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A banner made for the Peace Fence in 2007 that is now on a tile in front of the Ashland library.

Inner Peace: Breathing beneath the surface

As the veils begin to thin, I think of borders. Borders are everywhere. They are between houses and countries, water and land and life and death. I lost my son six years ago, and the tool of story is helping me to navigate this border. Story is powerful, for it brings the seen and unseen together. Story is magical for me; I have always found an enchanted space that exists between the storyteller and the listener(s). Within the borders of story lie many creative possibilities for characters, setting and ways problems are navigated.

When I first attended the Tree of Living and Dying Ceremony, we were invited to tell “a story.” When I heard the article “a,” knowing this meant any story, which is different than “the,” meaning there is a specific one. I exhaled in relief, knowing I wasn’t expected to tell “the” story of my son’s painful death. I wanted to tell a story, and remembered a poem I had just read, titled “Breathing Underwater.” I felt inspired to stand up and tell a new story that went something like this:

“There once was a girl who lived in the water. She was happy. She loved the water. She loved to swim and play, but she was lonely. The Goddess smiled on her and blessed her with a son. Together they played and played. They loved swimming together and floating in the sun. The girl was afraid of what lies underneath the water, so they stayed on the surface.

“One day the boy disappeared. She could not find him. She looked and looked, but he was gone. She began to sink. She sunk to the bottom and could not breathe. She saw others sinking around her. She panicked and swallowed water then learned how to kick hard. She made it back to the surface. Now on the surface, she noticed others continuing to sink. What could she do?

“She was so tired and felt alone. But she had made it back, so she could probably do it again. She began the journey below, and helped someone to the surface. Now she did not feel alone. Each time she went underneath, she learned new ways to get back to the surface. She found herself breathing easier, and then discovered she could breathe underwater! During the arduous journeys back and forth, she also discovered incredible beauty beneath the surface, and her fear of the deep dissolved.”

When I was witnessed publicly telling this story, I found a new perspective on my loss by using metaphors. Making the shift from first to third person was healing and led me to embrace multiple identities and relationships with the loss, transmuting emotions and energies to a higher vibration. I released the old story that no longer served me. I felt more in control, and realized I need not stay suffering amid the heaviness of the old story. Though it still exists, there are many stories woven together into a whole. The stories used to border each other, but now the borders blur, and I am more at peace.

I am now a board member of the Spirit of Resh Foundation, which sponsored that Tree of Living and Dying event. I subscribe strongly to one of Resh’s principles: “Trusting in the interconnectedness between that which is seen and unseen transforms fear into love.”

This premise brings me ever closer to achieving Inner Peace. I invite you to find peace by joining this year’s Tree of Living and Dying event, which is one way to bring you up from the depths. You may even consider telling “a” story.

Megan Farnsworth, in addition to serving on the Spirit of Resh Board of Directors, is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Southern Oregon University and the co-leader of The Compassionate Friends. The Tree of Living & Dying: A Gathering for Sacred Story will be held from 6:30—9 p.m. Nov. 1 at Hidden Springs Wellness Center. For more information, go to www.reshfoundation.org. You can see Megan’s recently published book, “Determining Difference from Disability,” at bit.ly/2PnkcO6.

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