a space to heal

“How can what I’m going through be helpful to others?” This is a question that I ask myself everyday, and it is the focus of my blog. One challenge that I’ve faced while going through this divorce is not being able to write about all aspects of it, since it also involves my estranged husband, Jack. But really, no matter what is happening in my life, I do not talk about other people here. That cannot be helpful to anyone including me….but talk I must, at least with my spiritual counselor, friends, and family who can be with me without judgement and who can allow me to hear the wisdom that will lead me to an expanded life.

I’ve been surprised at the amount of anger and bitterness that has come out of me, especially in the first few months, and more surprised (really horrified) that it wasn’t just with these “safe” people that I shared what was happening. As a matter of fact, I felt as though I could not meet anyone without telling them what had happened in my marriage. There were a number of instances when a voice in my head said, “This is inappropriate” and yet, I could not stop myself. I felt like a possessed, revenge-filled, angry, hurt, woman, who could not shut up. I started to become afraid that this “bitter root” was going to take hold and I’d end up old, alone, and endlessly repeating my sad story. 

I had lunch with a friend a while ago and I was still on this roll. She was a gracious listener and said what felt like the most soothing words I could hear. After I finished my lament she said, “What the f….! And I said, “Thank you”.

Her words, with all of their force, perfectly met the emotions that I was feeling. After that lunch was over, another voice came into my head and it simply said, “enough”. From that moment on, I’ve been able to walk in a new direction, toward a life that I want to live and as the person whom I want to be…but it took going through that ugly, strange, angry, messy, time as honestly as I could, to come out the other side. I may well have alienated people along the way but I also believe that true friendship and love can withstand our less-than-perfect, troubled, temporarily insane selves. 

I never go through anything without reflecting on my own behavior, and this divorce has been no different. Lately I’ve thought about two people who came to me years ago, when they had just broken with their spouses. I’d like to say that I met them with the same open, present, energy as the people in my life, but it isn’t true. In both cases I tried to be “spiritual”, reminding them that nothing happens randomly, that this really was happening “for them”…blah, blah…it makes me cringe to think about this now. Not that I don’t believe these things, because I absolutely do, but my timing was all wrong. They weren’t even close to the healing stage yet. They were both freshly out, wounded, and in so much pain. What I wish I’d said, when they told me what had happened, is, “What the f….! How are you? What do you need from me? I’m here for you”, but I didn’t…and I lost both of those relationships…but I also learned a lot. I’ve learned how to be with someone who is going through an emotionally messy time. I’ve learned how to listen without judgement. I’ve learned that none of us are perfect and that we all need people to be real with.

So I’m not being hard on myself for sharing too much or for looking like a mess to others…as a matter of fact, I’m glad that I did. Many years ago, I was talking to someone about some struggle that I was going through and she said, “You really don’t mean that!”…I cannot even remember what I was talking about but I remember thinking, “You don’t want to be friends with the real me. You want the cleaned-up version of me.” Well, I don’t want that. I don’t want the cleaned-up version of people. I want real, honest, at times gut-wrenching, at times magnificent, people in my life. 

I also don’t want to live out a tragic tale of woe. I don’t want to be talking about this divorce, or my previous marriages/divorces, in a year or 5 years, and have all of the unspoken, unacknowledged, emotions come out. Now is the time to heal so I can truly say that even the unplanned, painful, and seemingly unacceptable things I’ve experienced have all been right and I have let go of blame and resentment. This is the light that I’m moving toward and that I see and feel with my heart…and if I need to go through the swamp to get there, OK.

There is so much written these days about “positive thinking” that people have become afraid to admit what’s really going on inside. I’ve heard countless people say some version of, “If you really knew what I was thinking, you’d think I was a horrible person”. But we often need to do just that: admit where we are right now, so we can move up/out/through the situation. 


“We cannot change the world by a new plan, project, or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center.” Henri Nouwen

pain is a messenger


I was reading a wonderful book, The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje, last week when Fred curled up on my shoulder…I just had to take a selfie of us.

Yesterday I began thinking about going forward with a new idea. A part of me was uncomfortable with it, but I was entertaining it anyway…looking at it from all sides, considering what it might be like if I followed through…and then this morning, as I picked up the idea again, I felt an intense pain in my back. As I attempted to go to my computer to look up what muscle might be spasming, I was almost flattened by the pain. I had to get down on the floor and felt as though I couldn’t move. For about a minute I thought of all of the things that could happen if I couldn’t get off the floor, and this of course, only intensified the pain. Then I took a painfully deep breath and said, “Thank you”.

I realized that my body was stopping me for a reason. I opened up my mind and heart (instead of my computer which was now quite literally out of reach) and within seconds I knew that the earlier idea/plan that I’d been contemplating was wrong…wrong for me. As soon as I had that revelation, and said to myself, “OK, I get it, and will not go any further with this”…the pain lessened. A minute later I could stand up. 15 minutes later I was walking the dog, Jackson. As I sit here writing, the pain is only a dull ache.

My inner wisdom not only stopped me from going forward with the plan, it wouldn’t even allow me to take the unnecessary step of looking up what muscle was spasming…it didn’t matter. My body was trying to get my attention and I knew that.

We can save ourselves so much time, pain, and wasted energy, by going within where the truth for us is always ready and willing to be revealed to the open mind and heart.

It is amazing how many hints and guides and intuitions for living come to the sensitive person who has ears to hear what the body is saying.” Rollo May


(I also wanted to let you know that helping others to access inner wisdom/knowing, is the work that I do as a spiritual counselor. If you are interested in working with me, there is a link to my website at www.marymuncil.com or feel free to email me with questions at mmuncil33@gmail.com I offer ½ hr. sessions at $35 and one hour sessions for $60)



clearing the decks for the unfolding, wondrous, future


My 63rd birthday celebration. Griffin (my 4 year old grandson chose the theme: Pirates!)

I was driving home the other day and happened upon a wonderful NPR Radio Lab called, People Who Lie. The timing of this was beyond perfect. The day before, I’d had a conversation with my son, Tom, and my daughter-in-law, Lindsay, about just this topic. Several months ago, I made a commitment to myself to stop lying. The kind of lying that I did, I classified as white lies…ones that were told to spare someone’s feelings or to ease myself out of an awkward situation. They weren’t the deceptive lies that led to personal gain or the intentional harm of others, they were more innocent, sort of social lubricant types of lies…or were they? Were they really harmless? I began to see that they were not. I pretty much always know when someone is doing this to me, and it doesn’t feel “innocent” or harmless. It is sad, frustrating, and discouraging at best, infuriating and relationship ending, at worst.

The discussion with Tom and Lindsay happened because I was telling them that I needed to, at the last minute, cancel a dog grooming appointment. I was thinking that Petco would probably charge me for the late cancellation and so it crossed my mind to tell them that Jackson (the dog) had diarrhea. In a split second I imagined that they would then make the choice not to take him, and thus I wouldn’t be charged. All of this flashed through my thoughts in a matter of seconds as I dialed Petco and told them that I couldn’t make it (no excuse or reason) and wondered if I could reschedule. It wasn’t a problem and I wasn’t charged, but if I had been, I would have paid. Better to pay in dollars than pay with my self-respect and self-trust…and maybe their trust too? We all know, at some level, whether consciously or not, when we are being lied to.

So, back to my conversation with Tom and Lindsay. As I recalled this incident and also told them about my commitment to stop all lying, Lindsay, in essence, said, “All deception (white lies included) puts a barrier between people, whether this is the intention or not”. Then she went on to say to me, “I always knew when you were doing it, I could just tell”. Ouch! She never said that before, but of course I never really admitted before that I made up excuses that weren’t entirely true: told white lies (or why not just call them what they were: lies) to get out of saying no to something without being “blamed” or seen as selfish.

An underlying belief that many of us have is if we don’t do what someone would like us to do, then we are being selfish, self-centered, or inconsiderate…thus the white lies, which say, “I’d really love to do what you want me to, but I can’t because (fill in the blank with the sad/difficult/challenging story or the promise of an earlier commitment or sudden illness). So we temporarily get out of an emotionally difficult situation but never quite feel clean…never feel the strength and courage that we could feel by simply telling the truth and trusting in the process of Universal Good and Harmony to open us up to who we really are: courageous, loving, honest, strong, people who respect ourselves and others.

I have to say that since I made this “total honesty” commitment, I’ve been challenged a few times to tell tiny white lies, just this once…and I have done it. But every time I did, and there have only been a few times, I didn’t feel good, and that made me recommit to the new path.

As I was walking yesterday morning, the words, “You must let go of the old to allow the new to unfold” came into my head. I’ve been going through a lot of change (divorce will do that) and yet I feel as though I have finally come home to myself, and being totally honest has been a part of this unfolding. I am no longer struggling or asking why. I am just letting life move me and it is wondrous. As I replayed the words, “You must let go of the old to allow the new to unfold” in my mind, I thought, “I can do this. I want to do this. I can walk in these new steps. I can let go of the old: beliefs, thought patterns, people, fears, reactions, and “coping mechanisms” that no longer serve me or others. I am ready and it is time.”


I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing.

And nothing

happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves

-Nothing happens? Or has everything happened, 

and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramon Jimenez



This entry was posted on October 3, 2018. 6 Comments

The end of suffering

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but the timing hasn’t been right. Today it felt right, so here I go. Two years ago Jack and I almost split up. We had a major crisis in our marriage that, instead of pushing me out the door or shutting me down emotionally, opened my heart and allowed me to see how I had contributed to the breakdown of our relationship. Within a day of the crisis, I made a decision to fearlessly look at myself, and begin to make the changes that were necessary.

This summer things came to a head, and to an end. I cannot say anything more about the particulars, only that Jack and I had different ideas about what constituted a working relationship/marriage.

We’d been married for almost 17 years and even though there were so many times I knew things were not good or right, I kept thinking that if I tried harder or wasn’t so difficult, then I could make our marriage a good one. I was suffering and confused about why I couldn’t make it work…and I didn’t want to get divorced again. Divorce felt like a failure, and I’d already been married twice before. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that here. It was something that I’d been ashamed of. Who gets married, and divorced, three times? Me.

My fear wasn’t only about looking and feeling like a “looser”, I had financial fears as well and fears that my family would look at me and say something like, “Oh my goodness (they probably wouldn’t say, “goodness”) Mom/Mary, how could you do this again?”

These fears kept me paralyzed. I kept trying to turn off (and shut up) my guidance that was persistently saying, “Things are not right here”.

Then one day this summer, I told someone in my family what was going on in the marriage, and that I thought I was going to leave. She looked at me and started to laugh and cry. Then she said, “Thank God!”

“What?” I thought, “Can I be hearing her right?” Over the next week, as I told more family members, and got similar reactions, I had the startling revelation that all of those critical, judgmental, thoughts were my own. Honestly, I knew that I felt this way about myself, but my mistake had been in thinking that other people felt the same and saw me in the same very critical light. The opposite of my “worst fear scenario” began to play out. Love and support seemed to come to me from everyone. I would not have guessed this in a million years.

So I began to walk this out, and as I walked, my fears fell away at an astonishing rate. As they fell away, they were replaced with feelings of peace and inner calm: feelings that always let me know when I’m on the right track.

Every spiritual tradition tells us not to fear, to trust in the larger part of us: God, Inner Wisdom, The Still Small Voice, Intuition…to guide and direct our steps and our decisions. It doesn’t matter what we call this power, it is the Knowing that is often beyond any reasonable explanation. It is our invisible connection to all of Life: everyone and everything.

But taking the step to trust, when we cannot see how something will work out, can be terrifying. I know that it was for me, but I have some experience here too. I’ve left relationships that weren’t working, stayed in relationships that were difficult but needed attention, I’ve started new adventures, I’ve taken risks in a lot of ways, and every time I listened to my inner voice and took these steps, larger vistas opened, life expanded and my “worst fear scenarios” were revealed for what they really were: fear of the unknown cementing into stories.

Another remarkable result of this decision was seeing the work that I do as a spiritual counselor go to a very deep level. As this disharmony in my own life/energy field cleared, my work with clients reflected this change. There is a well-known saying that goes something like, “To really help people, we must become like clean, clear, channels, letting the spirit flow through us freely, and we cannot be clear channels if we are full of shit”. I like that saying. To me it means being honest with ourselves and others. It means being vulnerable, human, and transparent. It means being open, kind, loving and real…it means being and becoming the magnificent people we were meant to be.


Your present problem is your great opportunity…your life is your laboratory. Your world is your workshop. The reason that you are here is that you may develop spiritually: and the way to do that is to meet the challenge of practical life. You do not develop spiritually by running away from life into some sheltered retreat. Nor do you grow in spiritual stature by gaining your point through will power. It is spiritual law that any difficulties that can come to you at any time must be exactly what you need most at the moment to enable you to take the next step forward by overcoming them. The only real misfortune, the only real tragedy, comes when we suffer without learning the lesson.” Emmet Fox









Game on? I hope not.


Fred and Eleanor

In the last post, I shared my experience of meeting with a former boyfriend/lover and how surprised I was at how much he hadn’t changed. The old “hooks” and words he spoke, which used to pull me in and make me feel so much longing and desperation to have more of him, did not have the same effect on me. He was still saying many of the same things, but I wasn’t feeling drawn in.

When we parted, I realized that I had changed and it felt good. Since that time, I’ve thought a lot about that meeting. I wondered what exactly I’d done that was different?The answer just came to me today: I wasn’t playing any games. I wasn’t trying to get him to come back or “want me” again. I didn’t have an ulterior motive when I asked him to meet me other than wanting to see him again.

This was it. This was the difference, because even though I hadn’t seen him in many years, I’d often thought about how I’d act if I ever ran into him. I hoped that I would be looking fabulous and happy and that he would feel regret that he didn’t stick things out with me…even though I didn’t want to be with him anymore!

In the past, when I’d contemplated what I’d do if I saw him, I imagined projecting myself with style and grace…like an actor on the stage? Yikes.

It occurred to me this morning that I was so clear about him for the simple reason that I wasn’t playing games. I wasn’t trying to get him to feel any way (regret, remorse, disappointment that he and I weren’t together) and I wasn’t trying to be someone “fabulous”. I just showed up as open as I could be. When we parted I felt clear, clean, and whole.

Playing games with people robs us of our clarity and self-respect. Game playing can temporarily make us feel like we are in control but it ultimately results in emptiness. Games are a waste of our time and a wasted opportunity for true connection/communication…but they can be so tempting! Rehearsing what we’ll say, projecting images of ourselves that we hope others will see, pretending that we don’t care when we do, pretending we care when we don’t…

The time is now to be who we were meant to be. Self-love, self-respect, self-caring all bring such authentic joy and peace and this is where I want to live.

It’s not too late!……Special Fall Tune Up/Tune In

Pain and struggle are helpful catalysts in getting us to the point where we surrender or break open to new realities, but we can also grow by making a choice to do so. We can choose to be open, and kind to ourselves, and through this open, kind-heartedness, we can become open to being taught from within.

I believe that we all have an inner teacher/voice that directs us toward happiness and inner peace, and yet sometimes we feel as though we can’t access or trust that voice.

This fall special will be focused on exactly that: learning to hear and trust your own Wisdom. It is for everyone: new and old clients. My usual rate for a ½ hr. session is $35, but I’ve been wanting to offer something new for a while and the thought to offer a fall tune up/tune in series came to me as I was driving this morning. I also hoped to make it affordable, so it will be $75 for three ½ hr. sessions. We can meet here in my office/home or by phone.

This entry was posted on September 18, 2018.

Making good friends…with ourselves


“Dancing on the Sabbath” Edward Gorey  


Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with a man whom I’d been intimately involved with for a number of years. I hadn’t seen him in decades and was a little apprehensive (also curious) about how I would feel when we finally met. We didn’t end our relationship on hostile terms but it wasn’t friendly either. At the time it ended, we were both very disappointed in each other… and ourselves.

I never expected to see him again, and yet by a set of synchronistic events, I ended up doing some work in the city where he still lives, and called him to see if he wanted to meet with me.

Within ten minutes of being together, I was struck by how much he hadn’t changed. Physically he had aged, but his personality, and way of processing the world seemed untouched by the years. We spend about 4 hrs. together, and as I listened to him, I realized that he had pretty much kept his view of the world intact. His struggles were the same ones, his view of life, which often times left him feeling marginalized, was no different.

Over the days and weeks after our meeting, the deep knowing that time alone does not change us, was driven home. I already knew this, at least at one level, but it went deeper. It was a wake-up call. It made me wonder if I was also still struggling with situations in my life that I hadn’t been willing or able to shine the light of awareness on.

There is a wonderful line in a book by Pema Chodron where she talks about her experience of going deeply within. She’d been asked to be the head of a monastery and was struggling with unresolved issues of her own that came to a head during this time. She said it was like, “being boiled alive.” A visiting teacher told her, “When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too.”*

I was in the middle of reading this book when I met with my old “friend”, and I could see how very unfriendly he was toward himself. He was so hard on himself, so unforgiving, so lost…

We cannot be unmercifully harsh toward ourselves and expect to change…it simply isn’t the way. We cannot beat ourselves into shape; mentally, physically, or spiritually, without paying a great price. That price is love. Nothing that we beat can ever trust or love us. We need to stop finding fault with ourselves and begin the deep and meaningful process of gentle exploration, kind “discipline”, kind thought. Love is the power that reveals the Truth.

Special Fall Tune Up/Tune In

Pain and struggle are helpful catalysts in getting us to the point where we surrender or break open to new realities, but we can also grow by making a choice to do so. We can choose to be open, and kind to ourselves, and through this open, kind-heartedness, we can become open to being taught from within.

I believe that we all have an inner teacher/voice that directs us toward happiness and inner peace, and yet sometimes we feel as though we can’t access or trust that voice.

This fall special will be focused on exactly that: learning to hear and trust your own Wisdom. It is for everyone: new and old clients. My usual rate for a ½ hr. session is $35, but I’ve been wanting to offer something new for a while and the thought to offer a fall tune up/tune in series came to me as I was driving this morning. I also hoped to make it affordable, so it will be $75 for three ½ hr. sessions. We can meet here in my office/home or by phone.

Please contact me by email, mmuncil33@gmail.com if this offering is of interest to you.



* Pg.8 When Things Fall Apart


slow down

The other day while driving home I found myself mentally racing into the future. I’d had a conversation with someone very close to me, and my feeling was that she wasn’t pleased with me, and this thought left me feeling ungrounded. I was tired and overwhelmed, which is not a good time to think about anything, much less make plans, but I was doing it anyway. My head felt like it was packed with cotton and it was talking non-stop as it tried to get me to grab onto a plan that would make life feel more manageable. It wanted safe ground. It wanted the relief of a solid plan. But I know better. No plans that I have ever made when in this state were ultimately good ones. They always involved moving away from anything that felt challenging…they always ended up too small. I finally said to myself,

“Slow down. I need to slow this mind down.”

Within a few miles, I saw a bunch of police cars up ahead. As I got closer, I could see police officers standing in the center of the road talking to the drivers of each car as they approached. Many cars were then directed to the side of the road to wait for “whatever”.

When it was my turn the officer said, “Are you aware of the speed limit?” I said, “No. Was I over it?” and he said, “Yes”. But instead of feeling anxiety I felt an odd relief. Somehow the universe had done for me what I couldn’t do for myself: It quite literally stopped me in my tracks.

I waited until the officer said, “What’s the hurry?” I actually thought before I answered, taking the time to ask myself, “Why are you rushing, Mary?”, and no good response surfaced so I looked at him and said, “There is no hurry at all.” I noticed a little laugh in the tone of my answer that prompted the same response in him. He smiled at me and said; “Just slow down”. I said, “Thank you”, and slowly drove away. I was still tired but I wasn’t racing into a “solution” and I wasn’t running away from my feelings, which were less overwhelming but still present.

What I have noticed about myself is this: when I am in distress, my mind goes on a search for the cause. It wants to blame someone/something for the discomfort and then it wants me to make a decision that will minimize the chance of ever feeling that way again. I cannot even count the number of times in my life when I’ve ended relationships for the simple reason that someone said something that made me uncomfortable…so many opportunities missed to expand my world.

I’m not talking about unsafe or toxic relationships where almost from the beginning things were off…and I knew it. If I am in a relationship that mostly leaves me feeling less than, inadequate, or confused and distressed, then I am probably getting guidance to move on. But if this isn’t the case and on balance I feel “more myself” and expanded in this relationship, then when we experience a “glitch” or an uncomfortable interaction, my running away from it will diminish me.

The voice inside my head that says, “You don’t need this!” and makes me want to run or fight when I feel uncomfortable, is as familiar as my own hands. I used to listen to her, believe what she said, and then act on that belief…no more. Now, maybe not in the moment, but always within a little time, I say to her, “Oh yes I do. This is exactly what I need. Thank you.”…And she never argues, as a matter of fact, I can often hear her almost chuckle, just like the officer in the street, and say, “Good for you, you brave thing…you couldn’t have done that a few years ago.”

“While control makes us strategize, trust lets us experience a larger set of resources. To move from controlling to trusting life is like exhausting ourselves by trying to put our arms around a river until we realize we have to enter the river and let the current take us.” The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born To Be, Mark Nepo



Newest mixed media piece, The Other Shoe 2….Victorian baby shoe mounted (floating) in old drawer. This was such a fun piece to create. I wanted to convey the thought that the other shoe isn’t going to drop…all is well…no need to worry! (this piece is for sale on my artwork page or you can email me for details at mmuncil33@gmail.com)