Speaking Through Fear

I’ve been working and learning to be better about speaking my truth. Speaking up for what I believe, and expressing who I am and what I stand for.

What I didn’t take into account is how scary that actually can be.

I knew *I* was scared to do it, but chalked up the fear to all the time I spent in environments where speaking up was literally unsafe for me. What I’d forgotten is that in claiming my freedom to speak, I’m also claiming responsibility for the things I say, and sometimes that responsibility includes facing people who respond negatively or who are hurt by my words.

When I am informed that I’ve said something offensive or hurtful, I apologize where warranted and make amends where possible. My right and willingness to speak up doesn’t absolve me of the need to own my shit and take responsibility. But even though I apologize and I respect and validate people’s reactions, that doesn’t mean fear doesn’t raise its head.

In my past, people have harmed, or attempted to harm, me because they didn’t like things I said or just didn’t like me. So when someone approaches me with an issue they have about something I’ve said, while outwardly I try to respond in a respectful and productive way, my inner child is gibbering that the person might hurt me, that they’ll talk behind my back and turn people against me and so on. And anyone who has experienced the gibbering fear of a child can tell you that logic doesn’t always work to quiet the fear.

Then there’s the issue of attracting unwanted attention. Since I’ve begun speaking up more and sharing my messages on Instagram as well as Facebook, I’ve had about half a dozen men respond with propositions and “compliments.” (They might think that “Hey, you’re sexy and I want to be your friend” is a compliment; I do not.) It’s easy enough to block them, but again, my past comes up. I have been preyed on and victimized in the past because I present as female, and so even though I know these men are online (and often in far-away countries) and I can block them, the fear that they’ll stalk me or track me down elsewhere in person or online still looms.

I’m learning. I’m finding the balance between staying quiet out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings or speaking up but in a mindful way. I’m also finding the line between rational fear and irrational, and the more important line between what I am in control of and responsible for, and what is in the control and responsibility of others. I believe I owe people the respect to not hurt them intentionally and to apologize if I cause hurt; I do not believe I owe anyone the choice to keep my mouth shut so they aren’t offended.

(Note that I am referring to individual offense, such as someone not liking it when I state an opinion that is opposed to theirs. I am not referring to things that are offensive, prejudicial, and harmful to entire groups of people, such as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. speech. I don’t engage in those types of speech knowingly, and if someone calls my attention to something I’ve said that falls under one of those things, I learn from it and am more mindful going forward.)

Saying, “I’m going to use my voice and speak my truth no matter what” is easy. Actually *doing* it is complicated, difficult, and scary. There are a lot of things to weigh, including whether speaking truth is worth the risks. For me, it is, and I hope to learn more over time about how to find the balances I need in order to speak.

In Hiding

NOTE: This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared on this blog in 2017. I am choosing to share it again because it is relevant to a situation I’m living through now, and because I’ve made strides in this area that I wanted to share.

“Living your truth” is a big thing in the coaching field. Every coach I follow has said it at one time or another, and I definitely have used the phrase myself on more than one occasion.

The thing is, it’s easy to say, but less easy to do.

When you’ve been taught that you have to hide certain things about who you are, or who your family is, you learn that living your truth not only isn’t acceptable, it can be dangerous. If you say the wrong thing to the wrong person, someone might hurt you. At the very least, you might be shunned by the people around you.

Even though I advise others to live their truth, I haven’t always been out there showing everything about who I am. I’ve been in hiding about some things, because I’m one of those people who was taught to hide. As a child, I talked about things like communicating with the wind and trees. I told my parents when I “just knew” something was going to happen, and I shared my writing and stories with anyone who would listen.

I wasn’t praised for those things. I was told not to talk about the wind and trees because people would think I was “crazy.” My parents said the same thing about my “just knowing,” and also ranted at me about how little good it did to know those things since I couldn’t do anything to change them. While my parents tried to be supportive of my writing, and so did some of my teachers, my peers and other teachers made fun of me or at least of the stories I wrote.

I learned to hide.

Even as I type this, there are some things about myself that not everyone in my life knows. There are things about which I don’t talk to some people, and other things I don’t talk about at all.

Living your truth and speaking your truth are vital as you build the life you want to live, but sometimes you have to be more cautious than you would like about what you say and how you live around certain people. And that’s okay. If you’re just playing it safe because you don’t believe in yourself, that’s one thing; but sometimes it really is a matter not of *playing* safe but of *being* safe.

But knowing the difference matters too. Are you staying silent because speaking out would genuinely be unsafe, or because you’re afraid? Learn to recognize when fear is the reason you’re hiding, and work toward speaking despite your fear. Hiding doesn’t serve you or anyone else. I realized that, while in the past there were times when sharing my truth would have been genuinely unsafe for me, that ended years ago. It’s been safe for me to speak; I was just too afraid to do so. Realizing that my fears were not reality has made speaking my truth much more possible.

Your voice and your truth are two of the most important tools you have. Come out of hiding and start using those tools, and see how much you can create and grow.

That’s a lesson I’ve worked hard to learn. I’m coming out of hiding. And I look forward to sharing more of my truths with others.

Growing Into a Name

Four years ago, I had what I describe as a dedication ritual. It wasn’t intentional or planned on my part. My partner took me to a place that is very energetically entwined with the elements and with magic in general, and while there, beings spoke to me and guided me through a rebirth of sorts. I consider this the beginning of my study and following the path of witchcraft.

During this process, the beings told me that my purpose is to be a healer, speaker, and teacher, which is something I’ve been trying to live up to ever since. At the end of the ritual, they gave me a new name: River Lightbearer. I was told I could use “River” as part of my name and the name of my business, but that I would have to earn the right to use “Lightbearer” through my growth, healing, and study.

I worked on my own healing as well as on trying to build my practice. It’s definitely been a journey, with plenty of forward-and-backward momentum. I’ve learned a lot, and have faced things about myself that were definitely not easy to face. I’ve gone back and forth with my business as well, and have yet to completely become what I was told I would become. Then again, things take time, and one of the lessons I’ve been trying to learn is patience.

Several months ago, I was told I had earned the right to use the second half of this spiritual name I was given. I’ve been a little shy and reluctant about doing so, because I had to battle imposter syndrome and the fear people would see me as being too proud or arrogant or something. But the time finally feels right to take that step.

When they gave me the name, I wondered why “River.” The symbolism made sense, but most people I knew who’d been given spiritual names had ones that were at least somewhat gendered. Then again, the first spiritual name I was given, which came from my guide Shiva, is Ganatram, also not recognizably female.

Last year when I came to the recognition that I don’t identify as female, but instead as agender (gender-neutral), the names made sense. I had neutral-sounding names because I am neutral.

Now I’m moving toward using River more in my personal life as well as my business life. It isn’t a change I’m making lightly, nor one I’m making rapidly, but it is something that feels right. I’m definitely using the full name, River Lightbearer, as the owner of RiverEvolutions and in any writing I do that relates to my business and message; I don’t anticipate using it in my day-to-day life, but then, I didn’t anticipate this change either. Anything is possible.

I will still answer to Kim Ramsey-Winkler. I know my own memory is like a sieve sometimes, so it makes sense to continue using the name I’ve been used to for years. But I’m also moving toward being River, or River Lightbearer, and that feels good for me.

Spiritual Bypassing

“You created being abused. You should examine why you chose to create that.”

“If you aren’t healing, it’s because you don’t want to heal. You enjoy feeling this way. You like the attention.”

“Don’t talk to me about those issues. Those don’t affect me. I choose to believe only in light and love, and you should believe that way too.”

“Anger just lowers your vibration and makes bad things happen. You shouldn’t feel anger. Just love the person or thing.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. If you’ve spent any time in spiritual or “lightworker” communities, I’m sure you’ve heard at least some of the above, or similar statements.

This is known as spiritual bypassing. Basically, it’s the use of spiritual beliefs or spiritual-sounding statements to invalidate, gaslight, and even bully or abuse others.

I’ve seen statements like these and others thrown around freely on social media and in communities of people who call themselves healers and lightworkers. And those statements–and people–have caused harm to myself and to others who are working on their healing but don’t embrace the basic philosophy of “ignore the bad things and they’ll go away, and if they don’t, it’s all your fault.”

People I know and care deeply about have chosen to stop working on their healing journey because they’ve heard those statements. Since they can’t just ignore the bad things into nonexistence, because they already deeply blame themselves for what others chose to do to them, and because healing is neither instantaneous nor linear, these people came to the conclusion that they were too broken to heal. They weren’t. They had the power to heal, and they had the strength. But they listened to the words of those who told them, “It’s all your fault and you’re doing it wrong.”

This angers me–and yes, I do feel anger, and I make no apologies for that. Anger is not “bad.” NO emotion is “bad.” They’re simply emotions. We feel things because we’re human, and EVERYTHING we feel is valid. Sometimes people respond to those emotions in unproductive or harmful ways, and that is absolutely not okay, but the emotion itself is perfectly fine.

Healing isn’t linear, and it certainly isn’t instant. It’s called a healing “journey” for a reason.

While I do believe we have the power to create our own reality, I also believe that if we are unaware of that power, we are not responsible for what comes into our lives. We might be responsible for the aftermath; for example, if we have been abused, I do believe it’s our responsibility to examine how the abuse affects us and our relationships to others, and to work toward healing and repair any harm *we* have done because of our reactions. But responsible for being abused? Nope. Not even close. That is the choice and the fault of the *abuser.*

I believe those who preach “it’s your fault, you caused it” and “only love and light no matter what” can cause harm to others. Whether it’s intentional or not, gaslighting and bullying are never acceptable, and unfortunately, in too many corners of the spiritual communities, those things dominate. While I won’t tell anyone their beliefs are wrong or invalid, I do encourage people to examine how they’re sharing those beliefs and what harm they might be causing as a result.

Above All, Harm None

So much information is circulating right now about COVID-19, medications, vaccines, and the like. You see it on the news and on social media. Maybe you hear it from friends or family members.

Some of it is accurate. Some is not. Some is true, and some is blatantly false.

The problem with the inaccurate or false information is that it has the potential to cause harm. Think about the claims from the so-called leader of the US government about a certain drug that supposedly could treat COVID-19. People took that drug. Trials were conducted. And people died as a result, because the drug was not a good treatment for COVID, and was in fact dangerous to people with certain health conditions.

I’ve seen a number of people lately circulating blatant lies on social media and calling them “facts.” Things like “this vaccine contains pieces of human embryos,” or “this herb will cure that illness, but the medicine your doctor told you to take won’t.”

This isn’t a matter of differing opinions. When something has been scientifically proven, and someone else says, “Nope, that’s wrong, this is true even though I have no proof,” that isn’t opinions. That is falsehoods. Those statements have a high potential to cause harm to people who will listen because they distrust medicines, or because they believe in conspiracies that don’t exist, or because the person spreading the false information is a “lightworker” and that apparently means they must know what they’re talking about.

I respect people’s right to believe what they believe. But when they spread those beliefs as facts and others suffer harm as a result, I lose my respect for them. I lose my respect for people who spread information without proof and directly harm others by doing so.

I don’t bother calling these people out anymore. I don’t have the emotional bandwidth for constant online battles with strangers. There’s zero chance of my convincing them that they are harming others, and there’s zero chance of them convincing me they’re right when I can research and find multiple sources proving them wrong. Instead I choose to block them and post on my own timeline or blog the reasons I believe certain information is harmful.

People can draw their own conclusions. I personally do not have the time or energy to devote to conspiracy theories, false statements, and harmful misinformation.

I urge everyone to do their research before sharing information. To have sources available to back your point–preferably reputable, factual sources. To trust yourself and the knowledge available to you instead of thinking “This doesn’t really feel right, but that person’s a healer so they must know what they’re talking about.” 

I urge everyone, above all else, to consider–honestly and fully–whether their words could cause harm, and if they could, to refrain from sharing those words. Above all, harm none.

What To Say?

In the past week, our world has changed drastically. I’m not going to enumerate the changes, because if you have access to any news source at all, you already know.

I’ve had trouble focusing on accomplishing tasks for the past week and a half, since I started seeing news about colleges sending students home. One of those colleges was my daughter’s, and helping her navigate that massive change and the effects it might have on her graduation this May and her continuing to graduate school in the fall took a lot of my emotional bandwidth. Don’t get me wrong; I was grateful that she came to me for support and that I was able to help in some way.

According to what a friend of mine posted on Facebook, some are talking about the current crisis being part of a “great awakening.” Maybe so. I do believe our world and our Universe are shifting and changing… but then, I believe that is ALWAYS the case. I don’t believe it’s my place, or the place of any other human, to tell everyone what the Universe or any Creator power has in mind. I think it’s completely fine to share your own beliefs with others, but not to force those beliefs. Not to look at someone who’s lost a loved one to this illness and say, “It’ll be all right, this is just a great awakening,” or look at a parent struggling to feed and care for their children with schools, day cares, and workplaces closed and say, “Don’t worry, just think abundant thoughts and you’ll have everything you need.” (I have not seen the first one personally; I have seen the second.)

I believe this is a time that humanity might learn a few things about ourselves. I believe this is a time that might lead to greater understanding, tolerance, and kindness. But it starts with us *being* understanding, tolerant, and kind. It starts with supporting one another, not telling others they’re wrong for not believing the way you do. It starts with saying, “I believe” instead of stating your beliefs as facts. It starts with recognizing that not everyone believes what you do…and the acceptance of the possibility that you’re wrong. You might be right, but you might not be.

It starts with knowing that this crisis will pass, as crises have a tendency to do. Eventually, this illness will fade out. Schools, daycares, and workplaces will reopen. We’ll be able to get together with friends again, go out to eat, go to a movie. We’ll be able to walk into a grocery store and find what we need, instead of seeing aisles of empty shelves.

And maybe, when that time comes, we’ll all be a little less set in our ways, a little less “you’re wrong, I’m right,” and a little more open to the reality that we don’t know everything, we can’t say what the creative power in our Universe is thinking, and sometimes we just have to accept what happens and learn from it.

Some Things About Me

It occurred to me that people visiting my site might want to know who I am as a person, not only as a practitioner. So here are a few facts about me:

1. I have 2 kids, both adults now.

2. I’m a witch, but I sometimes feel like I’m not very good at it. (I’m a good witch, but not good at *being* a witch.)

3. I prefer following my own instincts, intuition, and focus over following other people’s rules.

4. I’ve been on a journey to heal from abuse, bullying, and trauma for years now, and I love helping others on their journeys.

5. I’m an author; although most of my books are out of print now due to publishers closing, at one time I had over 80 novels and short stories on the market under 2 different pen names.

6. I was a special education teacher for a number of years, and developed a phonics-based reading/comprehension program during one of my jobs; the program’s been on the market since 2002.

7. I’m agender. I don’t identify as female or male, just as me.

8. The “River” part of my business name (RiverEvolutions, formerly River Flow Healing) is part of a name I was gifted when I started studying witchcraft and chose it as my spiritual path.

9. I’m polyamorous, meaning I have the capacity to romantically love more than one person. Thanks to a very understanding and compassionate husband, I have a marriage of nearly 10 years (anniversary in April), a long-term relationship of 4 1/2 years, and other connections that bring me happiness.

10. I’m a grandmother. My older grandson is technically a “step,” but I don’t think of him that way; he’s been part of my life since he was 3. My younger grandson turned 1 yesterday!

11. Sometimes I fall flat on my face when it comes to following my beliefs about healing, manifestation, etc. I’m constantly learning to feel more compassion toward myself at those times.

12. I learned Chios Energy Healing after a friend offered me a session in 2005; I’d never heard of energy healing before that. I became a Certified Chios Master Teacher in less than 6 months because it resonated so deeply for me.

13. I channel a being of light who calls himself Shiva. He’s been my guide my entire life (I used to think of him and my other guides as “invisible friends,” and became very angry as a child when people said my friends were imaginary, not invisible), and I learned to channel him around the same time I learned Chios.

14. Shiva and my other guides, as I said, have been around my entire life, and they offer a lot of guidance and support on my journey… but I don’t always listen to them. Kinda like a toddler doesn’t always listen to their parents…

15. I was raised as an only child by parents who rarely socialized with anyone, so a lot of human “socialing” behavior makes no sense to me. I do much better and feel much more comfortable interacting with people one-on-one than in groups.

16. I tend to overexplain and make really long lists.

I Didn’t Like Channeling

When I started learning channeling, it scared me. My mentor practiced trance channeling, in which he entered a trance state and allowed his guide to speak through him, and that was what he taught me. But I’d been in too many situations in my life where I wasn’t allowed to be in control of my own body, and trance channeling sounded like just one more way of not having control.

I was also afraid that I was making it all up. Maybe I was deluding myself into believing this being of light was speaking to me and through me. I’ve always had a good imagination, and as a child I was often told I was imagining things that to me seemed very real. Including my “invisible” friends, who, as I’d found out by this point, were actually my guides.

I would love to say that I got the hang of trance channeling and learned to love doing it, but I have to be honest. While I did become more fluid with it, and it grew easier to enter trance and allow my guide Shiva to speak through me, I’m still not entirely comfortable with it. Even now, well over a decade after I first started learning.

It isn’t as much fear of giving up control at this point. Shiva doesn’t “take control” of my body when I do trance channeling. It’s very much a consent-only undertaking. I choose to enter trance. If I’m feeling okay about it, I ask Shiva to speak through me. Usually, he does so, but sometimes he refuses, either because he doesn’t feel that I’m really as okay with it as I want to be, or because it isn’t the right thing to do at that moment. If he does begin speaking through me, I’m still aware of what’s going on and have the ability to stop him, or even to break out of trance entirely, at any moment. We’ve worked with my fear of losing control.

Now, it’s more of the “Imposter Syndrome” I mentioned in last week’s post. I know I’m not imagining Shiva, because he knows a lot more than I do, including things I don’t really have any way of knowing. But there’s still that little niggling doubt in the back of my mind, accompanied by my father’s voice saying, “Don’t talk about that kind of thing, they’ll lock you up.”

For a long time, I didn’t offer channeling at all. That was partly because of the issues I just mentioned, and also because of an experience the last time I had a trance channeling session scheduled at a store where I saw clients. (I’ll blog more about that next week.) When I started again, it was relayed channeling, where Shiva gave me information to pass along to the client, rather than my entering trance.

I offer both now, but strongly prefer relayed channeling. That’s something on which I’m working, because there’s a fine line between doing what I’m comfortable with because it’s more effective, and doing what I’m comfortable with because fear’s blocking me from pushing the comfort zone a little. However, I love doing channeling because I’m so thankful for the chance to help others by giving them access to Shiva’s compassion and wisdom.

I have openings for channeling clients now. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to comment, email me at info @ riverflowhealing.com, or visit the Channeling page here on this site.

Imposter Syndrome Happens

I started learning Chios Energy Healing after the first time I had a Chios healing session, which I blogged about recently. After I’d trained a bit, it was time to start *doing* Chios sessions.

This was not as easy as I’d thought it would be.

I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my skills. I knew I was a good healer; I’d been told things since childhood that indicated it. But actually doing a session with another person, intentionally, with skills I was still learning and didn’t feel I’d mastered, was a different prospect entirely. Especially since the first person who requested a session from me was my mentor.

He was someone who had studied energy and energy healing for years. He was a Reiki master as well as a Certified Chios Master Teacher, and from my perspective in the sewer of low self-esteem, he knew more about everything than I did. How could I dare do a healing session with him?

By this point, he knew me well enough to understand my fears. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to do the healing. I had a massive case of what some people might call Imposter Syndrome. “I don’t know enough, and this person’s going to realize I’m a fraud! Or worse, I’m going to totally screw everything up!”

I didn’t screw anything up. I did the session perfectly competently, though he pointed out afterward that I had been noticeably nervous and I might want to work on that before I did sessions with anyone else. He understood the nerves, but a client who was relying on me to provide healing might not. But, he told me, I brought him a lot of benefit through that one session.

Imposter Syndrome happens, especially for someone from a background like mine. I was taught most of my life that I knew nothing, was worth nothing, and had no business “pretending” otherwise. I also was a perfectionist before I could even pronounce the word; even as a toddler, I refused to do anything unless I was sure I could do it completely right the first time around. Which meant there were an awful lot of things I never did.

I’ll be honest. I still get nervous before healing sessions. Not nearly as much as when I did that first session back in 2006, fortunately, but still, every time there’s that little niggle of “What if I don’t actually know what I’m doing? What if they think I’m a fraud?” It’s normal to have those questions. It doesn’t mean I’m not an effective healing practitioner. It means that as I help others work on their healing, I’m still working on my own, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I was angry the day I did that first healing session, because I was afraid and my mentor refused to let me back out. He was right not to let me. Fear will become an insurmountable obstacle if you let it win even once. So even though fear still follows me around and whispers in my ear, I’m thankful my mentor pushed me through it that one time, so that now, I can push through it on my own.

Non-Imaginary Friends

A man I befriended in 2005 taught me a lot of things. Chios Energy Healing was one of them, as I blogged about last week. That was a little weird for me, and I wasn’t sure it would work, but it was a lot easier to accept than channeling.

Since I was a very young child, I’ve had imaginary friends–except that when I was small, before I learned to be careful of what I said to whom, I was adamant that they were NOT imaginary. They were just invisible. I gave them names that made sense to me as a little kid; since I wasn’t necessarily good with names at age two or three, the first two were named Big John and Little John. By the time I was 8 or 9, my invisible friends numbered somewhere around 40. By then, I’d learned that they had to be imaginary–either that or I was crazy and needed to be locked up. I’d learned it upset my parents if I mentioned them, and I got bullied if any of my peers found out. (I got bullied for many other things as well, but I figured if I could cut at least one thing, maybe the bullying would decrease.)

I read parenting articles constantly as a child, because parenting me effectively and nonabusively was largely left to me. Some of those articles mentioned that imaginary friends were perfectly normal for young children, especially children like me with no siblings, few friends, and huge imaginations, and that those imaginary friends were usually outgrown well before junior high school.

I didn’t outgrow mine. That scared me; maybe I really *was* crazy. Most of them went away; by junior high, only three or four remained. But they were definitely still there, and they knew a lot more than I did. They told me things I had no way of knowing but was able to confirm were correct. They guided me through the extreme emotional lows and traumas I experienced, and at times literally kept me alive. And even though I knew it probably meant I was crazy, I continued talking to them, because most of the time I had no one else. Despite the fear that someone would find out about them and lock me up, I also found their presence comforting.

Fast-forward to 2005/early 2006, when my friend started teaching me about energy healing and channeling. Channeling, he told me, was the ability to connect to higher-vibration beings such as beings of light or spirit guides, who could offer advice and support from a broader perspective. He had a guide with whom he spoke fairly often, who helped him with his writing projects and whom he channeled verbally for others. He offered me a session.

That scared me. A lot of things about this friend scared me, to be honest. Even though he was an extremely gentle man who would never have harmed anyone intentionally, he talked about things like beings of light and channeling as though they were completely normal, which was the total opposite of what I’d been taught as a child. And somewhere inside, I knew that his skills could help me, and I was afraid to accept that help.

But I accepted the offer of a channeling session, partly because I was curious and partly at the urging of my “imaginary” friends.

During that first channeling session, I was excruciatingly uncomfortable. I was afraid to talk to my friend’s guide; I was afraid of the guide, even though I could sense that he was nothing but benevolent. I wasn’t used to benevolence. Also, his energetic vibration was far higher than mine, and higher than that of my friend (beings’ vibrations are generally higher than those of humans), and that caused some physical discomfort for me. Over the year or so after this that the friendship continued, I never became more comfortable having a channeling session, though I at least became less afraid.

But I also realized my imaginary friends were not imaginary after all, something I’d suspected all along but hadn’t dared to acknowledge once I got “too old” to have imaginary friends in the first place. I realized there were reasons they knew things I had no way of knowing, and that they’d helped me navigate my life and stay alive as long as they had.

And, as with Chios, I realized this was a skill I could learn and use to help others.

At the time of the first channeling session, I didn’t know who my primary guide (the one who helped me the most and whom I would channel) was. That being had been unable to work with me directly for a number of years because trauma, bullying, and some of my own poor choices had lowered my energetic vibration to the point that his presence would have been harmful to me. In fact, when I first met my friend, my vibration was too low for me to tolerate the presence of his guide either; although I didn’t know it, the Chios sessions I’d had, other techniques my friend had taught me, and the friendship itself, had helped me raise my vibration to a level high enough for my friend’s guide’s presence and my own guide’s presence to be safe for me.

I learned to work with my friend’s guide through our sessions, and he helped connect me with and relearn how to work with my own guide, a being of light called Shiva. And as with Chios, I began offering this to others in the hope of helping people work through and work beyond things similar to what I’d been through.