by Trella Dubetz
As a way of introducing Charles Lawrence, Trella shares her riveting personal story of a journey of healing and a reunion with the Masculine with the help of Charles. Trella continues with an insightful interview. By permission, the article originally appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of Avalon Magazine under the title “Wise Woman: A Reunion with the Masculine“.
“Being thus witnessed, I am forever changed!
And, I cannot go back!”
— Charles Lawrence
In August 2011, I was able to finally release the burden of trauma and fear of men that I’d been carrying for a very long time, an unburdening that has allowed for deep healing. And I know I am not alone in carrying that burden, living in a culture in the US, where one in six women will be the victim of attempted rape or rape in her lifetime. (Statistics are from a 2011 survey by RAINN: Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.) As a child I experienced abuse, at the hands of a man, and it left me terrified of all men. I built layers of defenses against them, and created and collected many assumptions about who they are and what they want, and what I needed to do to avoid or just get through my interactions with them. But through an eight-year healing process, I realized it would be possible to learn to love and trust men, and to see them in a different light, as a magnificent half of creation. The healing began and came through a man I first met in 2003.
I had spent six months working and traveling in Italy. In late December, still feeling the culture shock of having just returned to the US, I made my way from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Port Jervis, New York, for a spiritual gathering born of Native American traditions that I had learned about on the streets of Milan: the Dance for All People. On my way to the gathering, I took a right turn in Allentown, when I ought to have taken a left. The “wrong” turn meant that I arrived at the gathering about an hour after registration had wrapped up and the meeting for newcomers had also ended, so I was told that Charles Lawrence, one of the elders, would sit and chat with me.
I was immediately struck by his presence; something akin to the core-deep crackle of a static-electric shock, but warmer, like the staccato plucking of a standup bass, registered within me. We found a quiet place, in a traveling market that offers creations by First Nations artists, and sat down, facing each other. I realized that I’d landed in a place and within the presence of some unnamable thing I had been seeking. Simply put, I knew this suburban Pennsylvania girl wasn’t crazy after all, for searching for more aliveness from life. In a culmination of every aspect of the experience, from sitting with Charles, to the presence of the beautiful evergreen tree at the center of our gathering, to the circle of people gathered for the dance, I knew I had all of the information I needed to heal—but it would take nearly eight years, during which I joined the Dance for All People gathering three more times.
On the one hand, each time I was there, I was rejuvenated, a sense of gratitude and trust renovating the rooms of my being. On the other hand, there was also a space within me that became agitated, usually half a minute or so after seeing or speaking with Charles. In the first seconds of seeing him I felt blissful, but then fear, shame, guilt, sadness, and anger would surface, and I would be dumbfounded. What was this turn-on-a-dime cascade of feeling that would continue to take me through the white rapids of confusion for days, weeks, months, and ultimately, years? Why was it triggered by this kind and loving man?
The experiences weren’t limited to the dance gatherings, but would continue to happen randomly over the years, as I went about daily life. The summer of 2011 was spotted with both merriment and sorrow (I had spent nine months immobile from a back injury and was in the midst of a divorce). For days I would go about my business, and then a presence would come, with an image of Charles lighting up my mind. Usually, I could wade through the mish-mash of feelings of bliss and fear, muster enough courage to say, “Okay Spirit, thank you,” and wait for it to pass. But after eight years of this, the feeling that I was missing something was overwhelming, and I wanted to know whatever it was, so that I could let it go.
One evening while standing at my stove, after I had finished washing the dishes and was about to tackle the grime on my burners, Charles came to my mind again. I stopped and said, “Dear Spirit, please, what must I know about myself, Charles, and life?” Before I could say anything more, Spirit began to send me a series of images, one after the other, that resonated with Charles’s use of the word recognize, as “re-cognize.” I re-cognized an aspect of the divine I had been missing, as well as the opportunity I was being given to heal. I saw my daughter’s face, as it is when she walks up to Santa Claus, her eyes twinkling and joyful anticipation coursing through her body, and I understood. The benevolent, generous, and trustworthy love that my daughter feels when she sees Santa Claus is what I feel when I see Charles, and both are faces and facets of the Divine Masculine.
I saw Merlin the wizard, who is kin with the ancients, the celestials, all the beings, and beginnings of the earth and stars. His, too, is a face of the Divine Masculine, that of reverence and mystery. I saw a benevolent, dapper, circus ringmaster orchestrating a show, flying on a trapeze, and grinning from ear to ear, his laughter resonating in every onlooker’s heart. This is the Divine Masculine’s showman, creating moments where art is larger than life, and life is beyond the ordinary—exquisite, enchanting, and endearing.
I saw images of Christ, Krishna, Shiva, and Siddhartha—the Divine Masculine as teacher, healer, lover, warrior, and master. And I saw Plant People, Rock People, and Animal People, gathering around Charles like eager children, and then walking together with him as trusted friends. When the images dissipated, I thanked Spirit. I knew I had just experienced something profound. I had shed one of the illusions of my emotional body, and was freer, more complete, more loving, and alive because of it. I felt compelled to share my experience with Charles. But what if I had misjudged, and might offend him? What if I cross a line with someone I respect so deeply? What will it have meant? Was I willing to take this risk?
Faith, or perhaps intuition, won. If eight years of processing had led to this symphonic crescendo of a vision, I could only conclude, “Alice, I believe you’re exploring a wondrous rabbit hole, and the white rabbit went that-a-way!” I wrote to Charles by email, crying, as I described the archetypal vignettes I had seen. Even if he thought I was looney tunes, even if this sharing meant I would never see him again, I had experienced love and healing from the Divine Masculine, and whether or not the human face of Charles could recognize it, I did. I clicked on “send,” smiled, and said, “So be it.”
The next morning I opened my laptop, and a sweet and exuberant message was waiting for me. Charles had joyfully shared my witnessing of him with his beloved friends and heart family, and declared he was changed by it. I am deeply grateful to Charles for aligning himself as a vessel for healing from Spirit. My tale of him is rich and measureless, but who Charles Lawrence is to many people around the world is exponentially grander.
He has worked and traveled extensively, in both the near and far world—from northern Finland to South Africa. In the 1980s, he spent time with Hopi Indians, and was adopted into the tribe. His stories speak to the truth of mythology and to what he calls “radical aliveness,” which is being completely present with what is—accepting, dancing, and appreciating what is. His stories and medicine foster an elemental link between cultures and between eras.
As the horizons morph, and the seas and sands trade places, our elders are all the more essential. Their teachings feed our spirits, and their presence can help us to heal and transform our world from the inside out. I offer this chat he and I shared recently, trusting that it will touch the places within you that believe in mystery and magic.
Trella: During my process with you, Charles, there was some triggering of textbook-case Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but something deeper too. I’m curious if you have worked with people who hold trauma in multiple layers, and what that work is?
Charles: I think in some ways, life is about trauma. I was led to understand, through ancient cultures and shamanic traditions, that life is an initiator. I can call it PTSD, I can call it lots of things and experiences, but this is an individual whose psyche has been ruptured in some way. Other terms are EP (Emotional Part) and ANP (Apparently Normal Part), where the emotional part has been split off or disassociated in some way, generally through a trauma. I connect to those places where the traumatized part of a being has disassociated to. Through attention, through questioning, we bring that part that has been split off back. It comes back with medicine, it comes back with information, and creates a place of integration. So many people act out in this culture because of their addiction to drama, and that’s reinforced culturally. It takes someone with what I call “searing presence” to stand present.
Trella: Does this work, to heal those fractures in a person, unfold one-on-one or within a group?
Charles: There’s a tenet in the ancient Bon shamanistic tradition, called “spiritual cannibalism.” It says that in every situation in life there is the devoured and the devourer; make up your mind which one you want to be. And as Joseph “Joe” Campbell points out, life devours life. The greatest responsibility falls on the individual who is more conscious, the one who can hold the center, be the hollow bone, the midline, the one who can— no matter what is going on—tolerate and be immune to another’s discharge, to another’s clearing of their soul as that individual is coming back to their full presence. Being able to ride and go deeply into those moments of intensity is so essential. The co-lodges that I hold in the northwest United States and in Bermuda are about helping individuals see life’s transitions in a different way. From the shaman’s point of view, life is about initiation, about stepping up to the next threshold, and taking on greater accountability. A person gains— I don’t want to use the word power— but a person becomes more effective. I am not for power at all. I am for effectiveness.
Trella: As you’re sharing these practices I feel how rich and expansive they are, not only for oneself, but for one’s community. It made me realize how much I do yearn for those deeper processes and how little they are reflected in our culture.
Charles: Yes, when I’m truly paying attention to my wellbeing, that which serves me also addresses the needs of the community. Some folks may think you’re selfish, but the truth is, when your well beingness is addressed, it’s like the Empress card in the Tarot. The Empress truly takes care of herself. When the feminine doesn’t take of herself, and sacrifices herself, it stirs up these old concepts of domestication, and the old Church dogma that it’s a high honor— and it’s bullshit.
Trella: Yes, I know. Suffering is the control, and martyrdom makes controlling the feminine easier; it makes it easier to control everyone. I’m coming into allowing myself to be who I am here, and making the choices to not allow that old culture into me any longer.
Charles: Right on!
Trella: Yeah, it’s a work in progress, but I’m feeling good.
Charles: Yes, time and patience, and again, staying present in the moment. Because all of a sudden my intuition will say something to me. As Joe Campbell used to say, “Your intuition will say go down to the street corner and turn right.” Years ago, I was practicing this literally in New York City, when I was headed home on 14th Street. I kept asking, “Which way do I go? Do I cross 14th Street or do I go back to Fifth Avenue and cut over?” I stopped at every corner and asked, and suddenly the voice said, “Go left”. It was counterintuitive, because where I wanted to go was right, but I turned left. Within ten paces, I came face to face with someone I hadn’t seen in four or five years.
We laughed and hugged, and then I turned back to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street and asked, “Where do I go now?” The voice said, “Head up Fifth Avenue”. “Ok,” I said. Who do I find coming down the street but Jean Erdman Campbell, Joe Campbell’s widow! We hugged, and I walked her all the way home. She told me that she had been speaking of me in DC the week before, about how Joe loved the things I did. I didn’t even know that Joe knew what I was doing. Our crossing paths came from my willingness to follow guidance, and to ask questions, which is a whole other part of our learning. What are the right questions?
Trella: I came across a great question the other day, posed by Gary Douglas, “Where can I be today to allow myself to receive like I never have before?”
Charles: It’s all about being present, and staying in the process. When I met Native elders, I saw relationships that I had never seen in my blood family. I became aware of how it could be with elders, those who stay so totally open and responsive to everyone. What began to happen for me was that I made choices about who I wanted to be like. I saw elders take advantage of others, and I didn’t like that, and I saw things happen that had me thinking, “Wow, that’s great for me.”
I didn’t know until I read your email how the unconscious had taken my choices and acted upon them. Your offering put everything in such magnificent reflection. I knew it wasn’t me, it wasn’t the ego that had done this work. It was truly the power of the inner mind, the inner being, who realized that I had a sense of joy, a sense of passion, a sense of love, and of treating others with kindness and patience. It was like that for me, with Hopi elder Grandma Carolyn, and Coast Salish Musqueam elder Mom Stogan, and some of the male elders who had their own ways to talk about the masculine aspects.
Thing is, I’m a Virgo, and a Virgo serves the Mother. I never had that understanding consciously, but the being that I am always knew, and my conscious mind had to catch up. I learned so much from the mothers and grandmothers, more than I did in many ways from the men. Yet I saw men who embodied a masculine quality that was meaningful to me.
It was not a braggadocio, it was not a super-hero Sundancer, it was not about how many times they had been pierced. It was about: How do I support? How do I stand with—in Joe Campbell’s words—the “awe-fullness of life,” while staying present, nurturing, and receptive, to be available in any way I can?
Trella: I experienced how that works. My responsiveness to you was based on who you are, not your story. It was about your presence, and an energy that I’d never felt before, and I knew it was important. But I also recognized a part of me in the reflection and embodiment of what I saw in you. It was the transformative experience of the Mayan teaching, In Lak’ech Ala K’in, I am another you, and you are another me,” on a deeply intimate level, a level I hadn’t known before. Many times, over the eight years I was processing this experience, it was confusing and uncomfortable. I am so grateful for it though, and I’m grateful to all those who’ve touched you, because I could feel them as well, and that was exquisite. Ultimately, I’m grateful that I could finally let go of that which wounded me, and can now allow more loving presence into my life.
Charles: The work that I was doing in the “baby” (newcomer) circles at the Dance for All People came about because of the way I was re-patterning my own being—out of love, because I wanted to be this way for the people. What comes out of that are experiences like these, yours and mine, and that inspires me to take another step, another breath, and recommit myself to that which is my teacher. I am filled with appreciation when I am asked something because I’m called to reflect upon something, and it is the reflection that teaches me. And it never looks the same, it just doesn’t, and knowing that and celebrating it makes the process “curiouser and curiouser.” And who knows how, in my responding to you and coming from a place of my own being, what next breath of intuition will be given me? Maybe a clue to a solution that I’ve been searching for awhile? I bet that will happen in the afterglow of our time together.
About Charles Lawrence:
A Walker of Medicine Ways, Charles Lawrence has traveled over many years with the Elders of the Hopi, Coast Salish, Lakota, Seneca, Mohawk, and Shoshone, as well as traditional practitioners of Peru, Finland, South Africa, Tuva and other First Nations peoples throughout the world. As a shamanic teacher and master of ceremonies, Charles weaves Native American teachings and cross-cultural shamanic practices into his dynamic teaching style. He is internationally known for gatherings that are deep, provocative and full of heart.
About Trella Dubetz:
Trella Dubetz is a licensed massage therapist, practicing bodywork on humans and animals in Lancaster County, PA. She holds a deep respect for the healing and creative processes, and focuses on facilitating clients (human, equine, and other animals) to align with the body’s self-correcting mechanisms in subtle yet profound and effective manners. Her life has been a wondrous journey of self-healing, and she believes every life situation, dis-ease, and dis-comfort has wisdom, love, and the potential for healing within it. Visit Trella’s web site.