I recently went to an art fair in downtown Santa Fe. During which, I met an artist who paints beautiful mandalas and started his work as a way to heal from the darkness in his life. We connected deeply and began sharing some personal experiences about the waves of our lives. And for the first time in weeks, I felt comfortable sharing a personal story of Merlin. I had promised myself that I would only share the sacred connection with my teacher with myself for a while, to understand the value of the sacred nature of our work. Something in me felt the need to tell him a story, one of bravery, and recognition for the many aspects that relationship filled within me. And it is funny in hindsight because he had said almost the exact words I had said in that experience with Merlin.
I know I’m not being specific. The thought of blasting it out into the Internet for all to see is overwhelming at best, but if you could imagine meeting someone at a time of choosing either to live in a dream like most people, or to take a step down the not-so-easy path toward self-discovery, then cultivating the relationship to the point of trusting another human being with your very life, with your deepest vulnerabilities, with your wildest nature, with your ugliest shame, and realizing ultimately that being you is okay- you may begin the understand the surface of the connection between Merlin and I.
My artist friend, Charles, had mentioned that in his early life he joined a cult whose guru manipulated and abused his power with his devotees, and how he felt the experience was something like spiritual incest. Because the bond between teacher and student is one so delicate and takes such precision and awareness, that anything the teacher does to manipulate the trust they’ve been given can unravel the student. Charles, though he has become his own teacher, and used his life as Dharma, yearns to this day, shining and hoping for a true teacher to take notice, saying “I’m here. Please look at me, recognize me, so I can see myself.”
Most people wouldn’t believe the things I’ve done, the challenges I’ve met, just so I could see myself. Most would add some kind of judgement to my experience, whether its jealousy (because their own yearning for a personal physical teacher has not yet been filled), or skepticism ( because why would someone risk their life ‘unnecessarily’?) or a slew of reasons really- I don’t know what’s in the minds of others, I only know what my own mind has said, and what other people have said outwardly (although, even then people sometimes mean something substantially different from the words coming out of their mouths).
I read this poem recently called Percy Wakes Me by Mary Oliver- it is a wonderful experience where Mary’s dog wakes her and she rejoices in his cleverness in showing her what he needed. He is so happy to have expressed himself and received praise instead of patronization. So happy to be himself. So often, I’ve been afraid to say what I needed, and more so to hear what I needed. And as I sit here and look back into the treasure trove of memory, loving the harmony of just one relationship I was lucky to experience, I remember back to the beginning of the journey with Merlin. When, after biofeedback sessions, I would sit with him for hours in a cafe, or walking downtown toward Grand Central with him- asking him questions about life, telling him about myself, listening to his words, and realizing that I could learn much more than biofeedback with him, also basking in the knowledge of ‘okayness.’
Truly, for the first time in my life, it was okay to be myself, it was okay to be playful, angry, intense, jealous, brave, sassy, honest.
My relationship with my former fiancé had been nearing its end. The kind of experience where it feels like you’re holding tight to a string attached to a huge helium balloon that is just bursting for the freedom of air and open skies. I had been contemplating every possible way to keep the relationship alive- from allowing an open relationship, to living in separate apartments. Then, wonderfully, my friend from Geneva invited me to meet an esteemed chakra healer- the message was simply “There’s a healer coming to Switzerland in a month. It will change your life.”
With those words swimming in my mind, I booked a flight to Geneva. Much happened those two weeks- I had lessened contact with my former fiancé, thought I was a bonafide chakra healer out to save the world, was introduced to the system of chakras, and thoughts that dis-ease come from spiritual unrest, and ultimately met Louis, a lovely middle-aged French man, married, and just as wounded as I was.
I’ve since learned that going to seminars and workshops, especially ones geared toward spiritual enlightenment, attract a certain crowd of people-mostly, people who are searching for acceptance, good feelings, and fulfillment. Which, now that I think about it, most people look for in life. But going to these seminars breed this thought of ‘I am so accepted here, why can’t I be accepted in my own life?’ It feels like a state of unreality and false love for people who are equally as lonely and looking to feel special. Then, coming away from the experience, real life hits hard.
With that, I came away from the seminar, after fooling around with the married French man, saying that I didn’t truly love my former fiancé, that I shared a deeper connection with Louis. I arrived home to a devastated man, begging for another chance, for a shot to prove that I truly did love him. And I feel sad for the experience now because I had no empathy for him- I understood his pain but could care less about what I did, and justified what I did, under the guise of loving someone “spiritually.” He said “Norma, please come with me to New Orleans for Christmas. Please let me show you that we do have love for each other. Please let me prove I can change.”
Soon after that conversation, I met with Merlin at a local cupcake shop in the village. I told him everything- pretty smugly at that- And something about him- he DOES NOT interfere with people’s choices, nor does he say Do this or Don’t do this, he merely suggests other options, or brings awareness to the choices available. But in that conversation I was telling him my fiancé wanted to do a road trip to New Orleans to spend Christmas with the family how I didn’t want to be with him anymore but I might give it a chance, and for the first time, he said “Don’t do it. Listen to yourself, you are practically telling me you don’t want to go. Don’t go.”
I went. I smoked so much dope on the road trip and slept through most of it, from NYC to Tennessee. We attempted to be intimate but it felt horrible, both of us felt angry and unwanted by the other. Finally, we got to his parents house, where he told them what I did, and every moment from then felt like I was in a hornets nest, curled in a corner, attempting to go unnoticed and unstung. While there, we went to parties, and pretended to be normal around his family, but each party I was compared to his mother, who had been disrespected by everyone- from her husband, to her kids, to her sister, and in-laws, and each party when I started on my chakra-talk, they would make jokes about me and finally, I realized, if I stay here, this will be my life, for the rest of my life.
I could feel myself slipping away, into a stasis of misery which lasted a month. Luckily, on the request of a girlfriend, I had the chance to visit Puerto Rico- I jumped to leave Louisiana to explore the beauty of the island- while there I messaged my former fiancé and Merlin, all the while growing a crush for my teacher.
You can imagine why- he paid me positive attention, he was an older man (9 years my senior, although he says it might as well be 9,000), I felt heard in topics my ex would never tolerate like spiritual truth, chakras, synchronicity, and he is a beautiful person- inside and out with a life of adventure and authenticity.
A lot happened after the Puerto Rico trip, my ex and I broke up within a month, I began traveling to study all types of things- sound therapy, connecting to my intuition, meeting Sonia Choquette at Ask Your Guides, but just before I left my former fiancé I had a conversation with Merlin.
I had a week to myself in NYC between coming back from PR and going to Geneva to celebrate my friends birthday and I decided to tell Merlin my feelings:
I texted something like, “Merlin, I have never in my life felt so comfortable with someone. I am very attracted to you- I find you refreshing and different from anyone I’ve ever known.”
He replied, “Norma, you are very brave to be so open with your feelings. Never lose that.”
I asked, “Do you feel the same?”
He then said, “The feeling is not reciprocated. You are my student and it is impossible for me to see you in any other way. Have a wonderful evening!”
In the moment I felt rejected and sad but in this moment I relish the fact that he set the boundary of teacher/student. The reason is this: Not only did he support my feelings to express myself authentically in that moment, providing the grace of meeting me where I was, in the grand picture of it, he established that deep, intimate, connections could be outside of the realm of romance.
Flash forward two years: we were sitting in the car in the beautiful Painted Desert of Arizona and I had just done something that easily compromised my life and we were joking around- screaming like some crazy monsters in Men in Black, in a playful way that I’ve never shared with anyone else- the freedom of being that comes with allowing my heart to open to our work and his dear guidance- And all I could think about was the dynamic of our relationship- he played so many roles that I had felt were lost before we met. And the best feeling was that he recognized what I needed from him, and gave it so openly. In his giving, I was finally able to be myself, wholly, sassily, wonderfully, myself and feel (as Mary Oliver so perfectly says) wild with the Okayness of it.
Truly, there is no feeling like being recognized and rejoiced in who you are. It takes immense courage and practice to even begin to see inside yourself, but once you do you may come to the same realization I did, there is nowhere and no one I’d rather be.