The life I now live, with far more radiance than rain, could never have been forecast at the time of my birth. When you make an earth landing into the beating heart of the Bible Belt, and Papa is a preacher, not much is expected of you in the way of individuation. And until I was thirty-four, I not only co-operated with my religious upbringing, but did my best to shine within its boundaries. Following a childhood of sincere compliance, I went to our church’s college, married the senior class president, and migrated to California three years later with our ten-day-old firstborn. My husband had been hired to be on the staff of my father’s church. So much for marrying a math major! (Who knew his mellow voice and sexy trombone-playing would result in becoming a Minister of Music?) Our new family took up residence in the "little parsonage" just down the alley from the church. Life seemed to have come full circle. But as Pearl Jam famously declared, “nothing is as it seems.”
California became for me the manger of radical transformation. Of all people, my father was my trail blazer. He uncharacteristically sought counsel in the midst of a great unraveling in his life, and I beat a path to the same door, taking up the role of eager client. I was so smitten with out-of-bounds nature of therapy, where real answers were preferable to the “right” answers, that I decided to get a Master’s in counseling and swap seats in the client-therapist paradigm. No one anticipated that such a course of action would lead not only to a new career, but to breaking a five-generation chain of religious belief. By then a mother of two young sons, I left the church I had once believed was “the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth.” So help me, God!
It was time to be released from the spiritual tether! I began delving into dreams, astrology, past life studies, meditation and my own deep intuitive knowing. I read, broke rules, read, took risks, read, and connected with others for whom religion had not worked out as planned. Out of my counseling practice, I birthed a third child: a workshop series called "Breathing Free," which used Holotropic Breathwork to help people release deep, buried pain and emerge much lighter and more whole. This series spawned a spiritual community which I led for a decade. The irony was blinding: I had become the “minster” of my own “congregation.”
Many relationships, including my marriage, became a vehicle for knowing myself and discovering my own lost truth. Even a divorce after twenty-seven years opened chambers of my heart that had been crusted shut. Yet somehow this was not so much culmination as it was taking my place at the starting gate! In the unlikeliest turn of events, I chose to get an astrology reading which led to becoming a professional astrologer—one of the most radical and life-affirming choices of my path. By now “Kansas” was nowhere to be seen! Since I’ve always had the habit of teaching what I learn approximately five minutes after I comprehend it, I soon created a series of classes entitled, "Charting Your Own Course," a comprehensive, experiential astrology program that I have taught for over twenty years. Along the way, I met and became an apprentice of one of America's foremost astrologers, Steven Forrest, who not only looked like the quintessential astrologer, but had the wizardry to match his visage. Studying with him across the last twelve years has deepened my astrological practice beyond measure; although, remarkably, I still look more traditional than zany.
But something was still missing. Untapped within me was a five-year-old who wrote her first poem at a massive walnut dining table and knew she was a writer. I had informally written all my life—albeit mostly journals—and that five-year-old was getting grouchy. Why aren’t we doing this for real? she wanted to know. So in 2006, I published my first book, "Who Are You Calling Grandma? True Confessions of a Baby Boomer's Passage." With the help of my unborn grandchild, I found my writing voice buried under a stack of outworn insecurities. In 2010, I wrote a second book for and with my mother, Adelaide Woodcook. "Houses of My Consciousness -- Waking from Religion to Spirit" is her memoir of emerging from her own religious past.
Today my writing and astrological work create a multi-faceted mission. My readings, newsletter (Crossing Paths), Evolving Journey Blog, talks, books and "arTickles" have one indelible thread running through them: radical trust in one's own evolution—outliving the person you believed yourself to be. That calling is the guiding star that takes me home again and again...to be present in my own life, to laugh at myself, and to learn from everything.
The journey continues...