Monday, August 3, 2015

Prayer and The American Spirit

Earlier in July, I wrote an essay for a local contest:  Here it is:

How Prayer Fuels American Spirit

          America is a land with a divine destiny, which has been blessed and protected for over 230 years. For generations the U.S. Constitution has stood as a backbone for the administration of proper government.
          Our society is reliant on agreement of principles and a common set of morals. John Adams stated, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

          Thomas Jefferson was given credit for words of the Declaration which marked the formal decision to rebel from British rule: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  

          Happiness is something that most of us seek and is fundamental in the theme of "American Spirit."   Think of it as "joy in the journey"--being at peace with ourselves wherever we are, who ever we are with, whatever we feel, whatever we are going through and whatever we have or lack.
          The idea of happiness envisioned in the Declaration of Independence included the notion of virtue and the existence of a natural moral law established by a Divine Creator. Guidance from above (prayer) and reason aid us in distinguishing objective norms of right and wrong.

Alexis de Tocqueville remarked:
          "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America ceases to be great."

          How does Prayer fit in with sustaining the American Spirit?  Prayer is generally considered as two-way communication with a Divine Creator.   We offer a prayer and then receive an answer.
          Learning how to pray encourages making our own informed decisions and then petitioning to know if the decision is right.  This helps develop the capacity to make sound decisions on our own.   
           
          Talking to a friend at the end of a universal telephone line that knows everything about us and all our secrets is healthy for our souls. Being authentic, being ourselves, being in tune with our Higher Power helps us face courageously whatever trials and adversities may come our way.
          Prayer can provide a path to a safe harbor. Prayers of gratitude can help open us up to inspiration and hope.
           We pray for help, reassurance, guidance. We pray because we are grateful and appreciative.  We pray to create new channels of communication in our relationships so there is no war of control, no winner or loser.
          We pray for help to enjoy our life, to explore life, to take risks, to be alive, and to no longer live in fear.  Thus, prayer can be an instrument for love, peace and happiness if we choose--truly embracing the "American Spirit"--helping us to exhibit diversity, tolerance, resilience, ingenuity, patriotism and faith.    
           

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Life Coaching a Dead Atheist









A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay.  .  I entitled it "Life Coaching a Dead Objectivist".  It obviously didn't win anything, but it was fun writing and learning more about the life of Ayn Rand.  Even though she was an atheist in mortal life, she has changed many of her perceptions now that she is on the other side of the veil.  She still is working through her issues and wants people to "get" her.  I changed the name of the essay to….


Life Coaching a Dead Atheist


            What's up for you, today, Ayn? What is your intention in seeking Life Coaching?
            I am looking for assistance with my depression.  It's not logical that I should be depressed. I have written bestselling books. I have enough income.  I am a distinguished speaker and author.  I have a devoted, handsome husband. I have a following of thousands of fans.
            And you are depressed because….?
            I am getting criticism from all over.  They just do not GET it.  They are being irrational.  I spent years of my life writing the perfect fictional vehicle for my beliefs. There should be no conflicts of interest among rational people! Why am I surrounded by irrationality?  Where IS Reason? Why do they desire the unearned?  I do not make sacrifices, nor do I accept them. People do not even notice my best qualities and I am resented for them.  I am accused of being jealous, possessive, having no empathy. I am forced to be angry.
            Let's begin with your anger.  What specifically triggers your anger?
            Just about everything.  It is necessary.  Outsized passion is required to further my work.
            What was the most recent event that angered or upset you?
            I was betrayed by one of my closest friends.  I trusted him.  He was my intellectual heir.  He is immoral, irrational, a coward.  He exploited me.  He rejected me as a person.
            What emotions did you feel?
            Don't ask about emotions.  Reason trumps emotions. I am reasonable, but anger prevailed.  Ask me what I think.  
            Relationships are our greatest teachers.  People show up to give us the experience we are holding within. See if you can tell me what you think without quoting from your books. See if you can put a label on these emotions that seem to be defying reason. They exist. Acknowledge them.
            I have been taught that feelings are inconvenient, irrational, self-contained sensations that need to be controlled and hidden at all cost. They do not provide knowledge;  however, they do exist, so, I will acknowledge them-- Anger, Betrayal, Frustration, Grief, Despair.
            When you feel this way, What does this mean about YOU?
            What do you mean, ME?  It's THEIR fault.  They are irrational and unreasonable and wrong.
            Then why is it raising such emotion and reaction in YOU?  Consider the possibility that when you blame someone or get angry at them, THEY have the power.
            That's not possible. Wait a minute…that IS possible. 
            Think about it. Grudges keep us from moving forward.  Bitterness is the biggest barrier that exists to joy and getting what we want from life. Consciously releasing resentment assists us in moving forward in areas where we were previously stuck. Holding that grudge and anger--how is it working for you in terms of bringing you happiness?
            Well, I guess it's not.
            Again, what do you take it to mean about YOU?  Looking for an "I am" statement.  What is your perception or the underlying message you are receiving about yourself? It is referred to as a "deceptive identity" because it is a false sense of self that we pick up at a very young age.  It's a belief that feels like the truth of who we are.  For example, "I am unimportant, wrong, a mistake, unlovable".  These false perceptions become our reality.  They take us further from feeling love and joy.  They create patterns of self-sabotage, addictions and coping mechanisms to deal with the pain. See if any of these words strike a chord… I am… second best, unimportant, powerless, invisible…
            Invisible, yes, invisible.   Will I ever be truly visible to anyone?  No one really SEES me.  Even my fans do not. Sometimes, my fans disappoint and depress me worse than my enemies.
            And why is that?
            They should know better.  They have read my works.  They SHOULD get it!
            When you are in this belief that you are invisible, how does it affect you and your relationships?  How do you react?
            I get angry when things are not done exactly as I want. My relationships suffer.  I have few, if any friends. I am addicted to amphetamines and smoking.  I must push and push so I can make a mark in the world, so I can be seen.
            How has this behavior served you?
            Things get done right and when things are done right, I feel safe and in control.
            Do you intimidate people into doing things your way?
            I do not think so. No….well, perhaps.
            Isn't that a form of force?
            No, they still have their own free will.
            What happens if they do not agree with you?
            I dismiss them.
            Do they sacrifice for you? Even if they agree with you, do they sacrifice?
             A sacrifice is the surrender of a great value for a lesser or non-value.  If they are rational and agree with me, of course there is no sacrifice.
            You keep using the word, "rational".  What does that mean?
            It is using reason; which is the only source of knowledge. Reason is our faculty that integrates the material provided by our senses.
            Knowing what you know, tap in to the rational truth.  Are you really invisible?
            Of course not.
            What would you rather have in your ideal life?
            I would rather be relaxed and happy. I want people to praise my novels. I would rather have people notice me because I have something worthy to say.  I would rather not have to manipulate and mold people into what I think they should be. I would rather be accepting of how things are done.
               I know you're not really into feelings, but again consider the possibility  you don't have to go out and discover your greatness or the love that you are.  You don't need to be praised and applauded.  All you need to do is peel back the beliefs that you are invisible and unworthy, kind of like peeling a dark, spotted banana and revealing the cream colored delicious fruit on the inside.  The first step is to be aware of these limiting beliefs.  We already identified one of your deceptive identities as being invisible. How often in your life have you felt invisible or unimportant?
            Pretty much all my life, way back to when I was a child.
            It can be helpful to go back to the first time you remember having those feelings.  It may be as a child around age three to five. Do you remember anything in particular?
            My mother always told me she never wanted children.  She lied to me and gave away my favorite toys.
            Pain is one of our greatest gifts in life because it encourages change.   A painful childhood can be a catalyst that carries into our adult life. Most of us don't like to change because it seems overwhelming and difficult, even when we realize we need it.  Change is necessary in order to move through pain. Those times in your life when you felt, second-best, powerless, unimportant, rejected, alone, are all within.  When you react to a current situation, the inner-child who felt that emotion is also triggered.  This is why sometimes we become upset or angry over what seem to be small incidents.
            I don't get upset over small incidents.  Everything is big, but yes, go on. This is beginning to make sense to me. 
              We are the creators of our lives.  We create circumstances for our own healing.  We attract people and situations to resolve the illusion of the limiting beliefs that have us stuck.  There are no victims, only volunteers. Instead of asking, "Why Me?", ask "What am I to learn from this?" Be an Actor, rather than a Victim. As an actor, you can create or find choices and options for yourself. Create your own moods. You are in charge of the way you react to the behavior of others and the events they create.  You have said you love to talk about what you THINK.  Become the observer of your thoughts. Take off the judgment. Destructive judgments of yourself and others are not relevant. Love yourself for being human.
            What do you mean by that?
            You are human.  That is, what is. You make mistakes. You encounter opposition and criticism. Be grateful for your troubles.  Put them into perspective.  You grow from them.  Look back on your life.  Would you have the success you have now obtained without the trouble and resistance you experienced?
            No, probably not.  I had never thought of it that way. I wonder why I haven't seen it before.  
            Gratitude is very powerful.   Express gratitude for everything as it was and is. No matter what negative thought crosses your mind, immediately plaster gratitude on it.  Practice gratitude instead of misery.  Search for everything, anything, just to put gratitude on it. It may move you out of your "comfort" zone, but just try it.  Another thing to notice is when your thoughts argue with reality.  Much suffering can arise when we believe a thought that argues with reality.
            Explain that.  Do you have an example?
            You have cats.  The fact is, cats do not bark. They purr and meow. Wanting the cat to bark is wanting the reality to be different than it is.  You could spend the rest of your life trying to teach your cat to bark, but it just would not happen.
            Yes, that is correct.
            A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It is the attachment to thoughts that causes suffering. Thoughts are like breezes or raindrops.  They appear and we can make friends with them.  Would you argue against a raindrop? Once a painful concept is met with understanding, the next time it appears, you may find it interesting.  What used to be the nightmare is now just interesting. When you put your hand into a fire, does someone have to tell you to move it?
            No.
            When the hand starts to burn, you move it. Once you understand that an untrue thought causes suffering, you move away from it. Let's go back to that wounded child who had her toys taken away.  Close your eyes and see the innocence in that child.
            Even back then, I was a thinker-- thinking ahead. When my mother said she would give back half the toys at the end of the year, I believed her.  I chose my favorite toys to save for later.  Little did I know she would give those away because she thought I would choose to keep my favorites. Even my mother didn't understand me.  I trusted my mother.  She betrayed me.
            Did she truly betray you?
            Yes.
            What was her intention?  Was it to hurt you?
            No….I don't think so. She thought we had too many toys. But, she still lied.
            Has there ever been a time in your life, when lying was justified?
            Possibly.  Honesty is a high and noble value EXCEPT when one is put in a position through the immorality of another, where truth would be damaging to one's own interests.
            Can you see that your mother was doing the best she knew how?  She thought that she was doing you a favor.  Repeat after me.  I forgive myself for thinking, feeling and believing that I was invisible and unimportant.  I was doing the best I knew how. I forgive my mother for giving away my favorite toys, for wanting me to be something I was not.  She was doing the best she knew how.
            I think she knew better.
            We won't judge that. Just repeat.  BE that child.
            How can that happen? How can I BE that child again?
            Just imagine it.  The mind is very powerful. You know that. You created in your mind some of the best stories ever written. BE that child. Once you are there, what is that child thinking and feeling? What does that child need right now?
            I am lost, alone, rejected, despondent.  I cannot trust even my parents.  I need to feel valuable, secure, loved, admired.
            If this scenario could have been better, what would that look like?
            What good would that do?  That's in the past.
            We are just projecting a story with our imagination. You are a master story teller. Happiness is a choice. To me, happiness is being at peace with ourselves wherever we are, who ever we are with, whatever we feel, whatever we are going through and whatever we have or lack. Could you choose to be happy right now?  Does it have to be based on future events? Does it depend on others to "make" us happy? Consider the possibility that one can be happy, no matter what the circumstances are. That is actually, the ultimate in reason and self preservation.  The ultimate in free choice. Have you ever been happy or joyful in your life ?
            Those closest I came to happiness was in 1942--the year I was writing The Fountainhead.  I spent all my time writing.  Frank and Nick prepared my meals.  It was mostly wonderful. But, I had to keep working.  I was driven, but somewhat… happy. Happiness should come from the consciousness of achieving one's values. Why am I not happy now? I do not know.
            What about peaceful?  What does Peace mean to you?
            Peace is absence of war.  Peace is having no conflicts of interest.…I cannot remember anything specific in my life that would be described as peaceful. I have always been around irrational people who create conflicts.
            Let's go back to that scenario from your childhood.  If you could change those emotions into happiness, what would it look like? Just imagine it. You can rewrite the story.
            I will keep ALL my toys to choose from.  I take some and put them in a special place.  I ask my mother to play with me and she gets down on her knees and laughs with me.  We laugh together.  My dad comes in the room and asks why we are laughing.  We giggle and I show my dad my lovely princess outfit with the long, flowing skirt and tiny crown to put atop my dark hair.  I twirl and dip and wink at him.  He lifts me up and hugs me. He is delighted and calls me beautiful. 
            Wow, I am there with you, Ayn.  Remember that feeling of love, acceptance and safety. Take a deep breath, take it into your heart…your whole body.  Now, If you could imagine the most beautiful, exquisite, safe place for you now, where would that be?
            Hmmmmm. Like Galt's Gulch.  The beautiful mountains of Colorado.
            Be even more specific.  Go to that special place…that cozy cabin, that fragrant meadow, that spectacular water fall…whatever appeals to you. The perfect, happy day…What would that look like for you in terms of images and colors?
            Teal blue sky, rugged gray-brown, snow capped mountains, green trees. I have never been a fan of nature, but somehow that is calling to me now.
            What would it taste like?
            Black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, dark Russian bread, Swiss cheese and oh, Swiss chocolates, the finest quality.
            What would it smell like?
            Pine, fir, birch and spruce trees.  Earth after rain.  Wildflowers.
            What would it feel like…that is, textures, not emotions?
            The hardness of typewriter or computer keyboard keys, my fingers flying across the keys.  The softness of a cat's fur. The feel of putting funny hats on my little stuffed lion cubs…
            What does it sound like?
            My music…my marches, my operettas, my waltzes.  I am conducting the orchestra. There is an orchestra just for me, here in Galt's Gulch.  I wave my arms.  The music envelopes me.  The audience thunderingly applauds me.  I have done well.  The music has touched us all.  I cannot believe I am talking like that.  Touching the heart…what a concept!  Perhaps I was mistaken in thinking that looking to emotions for knowledge is foolish.  All this time, Dagny has prized the lack of emotion in John Galt.  Wait a minute…I AM John Galt.  Wow.
            It IS an awesome book, you know…Atlas Shrugged.
            Have you read it?
            Yes, I have…twice.  It is rare for me to read a book twice. I enjoyed it and admired the creativity and story, especially the love story; but, truthfully, I skimmed over the philosophy parts, including that ponderously long speech of John Galt's.  For me, the power was in the story, the narrative and the characters….magnificent.
            Yesterday, I would have gotten angry at a statement like that. I would have dismissed the compliments.  I would have taken personal offense at my speech being skimmed over.  After all, it took me a good eighteen months to perfect.  But, now….that's okay, too.

(Thanks to Sandra Baker for being MY life coach and my mentor.  Thanks to my son Caleb for encouraging me to delve into the life of Ayn Rand as I read and edited his book, Philosophy of Freedom.)

Bibliography
1.     Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet, 1957).
2.     Heller, Anne C. Ayn Rand and The World She Made, (New York, Doubleday, 2009)
3.     Branden, Barbara. The Passion of Ayn Rand ( New York, Anchor Books, 1986).
4.     Harriman, David, ed. Journals of Ayn Rand (New York, Penguin, 1999).
5.     Katie, Byron. Loving What Is (Three Rivers Press, 2003)
6.     Baker, Sandra Weller. Awaken Within Life Coaching (unpublished notes, Highland, Utah, 2011)
7.     Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964).

Friday, January 23, 2015

At Liberty

            The purpose of "At Liberty" exercise is to establish a connection between horse and human, so that the horse goes to his human for comfort.  The Group (or People Barrier) consists of other persons and perhaps their horses if the horses are experienced in this game.  They are "armed" with training sticks with strings that they manipulate along with body language to give the horse signals.   
             My experience put me as the "first" of the group to do the At Liberty exercise.  I had no previous experience, neither had my horse.  My horse Kachina was chosen because she was the "wild child" of the bunch.   I had come to the horse clinic because Kachina basically had no respect for me except as the purveyor of her food supply.  She mostly ignored me and just did her own thing. I knew she had great potential as a riding and trail horse. So, I was seeking for a connection that would bring us both a joyful experience.
             I went into a separate large corral and stood in the center.  The instructor guided me as to what to do, as she drove Kachina into the corral. My role was to stand in the center and watch, but offer an open countenance to encourage Kachina to approach me.  The rest of the Group stood around me and the horse in a circle.  As Kachina approached the barrier of humans with their sticks, they encouraged her to not only stay in the enclosure, but to approach me, the "parent". The Group did this by waving their sticks and even yelling big when the horse got too close to them. When Kachina got close to me, their actions slowed down and they stood still, taking the pressure off.
             After about 15 minutes of running around, being driven into the center, Kachina stopped and faced me.  I held out my hand, but did not approach her.  The instructor wanted her to come up to me. My body language was to be open and approachable.  The objective was to have her touch me with her nose.  Eventually, she realized her safe place was with me and chose to stay close to me with no restraint.  When that connection was finally made, I petted her and praised her.   Then I began to move and walk away.  The intention was to have her follow me.  I was told by the instructor, not to look at her, but just keep walking around the enclosure.  Walk forward, walk backward, turn sharply…all with the intention of the horse following me at liberty of her own will and choice.
             Imagine my delight when Kachina actually did this!  This was a paradigm shift for me for the rest of the clinic.  The connection was certainly not "perfect", but sooooo much better. As the "parent", I had been told the purpose…which is teach the horse that there is a safe place.  Kachina had no prior knowledge of what was to happen, she had to figure it out herself from clues given by the Group surrounding her.
Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of the actual "At Liberty" session.  This is one of me with Kachina at the clinic.
            As the others did their own liberty work, I became part of the Group.   Sometimes a horse would charge at the human fence and "break through" away from his safe place.  There were dangerous things on the other side of the barrier.  There could be barbed wire or unsafe food or unstable footing or another horse who could deliver a lethal kick.  The Group did everything they could to gently persuade the horse to enter back into safe territory.  Some came back easily, some became almost defiant and  charged into unsafe situations.  If the Group slacked off on their vigilance, then the horse received positive reinforcement for straying through the barrier.  The Group had to stay alert and vigilant and consistent in order to guide the horse back to his safe place. 
            So, why tell this story?  A few nights ago, I was studying and pondering on the symbolism of the temple ceremony.  I was given a "message" from someone who identified himself as "John".
"I notice you are studying about the symbolism of the Temple ceremony.  You are on the right path. Consider looking into the symbolism of the Church."
Are you going to tell me?
 No, it is for you to discover that you might have the joy of discovery". 
            For the next few days I pondered over this…seeking metaphors and symbols that would represent the role of the Church.  As I was meditating on Monday, January 19, I was given the thought of Horses.  Ok, what about horses?  Then the phrase, At Liberty.  Aha, the entire experience of last October's Horsemanship Clinic unfolded in my mind as a metaphor or parable.
            Our Heavenly Parents send us into the corral (Mortality).  We have our free agency and can wander anywhere in the corral we want.  We are surrounded by a group of people (Church) who crack sticks and make loud noises if we get too close to the edge.  The Group provides assistance in striving to reach the eventual goal of reuniting Person (Savior) with Horse (us). The instructor (Heavenly Parent) keeps giving guidance to and through the Person.  The Horse is mostly clueless at first, but after testing all the barriers repeatedly, eventually "gets it" that his safe place is with the Savior.  Instructors (Prophets) may show up in the Group to testify of the truth and give warning and direction.  They may also show up outside the Group or somewhere else in the corral.  There may not be only one instructor, but many.   This metaphor and analogy could be expanded and expounded upon.  I think I am just beginning to get the point.  As with all parables, there are many layers to uncover.
  This is a previous photo of Kachina working with the trainer.  An example of a horse getting used to something normally scary for a prey animal.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Shrek and the Atonement Object Lesson

            Be careful what you pray for…you just might get it.   I wanted more insights into the Atonement…what is it? How do I take advantage of it? I was hoping for a book, a talk, a scripture, something along that line.  I was guided toward books such as "The Infinite Atonement" and "Come, Let Us Adore Him".
               Little did I know what was in store for us during our recreational horse camping trip.  
            My object lesson began innocently on our way to horse camping on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  We decided to stop overnight at a friend's place in Panguitch. We knew they had a pasture, but did not realize it was a situation with a barbed wire fence. I felt uneasy because of some previous bad experiences with horses and barbed wire, but told myself they would be ok. All were settling in for the evening.  They have plenty of green grass…and each other's company. I checked them about every ten minutes for a while, then settled down for bedtime in my jammies. Within about 10 minutes of checking on them, our host got a call that one of our horses was out. As we went outside and looked, it was Shrek.
  How did he get out??
 Gate was intact.  He seemed somewhat agitated and kept lifting his nose in the air.  What's the deal, Shrek?? I noticed there was blood all over his nose and running into his mouth and covering his teeth.  I saw a patch of skin hanging from his nose about the size of a fifty cent piece. He must have tangled with the fence at some point, but we couldn't figure out where.  At first he wanted to get away from us, obviously still in some sort of shock.  I ran for my first aid …kit, oils, cloths, water.  I carefully washed the nose injury as best I could, then applied Bag Balm.
            At that point, I was unsure we could continue the trip with an injury like that.  We looked him over in the dusky darkness and saw scraped skin on his left upper leg.  No blood, so I didn't treat it.  We were able to find them a safer place in an old lambing shed.  Had to go through and remove pokey nails and secure the safety.    Prepared them a dinner of alfalfa cubes.  Shrek seemed to be able to eat ok. We would make a decision in the morning and went to bed.
 (Our host's teenage daughter made an interesting comment during this incident.  She said, "I can't believe all the trouble you are going to, to take care of this horse.  Around here, if a horse did that, people would say, serves him right for being so stupid.")

            I didn't sleep very well at all and kept thinking about and praying for Shrek.  I noticed some weird pains in my legs, but attributed it to sitting for the long drive.   
            The next morning we checked Shrek.  He seemed ok as far as the nose injury, but was limping.  His left upper leg was swollen quite a bit and in treating it, noticed cuts and scrapes on his chest and other side of the leg.  Oh no, I felt bad we hadn't noticed it or treated it last night. Treated him with oils, linament and horse aspirin, and made the decision to continue on the trip.  We figured even if we couldn't ride, we would enjoy the scenery and horse camp while caring for Shrek. I tried to ask Shrek about what happened, but all I got was his feeling of embarrassment and he didn't want to talk about it.
             We found the campsite and unloaded the horses into their temporary home.   We checked Shrek and he still was sore and a hematoma had erupted on his right upper leg and we found cuts on that, too.  So I treated it again.   Bob gave Shrek a beautiful priesthood blessing that evening and we settled in our tent for the night.

            I had leg pains during the night as long as I was lying down, but they disappeared when I stood up.  I told Bob that they were "weird" and "it felt like they weren't physical, but almost like they were not part of my body."
            We checked Shrek in the morning and the swelling had gone down considerably, enough that we decided to go for a ride.  Shrek seemed so excited to go this time and not be left behind.  We medicated and treated him again and did the 5 mile ride in the forest and along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  He seemed to do great. That was plenty for the day.  Treated him and let them and us rest. Yay, naptime!    
               We settled in for the 2nd night.  Around 12:30 I was awakened with severe pains in my legs again.  They weren't like anything I had before.  Were not specific, but moved and alternated between throbs, waves and between each leg and sometimes both, running from hip to ankle. Almost felt like the pain "floated" over my body.  I was unable to sleep because of the pain, so decided to take a 1/2 Pain pill. (By the way, I am not a wimp about pain.  I gave birth to 9 pound babies at home with no anesthetic.)
             By 2 am, the pain pill still had not made a dent in the pain, so I took the other 1/2.  It really didn't occur to me that it was on an empty stomach by now.  Within 1/2 hour, I was able to drop off to sleep for about 20 minutes before I was awakened again, this time, not by pain,  but by severe dizziness and nausea.  I tried to get up and out of the tent, but was so dizzy, I had to crawl over to the opening.  I  couldn't even stand up to walk to the outhouse and was considering what I could do.  I got the tent opened and crawled out, somehow got my shoes on and stood up.  My head was spinning and I looked for something to use as a cane.  I was still feeling nauseous, so stumbled/walked/staggered over to the food boxes, found some soda and some crackers.  Took a few sips and ate a cracker.  Felt better for about 3 minutes, then worse, then threw up about 6 times, This went on off and on for the rest of the night.
             Morning came and I was still dizzy and nauseous.  I prepared a drink of sparkling water and apple juice, but threw that up, too.  Bob fixed himself some breakfast and we decided obviously there wouldn't be the planned ride this morning.  I was so miserable that I asked for and received a blessing.
            I dozed on and off, but mostly just rested for a few more hours.  Read a little, crocheted a little, just stayed in the tent, staggering to the outhouse occasionally.  There was much time for contemplation and meditation. Eventually I was able to suck on some ice cubes and then a tootsie pop.  By late afternoon, still didn't feel like eating, but wasn't nauseous.  Ate a yogurt and kept it down, then I determined I was better enough for a ride. We went for a 5 mile ride through the forest.  I was still a little dizzy, but well enough sitting on a horse and enjoyed the beautiful ride.
             I had no more "leg pains", but still had dizziness and coordination problems.  As I contemplated and prayed about the whole situation, I was told by the spirit that this was an object lesson on the Atonement.  What?  How so?
             It was a lesson with many layers, the first of which was obvious…keep horses from being around barbed wire. One of the layers had to do with the Atonement.  This was brought about as I experienced the bouts of leg pain for 3 days, which mirrored and took on Shrek's pain.
             We had sent Shrek into an earthly situation with all kinds of obstacles.  Something happened where he made poor choices and got into a situation where he hurt himself.  I felt bad for him, wanted to help him and relieve his pain.    I was told this pain was but a fraction of a grain of sand compared to all the stars in the universe as comparing the pain to what the Savior went through.  

            I really didn't "get" what the Atonement entailed.  I still don't completely "get" it, but am a little closer to more understanding now.  Okay, I somewhat get the lesson of the pain, but what is the lesson of the sickness (vertigo and nausea)?
             They are a symbol or metaphor for addiction and character weakness.  Addictions can hit as we look to a remedy for pain, any kind, physical or emotional.  They entrench themselves in the bloodstream, in the psyche and are very difficult to overcome.  May involve purging and upchucking of toxic substances.  Care must be taken as to what is put back in the body.

            Sometimes, we take upon us, not only physical ailments, but take on emotional baggage, take on negative and deceptive identities or core beliefs that are not really true.  When we believe these things about ourselves, we often turn to addictions of many varieties, some of which are socially acceptable.   These addictions can drive us further into denial of who we really are.  It might be painful and uncomfortable to purge ourselves. Our sins cause us to be nauseous (sick at heart). We might stumble and crawl to find our way to the light.  We may be reluctant to seek Christ and take the steps that help us return to our true selves--to repent, seek forgiveness, forgive ourselves and others. As I considered the messages and metaphors, I thought of comparing some of these things to the 12 steps-- using the hiking stick of Hope and Trust in God, the crackers of Honesty and Truth, the little sips of Humility, the flashlight of Personal Revelation, the ice chips of Change of Heart and Accountability, the creamy yogurt of Forgiveness and the tootsie pop of Service.
            I am so grateful I was able to go through this uncomfortable, but vivid learning experience.  Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it, but perhaps in a way you weren't expecting.
            This experience may not resonate with anyone else and there are more levels and layers that I have not revealed. But, just being guided to a book doesn't quite have the same impact as taking on the pain of an injured horse.