A dynamic blend of history, science, psychology, dreams, and visions, Deborah DeNicola's memoir is a compelling account of self-discovery that is provocative and humble. A poet, dream analyst, and college professor DeNicola writes about her struggle to live in the ordinary world of academia while honoring the competing call of the creative and the spiritual.
DeNicola's memoir shows her range of intellectual pursuits and spiritual experiences as she battles an inner war between depressive cynicism and faith and shares her lifelong search to heal the trauma of her father's tragic death when she was a teenager. Struggles between cynicism and faith, depression and hope, independence and attachment, creativity and financial security in the midst of spiritual searching, motherhood, teaching and writing are inextricably woven into the fabric of her story. Sharing the process of her awakening and how dreams and visions guide her, DeNicola stirs readers to listen courageously to their own inner voices.
Her visionary quest takes her to the American West, Israel, and Southern France. Along the way she weaves together references from the Bible and the Gnostic Gospels, the story of Mary Magdalene, medieval history, the Templar Knights, the Black Madonnas, String Theory and quantum physics to find the repeated linkage between divinity and humanity.
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About the Author
Deborah DeNicola holds a MFA and has taught in the Graduate Creative Arts and Learning Program for Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. The recipient of several awards and fellowships including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, she is the author of Inside Light, Where Divinity Begins and three earlier poetry collections. She edited the anthology Orpheus & Company: Contemporary Poems on Greek Mythology, from the University Press of New England. She currently teaches off her Web site: www.intuitivegateways.com.
Read an Excerpt
THE FUTURE THAT BROUGHT HER HERE
A MEMOIR OF A CALL TO AWAKEN
By DEBORAH DENICOLA
NICOLAS-HAYS, INC.Copyright © 2009 Deborah DeNicola
All rights reserved.
THE WRINKLE IN TIME
In Spiritual Emergencies non-ordinary states of consciousness develop spontaneously for unknown reasons in the middle of everyday life ...
Stanislav Grof, The Cosmic Game
All heartbreak stories are more or less the same and mine was not exceptional. One morning in the fall of 1984, a period I refer to as "the heartbreak initiation," I woke up crying. It usually took me a few minutes to realize I was awake and then to remember my heavy sorrow. The man I loved and had been happy with for the last several years, I'll call him C., had fallen in love with someone else. I handled the revelation without much dignity—crying, arguing, raging like a Medusa—but many months into the separation, I was still suffering acutely. I wasn't particularly young. I already had one divorce behind me. My life had already been a series of heights and abysses, but I was in mid life now and, although I didn't know it, this was to be my most important crisis.
Maybe I had a dream bad enough that I forgot it immediately, but my face and pillow were wet from crying. I wiped my eyes, sat up, and looked around my bedroom astonished. It was as if I had gone to bed in one room of the house and awakened in another. I imagined I was hallucinating. But why?
Three years earlier, I had moved upstairs to a small in-law apartment in the New England Victorian house my ex and I had renovated when we were married. When my ex moved out, I moved upstairs and rented out the first two floors and main part of the house. My present bedroom was directly above the master bedroom on the second floor, which had been our bedroom when we were married. Both bedrooms were about the same size. The bedroom I had shared with my husband had red flowered wallpaper and a fireplace. My present bedroom was painted light green. In both rooms, the beds were on the east wall facing the same way. Instead of a fireplace, however, I now had a bureau and a television. In the master bedroom, there had been a night table with a phone next to the bed and a built-in bookcase on the north wall. In my present bedroom, I also had a night table with a phone next to the bed, but there was a dressing table on the north wall.
As I slowly awakened, the strangest phenomenon occurred. I literally couldn't believe my eyes. It was as if I had moved back in time and my bedroom had strangely become the master bedroom downstairs. I kept turning my head right and left, expecting to snap out of a dream. But I knew one reality from another and this was no dream. The wall that had been green was now papered red. Instead of the television, the fireplace from the old bedroom was there, as was the built-in bookcase. I felt panicky. Although I had been known to suffer anxiety attacks, I sat there very calmly and quietly for a few more minutes, continuously blinking my eyes, waiting for the room to return to normal.
In retrospect, I don't know why I didn't walk over and touch the fireplace or run my hand along the bright rose fleur-de-lis-patterned paper. But I finally did get up and tiptoe into my kitchen to make some mint tea. Small, quiet steps. It was as if I were afraid of falling through a hole, sliding down a tunnel into some subterranean complex complete with its physical correlative—the historic rooms of my emotions, so to speak. Something like Alice's experience in Wonderland.
I purposely didn't look back into the bedroom until the tea was ready. I sat at the table and looked at the trees outside the window. They were as they should be, waving a little in the morning breeze. It was mid autumn and patches of frost freeze-dried the back yard. Attached to his cement fountain, the cherub who presided there seemed to be holding his breath.
When the kettle began to sing, I lifted it and poured myself a cup, which I took to the threshold of the bedroom. The vision was still clearly there, like a scrim across my retinas in the full regalia of everyday three-dimensional reality: the red bedroom, not the green one I supposedly lived in now. I stood quietly in the doorway, straddling two worlds. Like Alice, or maybe Dorothy in Oz, I stepped into my Wonderland, climbed back into bed, and dialed C's number.
I guess in situations like this, you call your best friend. I was used to calling him, as we'd been so close for so long. I knew he'd be home. C spent his mornings writing before heading to the restaurant where he worked in the afternoon. When he answered, I explained in a low voice what was happening. I just wanted to tell him about it. I couldn't figure it out. My young son was at his father's and, since I was alone, I just needed to know the rest of the world was out there doing its regular thing. That there hadn't been a nuclear explosion. That I wasn't blown into some Star Trekking seventh dimension. Yet, as far as I knew, it was a twilight zone. To my surprise C, a master of pragmatism, said "I'll be right over."
In fifteen minutes or so, he came in. He still had a key, so I didn't even need to get up. I heard him climbing the stairs and wondered if his presence would shatter the spell. Coming into the room, he sat on the lower edge of the messy bed. I looked at him and looked around.
"It's still there" I said. He had a take-out coffee with him and we sat there and drank our coffee and tea in a palpable, though not uncomfortable, silence. He looked around.
"I don't see it," he said finally.
"I didn't think you would. But I'm not making this up," I responded sincerely.
"I know," he answered.
This was several months into our breakup and I hoped he wasn't thinking I had manipulated him into coming over to share another of those "breaking up" conversations. That whole awful opera. But he had volunteered to come. He was concerned. Probably he didn't want to feel responsible for me losing my mind. Yet I felt perfectly normal. That is, normal for the heartbreak mode. I didn't think I had lost my mind; I was, quite simply, amazed! I felt more secure with his company and, in the past, he had always trusted my intuition. He knew me; I wasn't crazy. We continued to sit. We didn't analyze it. And we actually held a superficial conversation about other irrelevant topics I can't recall. I remember talking, while continually glancing at the walls between words and sentences.
After about twenty minutes, red, green, purple—whatever!—I thanked him for coming and told him he could leave; I had to take a shower and get to work at my bookstore. Somehow, I was able to accept this irrational detail in what was, most likely, a rational world. I think I accepted it as my hallucination and was willing to write it off and continue my daily life. What else was there to do? C offered to wait while I took a long hot shower with the door ajar, as there was no fan in the old bathroom and it steamed up, which in turn caused the ceiling to crack. When I turned off the shower, C was in the bathroom and handed me a towel through the curtain.
When I stepped out of the tub wrapped in the towel, C took another and began to dry me. It was not erotic. It was as if he were a parent (I hesitate to say father) and I, the child. It was a caring gesture, a loving kind of concern. I felt sad, but didn't resist. He dried me off with gentle taps of the towel on my shoulders and back. A few minutes later, snug in my bathrobe, I walked down the short hallway into my room and stood in the doorway again.
"It's gone," I said, not knowing if that was good or bad. "It's back to normal." He looked at me very seriously. I smiled weakly. And it was back to normal, just like that. Of course, I wondered what had happened. I wondered how it had happened. I had never had such an experience. Though, as a child of the Sixties, I had smoked marijuana and hash in my time, I had never taken LSD or mushrooms or other hallucinogenics, so it couldn't have been a drug flashback. C said he would wait till I got dressed and we would walk out together. We did and I thanked him again, patting his arm, afraid to communicate too much. The cold air was sobering. He looked at me hard. I shrugged, as if to say "I'm back in the real world." Surprisingly, I didn't feel foolish.
When we'd first met, C and I discovered we had the same car, Le Car, the little French Renault. (Mine died a few weeks after the relationship ended completely.) But that day, C and I left my haunted house, got into our small cars, waved goodbye, and went about our usual business. Though I would never forget that strange incident and the synchronous movement of our twin cars turning in their different directions, mostly I remember how kind he was in those moments.
Over the next several years, as I developed an interest in dream work and came to know several Jungian psychologists, I asked many times if anyone had ever heard of the phenomenon I had experienced. No one gave me an explanation until I read Stanislav Grof on spiritual emergencies. It was then that I knew I had simply hallucinated a previous room where I had felt deep emotional pain. There had certainly been days during the end of my marriage when I was overcome with the inertia of unhappiness. I recall lying exhausted on my bed in the afternoon, unable to quiet my mind long enough to rest, while our child napped in the next room. I recall looking at that room, the red print wallpaper of the previous owner, the sheer curtains, the candlesticks on the fireplace mantle. For some reason, on that strange morning, my mind showed me an emotional correspondence, how deep emotions create unusual states of consciousness. It seems that, when we lower our regular guards, we are more porous; our assumptions are more permeable, more susceptible to seeing through what we think of as "reality." This makes it possible to penetrate the firewall between time dimensions.
A few years later, while reading a book of poems by Ann Lauterbach appropriately entitled Before Recollection, I came across a line I found so compelling it triggered me to write my own poem about the uncanny incident in my bedroom.
When I told a few close poetry friends about the actual incident behind the poem, they said they didn't need to know it in order to appreciate the surreal leaps the poem made—which is, after all, the business of poems. I had to write the poem in the third person. I truly felt compassion for the person I was at that time, but I didn't want to return to that mind-set completely by writing in the first person. Standing outside myself and watching the incident felt safer. Still, the poem has always been precious to me, as it does express some of the pain I felt at that moment in the coming together of three different experiences of loss in my life: my breakup with C and my my divorce, which both brought up my father's death.
I wanted to capture, however discreetly, the marvel of that bizarre descent into sorrow, the magical aspects of the abyss that, unbeknownst to me at that time, began an exploration that I've yet to finish. I've come to treasure the poem as well because it reminds me of how generous C was to me that morning. There will always be some bittersweet beauty in that memory, despite the real anguish of the situation at the time. The epigram I chose to introduce the poem really defines the experience itself:
The Future that Brought Her Here
... the invisible pressure of some other time on time,
She's still discovering injury.
The childhood doll
with its cobalt eyes struck open,
ginger lashes greasy with years,
a death in her retina
where only an absence appears.
The woman blinks
into the dawning, violet
light of her bedroom
rinsed in hallucination—
Wrapped in the quilt
of her flowering sorrow,
she arranges the cumulative rain.
Birds swoop and crop her terrain
in a scree of time
and the room slides through its layered history:
bookcase into fireplace,
latex into lacy paper,
the same hydrangeas bluing the air.
And she is years back, masked
to an earlier sensation, married
to memory that blunts her senses
the way hunter's headlights stun
deer. And she falls
through the future
that brought her here.
TIME IS FLEXIBLE
During the next twenty or so years, I had many more what I hesitate only slightly to call "mystical" moments. In retrospect, that situation doesn't seem quite as frightening as it did then. As Einstein posited, and the quantum physicists have now proved indisputably, time is flexible. In fact, time, as an absolute, does not exist. Time is a structure we impose on our experience. Everything—past, present and future—is happening together in the "Eternal Now" and our consciousness can go anywhere, anytime. Twenty-seven years of practicing meditation have shown me that truth and opened me to psychic phenomena. Most of us live our lives shackled to patterns we created in the past without realizing that every moment is new and an opportunity to change ingrained emotional patterns. We are such creatures of habit that we often don't realize we have become stuck in our limiting beliefs. We create our reality personally and collectively. Until we can consciously control how we do so, however, we will continue to be trapped in our creation.
We can also change our perceptions—those of the present as well as those of the past. That is, we can change how we hold what is happening or has happened and free ourselves from automated psychological frameworks. I think the universe—or God/Goddess, or Source, or Force, or whatever you choose to call it—showed me that morning how we can fall prey to tricks of the mind. By some agreement we don't recall, we have all tuned in to the same station—what we call present time and a three-dimensional spatial reality. But it's feasible that, if we learn how to manage our awareness, we can "channel-surf" to make better choices. Collectively, we can change reality for the better. As every mystic, no matter his or her culture, tells us, the world is a mirror of our own projections. It seems we have disowned both our responsibility for that world and our power to create it.
Over the years, I've come to see this principle in action. We each need to understand as much as we can of our own personal unconscious mind and that of the collective. Mass consciousness doesn't see the cause-and-effect relationship between unconscious fear, worry, and anger that creates the energy field that attracts disaster. Carl Jung said that each person can only change him or herself—that particular personal growth is the first step toward changing the world. I didn't know for many years how my heartbreak initiated me into a new life, a deeper inquiry into poetic time, dream time, and emotional states. I didn't know for many years that there were others out there whose hard work on themselves could help the world. I simply wanted to heal my own pain. I say there is beauty in the memory of my overlaid bedrooms, because it literally showed the underlying pattern I had created unconsciously. Although I was unable to learn the lesson in that moment, I gained a respect for the magical world.
I remember learning in grammar school that the dense matter we experience as solid is really made up of spinning atoms. This surface world we know with our five senses is deceiving. We leap through time and space routinely when we write poems, creating illusions. Is it really so odd what the mystics tell us—that what we call reality is an illusion? This idea reminds me of a quote I've always liked by Andre Breton, who wrote a manifesto on surrealism: "Can dreams not be used to solve the fundamental problems of life? I believe that the apparent antagonism between dream and reality will be resolved in a kind of absolute reality—in surreality." Or perhaps in what I, in reference to my own story, might call "a waking dream."
When the disillusionment of the Great War shattered an era and the aftermath provoked a psychological change in the European art world, artists ushered in an age of irreverence and experimentation in a movement known as Dadaism. New visions broke through from the collective unconscious and modern art was born. Surrealism soon eclipsed Dadaism and began to reinvent the way the eye sees reality. The foundations of the known world expanded and displayed their depths. As more people observed surreality, due perhaps to its familiarity from the dream world, it eventually gained acceptance in the artistic mainstream. The surreality we now take for granted in videos and computer imaging was threatening back then, but here, in the first years of the 21st century, we have grown accustomed to the juxtaposition of visual worlds. And the channel-surfing we do is a good metaphor for our visionary possibilities. I think my emotional state elevated my access to those liminal areas, thresholds where the construct of time gives way to the universes behind it. I didn't question my sanity that morning. I somehow realized I had seen through a wrinkle in time.
Excerpted from THE FUTURE THAT BROUGHT HER HERE by DEBORAH DENICOLA. Copyright © 2009 Deborah DeNicola. Excerpted by permission of NICOLAS-HAYS, INC..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Wrinkle in Time
Chapter 2 Black Truck
Chapter 3 Water: Decision-Making through a Dream
Chapter 4 In the Lake of the Bed
Chapter 5 Awakening to Ascension
Chapter 6 Welcome to the Light Body
Chapter 7 Good News
Chapter 8 In the Holotropics
Chapter 9 Third-eye Views
Chapter 10 Burning Down the House
Chapter 11 Intersecting Worlds
Chapter 12 The World's Veil
Chapter 13 Spirit Rules
Chapter 14 My Holy Land
Chapter 15 The Gift of Tears
Chapter 16 Rocky Mountain High
Chapter 17 The Oracle of the Body
Chapter 18 The Gnostic Mary
Chapter 19 Women Clothed by the Sun
Chapter 20 The Giver of Forms
Chapter 21 The Mandorla
Chapter 22 Roots of the Goddess
Chapter 23 Mary's Mountain
Chapter 24 Resident Madonnas
Chapter 25 Vézelay
Chapter 26 Dijon
Chapter 27 Paris and Chartres
Chapter 28 Handstand
Epilogue Reality Show
Index of Poems by Deborah DeNicola