“I tried to convince myself that I could get up and leave, but my fear that I would die if I ran away had led me here, and now it urged me to stay. There, on my hands and knees, not knowing what else to do, I began reciting the Serenity Prayer, which I had recently learned: God, grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference. I focused on each phrase, because I was desperate for a moment of inner peace. More than anything in the world, I just wanted a few minutes of quiet inside my noisy mind.
“I whispered the words just loud enough so I could hear them over and over and over again: “God, grant me courage to change.” I wanted to change; I needed to change, or I was going to kill myself. I was begging and crying hysterically. With my head in my hands, I sobbed uncontrollably, rocking my body from side to side, trying to soothe my broken heart, until suddenly I realized that something inside of me had shifted: a calm had come over me, a silence that was palpable.
“In asking God, this higher power, to enter my awareness, something inside of me had opened up and relaxed. Slowly, the stress in my body and the screaming voice in my mind subsided, and peace enveloped my entire being. Even the filthy, disgusting bathroom floor didn’t look so bad. There was a release, a letting go, a clarity, an expansiveness, but most important, there was some hope. My God, I had hope. Just what my soul needed most.
“I share this experience on the bathroom floor of the West Palm
Beach Institute because it was the defining moment when I discovered that a power greater than the self that I knew existed. It was in this moment that I began to heal and transform my inner world and form a deep, loving relationship with the power that I now know as God. It was my day, my miracle, my choice point. And every day for the next eighteen days, I made the choice to find my way back into that bathroom, which had become my holy sanctuary — a place where I could reconnect with the all-loving presence that had delivered me access to the higher aspect of myself and this inner resource that could shift a moment of pain to a moment of awakening.
“Through this daily ritual of prayer, I found the strength to finally make it through all twenty-eight days of treatment. On one warmFloridaday nearly twenty-six years ago, I walked out of my last treatment center, knowing that I had tapped into a power and a resource that could remove obstacles, change people’s perceptions of the world and their lives, and lead me to a future I couldn’t even fathom. That day, I knew with every fiber of my being that I needed to further explore, understand, and, more important, devote my life to finding and knowing God.”
Today, she’s continuing in her work – even though the cancer battle occasionally slows her down. Among the messages she wants to proclaim is that we must confront the “dark shadows” of our past failures, humiliations, trauma — or worse:
Tossing a coin into Rome's Trevi Fountain; speaking at a Miami conference
“If we do not confront the past, we inevitably carry it around with us, dragging it into the present and allowing it to set the course for the future. We try to hide our beliefs about who we are, beliefs formed in our past (‘I’m phony,’ ‘I’m stupid,’ ‘I’m worthless,’ ‘I’m unlovable’) which I call ‘Shadow Beliefs.’
“But we seek out experiences that will validate what we believe to be
true about ourselves. When we confront the past and integrate its wisdom, we don’t have to keep repeating the experiences or learning the same lesson over and over in this lifetime.
“Right now, when we hold on to any pain from our past, we look through those lenses, through that set of eyes. When we confront the past, we start to see out of new eyes, eyes of possibility and of freedom.
“I’ve been working with the shadow for 15 years and I can assure you that there is nothing ‘truly terrible’ hidden in the human shadow. The human shadow comes bearing great gifts. It is the fear of the human shadow that keeps it suppressed and hidden and allows it to exert power and control over our lives.
“Bt I’ve never seen the human shadow, when faced and embraced, do anything horrible to anybody. I’ve only ever seen it help people.”
Are there times when it’s best to leave such shadows alone? To move on?
“No,” she says. ”If I have learned one thing working with the shadow all these years, it is ‘What we can’t be with won’t let us be.’ When the shadow is suppressed and ignored, it builds up power and strength, wreaking havoc in our lives. But when we are willing to face the shadow and embrace it by finding its gifts, we are granted the ability to be our most gracious authentic selves and make the best choices.”