Paula Kettula, LCSW - Psychotherapy,  Educational Services and Consultation
Heart Connections

Whispers From Beyond: Reflections on life and death

Whispers From Beyond: Reflections on life and death

With Halloween and the Day of the Dead having just passed, it seems to be an opportune time to reflect on the concepts life and death: These two are firmly connected to each other.  Like friends holding hands, we must walk through the path of experiences between them. I wonder why do we modern humans prefer the friend of ‘life’ over the friend of ‘death’ whilst both are undeniable facts of our existence? Has it always been so? 

I recently delved deeper into the symbolism and meaning of Dia De Los Muertos: “A Day of the Dead”. It is a day when the world of the dead and the world of the living merge. This tradition does not view death as something scary and gory contrary to the modern Halloween celebrations. It is viewed as part of a great ever turning wheel of life that we all belong to. Time is seen in its natural cyclical form rather than as a linear concept of past, present and future. Dia De Los Muertos challenges us to stretch our polar consciousness and rigid view of life being 'good’ and death being ‘bad’. 

Dia De Los Muertos helps us commune with our lost  loved ones by building beautiful altars and providing them offerings of food and flowers. It is a celebration of life and the time we had with those who have departed from this world. 

La Catrina is the skeleton lady of the underworld who wears colorful elegant clothes and is frequently depicted with bright paints, flowers and patterns on her ivory skeleton face. She is fierce and powerful but also festive and fun. She laughs at us humans in our delusion of trying to escape our destiny. She calls us to enjoy life while we can in the face of its inevitable end. She reminds us to live every moment fully and joyfully through music, dance, food and love.

Dia De Los Muertos raises the morbid idea of death into its rightful place as a part of the journey of our souls. What happened to us modern people that we forgot what death is really about? Nowadays the pursuit of eternal youth and compulsive avoidance of  sickness and denial of inevitable death has lead people to take extremes measures. One can nowadays find surgeries that make us look younger as well as wrinkle creams and diet pills that promise eternal youth. And we all run after these illusions like a bee flies towards a fragrant flower it cannot resist. Yet it is a trap: The flower we seek is nothing but a mirage which binds us deeper into the material world. It is the faint enchanting call of a Siren which lures us into our destruction: Destruction of the order of life which includes both life/health and death/sickness. And we wonder why our soul suffers... It suffers because it is not facing, accepting and embracing the reality of the divine order which is its origin. We only see, accept and worship one half of the divinity that created us. The other half we deny and push into the depths of the unconscious mind where it haunts us like the ferocious Hound of Hades blocking our entrance back into the world of living.  

But it hasn’t always been so. In the Ancient Greek Mythology, we can find  the insane God Dionysus who invites us to connect to life through inebriation, music and feasting. The Dionysian festivals summoned people to experience ecstasy which allowed them to leave their ego-borders behind and commune with a shadow aspect of divinity (and humanity since humans are theomorphic) that included rage, lust, and insanity. The Greek origin of the word ecstasy already reveals its holy meaning: ek = outside, and stasis = standing. So it literally means; “to stand beside oneself.” It is a state where one leaves the mortal ego state behind, which is bound to polarity, and enters a divine state of unity. 

Dionysus is a God of both life and death. His birth as Zagreus, death in the hands of the titans and re-birth as Dionysus points to this idea. Throughout history, he has been commemorated in festivals such as the Anthesteria, which was a celebration where the dead were allowed to walk among the living for a day. Yet, it was also a celebration of spring and maturation of the wine from last year’s harvest. 

The Ancient Greek era was not the only time when life and death had space to simultaneously exist in the human consciousness. We can also go back 4,000 years to ancient Egypt where people dedicated their entire lives to prepare for death. Magnificent pyramids were built as tombs for the pharaoh so his soul could find its way. Beautiful temples and worship was dedicated to Osiris, the God of the Underworld who would guide our souls from the moment of death. 

Osiris was not only the “Lord of the Dead” but was also the “King of The Living” as the blessed souls of deceased ones were considered to be the “living ones”. Further, Osiris was a giver of all life and fertility. He was the one who would sprout new vegetation and make the banks of the River Nile flourish after floods that would nourish the soil. As in God Dionysus, also in Osiris, the boundaries of life and death are blurred into a symbol of wholeness which envelopes both aspects. 

The ancient Greeks and Egyptians considered death to be the high point of life: something to be revered and celebrated. It truly was a holy moment in life and a test to our lives' work in gaining the wisdom that life had to offer which is necessary at the moment of death.  The loved ones left behind surely missed the company of the departed, however, they also had a larger perspective of the invisible silver threads that connect us all to each other beyond the borders of this world. 

For the modern human, Dia De Los Muertos still holds traces of this ancient sacred knowledge that death is not to be feared but needs to be understood and accepted as a part of the mysterious eternal unity which stands behind us like an unseen veil.

I would like to invite you all to meditate on the idea of life and death. To expand your consciousness so that it may welcome both, thus welcome unconditional LOVE for life itself which also includes death. 

Reflections: Beauty


We walk on this earth with judgements and desires in our hearts that cause suffering. 

Some walk around feeling more beautiful than those around them. With pride and vanity they look down upon others they see as less fortunate. Others do not feel beautiful at all and walk on this earth with heads cowered down. Sadness, envy or worthlessness fill their hearts. In both situations, Life and Truth have departed their being, leaving behind empty vessels. 

This perceived 'lack' of beauty makes us feel different, less than and unhappy. The perceived 'possession' of beauty makes us elevate ourselves to heights that do not belong to us. Like Icarus, we may burn from our inflation and crash into the dark waters of the unconsciousness. But how can one measure something the is immeasurable? 

The remedy is to walk on this earth realizing that one is the most beautiful being that ever existed. One is to walk and look upon others as fellow beings who also are full of beauty. Without envy or pride, we can realize the bounty of beauty that Life offers. Beauty is something that exists as an entity in and of itself. It is not something that will give more or less of itself to people. It always gives itself in fullness, in its entirety, to each person whom it makes the most beautiful in their own unique way. 

Therefore I call upon all of us to walk in celebration as we gaze into the abyss of the limitless beauty that is within and around us.


Stories That Heal: Argon the Great Dragon

This story is about power, control and losing ourselves to other people's needs. It is about fear and loss of freedom- living a life we never wished for ourselves yet not knowing how to get out. The story also suggests a solution how to heal from hurt, anger, and resentment. The healing comes through deep understanding, forgiveness and realizing the oneness of the universe. 

Read the story carefully and slowly. Read it even a few times. Notice, acknowledge and reflect on all the feelings and sensations that arise within you as you read it. Let them just be, give them space and allow them to manifest. Be loving, kind and compassionate towards them. 

And now you are healing... 


Adventures of Anemos
Argon The Great Dragon

One day Thetatron, a beautiful black panther with fur shining like the night sky in the moonlight and green eyes flashing with wisdom, came to Anemos leading her to a place she has never been. Thetatron is an ancient being whose task is to serve and guide Anemos.

Anemos was surprised by the worry she could sense in Thetaron who is usually quite calm and carefree. The urgency of the matter was palpable in the air. Thetatron guided Anemos to an enchanted and absolutely beautiful land. This place seemed like paradise; there were big beautiful trees, lush vegetation and blooming flowers of all kinds, the fragrance of which made one giddy with the wonder of the universe. One could see colorful butterflies gently landing from one delicate flower petal to another and bees being busy buzzing around providing for their big families. The air was filled with the sounds of myriad of birds singing their ancient songs and the colors of the hummingbirds were so bright that one had to squint one’s eyes to get a glimpse. Anemos looked closer to the under vegetation and saw snails and worms hard at work aerating the ground or just enjoying the dewy shadows of the leaves. The azur-like sky was clear and sun was perfectly warm on the skin. There even was a shimmer of a rainbow in the atmosphere that was the most beautiful rainbow Anemos had ever seen. Anemos smiled, opened her harms to the wind and let her hair be caressed by it as she was so happy having found such a place, but Thetatron’s grim face and worry quieted her, and brought a sharp squeeze to her heart.

Thetatron said “All is not as it seems my dear girl. This is an enchanted place where evil has taken hold for a long time and they all cry for liberation”. Anemos was confused as this place was far from anything she knew how evil looked like. Thetatron asked Anemos to look a little closer at the plants and the animals. So, she knelt down to closely observe the bees and the butterflies, so close that she could see their eyes and their faces and what she saw was heartbreaking to her. In the eyes of every creature was terror and fear. Their little bodies were tense and exhausted from all the flying, and the working and the digging and the singing and the carrying they did all day long.  With horror Anemos realized that all the plants and creatures in this world were slaves! Day after day, they repeated the same songs, were forced to fly the same routes, and to work as hard as they could to make everything seem so pretty and perfect without their spirits and souls being able to express their own unique and special ways- their own freedom. Soon Anemos observed that the butterfly repeatedly flew the same pattern and that the bees relentlessly visited the same flowers, and the flowers sighed in exhaustion, but were too afraid to wilt or just die. There was not a single animal, flower, tree, piece of grass or even a seed that was free.

Tears were welling in her eyes as the full reality of the terrible condition of this seemingly paradisiacal place came to a realization. Deep sorrow and sadness filled her entire being as she sensed the desperation and hopelessness of every living thing in this world. Since Anemos was born of the Wind she is part of everything and everything is part of her. That is why the pain of others is also her suffering. Her legs not being able to hold her any longer she collapsed sobbing to the ground and letting the grief take over. See, Anemos loves everything that is free and it is a great day of distress for her when she encounters any living being that is oppressed, imprisoned or abused in any way. Her calling is to fight for freedom- to fight with her all little might and power for those who are still in bondage. Young as she may seem, she has the wisdom to know that anyone or anything that lives in freedom, lives with their true spirit and thus are ever closer to returning the trapped light inside them home where it belongs. This is the ONLY purpose of life as we know it.

The faithful Thetatron let her cry as long as she needed. He sat close to her providing comfort and care. After a while Anemos dried her eyes and collected herself. Turning to Thetarton she asked what had happened to this place. She was determined to find out and fight to liberate every little thing to the minute grain of sand. The knowing Thetatron explained that for a long time now an angry and fierce dragon, Argon, has been ruling this world with his twisted powers. He wanted to make a perfectly happy and pretty world for himself where he controls everything and everyone so that things are exactly the way he wants. He rules with fire and threats. He has terrorized everyone to the point that no-one has even attempted to escape for many many memories. Only the legendary stories of the brave ones who once tried remain. Freedom has become a fantasy, something not attainable and something that no-one believes in anymore or even worse have completely forgotten about.

Hearing this Anemos immediately demanded to see the dragon and was determined to fight at all cost. Thetatron knowing that Anemos, though wise and knowledgeable, was also a foolish little girl who acted out of impulses of her heart. He explained to her how huge and dangerous Argon was and that wouldn’t it be wiser to get some help or come up with some strategy to deal with the issue. Anemos replied “These creatures have suffered enough! Every minute of more pain they have to experience, pierces my heart and I will not have it that way a minute longer for them or for me. I know no fear, and I am ready to fight and permanently expel this dragon out of this world!” Thetatron had no choice but to start leading Anemos to the dragon’s lair.

All this commotion and discussion had everyone in frenzy, confusion, fear and hope all at the same time. A distant memory awoke in them of something beautiful that once existed. Something that they once knew but had forgotten. It wasn’t a clear memory or an image of a place but a feeling that somehow stirred in their heart and core. A feeling of freedom and joy…

For the first time since the dragon took hold of this place, all plants and creatures stopped their assigned duties and started following Anemos to the lair. They did not know exactly why they followed her or what they could even do to fight the dragon, but they did know that in their hearts now beat a glimmer of hope for a different life. Anemos seeing that everyone is following her begun singing the most beautiful songs she knew telling about freedom, paradise, the origin of everything and the secret light that was trapped within everything that existed. The serene melodies were carried by the wind over the mountains and plains through all the land, and everyone stopped what they were doing and just listened in awe.

Soon enough the sweet tunes also reached the lair of Argon and he also saw the sudden disruption in his order of things. Peeking his enormous head through the opening of the lair he sniffed the air, perceived the music and saw that no-one was following his orders anymore. At this he instantly became so angry he spat out fire, black sulfuric smoke came out of his ears and he roared so loud that the whole earth shook. All the little creatures froze and cowered with fear. Anemos, continued singing and approached the lair with courage and belief. By now Argon was huffing and buffing and getting angrier by the second, but when he saw his enemy, he begun laughing so hard the ground shook again. “You little girl! What do you think you are doing here snooping around and messing with my beautiful perfectly ordered world? You are no match for me and I will cremate you in an instant, but out of curiosity I do let you live to tell me what insanity brings you here to disturb the mighty Argon?”

Anemos looked at the giant dragon whose lair sparkled with gold, silver and diamonds. It was decked and decorated with all sorts of colorful fancy gems and crystals. The fierce Argon himself wore the mostly brilliantly colored jewelry around his rough scaly neck. Since Anemos is part of everything and everything is part of her, she sensed a secret pain around the dragon’s heart that he had long forgotten. Thus Anemos spoke softly “Oh, mighty Argon, the greatest and fiercest of all dragons, I am  here to inquire about the pain in your heart.” Staying silent for a moment, and then laughing sarcastically “Pain! What pain little girl? I am the all powerful and rich Argon and I live in the most beautiful and perfect world one could have. I have no pain around my heart- I am perfectly happy.” Anemos, perceiving the truth pressed on “ I am here to ask how you are doing and whether you ever get lonely in this place or miss home and being with your own kin? I am here to ask you about the nights you don’t sleep and just stare at the dark night sky and the stars with a longing and pain in your heart? I am here to ask if you need help with healing the pain so that you and everyone else in this world can be free.” The silence was long and the air filled with anticipation of the mighty Argon’s response.

Anemos had touched a place in old Argon’s heart that he had tried to so carefully and so diligently hide and forget. He had built this entire perfect, beautiful world around him in order to hide this secret, and now Anemos had dared to remind him of it and bring it up in front of everyone. Big salty tears begun welling up in the dragon’s green eyes as he lowered his majestic head. Deep rumbling sobs came straight from his belly as he silently cried the tears he had so vowed never to cry again. Huge puddles formed on the ground while all creatures tried to save each other from drowning in the puddles created by Argon’s tears. Anemos gently touched his foot and comforted him with love, compassion and deep understanding.

The whole world stood still and silent as all the creatures gathered around the dragon Argon and watched him in his pain. You would think that after all the slavery, living one’s life in bondage and under constant threat, one would be angry or resentful or that one would find pleasure in the suffering of the oppressors, but in their core all the little creatures in this world were pure in their hearts, and capable of deep compassion, forgiveness and unconditional love- a  beautiful gift from their creator that we all have. Argon sensing this compassion and love had the courage to open up and speak about his wound: “ I was just a little baby dragon when I came to this world. It was a dark and incredibly cold and stormy night when my mother was leading me and my brothers and sisters back home from where we were born. She had been away from home when we were born too early and unexpectedly. Alone and afraid in a desolate foreign land without her family she cared for us and tended to us until we all were old enough to fly.  She was anxious to take us all back home where we can grow in the safety and guidance of the family. I remember her telling us stories about our father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the beautiful Land Of Dragons where our home is. It is high up in the mountains in a secret location only known to dragons. Our land is lush with deep green pine trees surrounding the cozy and comfortable caves we live in. The air is fresh and smells of forest. Oh, how my little dragon heart longed to be home.

My mother was exhausted and afraid for us so we took flight as soon as we could. Everything had gone well until the storm hit. A swirl of wind took over me and I lost control of my flight crashing onto a tree. The last memory of my mother is her worried eyes as she saw me crash and her faint cry of my name in the wind. I broke my wing and fell onto the ground injured and nearly lifeless. I lost the track of time and my senses. When I came back to it, it was a bright sunny day. My mother and siblings were nowhere to be seen. I was alone, scared and in pain. My wing was broken and I could not fly no matter how hard I tried. I called to my mother, and cried and tried all I could to fly, but I could not. For a long, long time, I gazed up to the sky and dreamed of seeing my mother coming to get me but she never came. I was alone and abandoned. I build a wall around my heart so thick and so tall that no-one, including myself, could ever remember the pain. Looking around this strange place I now was stuck in, I recalled the stories of the beauty and perfection of my homeland, and begun to re-create it in order to ease the pain and forget its existence. But I guess in the end nothing in this world can heal the wound….”

If at that point, you would look closely into the faces and the eyes of all the creatures, you would see tears welling up in them as their little hearts felt the suffering of old Argon, and touched their own pain. The trees and flowers bowed their leaves and branches in sorrow and the sands became heavy with sadness. Anemos noticed it all and knew that the forest, and everyone living in it, including Argon were healing. Fear and hurt were replaced with the misty sweet of sadness, and the unconditional, abundant love that knows no boundaries.

When we have the courage to set ourselves free from the bondage we build for others, and ourselves, we have a chance to return to home. The path home is only revealed in freedom. Anemos whispered something to The Wind to carry. Off it went over the mountains until it finally reached certain old ears and the aching heart of a dragon matriarch, the mother of Argon. At that instant she knew her son was still alive. All her pain, sorrow and sadness melted away as she arranged her son to come home.

It was the homecoming of the century! The air was filled with songs of joy and gratitude. From here on out the forest and its creatures lived in everlasting freedom and Argon, The Great Dragon, spent the rest of his long life in the bliss of being home. All was returned back to its original order as Anemos and Thetatron walked away with light steps and hearts.
 
The End

 

Stories That Heal: City Of Hopes and Dreams

Story telling is deeply rooted in the human history and our psyche. Stories have helped us understand this world, who we are and where we come from. Stories connect us to each other, inspire us and spark our creativity and imagination.  Stories have a healing quality as they allow us to realize the reflection of our own emotions. 

I wrote this story at this particular time as I sensed an urgent collective need for all of us to re-connect with our hopes and dreams. I would like to invite you to read this story, and as you do so, mindfully reflect on the emotions, body sensations, and imagines that it elicits. Allow the feelings and the sensations to be there without judging them. Just give them a space to exist, give them a permission to be. 

If you are a parent or an adult who would like to share this story with a child, it is appropriate for a child of 6/7 or older. You can invite the child to notice how they feel inside their body throughout the story (i.e. "where in your body do your feel the dragon flies and bees?" or "Where do you feel the sun shining? How does it feel? Can you describe that to me?"). This will help the child learn awareness of emotions and how they live in the body as sensations. 

When the child deals with his or her emotions elicited by real life situations, having listened to this story with an adult guidance, can help him how to deal and work through intense feelings by mindfully allowing them to be and just noticing them and helping them move through. After you have read the story, you can also invite the child to tell you the parts that she liked or didn't like or even draw some scenes from the story. You can have a discussion about the hopes and dreams that the child has. If you are reading to a boy, you can change the "girl" in the story to a "boy" so that the child is able to better identify with the character. 

Happy reading!
Paula

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The City of Hopes and Dreams

Once upon a time there was a girl who was very sad. The sadness had made her heart dark and heavy. She felt that all hope was gone from from her life and the world. There were no dreams left either. She felt lost. 

One day she sat by a beautiful small lake that was surrounded by trees that gave shade and comfort from the heat of the day. One could hear dragonflies and bees buzzing about, and see the birds being busy as they went about their daily tasks. Through the glimmer of the serene and calm surface of the lake one could see majestic mountains afar towering over the scenery.

Despite all this beauty around her, the girl felt sad and despaired, but being close to nature gave her some solace: feeling the wind in her hair and the soft tickling of the grass on her skin dampened the pain that was otherwise sharp. She decided to take a dip into the water to freshen herself. 

She swam a long time and she lost a sense of time and direction as she floated on her back and watched the white cottony clouds gliding smoothly on the sky. Suddenly she felt tucking and pulling. Something had wrapped around her ankle and was now pulling her underwater. She panicked, screamed for help and tried to fight to stay afloat but all this was useless as the sea weed around her ankle was determined to pull her under water. 

The girl soon relaxed as she realized she could actually breath under water. She took a big breath. Maybe it was some sort of magic, but she did not bother herself too much with this as she looked around in awe the beauty of this under water world that she was being pulled into. There were many colorful fish of all sizes, interesting plants that swayed in the current and corals that gave a sort of a shimmer.

The sea weed kept pulling and guiding her until finally she saw a beautiful city down below her. The city was build of gold. The sea weed let her go by the edge of the city. With curiosity the girl looked around in wonder. It was a miniature city where she could see small people going about their day. 

She was startled from her observations by a deep voice from behind her saying, "I have been expecting you a long time". She turned around and was looking straight into the big, round and wise eyes of a large pike fish who was wearing a golden crown decorated with colorful gem stones. The fish welcomed the girl and introduced himself as the King of the Lake. 

He told the girl that he knew all about the wound in her heart and that she felt she had lost all her hopes and dreams which was making her very sad. Then he gave the girl a key. It was not just any other normal key but one made of glass that shone in all the colors of the rainbow. The Fish King told the girl to travel to the City of Hopes and Dreams, and find a door that this key will open. Inside the house that the door belongs to are all her lost Hopes and Dreams. This key will unlock and free all her dreams so that they can come true. 

The girl was a bit skeptical but also excited about the possibility of feeling happy again. The Fish King pointed her to the direction she needed to go and she set off to her journey feeling more hopeful than she had for a long time. 

After a long walk she arrived  at a big city with many winding streets and colorful houses. She realized this was the City of Hopes and Dreams. She walked through the streets and saw happy people going about doing what they loved. Everyone there was working on fulfilling their dreams. Once in a while she saw a few dark houses here and there. When she walked by those, she felt uneasy and anxious. Her throat closed off as if she could not gasp enough air. She did not see anyone but could feel gleaming eyes following her from the half shut windows. She realized that these were the dreams of people who harbored hatred and anger in their hearts. Their dream is revenge or hurting others. The girl picked up her pace and walked quickly past these houses. 

All and all the city was beautiful with lots of good energy and happiness. Everything seemed to work and function so well and she could perceive people being productive. She wondered if the real world could also be like this if everyone fulfilled their desires.... she thought it would be a much better place. But this unfortunately was not the case as she realized this City of Hopes and Dreams was just something that only existed in most peoples thoughts and minds. This underwater city was merely a projection of all those unrealized and un-lived dreams. 

Having understood this, the girl felt heavy and sad again. She was tired from looking for the door for her own Hopes and Dreams so she sat down on a meadow in the park that was in the middle of the city. She must have fallen asleep as she was woken up by a shadow on her face. It was a small boy standing above her and curiously looking at her. He said 'You look lost. Can I help you?"  The girl gladly accepted his help. She explained everything to him about her lost Hopes and Dreams, the  Fish King and the key. The boy asked to see the key. He shouted with joy and told the girl he knew exactly the door that this key belonged to. 

He took her by the hand and quickly lead her through the city. After a long walk they arrived to a large house. The entire house was made of glass! One could see many spacious rooms inside and even a small garden in the back. The boy excitedly asked the girl to put the glass key inside the glass lock. She carefully placed the key inside the lock and slowly opened the door and SWOOSH! Out came all her Hopes and Dreams that filled her heart and mind. The darkness lifted from her heart and happiness pushed the sadness away as she realized her dreams, and was now ready to make them come true in the real world. 

With shouts of joy and many hugs the boy and the girl celebrated. The boy was crying because he was so happy which the girl could not fully understand so she asked. The boy explained that it was HIS dream that the girl would come and open this house to free her dreams. Once her dreams would realize themselves so would his. It was at this moment the girl realized how interconnected our dreams are and that fulfilling ones own dreams can also fulfill the dreams of others. 

Now, the girl was in a rush to return to the real world so she can start working on all that she just perceived. She bid goodbye to the boy who said they would meet again above. The girl put the glass key back in her pocket and started her journey back up. 

Next thing she knew, she found herself waking up on the very same spot on the grass by the shores of the lake. The sun was setting in the distance behind the mountains painting the sky with hues of red, orange and blue. She sat up and rubbed her eyes wondering whether it was all a dream. She must have slept a long time. She reached into her pocket inside which was the glass key that unlocked her dreams. 

She stood up with a smile on her face, brightness in her eyes and energy in her body as she set off home. Her heart was full of her own Hopes and Dreams that she was now determined to make come true. 

The End. 

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Whispers From Beyond: Reflections on life and death
Reflections: Beauty
Stories That Heal: Argon the Great Dragon
Stories That Heal: City Of Hopes and Dreams

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