I am feeling both apprehensive and excited. Jean is about to enter an inner story and work in the realm of metaphor. We had been working together for several years and Jean had made significant progress, but whenever we worked this way, her progress skyrocketed. “Are you ready,” I ask. Nodding, Jean says that she is. “Close your eyes and notice your breath”. After a few moments, I inquire, “Where are you?” She immediately starts relaying to me the room she finds herself in, the dried herbs that are hanging off the rafters on the ceiling, the wooden table and chairs, the windows, the cat that lives there, etc. I think to myself that the room feels right for the time period.
In the previous week’s session, as Jean talked, the energy in the room was so charged I could barely sit still. I finally interrupted her and said, “I have to stop you. What are you feeling? Can you feel the energy in the room?” She said that she felt blocked. I responded. “Notice what you are experiencing, I think there is something you need to tune into”.
We then talked about her fear of opening up her intuition, her fear of being psychic, and the sense of responsibility and danger that she had around the spiritual and psychic, of trusting this part of her self.
Jean closed her eyes for a moment. As we focused inwardly, I “heard” the words “witch” and “burning”. Jean heard the word “Salem”. We discussed this, and she decided that she did want to explore further and so scheduled the double session that we were starting right now.
As we talked before starting, Jean mentioned Amma, the hugging Saint and her feelings of discomfort with the chanting in the room when she had seen her. I immediately teared up and could barely keep myself from crying. I could feel and hear a crowd of people chanting, “burn them, burn them”. This would be the second inner story I would work with, where a woman was burned for being a witch and the horror and grief I felt was immense. As I listened to the images and feelings moving thru my body, Jean also began to receive images, thoughts and feelings. This often happens with the clients I work with imaginally who are open and sensitive and it is a relief for me, and usually a surprise to them.
As we focus inwardly and tune into our inner experiences, we locate the time and place quickly and easily: 1654 in Salem, who this woman was (we will call her Leah) and how she lived and died. Although Jean received a different date, 200 years later: 1854, I am sure that the one I received is correct. Dates and places almost always come to me right away, but I am aware of having no idea of when the Salem witch trials took place. Doubt runs through my mind for a moment. I am glad she got the last 2 digits the same. It is always good to get some confirmation. (I look it up that night on the Internet and my date is in the right time frame.) Then I remind myself, it doesn’t matter if this ever existed in outer reality. What matters is that it exists right now in an inner reality. We continue to receive information and look at Leah’s role in the town. We looked at an event, a caution to a woman with a baby that was not heeded, the death that resulted and the blame that then ensued. She had a partner (who we will call Helen) and they were lesbians, unbeknownst to the people of the town. Helen was crippled in her legs. Leah was a healer: both as an herbalist and a psychic. We gathered information until I felt that we had enough.
Jean and I then talked and processed the impact of this story. We looked at Jean’s fear of what was about to occur: engaging imaginally and co-participating with this story. We looked at her feelings about the qualities that Leah embodied. Then I asked Jean if she was ready to enter that story. Jean was scared but wanted to go ahead. I asked her whom she needed to bring with her, to provide her with a sense of protection and safety. This is not always necessary, but definitely was needed in this situation. She chose Archangel Michael. I made sure that she had a sense of his presence and felt protected by him. I explained that she was not going to merge with Leah, but be with her, and assist and support her in any way that she could, because I don’t want to Jean to become traumatized by being in a powerless situation.
“Where are the women”, I ask, wondering how this scenario is going to unfold. “Leah is tied and lying on the floor next Helen”. “How are they tied”, I ask. “Like a hog: hands behind the back and legs to the hands”, she stated. Not expecting this, I feel the impact hit me and am immediately concerned. I ask Jean “who do you need to be with, which one needs support?” Jean states that Leah needs her. She continues, “the door is barred and there are people outside yelling.” “How are the women?” I ask. “They are both terrified and confused, they don’t understand what is going on, or why; they feel betrayed” Jean answered. Jean has her arms around herself and looks scared. I ask her if she is and she says yes. I reassure her, “this isn’t your life right now. You are in my office and I am with you. You are only assisting these woman in a different reality through a very difficult time.” (I also make sure my clients know that they do not have to continue if they do not want to).
“What does Leah need from you?” Jean sits silently for a moment and I ask her “what is happening right now?” She says that she has sat down next to Leah and that she is stroking her hair. “Does Leah need more contact than that?” I ask. Jean responds that she is going to lie down next to her so that Leah can feel her body and her presence. Jean lay down next to Leah offering her more contact and more comfort. I ask Jean “Do you have anything to say to either of them, or do they need anything else from you?” Jean says yes, Leah asked her if this was a good death. Did it make sense? “I don’t know what to tell her”, Jean says confused and frightened herself. I think for a second. It is clear to me what needs to be shifted. I say, “It was a good life. You brought light into a place that needed light. It is not about the death, but about the life you lived.” This perspective helped both Jean, and Leah. Jean then said that she just got that Leah’s absence would cause her community to realize that she had been valuable to them. They would miss her. This knowing helped both Jean and Leah. Her value and contribution would not be completely destroyed.
“It is getting hotter, too hot. I am putting a coolness around them. The smoke is getting thicker, the noise of the flames is getting louder and mixing in with the yelling”, Jean said. Periodically Jean would start to sob and say that she was scared, and I would talk to her and remind her that she isn’t in that life. “What part is scaring you?” I ask. “I keep thinking about what burned bodies look like” she sobs. I say that the women would be unconscious or dead before the burned. But I am wondering, hoping, that they really couldn’t feel anything by the time they burn. I move away from this thought quickly, so I can continue to be present to what is occurring with Jean and in the room. I also am thinking about how much courage Jean has to be in this situation, to stay with it, to watch these lives end and help them through it despite the horror of it and her own terror.
This work is a somatic experience for me. I see images, know dates, hear numbers and feel feelings. Sometimes I tear up or can barely stand what I am experiencing. Even as just a witness, I am engaged in the process. As I guide my client, I am with her as she is with her inner story. I cry, feel grief, relief, and happiness as the process moves. I have to be with myself to stay with her as she sobs about her fear of burned bodies, just as she has to be with herself to step into this work.
Jean then tells me that she feels much younger than this woman, that Leah had a maturity and commitment to her life, that she does not yet possess. I then ask, “how are the women now?” “They are moving in and out of consciousness. The floor is very hot and the fire is loud and scary. The yelling of the crowd outside is merged with the noise of the fire. It is so loud that I can’t tell the difference between the screaming and the flames.” Then Jean says that she has to step back because she is keeping the women too cool and that they need to pass out, the fire is too close. “That is fine,” I state, “But I want you to stay with them until they die if you can”.
I ask Jean if the woman need to do anything between them. Or does Helen need anything from her. Jean says, “ they are staring into each other’s eyes with love and it is very powerful to witness. They are not afraid any more. That has shifted.” As Jean described how much love was between the two women, how beautiful it is for her to witness this, we both feel at the same moment that Helen is Jean’s mother. She cried at this new awareness, as her relationship with her mother had been both very deep and problematic and is not fully resolved. Then she says, “they are holding hands now, so I know they have passed” (they had been tied up). I ask Jean what needs to happen now. She says, “Leah wants to go out into the crowd to see them and send them love and forgiveness.” Outside of the burning house and the death scene and in the crowd, Jean says that Leah is sending love and forgiveness, and the people are calming down and the yelling is lessening, except for a few men who seem intent on perpetuating the frenzy. Jean says, “The crowd is drifting away, but there is a little girl around 10 years old who is still sitting there. She won’t leave. She is going to sit and watch the burning through the night”.
“Who is she”, I ask. “She is very sad”, Jean replies. “She has spent a lot of time with these women and loves them. Leah wants to go and sit with her and let her feel her energy and send her love.” I asked Jean if the girl can sense Leah’s presence and she says yes, it is making her feel better, and that this girl would be the next one who would honor this kind of intuitive knowing. Eventually Jean says that they are ready to leave. I asked her if she is going to assist them in fully crossing over, and she says, “No, Archangel Michael is going to do that”. “Are you ready to come back,” I ask. Jean is ready, so I instruct her to breathe and do a quick meditation having her notice her body and her breath, and remind her that she is in my office with me. I let her know that when she opens her eyes it will seem very bright and to take her time. I always do this so that the transition from the place of doing powerful and emotional inner work to sitting back in “reality” is gentle.
Jean sat for a bit and then slowly opened her eyes. We look at each other. I am awed by what she has just gone through and am proud of her for being able to do it. We talk about what the experience was like for her, and what she has already learned. We discuss the qualities that Leah had that Jean wants to develop in her own life. We look at how Jean now feels different: more powerful, less afraid. She is no longer carrying the terror of how Leah had died, so much as an honoring of how she had lived and of who she had been, the qualities she had embodied. Jean states that she still has a fear of the world not being safe. We discussed the balance between healthy fear and caution, and debilitating fear, and the impact of the work on Jean’s sense of self.
I want Jean to honor herself for the journey that she has just taken, her courage in facing her fears and going through that experience. Jean is somewhat resistant to this idea. It is difficult for her to praise herself. She thinks that what she did is what was “supposed” to occur, thereby giving away her power as a person who made a choice to face some deep fears to do this piece of work. Despite this, she recognizes the power of the journey she has just taken.
These experiences are now accessible to Jean. As active parts of her psyche, Jean can now access the supportive part of her self and soothe the fearful part of her self in a new way. Thus this experience created new pathways of self-support and has enlarged and opened her inner world.
Jean is now claiming the aspects of herself that can support her and help her become stronger. She no longer denies her intuition, which is powerful and insightful. And she is releasing fears that have no relevance in her life. She is becoming a woman who she is proud to be.