What I learned in therapy: Owning my spirituality in 2021

“Purposefulness is one of our most potent antidepressants.”

(Tiffany Sankofa)

When you think you’re walking in one direction, and then…

Retirement was a year away.  I started seeing Tiffany to help me transition to what I called a “life-giving retirement.” To tell the truth, I was also feeling anxious and lost. When I first started seeing Tiffany, she asked me to set an intention. I told her that I want to be a more loving presence in the World. She often reminds me of this as we work together.  

 About ten years earlier, as a 49-year-old woman, wife, mom of teenagers, medical professional, life-long Catholic, and spiritual seeker, I recovered a memory of abuse that occurred in a church context when I was about age 10. By the time I found Tiffany, I had been to counseling and tried used various modalities, (for example, Reiki,) to try and process my trauma. 

Eventually, Tiffany became my guide and friend on the journey, and during my work with her, part of what I discovered was that I needed to tend to my spiritual self. While some of the events I describe here occurred before I knew Tiffany, I was able to peel back more and more “layers of the onion” and gain better insight into myself with her as my guide.

Three Important Questions:

On a recent Facebook post, the author Parker Palmer discusses aging in the context of three questions: “What can I let go of?” and “What do I need to hang on to?” and “What do I want to give myself to?”  I thought these questions might be a helpful framework as I describe my spiritual healing journey. 

What do I need to hang onto? 

After I recovered the memory, I kept going to Mass. My husband and I went every Sunday. At first, I didn’t entertain the thought of leaving the Church.  But the more I continued to go, the more anxious and angry I became. Seeing a priest standing in a position of power over the people, telling them how they should act and what to believe, infuriated me.  

My long-held beliefs made me afraid of what would happen to me if I left the Church:  Would I be struck by lightning or afflicted with some horrible disease?  I struggled with the decision. What was I leaving? What should I hang onto? The institution, the beliefs, the family ritual, the friends, and the comfort I had also known in that place?  

What do I need to let go of? 

A special friend once gave me a book called Love Poems from God, by Daniel Ladinsky.  One day, looking back through that book, I found a quote by Meister Eckhardt that says, “Anything that does not give you peace, is not from God.”  I pondered this for a long time. Who is that God? 

Going to church was not giving me peace, so…I took a deep breath…and stopped going. Old stories and images of God that I had learned as a child were not giving me peace, so I told that God - and Jesus – that they, especially their male images, disturbed me. I didn’t trust any organized religion. Anything that claimed to know the “truth” or imposed rules about “God” and about how I was supposed to live was not going to give me peace. 

I was angry, sad, and grieving. I felt alone. I felt like there might be a “God” somewhere, but I didn’t feel connected. I felt I needed some higher power to help me in life and provide a source of love, comfort, and hope. I told this God that if they were there, they needed to come find me. 

What do I want to give myself to? 

My spiritual journey kept coming up my meetings with Tiffany. One day she brought up the idea that I not only have a divine nature, but that I am a Co-Creator – with God.  WHAAATTT? Am I “allowed” to think that? What about “God’s plans for me?” Don’t I need to have some God who’s “in charge?”  Old feelings of shame came up.  It sounded good in my head, but I didn’t believe it in my heart. 

Over that last year or so, I have journaled and meditated on this, and I reminded God that I was waiting. Tiffany kept gently reminding me that I have a choice to be a Co-Creator with God, to claim my own spiritual authority.  

The power of play

Recently I started getting a sense that I should stop being so serious and start having more FUN (yes during the pandemic!) So, I took an online painting class – a 22-day painting and meditation challenge.  I never really painted before but found the pitch that “there are no mistakes in this class” to be very appealing.  We painted Green Tara, who is considered to be the divine feminine Buddha. According to Rachael Wooten, author of “Tara, The Liberating Power of the Female Buddha”, Tara has 21 different manifestations, each with a different gift to offer someone in need. 

One day I sat looking at my Green Tara. I asked her, “Who are you? Are you just another man-made God image?  Do I need to become a Buddhist to “follow you?” And the answer I received was, “Look at the painting…you are painting yourself.  We are one.”  All of the gifts Tara offers are within me!  What I really needed to do was connect with myself, my own divine nature.  Claim and trust my spiritual authority!

Revisiting the question

It is with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I go back to Palmer’s last question:  What do I want to give myself to? What takes me to life-giving places where I find meaning, energy, abundance, and a path of heart?

I want to give myself to – ME!  I want to take the time to nurture myself, to deeply listen to myself, to honor and trust my own spiritual nature and my connection to a Universal Source. And when I forget, trust that I will be reminded - again and again.

Your turn

And now, Tiffany would ask the question, “Does this lean toward your intention of being a more loving presence in the world, or away?” 

Towards, definitely, towards!  

Thanks, Tiffany!


Thank YOU, client! Both for letting me share this part of your journey with you and for sharing it with others. 

Friends, have you ever pondered this client’s questions? I hope you will. If you want help with that, please contact me here. Let’s explore your best next steps and see where they take you!