being fiercely independent about my growth as a soul. I do not like being told how to find my way or which way to go. Or maybe it is because I have spent a great deal of time with my hand in the cookie jar thinking that I have it all figured out for someone else. It is only recently that I am kicking the habit with any success. Thus my exercise of restraint with my friend, the wildflower plant.

When it comes to the people I care about, I have to work against my compulsion to rush in and save. The most effective counterbalance to this old habit has been developing neutrality--the ability to watch without judgment. "Hmmm...I wonder what change will come of this?" I ask myself. What growth, what evolution, what beautiful flowers will push through the sand and reach the sun?

And the more I practice this neutrality with another's pain, the more I am learning how to do it with my own. And that is a double win.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The other day I was lying in the sand with my family. I had my eyes closed, leaning on my husband, and my daughter in her usual pack-dog way had nestled herself between us. Something told me to open my eyes, and there they were. Dolphins.

Groups of dolphins swim up and down the shoreline following schools of fish, so this was not an unusual sight, but this time the dolphins were not just surfacing to breathe, they were jumping out of the water like they do in the shows at SeaWorld. I have never seen dolphins play like this in the wild. It felt jubilant. Their whole bodies were leaping into the air and hanging there for a second before diving back down into the water. We watched in wonder as they continued their water play for ten or fifteen minutes.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
When I see dolphins, I feel a kind of muscle memory. The sensation is not of watching, but remembering. Remembering what it felt like to be like them. Somewhere in the tapestry of the lives that brought me to this one is the life I lived as a whale or dolphin. Sometimes I feel like I can hear them before I see them. It's as if their energy signature makes me look. When I see these magnificent mammals, they remind me of how old my soul's story is and how far back my memory goes.

And I don't need past life regression to remember. Nor are the memories brought back by any intellectual process. It is always a sensual experience of the body that triggers the memories, which seems counterintuitive because when we think of past lives we think of souls, of ether, of the stuff we can't see or touch. But it makes more sense that it is the sensual that stirs this kind of memory for we are remembering past experiences in a body.

There was the time I dropped a box of chalk pastels on the floor. I bent down to pick them up and felt a wash of feeling come over me. In that moment I was no longer in my Twenty-first Century house in pants and t-shirt, but in a long flowing dress of jeweled hue with my hair wrapped up in fabric and surrounded by stone walls covered in tapestries. There was another set of hands reaching down to help me gather my things, and when I looked up, there was a dark-haired man with piercing blue eyes. This was the first time I met this soul, but it was not the last. I had seen those eyes in this lifetime.

I was twenty-six and searching. And it was those eyes that gave me comfort during a major crossroads in my life. He was the one who told me with unflinching conviction that I should take my trip to California in spite of all the logic that told me that it made no sense. We were standing in the crowded chaos of a post-performance dressing room when he took me by both hands and told me, "You have to go." That trip was a turning point in beginning to trust the things that I now see and feel with conviction. I believe that we were fulfilling an agreement when he said those words to me. An agreement from the life I remembered when I dropped my pastels on the floor in this one.

Why does any of this matter?

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
Our lives are full of old agreements. When I think back on friendships, relationships, places, clothing, music, art and careers I have been attracted to in this lifetime I see a similar pattern. And being able to see those patterns has given me a peace I can't explain. Instead of feeling limited by what I know, it is setting me free.

If we only look for the origins of our knowing in this lifetime, we can look forever and feel nothing but frustration. When we are able to see what we carried into this life, we can project those images outside ourselves. We can distinguish our lives in the present from what they have been in the past. We can change agreements or end agreements we made in another body that don't work for us in this one. We can move agreements into present time. We can purge our closets of worn-out patterns and relationships. It makes no sense to wear a fur coat in the Bahamas, and yet, I know that I have tried to do that more than a few times in this life--placed limitations or expectations on myself that don't support the life I'm in now.

When we explore the past to move us forward, it is not past life regression, but present life progression. Moving our consciousness out of the past so we can see ourselves clearly in the present. With practice we become better able to see what is now and what is not about all the unexplainable reactions we have in this life and all the ways we seem to defeat ourselves before we begin. If we could know that we have carried these patterns with us from the past--that they are echoes of what has been--we could forgive ourselves for the struggles, for the failures, for all the false starts. And we could look with greater compassion at the struggles of others, recognizing that the picture we see is only one layer of a many-stepped process.

Compassion for self. Compassion for other. Healing and growing and evolving our souls apart together through experiences in the body. In process. In progression.

I'm excited about the possibilities.